December 2009

Last month we saw little rain, not so this month.  In early December a severe weather warning was issued for locally damaging winds & heavy rainfall due to a tropical low moving west towards Darwin.  On 10 Dec Tropical Cyclone Laurence started to menace the top end of Australia & a day later 250 millimetres fell in Darwin in 24 hours, 3 mills more than the average for December.  With wind gusts of 95 kph we watched the wild weather bring down trees & whip up the harbour into a frenzy of white foam—it was exciting to experience, easy to say from the comfort of our lounge room.  On the plus side, the torrential rain caused the day time temperature to drop quite dramatically & for the first time in months we had our coolest day, a very pleasant 23.7C.  Finally after 3 days of rain the tropical low moved slowly down the West Australian coast leaving Darwin city to record it’s wettest December since 1998 & the seventh wettest December on record—446mm fell during the month, well in excess of the long term average of 247mm.

Lynda & Will, owners of our favourite espresso bar, The Office, kindly invited us to Xmas drinks before the cafe closed for 3 weeks (where will we go??) over the Christmas/New Year break. The drinkies started at about 2.00pm, and as usual, finished with Lynda, Willie their two kids, and us, at the local Chinese restaurant some time later for a quick feed before heading home. It was a fun afternoon and we met a lot of new Darwin residents which was

nice.

Terina & Keith (friends of Trish & Jeff) kindly invited us over for dinner the next night.  They made us feel very welcome while we ate and drank on their upstairs balcony. All in all we had a relaxing evening devouring Terina’s delicious pate & pasta & leaving with arms full of more books to read.

Our plan to celebrate Christmas Day at a local restaurant didn’t eventuate, apparently because most people in Darwin come from some where else in the country, usually south (on account of there being not much Australia north of Darwin), those not heading south for Christmas and staying in Darwin tend to go out for either lunch or dinner. We had intended to try a restaurant we hadn’t been to before in the Darwin Casino called Evoo but Darwinites apparently book early on this particular day so no tables were left.  Still we weren't disappointed as we have a nice apartment and a good view & celebrated on our balcony with Moet champagne followed by an afternoon feasting on pate, prawn cocktails, BBQ’d lobsters, cherries topped with a scrumptious Burnt Fig Jam, Honeycomb & Caramel Ice Cream (thank you Maggie Beer) & finally squeezing in some cheese.  We think Christmas lunch ended some time around midnight, but neither of us are really too sure, mmmm....

35 years ago, Darwin was in no mood to celebrate Christmas Day.  Just after midnight

Cyclone Tracy roared in from the Arafura Sea & in 6 hours virtually wiped the place out—it was Australia’s worst natural disaster, a night of fear & horror with winds of 300 klms per hour.  6 days after Tracy 20,000 people were airlifted out & another 6,000 left by road, some never to return.  We’ve seen the photos of the devastation & it’s hard to comprehend how so few people died in the carnage—50 confirmed dead & 16 lost at sea.  Before Tracy, Darwin was like a big country town with a population of 43,000 lacking the normal social graces of a capital city.  After Tracy the city grew with a new vitality, got self government & the culture changed (some say for the better).

Boxing Day rattled us, we were sitting on the balcony & felt our chairs wobble & the table quiver—it was another tremor, our 2nd since being here.  Darwin experiences more than its fair share of earthquakes that originate from the Banda Sea as the area is regularly shaken by earthquakes about magnitude 5, this last one was 6.1.

On 29th December, and with much anticipation, our great friends, Chris & Julia, flew into Darwin from the Hunter Valley in NSW.  We had last seen them when we were at Warwick Castle a year ago when they had driven up into Queensland to again spend New Year with us. Greg and I had been busy making preparations for their arrival including making menus and planning a possible foray into Kakadu National Park. The first couple of days were spent showing them Darwin including a trip to Parap Markets followed by lunch at Darwin Sailing Club, hiring a bike and cycling around East Point Reserve and then onto Nightcliff, and of course enjoying each others company over bubbly, pate, prawns and lobsters as we brought in the New Year.  Chris, who was fighting valiantly the onset of a cold went to bed just before midnight, Julia followed soon after, while Greg and I danced into the wee small hours. Julia’s arrival was also much anticipated by the retail sector in Darwin city and the local Chamber of Commerce has reported a spike in retail spending over the 10 days they were here.