Author Archives: allthegobro

CHANGE OF PACE

Time for a change of pace and get away from the flowers, or at least try to. Everyman and his dog (is that politically correct these days?) seems to be participating in the festival atmosphere by planting a few annuals, putting up banners etc. So we have gone off to a few places where the flowers are not the main action. The journey took us out to Drayton on Toowoomba’s south western flank. This was where settlement first took place in the late 1840s, later moving a bit further east to present day Toowoomba.

Drayton is where Toowoomba’s big sprawling cemetery is located, established in 1864. Quite an expanse of grave stones and lawn cemetery, plaques etc. There is quite an attractive section with gardens and a water feature. Probably the best spot to be for the long haul! We had a little bit of a drive around, up and down the grave lane ways. Doing the guided historical stroll searching for past icons and other famous types did not appeal. There is a night time tour that might be a bit more interesting, focuses on the macabre deaths!

After a while we moved on to the DownsSteam tourist railway and museum. This is a very active restoration group. They are nearing completion of their major project, the restoration of a C16 steam locomotive that was originally built in Toowoomba in 1914. It is the only remaining one of its type. To be known as the ‘Pride of Toowoomba’. The project should be completed in the first half of 2022 at which time plans are afoot to run locomotive trips out to Warwick, then south to Stanthorpe and Wallangarra on the border with NSW. From Warwick there is the ability to go further west to Goondiwindi. They have a good set up at Drayton in yards beside and access to the main line. The steam train has apparently passed most of its operating tests, regulatory and safety hoops and hurdles are the next challenges. They also have six or maybe seven stainless steel carriages being prepared for the trips.

The workshops also have their flower beds in bloom. They say they ‘compete’ with Spring Bluff to see who can do the best layout. There is an old photo reproduction of an oil painting of a steam train coming through Spring Bluff Station, it would have been a quite impressive sight chugging up the steep incline.

Time for a little more history at the National Trust property the Royal Bull’s Head Inn. It has been slowly restored to its mid to late 19th century glory. It was established by an ex convict in 1847 as stopover point on the journey from Moreton Bay to the Darling Downs. There were lodgings, stables for animals and rooms for social occasions in the town. The double story Inn would have been quite a sight along the dusty roads. There is a rickety old kitchen set up attached to the back of the building that would have provided meals and snacks to patrons. Although closed for inspection we managed to get a quick look through the building as a guide was there preparing for a late afternoon tour group and she let us wander around. Of course there were also a few gardens in bloom just to be part of the Festival action.

We managed to get in another lunch at Gips restaurant. They were putting on a festival special which Allthego couldn’t resist, a pastrami sandwich. Traditionally, pastrami sandwiches are made with rye bread, but these days anything seems to go so long as it is a tasty artisan type bread. The chef at Gips used some Turkish bread and it was very tasty! Homealone passed on the sandwich and had some whiting filets with chips.

We now head to Crows Nest NP, it is about 50km north of Toowoomba, for a couple of days. We are going to return to Toowoomba from there for the festival’s Grand Central Floral Parade. An iconic event and a bit of a highlight for the locals. One hundred thousand people are supposed to line the streets and fill the parks.

YET MORE FLOWER BEDS

We are away again on the trail of flower beds and gardens. But first an interlude. We have been the victim of a clothes line heist. Yes, Homealone has done a wash and hung things out to dry and low and behold someone has snatched items from the line! Never before has this happened to us. What has gone? Two towels. They could have taken the old stretched underwear, but no it was the two towels that we have had for nearly ten years! Lucky we have two spares on board. Homealone was ‘generous’ and thought it might have been a husband who was a bit confused and sort of grabbed them from the line as they were leaving the park thinking they were theirs! Argh, argh!!!

Back to the gardens.

First stop off was at the Boyce Gardens. This is an old property gifted to the University of Queensland by the Boyce’s who lived here for 60 years or so. It is a great property. Toowoomba by the way is a big bowl. The city CBD and commercial area sit in the bottom and the residential areas are on the fringes and ridges that surround the bowl. The Boyce Gardens look down into the bowl from the eastern side of town. It is a great rambling sort of place, order within disorder!

A change of pace then took us to Newtown Park on the western side of the city. Here lies the Queensland State Rose Garden. Newtown Park has been around for a long time dating back to pre WW1 days and hosting all sorts of community activities ever since. The plaques that abound tell all sorts of tales of the human adventures that took place in the park. World War mobilizations, community halls and activities, dances, croquet, horses etc. But these days it seems roses are the main go. Now roses are funny things and they just do not fit the timing of the Toowoomba Festival of Flowers! We had a little chat with a lady who seemed to be involved with the Garden, her line was ‘ we are all volunteers you know’. She gave us a brochure and explained that the roses were due to bloom October, not September! But we still had a walk around and there were a few blooms out, there are always early bloomers.

Third stop for the day was at Laurel Bank Park, back in the city. The gardens here were in great form. They had a dinosaur theme running through them. Many of the beds had ‘hidden’ dinosaurs in them that could only be seen when looking down from above. There is a stand in the park that allows you to get up a few metres and look down into the garden beds. Some pretty clever gardeners involved in this! The Loch Ness monster was even there peering out from under some flowers.

Pictures tell a story in a way words cannot. The Toowoomba Parks have been just so good! Excellent even!

Allthego has been having some teething problems with the blog. We have to work with some new design software. Why do things have to change! Photo inserts are a particular learning curve and some gremlins are causing some inconsistencies in the post layouts. Hopefully I will get on top of this shortly! I am told by the system that I need to do some tutorials on the new software. Mmmmmm. I have done lots of tutorials over the years and am getting past them!

More flower beds to come!

MORE FLOWER BEDS

The flower beds call and we are off to Spring Bluff Railway Station to check out their floral display. Spring Bluff is a heritage listed railway station on the Brisbane -Toowoomba line. It was a key stop for steam engines as they climbed up the Toowoomba Range. The line is now mostly a freight line and there are few passenger services, none stop at Spring Bluff. A very colorful display indeed.

This journey is not only about flowers, it is also a food and wine festival experience, and there is much promotion of local food establishments and regional produce. A number of country pubs in nearby towns are being promoted for an eat out. After strolling around Spring Bluff we headed off to Meringandan, a small town about 25 km north of Toowoomba. There is a country pub here owned by Geoff Murphy. This fellow played lock for the North Sydney Bears back in the mid 70s. Very popular place and the bar is adorned with a collection of NRL team logos.

It was quite appropriate that the Parramatta Eels were placed side by side on the wall with the Newcastle Knights, we had just beaten these characters in the race to the grand final. Anyway the food here was just great. Enormous meals, great steaks. Homealone called for a doggy bag and we took half her Parmie back to the van for later consumption. We had some soup for dinner and retired to bed very satisfied.

Queens Park was next on the list. This Park is a dominant land mark in Toowoomba. It has its origins in the mid 1870s with the establishment of the botanical gardens. Adjacent to this is a great area of rambling parkland and playing fields. A great display of spring blooms were on show. It is hard to describe. Bed after bed of flowering plants that are in full bloom. People everywhere examining the plantings. A few selfie takers among the flowers as well.

We are getting into the habit of finishing off the garden bed touring around lunchtime and heading off somewhere for a snack before returning to the van to put our feet up for the afternoon. A good number of the food establishments have a special menu item to promote the Carnival, We thought we should support some of them. So it was off to Urban Grounds where we had some ‘salmon, citrus and caper croquettes’; with a nice little green avocado and grilled lemon salad. Very tasty and a fitting end to the mornings activities!

More flower beds to come!

ESCAPE FROM BRISBANE

The van has finally been fixed and we are on the road again. Only 4 months to fix the broken suspension, delay in getting parts. COVID probably contributed too! For the last couple of weeks we have been sweating on the daily Queensland COVID announcements and case numbers. Would our dear leader call a ‘short sharp lockdown’ to quell an outbreak and thereby prevent us from getting to Toowoomba to smell the flowers at the 2021 Carnival of Flowers and Food Festival? No, she didn’t and so here we are in Toowoomba among the free for a bit over a week. Escaped.

We are staying in the Jolly Swagman Caravan Park which is pretty well located for an urban experience, not the greatest ambience but it is clean and well maintained. No fires! Been here before, so it is familiar. The weather is also good, clear sunny skies are forecast for the week, the air is crisp in the mornings and it gets a little chilly at night.

The Carnival is an iconic Queensland event. It has been going for 72 years and is Australia’s longest running horticultural event. I’m not so sure about this as some of the capital city Easter shows have surely been going longer, perhaps they don’t fit the ‘horticultural’ category? This year the Festival has been expanded to take up the entire month of September.

Anyway, we have come up the mountain to have a look at some of the public spaces and private gardens that are on show and also check out the food and wine part of things. After checking into the Jolly Swagman and some lunch the first stop was at Picnic Point which is at the top of the Range and looks back down over the coastal plain. Quite a view and some nicely laid out garden beds were in full bloom.

Saturday morning saw us at the Farmers Markets to stock up on some food items. Got caught at the organic pig farm butchery truck with what was some overpriced bacon and pork chops. It was then time to join the masses at the Food and Wine Festival in Queens Park for the afternoon and evening. There was all day entertainment on the big stage and numerous local food and vineyard outlets plying their fare. Quite a multicultural food offering. We settled for some pulled lamb burgers and a bit later a grazing plate of cheese and assorted meats, a pizza and a little wine to top it off. Listened in the sun under an umbrella to about 8 hours of music of variable quality.

The highlight act was two old rockers. Brian Cadd and Russell Morris. Both pushing into their 70s. Quite a show, both were probably a little past their best but they were still entertaining and sang some of their old hits. Brian Cadd was into ‘Ginger Man’, ‘A Little Ray of Sunshine’ (which he says he sings to his 5 grand children), ‘Arkansas Grass’, ‘Don’t You Know It’s Magic’ and others. Russell Morris belted out ‘Wings of an Eagle’, ‘Sweet, Sweet Love’ and ‘The Real Thing’. Plenty of old age gags and banter. I seemed to remember most of the songs so I probably also qualify for the age group.

Sunday saw us off to the University of Southern Queensland to check out their Japanese Garden. The cherry blossoms were out in full force. Nice little walk around the lake, quite a calming spot. Back to the van for lunch and the afternoon with legs up before Allthego ventured to the Federal Hotel, nearby the Jolly Swagman, to watch the Parramatta Eels clean up the Newcastle Knights. Homealone remained at the van and did some craft.

More flower beds to come!

Adelaide

There was great disappointment when we got off the Ghan in Adelaide. The souvenir shop had sold out of Ghan stubby holders and tea towels showing the trains route. Allthego looked around the shop two or three times for stuff but there wasn’t even a postcard! Lucky he got a Ghan postcard in Darwin. You could get jig saw puzzles, key rings, soft rubber train models, history of the Ghan books etc etc but no stubby holders or tea towels were to be had, maybe we can get them online later. So shaking our heads it was off to Adelaide city in a taxi and our hotel just off North Terrace, not far from the Torrens River. This has subsequently proved to be a great location, close to buses and trams to all parts. Now, I will not make comparisons to a certain establishment in Darwin except to say that in Adelaide we are at 40% of Darwin’s cost and it also includes breakfast! No more comparisons.

Along the Torrens
The old footbridge
From the old footbridge

We had decided to ‘do’ Adelaide by avoiding dusty museums, over indulgent art galleries and old buildings by going to the natural environment. Looking around the town to appreciate it’s natural beauty, albeit some what manufactured since colonial times. The Torrens river flows through the city centre, ‘flow’ is a loose expression. In the centre of town it is a bit more like a lake, two weirs are at either end controlling water flow to keep the lake full year round. Various craft float around on the lake, it is a pretty setting with the City skyline as a backdrop and the Adelaide Oval dominating the other side of the river. Road and footbridges crisscross the river thereby providing walking and biking loops of varying lengths along the river. River Red Gums, gardens and grassed areas adorn each bank. We did strolls around the river bank taking in the river action and views. After European settlement the river banks were heavily eroded as the land was cleared and the area apparently became quite degraded. Prior to colonization the river was ephemeral, flowing strongly in the wet and then falling away to a series of billabongs in the dry times. During the late 1800s and into the 20th century various beautification schemes enhanced the environment.

Botanic Gardens
Adelaide Convention Centre
St Peters Cathedral in the early morning

We escaped one day up to Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills for a look around the old German heritage town. A very well maintained main street provided an insight into early settler life in the district. A highlight here was lunch. We thought we would have some schnitzels for lunch in one of the local hotels. Well they were enormous, the same hotel also promoted its metre long hot dog with German dressings. We avoided this. In these sort of towns you also find some curiosities. On the outside wall of the information centre was a photo reproduction of what was a 1920s scene, but the people were wearing masks. Allthego immediately thought that it was the time of the Spanish flu epidemic. But no, it was an artist having a bit of COVID ‘fun’. Very real though!

Hahndorf street scape
Covid masks in the 1920s?
Those schnitzels

There was also a little trip down memory lane when we caught up with Ewin and Karen Davis for dinner one night. They are old friends from our Sydney days. We had last seen them when they came to Brisbane for EXPO 88, thirty three years ago! So there was much reminiscing about old times and others, as well as what was happening in our lives today.

Ewin and Karen Davis with Leanne

I think one of the must dos in Adelaide is going to the Central Markets and having a look around the food halls. These are not unlike what we have seen and so like in Europe, particularly France. Great displays of produce, meats, cheeses, spices, bakery and pastry items and the list can go on. We had lunch here at an Algerian food bar. Allthego had a slow cooked lamb tagine, with prunes and nuts. Really good. Homealone had a slow cooked lamb and brown rice dish, also good. There were also big pans of paella simmering away enticing the taste buds of passers by. Great morning wandering around. We bought a few bits and pieces from the stalls and put together a ploughman’s dinner for that night instead of eating out.

Some meat specialities
The bread shop
Lamb tagine
Paella

We moved from our first hotel over the river to the Oval Hotel for our last two nights in Adelaide. The Oval Hotel is built into the side of the Adelaide Oval stands. It has not long opened and is a bit of a step up from the Darwin establishment in all respects (still less expensive though) and is very comfortable. The restaurant overlooks the playing surface of the Oval.

A great ground view from up there.
I made it!
A long way down!
One of the high spots!

A good reason for staying there was so that Allthego was on the spot to do the ROOFCLIMB at the Oval, Port Adelaide was playing Freemantle in an AFL game. This basically involved climbing up some ladders and crossing over the top of the stands. At the highest point we were fifty metres above ground. There were thirteen of us on the climb. There are seats up the top were you sit and watch the game. Our tour saw the first quarter of the game from this vantage point before having to head back. Great spectacle from up there, Allthego was positioned such that he looked down into the goal square right on top of the posts. A little edgy at times up there, Allthego almost Allthegone! No, he lives to climb another day. The Auckland Bridge climb beckons!

And after all that folks, it is time to return to Brisbane.

More Ghan

The Ghan pulled into Alice Springs Station on time, around 11am. We had risen from our bunk slumbers for a 7.15am breakfast after which we had some time back in the cabin looking out the window at the passing scenery. Low olive green scrub set amongst the odd tree here and there, open plains and red dirt. The over whelming feature though is distance, the view just goes on and on. Allthego remembers a book he read many years ago, a classic Australian history book, ‘The Tyranny of Distance’. It was a treatise on how, in the author’s view, distance had first shaped Australia’s European settlement and then it’s subsequent social and economic development. I suspect that same distance also shaped Aboriginal development and history prior to what is now seen as the European invasion. Enough of that though, back to the Ghan.

Alice Springs Station
Sturts Desert Pea

On our way south from Katherine the train rocked and gently rolled along during the night. We had no trouble with sleeping. The train stopped from time to time, we had a couple of hours in a siding at Tennant Creek north of Alice. Once in Alice we were whisked away on buses for the selected excursions. The two of us went out to the Alice Springs Desert Park. This is a sprawling establishment set below the McDonald Ranges escarpment. Our guide took us around pointing out various plants, birdlife in the giant aviary and the residents in the nocturnal house. Some dingos were wandering around on leash, seemingly tame but one can never be sure with these fellows. After a good lunch there was a session with the local birds of prey. The birds are let out ‘to fly’ in the open skies, returning to their keeper for ‘treats’, also knowing they will be rewarded with a bigger treat for dinner later on. This was quite a spectacle, the various species soaring high and then zooming in low over our heads. The Desert Park is thoroughly recommended if you are into nature based attractions.

Bird on the wing
Dingos
An owl flying in over us

It was then back to the train for a brief time to clean up before dinner under the stars at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. It is a couple of kilometres out of town and is the original site of Alice Springs. The Telegraph Station was one of the thirteen repeater stations on the Overland Telegraph Line between Adelaide and Darwin, which started operation back in the 1870s (not sure this date is right but it is pretty close), and which then connected to the submarine cable from Java and on to Europe. The Station is a great venue for a dinner, the grounds and buildings are well maintained. We were entertained by a three man band singing a range of 1960/70s hits well suited to the onlookers. They were joined by a didgeridoo player for a bracket of numbers, ‘We come from a Land Downunder’ really pounded out with the Didg reverberating that deep haunting sound out into the night sky. A memorable night.

Dinner at the Telegraph Station in Alice springs
Our band for the night including the Didg

It was back to the Ghan though to continue the journey to Coober Pedy. Allthego didn’t vary his bunk technique. All quite smooth and we again had a good sleep arriving at Manguri in the early hours for breakfast. There was at times a bit more rocking and rolling compared to the section from Darwin to Alice. The fellow in charge of our train section told me that this could be attributed to the track condition. The Darwin to Alice section was in much better condition having been completed in 2004, after originally being promised by Government in 1911. The original section from Adelaide to Alice Springs was completed in 1929. This track though was realigned in 1980 to avoid flood prone areas that severely disrupted the train and destroyed tracks and infrastructure.

Queen Adelaide Dining Car
One of those menus
A Big Breakfast
Apple and guava breaky drink.

We have had some really top eats and wines along this journey. A feature has been the use of bush tucker in some of the sauces and marinades. These are described in the colourful meal menus. Allthego could not resist picking up a few of these as souvenirs.

Manguri is a railway siding thirty kilometres from Coober Pedy. There are remnants here of a railway track maintenance community. Concrete pads as reminders of the small group of people who lived here many years ago.

Our off train excursion today took us out to the Breakaways. Pictures are better than words here. Remarkable place, remnant areas of the ancient sea floor being slowly eroded leaving rock formations and stream beds. After looking around here it was back towards town stopping at an opal mine turned tourist destination. We had lunch here after which it was down a short tunnel for a talk by an old opal miner about the use of gelignite and dynamite in the mining for opals. Interesting chat, not sure how he has lived to 94 working in this game! Last stop was an opal shop and museum in town, short talk followed by the opal hard sell. All very genteel though!

Explaining the intricacies of dynamite.
Breakaways
More Breakaways

Back to the train and a drink as the sun slowly set at Manguri. On board we were off to dinner and then bed. It was the last overnight leg of the journey to Adelaide.

The Ghan about to head south at Manguri.

The weather turned on us a little with some heavy rain overnight but clearing as we came into Adelaide Station. It has been a great journey through the Australian Outback. We are looking forward to a few days in Adelaide before returning to Brisbane.

On the Ghan

Our trip on the Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide takes three days and nights, with stops at Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. The Coober Pedy stop is actually a railway siding at Manguri, a railway siding about thirty km from the town and buses take us into the town.

It was a 5am rise to prepare for and catch the 6am transfer bus to the Darwin railway station, twenty km out of town. At the station there were lots of people milling around, checking in with QR codes and answering COVID questions (despite having done this when getting on the bus back in the town). We have been assigned to car B which, not surprisingly, comes after car A. Cars C & D are then between us and the explorer lounge followed by the Queen Adelaide dining car. So we (the Gold Class people) seem to be grouped in sets of six cars. Memory tells us there were ten twin cabins in our car. Some cars have single cabins. There are also groups of Platinum Class people scattered in the car line up with their own lounges and dining cars. Platinum is a much flasher class of travel, double beds (no bunks) and more space. More cost too of course! All up there are thirty carriages, including staff and luggage/storage carriages. We are a tad over seven hundred metres long and are pulled by two diesel locomotives. Some of the Ghan journeys have more cars and stretch up to one kilometre long.

The Ghan at Darwin Station , pointing south to Adelaide.

The train was due to leave at 9 am but didn’t set off until around 9.15am for Katherine. Soon after we were called into the dining car for brunch. Managed to squeeze a departure bubbles down in the lounge beforehand. More about the meal experiences on the train later, except to say that they were excellent!

We arrived at Katherine around midday and were quickly off on our cruise (from a choice of four options) on the Nitmiluk Gorge, it used to be called Katherine Gorge. In the north, as in the south, many of the locations and attractions are reverting to their indigenous names. This was a great guided experience cruising up the first two gorges and taking in the sights from the level of the river, rather than gazing down from the top of the cliffs. We have been here before, but did not do the gorge trip. It was a stop in the van along the way to Kakadu. Apart from the National Park there is not a lot else to see in Katherine itself, it is a service centre for the surrounding country. Some use it as a base from which day trips can be done to other parts.

Nitmiluk Gorge
Can you see the crocodile in the rock formation? Snout near the top right, a line of teeth in the rock formation dipping back to the left and the bump on the head left top!
Freshwater croc , we saw a few of these but no big salties.

We were back on the train around 4.30pm and headed off at 6.30pm. Dinner was at 7.15pm. What do you do in the train over this three hour period? Well, you go to the lounge car before dinner and have a chat with fellow travelers and look out the window at the scenery as the sun sinks slowly and the dark comes in.

Our cabin
Stage 1 The climb
Stage 2 Swinging ones end
Stage 3 Shuffling one’s end towards the bed’s end.
Stage 4 Swinging the legs up.

After dinner we retired to our cabin for bed. In our absence the lounge in the cabin had been converted to a bed and the bunk from above dropped. The wet ensuite was a little tight, but who cares you don’t stay there long! Allthego had the top bunk, interesting getting in as the ladder up is near the pillow. Up you go, swing ones end onto the bed, do a little end shuffle towards the other end of the bunk and then swing the legs up. More nimble and agile types might do it a different way. But this technique worked, even in the early hours of the morning when nature calls. We are due to arrive in Alice Springs mid morning.

Last Days in Darwin

After the last blog effort Homealone suggested I should lighten up a bit. She thought it was a bit turgid and overly informative. Well I do not know whether she was right, but I do like a bit of detail sometimes to inform my good readers. As it turns out our last days in Darwin were fairly light on information wise.

One of Axel’s offsiders prowling around his tank
Axel’s foot
Axel in action

First up was the must do visit to Crocosaurus Cove. This is right in the middle of Mitchell St, just up from Capitanos. Behind the street front entrance there is a sprawling complex of billabong tanks and nocturnal houses with various sized crocodiles and reptilian creatures. The big crocs are sort of rejects from the natural world. Difficult characters who if not relocated here may otherwise have been destroyed. They lie around on the concrete beaches and have the occasional swim around in the water. There is one particular fellow, Axel, who cruises around his tank while ‘brave’ souls descend in a perspex tank with goggles and watch him from below water line. Lots of snapping of jaws while he is fed in close proximity to the cage. This experience cost $270 for a caged couple. Now, Homealone was not keen to do this whilst Allthego was keen. It was not possible though, booked out for the next month! Lucky! It was an interesting couple of hours wandering around, saw big crocs, little crocs and various reptiles.

Entrance
Movie promo

After surviving Crocosaurus Cove we had lunch and then recovery time back at Capitanos before attending the Deckchair Cinema down at the waterfront in the evening. Started at 6pm with an hour beforehand for dinner followed by the movie at 7 pm. We saw ‘My Salinger Year’, story about a young Uni graduate, who wants to be a poet, going off to work as a publisher’s assistant in New York leaving the boyfriend behind. The publisher acted for J D Salinger of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ fame. She had to answer his copious fan mail. Quite an engaging tale and I will not spoil it by revealing any more of the plot! Great under the clear night sky, cushions supplied for the deck chairs and insect repellent for the bugs.

Waterfront
Wave Pool
Allthego at centre right

The ‘highlight’ of Darwin was on our last day. The Waterfront Wave Pool. Allthego took to this like a duck to water. The waves work for ten minutes and then it all goes quiet for twenty minutes, then ten minutes of waves etc …… all day. Homealone did not partake, had a quiet chardonnay looking on from the bar and reading a book. Water was warm about a metre and half deep, people bouncing all over the place. It was an all age fun place. Allthego survived for about forty minutes before retiring to the bar to recover and have lunch.

Street art
Street art
Street art

On the way back to Capitanos, to ready for the next mornings pick up for the Ghan, Allthego took a short detour to see some of the street art that is in the lane ways around the city. Quite a variety, although there is a significant indigenous flavour to the creations.

Darwin’s WW11 experiences

Over the last couple of days we have been in and out of a number of the Darwin WW11 ‘experiences’. The February 1942 bombing raid by the Japanese, along with Cyclone Tracy, are prominent tourist ‘traps’. The sort of things Australians, rather than foreigners, are ‘supposed’ to see. The foreigners go to Kakadu and other nature based activities. The Aussies seem to want to see old relics and sites from the city’s past. Nothing wrong with that of course, we did it!

But a short interlude, Althego thought it might be good to hire a car for a few days to get around the sites. It seems that hiring a car is like trying to get hotel rooms. All booked out for days in advance. Budget Rentals our next door neighbours said we could have one on 27 May, ten days hence. So the lesson is to book well ahead if you plan in coming to these parts. So we jumped on and off the Big Red Bus to get around to the sites.

Big Red Bus

We have ‘done’ four of the attractions. All very interesting and bring different perspectives to the story. The Oil Storage Tunnels were built under the Darwin waterfront cliff line following the bombing of the nearby above ground storage tanks. They were horseshoe shaped, concrete formed and steel lined. Most of the tunnels are over 150 metres long and 3 metres or so high. A lot of oil could have been stored in them. They didn’t really work and never held oil. Bit of a lemon it seems, plagued with location, geological and design issues. An interesting walk through them.

Oil tunnels
Oil tunnels

The bombing of Darwin Harbour is also featured in the Royal Flying Doctor Service tourist facility on Stokes Wharf. This was quite impressive. A hologram of the Captain of the USS Peary, which was sunk in the harbour, along with some computer animated footage of the attack is quite confronting. There is also an a headphone experience with animations all around you of the attack, puts you in the thick of it. A life size replica of a Zero hangs from the ceiling along with other bits and pieces including a cross section of a Japanese bomb. Down the back the RFDS takes over with their story, including a John Flynn hologram and footage. We have done this story before at Cloncurry and elsewhere, had a look inside one of their planes, quite a set up.

Replica Zero

RFDS plane

Next port of call was the Territory Museum. This is very good. Excellent display of wildlife and habitats, not overdone with information boards. They have an excellent taxidermist! Very big crocodile on display, Sweetheart. Died while being captured, big fellow that was creating havoc for us humans on the waterways, attacking boats etc. The main thing here for us though was the Cyclone Tracy displays and videos. Very detailed telling of the physical power of this cyclone and the destruction caused on that early Christmas morning in 1974. There is a small room, pitch black darkness, to stand in and hear a recording of the actual storm roaring around and ripping apart buildings. Very unnerving indeed.

Gouldan finches , very rare.
Black headed python
Cyclone Tracy
Cyclone Tracy

The final instalment was at the Military Museum out on East Point. The Darwin bombing experience here was very different to the one at the RFDS. Bit more precision to it all. The main video presentation was a collection of actual footage from the time and included personal reflections of service people and civilians who experienced the action. Numerous people seem to have donated things to the display, illustrating their experiences of the time. It was therefore on a different plane to the RFDS experience. One could be more moved by the drama and their sacrifice. Upon reflection I am not sure which was superior, both have their place I suppose.

On a different note we have had an evening out on the harbour aboard Cape Adieu for a sunset dinner cruise. It is an old converted fishing boat. It leaves from Stokes Wharf and cruises along the harbour front and then back takes about three hours. Plenty of great sea food and views of the city. Quite a good sunset too. Guess is there were about fifty on the boat, spread over three decks. So it was a good laid back experience without crowds of people on a couple of the larger boats that mirror this trip.

Joining the sunset cruise dinner boat Cape Adieu.
Sunset on the harbour!

We set off tomorrow on the Ghan to Adelaide. Will catch up on the remainder of our time in Darwin when we get there in three days time.

Feeding and eating fish

After a bit of a sleep in we set off for a walk through Bicentennial Park which runs along the foreshore cliff tops fronting Darwin Harbour. First stop though was at Doctors Gully, named ‘Doctor’ after surgeon Peel, He was a member of the Goyder surveying team that in 1869 surveyed the site of Palmerston, to later become Darwin in 1911. There are the remnants of an old water well here that was the source of Palmerston’s water supply in the early years. A creek flows from this area down to the harbour, the whole area was originally given over to agricultural pursuits. During WW11 the Catalina flying boats were moored here.

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Peels Well relic in remnant rainforest at the head of Doctor’s Gully

Now, there is a tourist attraction here. Aquascene, it is focused on a fish feeding frenzy that happens here every high tide. There are also some pieces of rusting wartime relics on display. Fish in their hundreds arrive here to be fed by milling tourists of all ages tossing in pieces of bread. Big mullet seem to be the main species, cat fish and milk fish (large salmon like fish) also prevalent.  Allthego could not resist the temptation of doing some bread tossing.

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Allthego feeding fish                                                                                                   

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Some big mullet gobbled the bread

After an hour or so at Acquascene, we climbed the stairs back up to the walkway and continued along the cliff line. There are a number of lookouts with great views of the harbour. Memorials pin point various historical events, particularly Darwin’s experience of Japanese bombing in WW11. On one high point Darwin’s Cenotaph stands backed by stone work commemorating the involvement of Australian defence forces in all the theatres of war since the Crimean war through to Afghanistan. Ominously, 3 or 4 slots on the wall following Afghanistan have been left empty. There is also quite a display of memorial plaques to the various defence units taking part in the campaign. They overlook Darwin Harbour where all the action took place back on 19 February 1942 when Japan conducted the first of many bombing raids on Darwin and the Top End.  But more about that another time.

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Darwin Cenotaph and Harbour

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One of the guns from the destroyer USS Peary, sunk in the harbour, now pointing out into the distance from where the attack came.

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                                                                          Mural depicting Anti-Aircraft unit in action

Time was getting on and the feet weary so it was lunch time at the Waterfront. An Irish pub where we consumed a rather large portion of beer battered Barramundi and chips. It was very meaty and could have done with a little longer in the oil to fully crisp up the batter, it was a little soggy in parts. The chips were excellent. Now my readers might recall that on our trips we normally select a ‘food’ and see if we can find the ‘best one’ along the way. But we are not doing that this time, trip not long enough to good a big enough sample!

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Barramundi & chips, not too bad but have had better!

The walkers felt that we had done enough for the day and wandered back to Capitanos to recover.