The Top End...Litchfield National Park

Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 15, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Monday, October 10, 2011

As we crossed the border into the Northern Territory, it wasn't just Western Australia we were sad to leave, but the lands of the Kimberley which we have fallen in love with. We were en-route to Litchfield National Park with an overnight stop in Katherine to catch up with our friends Syd and Cheryl.

Once again the drive from Lake Argyle to Katherine was diverse and interesting.  Passing through massive escarpments, their tops littered with gum trees, whilst at the base of their red rock faces Livistona palms sprouted out, their slim trunks stretching skyward, their green fronds contrasting beautifully against the vivid red surface of the rock.

Just outside Timber Creek there were amazing rock formations so different to any we had seen in the area.  The rocks were of charcoal colouring and looked to have been painstakingly terraced; the levels were so exacting with thin shrubbery adorning the tiers.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at Katherine delighted to be catching up with Syd and Cheryl again.  They had been up to Darwin and were heading back to Torquay and so this was a 'farewell for now’ dinner.  With our paths having crossed so many times since we first met in Coffin Bay almost six months ago, it was the end of an era!

We had a charming evening dining under the stars and talking long into the evening.  The following morning we bid them farewell and as they turned right to head south we turned left and headed north and on with our journey of discovery.

The camp we chose for our time in Litchfield was rustic to say the least.  An old mango plantation which now housed an inviting pool (every pool is inviting in this heat!), a few cabins, restaurant, bar and camping/caravan sites out the back.  To call them sites is maybe using the term liberally; we only have a small van and struggled to find a spot on the grass between trees.  Yet, they had obviously gone to so much trouble and were continuing to do improvements around the property so we were happy to support their business.

As we drove into Litchfield National Park it was clear we were now in the Tropics.  Whilst a fire had recently swept through on one side of the road, there was no mistaking the thick green lush vegetation that lined the road, the ferns dominating the landscape.

We stopped in to view the Magnetic Termite Mounds, unlike other termite mounds these are built orientated North – South, thus avoiding extreme heat.  Clever little termites!  We continued on to Tabletop Swamp however there wasn’t much action there, just a large flock of white cockatoos determined to deafen us.

We did our first walk at Tolmer Falls and as we reached the viewing platform we were pleased to see water was still cascading over the edge of the escarpment falling majestically into the pool below.  We continued on along a loop track which followed the creek at the top of the falls for a short distance before darting off to pass a fabulous array of Cycads.  These ferns looked stunning with the morning sunlight filtering through their fronds turning them such a vibrant green.

As stunning as the scenery was, it was barely nine in the morning and I was already melting… We decided to head straight to a waterhole to cool off.  Well, that was our intention, we opted to bypass a couple and head to the furthest swimming area; Walker Creek.

This was paradise… mostly overlooked by day trippers, it contains eight walk in camp sites, all on the banks of the creek.  As we traipsed along in the hot sun we passed camp one, two, three, four, five, and then when we came to camp six we were drawn down to the banks of the creek and rewarded with a sensational swimming hole.  With a waterfall constantly spilling fresh water into the pool we found it to be so revitalising and what’s more we had all to ourselves.  It was just nature at its best… here we were swimming in crystal clear water, the only sounds to be heard were of water cascading over the waterfalls and birds chirping.

This was a perfect escape from the heat and a great reward for a hardy walk.  We were thrilled when a Water Monitor lizard came over for a drink and we watched it scamper up the waterfall and take a quick dip.

Our next stop was at Cascades.  This was a much more interesting walk in than we had expected, passing through monsoon rainforest, balancing on rocks to cross the creek, criss crossing several times.  At the end of the so called track it was all hands and feet in motion to grasp surfaces as we crawled across rocks to get into an inviting pool beneath yet another waterfall.

Again we enjoyed the presence of a very striking Water Monitor lizard.  Similar in body and gait to a Goanna, however smaller, they have a lovely charcoal skin with off white markings and a brilliant lime green chin.  There was only one other family at this waterhole which again made it all the more enjoyable.  Our shoulders benefited from a vigorous massage under the cascading water refreshing us for the dreaded trek out.

Wangi Falls was our next stop and by far the most popular; it had huge picnic grounds and a massive swimming hole with two waterfalls spilling into it.  It was impressive at this time of the year so it must look spectacular in the wet. Whilst we enjoyed a swim we had been spoilt with the last few stops virtually having them to ourselves and so we continued on after doing a tree top walk. 

At Florence Falls it was a short walk to a lookout and then down one hundred and fifty odd stairs to reach the waterhole.  Whilst there were quite a few people there it was awesome… surrounded on three sides by rock walls, the waterhole was deep and of a reasonable size.  The water was still thundering over the rock face creating an impressive waterfall.  It reminded me of an old movie scene with people scampering up rock faces wherever they could get footing and then diving into the pool below; from the sides, from the top of the waterfall, it was sheer mayhem! 

As we swam, taking in the chaos around us a heavy shower of rain set in.  It was just absolute magic; sitting in this waterhole feeling heavy beads of rain bouncing from us, watching them drop into the water and splash back up, gosh this was good.  As the rain subsided, rather than climb back up the mass of stairs we opted for the ‘Shady Creek Walk’ and were we so glad that we did.  Following the creeks edge and crossing it from time to time we were meandering through monsoon rainforest and across savanna woodlands.  The scenery was exquisite with dapples of sunlight finding their way through the foliage, butterflies encircling us… Litchfield is simply amazing.

The day was nearing an end and we had one more swimming hole to visit; Buley Waterhole.  Whilst we did not have the place to ourselves it was late enough in the day to have cleared some of the crowd and it appeared to be mostly locals taking advantage of the waterhole to cool off.  There were many pools, tiered along the creek and so we were once again able to find our own pool and waterfall to relax in recapping what an awesome day we had experienced enjoying nature at its best.  Litchfield National Park is well worth a visit… don’t forget your togs!

The following day we moved just up the road to a park at Berry Springs which had been recommended by several people along our trip.  They have pet crocodiles that live in an enclosure in the centre of the park which we thought rather a novelty!  We received a cheerful welcome and then we set off to choose a site and set up.  The park probably had about eighty powered campsites if not more and with only ten or so taken we had too many to choose from.

Eventually we settled on a site and set about our normal routine; me guiding Rod in as he maneuvers the van…  It was all going well until a snake slithered away from where I had just had my feet, apparently I just abandoned my responsibility and ran!  What are the odds… all those sites to choose from and we chose the one with a snake!

Rather than just slither off into the dense bushland that surrounded the park it decided to make its way over to another occupied campsite with a couple of young girls and a small dog.  We alerted a park employee and after having a look he went to rally some assistance, never to return!  The time ticked by and no one came back, it just got ridiculous.  Eventually Rod was left with no choice but to remove the snake which we later identified as a Black Whip snake.  Needless to say I was on edge for the remainder of our stay.  It wasn’t the only sighting either… I was heading over for a shower when I was told another snake had just been seen slithering around near the entrance… back to the van for me!!!

The Territory Wildlife Park was located nearby and having been voted one of the Top End’s best attractions we decided we take a look.  We arrived just in time for the Whipray feeding.  As we were standing along the railing I could have sworn a fish spat at me…   Once the demonstration commenced I found I hadn’t been imagining it.  The Archerfish can clearly see prey – generally insects above the water, they spit at it and the weight of the water drops it down for the fish to scoop up.  It was hilarious standing there holding our arms over the water, rubbing our fingers together and having this fish spit a decent volume of water directly at our fingers, never missing.

Rod was lucky enough to go behind the scenes and hand feed the Whiprays.  Similar to other breeds of ray, these massive creatures live along river beds.  Rod described their back as feeling like sandpaper and their underbelly soft and jelly like.  What a great experience!

We worked our way through all their exhibits and took a walk around their Lagoon which is home to a large variety of migratory birds, this area is natural and the birds come and go with the seasons.  We were lucky enough to have a Jabiru hovering just in front of the observation deck so we could clearly see its stunning features.

By the time we had covered the park it was mid afternoon and we were feeling the heat so we made our way next door to the Berry Springs Nature Park where we immersed ourselves in one of the lovely swimming holes.  It was a pleasant relief from the heat.  These natural pools had the most unusual aqua green coloured waters and the banks were shrouded with Mangrove and Pandanus trees.  What a splendid way to end the day… it must be time for a sundowner!

Highlights of Litchfield National Park:

-          Walker Creek – cooling off at camp six!

-          Cascades – walking through monsoon rainforest

-          Florence Falls

o   Heavy rain tumbling down as we swam in the waterhole

o   The visual splendor of the falls and waterhole themselves

o   Following the ‘Shady Creek Walk’

-          The biodiversity of this sensational National Park

Highlights of Berry Springs:

-          Being spat on by an Archerfish… did we really put that as a highlight?!

-          Rod feeding the Whiprays

-          Floating around in Berry Springs
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Mick on

Now that you have departed WA, I feel confident enough to take the lock off the wine shed door

Val S. on

One keeps thinking that this journey you are on just cant keep getting any better but this last chapter looks sensational... what do 'they' mean when they say its not about the journey, its the destination!!!

Bill Houssenloge on

Hi Guys,
Just checked my emails after a couple of weeks.Great to see you`re coping with the hard life.We are at Rollingstone free camp area about 60K north of Townsville.Hope to bump you guys again.Happy Trails...Ali and Bill

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