Darwin Debrief: Two Months in the Northern Territory

Well it has been a month since I left Darwin. I could literally write a book about the two months I spent in Darwin. Instead, I am going to attempt to capture the essence of my Darwin experience in a long blog post. Enjoy!

Arriving in Darwin

I came to Darwin for a few reasons. First, the Australian government changed their rules on skilled worker visas when I was in Brisbane so I decided to forego trying to get that. Second, I wanted to see the real Australia and everyone kept telling me that was Darwin and the Northern Territory. They were not wrong. I bought a one way ticket from Brisbane to Darwin with no real plan. Luckily, a good friend of mine, Andrew, who I spent Christmas with has a friend living in Darwin. Little did I know where this would lead..

Andrew messaged me and told me to give Jock a call before I arrived. I called Jock and introduced myself. His initial reaction was, “Uh, who the hell is this?” After explaining myself he figured out who I was. I was flying in early Saturday morning and me told me he lived about 30 minutes outside of Darwin. I told him I would get a hostel and then we could meet on Saturday afternoon. I was happy to just spend one night in that place. There was a rager going on when I arrived. After a few beers I went back to the room to go to bed. Shortly after, an American girl and an Irish guy came in, very drunk. They went into her bed and began to have sexual intercourse as if I was not in the room.

The next day I met Jock. He picked me up around noon at the hostel I was staying at. He is one of the most Aussie blokes I have ever met. We proceeded to a pub in Darwin where we started drinking. After several drinks, we went to a pub across the street, where we ended up meeting some people he knew from back home. The drinking continued, Aussie style (this means we drank copious amounts of beer all day). I could not believe how hot Darwin was.

First day in Darwin

I ended up staying at Jock’s place for a few weeks. He happened to be going to America for 3 weeks for an archery tournament right after I arrived. But he had two days to show me how things get down in Humpty Doo, yes that is what the town is called. If you ever find yourself in Humpty Doo, go check out the Humpty Doo Hotel. The pub there is 100% Aussie.

A Brief Stint in Howard Springs

Jock lives in Howard Springs, NT. This is about a 30 minute drive from Darwin. He lives with 2 friends from back home who are working in the NT as well. They were out of town when I arrived. Jock is the kind of guy you want to have host you when you come to a new place. I had never met him before but he offered to let me stay at his place until I got things sorted. He also told me I could use his car while he was in America for 3 weeks. The car was a real beauty, he recently picked it up for a few grand after selling his truck. Let’s just say Kia has come a long way since 2001. The car was fine except at highway speeds the wheel needed to be turned 30 degrees to the right to go straight and it shook aggressively between 70-90 Kph. However, I was grateful to have a car (more on this car later).

A few days later I drove Jock to the airport where he was heading to America. I then began looking for a job in Darwin. I signed up with a job agency at a hostel and went all around Darwin looking for work. I also went to the docks several times looking for work on a boat but did not have any luck. One captain told me he would hire me if “this one drunk on his crew” did not show up for work but I guess he showed because I never got a call.

I drove back to Howard Springs later that day in the Kia. Jock told me he mentioned to his roommates that I was staying. I arrived home and was greeted by Anna, who was initially confused by my presence. I told her I was Jock’s friend from Alaska and that he said I could crash for a while until I get things figured out. Her fiance later arrived and I introduced myself. It was a bit awkward. Dylan and Anna were also great hosts. Anna cooked amazing meals every night and Dylan and I enjoyed a few beers when he got home. Dylan is a real unique Aussie character. He has these awesome dogs he uses for hunting wild pigs. They go out and the dogs chase a pig and corner it. The dogs are so fast they have to use GPS trackers to find them. Once they get there they go up to the pig and stick a knife in the heart. These things are huge and have massive tusks that can really injure someone.

Two Jobs in Darwin

Not wanting to overstay my welcome, I needed to find a job and get a place in Darwin. I checked in with the job agency and they told me the bar at the hostel was looking for a bartender. There were three of us that applied. It ended up being down to me and some Irish guy. We were each scheduled for a trial so the manager could make a decision. I came on a Saturday from 3-5 and killed it. Everyone loved me, I mean I am pretty high energy! After I was done the Irish guy showed up for his trial. I did not realize he was going after me. I stayed for a few drinks. I observed homeboy and he was very low energy. I was confident I would get the job. The next day the manager called me and asked when I could start. I started the next day.

Working at the hostel bar

During all of this a friend in Anchorage who works for the mayor put me in touch with someone in Darwin who used to work for the City of Darwin. Anchorage and Darwin are sister cities so I thought it would be a good idea to try and see if I could meet anyone who has a connection to Anchorage. The person was now working for the Darwin Festival, and as luck would have it they were looking to hire a development director to sell corporate hospitality packages to their sponsors. After an interview, they offered me the position. More on this later. I went from no work to having two jobs in Darwin less than 2 weeks after I arrived.

I was supposed to only work 3 days at the hostel bar and 3 days at the Festival until July, when I was supposed to go full time. However, the hostel bar needed me to work an extra day so I was working 7 days a week between the two. I was trying to find a place in Darwin to rent so I did not have to drive from Howard Springs. I ended up finding a room to rent from this Filipino girl while I looked for a place. Turns out she was living with her boyfriend and subletting her room. The two other roommates were also Filipino and in 10 days of staying there neither one of them said more than 20 words to me. I tried to talk to them but they did not seem interested. It was a pretty bizarre experience.

Living and Working in Darwin

I eventually found an apartment to rent in the city. My contract with the Darwin Festival was until September so I got a place with a 4 month lease. It was quiet and close to both jobs. I also bought an awesome 50 cc scooter to get around because Jock was coming back and I needed to return the car. I was leaving work one day and the car would not start. I figured it was the battery and got a jump. It started but was acting very weird. I took it to the mechanic and was told the harmonic balancer shattered. I had no idea what that even was. Anyways, to get this fixed cost over $600. Old mate Jock agreed to split this with me. Another day I was leaving work at the hostel one day and found a note on the car. Some Italian dude hit the car while trying to back out and left a massive mark on the rear bumper. This was all fully disclosed to Jock, who was cool about it all. Luckily this was a 2001 Kia and not a 2017 Cadillac.

Working seven days a week was hard but also fun. The hostel bar was great because I met so many fellow travelers from all over the world. British, Irish, Scottish, French, Italian and Estonian people, along with fellow Americans, just to name a few. There were some real characters staying there. I made some great and lasting friendships. There are many previous blog posts talking about some of the craziness that went down there.

The American crew

The only downside to working at the hostel bar was the way it was managed. We were constantly running out of the most popular beers and always short on other supplies. It was a small bar but we were doing great revenues. It was frustrating always having to tell people we were out of stuff.

The main street in Darwin is called Mitchell Street. It is full of bars and restaurants. Darwin gets wild during the dry season. The dry is their winter, it is hot but not rainy. During the wet season, it constantly rains and is extremely humid. There are way more people in Darwin during the dry. Every night was a party, the pup next to us was called Shenanigans, and it was lit. It was full from open to close. They had karaoke on Mondays and I used to sing every week. I don’t have the best voice but my stage presence is 100%.

Discovery with some ladies
Darwin V8s
Boat party
My Scottish mate Rory
4th of July with the Americans
Aussie legend Cathy

There is a club in Darwin called Discovery. If you did not know you were in Darwin you would think you were in Vegas.This club is something else. Friday and Saturday nights there are something else. My manager at the hostel bar introduced me to one of the owners, Ross. The club is owned by 3 Italian brothers. It was an awesome place to party on the weekends.

The Beginning of the End

Working at the Darwin Festival was an interesting experience. I had never worked for a non-profit before. Let’s just say I am definitely a private sector guy. I was getting my job done but I never really felt like I was part of the team. I think it is safe to say some of them did not like my style. I decided to just do my job and work through the end of my contract in September. I was only part time at the Darwin Festival at first, I was supposed to go full time on July 1. Knowing this, I gave my two week notice at the hostel bar because I would not be able to work both jobs full time.

Things at the Festival did not improve. Without getting into all the details, let’s just say some people no longer wanted me there. I was called into the office by the director and told I was being let go. There is a huge back story here but based on the terms of my departure, I am not going to tell it all.

So, now I am in Darwin going from two jobs to no jobs. The hostel bar had already hired a replacement. I also had two months left on my lease at my apartment. I decided it was not worth staying in Darwin. I had a sour taste after what went down. However, I was not about to leave without having the full experience!

The Full Experience

Jock was back from a work trip and we were about to have some fun, Darwin style. I was about to spend the weekend with him and celebrate Territory Day. I had no idea what was in store. We spent a Saturday doing a jumping croc tour. Yes, you go on a boat and large crocodiles jump out of the water to get food being held out by the guides. It was freaking awesome. We also did a chopper ride after, which was very cool.

Croc jumping tour
Me with the legend Jock
Chopper ride with Jock

The next day was Territory Day. Territory Day is something between the 4th of July and Burning Man. Fireworks, drinking and partying non stop. The night sounds like a total war zone. Everyone is setting off massive amounts of fireworks. We bought a ton of fireworks and went to Jock’s mates house. The fun lasted all night. We kept hearing something that sounded like a mortar shell but with no explosion. I really wondered what it was. Not long after, the neighbors came by and invited us to their place. These people were as Aussie as it gets. One may wonder how they are still alive. However, one of them told me he just bought his third investment house on the Gold Coast. There is money to be made in the Northern Territory.

I asked him if he knew where those loud explosions were coming from. He said, “Nah mate it fuckin wasn’t us!’ A few minutes later he says to me, “Oi mate maybe it was us. Want to fuckin see something?” The guy then goes over to an oxyacetylene torch, lights it and starts filling up a large garbage bag. A few minuted later him and another guy walk way out into a field with the bag and a can of petrol. They reappear a few minuted later. They had poured zig zagging line of gas on the ground. They lit it and after 45 seconds, the fire hit the bag. The explosion was so loud and powerful it almost knocked me out of my chair. They assured me this was entirely safe. Later, they filled up a trash can the same way and lit it. Not much was left other than a few small pieces. We continued to party all night. My first Territory Day was one to remember.

Leaving Darwin

My time in Darwin was awesome and memorable. I will never forget the people I met and the experiences I had. But based on the circumstances it was time for me to move on. Luckily, I was able to get the lease on my apartment transferred to a British couple I had met at the hostel. I took a bus from Darwin to Alice Springs and then spent a day at Uluru (Ayers Rock). If you are ever in Australia, I highly suggest checking it out. It was an incredible experience. The drive down from Darwin was something else. I went down on a travel bus with some pretty cool people. We stopped to swim in some hot springs and stayed overnight at the famous Daly Waters Pub, a truly bizarre but extremely Australian outback roadhouse. It was somewhere between Chilkoot Charlie’s and Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn. I also highly recommend a stay over if you are ever in the region.

I then flew to Brisbane to pick up some clothes and items I had left at the house of this British chick I met on Tinder (there is a whole another story there). I decided to give New Zealand a go. Blog post on my New Zealand experience to follow soon!

Darwin susnet