Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
20-27 August 2006 - Darwin

Location map Weather dominated our week in Darwin. Mornings are pleasant around the caravan park, warm with a breeze (sometimes a wind) and under dappled shade provided by the spreading trees. In the evening there was usually a comfortable breeze. But from midday to 3:30 was hot; any cloud in the morning had burnt off by mid-morning and the sun shone fiercely in the afternoon; temperatures of around 40 degrees under the awning were common. Nights were warm to hot; the minimum was rarely below 20 degrees, sometimes 25 degrees. We usually slept under a single sheet and kept the fans running on warmer nights. There was usually smoke haze visible, or the smell of wood smoke coming from bush fires burning around Darwin; these are not dry-season burning off but wild fires.

Occupancy in the caravan park is steadily declining; each day we see people leaving and very few new arrivals take their place. By the time we left, the park was no more than half full.

Despite the high temperature the bugs weren't as bad as we feared. The Mortein-vapour killed bugs staying inside the van for more than an hour and a citronella burner outside the door persuaded others to go elsewhere. Mary still got bitten a few times but we have found that Soov ointment (by Ego Pharmaceuticals) applied to sandfly bites stops stinging and itching. Most medical products, like Soov, must be stored below temperatures normally found in northern Australia; our fridge holds an assortment of pills, potions and ointments

Darwin is laid out on lines similar to Canberra with main roads serving residential roads laid out so that motorists are not tempted to use residential roads as shortcuts. Unfortunately speed limits are irrational; at any point within the Darwin built-up area the speed limit may be 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80 kph. Darwin isn't really very big and local residents are probably familiar with speed limits at any point; but visitors have some difficulty staying inside these erratic and changing limits.

I had the Territory steering re-aligned to get rid of an annoying little shimmy I had noticed in the steering wheel a few days before reaching Darwin. One of the front tyres was also beginning to wear unevenly. The alignment returned the Territory to its normal smooth self.

For a while we had a stowaway in the Territory. One morning I saw a mouse inside the vehicle. I opened the doors and tried to scare it out without knowing whether I'd been successful but later in the morning I felt mouse feet on my legs while driving so I knew we still had our stowaway. Later in the day, while working in the back of the Territory with the rear door up I saw a sick-looking mouse in the vehicle; the mouse had been very badly affected by high temperatures inside the vehicle parked in the sun and died about half an hour later. I have a thermometer showing fridge internal temperature which also shows the passenger area temperature; readings of 50 degrees after the car has been sitting in the sun are not uncommon.

Green tree ants are a feature of this park. They are each about 10mm long, coloured green as the name implies, and build nests in trees by glueing leaves together into a ball up to 30 cm across. Adult ants hold the leaves in place while another ant squeezes a green ant larva to exude glue across the join. They spend a lot of time on the ground under 'their' tree; some caravan parks advise people not to set up camp under green tree ants nests but a practical approach is not to disturb the nests and, if possible, stay away from an area about two metres radius around the green ant tree. Individual green tree ants were often seen investigating their surroundings including the A'liner and annex but we did not have an invasion. They do sting but a single sting is not very painful and happens only when they are provoked; often they crawl onto a person's foot then get pinched by a sandal strap and sting the nearby skin.

After a week in Darwin we hadn't done all the things we had planned to do but it was time to head south. We have found on long trips (i.e. many months duration) that at first we stay or move on as the fancy takes us and we have no concerns about the passing weeks. But as we enter the last couple of months we have to begin paying attention to the time left to us and have to work out a rough timetable of movements. We had reached that stage on this trip and now had some planning places and dates and a more detailed timetable which will have us in Mt Isa by next weekend.