Saturday, June 12, 2010

Litchfield National Park

P6131275Not taking into account the Queens Birthday long weekend holiday proved to be a mistake when planning a trip into Litchfield National Park. We left after lunch on Saturday (because Daniel had to work), and went seeking a campsite for the weekend. No such luck, every campsite was completely full. Even the 4WD-only campsite at Florence Falls was full. Although that was an adventurous drive on its own! We only made it out again thanks to low range 4WD, up a very steep incline. We ended up driving right through Litchfield and then another hour to return to Tumbling Waters Holiday Village for the two nights. (See previous post for this fabulous place!)

So on Sunday morning we took a slower drive through the park. The P6131276first stop was Wangi Falls. There is an interesting sign here which says “Swimming is prohibited due to strong currents and the likely presence of crocodiles. Accidents have caused deaths.” Fortunately, there is a boardwalk that meanders through the rainforest and arrives at a waterfall viewing platform. The water is so clear, you can see everything on the bottom (which is about 2m deep) and many, many fish in the water (there are about 5 different species). The reason that this waterhole is closed to swimming is because the river is still high enough for a salty to swim into it. No crocodiles have been seen, but the mere possibility is enough to warrant closing it. Fine with us, we would rather not be the first to find out if it is safe.P6131284

Along the boardwalk a little further, there is a lookout that has a view over the surrounding district, although (curiously enough), not the waterfall. Typical of the Northern Territory countryside, it was very flat all around, and the hills seems to rise out of nowhere, very suddenly. Whilst wandering through the rainforest we saw the HUGE Forest Orb spiders everywhere. They were very difficult to photograph because the camera kept focussing on the forest behind the spiders. They have very long skinny legs, and are about the size of Daniel’s palm. Considering our family history with spiders, this walk was a little freaky!

Following  P6131294the road a little further, we came to Tolmer falls. This one is less visited because it is a short walk from the carpark (about 500m). There is a large population of bats living in the caves here because it is the ideal temperature for them. Tolmer Falls drops into a beautiful crystal clear pool. As you can see, swimming is also difficult here, because you would have to first walk to the bottom, and then back up again after swimming, which would effectively remove the cool swimming feeling quite quickly. This waterfall is very picturesque and we have many photos, but we can only show one here.

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The next stop on the road, wasn’t on the road. The Lost City is a sandstone rock formation that requires driving down 10km of dirt road to see. What an amazing experience! We wandered around these rocks for ages. We even had Josie play the violin among the rocks for a while (to great effect). This is a magical place! The kids climbed all over the rocks and had a great time. Karen took thousands of photos from every conceivable angle. We stopped here for lunch among the rocks and we were reluctant to leave when the time was due.

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Finally we got to go for a swim! We stopped at Buley Rockholes and found another amazing Litchfield attraction. Obviously an excellent spot, because there were heaps of people here. There is a small creek that wanders down a series of small waterholes and creates individual swimming pools, ranging from shallow to very deep (about 2.5m).

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There is so much more to see in Litchfield National Park. We didn’t get to Florence Falls at all, nor to Blythe Homestead or the southern areas. Its enough to cause another trip at another time.

P6131487 On the way home, we stopped to check out the termite mounds. There are two main types. First, there are cathedral termite mounds. These resemble large European cathedrals and at over 6m high, they are the largest in the world. The termites collect grass in the dry season, so they have food for the wet season, when they can’t go out to collect it.

The second type is called a magnetic termite mound. These are tall skinny mounds, that all face the same direction. Contrary to the name, they are not always oriented North/South. They are actually build to maximise their exposure P6131476 to the sun and face the sunrise in the east and sunset in the west. This keep the mound warm for the longest period during the day, and the tightly packed earth keeps it warm all night.

If the termites from one mound do not learn how to do this correctly, then any mounds they establish from then on, will be oriented the same as the original mound.


This makes for interesting viewing. There are literally hundreds of mounds scattered throughout the field.

We returned to Tumbling Waters via Batchelor and then the Stuart Highway. Overall, it was an excellent experience that we all enjoyed. 

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