We were out early on Day Four, heading south to the Territory Wildlife Park. Frosh Baby had counted on picking up fresh sandwiches for breakfast from his favourite roadhouse, but due to some silly bungle, we ended up with four very hot, very messy toasted ham-and-cheese sandwiches. I gave up eating mine after getting butter and melted cheese all over my hands. But FB persevered – never one to give up easily when it comes to food – and somehow managed to eat an entire sandwich while staying in control of the ute.
The Wildlife Park is near Berry Springs, nearly an hour south of Darwin. It covers quite a large area, and getting around to all the exhibits takes some effort. It is so large, in fact, that they have a ‘train’ that runs around the park, connecting all the major attractions. Surprisingly, perhaps, we decided against the ‘train’ and set out on foot. I was generally impressed with the open, roomy enclosures and the connecting parklands. The only thing the Wildlife Park lacked was…well, wildlife! After walking for well over an hour the only animals we’d seen were a couple of motley wallabies and a brolga.
The second half of our tour proved more interesting. The walk-through aviary was impressive, as was the aquarium and the nocturnal house. It was after 3.00pm by the time we got to the exit, and we were both feeling tired and hot. Luckily the cafeteria was still open, so we stopped for ice creams and soft drink. But as we headed back to town, FB’s appetite yowled for more – something quick and meaty – so we pulled into McDonalds for a burger. (Frosh Baby loves great food, but he is not a food snob!)
That night we met up with Astrogirl at the Mindil Beach Markets. After a quick look at the food stalls and a yummy tropical fruit whip, we walked to Cullen Bay for a meal at Raccana Thai. We nibbled on delicious satays and other treats while Astro filled us in on the Darwin singles scene. At around 11.00pm we wobbled towards home.
FB and I were out early again on Day Five. He was eager for me to hear a particular sound he’d discovered in the lift well at Parliament House. We hung around for as long as we could without attracting the attention of security guards, but didn’t hear the sound. (Frosh described it as an ‘electronic bird call’.) We drowned our disappointment over breakfast at Café Uno, where a gorgeous English girl served up the most delicious scrambled eggs.
We took the late morning ferry ride to Mandorah, and went in search of lunch. The hotel on Mandorah Beach boasts of being ‘Darwin’s only beachside resort’ but is far from ‘resort’ material. In fact, it looks like the sort of place David Lynch would film a movie. I half expected to find Bobby Peru sunning himself outside one of the grubby apartments. Inevitably, the lunch menu was sad and tired – all schnitzel and chips.
By the time we got back to the city, Frosh Baby’s belly was making sad moaning sounds, while I was feeling quite faint. It had been hours since our scrambled eggs at Café Uno. We ended up at Kozy on Mitchell Street, which featured an unusual Asian-meets-Mediterranean menu. There was certainly nothing wrong with my vegetarian cannelloni, while FB gave his curry the ‘thumbs up’.
Later that afternoon we found ourselves at the Ski Club on the Fanny Bay foreshore. I didn’t see much skiing, but there were plenty of people at the bar or scattered around the grassed area that served as the group’s ‘clubrooms’. FB and I bought some champagne and drew up a couple of chairs to watch the sun go down over the Timor Sea.
It was my last night in Darwin – the City of Eternal Summer. The air was warm, the atmosphere fresh and friendly, and the sun, as it disappeared beneath the horizon, was a perfect orange ball. As I sipped champagne, and watched the sky turn a beautiful orangy-pink, I decided that Darwin wasn’t a bad place at all.