Day 67 – Delayed in Darwin

Apologies in advance for this somewhat drawn out rant. Skip to the last paragraph if you want.

Returned to the mechanic as early in the morning as we could (hint, it was after they open their doors at 8AM). We tried our best to kill time in the centre of Darwin. This included a visit to a Target Outlet shop (supposedly the only one in Australia) where ladies garments could be purchased for the odd sum of $2.06. Lots of clothes for men, if you’re a 28” waist (I’m skinny, but not that skinny).

We even tried to resolve what is happening with Risa’s spouse visa, and here is where I start to vent a little. We applied early in 2012. We payed the ~$3000 application fee and were advised that to speed up the process, we should also get her $350 medical examination now (which is only available from the Medibank Health Services, which to me is an unfair monopoly). However (and this is the crux of the problem), her $350 medical examination only has a shelf life of twelve-months from the date of examination, and because it has been well over twelve-months, it has expired and is now holding up the application. Today was the first we learnt of what was causing the delay. Last time I checked with the Department of Immigration in Brisbane, they casually explained to me that applications were seeing delays, just be patient. The delay has also made her police check expire, which is another $42… If we don’t receive her visa before we leave for Japan in November, the whole application is forfeit… Really, really frustrated on this one.

Got the news after lunch that we weren’t going to be getting our car back today either as they couldn’t source any wheel bearings locally, try as they might. So, they are waiting for some to be express posted from less rural part of Australia (probably Brisbane).

So, we were officially stuck in Darwin until they could get parts (Monday), which meant that once again we were making use of RACQs Platinum coverage to provide us with a hotel and a hire car. But, I wanted to be in Katherine for the rodeo on Sunday… I had a brilliant idea, why not swap the hotel and hire car for a campervan? That way we could do a trip through Litchfield National Park, see the Katherine Rodeo and be back on Monday to pick up Deli-chan. They agreed and found one for us. But, the devil really is in the details (and fine print) as I found out repeatedly today. We could have the hire car, but they would only pay for it for the days that our car was under repair (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday), which is fair enough. However, this particular car was only available as a five-day minimum hire, which meant we’d have to pay the extra day ourselves. They agreed to let me search for my own hire car and then seek reimbursement afterwards. It was Friday afternoon, and finding a car in Darwin that was ready to take that afternoon was proving difficult. Apollo had one (the same company we hired a van from for MotoGP at Philip Island last year), but again, the small print meant that we’d be paying for more than $200 in insurance (since I didn’t have $5000 on a credit card – I like to keep my credit limit low). It was now getting even later in the afternoon, and we had to return to the original plan, a hotel and hire car. It had been a real struggle for them to find something for us at such short notice. We’d been difficult (changing our minds several times) but thankfully RACQ were patient. We were sent to one hire car company, only to find out when we got there that it was cancelled, as it exceeded our daily allowance. It was 4:45 and the mechanics were about to close for the weekend, so we had to race back there and get whatever we needed from Deli-chan before she was locked away. We looked like we were homeless, with the collection of shopping bags with our possessions in, standing on the side of the road waiting for a taxi. We were then sent to another hire car company at the airport, but their booking wasn’t until tomorrow, as the booking arrived after 5PM… *facepalm* Finally, at 6:30PM we got a hire car. A Holden Commodore SV6.

Hotel closed reception at 7PM, so now we had to race to get there in time. My phone was flat, and Risa’s was rapidly draining, too. We tried the iOS 6 Maps App for the first time today, and it took us in the completely wrong direction – back in to the centre of town… Totally understand the bad reputation it has received. It was after 7:30PM by the time we finally got to our little cabin (way) outside of Darwin. We were hungry, thirsty, and tired. We needed dinner, but were too tired to have to do the search. UrbanSpoon was useless, as was the hotel’s restaurant list. We saw a cluster of fast-food restaurants nearby in Palmerston so gave in and that’s where we headed.

Only, when we arrived in Palmerston, the roads were congested, the car parks were full and were spilling over to the footpaths. And that’s when we realised that there was an event going on. We checked it out and we’d chanced on Palmerston Evening Markets. We were walking around the food stalls in awe – we couldn’t believe our luck. These markets are what we wished last night’s Mindil Sunset Markets were. Various stalls selling Asian street food, not just typical takeaway food (as well as fresh local produce). Crowds were manageable, and it wasn’t catered to tourists like Mindil. It was the best thing so far in Darwin, and technically, it wasn’t even in Darwin! …and I was kicking myself for not bringing the camera.

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