Where are we now
We left the Litchfield Park area from the north, a couple of sections of gravel road but in good condition again we were fascinated by the termite mounds and also the changes in vegetation as a result of the regular burning off.
We arrived at our prearranged campsite south of Darwin and had a quick lunch before heading toward the city this was when we realised we were still more than 40km out of town so it could get expensive commuting back and forth. Luckily as we got within 10km of the city centre we noticed caravans parked at what looked to be a show grounds and oohooo we scored the last vacant spot this will do nicely and $5 cheaper with free washing machine too. Turns out to be an equestrian centre.
The next day we made it into Darwin Central, explored the shops, walked round the harbour & enclosed pools, read lots of information on WWII & cyclone Tracy and did a drive round the outer harbour beaches. This is a really nice city, very modern with some lovely waterfront homes and high rise apartments however this is the middle of winter and it is hot, unless you are in shade or in air conditioning, so no won’t be moving here anytime soon. Found a lovely spot to relax on East Point, in the shade of course, watching ships go out and the tide come in ah ocean smells. After relaxing for an hour or more (oh it’s fantastic not to have a short deadline on our travels) we then looked at the old structures of WWII – gun placements, ammunition storage facilities etc then on to the boardwalk through the mangroves, this was good timing as the tide was coming in swamping the pathways yup definitely watching out for crocs. We also watched the sunset over the water an unusual occurrence for us Brisbane’ites. To top off a wonderful day we spied an authentic Italian Restaurant at Fanny Bay perfect spot for dinner and yes excellent pizzas and for me a good glass of French (not Italian) red wine none for Rob as WIII is classed as a truck.
We had a day of maintenance and cleaning on day 3 in Darwin, lots of little jobs, and a few bike rides for Rob to get things, done. The red dirt is now mostly gone but I’m sure it will reappear before too long.
Our last full day in Darwin we did a really enjoyable harbour cruise, very informative relaxed trip Seadarwin were the organisation. Did you know Darwin’s Harbour is bigger than Sydney’s and that Darwin was bombed over a duration of nearly 2 years 1942/43? We also went to the well known Mindil Markets, great Markets, Rob even enjoyed them, heaps of different food stalls from many countries, other stalls of handcrafted items many that we’d not seen before. Bonus was that we could go straight from the market to the beachfront and sit and watch the sun go down while listening to a good band. There was other entertainment in the markets too, a school band who were very good, another solo singer, a whip cracker and even a couple of fire acrobats.
We have enjoyed Darwin but it is time to head on toward Kakadu and the surrounding National Parks.
Where are we now
Good run through Adelaide River back on the Stuart Highway then left turn through Batchelor to Litchfield NP. We were concerned that we wouldn’t get a campsite as hadn’t seen as many cars in one day since leaving Brisbane. Arrived at Florence Falls to discover there are a couple of campgrounds, one for 4wd vehicles only which of course was where we stopped. Very quickly after arriving other vehicles pulled in so glad we didn’t detour on the way in to sightsee. A nice spot with a 15 minute walk to the swimming hole and also an hour walk through the monsoon rainforest very pretty. We had a group of blokes arrive in camp who clearly were going to be a problem but with a proactive group of campers, yes Rob included, they were put in their place temporarily however when other young ones joined them during the evening it made for a noisy night. As this is the first night like this on our travels we’re doing ok.
Our first day in Litchfield NP we did the short Shady Creek Walk near the campsite and then had a very refreshing swim in the Florence Falls. Day 2 we did the other walk near camp up to Buley Rockpool bit disappointing being on a concrete path the whole way but good to get in a good fast 6km walk. We decided to pack up camp after this and explored the rest of the park including the gigantic termite mounds, the Lost City (accessed by a 10km narrow, low branched 4wd track), Tabletop Swamp, Tolmer Falls and lastly Wangi Falls where we had another amazing swim in the clear water under the falls. We support all that we have read that this is a “must go to” place however be warned that this is very popular by locals as well as Australian & overseas tourists by the bus load.
There was no room at the Wangi Campground so we left the park and 4km out stayed at Litchfield Safari Park, a private campground although a bit tired the grounds are lovely with plenty of trees and room to park without being surrounded by others.
Where are we now
Next stop was the northern part of Nitmiluk NP, Edith Falls, such a contrast to the south, a well priced and set out campground with green grassy areas centred amongst the campers. There is one large swimming area as well as others located when walking the trails. This isn’t a thermal area so the cold water was initially a shock but very refreshing as our days temperatures are now higher up in the 30’s and humidity is rising into the 40% region. After being here for a couple of hours we both realised this is the first place that feels like a holiday venue rather than a place to explore while travelling so decided to stay a couple of nights.
As well as swimming the first day in the Edith Falls pool, near the camp, we swam the next day when walking the trails. We did the Leliyn Loop which had 2 good lookouts and also a large pool to swim in, so refreshing after walking up the hill. We then extended ourselves further to Sweetwater Pool this is the last camp on the walk through trail from Katherine Gorge so was good to talk to the hikers. We had a nice swim here enjoying the remoteness and also the company of a Merton Monitor Lizard. We had another swim on the way back to camp, ended up doing well over 12km for the day, cooling off frequently made it very pleasant.
It was interesting as we left Edith Falls to see all the caravans coming in, clearly word had got out that this place fills fast, it was only 9am. We stopped at Pine Creek for a quick look at the old railway station and the lookout over the old gold mine, from memory they retrieved about $393,000,000 of gold so not a bad haul. An open cast mine is now a beautiful lake. On to Douglas River Hot Springs which was recommended to me by a Darwin traveller when we were back at Town River. We took a gamble on this one as recent comments on wikicamps said it was closed, a good call Rob as it was open and a lovely spot with a hot running stream. Ah a nice place for Ann to doze. While lounging in the pools listening to people chatter we realised we were in the company of our daughters’ old landlords, what a small world we live in.
A short drive the next day heading north toward Litchfield NP we spotted a nice area to have lunch by Burrell Creek. We could park right at the side of the flowing water in a clear grassy spot oh well we thought why not stay the night. A good chance for me to catch up on washing and sorting photos & spreadsheets and for Rob to relax with a book. We were joined by a couple of other campers and saw many pass by which was not unexpected as the school holidays have now started. We threw in the yabby net and this time caught some crabs and a juvenile Cheribin all went back in to grow a bit more.
Where are we now.?
After having such a good time at Towns River we moved fairly quickly through the rest of Limmen NP. We had a quick look at the other campgrounds including Tomato Island (funny little Island in the middle of the river) where we had lunch & a shower and caught up with some travelling friends. More dusty rough roads until we stopped at a rest area on Roper Highway for a peaceful evening, quite a pretty spot actually with some trees with yellow flowers. Northern Territory are good at providing these free roadside sites with tables & water.
Next morning we carried on ON BITUMEN to Mataranka where we went to the supermarket, our first in nearly 3 weeks, although we only needed milk. Then up to Bitter Springs just north of town ah this place is bliss a natural spring which take you about 200 meters on the flow of the river and yes it’s warm and clean and wasn’t too crowded. We will come back here before leaving this part of the country. We then went to Elsey NP for the night, it was advertised that we could kayak and swim here but this is no longer the case as the rangers no longer get rid of the crocs. Such a disappointment. Only unusual thing about this campground is the donkeys who visit at night, their heehawing makes me chuckle.
We stayed another night in Mataranka but moved camps to the Little Roper Stockcamp, an amusing family setup only been operating just over 2 months and a little on the rough side but great for families as there are animals to see and also plenty of room to play. Great fun just sitting back and watching others for a change and not driving to get to our next destination. They also have a communal campfire great for happy hour and then Jack Cakes in the morning just for a silver (yes silver not gold) donation. We went and checked out the other hot pools at the Mataranka Homestead, this one has concrete surrounding with inlaid rocks, nice and natural nestled in among the very tall palms again a perfect temperature of 34 Celsius. While here we enjoyed lunch at the hotel and watched part of the movie We of the Never Never written by an early resident of this area and then later turned into a movie and filmed here. Must read the book now we’ve been here.
Sunday is market day in Mataranka so we stopped for a look, very small markets but a whip cracker, who was pretty impressive, was there. Stopped again at Bitter Springs for a swim this time equipped with snorkel & goggles and under water camera. So good to see the fish and plant life that live under the surface of these creeks and rivers.
We said farewell to Mataranka and headed up the Stuart Highway to Katherine, our first large town since Alice Springs. Found a property to stay on, Nixon’s Crossing, for just $15 total a night which is fairly good in a town this size. Went out to Katherine Gorge and decided this is just not worth the hype, the info centre was ok but camping is $18.50 per person per night and nothing special. The gorge whilst larger than most just had no appeal, we did one walk up to the lookout and looped back round but other walks were all quite long and although the destination might have been worth it the walks themselves were nothing that we hadn’t seen previously.
While in Katherine we needed to get a hinge on the fridge welded and also the light brackets mended for the led light on the front bumper, found that Hohn Sheetmetal was very quick, efficient and not expensive- good recommendation from Tony the owner of Nixon Crossing. Groceries here are the same as Brisbane prices although not all items are stocked, same with alcohol and we are limited on quantities we can buy. Even had to have our licenses copied but Rob is used to that from when he worked in the NT.