Goodbye Lovely Beast

Sat. 29th June 2019

One of many boards detailing bombing of DarwinThe Land Cruiser is due back mid afternoon so we are making the most of our last morning and drive to East Point and Darwin Military Museum. We arrive to the sound of an air raid siren and rush into the auditorium to see the film about to be shown, not really knowing what it was about. It relives the 19th February 1942 when the Japanese bombed Darwin Harbour and Town. I knew Darwin had been destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times but had no idea of the history. My WW2 history lesson at the kitchen table helping Chris draw a map of the main components of the war concentrated on Europe and Russia but did not really touch on the rest of the world.

WW2 gun placementObviously I was aware of the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941 but did not know that the same Japanese commander led the attack on Darwin a couple of months later. Darwin realised the significance of Pearl Harbour and evacuated women and children from Darwin in case of such an attack on the city. After a failed landing of ammunition and reinforcements in Timor a fleet of ships returned to Darwin on 18th February 1942. Japanese intelligence identified the significance of the ships trip to Timor and so launched their attack on Darwin destroying these ships in the harbour.

That ain't going anywhereDarwin, is at the northern tip of Australia and a natural harbour, so it was an obvious place for a military base. The museum is situated around one of the gun placements and other military buildings and houses many artefacts and displays detailing the bombing of Darwin and other military exploits. The displays put us in a melancholy mood, especially added to our sadness over the ending of this part of our trip.

Fannie BayLeaving the museum we head back to town via Dudley Bay which reminds Dave of his many trips to Dudley for RM. If only that Dudley was as pretty as this one. There are more reminders on WW2 and this is the site of one end of the boom net which was put across the harbour entrance to deter enemy submarines. There are also cycle paths crossing our route making us think about hiring bicycles to see the rest of Darwin. However Darwin is not a big place so we can explore most of it on foot tomorrow.

Details of 1919 raceOur tummies remind us that it is lunch time so we stop at Fannie Bay and stroll on the shore before finding a cafe. We are always drawn to look at monuments and so we stop at a modern looking one close to the shore. It was quite a surprise to see it was to commemorate the 1919 air race with the winning plane crossing from Britain to Australia in 27 days and 20 hours. The plane that came second took 207 days, which is much longer than our whole trip to Australia. Many interesting tales of disasters and stops en route are detailed in the ever present information boards.

Cleaning the BeastAfter a lunch stop it is time to concentrate on sorting the Beast ready for returning it to Britz. I have already prepared the list of issues we have encountered, mainly minor. If it wasn’t already obvious, we have loved our time in the Beast and without really taxing its abilities, it has taken us to some fabulous places. Britz too have been good and the three times we have needed to phone the roadside assistance line they have been very helpful in sorting out the chipped windscreen and coolant issues we had. However, the small print said you received the vehicle clean so please return it clean. Hmmm, our beast is now more red than white due to all the dust we have encountered.

It's a bombOn checking if they really want us to wash it before returning Britz, confirm yes, so off we go to find a car wash. The Aussies do take their car washing seriously and we head for Wash “N” Go just out of town. Armed with the power hose Dave works his way down the menu of options including the pink foam and we watch the brown water disappear down the drain to leave an almost white Land Cruiser. Meanwhile I spot the vacuum station for inside the car. You can even select the fragrance for your interior! I hasten to add we avoided that option, a quick brush out of yet more red dust and dirt was all we were going to do.

Camouflaged storage hutWe poked our nose into Charles Darwin National Park for views over the city. Not the most pretty place but we could see that no cruise liners were docked in town. Even this area was important in WW2 as it was used for underground storage of ammunition. It is surprising just how much of the history displayed in town relates to the influence the war had on this area. The city is often devastated by cyclones, in particular the one in 1974 but this is less well documented than the bombs.

View of DarwinWithout a vehicle tonight, we resort to walking to the nearest fish and chip shop we can find (on Google Maps), only to discover it does not exist. Fortunately, we do find a different one not far away so our supper needs are met and we settle down to eat on the lovely balcony at our apartment overlooking the sea (as long as you look beyond the aluminium roofs of the industrial units between us and the sea!). It is just as well that we have an apartment as we need space to sort our belongings which have been spread throughout the Beast for the last six weeks. We are not looking forward to the job of trying to squeeze as much as we can into our backpacks ready to carry all out belongings on our homeward trip.

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