One month in Oz – 24. To Darwin via Katherine on the Ghan

Post 24 of an ongoing series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.

After almost a month of travelling round Australia, today we arrived at our final stop within the country: Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory on Australia’s northern coast. Travelling there on the legendary Ghan railway enabled us to visit Katherine on the way and take a walk along its dramatic river valley

After spending the night and morning rollicking through Australia’s Top End (I describe waking up on a train in my earlier posts concerning our journey on the Indian Pacific), the train stopped for lunch in Katherine. We’d bought tickets for the excursion to Nitmiluk National Park, so were able to leave the train and board a bus that took us to the park’s visitor centre. The centre’s attendant advised us to make the short walk to the park’s viewpoint over Katherine River, and we took her advice.

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Katherine gave us our first experience of real humidity, which would continue into Darwin. It was just as hot as Alice Springs and Uluru had been, but here the air was moist and heavy: the sensation was less sizzling, more suffocating. The humidity made the short walk to the viewpoint feel much longer. Imagine the extreme relaxation you feel in a sauna, and then having to haul yourself up a rocky hillside in that state. I could barely believe the lethargy weighing down my limbs! But we made it to the viewpoint eventually, and the panoramic view was worth it. If only we’d managed to spot one of Katherine River’s resident crocodiles, it would have been perfect!

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We bought some lunch and drinks back at the visitor centre before returning to the train. Another few hours of travelling and we arrived at Darwin train station. This is a considerable distance from the city, so everyone getting off the train was laboriously herded onto a fleet of buses that stopped at various hotels within the city. We got off at the final city-centre stop and wheeled our luggage through town to the waterfront, where we next had to find our hotel.

Steve had booked this hotel, so I had no idea what it would be like. In fact, it had been so long since he booked it that he’d forgotten what it was like. So when we spotted the towering, piano-black, neon-lit and very expensive looking building adorned with the same name as on our booking confirmation – Adina Apartment Hotel – we couldn’t quite believe that this was where we’d be staying. We walked into the glamorous high-ceilinged lobby feeling like infiltrators, yet the receptionist behind the mirrored desk didn’t only confirm our reservation – he also gave us a free upgrade!

Our apartment was stunning, boasting a gleaming kitchen, dining area, lounge with large flat-screen television and MP3 sound system, plush bedroom, utility room with washing machine, and large shiny bathroom. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom opened out onto a balcony. We’d never stayed anywhere so luxurious and we were quite gutted that we only had two nights to enjoy it!

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After some quick exploration around the rest of the hotel – finding the outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi that we’d be enjoying tomorrow morning – we went out in search of a late dinner. We wandered the waterfront comparing every restaurant’s menu, but ended up choosing the bar next to our hotel called The Precinct. The restaurant was full but they allowed us to order food to the bar’s candle-lit outside area. I plumped for the slow-braised beef cheek, beef schnitzel, and bacon, spring onion and smoked cheddar sweet potato mash, which sounded incredible on paper but ended up being far too rich (and orangey-brown!). Steve went for the Jamaican jerk chicken supreme with charred corn on the cob, Asian coleslaw and pomegranate salsa, but that too didn’t match up to expectations. Nevertheless, it was a lovely evening: me sipping a rosé wine and Steve a craft beer as we sat watching the ocean glitter in the waterfront’s lights, a slight breeze bringing refreshment to the balmy night.

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All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton.

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