Winter is the perfect time of year to visit friends in Darwin, especially when they own a boat.
No, not that one….this one.
We set off on a sea of glass from Cullen Bay Ferry Wharf
and rounded the headland,
before the hint of tropical houses in the suburb of Larrakeyah peeked at us through the trees.
In the distance, Darwin city cut the colour blue with a swathe of silver and green.
Larrakeyah was one of the first parts of the city to be developed, with the colony’s first hospital built in 1874. It is named after the Larrakia people, the traditional custodians of the land.
In 1869, Dr. Robert Peel, a surgeon with the first survey team, found water ‘…in a gully between Fort Point and Point Emery’. Aptly named Doctors Gully, it soon became a landing point. In the early 1950s, a nearby resident started throwing bread scraps to the fish that would gather at high tide and in 1981, Aquascene Fish Feeding was established. Visitors can now stand in the shallows and hand feed the fish in the waters of this official marine sanctuary.
The Esplanade runs the length of the waterfront overlooking Darwin Harbour and alongside, Bicentennial Park is home to monuments and memorials as part of the WWII walking trail. Lookout Point is a good place to start.
With calm waters and stupendous scenery, it was time to serve drinks and nibbles.
Continuing down the coast toward the end of the park,
the Deckchair Cinema operates seven nights a week in the dry season. Established in 1954, Darwin’s only independent cinema gives audiences the chance to watch a diverse range of movies that would otherwise go unseen on the big screen.
Adjacent to the cinema, Parliament House was opened in 1994 on the site of the Darwin Post Office that was bombed in February 1942.
On the other side of the cinema, Government House is well hidden from view. It is the oldest European building in the Northern Territory and has been home to Government Residents and Administrators since 1871.
At the end of the Esplanade, Jervois Park marked our point of return
as the evening sun cast the cityscape in a new light.
The occupants of this fishing boat should probably have looked behind them.
On the horizon, eight jet skiers resembled the riders of the Apocolypse, fortunately not close enough to shatter the serenity.
Our crazy Barnevelder chooks are now nine years old. Two died last year in their sleep and the remaining duo hadn’t produced an egg for many months. We don’t have the heart to despatch them and so, we welcomed four newcomers instead. This time, we veered from any particular breed and sourced them from a local “farm”. I didn’t realise the state they were in until I got them home, many feathers missing at the back end, they obviously had worms and possibly lice. We treated their ailments and have become very attached to these lovely red hens. They are intelligent (for chooks), inquisitive and each has her own personality.
Winter has been wet and dismal, our poor girls have endured without complaint. We took to the internet in search of ways to make life more interesting for them and made it our mission to cheer them up. Having seen videos of chooks playing on a swing, we were inspired to make one. Unfortunately, our girls haven’t seen the videos.
We then fashioned a couple of hooks on string to hang vegetables from (silverbeet is prolific in the veggie patch) and that was a hit, though they make short work of it.
At least the swing is getting some use, for hanging long grass over.
Next came a forage cage so the girls can nibble the greens that grow through without scratching and ripping them out of the ground. Someone was eager to try it out, adding her own brand of fertilizer as a bonus.
We gleaned from our search that chooks find mirrors fascinating, this was more successful than the swing.
So, they now have a playground in the secure pen.
They also have a larger uncovered area that is fenced to prevent the destruction of our garden. We created another forage cage and the same cheeky chook couldn’t wait to check it out.
Last weekend, we added another novelty for them, a chair made out of old fencing posts.
I’m pleased to report, spring has sprung and we are now having more sunny days than wet ones. The forage mix is starting to grow
and the girls have all recovered their health and fluffy bums.
The two old girls are going strong and one has even started laying again.
The ultimate indication of chook happiness is indulging in a dust bath in the warm sunshine.
As we left Pumphouse Point at the end of a wonderful sojourn in March 2019, we vowed to return for a winter experience. With one thing and another, it has taken three and a half years to realise the promise but we finally made it earlier this month. We had stayed in a room on the middle floor of The Pumphouse that first time, a wonderful feeling to wake up surrounded by water and endless nature. For a different perspective, we booked the Panorama Room in The Shorehouse, considered to be the best room on the property.
Living up to its name, the spacious room spans the entire side of The Shorehouse on the first floor and the huge windows embrace panoramic views across the lake and mountains beyond.
The larder was stocked with tempting goodies to enjoy for a picnic lunch or midnight snack and a hot sourdough loaf was only a phone call away.
Another reason we opted to stay on dry land is, we didn’t relish the idea of walking the 240m flume in rain, wind, ice, snow or any combination of these, to return to our bed in the evening. The inclement conditions that had accompanied our four hour drive abated for our arrival, we could just discern the snow-capped peaks beyond The Pumphouse.
All guests are invited to partake of pre-dinner drinks at 6pm in The Shorehouse lounge before randomly seating in the adjacent dining room. Three courses of fresh, locally sourced fare are served, complemented by your own choice of beverage from the honesty bar. The shared table occasion may not appeal to everyone but it makes for new acquaintances and lively conversation. We awoke the next morning to blue skies and a crispness of air that can only be breathed in the middle of nowhere in Tasmania.
Fuelled for some exercise by a hearty breakfast, we embarked on the Frankland Beaches walk. The 3km track meanders along beaches and glacial moraines as it follows the shoreline of Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest fresh water lake.
We warmed up with a hot chocolate and Drambuie chaser at Lake St Clair Visitor Centre before our return trek. Viewed from Cynthia Bay jetty, our destination was a mere speck in the wilderness.
Along the way, nature exhibited her artistic talents,
this tree is a sculptural masterpiece.
We assembled a picnic lunch from the larder and settled into the lounge to savour the surroundings as much as the food.
Michael insisted I endure an hour long massage, a relaxing indulgence that wasn’t on the menu when we last stayed. Once I had recovered, we wandered across the flume to The Pumphouse for a nostalgic reminiscence
before returning to freshen up for another evening of delicious food and interesting repartee with a different group of travellers. Our adventure was over far too soon and, even though the gloomy skies had returned, another day or two would have been very welcome. A three night weekend stay is next on the list.
Following the success of his first novel, The Tramp, I am pleased to announce the publication of Michael’s second tome. Those who have read The Tramp will recall the enigmatic (deceased) character, Ned Brandscombe, or Uncle Ned as he was known to Samantha and Nicky. (Those who haven’t read it really should). Old Ned’s Secret turns back the clock to share the moment of revelation of a long held secret to 16 year old Samantha.
A further ten short stories, arising from the fecund imagination of the author, fill the pages between the covers. Each tale, plumbed from the depths of memories, dreams and personal experiences, is a tantalising fusion of suspense and humour. The lyrics of Michael’s musical composition, The Transit of Venus, complete the book with a thought provoking epilogue.
Old Ned’s Secret: AND OTHER TALL TALES is available in paperback or Kindle through Amazon in your country.
Having run out of time on our first reconnaissance, we returned a few days later to continue our discovery of the artistic embellishments adorning the lanes of Darwin. As well as the annual Darwin Street Art Festival, the ‘Art to Street’ project in July 2019 invited local and emerging artists to create murals on seven public spaces across Darwin. Two of these colour the walls of West Lane Car Park.
Talented mural artist Lara Connor collaborated with local school student Caleb Schatz (aka Mr Calebdude) to fill the space with subtle colour and quirky characters.
Back to the festival…..a buffalo skull was the inspiration for Darwin contemporary artist Jimmy B4mble’s contribution, Rukus in 2019.
A little further down the lane, the enormous Gouldian Finch was painted for the inaugural festival in 2017 on a wall at the rear of the Darwin Hilton. Melbourne artist James Beattie (aka Jimmy Dvate) teamed with local Jesse Bell to present the three colour variations of the birds; the most common black-faced, the lesser known red-faced and the very rare yellow-faced. There are now fewer than 2500 Gouldian finch in the wild, their existence threatened by changing fire practices that reduce the availability of food and the aviary trade that saw thousands of birds trapped until it was banned in 1981.
With a career spanning four decades, celebrated Darwin artist Colin Holt contributed a vibrant treescape in 2020.
Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri artist Jason Lee (aka Choplee) painted the seven main seasons of the Gulumoerrgin (Larrakia) calendar in 2018: Dalirrgang (build-up, September to October) – flying fox, cocky apple and cycad nuts; Balnba (rainy season, November to December) – long bums, black plum and bush potatoes; Dalay (monsoon season, January to March) – crocodile laying eggs and big red apple fruiting; Mayilema (March to April) – dragonflies and bush cherry; Damibila (April to June) – black cockatoo and bush peanut; Dinidjanggama (heavy dew time, June to August) – Dugong and water lillies; Gurrulwa (big wind time, July to September) – stingray and yellow kapok.
There is no denying the overwhelming talent on display throughout this exposition and I was absolutely boggled by the image that emerged from this inconspicuous nook.
Portuguese artist, Odeith, has a special interest in perspective and shading, calling his style “sombre 3D”. On his first trip to Darwin in 2019, he wanted to create a truly Australian artwork, the spectacular result being a kangaroo standing atop a transit van.
Sistagirls are transgender Aboriginal Australians traditionally known in the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, as yimpininni. Melburnian artist, Kaff-eine, met with the sistagirls and, in 2018 painted an elegant portrait of Shaniquá to celebrate the strength, power, character & beauty of the sistagirl community.
Also in 2018, Melbourne-based artist, George Rose, drew on her appreciation of the Australian landscape for her colourful work featuring Sturt Desert rose, Hibiscus brennanii and Nymphaea violacea.
Born and raised in Darwin, Larrakia man Shaun Lee (aka Hafleg) combined traditional and contemporary designs to create a beautiful turtle and jellyfish mural in 2018.
Nearby, he collaborated with Trent Lee two years later on a stunning piece featuring barramundi.
Known as the ‘build up’ in the Northern Territory, the weather cycle where heat and humidity increase leads up to the wet season. Build Up/Melt Down by local artist Vincent Poke in 2018 is a depiction of what it is like to live through this experience in the Top End.
In 2017, NT artist Polly Johnstone completed a mural, For the Love of Reading, featuring the image of Darwin local Artia Ratahi. She returned the following year and once again chose Artia, with her Indigenous and Maori heritage, to represent the diverse backgrounds of the community. The vibrant colours reflect the Top End soil, the crystal blue waters and the pinks and purples of the sunsets.
The wall of Monsoons nightclub provided the canvas for a collaboration between Melburnian Cam Scale and NT artist Les Huddleston in 2017. The painting, entitled Monsoon, represents the new life brought to the billabongs after monsoonal rains. Brolgas descend on the billabongs to breed and feed on turtles and fish, depicted swirling amongst the water plants at the feet of the dancing brolgas.
Our connection to animals and the need to preserve our wildlife and their habitats inspired a striking piece by Melbourne- based Tayla Broekman in 2019. The White-Bellied mangrove snake is found in the mangroves of northern Australia, the bright colours are enhanced by the dark background illustrating the sky and vast, flat landscape of the NT desert.
I don’t think these planter boxes are part of the festival but they certainly brighten up the streetscape.
The Street Art Festival has now expanded from the CBD all the way to Alice Spring with more than 18 new murals painted in 2021. I might need a bit more time on my next visit.