Where are we now?
We have arrived at Darwin by way of Edith Falls and Litchfield National Park.
After another unsuccessful attempt to buy Anzac Biscuits in Katherine (apparently the baker had not got round to making them yet) and being asked to vote in the upcoming Australian Elections (obviously we do not qualify) - there is a $150 fine if you are an Australian Citizen and you do not vote, hence they have an average participation rate of 88% in elections which is much higher than that in the UK. It will be interesting to see what the rate was for the EU Referendum being held today in the UK, we set off for Edith Falls about 70 kms away.
It is some 30 kms off the main highway from Katherine to Darwin and is part of the same National Park as Katherine Gorge which we saw last time. Whilst the Gorge has a proper powered campsite,
Edith Falls offers a Rough Camp which we are going to, simply because we had to miss Edith Falls last time we were here and we are trying not to miss it this time.
Check in here is different to anywhere else we have been to. There is a Kiosk selling things you need and do not need and it deals with pitch allocation. The falls get a lot of day visitors from Katherine and hence the Kiosk does quite a good trade.
This turns out to be a pleasant rough site with toilets and showers at least as good looking as those last night at Mataranka (we did not shower there in the end, they smelt too awful) and reasonable pitches with shade. It is very hot however and the flies are a bit of a nuisance so we delay doing anything until it gets cooler.
At the lower part of Edith Falls is a rather nice swimming hole
which turns into a picturesque river at the other end.
It was so hot that day that a swim was needed. When the water got to the halfway point it felt very cold but once I was fully in, it was very refreshing but still cold!
The pool had the same sort of Cleaner Wrasse as Manning Gorge (Red Tailed Rainbow fish apparently) although the ones here seem to get pleasure by biting large chunks out of me rather than the gentle approach at Manning.
During the night we heard the most curious screeching from a bird - this turned out to the the Bush Stone-curlew
and we also met them when we went to the toilet in the early hours.
We are pleased to have stayed here for a last night of rough camping and are hoping that wherever we camp in Litchfield will have power, toilets with copious quantities of hot water……….
Overnight for us (we are 8½ hours ahead), the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and the £-AUD$ exchange rate started to tumble from around $2.05 to $1.70 to the £. Luckily for us we are now close to the end of our time spending AUD $.
Litchfield National Park
Some 200+ kms north of Edith Falls is one of the most northern national parks and this is our destination before we go to Darwin. We are spending our one remaining spare night here as well as the two planned days.
It is a large National Park about 100 kms south of Darwin and has been repeatedly recommended to us by those we have met on the road.
So we head north and then west towards the park, the countryside looks rather boring again and as we get further north, the temperature and humidity rise towards the uncomfortable / unbearable (36C and very humid).
The gateway to the park is a town called Batchelor, at least we assumed it was a town taking into account the amount of noise it makes. But when we got there, it was a small collection of bits of a town and an unstaffed tourist office. I suppose I should have learnt by now that much of Australia has managed to get its marketing ahead of its actuality !
Interestingly, the reason that Batchelor is so small is that it is another example of an Australian town which got big on the back of mining in the immediate area and then almost shut down when that mining stopped. The difference here however is that the mining was Uranium Mining which started in 1950 and ended in 1971.
For our penultimate penultimate night in the van (i.e. three nights to go) we are staying in a
park just outside the Litchfield National Park (Litchfield Tourist Park) and from here we go to see the Magnetic Termite Mounds. We are driving there at a very slow speed because it extends the time we get to spend in the air conditioned cab !
We have noticed a change in the shape of termite mounds as we have got further northwards and now instead of being large masses of mud, depending upon the type of termite
and the type of soil, they are either Cathedral Mounds (Nasutitermes triodiae, well drained soil, grass eaters) - this is one which is over 5 metres tall and is estimated to be over 50 years of age,
or they are Magnetic Termite Mounds (Amitermes meridionalis, seasonally flooded black soil plains). This have two large flat sides and in the main, the axis of these points North South. It has been determined that the termites construct them this way in order to minimise exposure to the sun and thus to maximise the surface cooling areas and ensure that the inside does not get too hot. It is also the case that there always a cooler side and it is towards this side that the termites move when the sun is shining on the other side.
At the Magnetic Termite Mound site, there are large fields of mounds all aligned in roughly the same direction and it is quite an impressive sight.
There are a number of water falls in the park which are major attractions and this is one of them.
We get there quite early in the day and hence there are few people around and this adds to the beauty of the falls.
There is a viewing platform built out over the tree canopy far below
which really adds to the experience of visiting these falls.
Buley Rock Hole
Nearby Buley Rock Hole is in fact upstream of Florence Falls
and is a nice place for people of all ages to go for a swim or to cool their feet in the water when it is 35C at only 0930 !
Wangi Falls are the big attraction in the park
partly because they really are beautiful and partly because the pool at the bottom is very good for swimming.
A path has been constructed into the nearby forest which more resembles a jungle than a forest
and the big attractions there are Flying Foxes which we can see above us making a tremendous noise. An explanation board on the walk tells us that early settlers were terrified of them because they thought they were Vampires.
The next day we moved camp sites to the Batchelor Tourist Park and an attraction of the new campsite is Bird Feeding as the sun sets as well as some free WIFI and also we are within a Telstra phone signal area.
We are totally enchanted by the colourful Lorikeets
who come down in great number to feed as well as the more common Parakeets and Blue Faced Honey Eaters.
Goodbye Edie and Hello Darwin
We decided some while ago that our trusty van would be called Edie since that was the best name we could create from its Rego (please note the local vernacular in use!)
However before we can hand the van back, we have to repack most things back into our cases, clean the inside of the van and dispose of anything we do not want. The latter includes shoes which have fallen apart, clothes which are now so ragged that we would never want to be seen in them again and food which we have not eaten. We managed to give most of our left over food to another camper van duo who were very pleased to receive it although there was not a lot because we had very carefully planned the last few weeks menus and purchases.
A series of pictures were taken to record the event and we set off for Darwin. Darwin is around 100 kms away from where we have spent the last two days and it takes just over an hour to drive there. Refuelling the van and purchasing Anzac Biscuits are a priority over everything else, we are totally addicted to Anzacs and have decided to buy as many as we can fit into a plastic storage box we have with us to eat over the coming weeks.
We have seen plenty of Freshwater Crocodiles whilst out here but no Saltwater Crocodiles and so we decided to visit a Crocodile Park on the outskirts of Darwin.
It said it was a Research Institute as well as a Park but I am not totally convinced since you could buy Crocodile Skin items and Crocodile Meat for your barbecue.
However, Salties are big
and quite frightening and I would hate to have one of them coming towards me.
Also there were Ostriches and Meerkats and various other animals including some Lions in a rather small (soon to be improved) cage.
It was then a final goodby to Edie who passed her check-in back at Apollo with no problems.
Now we have two nights in the Darwin Central Hotel and we will have our own bathroom with a flushing toilet and a shower and we do not have to walk out into the night to find it and there are no frogs, snakes, lizards, wallabies to contend with and we do not need to take a torch with us and it also has toilet paper ! Such luxury.
Our room is many many times bigger than our home for the past six weeks
and the beds (two of them) are each about as big as Edie.
It feels very strange to be in such as large space. It also feels very strange to be in a city with all of its noises and lack of distant horizons.