Saturday, December 11, 2010

Down Under in Darwin

Again, our Aussie friends came to the rescue with an airport pickup. This time it was Jacqui the Fair and Josh the Noble at the Darwin airport. Oh the luxury. We met Jacqui (of Jacqui and Jacqui) back in 2006 high up in the Swiss Alps of Gimmelwald. We had a wonderful time chatting around a picnic table at 10,000 ft or so, with a 360 degree of the snow capped ranges. There, Jacqui shared the most coveted of items with us: her Vegemite. We've been friends ever since. Jacqui and Jacqui were on a much longer, inspiring tour around the world, which was pausing for a year or so for employment in the UK. Jacqui when on the Canadian portion of her round-the-world trip, then stopped in to visit us in Niagara. It was our first time on Maid of the Mist! It was Jac(squared) who are the reason behind our consistent journalling. They wrote in their journals every day and dated them Day 1, 6, 98 etc and then could play a game where one person says a number and the other goes to that day in their journal and reads the happenings that have been recorded. It was so much fun to hear the little tidbits of adventures gone by that we, during this trip, try to follow suit. Day 68 today, in case anyone was wondering.
Jacqui and Josh also met on this very same trip that we met. Only they met in Vienna. What a great story! You'll have to ask them about it when you pass through Darwin, and you should. They were married this July, here in Darwin! Anyways. They took us back to their house in Tiwi (a Darwin neighbourhood). We couldn't believe they owned such a fantastic vacation house all to themselves! It is a beautiful spot surrounded by lush tropical gardens that Jacqui tends to expertly. Not only has she tamed the palm trees and ferns on her property but she also grows a variety of things such as peanuts and pineapples! A pineapple just from the top of another pineapple! How cool!
They had had many authentic Australian treats in store for us over the next 4 days. The first one was a proper Aussie BBQ! Jacqui had even marinated kangaroo for us. Everything was super delicious. Josh has a fantastic ear for good music and his soundtrack for the BBQ (and every other night) set the perfect tune (pun intended). And,yes, I even ate the kangaroo. I had yet to make a rule about marsupials. I was happy I gave it a taste. Thumbs up. For dessert we had a variety of Northern Territory fruit straight from the local market. Dragonfruit had a thick pink skin with green dragon spikes. The inside was fleshy and white with tiny black seeds like in a kiwi. It, along with the fresh pawpaw (papaya) and hard prickly balls with a large grape like interior called Rambertants (sp?) were delicious.
Jacqui and Josh were wonderful hosts and we did tons of cool things over the next few days. Sometimes I just lounged in the pool f their vacation home and wrote in my journal. 'Are we at a resort?' I would ask Jonathan. Between the super hot weather, gorgeous surroundings and delicious food I was beginning to wonder.
The sunsets in Darwin are really something to write home about. I don't think I have ever seen colours as deep and dramatic as they are way up here. They were arranged just for us (or so our hosts convinced us). We strolled along the beach at sunset and dared to dip our toes into the ocean. Swimming is a no-no up here, even though that's pretty much all I want to do. It is box jellyfish season, and a sting from those little buggers is fatal, and rivers and ponds are out because of the opportunistic crocs. This is probably where the name Darwin came from. The people who first lived up here most likely discovered many of these tidbits in a not-so-pleasant way. Survival of the Smartest. That's just my opinion. Today there are pools, fans and AC. Genius inventions. Anyways, when we dipped our toes into the ocean the water was hot. Literally as warm as a nice bath! This is the ocean people! It is most certainly a different world up here.
December is 'build up' in the North, which means humid and stormy. They are building up to the wet season. We were quite excited to experience one of these legendary storms. Although we didn't end up being in town for the full show, for better or worse, we did spend an evening on a cliff watching an amazing electrical storm in the distance. The lightning was incredible. Multiple strikes all at once would light up the sky and leave us teasing Mother nature for more. 'Is that all you got? Come on, you can do better than that.'
A highlight for me was the local markets. We went to one in the evening for a Pawpaw salad dinner that Josh had us salivating over. This amazing concoction is made by a lady right before your very eyes. She shreds off some not-yet-ripe papaya, adds lime, chili, sprouts and other delicious ingredients and then tops it with peanuts. My description really isn't doing it justice. Darwin is closer to Asia then it is to the rest of Australia. There was a definite Asian influence at the market and the food was all the better because of it. Addicted to the fruit our hosts had introduced us to, I was in search of a mango. 'Stick it up y'er nose' the large man sitting behind the box of ginnormous yellow mangoes said to me. ' I looked at him in bewilderment. Clearly this guy had spent too many hours in the sun picking these mangoes. I was about to tell him so when Jacqui came to the rescue, chose a mango and put it to her nose to smell if it was sweet and ripe. Ok, so I'm new here. I don't know if it's a second nature up here, but the mango she picked was by far the best mango I have ever had. And believe me, I have spent every day since then tasting mangoes looking for the next 'one.' I am beginning to think I will have to settle with the sweet sweet memory of my beloved 'Darwin Mango.'
We picked up our dusty red Wicked rental van and took it on an adventure to Litchfield National Park one day while Jac and Josh were doing their whole 'work' thing. Litchfield was a great place, especially because it had some of the only crocodile free swimming holes around, and it was very very hot so swimming was pretty much a survival tactic. We stopped first to see the impressive termite mounds. Termites make these homes out of saliva and poop and such. The Magnetic Termites mounds were tall and skinny, like grave stones while the Cathedral Termite Mounds had a more flowing, creative looking shape. Pretty impressive little termites! From there we stopped, and lingered at Florence Falls. This is a croc-free plunge pool at the base of 2 waterfalls, full of fish and safe for swimming. It was so refreshing I didn't want to get out. Swimming in crystal clear water under stunning waterfalls is something that I enjoy doing, it turns out. Jonathan chose the 'exfoliation package' allowing little and bigger fish to nibble at his toes. And leg hair. And legs.
Our last night in Darwin ended in typical celebratory style. Dinner at the Sailing Club overlooking the gorgeous beach and surreal tropical sunset. I love the way the late afternoon sun sets everything a glow and, besides being memorizing in itself, sets the perfect backdrop for a perfect evening outside appreciating good food and friends.
We are so thankful to Jacqui and Josh. We really appreciate being picked up at the airport and their unfailing thoughtfulness from fresh towels to borrowing their car, driving us around, giving us loads of travel info and sending us out into the day with home baked apple slice. (Like apple crumble, only baked into perfectly packable bars). We are so lucky to have met Jacqui and Jacqui in Europe and now feel even luckier to have met Josh as well. Next week we will be meeting up with 'little' Jac ( the other half of the dynamic duo) down in Perth! We are really looking forward to catching up with her.
Until then.. we're back on the open outback road (where wireless internet is limited...).



Mom and Dad Mooney said...

You are having a great trip, not only being able to see the world, but also meeting up with some great friends from previous adventures. How is it that Australia has such phenomenal sun sets? The blog and pictures are great. Take care and travel safe

Anonymous said...

Wait until Dan hears you ate kangeroo. I bet that hasn't been served at any "Game' dinners here!
The fruit dishes sound awesome!

Sarah said...

I have to say, I'm pretty shocked about the kangaroo BBQ, that seems dangerously far from chicken :) Anyway, Darwin sounds like a really like neat place, interesting its so Asian influenced. BTW, all your mango chatter has prompted me to buy them like crazy, I know they won't taste as great as your Darwin mango but I still delish.
Be safe!

karly said...

Everything sounds amazing.. im still suprised about the kangaroo!! pic are amazing! miss you n love you!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Jon +Kristen!!..We're eating Turkey, you're eating Kangaroo..worlds apart but we wish you "love to Share, Health to Spare"and "Friends that care."
We are dropping in on your Blog once in a while..Great stuff!..You go girl!! ALL THE BEST Hugs.. Doug and Elyse on Channel Island