Day 19-21 Darwin

So we returned to Darwin a day ahead of schedule so we could return to the Mindel Beach Markets. They’re only on Sunday and Thursday evenings. Again the kids we’re enthralled with the street performers, so much so that when I returned from the great sushi hunt to tell them I couldn’t find any, it was like my words couldn’t penetrate at all… They were transfixed. This time Oliver got the coconut with the straw that he had desperately wanted last time, but couldn’t quite decide whether he liked it or not. The next day we had an entertaining time trying to get it open – see photos!

The following day we had to say goodbye to Grandma Jumbo, or Granny as she has become known. There was significant risk of a bout of sadness particularly from Amy. But it seems Amy had struck a patch of hunger at that point which meant she had an almost one track mind. Tragedy averted.

Then it was down to business. The car was serviced, very thoroughly but at no small expense, with a some what worrying parting comment from the good people at Ford, ‘oh yes and on the test drive the mechanic noted a small whine from the back, could be a bearing or the diff’.

‘Oh good’, I said. ‘What should I do about that?’.

‘Just keep an eye on it, should be ok…’ came the reply.

So now we have to listen for three whining noises from the back.

Other business involved procuring approx $500 worth of groceries from the big Coles and Woolies… And believe it or not there is still some room in the caravan. We also all got haircuts at the caravan park. Not my usual salon style cut, but good enough, and a good price. The lady comes to Darwin each year from Townsville for 6 months… We’re not sure if it is the difference in climate?

Generally though, this time in Darwin was uneventful. Swimming, packing and preparing for the trip west.

Day 16-18 Drink Coffee. Do stupid things faster.

Well you can see why large numbers of people head down here to Litchfield National Park from Darwin… Beautiful waterholes without ‘handbag snatchers’ (as crocs are referred to in our caravan park information).

This time we chose our caravan park because it had a good website. There were quite a few to choose from and without any thing else to go on… It turned out well, the park has lovely shaded sites, which helps our slightly overworked fridge to actually operate as it should. And one night Grandma Jumbo took us all out to dinner… Our first Barramundi. Whilst dining in the open sided shed we noticed a vintage sign… ‘Drink coffee. Do stupid things faster with more energy’. It’s become a bit of a motto for Greg now.

Waterholes in Litchfield while as beautiful as others we’ve visited are certainly more crowded. The impressive Wangi Falls were closed for swimming, we’re not 100% sure why but we think it was something to with a nearby colony of flying foxes. This meant our visit to Buley Rockholes and Florence Falls were probably more crowded than usual, but still nice.

Still, more people, more loonies. And while loonies tend to be a bit loony, they sure are entertaining, so more power to the loonies I say. At Buley the resident looney looked to be a middle aged gentleman, slightly overweight, but with an uncanny ability to scale tall paperbark trees and fortunately for us the lack of sense to climb back down. Instead he would leap from a good 10-12 metres into a rock pool no more than 2.5 metres wide. Fortunately for him, it must have been a fair bit deeper than that. We suspect he may also have dined in the restaurant with the aforementioned coffee sign, but must have taken the message a little too much to heart.

At one point Mum heard him say the leap was starting to make his back hurt. Still that wasn’t going to stand in his way once his audience of teenage girls from the Melbourne Girls Grammar School arrived. He just kept on climbing and leaping. I bet he was bruised and lonely that night.

The Cascades was a 1.3km walk in which knocked off 90% off crowd numbers.. Much more peaceful. So peaceful in fact I saw fit to have a bit of a lie down in a small waterfall. When in Litchfield do as the tourists do.

Litchfield has a viewing area for the magnetic termite mounds. These mounds come with a certified six star energy efficiency rating – the grass eating termites build them above the ground on floodplains and align them perfectly to keep the temperature stable throughout the day & night. This happens to coincide with the magnetic N/S. Now you might think this is quite clever, but the thing I’m trying to work out is why does a bug with a need to keep its body temperature at a precise 30 degrees live in a climate where the temperature soars above 40 and plummets below 10 (I wanted to say zero, but Emma says I shouldn’t exaggerate – she has a point)? Still hats off for picking a seemingly inappropriate block of land but learning to cope. Emma, who has done far more reading on the matter says my perspective may be misguided. Once again, she may have a point.

We learnt the mounds we’ve been seeing throughout NT have mostly been Cathedral termite mounds, a different type of grass eating termite – not one that aligns to anything. Not sure how these guys stay cool, or maybe they just don’t need to? There was a third type, coptoterms – they build their homes against trees using the wood as food source… We wondered if they were the same one that eat houses?

We told Oliver we were heading back to Darwin tomorrow and at first he wasn’t impressed. We told him we would be returning to the caravan park with the jumping pillow. Still not impressed. The one with the pool with the waterfall. Still not impressed. We’d be going to the Mindel Beach Markets. Yessss he said with true excitement!

Day 14-15 Churches, Museums and Swimming Holes

When visiting Europe one tends to overdose on churches, museums and cathedrals. I recall feeling very guilty, as I strolled down the gallery of Italian masters in the Louvre, for not pondering each and everyone of the priceless masterpieces that hung there. But really there is only so many masterpieces one can admire in a sitting, so like all the other tourists the main game was to get to the Mona Lisa as quickly as possible.

When visiting the Northern Territory it seems one could be at risk of overdose from gorgeous swimming holes. They just keep coming. Except that, unlike museums and cathedrals, I’m not sure it’s possible to overdose on gorgeous swimming holes.

For the last two days we sat on the grassy banks of Leliyn (Edith) Falls in Nitmuluk National Park, all of a 60 km drive north of Katherine. A balmy breeze drifted across the main water hole at the base of tall ochre cliffs, with foaming white water pouring in through an eroded channel on the far side about 150 m away. When it got hot we swam, and when we were cool we sat. It was just awful. So awful in fact that the next day we climbed to the pools at the top of the cliff which were even worse. More waterfalls, some big, some small, with little rapids and islands of rock for Amy and Oliver to explore – and in the afternoon, a Merton’s Monitor to keep us entertained.

The National Park campground we stayed at provided each caravan with it’s own patch of lawn…it was just like having your own backyard except the grass in this one was better than ours at home. Amy and Oliver immediately set to work building a cubby with the branches around the edges. They also wanted to go back and swim as we were cooking dinner… We came to a compromise, a tub of water each to play in on the lawn… We can add that to our list of swimming experiences.

I was amused by the fellow working at the check-in kiosk. Well not so much him per se but rather his European accent which is so common in these parts. ‘Welcome to the outback, I am Sven from Sweden!’. We haven’t actually met a Sven yet, but without European backpackers there is a good chance the tourist industry in this part of the world would grind to a halt.

Being away from town, and in a campground without many lights we were able to experience the night sky. We took turns spotting shooting stars and finding satellites to the tunes of a neighbor playing his guitar.

We seriously contemplated staying another few nights, but waterholes further north at Litchfield National Park were calling us.