Day 5: Out back chasing waterfalls

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Oceania » Australia » Northern Territory
May 10th 2016
Published: June 25th 2017
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Geo: -13.1567, 130.77

On the road again, actually on the "same" road again, but this time in a smaller 21 seater AATKings coach. A very intimate little squeeze to get us out to Litchfield National Park via Northern Territory's tidiest town in 1999, Batchelor. (It does make you wonder who has been the winner for the last 16 years.)

Our coach captain today was Cameron and he looked 12 (with a beard) but says he finished high school 8 years ago and is a born and bred local who grew up in Palmerston. Unlike his peers, he has not "escaped" from Darwin, preferring to stay in the top end. He did a great job and looked after everyone and provided some "local" perspective on stories including telling some "whoppers" just to see if we were listening.

Distance, distance and distance. Need to travel that 90 minutes just to get on the road to somewhere, but again the landscape is constantly changing. First stop was a cafe at the Pandanas Caravan Park for a coffee and a toilet break. I know we should be looking at other stuff, but the fascination here was with the fly catcher! A bit of rotten meat floating in some
water in a soft drink bottle, pierced with a bit of pipe with a hole in it, suspended above the eating area. I did laugh because yesterday at breakfast I had encouraged a German tourist to try my vegemite on toast, which he bravely did. Today, the cafe host said you could substitute vegemite for rotten meat because it works just as well. Nice.

Our tidy town Batchelor was a quick drive-through. It is the home to the Batchelor Institute which provides TAFE education for indigenous students with a particular focus on tourism and horticulture. There was a scoot by the public school, home to approximately 160 local children. There was a class outside on the oval all neatly presented in their green school uniform running around having a game of soccer....not one hat in sight!

Batchelor is also home to a butterfly farm, the Rum Jungle Hotel, a museum, a cultural centre and the totally random copy of the Karistein Castle.

Avoided Rum Jungle Lake because apparently it is a waterhole created from the quarry of the abandoned uranium mine and Cameron told the group you would glow green after swimming in it. Believe it or not.

The Termite Mound viewing
area was just another few kilometres down the road, although the mounds were everywhere. The viewing area was on the floodplain which meant we got to see the Magnetic mounds (face absolutely north south) and the multi towered Cathederal termite mounds.

The magnetic mounds, standing up to two metres in height face north south in orientation. This controls the temperature throughout the day by exposing the least surface area to the sun. To be honest, these look like intricately carved maps of the Northern Territory, but Cameron commented that people suggest they look more like a graveyard headstones.

Hard to believe these tiny little creatures can create such massive structures. The king and queen of the Cathedral mounds live some seventy to eighty years and the mounds are hard packed and host to millions in the colony. More research needed because the habits of the different termites is interesting. We were careful to be sure we were not taking any little friends home with us.

Litchfield National Park is all about waterfalls and lakes. And of course it is the sounds and smells in vibrant colour that made it so special. Keep saying that the photos are not truly capturing the amazing beauty and isolation or the soundscape of the bush.

Florence Falls was the first stopover in the "water" series. We had to work hard to see this one via the steps or the Shady Creek Walk. We opted for the stairs on the way in and the creek walk on the return journey. The Florence is a spectacular double waterfall set within the monsoon rainforest. 135 steps took us down to the base of the falls and the swimming hole. The young guns climbed up the cliff face and jumped into the pond below. This area was available to swimmers as it has been cleared this season of both freshwater crocs and any visiting salties.

Talk about a lack of modern technology. To clear the crocs, the Rangers sit in an aluminium boat at night and "spot" the crocodiles with torch light. Once they go for 21 consecutive nights without a sighting they declare the pool swimmer ready. Cameron's idea was to send the backpackers in for a week and if there are no problems, he is happy to join the swimmers. And it was therefore a comforting sign that he swam today.

Mac was a rock hopper and tested his Canadian North
Face boots - they passed the muster. I took my shoes and socks off and invited the fish to take a nibble at my feet. Had to be cleaner than the offerings in Asia.

Lunch was "posh nosh" at the Litchfield Cafe. Another outdoor culinary experience. This time the salad buffet was served in a tin roofed "garage" with dirt floors. The meal was washed down with "the best mango cheesecake in the Northern Territory." (Holding our judgement on that one.) Is Mac happy with the salads each day - not really - but they have been piling on the processed meats so he is compensated.

Off then to Wangi Falls for a hard going treetop walk, a view of the falls and then down to the swimming pool. Recent rain and the continued sightings of crocs had this one closed for swimmers. But somehow, this didn't deter determined visitors who obviously have some secret weapon for a croc deterrent.

This was a hard slog of a walk and the humidity meant we were drenched with sweat on the return journey and it was a relief to be back in the air conditioning of the bus.

Final watery destination was the Buley
Rockhole which is a series of small waterfalls and rock holes that cascade down the escarpment all the way to Florence Falls. Can't help thinking how much fun it would be to slip and slide your way down through these rock pools. Needed a dare devil to try it. Was certainly the pick of the swimming holes and it was crowded with takers of all shapes and sizes and ages.

Finished the day with a welcomed quick meal. Sort of embarrassed to say, but we went simple. Got off the bus in Mitchell Street and called into Red Rooster and enjoyed the Aussie Special. It included a bucket of ice cream (wow, it was delicious) and a bottle of Coke. Those who know Mac can understand the potential of ice cream and Coke. Floats it was. A perfect synergy for the day.

Just looking back on the day, I think Mac helped the Rangers with the feral animal eradication programme .... He singled handedly scared off huge numbers of feral pigs, cats, cane toads and buffalo as he tried to beat the heat and walked through the tracks today with a very white bare torso. Also amused some Chinese tourist who got
the giggles as they passed the "big nosed ugly foreigner" ( a term of endearment from one of our guides in China!)

Repacking tonight in preparation for the hand luggage carry on requirements of The Ghan. Toot toot.

@AuntyGail they can make as many claims as they like...but you and I know the truth. And when you are 90 with a little touch of dementia, I'll slip it in beside the wall plaque and the hand towel....and you will think they are ALL from me.....cause I'll be the only one you remember!

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12th May 2016

Well, I've just had a nice icy cold drink & a dip in our 'crocodile free' pool......I really needed both after reading of your strenuous & exciting adventures.....the photos are fantastic......and now for the Ghan experience!....xox

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