We had previously discussed with our room mates the night before what their plans were for the morning. They didn’t seem to mind/care if we were up early and getting ready for the day. Yet, we felt that with tension still in the room from our comments about being married, we thought it was best to prepare. So, in the tight little bathroom showering and changing, there was little point in saying we were clean, but a bit fresher – the bathroom was disgusting and nothing to do with being a girls only dorm room. But, we finished packing in the tv room with Olympics on in the background and I headed to Coles to get brekkie. The walk to the shop was fine, the walk back was ridiculous, with the sun literally peeking over the top of the buildings in the 30mins I was in there and the heat was intense. The big slab of watermelon was perfect and the warnings still didn’t prepare Katherine for the temperature outside on the way to Thrifty.
Tracey was like an eager puppy waiting for us, looking out the window of Thrifty as we approached the office. There might even have been some wagging, who’s to know. With hugs all round and excitement bubbling, we were a little deflated when told the car was delayed as they were fixing a puncture in the wheel. The car was getting a thorough inspection due to the long distance journey we were taking and we could all have had another hour in bed. I guarded the bags while the ninja twins went across the road to Coles for snacks, lunch and plenty of water. We spoke to the lady behind the desk for a bit and she kept pronouncing the town of Katherine as ‘Kat-er-eye-n’. We were interrupted and sat down to listen to the very stuck up and pretentious French couple who wanted to return and swap their car for one that didn’t have Thrifty written on the side of the vehicle. We did really well not to burst out laughing and before long we were packing our stuff into our rental and hitting the road.
Leaving Australia’s only tropical capital city, we were on a ROAD TRIP!!!
Zooming down the road with the speed demon at the wheel (Old Ninja was sticking to the speed limits – they just seem extreme for us from ‘Up Top’ opposed to those ‘Down Under’) we soon reached Litchfield National Park. It may not be as well know as Kakadu, but many locals rate it higher, with a saying ‘Litchfield-do, Kaka-don’t’. The 1,500 sq km national park encloses much of the spectacular Tabletop Range, a wide sandstone plateau mostly surrounded by cliffs. The many waterfalls of the area are a highlight of the park, feeding crystal clear cascades and croc free plunge pools. But before we reached any of these infamous waterways we stopped at the iconic termite mounds. Now, in all the years I’ve watched the magnificent Sir David Attenborough and other nature programs, not once have I read or heard the info that was in the Lonely Planet. The tip of these mounds are the places where they bury the dead. The height of the the mound correlates to the age of the structure but that extra bit of info was cool. Speaking of cool, the structures are perfectly aligned to regulate temperature, catching the morning sun, then allowing the residents to dodge the midday heat, built in a north-south orientation. I’m sure the way they create folds in the mound also helps to cool the structure. While we were all suitable impressed by the size of the Cathedral Termites (aptly named), the GAdventures tour looked like they were fed up and bored, imagine the faces of people sucking on a few lemons. But, more impressive was the boardwalk that brought us out to a field of magnetic termite mounds. It was like a cemetery of tombstones, varying in size and design and a wicked feat of natural engineering. So, we arrive at Buley Rockholes, an area where the water cascades through a series of rock pools that provide the perfect site to simply cool off and relax. But Katherine seemed far from relaxed, tense in a stare off with this guy at a picnic bench. Tracey was ready to say something, while naturally I was too focused on looking for wildlife. Plus, I’m getting better at ignoring stares and pig ignorant people. But, suddenly there was a realisation between the two of them that they did in fact know each other – they worked together in London. It’s a freakishly small world! So after meeting Ben and his girlfriend and all five of us chatting away for a bit, we settled on a sandstone outcrop under some shade and had our lunch. An occasional bit of bread in the quiet pool to attract the fish and we enjoyed the tranquility of the area while still hearing the kids bomb in to the pools. I didn’t need to navigate to our next destination. Florence Falls is within walking distance but we drove around the corner to maximise our time in the park. A spectacular double waterfall set amidst monsoon rainforest we didn’t descend the 135 steps to the bottom, but admired it from a viewing platform. The echoes of shouting and laughter coming up from the plunge pool faded as we walked back to the car, passing a few trees with low hanging ant nests. Off to Tolmer Falls, it should have been one of the most readily accessible waterfalls of the park. However, they were renovating the walkway during the dry season and we went for a little walk through the bush walk to get to the views. Being sensible and bringing plenty of water for the 2.4km round trip, we thought we might have to part with some of it for the people underestimating the heat and terrain. We did try and warn a few on our return but it fell on deaf ears. But, we were rewarded by our efforts and scout attitude with incredible, beautiful views of the valley. The falls were only small being dry season, but it was still really nice. It would have been cool if we glimpsed any of the elusive bats of the area, but they were probably hiding from the scorching sun. We missed the turn off for Greenant Creek. It wasn’t signposted in the direction we we’re travelling and it was a bit of a concealed entrance. But, it was meant to be. We carried on to Wangi Falls (pronounced ‘Wong-guy’) and decided before even seeing the pool that we were going swimming to cool down. Changing in the first dirty toilets we’ve experienced at a public facility, we were togged off, ignoring the warnings for crocs and splashing about in the crystal waters with water cascading down the rock face in two places. We found a nice spot between the two downpours, sat on the rock, chatted, ignored the whiny ginger kid, convinced Tracey it wasn’t acceptable to steal a noodle to float around and did a few bombs. With beautiful rainforests around the pool and dramatic backdrops we may have spent a considerable amount of time in the shallows reenacting the end scene from a Dirty Dancing and laughing hysterically at our attempts. Not using the free wifi at the site, (why the hell would you want/need wifi in an area like this) we returned towards Batchelor and checked in to Pandanus. Slight panic moment when they didn’t seem to have our booking, the lovely Debbie showed us our cabin and the kitchen facilities. A quick nip in to town before it got dark, we returned with stuff for dinner (severely overpriced) and cooked up a satisfying meal using the hamster dryer (otherwise known as a George Foreman grill) and enjoyed watching Night at the Museum 2. Well, we all started to watch it, only one managed to see it through and turned off tv and lights… yours truly.
Saturday 13th August 2016