Darwin, Australia – Couch Surfing, New Friends and 19 Pancakes on the Beach

October 12, 2017

Arriving in Darwin

We’re in Australia! A new country and a whole new continent for me. Our flight left Bali around 1:30 AM, lasted about 2.5 hours, and landed in Darwin, Australia, just after 5 AM. I don’t think I had ever had such a short flight during the night before. So I arrived in Darwin tired, hungry and dizzy from the lack of sleep. Not the best start to our Australian adventure.

The first surprise about Australia was how expensive everything is here. The prices are almost at Swiss level, and, after spending the last month in much much cheaper countries, it feels like here we’re paying an arm and a leg for everything. Another surprise: there is no Uber or similar ride sharing company in Darwin, so to get from the airport to the city, we ended up paying 30 AUD (around 24 CHF) for a 15-minute shuttle ride. We then “camped” in a cafe until noon, when we could check into our airbnb. The cafe also had what seemed like preposterous prices, but they made me a toast with avocado, so I forgave them for all their sins.

We then took a (very expensive) taxi to our airbnb accommodation, which was a room in a beautiful house right at the bay, complete with its own terrace overlooking the bay, small pool and boat parked just in the back of the house on the water!

Our host was a nice Australian woman and she had another airbnb guest staying at her house, who we quickly made friends with and with whom we hung out quite a bit during our time in Darwin (hi Pauline! :) ). We spent the first evening all together on the terrace, grilling, eating, drinking Australian wine, looking at the beautiful bay, and chatting about our countries and our travel experiences.

Impressions of Darwin

Although it has over 100’000 inhabitants, Darwin feels more like a small town than a city. It’s very quiet and you don’t see many people and cars around. It has a very laid back and relaxed feel about it.

In terms of tourist attractions, Darwin itself doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. There is the interesting (and free!) Museum and Art Gallery of the northern territory, with an aboriginal art collection, a scary display and explanations of all the poisonous animals found in Australia, and a display dedicated to Cyclone Tracy, which literally wiped out most of Darwin on Christmas Eve of 1974. The city has rebuilt itself since then though, so now you don’t see any traces of the devastation that occurred that year.

In the dry season (May to October), twice a week there is a night market at Mindil Beach, about 2 km from the city center. It’s similar to street food festivals as we have them in Switzerland, with some live music and some arts and crafts stands added on top. Oh, and it’s right next to a beautiful beach where you can watch the sunset while having your dinner, which we don’t have in Switzerland… Oh well.

Accommodation in Darwin

As I was saying above, when we arrived in Darwin we stayed in an airbnb, but then we switched to couch surfing, which is similar to airbnb, except it’s for free. People who have anything between a spare room and a spare inflatable mattress in their home can offer accommodation through this online system. They do it for free, mostly in order to meet travelers, just for the sake of the experience. As a guest, you get a free place to sleep, but, since you’re paying nothing for it, you also can’t really ask for much in return – or at least that’s how I see it. Sometimes you know in advance what you’re getting, sometimes not.

I had never used this system before, but Daniel had, on his bike trip through Central Asia, and he convinced me to give it a try. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but hey, I’ve done a few other things that were outside of my comfort zone on this trip already and it always turned out good. So we contacted a couch surfing host online, and he accepted our request to stay at his place. In terms of couch surfing, I think we had it very good at his place: we had our own room with a double bed and our own bathroom. Our host seemed very nice, but we didn’t see him much for the first 2 days because of his sleeping schedule – see “lows” in the next section. On Sunday we finally managed to sync our schedules to go out in the evening together – see “highs” in the next section.

Highs and Lows

I’m adding this section to my blog posts, because I have the feeling that a lot of the stuff that we experience on the trip is lost if I just write about the “touristic” stuff that we do. So I’ll start writing about high and low points – things that I liked and didn’t like. I hope they help convey a more complete picture of our travels.


  • The evening spent at the Mindil Beach night market – great food (I had a baked potato with yummy fillings, and 19 (!!) small pancakes with tropical fruit. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I had 19 of them, but they were really small…), great live didgeridoo show, and beautiful sunset on the beach.
  • Meeting fellow traveler Pauline from France, who is travelling through Australia for 6 months. After meeting her at our airbnb, we did a few things together in Darwin and kept meeting her even when it was not planned. It’s a small (travelers’) world…
  • The evening we spent with our couch surfing host, his neighbor, and Pauline. Lovely people, interesting discussions, good food, and a good mojito for me :D


  • Our couch surfing host getting up at 3.30 am every day, watching the Simpsons, and doing yoga. We heard all of that from our room. Every day – or rather every night. That’s just his normal schedule and his way of dealing with the heat in Darwin – he gets up very early and he goes to bed very early. My ear plugs got a lot of use. One pair broke from too much use. Fortunately I brought spare ones with me.
  • Getting a cold and not being able to sleep one night. Well, at least I could listen to the Simpsons…
  • Seeing all the problems Aborigines have nowadays in the Australian society. In Darwin you see a lot of Aborigines on the streets, sometimes begging, sometimes drunk, sometimes clearly having mental problems. Almost all the time they are in groups among themselves – you almost never see a white person and an Aborigine talking together normally. This is of course a very superficial impression that I got just from looking around on the streets of Darwin. But it was consistent and often. It’s a sad situation and unfortunately I don’t know enough about it to be able to explain it better and to have an informed opinion.

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