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11 March 2000, Uluru to Darwin, Northern Territory

This day was going to be a pure travel day. We had a 10:15 flight from the airport at Uluru to Alice Springs, then to Darwin. Since the flight was later, we could sleep in. I still woke up around 6:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep. At 6:30, I got out of bed and started working on my backlog of journals. At 7:30 I roused Chris and we started our day. We had breakfast once again in the hotel restaurant, then asked for a porter for our bags.

Once our bags were headed for the curb, we checked out. There was only one clerk working the desk, and another guest was having some sort of problem with a tour reservation. We waited a couple of minutes, then I left Chris to check out and went to bring the car around. I pulled up to the curb, put the bags in the car, and Chris still wasn’t out yet. I locked the car and headed inside. As I reached the reception counter, Chris was just finishing up. While she had been trying to check out, the clerk kept answering the phone. That’s what had taken so long. The tourist with the reservation problem was still there, but being helped by someone else.

We finally got out to the car, still on our schedule. We needed to fill it with petrol to avoid the amazingly high prices charged by Hertz. We found the petrol station without a problem and filled the car at prices that were merely painful. Then we were off to the airport. It took us nearly ten minutes to get there. There was no sign telling us where to return the car, but Chris went inside and found out we were just to park it and fill in the return card. With both of those tasks completed, and the card and keys returned to Hertz, we headed to the Quantas counter to check in for our flight.

We had allowed more time than needed, so we got to the counter more than an hour before the flight. Quantas wasn’t checking anyone in yet, but we had to wait only a little while before they were ready. The clerk told us that the plane was very small, so we couldn’t carry our smaller bags on with us. We checked them through to Alice Springs, where we would pick them up between flights.

We walked on to security, which wasn’t open yet. We didn’t notice they weren’t open, even when we walked past the sign that said “No Entry”. As we approached the x-ray machine and metal detector, the guard walked past us saying “We’ll take care of you in just a moment. Just let me get this ‘No Entry’ sign out of the way.” We realized what we had done and laughed, embarrassed and amused at the same time. We were soon in the gate area, where we still had nearly an hour before our flight.

The flight loaded and took off right on time. As we flew over the unusually lush desert, the pilot came on the intercom and said that he hoped everyone had enjoyed their stay in “Australia’s Green Center.” Other than really good views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the plane, the flight was uneventful. We landed in Alice on time, retrieved our carry-ons, and waited for the flight to Darwin. Once again, it loaded, took off, and landed right on time. We retrieved our checked bags, then caught a shuttle bus to our hotel, the Novotel Atrium.

There were a number of other passengers on the bus, and many of them were dropped off before us. It started raining not long into the trip, so the driver had to get out into the rain at each stop to get baggage out of the trailer. By the time we got to our hotel, he was soaked. The Novotel has a sheltered entry, so rain wasn’t a problem. Ironically, though, the rain had tapered off by the time we got there.

We walked in the front door of the hotel to find black plastic hung over a frame three feet inside. The hotel was undergoing renovation, and the entire ground floor was cluttered with drop cloths and black plastic. If we were staying longer, we might have been put off by the construction, but we would be out at the crack of dawn the next day, so we didn’t care. It turns out that the lobby was the last part of the hotel to be renovated. All of the rooms had already been done.

Our room was quite warm when we arrived. The porter showed us how to operate the air conditioning. The room is in two sections separated by a short hallway. The bed is in the room farthest from the window. The air conditioner is in the room with the window. There was very little circulation between those two rooms, so the bedroom never did cool down very much. The ceiling fan made it tolerable when we did finally go to bed.

We consulted our travel guides and decided to eat dinner at Twilight on Lindsay, a restaurant about three blocks from the hotel. I called and made reservations, leaving a message, since they weren’t open yet. By this time it was about 3:30. Still tired from our busy time in and around Uluru, we opted not to try to see Darwin. As I continued to work on the journal backlog, Chris read her book and trimmed down our baggage for our trip into Kakadu National Park. We didn’t want to take our huge bags with us, so we had to choose enough for three days and pack it in our carry-on bags.

Around 5:30 our phone rang. It was Twilight, confirming our 6:30 reservation. We decided to show up a little bit early and get a drink, so we cleaned up and walked over, getting there at 6:20. Twilight’s dining room has no walls. It is fully open, situated at ground level as the lowest level of a house-sized building. As we arrived, the restaurant crew was still getting set up. We sat down at the bar and ordered our drinks. When the place was set up, we were able to chat with the bartender, who was very friendly and asked us about our visit so far.

After a while, we asked for our table and the waiter lead us to it. It was past 6:30, and we were only the second party to arrive. The menu looked great. We ordered, then sat back, watching as more and more young Darwinians arrived. By 7:30, we were well into our main course, and the place was really starting to get full. In addition to numerous people seated at tables, there were lots of folks standing around the bar. We were glad we had arrived early.

We took our time eating, just enjoying the people-watching, but it was eventally time to leave. We had an early departure the next morning, and needed to get to bed. It was raining lightly as we walked back to the hotel, but it wasn’t heavy enough to bother us. We really enjoyed the restaurant, and we were starting to think that we should have planned more time in Darwin. Maybe next trip — or the one after that.

Next day

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