Stepping off the Ghan at Darwin in the early evening, the difference of the place was immediately obvious in the close tropical humidity of the air. Coming from a part of the country with more temperate climes and indistinct seasons, even the idea of wet and dry makes the place at once familiar and unknown.
Later that night, taking a walk through the streets there were young people everywhere, filling the eateries, sharing a drink, spilling out into the dark. Many were travellers I guess but my friend and I were struck by the absence of anyone much over thirty. Like a sci-fi future that hadn’t yet been explained.
I got a better sense of the place with the new day as we walked around and down to the harbour, new developments taking advantage of the water frontage, lines of palm trees, spacious parks,a small constructed bay with a sandy beach where children could play. Around and about all, the sea. A place where trade routes over many centuries began and ended and where many different peoples brought the influence of their food and culture to create a place with a unique heritage and character. A place too where indigenous art, traditions and contemporary reality tell stories past and present that are woven into the fabric of the city.
Lounging in the deckchair cinema that night, watching the film about Kirsty Sword Guismao and the struggle in Timor Leste it is the first time I truly comprehend the proximity of Darwin to our neighbours to the north.