January 29, 2005 GMT
Top End and Tobruk Mice

This part of the Northern Territory is called Top End (which accounts for the name of my motel, as that's definitely not a description of its facilities).

Look at a map of Australia, and locate the NT; it's the big bit in the middle of the top half. The largest-scale road map you need is 1:3.5M, which shows absolutely every road and track on a sheet of A4. The entire population is no more than 200,000, of which just 71,000 live in/around Darwin. Darwin is around the size of Thatcham, and is a rather charming little seaside town.

I'm amazed that here is my first encounter with Tobruk Mice (apparently it's that time of year). Let me explain: when John first saw a 3-inch cockroach in Tobruk he thought it was a mouse as he reckoned it was impossible for such a beast to grow that big. Well, the first thing I saw in my bathroom was a 2-incher, so the second thing I did was acquire my own personal can of roach spray. Works, too. Actually, it's not a bad hotel really, and as it's the low season (The Wet) it's empty.

A far cry from my last night in Singapore - I indulged myself and spent a night at Raffles - well, it's one of the most famous hotels in the world, so it had done be done, didn't it? You really, really don't want to know the size of the bill. There are no rooms, only suites: dining room, parlour, bedroom, dressing room and bathroom. Oh, and a bellpush in every room to summon your personal valet (a very nice young man). The radio is a Bose Wave; the cold-water flask and ice bucket are solid silver; a pot of tea or coffee arrives about three minutes after you order at any time of day or night and is complimentary (as are the roses and enormous bowl of fruit). It was, well, rather nice really.

I've been informed by the shipper that the ship is due in on Wednesday, but I probably won't be able to get at the bike until Thursday or even Friday (bum); and then it's the paperwork for Customs and registration, and Quarantine which may be more difficult. The Aussies are paranoid about organic stuff coming in - I even had to declare my Digestives at the airport, and although I jet-washed the bike in Singapore they'll probably insist on it being steam-cleaned.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at January 29, 2005 08:48 PM GMT

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