Friday, August 24, 2012

Back in the warmth of Darwin

After two and a half weeks in Melbourne, spent staying with family and
friends (which was great) we had completed all our medical and business
appointments, and partied and caught up with friends for lunches and
dinners, we caught the red eye flight back to Darwin. The flight left
Melbourne at 1.45 a.m. and arrived back into Darwin at 5.45 a.m. and after
very little sleep we were both walking zombies!

Our car had been in at Nissan to have the air conditioning replaced, so that
was the first pick up and then to the caravan storage where we unpacked and
sorted ourselves again. We decided that the closest caravan park looked
great so we pulled across the road from the caravan storage and we are now
staying at Free Spirit Resort in Darwin.

This is a great caravan park - it is quite a large park with an onsite
restaurant and surprise, surprise three swimming pools. We initially booked
for four days but we are enjoying the relaxation so much we have now booked
for another three nights. It is great to be able to relax in the pools and
enjoy the 32 degree plus days. The evenings are really balmy but I have
learned the hard way to be smothered in insect repellent as the midgies are

Our next planned stop is a long way away from here - just twenty five
kilometres down the road! We enjoyed our short visit to Berry Springs
before we went to Melbourne so will stay at a caravan park nearby for a few
days next week before we continue south.

Our plan for the next few weeks is to drive south to Three Ways on the
Central Highway and then turn to the east via Mt Isa to Townsville. This
will complete our fifth stage and then stage six will be from Townsville to
Melbourne via the east coast. Our trip around Australia is nearing

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Berry Springs, Darwin

After four days at Wangi Falls we packed up early to head back into Darwin.  We had a pretty full day planned before we had to be at the airport for our flight to Melbourne.

Our first stop was at Bachelor which is the small town adjacent to Litchfield National Park.  It is quite a pretty town with lots of trees and parks.  We didn’t stay long, just long enough to connect to the internet and clear emails and messages as it had been four days.

Next stop was at Berry Springs which is a beautiful public reserve about fifty kilometres from Darwin.  We just so wish this reserve was close to our home – no wonder it is such a popular place to visit.  We did a smile at the parking sign “If the car park’s full, Berry Springs is crowded.  Come back later.”  Fortunately we were visiting on a Thursday and there weren’t a lot of visitors so parking, especially with the caravan on, was not a problem.

There are very large picnic areas with lots of BBQ’s and there were quite a few people having picnics.  We didn’t have much time, so we had a swim in the springs and then a quick lunch back at the caravan.  The springs are very beautiful; with very clear “warm” water so I more than happy to go for a short swim.  Connor was with us and he continued down the stream to the lower pool which he said was very blue.  We will have to visit again with more time to enjoy.

Towards Lower End Berry Springs 
The caravan is now in storage while the Patrol is at the local Nissan dealer having the air conditioning system replaced. 

We are flying to Melbourne during the evening on 2nd August and will be returning to Darwin again in the early hours of Tuesday, 21st August.  We are not looking forward to leaving the beautiful warm weather behind us and going to a wintry Melbourne but we have reasons for our visit at this time of the year.

There will be no updates on our blog while we are in Melbourne but will commence again on our return. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Reynolds Crossing, Litchfield National Park

The road that we were on to Tjaynera Falls passed a side road which is a four wheel drive track to the Daly River which is popular for barramundi fishing.  We are uncertain how often the road is used but it certainly is a lot less distance than following the bitumen highway.  The road is clearly sign written “no caravans” and we were aware that there were at least two significant river crossings.  The first of these was Reynolds Crossing and as it was only six kilometres from the intersection we decided to go and have a look. 

The track took us alongside a huge number of termite mounds, both the familiar cathedral mounds and also the much thinner mounds we had seen earlier in the week signed “Magnetic Termite Mounds”.  We still have no idea why they are called that.  We stopped off to have a closer look, and tapping the thin mounds we were surprised at how hollow they sounded.

We soon came to the signpost “Reynolds Crossing”.  The river is not very wide, and on checking Peter thought it was only about .2 metre in depth (but the ranger has told us there are many crocodiles in the river) but the access down into the river was very dug out and soft dirt.  Peter thought that there would be no problem dropping his way through the holes into the water and crossing to the other side.  However, I was far from keen.  I couldn’t see the point when it wasn’t necessary and we are so reliant on the car to keep moving with our travel.  So after pressure from me, and disappointment especially from Connor, we didn’t attempt to cross the river.  Tim and Christine along with their children, Tara and Angus, have a new Prado without a snorkel so they had already decided they were not going to go across, but were keen to watch Peter do so.  Peter would have been more than happy to drive across but reluctantly agreed with my decision.

We turned around and returned to camp going back through the water crossing near the highway.  It is interesting to note that the majority of the small streams and rivers have the crocodile signs out.  This is because the crocodiles mainly live in the Reynolds and Finniss Rivers in the dry season but do go into the smaller streams and pools during the wet season and during mating.  The main pools which are designated as swimming areas have crocodile cages and are checked daily by the rangers to ensure that there are no crocodiles present.

We made our way back to Wangi Falls and back to the plunge pool to cool off.

Tjaynera Falls, Litchfield National Park

From Blyth Homestead we continued along the four wheel drive track as we planned on visiting Tjaynera Falls.  There is a camping area and day picnic area and then a 1.7 kilometre walk into the falls.  We had a picnic lunch – Peter cooked up chicken sausages and along with flat bread and sauces it was a pretty good lunch.  We had quite a few other walkers asking if he was going to sell his lunch as a sausage sizzle.  Perhaps he and them are missing the sausage sizzles at Bunnings!

The walk into the falls was much easier than the Jim Jim Falls walk.  It was mainly a sandy track meandering over rocks and roots, up and down small inclines and across the stream where rock hopping was required.  However just before the falls the track finished and it was a matter of climbing over the boulders but fortunately there weren’t too many of them.

The falls and the plunge pool made the walk very worthwhile.  It was really warm so it didn’t take too much convincing to get in the water.  We have learned it is wiser to get changed back at the car and come prepared as there is never any changing facilities. 

Connor, along with our campsite neighbours Tim and Christine, was soon on the opposite side of the pool near the base of the falls.  As for me, I stayed near the edge of the plunge pool as the rocks were really slippery and the water was soon quite deep.  Peter was the last in the water and he swam across to join the others and enjoyed the deeper water in the middle of the pool.  We didn’t quite have the pool to ourselves but there weren’t too many people around.  It seems that the tour buses don’t visit these falls which was rather nice.

Of course when you walk in 1.7 kilometres you need to walk back out.  Fortunately the majority of the track is shaded by the bush and although it was very warm it was comfortable walking.  At least the exercise for the day has been done!

Blyth Homestead, Litchfield National Park

We did a day trip to Blyth Homestead – this is about fifteen kilometres from the campsite.  Blyth homestead is now in ruins but was originally built in 1928 to house the older children of the Blyth family who ran the station and had a homestead about fifteen kilometres further away. 

The older children were mainly involved in caring for cattle and also the tin mine.  The homestead is still standing and is in reasonable condition.  It is made up of two rooms with wide verandahs on each side which keeps the house quite cool.  

The tin mine was across the stream and there is some signage telling the history of the tin mine. 

The drive into the homestead was signed as a four wheel drive track only and we had to cross two water crossings on our way in.  One was quite interesting in that it had a curve and it was impossible to see the end of the water as you entered it.  We were fortunate not to meet anyone coming towards us and decide who was going to reverse.

Litchfield National Park camping

We have stayed at Wangi Falls camp ground which is managed by the rangers for the Northern Territory Government.  The campground is full to over flowing each night and often there are caravans and campervans lined up along the roadways throughout the area without a specific site to camp on.  The ranger called this morning to check we had paid our fees (which of course we had) and said that they call at various times of the day to move campers without sites on as the facilities cannot support large numbers.  We can understand their dilemma but also that of campers – it costs a family $15.40 to stay overnight here and the local safari camp quoted a family $88 to camp.  Also this camp is within 300 metres of the falls and the safari camp about five kilometres.

Our designated area has two numbered campsites.  The first two nights we shared with a woman travelling on her own (Barb) in a campervan from Beechworth in Victoria.  We were soon joined by two lovely Swiss girls who had met Barb in Alice Springs and as they couldn’t get a campsite they joined in our group.  Anyone that knows Peter and I well will know that we just love girls from Switzerland and these girls were just as lovely as others who have become part of our lives.  Marina has been studying in NSW for a few months and her sister, Pascale, joined for a trip through Central Australia.  We enjoyed some lovely time together and they taught Connor a Swiss game of cards and then Connor taught them pick-up sticks.

Barb did some entertaining of her own.  She has a Spiderman outfit and provided entertainment to young visitors.  Angus was our six year old neighbour from Sydney and he had a Batman outfit so he soon joined Spiderman to have his photo taken.

The campsites are set among the trees and there are lots of birds and we have had a few wallabies wandering around in the early evening.  There was a much larger kangaroo one night.  Connor hasn’t bothered putting the fly in the tent here and he was sure one night he heard a large kangaroo nearby.  Perhaps he did.

Connor went for a walk one night with Angus’ family to see the bats flying.  He tells us that they saw a brown python about eighteen inches long on his way back to the caravan.  I am pleased I wasn’t with him as it was dark and they had torches so lucky to see it.  Apparently there are also a couple of wild pigs near the falls which have scared a few people.  The joys of being out in the bush!

Florence Falls Plunge Pool, Litchfield Park

After the walk down the steps there is a short walk to the Florence Falls plunge pool.  This must be one of the most popular places within Litchfield National Park and I think nearly every tourist in the Northern Territory was at the plunge pool when we visited.  There was no way it was “sacred and quiet” when we visited.

We had changed in the car before coming down to the falls and we were pleased we had as there are no changing facilities when you get to the plunge pool.  How annoying if you had walked down all those stairs and then didn’t want to change in full view of all the tourists! 

I found the pool quite hard to climb into as there were no steps or handrails and it was a matter of climbing over the rocks and roots of the large trees and just slipping into the water.  I am not confident when I don’t know the depth and the rocks were quite slippery.  Connor had no problems and he was over the other side of the plunge pool and under the edge of the waterfall before I was in the water.  The water was cold initially but as it was so warm we soon acclimatised.  I didn’t venture far from the rocks near the edge as the pool is very deep and I don’t like going in over my depth but Peter enjoyed a swim across the pool to the falls.

Connor is now sporting a small graze on his chin from hitting his chin on a rock.  Beside that he has a couple of small cuts on his foot and a few bruises where he had a trip on the rocks jumping in at Wangi Falls – he is beginning to think he is the walking wounded.

Florence Falls, Litchfield Park

From Spring Creek we walked along the creek track to the Florence Falls track as it was only about 500 metres and the car parking was at a premium.  There are a lot of visitors even though the school holidays have now finished and there are always the tour coaches and four wheel drive buses.

The walk to Florence Falls is not too far, which was perfect as it was really hot, but there are lots of stairs.  It is not too bad on the walk in as we were going downhill but going down 160 stairs meant that there were 160 stairs to climb back up afterwards.

The view of the falls from the viewing platform was pretty spectacular- well worth coming to see.  Again this area is considered a spiritual place for the Aboriginal people so is very sacred.

Shady Creek, Litchfield Park

There are many shady forest walking areas within Litchfield National Park.  After our visit to Buley Rockpools we stopped off at Shady Creek for a picnic lunch before heading to Florence Falls for a swim. 
The signposts said it was a picnic area, so we made our way down to the creek looking for a table.  Unfortunately there are only about two tables so we decided a large rocky area would have to do so Peter was the chief cook as burgers were on the menu.  It was just lovely sitting in the shade, Peter cooking, and listening to the birds and the creek.

Connor entertained himself sitting on a large rock while eating his chicken burger.  A couple of the rangers came along and sat on the walking bridge to eat their lunch.  Connor decided he wouldn’t want to be a ranger as he didn’t want to pick up other people’s rubbish!

Again it has been very warm with daytime temperatures sitting at around thirty degrees with clear blue skies.  We have not seen any rain now for over four months.  The night temperatures have also been very pleasant, in the mid-teens.  The only disadvantage of sitting outside in the evening is the mosquitos and the midgies both of which can be really annoying and bite well.  We have all had to resort to using lots of insect repellent and still have to put cream on itchy bites.

Buley Rockpools, Litchfield National Park

We have decided to stay four nights at Wangi Falls.  On our second day we drove back thirty kilometres to visit Buley Rockpools and also Florence Falls.

Litchfield National Park features numerous waterfalls and streams which cascade from the sandstone plateau of the Tabletop Range.   The park is much smaller than say Kakadu National Park and has one main road which runs through the centre of the park.  Most visitors have to make the return journey by the same road as it is the only bitumen road.  There are two other roads, but leading north to Darwin which is gravel for about eighty kilometres, and a second leading south which is considered four wheel drive only to Daly River.  We will be taking the bitumen road with the caravan.

Buley Rockpools is a stream which has formed various rock pools of varying sizes and depths as it makes it way down to Florence Falls.  The area is a designated swimming area so is popular with visitors especially because the stream is only about 100 metres from the carpark so there is no long walk in.  There were a number of swimmers at the various pools however we decided not to swim but to paddle only as we wandered along the stream.

The area is considered one of the sacred Aboriginal sites and there are a lot of ancient stories told about the area by the locals. 

From here it is possible to walk to Florence Falls by following the stream downhill.

Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park

We were pleased that we arrived at the camping ground at Wangi Falls early – we pulled in around 11.15 a.m. and there were only two sites available.  We were quick to make our choice and get the caravan on site.  The reason this camp is so popular is because it is the only campsite in the national park that allows caravans, the rest of the camping areas of which there are another five only allow tents.  In addition Wangi Falls is the most popular swimming spot.  The campsite has about sixty sites and has toilet and shower facilities, gas barbeques and a large campfire is lit each night.  It is really pleasant and only 300 metres walk to the falls.
There is a large plunge pool in front of the falls and this is a designated swimming area within the park which means that the area is checked for crocodiles.  It is important to read the signs but we were fortunate that the swimming hole was open during our time here.  Both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles are found at times in the plunge pool.  The pool has a concrete step with handrail into the water and from there it gets deep quite quickly.  It was initially cold but we soon got accustomed to the temperature and is a very popular swimming hole.

There is a wooden board walk around part of the plunge pool and it continues on to a longer walk to the top of the falls.  It passes an area where a number of bats hang from the trees during the day, and at night they are in flight.  A few people have also mentioned that there is a wild pig in the area but we haven’t seen it, fortunately.

Batts Hanging in Trees

Magnetic Termite Mounds, Litchfield National Park

After a very pleasant two days at Adelaide River we packed up yet again and continued north to Litchfield National Park.  We had been told by a number of campers that camping sites were at a premium at Wangi Falls and that we would need to arrive early to secure a site.  So we set off by 9 a.m. and we only had about 120 kms to travel.

Once we entered the national park we made an initial stop at the magnetic termite mounds.  Connor has asked me why they are called “magnetic” and unfortunately I have found nothing to give me this information.  When we next have access to the internet I will need to try and check that out.

There were two types of termite mounds.  Some were the ones we are now very familiar with – large with moulded shapes and varying sizes.  These were very large and called “cathedral mounds”.    This large mound is over five metres high and is thought to be around fifty years old.

The second group of mounds we hadn’t seen previously.  They were scattered over a large area and from a distance looked like tomb stones.  They were very different from the cathedral mounds in that they were very thin but still quite tall and they had flat surfaces and no rounded moulds. 

Termite mounds are made from a mixture of grasses, dirt/sand and termite droppings.  They are certainly amazing to see, especially in mass.  It appears that the mounds are not damaged by the rain during the wet season.