Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Northern Territory 2012 Part 1: Litchfield

Our first stop on the trip was in Litchfield National Park which is about an hour and a half south of Darwin and is basically in the middle of nowhere.

For the first time in Australia we saw speed limits of 130km/hour and if you passed another car on the highway you could remark on the "traffic".

Along the road there were these massive termite mounds everywhere. Apparently they can survive the frequent forest fires without any issues and are a huge pest for everyone living on the top end. All of the utility poles, and most of the buildings that we saw were built out of metal in defense of the bugs as well as the fires.
The park itself has a bunch of different areas where you can get out and hike a bit to see some waterfalls, or because it was the dry season, some dry river beds as well.

We stopped about half way into the park after doing an abrupt turn to avoid a contiki bus full of hungover backpackers, and took a hike to Tolmer falls where we found the amazing waterfall.

Considering that it was still running strong at the end of the dry season (literally no rain for months), we can only imagine what it's like when the rain is dumping down.

As we hiked around we came out on the top of the waterfall to this gorgeous expanse of babbling brooks and green trees.  Chris ignored the do not enter signs to ensure that we had the best pictures of this awesome naturally formed arch that the water flows under while I ran distraction incase anyone came up the path.  Thankfully the 34 degree heat (93F) did it's job and discouraged other tourists from hiking so we had the place to ourselves to marvel over how beautiful it was.

After a refreshing slice of mango cheesecake at a local store and the best icy cold bottle of water ever, we drove to our next stop in the park, Wangi falls. 
With our lunch and some extra water in the bag we set off on a few km hike through the bush along a stream, crossing it several times.
We caught up to a couple along the way who were bravely trying to cross the water at one point in their flip-flops, slipping around everywhere, and were happy to pass them by to have the place to ourselves.

As we were hiking around I missed one of the turns off the path and came up to a patch of these nasty looking spiders.  The Aussies will tell you that if it's in a web you're generally ok, but I wasn't taking any chances and did a fast back track to find the trail around.
After about 20 minutes of hiking we emerged to find the first of the pools of water.

If you've heard anything about the NT, or know your word associations, Dundee goes well with "Crocodile".  In the dry season you have distinct streams and pools of water, but in the wet season it frequently just becomes one big lake.    

In some of these more popular areas they monitor for crocs that might have wandered in after the wet season is over so that you can swim during the sweltering heat of the day.  After I jumped off of this cliff into the pool below with a big splash, I couldn't help thinking how tempting I might be to any hungry crocs! 

Thankfully there were none around, and we enjoyed an amazing dip in the cool water with absolutely no one around.  It wasn't until we'd gone to sit on the rocks at the top of the fall to eat some lunch that we saw any other people.
 After lunch we climbed up over the waterfall and walked up the stream bed a bit. 
 Once again we had the place to ourselves and just enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

 After some hiking around we headed back to the car to check out some more of the park.

Now that we'd been hiking around in the heat for a few hours we were feeling rather wilted, but decided to check out one of the most popular sites in the park, Wangi Falls.

These were two stunning waterfalls with a very large, deep, and murky pool at the bottom.  If I were a crocodile, surely this is where I'd want to camp out for the dry season...
We dodged the tourists here and took another quick plunge before enjoying a well deserved ice cream in the parking lot before heading off to our hotel for the evening.

Higher res version on youtube here, be sure to change the resolution on youtube

Here's some video from Litchfield and the drive to get there - really a spectacular countryside, like nothing we've ever seen before.  The fishing part of the trip will be coming up in the next post. 

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