Friday, January 20, 2017

A CHEAPSKATE'S GUIDE TO DOING THE TIWI ISLANDS


Locals gather at WARRUMIYANGA town's NEW CHURCH for a tribal dance-off.

The way I see it, you can't do THE TOP END properly without seeing the TIWIS. As an older Australian it seems they have come up over the years in the news/travel shows/cultural programs disproportionately to their size and particularly their population.
Problem is the TIWIS are a bit of a closed shop - in order to preserve the unique indigenous culture, local authorities require visitors to get special permits for all areas bar the main town WARRUMIYANGA aka NGUIU. This makes visiting a bit of an administrative hassle unless you do one of the cultural or sight-seeing tours put on by various outfits who arrange permits beforehand. Unfortunately, all of the latter were a bit beyond my GEEZERS' PENSION pay grade.
So I settled on catching the SEALINK ferry to WARRUMIYANGA and confining myself to a wander around town. Truth be, I didn't care too much on what I was missing - I was pretty content to say I'd at least seen the TIWIS.


The TIWI's 2 islands, BATHURST and MELVILLE are situated less than 70km north of DARWIN and separated by the narrow ASPLEY STRAIT. A llittle known fact is that MELVILLE is Australia's 2nd biggest island. 


The ferry starts at SEALINK's CULLEN BAY terminal which is about 4km north-west of DARWIN CBD. Bus 14 runs abt every 40mins - timed to connect with ferry arrivals. There is plenty of parking in the area. If you have spare time, the MARINA adjacent is a good place to have a stroll - perhaps a drink/meal.


The ferry takes care of the big tidal range on arrival by running up against the beach and using its front gangway. I noticed mobility-limited passengers got good assistance here. The beach is hard dark sand/pebbles - not mud: easy underfoot.

The ferry itself is spacious, fast and comfortable. The main cabin has good seating, a small canteen, big screen TV on low volume (pic dropped out mid trip), effective aircon - although I preferred the rear deck for viewing the landscape.
This is not fantastic – both the mainland and the islands are flat and low. They also disappear mid-trip. If you are looking for a scenic cruise this won’t cut it – although ASPLEY STRAIT on the approach to WURRUMIYANGA is interesting: twists a bit, has some nice looking beaches and it’s only a km or so across to BATHURST ISlaND’S KIWI TWIN, the bigger MELVILLE ISLAND.

Return -$105adults $80geezers (yay!!!) $55kids. Th Fr Su only. One trip each day - 2.5hrs each way. Timetable online but tide dependent (can have an 8m range in this area) - changes are notified online.


TEZZA's CUT RATE WALKING TOUR.

Get the useful map from the ferry. I more or less did a clockwise wander around town - from the ferry landing to TIWI DESIGN, then past the TRAD CHURCH, next up a lane to the MUSEUM followed by the pool, the oval, across to the NEW CHURCH, then down the main street to the supermart, then back to the ferry past the NGUIU CLUB.

Um, if you can follow that on the above map, you're good. In and attempt to simplify things I did another map with the route....
....although maybe that BLUE colour for the route wasn't the best selection.


STOP 1 - TIWI DESIGN

TIWI DESIGN is located in the north east sector of NGUIU - less than 10 mins stroll from the ferry landing. The building is pretty hard to miss - has discrete signs.
To tell the truth, I don’t think the people at there get many independent walk-ins and were a bit unsure how to deal with me. Could I take photos? Well no – but maybe if I wait until the tour group arrives…..with the return ferry leaving in 3 hours and TIWI DESIGN likely being the last stop on the cultural tour so people don’t have to lug purchases too long, I decided forego the pics. 

Reviews online talk about practical demonstrations by local artists but no-one was arting when I called by. Not that I expected a practical demo for just me – particularly as the pretty expensive prices of stuff on display had cheap-skate me declining the attention of sales people.
The art itself was pretty okay – colourful, a good variety of traditional aboriginal and more conventional stuff, decorated wood carvings, clothing etc. However I have to say it could not match the quality and variety on display maybe 400m away at the local MUSEUM – fair enough, the museum has probably been collecting the best TIWI art, carvings etc over many years.
Then again, you can't buy the stuff on display at the museum.


2 - THE OLD TRADITIONAL CHURCH

The OLD ST THERESE'S Catholic Church is on the waterfront. It is from here that the first warning of the initial bombing raid on DARWIN was given. The church is still functioning, but there is now a NEW ST THERESE'S towards the inland end of town to handle population growth.
As a tourist attraction I was not whelmed....perhaps if I was a history nerd.....


3 - TIWI MUSEUM

This one is a winner. It's packed with the best of TIWI art and craft, plus a lot of info on the history of the islands (early missionary stuff and WW2 history extensively covered) and plenty on the island passion for AFL football. I spent over an hour - could have easily doubled that. Admission by donation. Most areas had nice aircon on this very hot day.
Location is more or less behind the OLD TRADITIONAL CHURCH - the map I had suggested access by way of a lane off PUTI DRIVE a bit further east and north of the church....but I'm sure you could also access off NGUIU's main street immediately west - the KERINAULA HWY.


4 - NGUIU POOL

This was interesting. There was a bunch of school kids doing some sort of learn/improve thing when I arrived. The teachers asked me not to swim or take photos while they were there. When they left, I asked some maintenance guys if it was okay to do a lap or three - they said I should check with the island administrative people first. I gave it a miss.


5 - NGUIU OVAL


The TIWI ISLANDS have probably contributed more star AFL players to outside clubs than any comparable population area in the nation. Footy is a passion here and the locals rise to the occasion. The local GRAND FINAL often makes the National News - above is where it happens.


6 - THE NEW TRADITIONAL CHURCH

The NEW ST THERESE'S CATHOLIC CHURCH has impressively modern buildings to the left of image. When I called by there was some sort of tribal dance-off occurring in the grounds. I was hesitant to take pix close up - contented myself to shooting from across the main road.


7 - NUA SUPERMARKET

Image - NT News

One of 2 mid-sized supermarts in town (the other is across from the NEW CHURCH), I called in here to grab an iced coffee from the refrig. I was struck by prices which seemed reasonable for such an isolated spot - way less than stores in many similar places. Is there an indigenous area SUBSIDY?
The image BTW is a bit of a hoot - apparently the store was busted selling reheated KFC at $5 a piece recently. Hell, maybe the town needs a KFC franchise.


8 - NGUIU CLUB

Conveniently located at the rear of the AFL OVAL but on the main street, this is the town's footy and social club. Restricted hours saw it closed when I called by at 1430. Pity, I would have killed for a cold beer (did I say it was 40c?)


BACK TO DARWIN
From the club it was a quick 10minute stroll down the main street to the beach where a 30 minute wait saw the ferry come in from mid channel and lower its front gangway.



IF YOU SEE MISTAKES OR HAVE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, PLEASE POST IT BELOW. BUT IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION, PLEASE ASK IT IN THE FORUM SECTION ACCESSED VIA THE INDEX - I CHECK THE FORUM MOST DAYS BUT SELDOM REVISIT INDIVIDUAL LOCATION PAGES LIKE THIS.

No comments: