Monday, June 16, 2014

June 5 – 6: Australia

We had decided to make a side trip to Australia because the flights were so cheap between Darwin and Bali. Of course, then we changed the plans and flew there from Jakarta, rather defeating the purpose (it was much more expensive, and it involved 7 hours of flying). Al’s sister and mother had not gotten their Australian visas in time, so it was just me, Al, and his nephew Alex for the Australian portion of the trip.

We had a doozy of a ride there, with Alex getting sick as soon as we boarded the plane at midnight, and throwing up continuously the entire 5-hour flight. We arrived at 7 in the morning without having gotten a lick of sleep, and couldn’t check into our apartment until 3 in the afternoon.

We made the best of it, stopping at a grocery store for lunch since the restaurants were all so expensive (the downside of Darwin is it’s the wealthiest city in Australia), and eating it in a park near the seashore. Being a Dorito fiend, I was fascinated by the fact that the Nacho cheese Doritos were in a yellow bag rather than the red one I’m used to. Turns out, in Australia, the “nacho cheese” Doritos I know so well are called “Cheese Supreme,” and “Nacho cheese” is another flavor entirely.

We had gotten a rental car free with our room rental, and we were much bemused when we realized we would have to drive it on the left side of the road! That's how traffic runs in Indonesia, too, but there someone else had been doing all the driving for us!

Al was up to the challenge (I was characteristically terrified), so he did all the driving, and got the hang of it pretty quickly. “This is fun!” he said, shortly before drifting into a curb and blowing out the front tire (he seemed to have trouble judging the space on the left side of the car, prompting a continuous mantra from me of “watch the curb!” for the remainder of the trip).

Fortunately, we were close to the rental place, so we walked there to admit our folly. The mechanic was able to change out the tire in no time flat (get it?) and we were back on the road.

That first day in Darwin, we visited Mindil Beach, which is home to a supposedly must-see night market. During the day, it was absolutely desolate. A beautiful white sand beach with not a single person swimming or even walking nearby. We soon learned that people don’t really swim on the beaches in Darwin because of the potential risk of crocodiles and jellyfish. What a disappointment! At night, however, during the market, the beach was thronged with people. But still, not a one of them was in the water.

We actually were staying outside of Darwin City, in the town of Nightcliff, so named because it has cliffs. The cliffs were an endless source of fascination for me, with their shading of red and white, and the rocks on the beach pocked full of holes. Apparently the stone of the cliffs is known as porcelainite.