More close to Asia than to other Australian cities

Darwin is the largest city and capital of the Northern Territory in Australia as well as the northernmost major city of the country with a population of about 118,000.  The city was founded in 1869 and has been rebuilt three times since then after being almost completely destroyed by cyclones. It is also the only Australian city that was bombed by the Japanese in World War II.

Darwin is considered the "Gateway to Asia"  and is nearer to the Indonesian capital Jakarta than to Canberra. From Darwin International Airport, the city's airport, there are flight connections to Oceania and Asia.

The Darwin region experiences a tropical climate with a wet and dry season. Darwin's wet season typically arrives in late November to early December and brings with it heavy monsoonal downpours, spectacular lightning displays, and increased cyclone activity. During the dry season, the city has clear skies and mild sea breezes from the harbour.

Longest bus ride of my life

The probably longest bus ride of my life began at night and lasted over 22 hours. The journey led from the heart of Australia, Alice Springs, to Darwin in the very north of the country. The way led more or less only straight on the Stuart Highway, along the always same Australian outback landscape. In the middle of the dark we stopped at a cool roadhouse where a grinning skeleton showed us the way to the "shithouse". A little art exhibition beautified the roadhouse in the middle of nowhere.

At another place called Tennant Creek we made a strange stop around 2am. We all had to get off the bus for over an hour, all of us totally drowsy, and pass the time in a gas station, where I watched a little Aboriginal boy sitting there all alone. A little later the police came, apparently he had lost his parents. They had been drinking themselves into a state of intoxication in some bar, and had forgotten their child. That happens quite often in this place. Inside there was a banner with a special job training program for the Australian Aborigines. I doubt very much that this will attract much interest.

Checking into a party hostel

The next afternoon we finally arrived in Darwin. In the bus I met a crazy Indonesian who had a bus year pass and took full advantage of it. He spent almost half of his time in this bus and drove from one place to another. Together with him I checked into the YHA Hostel, which is probably still the most acceptable hostel in town. There are no really good hostels in Darwin, the reviews on the internet are downright devastating for good reason. The variety of the hostels is aimed at party and pool tourists. My hostel included and when I entered the room assigned to me, the shock hit me. It looked as if a bomb had exploded. There was stuff everywhere, right next to a bed lay old food leftovers, dirty dishes and empty beer bottles. In this room housed a massive party beast.

A hostel room like a pigsty

A little later a nice Australian entered and warned me about his vulgar roommate. Nearly every night he would bring his chick with him and then mount her in the small single bed. For this reason, he had already taken the pillow that belonged to my bed. Often such inconsiderate party beasts come from Great Britain, and so does he. In party hostels like these, half of the guests are usually from Great Britain or other anglophone countries.

I immediately asked for a new room, which I eventually found much more accommodating. There was only one Kiwi of about the same age who was experiencing a life crisis in Australia. Consternated after a divorce in the US, losing sight of his life goals, he was now trying to get a well-paid job in Australia. He had applied for a job in a mine. In the room was a miner who already worked there. He had just got off time from the mine and because of the hard work there, he was sleeping most of the week. Because of strange sleep patterns, one of us was always sleeping, so every time someone went in or out, the door would bang loudly and wake up everybody. The safety mechanism to open the door only worked every 2nd or 3rd or even umpteenth time.

With Darwin I do not associate a good time. In fact, it's one of the cities I disliked the most. The best thing about Darwin was its weather. The temperatures stayed constantly above 30 degrees and at night it was just under 20 degrees. I came here in the rather "cool" winter, in the humid hot summer the temperatures here rise to unbearable 40+° degrees. Fortunately there was an air conditioner in the room.

Boring city, expensive prices

This city actually owes its name to the famous evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin, who never visited the city himself. Darwin only explored the south of Australia with his research ship Beagle. Much less exciting than the life of Darwin is the city itself. It doesn't provide much sightseeing and there are hardly any cultural events. For a pleasant walk the Bicentennial Park near the sea is a good place to stroll, but maintenance work was going on here.

Together with a French woman I walked to the Waterfront, an artificially arranged pool in which you can swim and lie next to it on the grass. Around it there are some bars, restaurants and shops. But the pool is far from being as nice as the pools in Cairns or Airlie Beach. We continued walking to a harbour section where fishes were sold in a huge hall. Above it, the seagulls were already circling in order to get a bite of leftover food. However, the prices for fish were much too high here. In general Darwin is a very expensive city, because a lot of things have to be shipped from far away. The next bigger city is over 1000 km away.

The prices in restaurants are high as well and there is also no alternative scene that could satisfy the vegetarian in me. So I always had to cook for myself. And that was an ordeal. Not only was the kitchen much too small for the large number of guests, also not even half of the hotplates were working and it always became oppressively hot in the room. Mostly I tried to use the kitchen at strange times, around 3 pm, because especially in the evening there were too many people.

Attractions you find outside of Darwin, especially trips to Lichtfield or Kakadoo National Park are recommendable. There you can meet one of the huge salt water crocodiles. These are lured to the boat with bait in daring actions. But the high prices detered me. The usual tour runs over 3 days, with camping and jeep. The cheapest tour cost more than my equally long tour to Uluru. Since I had already spent a lot of money in Australia, I decided not to do that. Actually, I wanted to earn money in Australia and not only spend it.

Cool didgeridoo performance at the Sunset market

Also worthwhile is a visit to Mindil Beach, where a sunset market is held 2 days a week. You can walk from the centre. At the small market you can buy crocodile leather products or didgeridoos. Various kinds of food stalls can be found here. I bought a small vegan dish and sat down on the beach to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, many others had the same idea and the beach was totally crowded, probably because it was holiday time in Australia. The sunset was beautiful but surely nothing that would have left me speechless. The best on the market was a musical performance by 2 white Aussies, who played drums and didgeridoo in a duet. The Aborigines watched - strange world!

Sexual assault in front of my eyes

Otherwise there is not much else to pass the time in Darwin. One evening I looked from my hostel with a Chinese guy down to Mitchell Street where all the bars were. At first we only saw the many Aborignees begging in front of our hostel. Later on a strange scene unfolded. We observed a lesbian couple walking hand in hand past our hostel. Suddenly a lanky western-looking man appeared from the shadows and grabbed one of the two from behind on the ass. The two reacted furiously and clasped the man's neck. He seemed completely perplexed and probably totally drunk. The more boyish of the two lesbians then took the helpless man by the chest and threw him to the ground with a strong blow. The man began to stagger and fell backwards onto the busy main street. The two were lucky that no car came at that moment. So a few minutes later a police patrol just came by to take him away in handcuffs.

What I also found disgusting were the public toilets for men. In Australia there are rarely urinals, but only metal walls in which men pee in side by side. If the men stand too close together, you get urine splashes from the person next to you! Ew!

The atmosphere in Darwin feels like the Wild West.  The people are not very friendly and also quite aggressive.I guess it is the heat. There is also alcoholised Aborigines roaming the streets, some of them stinking to a high degree. My Chinese company always had a subconscious urge to spit at the sight of them, so that he always spat to the side after seeing them.  The Aborignees didn't make a good impression. You might even call them primitive. Often they sat at the side of the road and hammered in a monotonous rhythm on a piece of wood and they seriously begged for money in return!

Disillusioned job search

My round trip through Australia came to an end with my arrival in Darwin, now it was only a matter of finding a job or, if that failed, returning to South East Asia. Because Australia is not a good place to simply spend time, it is simply all too expensive. So I used most of my over 2 weeks in Darwin to find a job. During the day I went to the library with my laptop. I search for casual jobs on all kinds of sites: Facebook groups, Gumtree, Seek or other sites. I sent out masses of applications and even had always "beautified" my applications so that they matched the job description.

I mostly applied for farm jobs or jobs in a warehouse. I would have liked to work in a bar, café or restaurant, but you need a certificate to work there and I didn't want to pay extra for that. I didn't want to work in construction, for that you also need a certificate (white card). And dishwasher was not an option for me. To get a farm job without a car is incredibly difficult, the competition is just too big and so most offers are gone within a very short time. It was a pretty frustrating time, I didn't want to throw in the towel right away. A Belgian buddy of mine sent over 100 applications and all of them ended without success. He only got small one-day jobs and got screwed over in some cases. As a backpacker you have to be careful not to fall for any fake offers, especially if you are a woman.

I didn't want to stay in Darwin either, because the place really bored me. There were no good hostels and hardly any job offers. Nobody even accepted me for voluntary work, for example helping on a farm or with a house, in return for free overnight stay. Finally I tried CouchSurfing to get at least a short break from staying in a hostel. Until then, this was also extremely difficult in Australia, as people there are probably overwhelmed with requests from backpackers looking for a cheap place to stay. I also got the impression that specially male hosts there only accept young women as guests.

My first CouchSurfing experience in Australia

In the end, a 33-year-old Chinese woman accepted my offer. She had just reactivated her account after moving into a great house. Her house resembled more an Airbnb than the accommodation of a shabby couchsurfing host.  I even had my own room. The living room was spacious and the house even had a pool and a shed for the chickens. She owned 5 lovely dogs as well.

She managed a fishing company that also organizes trips to the sea for people who are not fishermen, where they learn how to fish. So she was always supplied with fresh fish. So I accepted her invitation for a nice fresh fish dinner although I normally don't eat fish. To thank her for the overnight stay I brought a bottle of wine, did some shopping for her and fed her chickens and dogs. That she showed me her panties (unintentionally?) with spread legs irritated me a little bit. On my last of the 2 evenings she made me a delicious Chinese Hot-Pot where she put all kinds of vegetables in a pot and spiced it up. Really tasty! The next day I had to leave the accommodation because apparently the next guest was coming (or she just wanted to have an undisturbed house on her date with the fisherman). Before I left, the fisherman told me all kinds of impressive stories about eye-to-eye encounters with huge crocodiles. Perhaps it might have been just sailor's yarn.

Finding a job via contacts

Afterwards he drove me back to my hostel in his sports car at a fast pace.  And there I was again in my hostel full of drunken Brits with the loud crashing doors and the run-down kitchen! I continued my job search and because I still didn't get a single reaction except for a few rejections. There are simply too many backpackers looking for a job. Especially for farm jobs, because to stay a second year in Australia you need to have worked at least 3 months on a farm. The farmers take advantage of this and pay far too little to some desperate workers.  I was already looking for flights back to Southeast Asia and had already targeted a few. 

I made one last attempt and contacted my French buddy Etienne in Melbourne, whom I had met a month before and whom I knew had a job. He replied that he had just got another mate a job in his company.What a bummer! And he had a job in a warehouse near Melbourne - just what I was looking for.  A few days later he asked his boss again and he said the company was looking for another employee and I could start in 3 days. I did not hesitate and agreed. So I booked a flight promptly, because a bus trip back to Melbourne would take over 2 days, a flight only 5 hours. I didn't even have to send an application or anything, the mere verbal agreement of my mate was enough.

Australia - not as great as its fantastic reputation

Oh, was I glad to leave that miserable Darwin! I booked a flight for barely 36 hours later. Shortly before my departure I had a very interesting encounter with a Berliner, just over 50 years old and living in Australia with his wife for quite some time.
Both of them are totally fed up with Australia and would like to go home. But they cannot even afford a flight back. He is a biologist and she is a teacher. They had a job in the outback for a long time, but now both are unemployed and moved to Darwin. The wife had taken a job in a private school, but immediately quit because the children were too depraved. The house they had bought in the outback also only got them into debt, because it was losing value...

It was becoming more and more clear to me that Australia is not the phenomenal country that many people think it is. Sure, the minimum wages are the highest in the world. However, it is odd that fishermen or electricians sometimes earn more than studied professions like managers or engineers. As a result, many people in Australia do not study at all. The health system is also not so good like in my country. You have to pay for every visit to the doctor and dental care has to be privately insured. And everything in Australia seems to get more complicated, you need a certificate for every kind of crap.

April 24, 2020, 6:15 p.m.