20 May—21 May 2002
If you are travelling in the Northern Territory, and you don’t pack up by 9.00 a.m., you get caught in the heat of the day, which slows you down to a crawl. So the next morning, we got up early as possible and packed up camp. We pulled out of Edith Falls somewhat reluctantly, and drove the relatively short distance north to Bachelor where we bought some very expensive petrol, groceries, ice and beer. We then drove into Litchfield National Park.
We stopped on the way in to collect some firewood by the side of the road. Ideally, this is not an activity to be undertaken in the heat of day. The heat was insufferable; it was hard to find decent wood, as the burning off and the white ants had already claimed much of it. I found it hard to see whilst I chopped the wood, as the sweat was pouring off my face onto the inside of my sunnies. I got with tetchy with Susan as we loaded the wood onto the spare tyre and tied it down. It’s times like these that I’m glad we’ve got air conditioning in the car.
We set up camp in the national park. The camping facilities were primitive compared to Leliyn. The ground was hard and there was little shade. Nevertheless, there was a tree overhead and some firewood left over from the previous occupants.
We were pleasantly surprised by the falls, which were grand compared to Edith Falls. Nevertheless, the swimming hole was considerably shallower and less interesting, and there were lots of other tourists about. Many turned out to be day-trippers, as we were now within easy driving distance from Darwin.
Susie cooked up a nice dinner, but we found that it was really too hot to cook on the open fire. We had travelled only a few hundred kilometres North of Edith Falls and now the temperature hardly drops at night. Our first night at Litchfield was very uncomfortable because one of the zippers on the tent was left open an inch and the tent filled with ferocious mosquitoes. Susan and I had to get up during the night and carry out an extensive eradication campaign. We lit a mozzie coil in the tent, and tossed and turned in the heat, scratching our bites.
The next day, we set out early to see the various sites offered by the national park. First we visited the magnificent magnetic termite mounds. We then drove to the plunge pool. This was a deep pool fed by several lovely waterfalls, nestled in the cool of a deep gully shaded by tall trees and ferns. There were lots of tourists about, especially young European travellers. We did our usual trick of diving about with goggles on, swimming behind the waterfalls and exploring nooks and crannies that had been fashioned by the running water. Susie finished reading Oscar and Lucinda whilst I threw rocks into the water for Clare and Ruby to fetch. They are both getting very good at diving and swimming underwater.
When we had taken our fill of this charming spot, we climbed back up the 137 steps (Clare counted them) past the viewing platform, and drove back 1 km to Bouli rock pools. We lugged the esky 80m down to the lowest pool and had a picnic lunch. It was a beautiful, shady swimming hole. Next to one of the small cascades, Ruby discovered a perfect basin 6 feet deep and about 3 feet in diameter. You could stand in it and enjoy the cool, bubbly water. We spotted an unusual Kingfisher, and hunted for treasures. My finds included a silver toe ring which I gave to Clare to wear on her finger. The spot was so charming that we whiled away the rest of the afternoon there.
The previous evening, I had accompanied Ruby and Clare to the nearby Wangi Falls to admire them in the moonlight. The second night, Susie and I went down there. I also took Clare for a short dip before bed, and found a new pair of swimming goggles for her.
As well as ferocious mosquitoes, Litchfield has aggressive ants. I had to build makeshift traps to try and keep them out of our trailer. They still got into the food box and chewed through plastic wrappers to get at our tortillas. We decided to leave the next day, as the heat and the insects were just a bit too much to deal with. It’s supposed to be the dry season, but the weather is unseasonably hot and humid.