Living on a boat in a city that we never intended to visit is a strange place to find ourselves. Where to from here I wonder?
West to the Kimberly is not an option as the Western Australia border is firmly shut. It is the beginning of the dry season here in the Australian north, which means cool weather, no rain and strong SE winds eliminating the second and last alternative, namely heading East to Queensland. A bit of a pickle really but we try to focus on the positive.
It’s a short bus ride into the CBD from Fannie Bay. We barely step off the bus before a local TV crew corner us and shove a microphone in Graham’s face. The angle of the story is clear from the first question posed by the young and enthusiastic reporter: “Isn’t Darwin the best place to be right now?”. I quietly step back before my sarcastic reply turns me into an unwilling viral sensation. Graham pauses then gives a non committal I guess so. Further questions elicit even less enthusiasm from him and the crew quickly move on. We feel slightly bad, but our particular case and especially the day’s errand hardly suited the narrative they were chasing. We test negative.
This rocky start is thankfully not reflective of our time in Darwin. It takes a few days to shake off any residual quarantine anxiety as we start exploring around. The buses are free courtesy of corona so we take full advantage to zoom around all over the city.
This is May 2020 and the Territory is the only place in Australia where social gatherings are allowed. We hang out with Storyteller and take the kids to the beach and the pool.
Graham is happy to focus on long neglected boat projects for a few weeks - installing more solar and replacing the failed composting toilet (he gives it a much less flattering nickname).
We meet a Canberra family who are also corona refugees in Darwin, recently returned from Laos. The kids instantly take to each other and this new friendship significantly improves our social circle.
Slowly, more boats arrive from Indonesia coming from as far as Thailand and India. The stories get more outrageous, unfriendly locals chasing people away with guns, people sailing or motoring non-stop for months only stopping for pre-arranged fuel and re-provisioning. We pat ourselves on the back for leaving just in time.
Slowly, restrictions ease further. By June, everything is open and we explore museums, pools and restaurants with barely anyone else around.
This somewhat makes up for the fact that the beach is off limits for swimming. We are assured Fannie Bay is safe, apparently the crocs skip this bay on their way into Darwin Harbour proper. We see people doing all manner of water sports almost on a daily basis but we opt out for fear of a stray croc and/or stingers.
In June, the NT government opens up the rest of the territory and we are free to explore. We immediately book a motorhome and head to The Red Centre.