Lovely Litchfield

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
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Trip End Nov 30, 2009


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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hello again.

I'm happy to say that I'm settling into the tropical weather quite nicely and that the last few days have treated me well. There seems to be a lot happening over the middle of July so I've accidentally timed my stay here perfectly. Oops.

The last couple of days have been quite hectic as Ove (Sweden) and Flavien (France) prepared to depart (and have this morning). Early Thursday saw visits to Australian Customs and the Indonesian Consulate and them some sightseeing around the Port Precinct, including a tour of the old Oil Storage Tunnels and a potter around the majestic NT Parliament House and Cenotaph. The oil tunnels were quite interesting - approved after the Japanese bombing of Darwin in February 1942 they were never actually used in anger as the threat passed before they could be completed and commissioned. They're a little hard to picture (see below) but the tunnel you could tour was 171 metres long, 5 x 4.5 metres high/wide and could hold 38,500 million litres of oil. That's a lot of gas!

Oil tunnel Crazy tree near tunnels

That afternoon I spent on the boat with Joe and Michele helping out with some odd jobs as the first of my crewing responsibilities. Later I met Ove and Flav down to Mindil Night Markets and enjoyed the magnificent sunset over the beach. Nothing beats a sunset on a western coastline!

Going, going... gone

The markets themselves are a Darwin institution now, and despite the maddening crowds there's a great variety of food, art and general Australiana to keep the punters satisfied and the locals coming back for more. As I have another week and at least two more market nights I just scoped the offerings out, but Flavien bought a nice (and very cheap) didgeredoo and we all enjoyed a the tasty treats of stalls like the Roadkill Cafe, Australian Jerky and a great chinese run stand selling chocolate covered frozen bananas and mangos. There was general agreement that these last items are possibly the best invention ever - not bad as both Ove and Flav are chefs.

You kill 'em, we grill 'em... Stars at market

The crowds were dense in every direction so we beat a hasty retreat to a pub in town to have a couple of beers before retiring. Next morning we were up early to pick up the rental car and head off to Litchfield.

Nice place. Arriving well before lunch gave us the opportunity to stop at the magnetic termite mounds, then Florence Falls for a first invigorating swim. The termite mounds reminded us very much of a graveyard, with grey brown headstones scattered randomly across the plain. The visitor information booth was swamped with families of screaming kids, so we can only assume that the mounds are termite saliva and poop built into massive structures. Apparently though the termites live under the mounds, not in them (although some work is conducted inside the vertical mound itself) and that most of the mounds pictured below face north/south in order due to the east/west passage of the sun. To be honest, probably not much is known about them, except that same are absolutely massive (up to 6 metres tall) and it would take a bloody long time to build a structure that large.

Me peeking through a large mound Wild west graveyard Biggest mound we saw (6m+)

At Florence the clear water was divine on an already hot day, so we floated about under the waterfall for quite a while before relocating to Buley Holes for lunch. Florence was your standard (but very beautiful) vertical waterfall falling into a great little swimming hole, whilst Buley was a series of small pools linked by short cascading waterfalls. I would have loved to discover and enjoy these in tranquility as both were pretty crowded, but you have to expect that from such spectacular places in peak season. Fortunately there was significant water flowing through the park (unlike at Kakadu that the boys visited a couple of days before) which gave the whole experience a refreshing feel. Unfortunately five minutes after getting out of the water you were already hot and sweaty again!

Florence Falls (favourite) Buley's Holes

Next stop was Tollmer gorge and falls another 14km down the road. Not accessible by foot, it was still a pleasant stop and view from the lookout above. As with many sites around Australia, one can look for miles in every direction and see no evidence of settlement or civilisation. Just empty and deathly quiet bush, as everything lays low over the heat of midday.

Check out thos 6 packs Long way down into Tollmer Gorge

Despite the view we retreated quickly to the next billabong and a watery salvation from the heat. Wangi Falls is the largest and also most commercial of the swimming spots in Litchfield, but in spite of the increased traffic and subsequent litter, a variety of animals including bats, fish and birds were in evidence around the waterfall (unlike at Florence or Buley's). A favourite was the Wedge-tailed Eagles in abundance and gliding gracefully in the thermals above. Fortunately no crocs (salties and freshies) were about on the day as were really needed that swim.

Wangi majestic Wedgey (tailed eagle) Err.., what warning?

Late in the afternoon we headed back to civilisation so the boys could prepare for their departure the next day. I took advantage of the unlimited speed limit roads just outside of Batchelor to see what the little rental car could do (not much unfortunately) and as we approached suburbia the long running game of 'spot the biggest road-train' was won with two sightings of massive 4 trailer jobs hauling BP and Shell petrol about the place. I managed to only get three trailers into the accompanying photo but hey, I was driving at the time so think I did pretty well in the circumstances. Trust me, there was a fourth trailer on the end of it so hats off to the drivers as they were huge!

At least 50 metres I reckon

Anyway, I'm pooped so more next time.

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