Darwin: the best-kept secret.
The rains came down last night, a welcome relief from the humid Build-up. This season has its own beauties: Mangoes falling from trees, flowers bursting into colour, clouds swelling, tinged violet in the setting sun. Every season in the Top End has its distinct beauty: the clear blue skies and cool nights of the Dry, heralded in early May by dragon flies, their translucent wings cause for rejoicing. The dramatic Wet, season of looming storms and their accompanying thunder and lightning.
This part of Australia belongs to the Larrakia people, the custodians of the land now called Darwin. They have tended it for over sixty thousand years, and how do we non-indigenous dwellers thank them? By ignoring their culture, as when tourists rush to climb the sacred site of Uluru? By treating them as second-class citizens in their own land? Yes, there is a dark side to Darwin, Yet, for all that, I love the place. Here one can relax, shrug off the tensions of the cities Down South, enjoy the surrounding landmarks of Kakadu and Litchfield Park, with their waterfalls and swimming holes. But never forget, these lands also belong to our First Peoples, and they deserve the utmost respect and gratitude.
If you’re a ‘culture-vulture’ you will not be disappointed in the offerings of this northern capital. In the last few months I’ve attended the Bell Shakespeare performance of Much Ado About Nothing, a rousing performance of Beethoven by the Darwin Symphony Orchestra, and the ballet Swan Lake, brought to us by the Victorian Ballet.
A highlight last weekend was the award winning playwright Mary Anne Butler’s new play, ‘Cusp’, Beautifully written, directed and acted, it portrays the climactic life choices that our young people have to make. Those on the cusp between childhood and adulthood. It’s searing, and sobering, and a must-see. You can catch it soon in Sydney at the Griffin Theatre.
Forget the traffic jams and parking nightmares of your southern cities; Here these events are easier to access. Not as simple as twenty years ago, when there were no parking meters and people often didn’t bother to lock their cars, but way easier than driving into a crowded city for sometimes over an hour, as we often do in larger cities.
At last I consider myself a Darwinite, having lived here on and off for over twenty years. From now on, my sojourns will be more on than off, in my tiny home by the foreshore where I watch the tides drag way out and then in again. Signs warn us not to bathe in these waters: stingers are active between October and May, and crocodiles, sometimes crawl out of the water after their prey.
I’ve met so many people who tell me they came to Darwin for a week, and stayed a lifetime. There’s something about the place – its friendliness, its carefree lifestyle, its natural beauty – that sucks you in. Forget the clichés you might have heard about a dusty frontier town full of beer-swilling ruffians, in the middle of nowhere; here there is culture, sophistication and creativity, surrounded by azure seas, ancient landmarks, and natural wonders. Why would you want to live anywhere else?