Australia, 1st stop: Darwin

After sailing out in the ocean for 13 days, we finally reached Darwin, Australia!

Finally approaching Darwin after 2 weeks on the sea!

As always, after such a long time on the sea, it was a good feeling to step on solid ground again.
However, we were not allowed to go very far. First we had undergo a very strict procedure by the Australian border police. It started with a whole squad of policemen with their dogs thoroughly checking our boat. Then each one of us was interviewed. They checked our documents and asked us some basic questions, like what we were going to do in Australia, and informed us about some basic rules. One or two of us had some minor arguments with them, but we all passed the interview and were allowed to enter the country.

So far so good, but our boat “Toone” was still not allowed to enter the marina. After a while, another border guy entered our boat and checked it thoroughly. He was looking for food this time, and he told us what we could keep and what we had to throw away. There was still way to much food left on our boat and most of it we had to put in several big plastic bags, which where then going to the garbage. The guy also couldn’t overlook the army of cockroaches that lived on our boat and he told us that we would have to kill them all, otherwise the boat couldn’t enter Australia.

For the past two months we had tried to kill all the cockroaches. It had become a sport, killing dozens of them everyday, but they had just become more and more.
It almost looked like we had to pay an expensive pest exterminator. But before, we tried one last thing. We closed the windows and sprayed the whole boat with 4 cans of strong bug poison. I think it actually worked out and it killed all the hundreds of cockroaches, but I am not quite sure, because after that I never saw Toone again.

At the Cullen Bay marina, the crew had one last beer together, and then our paths split. The captain was flying back to Poland, Sheila was going back to Singapore, the french crew members and me were all going different ways in Australia. Only Bart stayed with the boat and I think he (and a new boat crew) eventually managed to bring the boat to its owner on the east coast.

The crew at the marina in Darwin

In Darwin I was walking on Mitchell Street, looking for a nice and cheap hostel to stay. There are dozens of hostels located in this street, but most of them had already been booked out. Luckily I was able to get the last free bed in a very nice hostel called the “Dingo Moon Lodge”. Like almost every hostel in Australia it has a swimming pool, and in addition this hostel claims to have the best breakfast in town. I think they are right about the breakfast. It’s an “all you can eat” breakfast offering everything from pancakes and Nutella to all kinds of cornflakes and fruits. Considering Australian prices (where a pack of cigarettes is around 15 Euro) this is also worth quite some money.

Dingo Moon Lodge, hostel in Darwin

In Darwin, I realized that Australia is full of backpackers. Hundreds of thousand Europeans come here every year on a so called working holiday visa, which includes a working permit for one year. Everyone from an eligible country, who is under 30 can get the visa. Almost all European countries are eligible, but for some strange reason Austria is not. Therefore I was probably the only one in my hostel who only had a 3 months tourist visa.

I would have loved to get a working holiday visa. With this visa I could have easily increased my budget and then continued my world trip. I thought about other ways to make money in Australia, but it wouldn’t be so easy to get a well paid job without a working permit, and then there was the 3 months time limit. More and more I was thinking about ending my trip in Melbourne and flying back to Austria.

However at that moment I had to make another, more imminent decision. I had to decide if I wanted to go along the east coast or along the west coast down to Melbourne. People in the hostel often recommended to go west. It is supposed to have beautiful nature, it is less crowded, people are very friendly and you could get to know the “real” Australia. The east, so people told me, also has beautiful landscapes, but there are way more people, especially more backpackers, therefore it is more crowded and hectic, but there is also more party. After a while I decided to go east. I thought it would be easier to meet people and also to have more chances on couchsurfing.

In Darwin I already met a very nice girl on couchsurfing. Unfortunately it was on the day before I left. Together we spent a lovely afternoon in the park next to the library. That was when I realized how little crowded, quiet, peaceful and clean it was here in Darwin, compared to Bali and many other places I had been to in Asia. I really enjoyed it!

After I decided to go east I only needed to find a ride to get there. This was not a big problem. At that time there were many cars with free spots going east and I quickly found my ride on The Van belonged to Marion, a french girl, and together with Frank, another french guy we started a road trip to Cairns on the 18th of May 2011. If our Van actually made it there you can read in the next post.

Starting a road trip from Darwin to Cairns in this Van