23-26 July: To Berry Springs and Darwin

Author: Mrs A

Location: Berry Springs, Northern Territory

Monday: It was a busy morning of packing up while Mr A took the Landcruiser into Katherine to get the wheel alignment checked (standard check post new shocks). Finally we took off up the highway, about a three hour drive to Berry Springs.

Berry Springs is a tiny rural settlement located about 60km south of Darwin. These days it is primarily a jumping off point for Litchfield National Park, Berry Springs Nature Park and the Territory Wildlife Park.

Our park is located beside Lake Barden, a horseshoe shaped lake designed specifically for waterskiing – no action here at the moment though, just lots of birds and a few crocodiles apparently (hopefully of the freshwater variety!).Checking in for 10 days, I believe we have one of the best sites in the park. Nice and shady, grassy with no neighbours for about 15 metres. Better still, we had barely set up when the campground managers came over with three boxes of wine – our Vinomofo and Ross Hill deliveries have made it safely. Sadly the Tscharke wine delivery made it in a leaking crumpled mess to the Berry Springs Post Office with just enough time for the courier to photograph it and then take it away again. Will we ever get to try this wine? Third time lucky we hope…

Tuesday: Mark finished off his packing and we loaded up the car with his case plus our poor punctured bike tyres to take them into Darwin. Forty-five minutes later we were pulling up outside Cycle Zone (we thought it was an appropriate name!) and dropping them off. It seems my bike is going to be a simple (if costly) fix, but Mr A`s Surly tyres will need a bit more thought.

We then went off to find lunch – TripAdvisor came to the rescue here, and we were soon calling into the Magic Wok Restaurant. There, we selected raw vegetables and meat from a selection (a wide variety including buffalo, crocodile, emu, kangaroo and other interesting choices), chose a sauce and a noodle or rice. You pay depending on the weight of your plates. We both decided on seafood laksa, which was outstanding.

Soon it was time to drop Mark to the airport for his flight to Perth and onward to the UK. I jumped in to the driver`s seat for the first time in a long while and drove on back to Berry Springs to chill out with my furry housemate.

Wednesday: for me a day of washing and working – doing analysis on some research I have conducted while travelling. Mid afternoon I got a message from Mark to say he had safely made it into London and was on the train travelling across the city. It all seemed so fast!

Miss Tassie did a little exploring, deciding the nearby lake is ideal for sunbathing.

Thursday: I received a message early to let me know my bike was ready to collect, so I decided to spend the morning writing my report and then head back into Darwin in the afternoon. Annoyingly our lovely new washing machine decided to start pumping out error codes, and I spent an hour trying to sort that out..not solved yet.

I drove into Darwin, relieved at the nice quiet roads and easy parking outside the bike shop. My tyres are now tubeless, so now hopefully no more punctures. I am really looking forward to jumping on my bike for an explore. Mark`s bike tyres are still in the workshop.

Given I was already in town, I decided to hang around and check out the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. I last went to those when I was up here backpacking 19 years ago. Being a little early, I walked around the coast to the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, dipping my toes in the Timor Sea along the way.

The museum is well worth a visit. It not only covers the Northern Territory`s natural history (with an extensive collection of fossils and taxidermy), a display and recordings of Cyclone Tracey in the 1970s (which instill fear into anyone listening to the 200 mile an hour winds ripping apart the flimsy wood and corrugated iron homes), but also the history of settlement. It is this which is quite shocking when viewed through today`s eyes.In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Northern Territory was quite a tough and unruly place to live. The climate is challenging to say the least, and settlers trying to grow crops were also stymied by poor soils, high temperatures and rainfall followed by drought. Aboriginal people largely carried on their usual life, with some being employed by pastoralists and hotel operators, and as stockmen, hunters and laborers.

In 1911 that all changed with several policies introduced as part of the`White Australia`goal. Aboriginal people were suddenly severely restricted in their movement, and it is at around this time children were removed from Aboriginal families and placed into missions, especially if they were of mixed decent. There was an assumption that Aboriginal people would simply `become extinct` while the children could be assimilated into white society – a shocking perception given what we know now about the continuous occupation of Australia by Aboriginal communities for up to 60,000 years. This policy continued right up until the 1970s.As you leave the museum and see young Aboriginal people sprawled drunk over the pavement, you see that it is now sadly alcohol addiction and a lack of sense of belonging which is killing them.

On to more cheery things…The Mindil Beach Market consists predominantly of food vendors, surrounded by jewellery, artwork and some clothing stalls. There is a good atmosphere with live music being played and plenty of visitors.I had an early dinner and purchased a raw gluten-free, dairy-free cake (Mark’s worst nightmare!) as a treat for dessert before returning to Berry Springs for the evening.

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