Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cathedrals in the Outback

(9-10 August 2010)

Continuing the drive towards Darwin, we take a diversion into Litchfield NP for a couple of nights, camping near Florence Falls. The campsite is idyllic, a typical bush setting within the national park, with generous sized sites and space between sites. (Dear reader, please note the context of this comment is in relation to how crammed you can be placed in caravan parks).

We make use of the fireplace on both nights, the tribe enjoying the spectacle and loving the idea that fire means marshmallows, not that they like toasted marshmallows – only I do!.

We wander down the 150-odd stairs to the Florence Waterfall swimming hole, where there are already many folks getting in their mid-morning dip. The place is incredibly picturesque – the waterfalls on the far side of the pool, the trees that shade the entry end, the steep rock walls surrounding three-quarters of the swimming hole. However it’s not the easiest place to get four young kids into the water, as various sizes of rocks and boulders are underfoot underwater – and dare I say it, but we struggled a bit with this until we decided to take turns with each of the tribe. And it was worth it – the dip was refreshing.

After the swim, we take the long walk along Shady Creek to the carpark. The walk takes you through the rainforest-like surrounds of the creek which slowly becomes open forest as you ascend from the creek. The tribe takes relish at each creek crossing as an opportunity to dip their feet.

Driving further into the park, we visit Tolmer Falls which is only for viewing as the area is a conservation area for some threatened bat colonies, including the ghost bat. Wangi Falls, further along is another swimming hole, although we don’t stop here as the tribe are catching some Zs. We do stop briefly at the Tabletop Swamp where we are greeted by a cacophony of rainbow lorikeets.

A trip into Batchelor town offers a treat of ice cream for the tribe and an opportunity to replenish drinking stock at the tavern – an anachronism of a place as its interior is stylishly contemporary that would not look out of place in Fitzroy or Newtown.

Litchfield NP also offers one of the rare opportunities to see magnetic termite mounds, almost alongside the cathedral termite mounds. The cathedral type can be seen everywhere, although there are a couple near the magnetic termite mounds that measure about five metres in height. These grow totally in abstract proportions, where the thickness of the mud walls provides insulation for the ants inside. The magnetic termite mounds are thin in structure and only about two metres in height and as the name would have it, their thinnest ends all point north, minimising exposure to the sun.

Returning to our campsite for our final night in Litchfield, we meet another travelling family with three girls, with whom Saffiya and Soraya play. We swap contact details with Emma, Simon and the girls as it seems we are heading along a similar route westwards, in the hope we meet up again.

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