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Northern Territory Top End Road Trip: Day 1 – Brisbane To Darwin

Darwin

Ah, Darwin, capital of the north, sitting there all alone at the top of the Northern Territory, closer to Indonesia and East Timor than it is to it to the other capitals of the Land Down Under.

Aside from being over 1600kms in a straight line from any other major city in Australia, Darwin is primarily known, weather-wise, for three things; being stupidly hot, being stupidly wet, and being spectacularly stormy. 

It’s also home to Litchfield National Park, a spectacular plateau hiding breathtaking waterfalls that thunder to life in the wet season. Next door is Kakadu National Park, an enormous 20,000km2 wilderness that chomps down half of Switzerland for breakfast. It’s not only the country’s largest national park, but it’s also a living landscape where indigenous Australian’s can continue their traditional practices in this place deeply rooted in Aboriginal history, culture and heritage.

Florence Falls
Florence Falls, Litchfield
Nanguluwurr - Kakadu National Park
Nanguluwurr, Kakadu NP
Curtain Falls, Upper Cascades, Litchfield NP
Twin Falls, Kakadu Air Flight Over Kakadu National Park
Twin Falls, Kakadu NP

A combination of all these things, less the stupidly hot and the stupidly wet, is why I wanted to visit one of Australia’s most isolated cities. Oh, and to see some of those lazy, modern dinosaur crocodile fat cats. 


Monsoon Season (Dec-Feb)

The Top End is a big doozy when it comes to planning an adventure. The middle of the calendar month is all golden when the dry season is in full effect, and everything is open, but there’s a saying that goes, “you’ve never seen the Northern Territory until you’ve seen it during the wet”. 

Storms, well-fed waterfalls and landscapes that not many visitors get to see. That’s the clincher right there, which is why the typically wettest and stormiest month of February was calling to me, saying, “Don’t you worry, don’t you worry child, see heaven’s got a plan for you.”

But the Northern Territory doesn’t do just “wet”, oh no, no, how naive of me. Even though I knew it’s famous for the “flooding rains” part of the My Country poem, but I wasn’t expecting it to be the Noah’s Ark flooding-of-the-earth kind of heavy rainfall. Every. Single. Day. Oh boy. 

I really should have paid more attention to the word “monsoon”. It’s right there in the name! It does mean lots of seasonal closures and some that are open or closed depending on how much rain falls from the sky on a day-to-day basis that requires schedule flexibility. 

With that in mind, the allure of wild swimming in spectacular thundering, freshly fed waterfalls, and storms igniting the sky in a dazzling lightning display had me sold. I snapped up a Jetstar free return flight to the Northern Territory capital of Darwin, and I prepared to get soaked, electrocuted and eaten by ravenous crocodiles on a hot, sweaty Northern Territory Top End Wet Season adventure.

Day 1

Flight

Brisbane Airport

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. The first step of my interstate adventure began by stepping into the Brisbane airport. As coronavirus is all the ravage at the moment, it’s made face masks a super popular fashion choice if you want to live. It’s a brave, new world.

Luckily in Australia, the governments have done a pretty damn good job putting the brakes on whatever strains have snuck through, whether that be from folks who have no regard for other people’s lives or hitched a ride in undetected. 

While Queenslanders have enjoyed many freedoms during the pandemic (in addition to the occasional tough, short-lived lockdowns) and can travel to most states for fun, you have to wear a mask inside the airport and on planes. Fine by me. I got to look like a freaking ninja! HE-YA!

Jetstar Flight JQ674
All aboards
How often do you get to look like a ninja in an airport?

Jetstar Flight

After declaring my Furno stove, and the Jetstar lady repeatedly asking whether it was new despite her holding it in her hands to see if it smelt like gas but never looking at it, I said adios to my check-in bags and was on my way. 

The Jetstar flight was smooth. Overwhelmingly smooth. It was great. It was cramped as usual due to being a budget airline, but when you’re someone like me, smooth ain’t going to cut it. Look, I’m not looking to crash or anything, but a bit of turbulence to make the ride a bit more fun would have been top-notch. 

The atmosphere ranged from the thick blanket of eerily smooth clouds that made it seem like we had reached the heavenly planes to a speckling of clouds allowing us to see down upon the expansive landscape to the occasional clouds that looked like they were building up a storm. 

As we crossed over into the Northern Territory, the cloudscape shortly after began to change dramatically from light feathery clouds to huge, puffy cumulus clouds. It started feeling iconically like the stormy, lightning-thrashed Darwin I had come to visit. UBER SQUEE!

Jetstar JQ674
Sometimes it was a whiteout
Jetstar JQ674
Scattered clouds
Jetstar JQ674
Sometimes there were fairly clear views of the beautiful landscape below
Jetstar JQ674 - Coming into Darwin - Northern Territory
Coming into Darwin, the clouds were spectacular

Darwin Airport

It was great to arrive at Darwin Airport at last. Sitting almost vertical in a flying tin can where you can’t stretch out should be used as a torture device, even though 3 hours is short compared to those globe trotter aircraft.

Still, I think the cool, adventurous guy next to me reading the book on an enviously extraordinary explorer was keen to get away from the uber excited chick divulging way too much information about why she was going to Darwin before the said woman became self-aware and realised she said too much! EEK! (IDK if that’s true, but he was nice about it.)

After answering some super easy questions as part of the Northern Territory CO-VID entry requirements and picking up my luggage at the mostly closed airport, it was rental car pick up time.

Car Rental

Heading to the car rental desk, the going on eight-plus hours having the face mask on was starting to get to me. At Brisbane airport, it was a bit hot, on the plane, it was pleasant, but now, at the Darwin airport, I started feeling sick, and a headache was developing from breathing in my output for such an extended period.

Nevertheless, I went and picked up the keys from the desk and asked a million questions, so I understood full and well the terms and conditions before signing. (Despite being very careful, looking into it deeply and asking VERY specifically about something, I STILL got screwed over in the end by this major car company.)


Toyota Fortuner

Heading out to the car park to see my wheels for the next two weeks and investigate the shit out of it so they can’t pin anything I didn’t do on me, I was excited to see a slick-looking Toyota Fortuner waiting for me.

It was looking pretty spotless on the outside, and after taking lots of videos and pictures every which way for the aforementioned reason, I opened it up and checked out the inside.

Toyota Fortuner - Darwin - Northern Territory
Toyota Fortuner

The same couldn’t be said for the inside, which was not clean. There was dirt and stains everywhere. Of particular note were the ones in the back that may have been blood or just dirt, but they were not small marks either.

There were also cards and information from a previous customer who had stayed at the Adina. The weirdest thing was that there was a sheet of paper from the car company that they give you for the car indicating previous damage, but it wasn’t even for this car! (I also later found another hotel card. It had a woman’s name on it.)

Toyota Fortuner - Darwin - Northern Territory
I learnt a guy named Ian hired out a ute. How his details got in my my 4WD is weird.
Dirt Inside The Toyota Fortuner Darwin - Northern Territory
One of the big dirt marks.

Honestly, while the mess was annoying, I just wanted to get to my hotel and sleep because it had been a long, long day. Even though when I left the airport and could remove the mask, my headache was getting worse because the Darwin heat was insanely hot, even in the late hours of the night.

Besides, what is complaining about it going to do? Waste my holiday time while they either clean the car or get me a new car for something that should have been done beforehand? They wouldn’t have subsidised me for the wasted time anyway. It wouldn’t affect the car’s performance, so I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and let it slide because I am stupid. (After that shit they pulled at the end of my rental, I, in retrospect, should have. As for Co-vid safety, there had been no cases in the Northern Terriory for a while, so I wasn’t worried about getting or spreading it.)

And with that, I was left to my own devices. EEK!

Argus Hotel Darwin

Driving with extreme caution to not crash the unfamiliar new automobile, I managed to find my way to my digs for the

next two nights, the Argus Hotel Darwin. Arriving at the entry point to the underground car park, a man came out of nowhere by the passenger side front window and scared the bejeezus out of me. He waved his hands in the air while making a funny face, then gave the thumbs up and went on his merry way. Umm, what just happened. He seemed friendly enough, but it was a touch rattling to have it happen in just a few hours in a new city.

Inside I was greeted by lovely, cool air that was such a relief from the high humidity that still lingered late into the night and a friendly face. After exchanging the necessary details and dollars to granting me access to my pre-booked room and asking the origins of my last name, I went up to 303, relieved to have a nice, clean, modern place to rest after a long, long day.

Argus Hotel Darwin - Northern Territory
A place to lay your weary head.

But was the day done with me yet. No, of course not. The headache that had prevailed throughout the Darwin Airport and that had gotten worse while investigating the car was still wreaking havoc. The first thing that happened after setting down the bags in the room was a trip to the ensuite, where my brain decided it wanted to coat the bathtub with the remains of my breakfast and some stomach acid. Nothing like a bit of puke for to start an adventure. Welcome to Darwin, Chucky!

More of my Northern Territory Top End (Wet Season) Road Trip coming soon

  • Travelled February 2021

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