March 21, 2014 Darwin, Australia
From the moment I boarded the plane, everything began to go wrong. I approached my seat and found an Australian lady sitting there looking rather nervous. She stood and allowed me to get into my seat by the window. Once seated, I got out my laptop and began to Skype with a Javanese girl I had grown close with over the last few weeks. I was not sure when I would see or talk with her again. A few minutes passed before I noticed the lady was standing in the aisle with her arms crossed looking at me rather angrily. I asked if there was problem, she wanted to know “if I knew, there was a plane missing right now, and that I should not be on my laptop!” She was referring to the missing Malaysian Airlines flight. I explained to her I was talking with a good friend and I would turn it off when the flight attendants asked me to. Time got away from me, the flight attendants never asked me to put up my laptop, so just as we began to take off I closed it. I decided at this point maybe I should apologize for upsetting her. I did, and her response shocked me. She said “Fuuuck You!”. We got into a bit of a heated argument that ended with me thanking her for such a nice introduction into her country….As soon as we hit altitude, I politely asked if I could get by her, found a new seat, and tried to relax for the remainder of the flight. Another Australian lady who watched it all happen apologized for the other saying not all people will be so rude. I talked of camping on the beaches as I had little money and she advised not to do this because of the salt water crocodiles. This was a scary scenario to start thinking about and changed my plans drastically.
"They assumed I was attempting to smuggle drugs into the country as well."
My plane touched down into Darwin around 7pm. I was a nervous wreck leading up to going through customs and had a strong feeling I may be sent on a one way flight home if they discovered I was arriving with only $130. I hung in the back and was one of the last people to go through customs. As I approached, I noticed an English guy I had met very briefly in Bali a few hours earlier. He was standing with a group of border agents and in front of him was a large pile of white tablets. There were beads of sweat on his forehead and he looked extremely distraught. I made the mistake of asking if he was ok as I approached the counter next to his. Immediately, a customs agent looked at me and in a loud tone asked “Is this your friend?!”. I said no, we had met briefly in the airport before our flight into Australia. They asked for me to please place my bags on the table, painted some sort of drug/bomb analysis on my hands, and proceeded to go through each and every thing I had. They read a random page in my journal, looked at receipts, asked what I had been doing in Indonesia, and even looked up WiredNomads when I told them I was a traveling blogger. They assumed I was attempting to smuggle drugs into the country as well. My “friend” had attempted to bring over 1000 ephedrine pills with him which he bought legally in Bali. Unfortunately for him, they are not legal in Australia.
After two hours, and many questions, I was let into the country. It was dark as I walked out of the small airport. I decided to sit outside near the taxi stands to have a smoke before deciding how I would get into the city. There was a taxi driver sitting with his window down and I thought perhaps I could strike up a conversation and learn how far of a walk into the city it was. He asked if I needed a ride as I walked up. I explained I had very little money and just wanted to know how to get into the city. His response was “Why the fuck would you come to my country with no money?”. I explained rather sheepishly that I had missed my flights out of Indonesia and planned to start looking for work the next morning. He ended up softening up a bit and explained if I would walk around 1-2km down the only road I would hit a petrol station, there is a bus that comes near there to take me into the city. I began the walk down a dark road with little to no street lights.
"Arriving in the Darwin City Center was like stepping into a whirlwind of inebriated people."
I could hear people in the woods talking in loud voices as if they are a bit intoxicated. After a couple of km I arrived at a small petrol station at the end of the road. Still far from the city center. I went inside to ask the store clerk if he knew how I could get a bus into the city. He said he never took buses but go ask the aboriginals outside, they are always taking buses. I see a group of 10-15 aborigines sitting in a circle at the far end of the parking lot. I approach them and ask if I could sit down with them for a minute. I pull out one of my Indonesian cigarettes and they all begin to ask if they can have one. I pass them to my right until everyone has one. We talk a bit as they begin to smoke. Pretty quickly they realize these aren’t normal cigarettes and they do not like the flavor of the cloves. They all start to give me back their partly smoked cigs. I explain its ok, they can keep them. They then ask me if I will go buy them some beer next door. I explain I have no money. They hand me a twenty and say they just want a large beer. They tell me to leave my bag, no problem. I told them I wouldn’t leave my bag, but I will happily go get them beer. I didn’t know at the time about the bans the aborigines can have from buying alcohol in certain stores. When I come back I enquire again about catching a bus. They invite me to come back with them but tell me they do not really know how to get a bus into the city. A bit exasperated, I see a guy at the pumps, and walk over to ask if he knows how I can get a bus into the city. It’s close to 11pm by this time so he offers to give me a ride to a bus stop near by. I had a $5 Australian note Caitlyn had given me a few years earlier. I always said it would be the first I would spend. It ended up getting me into the city.
Arriving in the Darwin City Center was like stepping into a whirlwind. People were atrociously drunk, stumbling on the streets, yelling, dancing, laughing, aborigines sitting around, and a bouncer kicking an aboriginal out the front door as I approach the hostel. I had found a place called the Malealuca right in the city center. As I check in and head upstairs to my room, I notice everyone is sitting around the pool, drunkenly partying. I have little money and didn’t expect to walk into this sort of environment. I take all my stuff to my room, grab my laptop, and head down to the street to Skype with Utha. As I’m sitting there smoking, people keep stopping and offering me $1-2 dollars for a smoke. Normally I wouldn’t take it, but in times like these I thought why not. After around 5 cig sales, many funny conversations, Utha asked via Skype if I had eaten yet today, a common question in Indonesia. I responded that no I had not eaten since the plane and was a bit hungry. A random passerby dropped a handful of coins on my keyboard and said “Go get some food dude.” Rather funny and humbling night sitting there. I ended up with $15 more Australian dollars than I had when I arrived. Around 2am, I decide to head upstairs, and attempt to get some sleep. Tomorrow was a big day If I was going to make it. The hostel was $30 a night, and I was down to $110. That gave me around 3 days to figure out what I was going to do.
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