Friday, June 13, 2008

DAY 232: Day 3 off in Darwin


12th June 2008

39 km @ 16.0 km/hr

Sunny, 32 deg C

Elevation of destination 37 m

Distance to date 14149 km (8843 miles)

I’m starting to get used to these lie-ins, governed only by the sun hitting the tent at 0830 and threatening to boil me alive. I did some bike maintenance; checking soundness of inner tubes and fitting new bar bag mainly, then headed off on Bagot Road for a tour around the northern suburbs, taking in Nightcliff, Alawa and Tiwi (for example), ending in the Casuarina Coastal Reserve. This is a well-preserved area alongside a beautiful white sandy coastline, unsurprisingly fringed with Casuarina (She-Oak) trees, ending in a nudist beach. I fancied an hours’ sunbathing to even out my tan so duly joined the dozen or so well-spaced out over 40’s and quickly threw off the 2 pieces of clothing I had on. The sea is very shallow here and very clear, so any crocs would show up rather easily (one was reported near here the other day), and I’m certain the risk of deadly Box Jellyfish is minimal this time of year. Anyway, I didn’t present the available 100% of my (contrasting brown and white) skin for more than a few minutes, just in case, and that was enough to become deliciously cool for a while under the blazing sun.

I lingered thus for nearly 2 hours and as my white parts are now all pink, guess that was enough for 1 day, anyway I was HUNGRY. I had arrived here completely on good cycleways, and from the Reserve on this was to continue. The 2-way, 4 metre-wide track was in excellent condition and it was sheer pleasure to glide along through rows of shady palms, wind assisted and hardly pedalling. It winds around the coast for some 7 or 8 km through pleasant residential avenues without ever crossing a road, before turning inland for a while at Nightcliff’s Dick Ward Road, to avoid the swampy mangrove no-go area north of the city. Darwin is great for cyclists, and traffic is pretty considerate too. I stopped at Fannie Bay, where there’s a superb bakery with all kinds of unusual cakes beautiful to starving cyclists, and I tried 2 thereof whilst talking with a middle-aged Aboriginal guy, well, I wasn’t sure of everything he said, but did my best to respond half-intelligently.

From here I popped into the Art Gallery again for the loo (not having seen one for several hours, unusually), and remembered that there is a meeting here tonight about NT’s response to Australia’s climate change proposals - in fact starting in half an hour’s time - and although I was wanting also to drop in at the famous Thursday night Mindil Beach Market just down the road, the latter was on until 10 so I’d still have time for that.

I was handed a large volume detailing NT’s position on CC and joined 20 other locals for a good and lively discussion. I was interested to learn that NT is, Per Capita, the worst of the Australian States regarding carbon footprint; moreover Australia is Per Capita the worst-performing country in the world! The reason for NT’s poor record appears to be mainly due to the high numbers of (windy) cattle in the state, plus the high usage of air-conditioning in the home. Unfortunately after Cyclone Tracey devastated Darwin in 1974 the city was rebuilt very solidly using concrete techniques, abandoning the previous airy but structurally vulnerable buildings. Little natural ventilation = hotter homes and more need for cooling; the temperature rarely falls below 30 deg C here all the year round.

I left the meeting around 7 as it was starting to get a bit drawn out by the usual sceptics, and was surprised to see caterers laying out a spread of food for the attendees after the meeting. I couldn’t resist a nibble here and there before departing....

......for Mindil Beach, where thousands of people were bumping into each other as they scoured the scores of food stalls for the tastiest treat - and there were plenty! I eventually settled for garlic battered squid and a King Prawn satay, washed down by a tropical smoothie. To be honest it was heavy going fighting your way about, and although there were plenty of craft stalls to look at, I’d mostly seen it all before. I was also twitchy about leaving the bike alone for long even though it was near a few police cars, and had to keep checking it. I was recognised whilst walking around by the couple I met at the rest area on the Arnhem Highway a few days ago - the guy was originally from Perth - which was pretty observant of him given the size of the milling mob.

I left soon after 8 and although I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get back to the Leprechaun Caravan Park, it’s testament to my intense exploration of Darwin and it's relatively small size that within 5 minutes I was in familiar territory on the Stuart Highway, and ‘home’ 10 muntes after that.

I wore the new Netti baggy cycling shorts today, having dumped the 2 pairs of lycra shorts this morning, and first experience is that they’re not quite as comfy, but it’s early to be sure yet - how will they stand up to 5 or 6 hours in the saddle? We’ll see.

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