Before I arrived in Darwin I had one more stop on my schedule: Berry Springs. All these hot springs in the Northern Territory have the worst names from colonizers. The local name for it is Laniyuk. I drove in at 9am to a surprisingly full parking lot. I short walk through a beautiful park takes you straight to the springs. A short but powerful waterfall sits right in a little pool from there the stream travels down a narrow pathway towards a massive pool. The water is clear, crystal, blue white, that I had come to expect and love.
I entered in swimming besides children and more grey nomads. I swam over towards the larger pool fumbling over shallow rocks and logs on the way. A woman sat at the point the stream opened up to the pool with a baby. She kindly said “careful, it drops off here!”. I am a little pathetic with deep water so I appreciated this warning. I sat at the “edge” with her and chatted for a while before braving the deep and joining the other children splashing deeper in the pool. Dragonflies hovered over the water, the sun shown through the palm trees, and the breeze moved the incredible clear water all around me. The best thing about these pools is that you can see straight down to the bottom.
I enjoyed the peace and silence that greets you when you float and your ears hover just under the water. I swim back to the waterfall and see my new friend. She tells me that there is a secret overhang under the waterfall deep enough for you to stand. As a local she kindly shows me how to get under and even takes my camera to record me. She even kicks out the 10 year old there so I can get a video just me. I thank her profusely as she has made my solo trip to these springs so memorable and special.
Back in the Benz I stop just off the highway to fill up on petrol. In the station the cashier and I talk and I tell her I was just at the springs. She says she’s never been and has lived here all her life. I am shocked, it is not even 10 minute away. I leave grateful I have pushed myself to explore this world and will never take these opportunities for granted.
An hour later I pull up to the hostel and can even park in the lot as the gate was randomly open. I cannot explain this but lucky things like this happen to me all the time. I thank whoever is watching over me and I locked my things in a locker preparing to check in later, and raced to Apollo to return the Benz. I could not believe 6 days ago I was leaving Broome shaking with fear. 6 months ago I would have never even considered solo driving across the outback.
Feeling accomplished I drove into the lot. My vehicle had a bathroom and shower which I refused to use because I was too lazy to clean it. To my surprise the woman checking me in said the toilet tank had liquid and needed to be emptied. I almost threw up right there. No wait, are you suggesting I go deposit someone else’s shit?
A back and forth ensued and the net of it was she could not accept it unless it was empty so she could charge me $85 or I could do it. I mumble to myself listing the covid and health safety violations this was surely breaking, constructing my email to corporate carefully in my head. I found the dump point and looked away as the liquid sloshed down the hole.
Feeling physically gross I returned, got my deposit processed and exited. Another successful relocation vehicle giving me the ability to travel these last 6 days and see incredible things without costing me $100, including gas friends. Now I am on the highway by the airport in Darwin. Drip sweating will become my standard state in this city. I walk down the street to the thrift store, or op shop like the Aussies call them to donate the cleaning supplies I didn’t need. Now the time came to learn the public transportation. Google kindly told me the bus on this street would take me right downtown to MOMs for $3. When traveling, the most important thing besides the best cell phone data plan is to have cash. I plop down in the shade to wait trying to find some relief.
The city at the top end of the country is known for a couple things; crocodiles, wild weather, and epic parties. I had booked one night for myself at a hostel affectionately called MOMs, an acronym for the last property. Over this year I’ve stayed in countless hostels but this I knew would be different. With a pool and bar on the roof, you could already feel the energy was going to pop off.
I checked into the hostel, paid $10 for my dish rental including a plate, bowl, cup, fork/knife/spoon, and $5 for the towel, and took the elevator up to the second floor thankful not to lug my things. When I swiped into my room I was greeted with the most amount of chaos. The saying is boys are dirty, girls are messy, and my next two nights proved this. This all girls room with 3 other occupants had clothes thrown on every surface of the floor. Hair driers, make up bags, various separated shoes, and literally anything else you could imagine lay on the ground. I shoved some things out of the way and claimed a locker for my things.
Australian hostels are not like European hostels. There are no cubbies to nicely have your things stored, no privacy curtains to block you from view while you sleep, no usb ports and bed lamps by your bed. These are metal bunk beds awkwardly arranged in a room that has more beds than you would expect and rarely is there an outlet to be found. I introduced myself to the 2 British girls, 1 Welsh girl, and went off to explore.
The city of Darwin is pretty small, mostly one main street leading to the port where a safe bay to swim has been carved out. The crocodile threat is real. I used this afternoon to stumble around and photograph some street art. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to understanding what my future held in this city. With the entire east coast of Australia in lockdown it made the most sense to stay in Darwin.
With all the lockdowns of 2020 most of the backpackers that didn’t go home, fled north or west to take the jobs since we did not qualify for the aid the nation was giving out in when cities were put in indefinite lockdowns. Not really sustainable when you have bills to pay and no real place to live. Because of this Darwin was packed. All the hostels were at almost 100% capacity. I luckily got a room for the following night but they were sold out for the next week. What was I going to do?
Too exhausted from all the traveling, driving, hiking, and swimming, I showered and crawled into my top bunk with my ear plugs and eye mask. The girls in my room where hosting a college style pre-game doing make up, getting dressed, and preparing for whatever club they were going to. Lucky for me they left at midnight and did not come back until the sun was up. The bass from the bar rattled my metal bunk bed and I passed out. Not sure if my supreme exhaustion was from all I had done last week or my second COVID vaccine shot.
I’d figure out my life tomorrow I told myself. Tonight I was just glad to have made it across almost 2,000km through the outback alone.