We then headed South and West to make our way to Litchfield National Park. Kakadu was nice but it was still early in the season so a lot of the trails and sights were closed or inaccessible due to high water and saltwater crocodiles. We arrived in Litchfield in the afternoon and got a powered campsite (as temperatures are still scorching hot, we needed our fan hooked up!) right outside the park not too far from some pretty falls named Wangi Falls. On the way, we got pulled over by friendly aussie police (much friendlier than our US police I might add) that were doing a random alcohol check and James had to blow in the breathalyzer twice (as we came through that road a couple of times and the cops did not recognize us). Australia and especially the Northern Territory and Western Australia state have a major problem with the aboriginal population and alcohol..and we have seen many examples of it such as locals in the middle of nowhere completely drunk and stumbling on the road under the 100 degrees temperature!
The next day we got up early and toured the beautiful spots of Litchfield: a short hike around Wangi falls, a stop at Tolmer Falls lookout and Buley rockhole (lots of natural pools but too busy for our liking). We hiked a less frequented trail called Greenants trail and dipped in Tjaetaba Falls (our first plunge pool), before ending our day at Florence Falls for a last dip before stopping for photo opportunities at the magnetic and cathedral termite mounds. The next day we had a great swim at Edith Falls on our way to Katherine Gorge. Nobody was there so we had this beautiful huge natural pool to ourselves. We did start to wonder if it was because of crocs but apparently the area is “managed” so we felt a bit better about swimming alone. The water in all the swimming holes and natural pools has been surprisingly very warm and not difficult at all to get in.
Above: Wangi falls, below: golden orb spider known for its extra strong web (even NASA scientists are studying it)Below: Tolmer falls lookoutBelow: next 3 pictures, our first swim at Tjaetaba falls, it felt very good after the sweaty hike uphillBelow: next 4 pictures at Florence falls. We even had heaps of fish in the water. Above and below: cathedral and magnetic termite mounds. The magnetic mounds aligned North to South.Below: Next 4 pictures: Edith falls Above: crocodile trap, unfortunately once caught the crocodiles are never returned to the wild but instead brought to a “farm”Above and below: just us at Edith falls
At the Katherine tourist information center, we were told about a nice 9 mile round trip hike to a place called Lilly Ponds where we could take a cool dip, but once inside the park we were told by staff that no swimming was allowed due to the possibility of crocs in the area. Undaunted by this news, we set out the next morning with a picnic lunch and started out into the already hot temperatures. We encountered some loud obnoxious chatty birds, but found them quite gorgeous and we couldn’t help ourselves chasing and photographing them.
Above: on the way to Lily ponds, sooooooo hot..Above and below: the beautiful rainbow lorikeetWith the day slipping away and still a ways to hike, we turned off the camera and made a beeline to Lilly Ponds. The trail seemed never-ending with each rocky crest only to produce another hot and rocky segment as we followed the blue triangles that guided us. We finally reached the main gorge (Katherine) and then followed the sub-gorge back upstream where a skinny waterfall splashed into a round punch bowl. Despite what we were told about the crocodiles, we were so hot and sweaty that we decided to take a dip. We stripped off our clothes and got into the shallow end of the pool (where we could clearly see the bottom) and completely enjoyed the refreshing water by ourselves.
We ate a relaxed lunch, but shortly packed up to start our way back before it got too late. Halfway back, we had drank all our water in the searing heat, but fortunately the Aussies know tourists do these kind of things and have put a couple water tanks along the route, so we filled up. It wasn’t cool spring mountain water, but very much welcomed nonetheless. Once we arrived back at the parking lot, we headed straight for the visitor center and got a very cold drink. We felt so dehydrated! It was a great hike and we didn’t see a single hiker all day (may be because we were crazy to hike in this heat?) …
The campground we stayed at (and the only one) in Nimitluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) was a tranquil haven with a beautiful swimming pool, some nice trees providing shade , and even some wildlife to entertain us. We had wallabies hanging around for handouts, tons of birds (including an owl), bats, and lots of frogs and toads.Above: mom and baby wallabies. Below: kingfisher with green tree frog caught for its dinner. Below: cute flying foxes getting some rest on a tree at our campgroundAfter a bit of indecision, we decided to join the morning boat cruise that traverses up two sections of the gorge. The cruise was very scenic, although we missed much of the narrative of history and Aboriginal stories given by a quick-speaking young woman with a thick Aussie accent.Above and below: we saw lots of flying foxes at the beginning of our cruise in the gorge Above: non venomous golden tree snake. Its body is golden while its head silver.After the cruise, we went back to our campervan, repacked and ate lunch before setting out on another hike that would take us to Butterfly Gorge (this time, we brought more water). The route covered much of the same route of the previous day’s hike, but was shorter. Strangely, nary a single bird. A portion of the trail paralleled an escarpment wall where we spooked hundreds of butterflies from their hiding places. So we had definitely arrived in Butterfly gorge.