Predominantly a solo traveler, it’s most unusual to find myself in a Darwin hotel room with three strange men. But this is The Territory and they do things differently here, as I soon discover.
Checking into SKY CITY Darwin’s swanky new boutique resort we don’t get off to a great start. Recently opened, the resort that sits beside the original Hotel & Casino is so new the aroma of fresh paint still permeates the air. Timber boardwalks stand stark against landscaped gardens yet to see the joy of their first wet season. It won’t be long before lush gardens soften harsh concrete walls and conceal the carpark.
A regular hotel guest across the globe, I appreciate that new hotels have teething problems so I do understand when things don’t quite go to plan. Completing the formalities I’m directed to walk out of the lobby, turn left, then left again, then right over the bridge, then left again and my room is ‘not far’.
No matter that it’s about 30 degrees Celsius, I live in the tropics so I’m used to the heat. Unfortunately my faithful Samsonite bag has done more miles this year than Mark Webber and her wheels are not quite so finely maintained as Team Red Bulls. After the first couple of left turns I come unstuck. Dragging my luggage I never do see the aforementioned bridge though I do find the poolside restaurant, all but empty after the dinner crowd has left. Tempted to order a mojito and fall into the vast lagoon style pool, both have to wait until I can find my room, slip into a bikini and return.
The waiter sends me off along a footpath where he assures me my room awaits. Perspiration dripping from my brow I eventually see a door with the number I’m looking for. It’s upstairs. There’s no lift. The trouble with being a gadget-hungry travel writer is the amount of tech (read heavy) gear I travel with. Laptop, SLR camera & a couple of lenses, batteries, hard drives, phone and ipod, all of which require their own chargers. It’s fair to say my 10kg (ssshhhh, it’s meant to be less than 7kg!) carry-on backpack leaves little room for other essentials. Like deodorant. Or chocolate.
But I get my two bags up the stairs in less than three trips so I’m happy. The room is gorgeous. Modern and spacious with a ceiling that must be 3m above the floor, the open plan bathroom has a glass fronted double shower big enough for two amorous guests. I’m on my own for my first night so it’s actually rather lonely in such an enormous marble walled space after I’ve washed my smalls. Two dinner-plate sized rain shower heads win me over. I know we’re meant to be water conscious and minimise waster use but I guess that living in the wet tropics has made me somewhat wasteful. Weary after four days on the road, slipping between crisp linen for blissful rest is on my mind as I wander naked around the room switching off lights. Then it all goes rather pear-shaped. One overhead light remains brightly lit.
Not for the first time in a hotel late at night, light switches do me in. I check behind curtains, lift up light shades, move bedside tables, slide the armchair from the wall, unplug everything then plug it back in again, open cupboard doors, check the TV remote, turn the TV on then off again, remove my room card from the electronic slot, stomp my feet in frustration and get a little cranky. Which doesn’t help. The room looks rather disheveled, which is about how I’m now feeling. One overhead light remains brightly lit.
So I ring reception and ask for advice. The Concierge turns up and repeats my performance though he’s remarkably more good humored. And he’s fully clothed. So am I by now. One overhead light remains brightly lit.
He calls for Maintenance Man. Who turns up in his blue overalls and repeats the performance. Much head scratching, teeth gnashing and pacing follows. The room is large but it’s starting to get a little crowded in here. I’m tempted to collapse into bed while they figure it out. Maintenance Man is onto something though. Looking for the switch, he bizarrely tries the interconnecting door. It’s not locked so that he waves to my neighbor in bed watching TV. Oops. One overhead light remains brightly lit.
The Concierge leaves to find a key to lock the interconnecting door. Maintenance Man leaves too, promising to return shortly with his ladder to remove the offending light bulb from its socket. Which he does. It’s dark at last. It’s also close to 11pm so I’m keen to crawl into bed. But not before the interconnecting door to stranger number three’s bedroom is locked.
There’s another problem. Concierge returns forlornly to advise that he doesn’t have a key to lock the door and wont be able to secure it until the next day. Oops again. So I politely ask to be moved to another room. The poor guy. I feel for him, he’s in a difficult position. But it’s not good enough to put a female (nor a male for that matter) guest into a room that has an open door into the next occupied room. Not in a five star property.
It’s close to midnight by the time I’m ready to hop into bed for the second time, in my new room downstairs. Kindly, the Concierge has helped me with my luggage this time. The men have left my room. The doors are locked. The lights are out. I slip between crisp sheets and glimpse the shimmering lights of the swimming pool beyond the glass patio doors. I’ve been upgraded to a lagoon side room with direct access to the pool. Nice. Tempting as it is, that swim will have to wait.
Over the next two days I’m ensconced in SKYCITY Darwin I take full advantage of that glorious pool, the sandy beach, the swim-up bar and poolside restaurant. I also find the aforementioned bridge which is cantilevered above the pool. It’s hard to miss in the daylight. SKYCITY Darwin turns out to be a fabulous resort: a splendid option for visitors who want stylish modern accommodation, something Darwin has lacked in the past. It’s also in a great beachside location adjacent to the Mindl Beach Markets and a short cycle (hire bikes from reception) along the waterfront to Darwin Sailing Club. With no further appearance of strange men in my room, my lover arrives on day two in time to board Orion Expeditions ship the following day. He’s delighted with the swimming pool that kisses our patio but annoyingly becomes rather more besotted with the enormous flat screen TV. Idly I wonder if Maintenance Man might be able to disengage the TV too.
It’s unfortunate we got off to a tricky start. Will I be back? Absolutely. With an eye mask in my luggage just in case.
Fiona Harper was a guest of SKYCITY Darwin.