...or "The Beginning of the End"
21.06.2012 - 22.06.2012 29 °C
Everything is coming apart now. But not really. But kind of.
The roadtrip is now officially over. After spending some of the morning doing the last touches on cleaning up Cass' insides, I headed off to Britz, just outside of Darwin. Of course, I still had to actually wash her on the outside, as she had taken on a predominantly red and brown colour (note: Britz campervans start out white when you pick them up). I waited for what seemed an eternity to ask the simple question "is there anywhere nearby that I can wash the vehicle?" The response I got was "that's a good question". It is? Am I really the first one to ask where I can wash up the rented campervan, when one of the rental stipulations is to return it clean? Really?
I was sent off a few Km down the road where I spent a pleasant hour scrubbing up Cass and giving her some dignity back.
Campervan now washed and dropped off (I will really miss her...) I taxied into Darwin city. What to say about Darwin? It's like a small Australian version of Los Angeles...at least in terms of climate, the palm trees, the still grayish haze that hovers over the city, and the fact that you can't swim in the ocean here. Except, here the reason is that you will be eaten by crocodiles instead of contracting some horrible disease from fecal matter. So a little bit different. Actually, if I was to be a bit more accurate, it's more like if you were to slice Santa Monica off of LA and glue it to northern Australia, and then fill it with...Australians. The attire and image and rather loud nightlife of the locals matches though.
I'm way too early to officially check into the hotel, so I spend the early afternoon wandering aimlessly up and down the pedestrian mall, looking and feeling completely lost. There are countless shops and restaurants and gift stores and jewelry stores and yada, yada, yada, I don't really fucking care anymore, I'm done touristing. I buy a crappy used copy of 'Hannibal' and sit on the bench with a coffee like an asshole and read.
I wander back to the hotel and check in, making sure to pay the $11 for wifi so I can spend some time posting blogs, checking email, and finding a good place for dinner. Loneliness is easily combatted by eating, thinking about eating, or planning on eating. Speaking of which, I don't know why Australians can look as good as they do sometimes - it seems as if almost everything here is deep fried or some kind of sausage. Or it's pure, thick beef. I've definitely gained weight - no scale needed to know this.
It's about now that I find: a) the wifi doesn't cooperate with iPads (again). I spend a bunch of time trying to connect, and to the hotel's credit they try me on a couple of repeater routers before they kindly inform me "you can use the restaurant to do your work" (restaurant meaning their empty, hot boring breakfast room, because it is the only place I can connect to their shitty network - and still, I could barely accomplish anything without tearing out my own eyes in frustration - hence this is probably being posted long after I get home). I have also found that b) my cell phone - meaning the spare unlocked phone I use in other countries, Australia being one of them, has totally packed it in, having been possessed by some vengeful and merciless god; c) the toilet seems to never finish filling so I have to live with the constant sound of running water (I tell myself it's one of those meditation fountains); and d) the hotel is 1/2 a block from a really loud nightclub. And by 1/2 a block I mean I could hit it with a rock or mid-sized frilled lizard from where I'm sitting now.
I give a bad impression of the hotel - it is actually quite nice (and as I said the staff bent over backwards to help me with my wifi problems...well, half backwards at least); I have my own veranda attached to a little 'villa', almost like a nice urban cabin with air-conditioning.
So I do what is the only thing to do when faced with adversity - go to the 'bottle shop' (liquor store), get a nice cabernet sauvignon, have a few glasses, dress nice (it is really, really satisfying to put my boots on again after two weeks) and then go out and blow one-hundred-and-two ($102) dollars on dinner. Wasn't hard to do - I found the nicest place I could, ordered an appetizer (beef spring rolls with ginger), a rare steak (I've eaten more beef in Australia in the last 2.5 weeks that I have in six months prior) with a side of truffled potatoes, veggies, and two glasses of nice wine. $102 (this will be my souvenir for the trip - I'll just carry it in my colon, that's all). And I don't leave a tip...and still even now feel really weird about it.
Well there is a long description of really nothing - when you put it against some of the amazing things I've seen on my road trip. I'm packed and ready for the flight back to Sydney tomorrow - who knows, maybe Coogee Beach will end up being the highlight of the trip. Not likely though, which is ok because Clarice Starling and I have some catching up to do. Even though I know I've left part of me back in the Kimberley somewhere (and god know what else I forgot there...along with the bunch of money at El Questro) I long for home...and a reliable internet connection. And a bit less beef. But not really.
Soundtrack: THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP...The Deck Nightclub across the street.
I spent the morning fighting with the Internet connection over a $20 all-you-can-eat-really-crappy-breakfast buffet in order to post a single blog (the one about Windjana). After which I finished packing, and checked out by the mandatory 10am. I left the hotel with my bags while I took in what I could in the 3 hours before the airport shuttle showed up. I went down to the Darwin 'waterfront', which is, despite what it is, really quite beautiful. Since the crocs are just chomping at the bit for human meat, the city has a walled-off ocean lagoon and public wave pool so that the ocean can be enjoyed whilst keeping all limbs intact. It really is quite nice, they've done an excellent job.
I relax, read, and wander. After a couple hours, back to the city for lunch, and then back to the hotel to change back into 'normal clothes' (normal for me is dark jeans, shirt, and boots - no more shorts, sandals, 'duh-I'm-a-tourist' attire, etc.) because I know it will be colder in Sydney. Skip to the flight from Darwin: I take my window seat (30 minutes later than scheduled) and a few minutes later, a pretty dark-haired woman, maybe only a few years younger than me, takes her seat next to me. Just before we take off, she goes and has a conversation with the stewardess, and then takes her seat. Not being one for engaging conversation, the best I could come up with was asking her if she preferred the window shade up or down (this is about 40 minutes after we take off. I know, I rock). She thanks me, but it really doesn't matter. I notice at this point she's coughing and has the sniffles. Moments later the stewardess comes to her, tells her something, and at this point she collects her things and leaves to some other seat somewhere. I never see her again. So...at first, my mind immediately goes to: I couldn't possibly be that creepy, could I?...Could I? But then some small amount of reason takes over and I figure it must have something to do with the illness she was exhibiting. I hope. So: the good news is that for most of the 4.5 hour flight, I had my aisle all to myself (only 2 seats along the outside on this plane). The bad news: I probably have SARS or something now.
Land, long waiting line for a cab (which took me on a very interesting and scenic, but short and direct and ultimately what I determined to 'impatient' route to Coogee Beach) and now I'm here with my partial ocean (dark 10pm) view of the ocean. With no wifi to feed my iPad and facilitate posting blogs. Yay. Can I go home now? Not really though, there must be some potential here. I did manage to find my way to *the* local watering hole for a couple glasses of wine and an awesome BBQ sausage + onion bun from a food kiosk set up in the outdoor beer garden. 'Dinner' (part 2; part 1 was the flash-reheated stir-fry on the plane), check. *Obviously* I have to wade through all the locals in line to meet me so I could make my way back for a nice sleep before my last (full) day in Australia. Yes. Sarcasm. Learn it. (That was also sarcasm.)
I look through the hotel guide, and I would like to quote what I found: "Tipping: ...waiters and waitresses in Australia do not rely on tips for their income; therefore tips are an incentive to perform, as poor service usually results in no tip". I receive absolutely *fabulous* service at the restaurant in Darwin where I dropped $102...without a tip. I now feel like a complete tool...more so than usual. Maybe I should mail the 'Char House' in Darwin $30?