Litchfield National Park
I didn’t think I’d be in the area more than a week or so, however one of my main reasons for visiting NT, was to see one of the national parks, Kakadu and Litchfield. Both these Parks can be accessed by private car (preferably 4×4, in the case of Kakadu). Ideally, my number one choice would have been Kakadu. It’s a world famous natural heritage park with spectacular rock formations, areas of aboriginal significance, as well as wetlands providing a home to many species of indigenous wildlife.
Sadly, initially inspection of guided tour prices seemed very high, $275 for a day trip, possibly well over $400 for two or three day overnight trips. This may be partly due to being a three drive from Darwin just to reach the park gates, and an entry fee of $25 for conservation and upkeep. As I didn’t have a vehicle at the time, I opted for one of the guided tours by Litchfield Dream Tours. This day trip took me to the other park, Litchfield, closer to Darwin and for a more manageable price of $119.
The following morning I was met by the tour minibus, as the first pickup. The tour guide (I can’t remember his name) seemed friendly, entertaining and knew his stuff. Typical outback style beige shirt and shorts with crocodile-toothed hat. The roads outside Darwin are endlessly long, straight, and could be a lonely place for those who get stranded. The dusty ground and surrounding land is a copper orange in colour with odd tuffs of chocolate brown straggly grass.
A lot of this area is managed farmland surrounding the national park. The farmers choose to burn the land regularly to avoid the spread of bush fires. We saw many fields of semi-parched trees and black ash carpeted ground, seemingly having evicted all forms of life. Not so, the giant primitive structures of termite moulds stand proud, usually over seven foot tall. These guys have been engineering skyscrapers millions of years before humans walked the earth.
At one point, our tour guide noticed something of interest on the side of the road, and pulled over. In the dusty entrance to a farm track lay the corpses of ten wild geese. The farmers had shot them purely to butcher the carcasses for their breast meat, leaving the rest to waste. What a shame. Apparently these geese are a highly prized food of the aboriginal people who would probably go berserk if they saw the bodies dumped like this. As soon as we left, hordes of black kites descended upon this scene of death. The meat was still fresh, probably only an hour old, despite being baked in the merciless sun.
We drove on, through cattle country passing the stock gates to both feed lots and open pasture. The open pastures held an amazing backdrop of landscapes with several billabongs swarming with wild fowl of all kinds. All the cows here are the tropical breeds with humped backs and saggy neck. One of the biggest industries in NT is live export; where cattle are shipped alive in their thousands to markets in Asia and the Middle East. This business is only going to get bigger and is worth millions of dollars.
Our first stop within Litchfield began with a river trip to see the “jumping crocodiles”! This boat trip definitely required you to keep all body parts within the side barriers! It actually only lasts about 45 minutes but this all aboriginal company and its guides know all the crocs on this stretch of the Adelaide river by name, including one enormous beasty called Cass.
He is well over five metres long and is as close to a real dinosaur as you’re ever going to get in the modern world. The boat operators encourage this “tame monster” to propel itself with its powerful tail muscles vertically into the air in pursuit of chunks of raw meat dangled on a stick. Its crazy to imagine this creature stalking the boat silently from the murky depths, only then to see it explode into action. I wonder what it thinks about the meat holding the cameras every day!Wangi Falls is found in a beautiful setting in the national park. A huge natural freshwater pool providing a great place to go for a swim. Apparently there is one “small” freshwater croc in here which the park rangers are trying to trap and relocate. Fortunately, he’s unlikely to be dangerous to people, unlike the huge saltwater crocs which we’re assured are definitely not in this area of the park. There’s a magnificent cascading waterfall at the rear of this spacious waterhole, which people can climb through a sit of the rocks behind if they dare. The rock itself forms a landscape defining red cliff face.
We continued our journey to a further natural pool, en route passing many road trains thundering past. Buley Falls is good, but in a different way too Wangi. In the form of many large rock pools leading down a steady gradient into a stream, its almost like a series of open-air natural Jacuzzis. It’s possible to sit with the water at shoulder height whilst the oncoming flow provides relaxing agitations around your body. Its red hot just walking about so the water proved the perfect temperature.
From here, we made the return journey back towards Darwin city. It was a great day out, and gave me an insight into another type of Australia. After speaking to a friend who had visited Kakadu the same week, he felt disappointed, saying the current weather conditions meant that the park was not at its best (I went early November). I felt reassured I had make the right decision not to go at this time. I’ll have to return to the Northern territory another time.