The big road trip – Litchfield and Kakadu

Litchfield (Saturday)
With The Piper and The Newby on a fishing charter with Fish Darwin I packed up our gear and did a shop for food and fuel. By lunchtime they were back on shore without a fish to their names but with a few tales to tell anyway, and we hit the road for Litchfield. I had contemplated doing Litchfield as a day trip but decided to pack up and tow the trailer down. With my track record of slow starts to the day followed by staying out into the evening it seemed a logical thing to just pack up and plan to camp in Litchfield at Wangi Falls for two days. The drive is not hard, down to Batchelor and then in to the park. We arrived mid afternoon, located our spot and left the trailer and car to go cool down in the plunge pool.

I had no real idea what the falls or swimming area were like but a fellow traveler had said they were amazing so I had high hopes. Once again, they are the type of attraction you don’t see until you round the last bend. There are hints and clues. Green trees, palms and the sound of water. Fortunately, arriving late in the day, the tour buses were gone and when we arrived at the falls we were three in a small crowd. The Piper and I are obviously seasoned to Australian natural sights but I didn’t realise how much until I looked at The Newby. You’ve heard the term “catching flies”? I saw it for the first time. To say The Newby was awestruck really doesn’t describe it. You need to add speechless, dumbfounded, amazed, excited and possibly even thrilled. We are very fortunate to have such amazing places to travel to. This park and these falls are particularly beautiful and easily accessible.

Taking The Newby by the hand we entered the pool and swam in the clean, clear, cool water, released from the sandstone, having been stored since the last wet. We swam to each fall and sat on the edge looking back across the pool and admiring the views of an oasis of Hollywood proportions. The Piper explored the small pool slightly above the main water before we had a closer look at the point where a side spring contributes to the water body. God was very much on her game the day she created this place. Or perhaps it was the rainbow serpent or some other creation creature from Aboriginal stories. That’s no less feasible than god. Whoever or whatever created this area we should be thankful and I think The Piper, The Newby and I were all appropriately respectful in that special place.

Having cooled off we headed back to set up the camper and enjoy a few beers, dinner and some sweet ukulele and singing from our fellow travellers in an adjacent campsite. Star gazing was moderately successful. Actually that’s a silly thing to say. If you can’t see a star in a pitch black sky in the Northern Territory then you’ll never see one. We didn’t see many falling stars that particular evening but looking for them was wonderful!

Sunday (Father’s Day)

Having suss’ed it out we decided to do the circle walk to the top of the falls early in the morning. This is an easy walk that rises from pool level, through the tree tops to look out from the top of the falls down to the plains below. We stopped at the top and took some reference points as well as leaving some markers in the hope that we could see them from the bottom. During our descent we met a very nervous lady who had seen a snake. We talked almost all the way to the bottom about snakes and peoples fear of them. We stopped to have a look at a stick that looked like a snake and with that The Newby quietly declared “there’s one”. The Piper thought he meant a stick while the stunned, frozen Newby needed to be reminded to grab the camera and get a picture! Our first snake this trip! Just a tiny and very pretty green tree snake who turned around and headed away from us when he realised we were there.

The Newby was both delighted he had spotted the snake and scared to the point of speechlessness (yet again). Pointing him in the right direction we headed to the falls for a cool down swim and home for lunch. Our afternoon allowed us to explore the rest of the easily accessible parts of Litchfield. We had a fabulous dip in Blueys Rockpools, sharing the cool environments with a very pretty monitor lizard before walking down to Florence Falls for a swim out to the falls. The Newby swam to the falls and touched them! A great achievement for someone who hadn’t swum in inland, outdoor freshwater before arriving in the NT. What a glorious and fabulous afternoon spent doing amazing things in a truly spectacular and beautiful part of the world.

Unfortunately great tragedy befell our small family in the evening. Our perfect little friend, The Moose, passed away some time during the day. The Piper found him peaceful in his cage as the sun set on our day. Who knows why these things happen but God and I had a serious talk about inflicting that type of pain on my son. His scream will stick with me forever, reflective of the depth of his emotional pain. With both of us wracked with sobs, The Newby helped us to dig a small grave for Patchy and bury him with his car. The camp site will forevermore be known as Patchy’s Patch and we talk about him riding his car around the sites and into peoples caravans, campers and tents in the middle of the night. Rest in peace my sons perfect little pet. You were a light in The Pipers life and your passing has caused huge sorrow.

Kakadu (Monday)
With heavy hearts we packed up in Litchfield, said goodbye to Patchy and headed for another adventure. Fortunately distraction and heeding some wise words meant that The Piper was able to start to enjoy our trip again. We headed for Noonamah and a counter lunch before fuelling up and driving into Kakadu. It’s hard to believe that we made it to this iconic place. We are extremely fortunate to have access to such beauty and adventure.

If you get to this part of the world we can recommend Anbinik Caravan Park. Our site was the first we’ve had with a slab and also had an ensuite as standard. Very nice and comfortable for three nights stay. Driving in we booked our tour for tomorrow and with the trailer set up we headed to the pool for a swim. Good stuff, it’s open until 10pm. Finally a caravan park that gets it! Some people like to swim at night. Not that we did but the option was there.

Tuesday

There’s so much to see and do here so you need to get the relevant information from the rangers and other stopping points and think about what you want to see and do. We headed for Nourlangie, an easy circular walk past an ancient Aboriginal shelter and several outstanding art sites. We also took the climb to Gun-warddehwardde Lookout and marvelled at Kakadu’s escarpment and Nourlangie Rock. This plus a quick drive through look at Anbangbang Billabong filled our morning and we headed back to Jabiru for lunch.

In the afternoon we headed in the opposite direction to East Alligator River and joined our much anticipated Guluyambi Boat Cruise with our friendly and funny Aboriginal guide Hilton. The crocs were there in numbers! Just what we came to see. Crocs in their natural environment, doing what they do. Not jumping into the air for chickens or enclosed in a small area in a theme park. Hilton told us about his culture, shared stories about the creation time, told us about the plants and animals and how they use them, including “Hibiscuits”, threw some spears to show us his skill and bought us safely back to the boat ramp. This tour was fantastic and, as you no doubt guessed, The Newby was speechless! Seeing Nigel, Jonathan and Jacob had the same effect as seeing Wangi Falls. The look on The Newbys face was worth all the kms we’ve travelled to get here.

Being in the area we went in Ubirr and saw some fantastic rock art (photos included with permission). The art, the descriptions of them and the access to them make this a fabulous place to go. It’s also THE place to see sunset. Which we did. The colours of the landscape as the day came to an end were superb. The green grass was almost fluorescent on the plains and the oranges and yellows in the rock were actually glowing. Whilst there were a lot of people there, we still managed to feel very small in a very big place. We also shared it with a beautiful little rock wallaby. Yet another native creature to add to our growing list. Needless to say it was dark as we headed home, expectant and excited to see The Middle Child (my brother) and his friend. Remember I mentioned the great van park? They allowed the two of them to stay with us on our site for no extra price. Good on you Anbinik. Thanks for the stay.

Wednesday

Unfortunately The Newby had to leave us on a greyhound bus bound for work in Darwin. But not before we called in on the visitors centre and had a wander around. There’s a few diary entries in a scientists journal that describe the plight of a croc stuck in a waterhole as the dry ends. Although this is a scientific piece, the writer is able to have the reader emotionally connected to a sunburnt and dehydrated croc. Fortunately the animal survived, wrapped in mud, until the beginning of the wet. I guess we all have a right to life including big, scary crocodiles. Make sure you go to both the visitors centre and the cultural centre (we did that on Thursday) if you get to Kakadu.

The rest of Wednesday we did chores and swam while The Middle Child went and did the boat tour and Ubirr sunset before we headed back to club (we went there last night for dinner) for a few beers and a game of keno. We could be wealthy and we don’t even know it. The machine was turned off before we got our ticket checked!

Thursday

After taking in the cultural centre and having a walk out to the Yellow Water wetlands we headed for Maguk and found a campsite in what turned out to be an empty camping area. We had the pick and parked our vehicles before walking into the plunge pool and falls. This is a very pretty place with a small fall dropping into a very large swimming hole. It’s croc free, although traps are set for any crocs who may inadvertently venture into the area. The Piper spent a good hour in the water and I cooled off before walking back out to our campsite and getting a fire going for our evening. This place, while pretty and very deserted is also home to an incredible number of flies! I retreated to the hot but fly free camper to compose this entry and listen to the moaning and groaning of The Middle Child who had earlier been very happy to remind me how easy his camping set up is. He’s in the back of his ute on a mattress, sharing one chair with his friend. I can tell you there’s no relief from the flies where they are!

Our evening will comprise a fire, flies (actually I hope they go as the sunsets), potatoes in their jackets and burgers on fresh burger rolls. Although there are a lot of trees around our site it will be pitch black tonight. There is very little moon and it rises late at night so star gazing should be excellent and hopefully we catch a falling star we can put in our pockets. And maybe a satellite or two as well.

To follow us onwards to Katherine and surrounds click here

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