Rather an eventful drive out to the airport. At the roundabout exiting the Gateway motorway, some twit rear-ended the car in front of him. Then, after disentangling ourselves from that mess and reaching the domestic terminal, when I went to return our rental car the signage was not exceptionally good and I missed the entrance to that particular carpark. Flew around the ringroad again (in the wrong lane – oops), this time aware of where the entrance was and successfully made it – only to find we had rather a way to trudge to the Ansett terminal (obviously before Ansett's demise) lugging our bags. Not too bad for me, but a bit of a struggle for my elderly parents.
By the time we reached the Budget Car Hire counter to organise return of the vehicle, I was not in the best of moods. To add to this, the plane was delayed by 30 minutes, awaiting a part being flown up from Melbourne. For the airconditioning...so they said. Yeah, right!
Checked in, got rid of our luggage then looked for somewhere to have breakfast bearing in mind this was 8.00 am in the morning and we were pretty peckish after the inauspicious start to our much anticipated holiday to the Top End. Found a place that sold food and had cold eggs, soft bacon and hard hash browns. Ugh! The coffee was okay, though...but $10 each for that, ouch!
We finally boarded, found our seats and got ourselves as comfortable as one can get crammed into a narrow metal tube with a couple of hundred other people. We hadn’t hit cruising speed when three guys diagonally opposite us were asking when the drinks trolley would be coming around. That was a bit of a worry. However they were okay...
According to the captain of this particular metal tube, our flight path would be taking us up over the Gulf of Carpentaria, Mornington Island, then Arnhem Land, the spiritual home of the traditional dwellers of Australia, and finally Darwin. (see map [double click to enlarge] and the pink dotted line). For four hours or so we ate, drank, watched the news, read, talked desultorily and slept.
The plane touched down in Darwin almost on time at 1.55 pm, not bad as we were late taking off. The airport was small and not really what one would expect of a terminal that served international and well as domestic flights. We stepped outside and the weather was hot and sunny...beautiful!
As we were on a group tour, we were met by our hostess, Margie, and coach driver, Val, who retrieved our luggage and shepherded us onto the luxury coach waiting for us outside the main arrivals area. This was to be the routine for our trip, we were cosseted, pampered and everything taken care of for us right throughout the trip. Wonderful!
Val took us on a bit of a tour through Darwin, Australia’s northernmost city, before being taken on to our hotel, the Novatel Atrium, on the Esplanade which runs right along the waterfront. I thought Darwin was a pretty place, quite small for a city, the population approximately 100,000. The temperature was about 30 degrees Celsius with a light breeze, just perfect.
We were impressed with our hotel. As the name suggested, there was a central atrium area with a water feature and fish, tropical plants, the bar and a restaurant in an open plan design. The five floors of rooms surrounded the central atrium and one could look down from one’s floor to the bar and restaurant area. Outside, to the right of the entrance from the road was the al fresco restaurant, Castaways.
After unpacking and duly admiring our suite which overlooked the harbour, we changed into summer clothes and sauntered down to the bar for a couple of wines before dinner. We met the rest of our party, or as Margie called us, the family. Dinner was around the barbecue at Castaways, yummy food and tropical dessert on a beautiful balmy evening. It was so nice to be in warm weather and summer clothes.
We went to bed happily tired and looking forward to the next week.
To be continued...
(57 kms – not including air travel of approx 4,000 km).