Our next stop after Douglas Hot Springs was the campground at Wangi Falls within Litchfield National Park. This was an easy 207 km drive with a stop at Adelaide River for fuel ($1.689L), where we had a quick wander around some market stalls that had been set up. Reardon & Emma bought a knitted chook each (?) and we also picked up some Woollybut Honey. I don’t actually eat honey but I like saying the name of this one. Woollybut. Heh.
The campground at Wangi was great and by this stage Paul & I were quite impressed with the general standards of Campgrounds within
NT National Parks. Each camp ‘pod’ was a nice size with plenty of space
between each. There was a communal camp fire near the toilet block which had
hot showers. The campground is a short walk to the falls and we could actually
hear the roar of the water from Stanley. Unfortunately the pool at the base of
the falls (which is known for its strong currents) was shut and unlikely to be
opened for another week. We later learnt that in previous years there had been
a number of drownings in the pool and a subsequent inquiry recommended the pool be closed for swimming after each wet season until the water had dropped to a safe level. Of course once this level has been reached Rangers
then undertake a croc survey which involves boating around the pool at night
looking for the glow of croc eyes (shudder). This gets done a number of times
before the pool can be opened.
There are a variety of walks and other attractions that can be
visited throughout the park but unfortunately some of the roads were closed –
largely due to flood damage. We enjoyed the Wangi Falls Walk which was about 1.63km long starting at the base of the falls and then looping above the falls. At one stage we were in the tree canopy and the view over the escarpment was pretty spectacular. Unfortunately swimming above the falls is not permitted due to cultural reasons and we were all very hot but settled for wetting our hats to
cool down. We spotted a Golden Orb Spider on this walk. The big one (the photo is smaller than actual size) is the female and to the right is the very small male. She keeps a number of them handy in the nest, smart girl!
In all NT National Parks there is the Parks Alive Program which involves various free talks, slide shows etc. by Park Rangers. We went on a tour of the Bamboo Creek Tin Mine which was just great. We met Rangers Paul & Jarrod at the site and they gave a really good talk not only about the mine and its history but also lots of other interesting bits of information. The highlight of the tour, as it turned out was not about the mine but as we were walking along Ranger Jarrod spotted a Golden Tree Snake with a frog in its mouth, he then proceeded to chase and catch it! Once he had caught it (sans frog) he told us all about this type of snake and everyone got the opportunity to touch it. More great incidental learning for the kids.
It was obvious that the two Rangers love their job and they were only too happy to answer questions on just about any topic although it seemed to be that every conversation came right back to crocodiles. The Territory had just had a huge wet season which, as well as causing quite a bit of damage, also bought a number of crocs into the area – with 6-8 salties having been removed from the park before opening for the dry season!
Another favourite at Litchfield was Walker Creek. This is a 3.5km return walk alongside the creek. There are eight walk-in campsites along the way, each with their own swimming area. The swimming pool at camp site six is also for public use and we had a great time here. We spied a water monitor that would alternate between sunning itself on the rocks and having a dip in the cool water. The kids (including Paul – of course) had a great time jumping into the water and this is one of my favourite photos so far.
We also visited the Magnetic Termite Mounds but unfortunately missed the Ranger Talk on this one. There were hundreds of mounds, some up to two metres in height, which were all built in a north-south orientation to ensure that the smallest area possible was exposed to the hot sun. Very clever. We also saw some amazingly tall Cathedral Termite Mounds.
Our last stop before we left was at Buley Rockhole. Here there are a number of waterfalls and rockholes which are safe to swim in, although very busy the day we were there.
There is a selection of campgrounds within the park as well as other accommodation options in nearby Batchelor and Adelaide River. Litchfield has definitely been another highlight for us and we would encourage everyone to visit at least once. We are seriously considering coming back to camp at Walker Creek sometime in the future. Of course, if you are not too keen on doing it by yourself there are a number of operators that offer various Litchfield experiences.
After leaving the park we headed in the direction of Darwin with no particular plans in mind. We had heard of the Tumbling Waters Caravan Park about 65km south-west of Darwin so decided to head there for a couple of nights to recharge, wash etc. Well, the park was fabulous and we enjoyed it so much we ended up staying a week! All of the staff were extremely helpful and friendly (which has become one of the main clinchers as to whether or not we would recommend a place to others), there was a croc lagoon with weekly feeding, a didgeridoo workshop, deckchair movies, a garden bar/restaurant as well as an internet kiosk/TV room. All this AND it had the best rates we have been charged to date. No wonder the majority of visitors to this park were reluctant to leave!
Not far from the park is the Berry Springs Nature Reserve which has some beautiful swimming lagoons as well as large lawn areas for picnicking. We called in here one day to have a look and decided to come back and spend a day here later during the week. As it turned out I was unwell the day we planned to go so we had a quiet day with Stanley and were ready to return the next day instead only to find out that it was closed because a woman had been bitten by a 1.5m saltie!
The croc was caught, removed and the park opened a short time later but we had already moved closer to Darwin by then.
Also close to Tumbling Waters was the Territory Wildlife Park which was just great. We received a 10% discount on the entry price ($71.50) due to a voucher we came across in one of the billion glossy brochures we had managed to collect. We arrived just after open time and were the last to leave at the end of the day.
The park is spread over 1000 acres of natural bushland which include a Monsoon Forest, Billabongs, Freshwater Lagoons and a Woodland habitat. Paul was lucky enough to feed some Whip Rays, we all fed and got squirted by Archer Fish, watched a couple of bird shows, the kids held a Rufus Owl and we all ‘experienced’ a monsoonal storm. Once again the staff were great, willing to answer all of the kids questions and pick us up from unofficial shuttle train stops when little legs were beginning to ache!
While at Tumbling Waters Paul put his feelers out to see if any work was around. Patricia needed a couple of new tyres and Stanley also needed a bit of maintenance so we were hoping to perhaps get these thing tended to and avoid touching our savings. Once again he came through with the goods and was offered some work although this time would have to organise his own transport.
So it was with heavy hearts that we left Tumbling Waters and relocated to a caravan park within walking distance to Paul’s work site and also closer to the city. It was here that we would find ourselves living for the next four weeks, the kids would once again go to school, even I got some work and we had our first lot of visitors from Perth.
So, next time I will update on our Darwin adventures including meeting other oz tripping families, Toad Racing and The Travelling Beanie!