Litchfield National Park - Waterfalls & Rock Pools

Trip Start Feb 26, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2013

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Where I stayed
Darwin Airport

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Friday, March 22, 2013

It is 8:30 pm and I am here in the Darwin Airport waiting to be able to check in for my 2:50 am flight to Singapore.  I returned the car....without any scratches or dents, with a full tank of gas, but, substantially over the allotted mileage.  For 10 days I got 1000 km free.  I started at 17,170 and am at 18,600+.  Well, it could be worse, at 33 cents/km, it will be almost $200 aus which is more than $us.  But, I had a great day yesterday touring Darwin with Heather and a great day today seeing the sights in Litchfield National Park which I passed by on my way back to Darwin the day before yesterday.

I woke up early around 6 am but went back to sleep thinking it was a little bit too early.  I didn't get up until 7 am, or was it 7:30 am??  I tried to be speedy and pack everything up, clean up my dirty dishes, bring in my oyster shells from the balcony, drink some coffee - the electric pot didn't really work - it shut off 2 sec after you put it on but, after 5-6 little warm-ups, it was tolerably warm.  I saved the rest of my breakfast for when I was in the car.  I looked for the early turnoff for the park but didn't really notice it, so I drove on to the entrance through the town of Batchelor. 

I just read a description of Batchelor and realized I should have checked it out....looked around a bit, been more observant, because the write-up said it had old-fashioned tropical architecture.  It was more than just an award-winning Tidy Town.  Even so, I did experience the general store, where, having heeded the warnings that there was no gas station in the park, I fueled up.   Then I went next door to the Atchel Cafe, or something like that, and got a latte.  I asked for a large one, but the man at the counter showed me a cup and asked if that were large enough because it was the only size he had.  I sat on a picnic table in front of the cafe and finished writing out my Northern Territory postcards before putting them through the slot at the unmanned Post Office.  It was only when I was leaving the park that I realized I had forgotten to take photos of them.  I was annoyed with myself.  I was very annoying to myself today.

At first as I was driving through the Park, I thought to myself that it didn't really look any different from the other parks and maybe I should have skipped it instead of doing the extra drive.  I stopped at an unmanned information building and picked up a map and a sheet of current information.  There was a board showing which attractions were closed due to the wet season.  I think part of this off-season closure policy that I have experienced quite a bit of here in the NT is a resource issue.  It may not be that the site is inaccessible at that moment, or it could be accessible, yet there might not be enough people coming through to warrant extra staff to monitor the sites.  I really don't know though...just a thought.

The first open attraction on my list was the Magnetic Termite Mounds.  There weren't that many of them next to the boardwalk but they were pretty neat.  They look more like gravestones because of their shape - pretty much flat and rectangular - and they line up in a north-south direction.  This type of termite, which is almost transparent, needs to have its temperature well-modulated and somehow they have engineered their accommodation to do just that. Fascinating!

Next I took a little road with two attractions.  I debated whether to do the waterfalls or the rockholes first and decided to do the nearer one - the Buley Rockholes - first.  As I was walking down to the rockholes, I encountered a young couple who asked if I were going swimming.  Everyone around this place was in a bathing suit.  Then they said how warm the water was and how I definitely should go swimming and I should start with the top rockhole and then work my way down.  So I went back to the car and changed into my suit.  Then I went to the top rockhole and took some photos, thinking I would wait to get wet at the bottom pool.  I didn't realize there were intermediate polls as well.  When I reached the bottom pools and scoped them out, there were three middle-aged men who had just gotten out of the lower pool and they told me to go ahead and jump in.  I asked how deep it was and they said very.  I asked how deep the one next to it was, they said deeper.  So I went for the first.  It wasn't warm exactly, but not cold either and, considering the heat, it was lovely.  The men left me to enjoy it in solitude for a bit.  I crawled my way toward the end which had water rushing into it by clutching the rocks on the edge and pulling myself along until I got on a flat rock I could sit on next to the rushing water.  The current had been too strong for me to swim against it.  Sitting there was just like a jacuzzi, only better.  The water was so refreshing and it was powerful - giving a wonderful massage - and it was located in a very pretty wooded setting.

Time to move on. But who would want to leave a place like this?  There was a trail to the next attraction:  The Florence Creek Trail to the Florence Falls - more women's names.  It was only 1.6 km so I thought I would give it a go.  I think I forgot that it was only one-way distance and I had to get back.  In any case, the trail along the creek was nice.  I stopped at one point and took a video of the bird sounds because they were so spectacular ... at least before I started they were.  (Had to scrap the video - the jittery panning back and forth made me dizzy watching it.)  Of course, it was hot...and I only had my camera - no backup batteries or anything - and no drinking water.  Luckily, I did have my long-sleeve shirt that I used over my head to keep off some of the hated flies.  They weren't too bad at this point, but they did get worse as the day progressed.  I made it to Florence Falls and went for another swim.  There were a lot more people here...a whole busload of Japanese teens and assorted others.   There were actual falls here and quite beautiful.  I could see them when I was in the water but couldn't get near them on land so I have no photos of the falls from the bottom, only the top.  Oh, well.  I could get into this pool hopping thing. 

Somewhere I did a few more walks - I think one led off from the other.  One was the Shady Creek Walk.  It was near Florence Falls and was an alternative to the 160 steps down to the lookout point but I did them as well - walked up from the bottom of Florence Falls.  There were a few
sections - one dry forest and one monsoon forest maybe.  The dry forest
seemed typical of what I have seen.  The monsoon forest was a lovely
path along a stream with little rapids and bridges and pretty ferns and
plants along it.  So I was happily waiting for the sun to shine on some
lovely fern leaves when I realized I was obstructing the path for the
three gentlemen I had seen at the rock pool.  They asked if I were
enjoying the lovely path and I assured them I was, but then I complained
about the flies.  And they said, oh, the flies, and waved their arms
around.  They were happy....I think they had some beer with them on this
trek.  The labels on the photos are messed up because I mixed up the Florence Creek and Shady Creek walks - need to try to fix them up.  No use, with the passage of time, it is only more confusing.

Oh, I left out the bad part - after the falls, I trekked on the road to get back to the Buley Rockhole turnoff.  It shouldn't have been more than 2km but I forgot about the 900 m road to the rockhole place so it took longer than I had anticipated and the flies were awful.  Four cars passed me on the road and none offered to give me a lift.  Then the 5th car - a young couple - did offer but I was close to the turnoff and stupidly refused.  I had forgotten about the 900 m of road.  How very stupid!!  Then another 4 or 5 cars passed without offering a lift.  But I wasn't exactly soliciting a ride either.  So I shouldn't complain.  It was very nice of the young couple to offer, though.  The reason I chose not to go back on the trail was that I had had to take my shoes off to wade through the water covering the stone and concrete path in a few places - the wet season effect - and my feet wouldn't do well if I went barefoot the whole way.  It was definitely the lesser of the retrospect.

Unfortunately, that was it for the swimming.  My next waterfall was Tolmer Falls - a pretty spectacular one on the table plateau.  In order to preserve the habitat of two rare bats (ghost bat and orange horseshoe bat), there is no access to the pool at the bottom of the falls.  This is what I like to hear, but I didn't get to see any.  This section of the park is where the rock tableland had been cut up by water and channels etched into the quartz and sandstone - black and burnt sienna.  Before the road turnoff, there were some rock formations that I wanted to go back and take some photos of.  The overlook was on one side of the canyon created by the water and the falls was at the head of the canyon.  The Tolmer Creek walk looped from the overlook to the head of the falls and then back around to the car park.  It was a very striking place plus it had some different vegetation so that made it even more interesting - the feathery plant (turkey bush??) and the thick-leafed one (hoya) - against the various mixes of colors of the rocks.  There was also a big black cloud overhead and some rumblings of thunder, so I thought I had better hightail it out as fast as I could despite my desire to stay and take more photos. 

Along the Tolmer Creek walk, there was a section of cycads and they were quite special too since they were fruiting and the bunches of seeds or whatever were in different stages.  All this time, I am suffering a bit because stones get in my shoes, they aren't really good on slippery rocks, and the strap is loose so I think I am getting blisters AND the flies are getting worse and worse.  AND, my mosquito repellent has probably worn off, because I think I am being bitten.  But this was the best non-swimming waterfall of the lot and I was very glad to have taken this trail.

Oh, I forgot one little part of my experience on the Tolmer Creek walk - the part where I tripped or slipped and in landing, somehow I put my foot through my sarong - one of my favorites - I had bought it in Zanzibar - and it now has a big rip in it about a foot from one edge.  My foot was tangled up in the twisted sarong and it took a little time to extricate myself.  I was still in my bathing suit and sarong since I hadn't intended to go on a long walk and may still have been a bit damp.  So I re-hitched it kept falling down which is why I ended up damaging it.  Hmmm, I may have to buy another one in Bali.  Along with little locks - because those somehow disappeared.  I remember showing them to Doreen and telling her how cute they were.  Well, they are no my possession, that it.

The next attraction - Wangi Falls, the most popular -- did
not allow swimming this time of the year.  Wangi Falls has two streams gushing out over the cliff and the water in the pool came
running out through the sand, rock and plants - bushes and trees - where
the boardwalk went to the viewing point.  There was another section of
boardwalk that was closed for renovation.  I thought there was something
about a treetop lookout but didn't see anything out there - maybe it
was the one being renovated.  A couple asked me if I wanted my photo
taken and I said no thanks.  Then one of them was going to take the
other's photos, so I offered to take theirs together and then relented
and the husband took mine in front of the falls.  They were pleasant -
had French accents.  Except for the swimming places, I didn't run into
that many people.  The wet season.

It was a great day.  Best waterfalls of the trip!  Lovely dips in the pools.  New vegetation to see!  Would have been nice to see some bats, a wallaby or wallaroo* or something, but I did hear the birds.  I had been trying to keep on time so that I didn't run out of day light to return the car unscathed.  It was now a little after 4 pm so definitely time to head back.  I was on the upward swing of the return loop back to Darwin.  I saw a sign about an unsealed (unpaved) road, then I thought I glimpsed a sign that said closed.  But, so I reasoned, if that were true, there would have been signs all over saying that the road was closed.  Maybe I should have turned around immediately to check it out.  I was thinking too positively...or too magically, maybe.  In any case, after I had driven past a few more attractions...most closed....some private attractions....and then gotten to the unsealed road, the sign said road closed 1 km.  So, I guess I needed to turn back - I wasn't going to bother going another km at this point just to find the road closed.  This added unnecessary time, and kms, to my day so I was annoyed with myself.  I think this was about the time I remembered I put the postcards in the slot without taking photos of them.

As the day lengthened, I drove back trying to be careful not to run over any of the animals I hadn't seen during the day.  Then to complicate things a bit more, it started raining.  It rained off and on for almost the whole drive back to the airport.

I managed to find the airport without any trouble today.  On the way out I tried to remember the landmarks so I wouldn't be anxious about the route.  I got to the corner with the Best Western, saw a gas station where I could fill up.  I was in the far left lane, so, instead, I drove into the airport to find the rental car return, just in case it was dark before I got back.  It took two loops of the airport drive to find it.  Then I drove over to the restaurant and ordered my last dozen oysters from the Northern Territory.  I was happy - so good they were.  I put on my traveling clothes and tried to organize my luggage for the flight.  I did a bit in the restaurant parking lot and more in the Budget rental parking lot, and finished up in the airport while I was waiting for the Budget person to return from dinner.  So car returned, I will get the extra mileage charges on my credit card, and here I sit. 

Right now a security person woke up a young man stretched out on the floor across from me.  I don't know if he is a vagrant or just someone waiting for a flight.  He is telling him to get a drink and sort himself out.  I don't know - he just looked like a kid sleeping on the floor.  Maybe they don't like people stretched out.  I think I have done it a few times.  That time in Cyprus when I hung out with the two Brighton lads.

It's 9:30 pm, I hope nothing exciting - worthy of writing about happens - because I have written enough already.  Time for some dinner from my stash of leftover food.  My travel motto should be something about crossing continents with cheese.  Zippier, though, of course.

*  A wallaroo is any of three closely related species of moderately large macropod, intermediate in size between the kangaroos and the wallabies. The word "wallaroo" is a portmanteau of "wallaby" and "kangaroo". The term is not generally used by Australians.

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