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Australia: Darwin

A boat at the Darwin Beer Can Regatta
The Darwin Beer Can Regatta is Australian to the core

Darwin's a strange place. Back on Christmas Day in 1974 the entire town was flattened by Cyclone Tracy, so everything's brand new, there are very few old buildings (and by 'old' I mean any dating from the town's inception in 1869), and it's a very cosmopolitan city, if you can call a place with only 70,000 inhabitants a city. I spent most of my four days in Darwin doing very little, enjoying the lack of mosquitoes after Kakadu, and doing things like picking up my post, finally tracking down the right part to fix my petrol lamp (hurrah!), and getting a haircut. The haircut was rather savage, and definitely the shortest hair I've ever had; I had it shaved all over to a no.4, which makes my ears stick out, but it's wonderfully cool in this tropical heat, dries straight away without a towel, doesn't need brushing, and doesn't attract flies as much as long, greasy hair... if I didn't look like such a squaddie, I'd probably stick to it all the time, but I don't think the hippy in me could handle it.

Into Darwin

A boat at the Darwin Beer Can Regatta
It isn't clear whether the boat builders have to drink the contents of the beer cans first... but I think they probably do

The next day I visited the city's botanic gardens; Darwin city centre is tiny, and you can park right in the middle for free, something these small cities all seem to have in common. Darwin's gardens are naturally very tropical in nature, and are packed with palm trees, shady walks and waterfalls, and there's a beautiful grass amphitheatre where concerts are often held; the gardens would have been really attractive if I hadn't caught them halfway through a renovation, but when they're finished, they'll be lovely. Of the botanic gardens I've seen so far, Perth still comes out tops with the magnificent Kings Park, followed by Adelaide's huge and delightful parks; then I'd say it's a close thing between Darwin and Melbourne, though they're hard to compare, as Melbourne has a large expanse of picnic-friendly grass with the Yarra wending its way through, and Darwin is small and tropical; Sydney definitely comes last, as its gardens are just like a normal, city park with a vaguely botanical theme. I wonder what the ones in Brisbane are like: pretty, I would assume, but I'll have to go to find out for myself one day.

1 'Thongs' being the Australian name for flip-flops, or sandals, in case you were getting all excited at the thought of ladies ripping off their thongs on the beach...