…The only shining light ahead was not the fading sun but that we would not be going straight back to the hotel but somewhere else. Find out in the next post…
We were dropped off at the wrong side of the road and as our bus and guide pulled away our destination was revealed to us as if a curtain had been pulled. What was merely a car park nestled next to a long stretch of sand dunes had been converted into an oasis of riotous colour and hive of activity. It was Saturday night and the beach was Mindil so this must have been the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets.
During the 1980s a group of six entrepreneurs came together to infuse Darwin with a little bit of the magic that ebbs from Asia’s Night Market Scene culminating with the first stalls popping up in Darwin Mall in 1987. Local retailers voiced concerns (in a bid to snuff out the competition) and the stalls were uprooted to Mindil Reserve and it’s beach and coconut palms. What was no doubt a painful undertaking became one of the best moves ever and 30 years later we would get to enjoy the fruits of that labour as we would be enthralled by over 300 stalls, some selling really great food. We also were in the prime location to take in a special sunset over the beach as we tucked into our curries.
The markets were just the thing to help us unwind from a long day of exploring Litchfield National Park and it’s waterfalls.
Tip: Bring booze! Mindil Beach Markets do not have a drinks stall so if you want a beer with your Beef Rendang you are going to have to BYO!
Coffee and TV
We got up early on our last day. It was not going to be a full day as we would need to fly back to Sydney that evening to ‘get in’ before the Sydney Airport Curfew. Think Lock-Out Law but for flights!
Our first stop was to go back to Parap. Not for the market this time but for breakfast. Laneway Coffee was like a little piece of Melbourne had been carved out of the ground by a Giant and transplanted into an unsuspecting neighbourhood in Darwin. It was hipster central and with a 20 minute table wait it certainly was the place to be. The Good News was that the Coffee was superb and the breakfast was even better.
When the last drop of Flat White was drained and the last morsel of sourdough scooped off the plate it was time for a short post-meal walk back towards Mindil Beach. Only this time we were on a mission to eek a last ounce of culture from this mini-trip as we were drawn like a pair of needles to the nearby MAGNT – The Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory that is.
Opened in 1981 on Larrakia Land at Bullocky Point in Darwin, the museum is one of a number of facilities run by the same board that includes the nearby Fannie Bay Gaol and the Defence of Darwin Experience that we visited the other day around at East Point.
They attract over 300,000 visitors annually so our visit today would boost that by 0.000006%. The main reason we visited was on the advice of a number of people surrounding one exhibition in particular – The Cyclone Tracey Exhibition.
On Christmas Eve 1974 instead of a visit from Old St Nicholas, the Darwinians were to play host to one of the worst tropical storms on record. 65 people would lose their lives but thousands more would be affected with 80% of the houses being destroyed. The Exhibition tells their stories of immediate disaster coupled with the drawn out relief effort and the attempt to rebuild not just homes but lives. It did this with a complex weaving tapestry of sight and sound in a fully interactive display.
We also enjoyed the Natural Sciences Collection with its large array of fossils, reptiles, birds and mammals representing the rich taxonomy of the region and the Maritime History section with a number of varied boats to represent the rich maritime culture of the area. And all the other quirky bits and pieces dotted around the building.
Being the NT the Museum even had its own resident croc – 5.1m long and weighing just over 780 kilogrammes – Sweetheart was a bit of a beast.
The scourge of Darwin’s bathing holes in the 1970s – attacking dinghies with disregard led to the crochunt and inevitable capture in 1979. He then died when caught in a trap shortly after and a http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-04/the-darwin-sweetheart-crocodile-taxidermy-story/7587666″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>taxidermist-prepared skin and skeleton was later presented to the museum.
His name is not ironic but was attributed to his habitat being the Sweets Lookout billabong, in the Finniss River System.
The last piece of art we want to highlight was of another particularly ruthless individual. Not as obvious as a crocodile but insidious nonetheless.
Guess Who Is Coming to Dinner. is a comic book style painting of politician Pauline Hanson on a platter ready to be served up for dinner. It is by Darwin artist Theresa Ritchie and was created in response to some pretty disgusting comments by Pauline Hanson back in 1997. It is a satirical take on those same comments juxtaposed with the title of the 1967 movie of the same name that was one of the first to depict an inter-racial marriage.
The sad thing is that the painting is as relevant now as it was back in 1997.
Adieu to you (and you and you and you)
And that was our first visit to Darwin. The only brightside in leaving was that we would have a Qantas plane instead of a JetStar one on the way back 🙂
It’s always sad to leave a new place, especially after a few days but this was definitely one of those ‘we will be back’ cases. There is so much more to the NT to discover from Uluru to Katherine Springs to Kakadu National Park and the trail from Darwin to Broom. Watch this space.