Day 68, Year 3: Day Trip to Litchfield National Park
Date: Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Weather: No Change, Still Beautiful but Warmer
Location: Fannie Bay, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

We said goodbye to Pine Creek early this morning and headed north up the highway. We drove through a couple of small towns, one of which was Hayes Creek. Hayes was my father’s name, so I stopped and took a picture of the town sign in honor of my dad. We also got a couple of photos of the “road trains” along the way. These are freight trucks with three, four, or five cargo trailers attached. I guess when a truck is coming all the way up here to the Top End they want to bring as much freight as possible. We made a quick stop in Adelaide Springs to take photos of the river and visit the War Cemetery. Evidently Adelaide Springs was a base in World War II, thus the cemetery here. Then we headed on north.

Our next stop was along the road to examine the huge termite mounds. We would sometimes see “villages” of them and sometimes there were whole “cities.” The lands here are burned periodically to control wild fires. We have seen whole forests of blackened trees, but the termite mounds never seem to be blackened. These structures look like little castles and are quite impressive. Why they aren’t effected by the fire is beyond us. We traveled on and turned off for the Litchfield National Park by about 10:30 am. Our first stop in the park was to see the magnetic termite mounds, different from the castle shaped mounds we had been seeing along the road. These giants are about six feet high and are almost a flat slap. The amazing thing is that they are all oriented in a north to south direction. The termites are smart. They build their mounds this way to expose the least possible surface area to the blazing sun. At the information kiosk we read about the variation in mounds built by different kinds of termites. It is truly amazing what these little ants build.

Next stop was Buley Rockhole and it was just as its name indicated. It was a series of little rock holes between cascading falls. Lots of people were sitting in the shallow water rockholes and enjoying the day. We soaked our feet and relaxed but decided to wait until the end of the day to plunge into the water. Not far from Buley Rockhole was Florence Falls set in the middle of a monsoon rainforest. There were double falls that were quite impressive. We stopped by the creek leading to the falls to have a picnic lunch and we got to see the really interesting pine trees that grow here. They have a bottle brush orange blossom that is just beautiful and very long, thin needles. After lunch we went on to Tolmer Falls. We walked out a trail with great views of the valley below to a viewing platform . This was the highest of the falls we saw today with the water cascading over two rock out-croppings before falling into a plunge pool. You can no longer walk down to the pools as there are two types of rare bats that have colonies there, but Mark and I did walk the trail to the top of the falls and then back to the parking area. We walked along the creek and then turned inland to see a fantastic Cycad forest. These ancient tree ferns are beautiful and they were a surprise not mentioned in the literature. But then maybe other people don’t get as excited over ferns as I do.

The final stop in Litchfield National Park was Wangi Falls. This was another double fall, but not as high as the Tolmer Falls. The falls ended in a wonderfully cool freshwater pool with crystal clear water and twelve to eighteen inch-long fish. Mark and I swam over to the falls and enjoyed the beautiful rainbows in the falling water. One little bit of excitement on the shore just before we went into the water was a little snake making its way through the crowds of people getting into the water. We took pictures and will have to look later to see if it was poisonous. Some locals said it was a harmless green tree snake and others said it was a high poisonous variety. Whatever, it had great fun winding its way in among people’s towels and bags that were left on shore while they were enjoying the water. Needless to say, make sure our bag was completely zipped and up on a rock out of the snake’s way.

I’m writing this as we are on our way back to Darwin. We exited the park and took an unsealed road for 42 kilometers so we wouldn’t have to backtrack. The road was a little bumpy, but actually fine and we saw a beautiful lagoon, some hilly country, and a field of fantastic magnetic termite mounds. We had seen these at a distance in the park, but we were able to drive right up to these and examine them up close. We’ll stop for dinner before returning to the Darwin Sailing Club and to Windbird.

We still have the rental car tomorrow and we plan to shop ’til we drop getting ready for our three month trip through Indonesia. We won’t get all of the provisioning done in one day, but it will be nice to have the car to transport the heavy things. The rest can be done next week by bus.

080716 Day 68 Day Trip to Litchfield National Park