Forty-five years. Turn around three times and those years have gone in the blink of an eye.
Yet so much has changed. We have changed from the wide eyed uninformed thirty year old Melbournians with two young boys optimistically starting out on what we called The Trip of a Lifetime. Now, our over fifties son and wife are taking two mouldy oldies (by that I mean late seventies and early eighties) back to revisit Darwin. What will have changed? How will life have changed, apart from the wheelchair and extra luggage?
In 1973 we traveled in an old F100 truck with a pick up camper in the tray from Melbourne, via Ayers Rock, to Katherine and Darwin and back. It was the year before Cyclone Tracy wrecked havoc on the Top End. However, we saw the devastation on television and were aghast at the destruction of lives and property. Victorians were not aware of the impact WWII had on Darwin and we knew nothing about the indigenous population. We were amazed to discover so many different tribes, each with their own language and culture who didn’t understand English speaking Southerners from Victoria.
As individuals we, and the Top End have changed. Before every large event in Melbourne is a recognition of indigenous people and a Welcome to Country ceremony. We have said ‘Sorry’ for past transgressions and indigenous people now vote and are counted in the census. Kakadu has been returned to it’s indigenous owners and tourism is tolerated in certain sections of Kakadu . The Crocodile Hotel at Jabiru is indigenous owned.
Forty-five years later we traveled in style, staying first at the Palm City Resort. It was hot, over 30 Celsius hot, and I loved our villa and personal spa hidden amongst tropical vegetation.
Relaxing with a glass of champagne I wondered about this new city, seen so briefly. It appeared lush, tropical, multinational and laid back. Darwin city reminded me of a teenager. I felt it was still growing up and finding its way. It seemed to me to be like the Gold Coast used to be before the high rise buildings came to town. Darwin, to me was like a large country town, accepting diversity and welcoming. I loved the lack of traffic.
Next week: what the Hop on Hop off bus reveals.