The Epic Adventures of the Pangold Four
Only one sleep remaining. That’s what I thought, anyway. One could hardly call the measly three hours of half consciousness I got sleep. I was so excited for the upcoming trip that I was awake at 3.00 am and couldn’t get back to sleep (not even after what must have been 10 episodes of Adventure Time). Jem rang me just after lunch to talk about checking in online to ensure that we were all sitting together and I must’ve sounded very dry and not at all excited, because I was sitting in the office and couldn’t really raise my voice. Rest assured that, though I was tired, I was excited.
At about 5.00 pm on Wednesday Jem sent me a message: “It’s nearly time!!!!!!!!!!” We were all overworked, under-rested and looking forward to a well-earned holiday.
There’re a couple of things you need to know about this group of intrepid adventurers: 1) our highest nature skill is -1 and 2) we seem to be really fond of the decision-making process. This trip was months in the planning and yet, as we gathered at Rob’s house at 6.30 pm on Wednesday, it seemed as if very little past our first day was properly mapped out (well, we had plans … we just didn’t know if we would stick to them).
Our taxi arrived right on time to take us to the airport. Luckily, it was a station wagon with space for a wheelchair – we would never have fit all our equipment in an ordinary sedan. What none of us realised was that trying to fit our luggage and sundries into spaces far too small would become a constant struggle throughout this trip (though he would deny it, I’m fairly convinced Nate bent the laws of physics to get three mattresses and two wooden boards to fit in about one inch of space).
We arrived at the airport at about 8.00 pm which gave us plenty of time to check in, get through security (for some unknown reason, there was only one vastly understaffed security checkpoint open for the T2 Domestic Terminal) and grab some dinner before getting to our gate for boarding at 8.40 pm.
Jem and I secured two copies of the same crossword book and, when we got to the gate, began attempting to determine a fourteen-letter word for how much better than me Jem is at solving crosswords beginning with E (pro tip: it’s EMBARRASSINGLY).
As usual, I left a whole bunch of important things to the last minute – I had to buy some clothes, get myself a bag, pack said bag and get myself to Newtown by 6.30 pm without a car, all while working 36 hours on only about 10 hours of sleep in the space of three days. So it would come as no surprise that, when the plane finally took off, after a few minutes of valiantly attempting to stay awake, I popped on my headphones and fell asleep.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t such smooth flying for another member of our group. Nate is 6’4” tall. Aeroplanes seem to be made for those of us of human height and we had booked too late to get access to the emergency exit lane. So, for more than four hours, Nate was wedged into a seat made for someone half his height with his knees smashed up against the seat in front of him. If it didn’t look so painful it would have been hilarious. I imagine he was greatly relieved when we stepped off the plane in Darwin. Well, for the first few seconds, at least.
I have never been into the tropics (Brisbane is classed as sub-tropical, I believe, so it doesn’t count) and, though I grew up in Adelaide where you can get temperatures of 40+ for days on end, I was not at all prepared for the weather in Darwin. We arrived in 1 am, so there was no momentary consolation that it might get colder and more bearable at night – this was as good as it was going to get. Even worse, we all knew that this would be nothing compared to the heat and humidity we would see during the day time with the evil, angry sun beating down on us. Nate and I were wearing jumpers – we looked at each other, acknowledged that we were idiots, took our jumpers off and spoke no more about it.
Darwin Airport reminded me of how Adelaide Airport used to be (well, through the foggy, nostalgic glass of childhood memories) – it was fairly small, clearly hadn’t been renovated in some time and wasn’t too busy. It was so nice to finally touch down – now the holiday could begin.
After picking up our bags (foolishly, I had forgotten to place anything recognisable on my bag and, having bought it just hours before, let it go round a couple of times before I finally recognised it), we headed out and jumped in a taxi, headed for our first destination: the YHA on Mitchell St, Darwin.
It was probably about 2.00 or 2.30 am before we arrived at the YHA.
Nate & Jem outside the Darwin YHA
Jem, Rob & Me outside the Darwin YHA
Much to my pleasure, almost every pub in Darwin had Coopers Pale (or, as those of us from SA & NT call it, just Pale) on tap
I like a good conversation as much as the next guy (more so, probably), but nobody can talk quite as much as someone working the graveyard shift who’s desperate for any excitement. Max, the night desk attendant at the Darwin YHA was one of these people. Our conversation started out quite entertaining but, as my eyes grew heavier, and the hope of ever getting some sleep seemed all but forlorn, his jocular manner and casual wit became somewhat grating. He started off by describing three streets in Darwin: the street we were on (Mitchell St), the street one closer to the water (The Esplanade), and the street in the water, also known as “death”. He regaled us with stories of local tourists, one of whom became so scared upon seeing a crocodile behind a completely safe piece of glass that he defecated in his pants (“No tell parents!” was the order of that day). Well, eventually, Max gave us our keys and we finally got to our room.
I cannot describe the pleasure that came when I realised upon entering our room that not only was it air conditioned, but that the air conditioning had been running for long enough that the room was almost entirely cooled down. I was pretty much ready for bed, but the others wanted to scout ahead, so they wandered out (back into the sweltering heat – why would you do that?) to try to find a drink. I went into a blissful sleep, a sleep I had been awaiting for what seemed like an eternity, but I was informed the next morning that they managed to get a drink at about 2.45 am at a local place called Monsoon. All was well.