It is midnight on Mindil Beach in Darwin, Australia. The air is hot and wet and carries the salt reek of the sea. Backpackers sit scattered on the floor of the parking lot outside their vans rolling cigarettes and giving each other massages.
On this clear but moonless night the surrounding mangroves and palms are barely shadows, but we know them well; many of the backpackers sleep in them every night, as well as in caves or tents or under trees. One French guy, Marco, is so at home he has even started growing his own vegetable garden. The soft yellow lights of the parking lot are weak but allow enough light for a lazy game of hacky sack on the road. I am chatting with friends and watching the players when out of the darkness two Aboriginal fellas approach.