Darwin is a Mecca for the serious Australian stormchaser who is looking to experience the tropics without leaving the home country. Most years there is a pilgrimage up from the south…a few have stayed and now head in the opposite direction for their annual breaks in the Dry – back to see family and friends down south. But for most of us, it has become an annual or biennial pilgrimage of sorts.
We steal 5 days out of November and, unusually for us, board a Jetstar flight (because, and only because, it flew at a time that suited us). There is no other reason that we would use Jetstar …..ever again ……..if we can avoid it. Was this because the brightness of the Qantas terminal suddenly turned into the dingy darkness of the downstairs ‘cattlepen’? The fact that we managed to score the last sandwich on the plane (and we were only in row 22), the fact they left late?………
Our arrival in Darwin, after the plane had to go around on a reverse approach to avoid a rather intense storm, was greeted by fellow traveller Michael King from Canberra who had set up advance camp in the chasers preferred location in Cullen Bay….the first evening was spent down at Stokes Hill wharf with a feast of Barramundi and chips!!
Next morning was a trip out to one of our regular haunts and a spot I spent many an hour fishing when I lived here during ’84, over at the Nightcliff Jetty…..but there was no water!!!! Literally… Low tide was 0.4m, the boat harbour didnt exist and all we had to do was wait for high tide later that afternoon at 7.6m!! That’s one of the greatest tidal ranges we’d ever seen!! Then the water had all but engulfed the breakwater and was lapping at the edge of the wall next to the carpark….
We had lunch out at Fogg Dam watching a black kite (hawk) fishing very accurately from a great height and grabbing a sizable fish out of the shallows on his first pass!! Waiting for the storms with a beautiful open vista in front of us….
We came back and grabbed dinner from the Istanbul Cafe on the way through town, only to have our dinner interrupted by a storm which had us out of the unit, our meals half eaten on the table, into the car and down the the beach near Cullen Marina. Clyve took off at a sprint towards the Casino side of Myilly Point with Video and tripod, leaving Michael and I watching a salmon and ice-cream coloured Cb throw out a gust front (with attendant sparks out the top of the anvil) advance towards us….Clyve sprinted back just ahead of the rain and it was back into the car and back up the hill for our unfinished tea..pretty good four our first 24 hours in the tropics!!
Saturday saw us wander down to The Boatshed in Cullen Bay for morning tea….Clyve & I ordered modest cappuccinos and Michael ordered a ‘mugaccino’, but what turned could have more appropriately have been called a ‘bathaccino’!! It was enormous!! Everything must be bigger in Darwin!!
(next chapter……..still to come)