The Top End


Darwin is not bad as far as tropical tourist traps go. Oddly much of it seems more run down than either Phuket or Kuta. Most of the actual touring is done some hundreds of kilometers away in one of the several inland park/preserve destinations on the top end. It is especially landlocked at this time of year when Box Jellyfish add to the Saltwater Crocodile threat and make all sea swimming activities out-of-the-question.  That’s too bad because like all such tropical wilderness areas, the sea is a great way to leech out the oppressive mid day heat.

There is a very nice “esplanade” park that runs along the eastern side of town, and there are botanical gardens and more than a share of war monuments. Other than the above there is not much to Darwin. I did have a very nice aged bone in rib eye (called scotch here) steak at a restaurant called Shenanigans on Mitchell Ave. It appears to be a chain shop, but the steak was tasty, tender and filling. Also the mixed Asian restaurant Hanuman in the Holiday Inn Complex has very tasty and authentic Indian Curry.

Darwin also had a remarkable cyber-toilet…certainly the highest-tech bog I have ever seen, and it was public. I am surprised there wasn’t a tour to it.

I am taking a bus tour into the varied attractions over the coming four days, and while that goes against my standard travel practice I am told often and by many that a tour is the only way to see all that Kakadu, Litchfield and Katherine have to offer. Hopefully at each nights stop I’ll be able to report on the day. If not, see you later.

Darwin, November 21, 2008 – What Is The Point?

My Father sent an email out yesterday, and while it was not directed specifically at me personally I was one of the dozen or so addressees. He went on at some length about the greed, avarice, triviality and irresponsibility (among other such sins) of the youth of today; and about the need, especially in light of the impending economic disaster, to place our noses firmly on the grindstone. To eschew our wasteful ways and get back-to-basics, and to scrimp and save for the tough times near at hand.  I can only guess at how much or little of his censure was intended as commentary on my own life, but it maters not.

Since starting this journey I have been deeply discomforted by the blue-collar work ethos that I inherited from my culture. I am not some gap-year kid between secondary school and university, trying to find myself and decide on my vocation. I am a reasonably accomplished middle-aged man who is unemployed, and if the past 9 months are any indication, unemployable.

Every morning when I wake and every evening when I go to bed that deep-rooted meme screams at me to get busy, get to work, the candle is burning and there is no time to waste! The lyrics of Pink Floyd’s “Time” come to mind: “But you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking, racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way buy you’re older, shorter or breath and one day loser to death.”

However, get busy with what, make-work around the home? Typing out blogs, and filming cooking videos no one really wants to read or view? Taking up occasional and uninvolved “consulting” jobs where what I do is erased almost before I have completed my task?

I spent a long time wasting time when I was young. At 25 I “got serious” about life, work, career, and from then until this year had not stopped. I was working, and living, but always adding value to life. I purposefully and specifically set about making my small part of the world, better than how I had found it, no matter where I was. I immersed myself into living touching the lives of others in as positive a way as I knew how, always striving to help make the world a more beautiful place.

I agreed to let go of my first, outrageously successful company, rather than destroy it through infighting, or participating in turning it into another McBusiness, offering pap to the masses and no real value to life. I turned down golden handcuff jobs for global conglomerates for similar reasons – always preferring to create real value rather than inexpensive pap. I spent 5 years with my last business fighting to provide a quality offering of goods and services to people who only wanted to consume pap. And now, as my life turns from a rich and rewarding summer, into what should be a relatively docile and comfortable autumn, I am facing a draught of opportunity of every kind. No one wants what I can offer.

And the words of prince Hamlet come to my mind: “I have of late,-but wherefore I know not,-lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,-why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

Ah I am searching for my ambition, and so far I have come up short. To quote one more literary work, Mother Night, by Vonegut: “What froze me was the fact that I had absolutely no reason to move in any direction. What had made me move through so many dead and pointless years was curiosity. Now even that flickered out.” You see, its not sadness, melancholy, or depression but rather total lack of zest, no lust for what is at hand. 

I would go home, but that seems as pointless a move as going on tour, or going to Alice Springs, or so much else. I did not want this interruption in my career. I did not go seeking it, and would have gladly worked on saving up for another day. But as my father also says; life is what happens when you are making other plans.

So It doesn’t matter if my Father had me in mind at all in his lesson to the youth of today. I find it a fitting remark none-the-less. I agree that I should be working, and saving, building value in my community, and working at the craft that I love so well. But instead I am here, Darwin, as near to the middle of nowhere as one can get, really (though I’ll be in Alice Springs next week and that may be closer).

I wonder, did Darwin himself feel this sort of angst while traveling as unpaid gentlemen’s companion aboard The HMS Beagle? Did he wonder at every waking moment how he was going to participate in the betterment of the world, how he was going to make his time on earth matter? Did he cringe at his fathers words in that regards (His father objected to the planned two-year voyage, regarding it as a waste of time)? Or did he know before he had set off that he was destined to do great things, and that whatever his travels brought, his life would be well spent?

More to the point, will this expensive time-out bear valuable fruit for me? Or is it just a slacker’s diversion form getting my nose back on the grindstone and saving for a rainy day? As the tropical storms blow through the northern Australian landscape, I ponder my very existence.