2002 Trip - Kimberley & Kakadu. Part 7 – Litchfield NP to Darwin

Sunday, Dec 08, 2002 at 16:03


Green Ant Creek in Litchfield NP was our first stop the next morning. We followed a walking track beside the creek that was bordered by dense rainforest vegetation – ferns, palms and climbers. The creek is only small but the water is very clear with a sandy bottom and with some deep pools – but no swimming as is this is a sacred site. The walking track consisted of some boardwalk sections with good signage explaining various features. John continued along the track to Tjaetaba Falls – a series of falls dropping about 50m into a palm filled valley – very pretty, with the water falling over red and black rocks.

From there we went to the Tolmer Falls, which is one of the main day visitor and coach stop-off points, so it was very busy. We saw the falls from the viewing platform, in company with a busload of American school kids. The falls didn’t have much water coming over but they are quite high and fall into a deep plunge pool with very clear water. This pool is now closed to swimming as ghost bats and horseshoe bats live in caves around the pool, they are apparently sensitive to disturbance. From the viewing platform there is a good view south to a very flat horizon, in the direction we have come from.

Next stop was Tabletop Swamp – a depression in the sandstone that fills with water each wet. It has big paperbarks and reed beds all around the edge, while the surface of the water was covered with a very pretty yellow flowered water plant. We walked around the swamp and had lunch there – it was much quieter than the main tourist areas, although we didn’t see many birds there.

Then on to the Lost City, reached by a 10km 4WD track that was rather corrugated in places. Here the sandstone has eroded into shapes reminiscent of building and statues. There is a walking track around the main formations so we had a good look around, exploring into cracks and caves in the rocks. It would be easy to get lost in this area.

After another show and tell session with other Troopie owners we headed for Florence Falls in search of a camping spot for the night. But as it was school holidays the 4WD camping area was full so we had to pull into the small day use area. From there we took a short walk following the creek up to the falls where a lot of people were swimming in the plunge pool. This creek had a couple of swimming points so we had a swim there in a lovely secluded spot. The water was pleasantly cool and refreshing, with a clean sandy bottom.

After a hot restless night and an early start we plan to leave the camping area early and have breakfast on the road. Troopie smells hot after the steep 4WD climb up from the camping area and a check revealed a split heater hose spraying coolant over the engine. So we had an unscheduled stop for repairs. Then we decided to have a run into Batchelor for provisions. On the way we stopped in at the termite mounds viewing area. This gives reasonable info about termites and their habits and a good view over an area containing both cathedral and magnetic mounds – but no access, only a viewing area and limited boardwalk. We reckon we were lucky to have been able to walk among mounds unhindered by fences and boardwalks.

Batchelor is small, with minimal shopping facilities, and a large indigenous population. Returning to the NP we decided too have a look at the top of Florence Falls. In the car park we ran into Pat and Tony so we walked with them to the viewing platform and down many wooden steps to the falls which are a very popular swimming place. These are probably the prettiest falls that we have seen in this park. Pat and Tony are good company and we found we had lots to talk about since seeing them last.

Parting company again we went on to the Buley Rock Holes which are on the creek that feeds Florence Falls. These are a series of deep pools in rock with water cascading down between them – very pretty but also busy. So we drove back and had lunch at the swamp picnic area and on to Wangi Falls, said to be the highlight of the park. And so they were from the tourism perspective – they were very busy – we had trouble even getting a park. The camping area was very crowded and it would have been necessary to share a site, assuming one was available. So after a quick look at the falls and a lengthy queue for the toilets we moved on.

Walkers Creek looked like a possible campsite but on arrival we found that it only has walk-in campsites. What it does have is a lovely little creek with sandy pools so we had a quiet swim which was very refreshing and cooling as the afternoon was rather hot. We then decided to head towards Darwin, stopping in at the first van park that looked OK and that had a laundry. We found the Tumbling Water CP; it has plenty of space, lots of palm trees, a pool and a number of peacocks.

The next day we spent at the NT Wildlife Park and in the whole 7 hours there we weren’t able to see everything. It’s a wonderful place. What we did see included the nocturnal house, aviaries, aquarium and birds of prey and reptiles. The real highlight was when the birds of prey were fed and flown. We saw a sea eagle, barn owl and buzzard fed and flown in the open (with some input from a couple of wild black kites). We also saw a wedgie, a rufous owl tethered, and an osprey being trained. The buzzard uses stones to break open the eggs of other birds, and demonstrated this technique with plaster of Paris eggs. The osprey is learning to dive into water for fish. We had a bonus, as, after the main display was finished the ranger invited anyone interested to stay and watch while he trained some of the birds. This allowed for a closer look and was very interesting seeing how he went about training the young birds.

A “train” provides transport around the whole site, which covers about 40ha so is too big to do on foot. The site is mostly covered with monsoon forest. The aviaries included a very large walk in structure with a walkway going up to the top of the trees giving a close view of the birds – very good. The aquarium exhibits have displays covering river systems from the top of the catchment down to the sea, using large tanks and a tunnel. Highlights included a big barramundi, salt and freshwater croccs, a sawfish about 2.5m long, corals and stonefish. The animals in the nocturnal house were sometimes hard to see but we did spot a lively echidna, a bilby, a large native black footed rat, spinifex hopping mice, python, frogs, owls bats, a sugar glider and a tiny gecko. In the reptile house were various snakes mostly asleep – a king brown (mulga snake) various pythons (black headed, childrens, olive) tree snakes, frill neck lizards and a small monitor lizard.

From there we drove into Darwin, stopping at Palmerston for shopping and phone calls home. Also to order spares for Troopie – which we can collect on Monday morning. We found a partial map of the town and with this found our way up to Fannie Bay and East Point for views across the bay. Late in the day we went to the military museum but baulked at the entry fee given that we would only be able to have half an hour there. Instead we walked through the large gun emplacements, and then on to Lee Point to a very large, expensive and impersonal van park. It is very hot and humid, so after catching up on washing we enjoyed a good swim in one of the pools – this was very pleasant as we had the pool almost to ourselves.

At the Rapid Creek markets next day we stocked up on fruit and veges, which was the focus of these markets. Many of the F & V were new to us, both tropical fruit and unusual veges. We tried segments of jackfruit – an unusual tropical flavour. Lots of luxuriant fresh greens herbs made for delightful scents. We had to pack the fridge tightly to fit everything in. After this we drove around the shore area which is all quite new and very orderly looking. The water in the bay is a beautiful milky aqua. We came across another market, this one, at Nightcliff, with a more “alternative” flavour. Here we were able to stock up on some more reading material. Then we headed for the city, in particular the wharf area where several ships were waiting to berth. It’s possible to drive out onto the wharf where there are a number of cafes, and a hint of a cooling breeze. Then down to the marina for a look at yachts and expensive looking canal real estate. Then it was time to head back to the van park and another swim.

Leaving Darwin we first stopped at Charles Darwin NP which gives good views across the bay and extensive mangroves to the city. Our visit was short as tiny biting insects took a liking to us. The park area has many WWII bunkers, many of which were used for storage until about 20 years ago.

Then on to Palmerston for food shopping and to pick up some spares for Troopie – a heater hose and radiator cap. Finally we were on the road late morning, heading for Kakadu. It was very hot and humid, and we were pleased to be heading away from town. Our lunch stop was at Leaning Tree lagoon, a small shallow billabong with a fringe of white waterlilies – and just a handful of blue ones- and many water birds. Then on along a gravel side road to Hardies Lagoon, an extensive body of water lined with bamboo. John had a short boat trip with a couple who were searching for their dog. The presence of some crocs probably meant the dog was no more.

Further on Bird Billabong was similar, but no birds in sight. We took the Point Stuart road and turned off to the Rockhole billabong and Couzens lookout and camping area, which is on a very slight rise. This billabong is huge, surrounded by wetlands and open flat country. In our short walk at the boat launch area near our camp area we saw about 10 crocs including a couple of big salties. There are quite a few birds and a few red lilies, so we spent some time just watching and taking photos. There are numerous crocs in the water, and walking along the waterside tracks we occasionally heard a croc slide into the water as we approached. Although this area is off the beaten track there are a few sightseeing boats about and half a dozen campers; this area is quiet and peaceful. The individual camping areas are well spaced out. Each has a big wooden platform and a fireplace. There is also a high tech composting toilet. We tried for some photos in the late afternoon light. As a consequence we shared a late dinner with hordes of hungry mosquitoes, so we beat a hasty retreat to bed.

The night and morning was cloudy, with a bright moon at night. During the night we heard movement outside and made out a large shape, probably a buffalo. Large hoofprints in the morning confirmed this – as did a close encounter John had on his early morning walk. He was lining up a photo across the water looking towards a basking crocodile when a fisherman in a boat enquired whether he was aware of the buffalo – right behind him! Fortunately it took fright and made off in the right direction. Some fishermen had also seen pigs. Caught between a croc and a buffalo is not the best way to start the day, and a reminder that some care is needed in this country.

During this incident we discovered that our second camera was also not working, so we decided that a return to Darwin for camera repairs was necessary (The first camera gave up at Wolfe Creek Crater having suffered from corrugations on the Tanami). So we were down to only a disposable camera, and going to Kakadu with only that seemed a poor option. So we tidied up and took a final walk – we could have stayed here at least another day. On our walk we talked with a lady who had visited this area several times and she gave us some tips on places to visit. During our walk we saw some more pink lotus flowers and watched a jabiru breaking up a large fish, with a sea eagle in close attendance but not attempting to get the fish. Back in Darwin we located Top End camera repairs, recommended to us by a fellow traveller in Broome. He will do the best he can tomorrow, so it’s back to Lee Pt for another swim.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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