Litchfield – Sun 19th to Tue 21st Jul
Many people had said to us they thought Lichfield is better than Kakadu; so we were looking forward to seeing it, having loved Kakadu. We were not disappointed; not necessarily better but a different experience, without the art and ranger walks but with plenty of natural scenery to explore. Also a bonus, park entry, unlike Kakadu, is free.
Originally, based on a recommendation from Chris & Rachel, we planned to stay at Sandy Creek, which is about 10km down a dirt track including a 400mm deep water crossing – keeps the caravans out. However John & Amanda subsequently talked up Buley Rockhole, which benefits from the waterhole being 250m rather than 1.5km from the site.
Buley is the first campground you get to after entering the park, being a couple of km down a side turning which also leads to Florence Falls. There are only about a dozen sites here, all with firepits, and even by 11am it was getting full. Facilities here are limited, just a long drop toilet but it was wonderfully peaceful.
Rather than drive on to Sandy Creek and hope there was space, we took a well secluded spot with some shade and made it our base. Just nearby was the most magnificent bower, with a pair of birds flitting to and fro.
The rockholes are a series of cascades in Florence Creek, with the small plunge pools filled with totally clear water; the last pool being the largest. Being right next to the day use car park, on a tarmac road, they were very popular with day trippers – you need to get up early to have them to yourself.
We got to most of the sights in our stay here.
These are an easy 2km walk from Buley. The walk runs alongside the creek and offers more swimming holes away from the crowds plus some lovely views of the water and its wildlife.
Getting to the base of the falls is a good descent, but stairs have been installed to make things easier. Another popular place, the car park was full, as was the swimming hole – it took a while to get photos without bobbing heads. A lovely place to have a swim, if a little cold.
The walk back brought us a beautiful little tree snake, hunting frogs in the bushes.
At the end of 10km of winding but easy dirt, this is an area of rocks which supposedly look like an abandoned city taken over by the wild. Well, kind of….
If you take a day tour to Litchfield its likely you will end up here, it is the most commercial of the attractions with a café and picnic areas. The falls tumble impressively down a sheer rockface into a very large swimming hole – no avoiding heads in the photos here, it was jammed.
The edge of the pool is home to water monitors, with one cruising past, oblivious to the crowds, looking for dinner.
Probably the prettiest of the falls, this is a thin ribbon cascading from a great height into the gorge below. Sadly access to the gorge floor did not seem to be possible, the signs saying it was closed to protect a bat colony. The walk gave us a great view across the treetops of the park.
Litchfield has two main bitumen roads, one at the north end and the other to the south. Between the two runs the track which passes Sandy Falls. Halfway along this track crosses Reynolds River. This is rather intimidating, narrow and long with no depth markers but word of mouth indicating 500mm. It made for a fun crossing; being so narrow the bow wave slaps back off the banks.
Magnetic Termite Mounds
These are a wonder of the natural world, apparently even David Attenborough said so. To date the mounds we have seen have been “cathedrals”, or as the girls called them, “dragon poo”. The mounds here are very different; very wide north to south and very narrow east to west. Rather clever, it means the termites enjoy the morning and evening sun but avoid the heat of the day.
Mataranka – Wed 22nd to Fri 24th Jul
The beginning of the end of warm weather! Time to head towards the centre, where the overnight forecast was worryingly close to zero. Mataranka is famous, as far as we can tell, for two things, Jeannie Gunn’s book “We of the Never Never” and its hot springs. Whilst we can’t comment on the book, the springs are excellent – we chose Bitter Springs over the better known Mataranka Hot Springs.
Every day over thirty million litres of incredibly clear water wells up at 32c and flows into the Little Roper River. In the early morning, given the warm water, the springs steam gently.
You can float along with the current, exit down the bank and come back to do it all again – the girls were in heaven, even more so as we met up with Roger and Jada, so they had Harry and Alison to play with (thanks to Roger for the pics in the water)
Before we left Sydney I must admit the world of whipcracking was unkown to us, we were blissfully unaware there is a Guinness World Record for the number of cracks in a minute. By a lucky coincidence the holder of this record is Australian, and was performing at the Mataranka Homestead; an awfully late night but an incredible show of skill – almost impossible to photo as apparently the tip of the whip travels faster than sound, hence the crack.
The record by the way is 530 in 60 seconds, Nathan Griggs is the holder. His finale with flaming whips was very exciting.
Tennant Creek – Sat 25th Jul
I’m sure there is something good to be said about Tennant Creek. Perhaps the road south to Alice Springs. Yes it has a working 10 stamp battery from the gold mining days, but you may not have the energy to see it after a night listening to the locals shouting into the small hours and their dogs howling.
And for the pleasure of this experience the campground asked an extra $5 per child……..
Not one we have put on the list for a return visit.