Litchfield National Park
9 July 2012
The last few days have been very busy, but we have definitely felt as though we’ve been on holiday travelling with Alice and Tom. It has been so good to spend time with such good friends, great to have good company and be with people who we are totally ourselves with. What a treat.
We have spent the last four nights in Litchfield Nat Park, just south of Darwin. There is no doubt it’s a special place, we have been swimming every day at a different spectacular plunge pool under a waterfall. The park seems to be made up of ‘table-lands’ and surrounding plains. We are well into the dry season now and as we drove into the park we passed hot and dry scrubby grasslands, patches had been and were being burnt off and occasionally we passed the fire and smoking remnants at the roadside. Driving through this country you would be forgiven to think this would be like so many other places in Australia, hot and dry with little water about, but you would certainly be wrong, you don’t have to travel far before passing through an oasis of palms and paperbark trees along the banks of the clearest creeks you could imagine. The creeks are fed into the dry season from the sandstone table-lands which act like a sponge over the wet storing water and gradually letting it go. These creeks are the highlight of a hot day, especially where they tumble off the table-land escarpments creating waterfalls and cool deep plunge pools perfect for a cooling dip. It is a great moment when your sweaty and hot and have walked up to a waterhole, and you know a cool swim awaits. The red sandstone cliffs cut by white tumbling water, surrounded by lush green vegetation all reflected in the inviting water is quite a sight.
The wet season must turn this land into another world, lush grasslands punctured by huge cathedral termite mounds. Termites are the main grass eater up here taking the niche of the cows and buck of other savanas. The most conspicous termite mounds are the big cathedral mounds reaching upto 6m and almost as high as the spindly trees, and the magnetic termites that build narrow long mounds all aligned north-south looking like large tombstones or soliders on parade. The magnetic termites pick the low lying pans and must be quite a sight in the wet season when they are the only things poking up above the surrounding flood.
The park is a popular spot and well within striking range of Darwin and as it is such a lovely place its quite rightly busy being school holidays right now. Even though the campsites were fairly busy we were still lucky enough to find ourselves on our own or just with a few others at lots of the swimming spots. Yesterday was my favourite in the park as we headed south off the main roads and along a narrow track that took us along the plains down the west of the park. It was great to be travelling slowly along two wheel tracks through the changing scrub and grasslands around termite mounds and fording pristine creeks and the Reynolds River. Last night we camped near Suprise Creek in what looked like a barren burnt out campground, a grass fire had obviously only gone through a week or two before. We were hot and a little dusty and looking forward to our second swim of the day, we headed for the creek and up the path to the falls, another oasis pool, fringed by palms, this time backed with a sloping rock wall with a small three stage waterfall. It was a nice spot, but didn’t quite have the grandure of some of the others places we had visited with high cliffs and plunging waterfalls. Treasures were certainly hidden here though! We were the only ones there as we scrambled over the rocks towards the cascade of water and found to our delight two huge rock holes carved out of shear rock, one above the other. It was as if we had discovered them for the first time, we had a fantastic afternoon jumping, diving and swimming in these amazing clear, deep pools, and having our own private outddor spa underneath the waterfalls. What a gem of a spot!
Tonight we have just come back from yet another swim, we are staying at Gunlom Falls in an another, much larger national park up here, Kakadu. We have the next few days here and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this amazing country and some of the Aboriginal rock art which is supposed to be pretty extensive up here. I can’t believe that we have got to Kakadu, it is another of those places that has been often talked about but seemed so far away, now we are here to experience it for ourselves!