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Sweat, blood and tears in Litchfield, NT

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 14 April 2008 | Views [1787] | Comments [4]

It seems ‘outback’, but its just over 100 kilometers from Darwin. Litchfield National Park is visited by overseas travellers and Australian’s alike.  Its more accessible than Kakadu (roads being subject to the flooding and damage of the wet season), and popular with the locals for camping and cooling off in the waterholes.

 

Highlights

The waterfalls at Wangi (wong- guy), Florence and Tolmer.  In the heat of April (the locals said it was starting to feel a little chilly), 35 degrees in the shade, experiencing the clarity, cleanliness, the colours of the waterholes are like an oasis for the weary traveller.  Just the sound of the falls had the blood in my veins jumping for joy.  The dazzling light display from reflecting sunlight through the water onto reddish rocks, the sunset moments at Wangi falls, putting our head under with a mask to see the big fish and the depth of the falls. The coolness of the water after the heat of the day. The dappled light from the surrounding trees. And the sudden appearance of a local goanna coming in for a quick dip! Gorgeous!

April, in the Top End,  is known by local indigenous people under the name of Banggerreng – marking the end of the wet season, and when animals start raising their young.  Traditionally there are five other seasons, all following nature’s signs.

I had a dragonfly land on me!  You can see a couple of photos of its charming face in ‘[the van] – wildlife on the road’.  Symbolically, they say this means I’m going to hear great news from afar, but I think it just means the insect repellent doesn’t work. 

Jett, with SUCH braveness, and with thanks to two months of practice in nana and granddad’s pool, swam like an eel around the waterholes. He was admirable and it was certainly the highlight of his trip to Litchfield.

We met helpful and informative Rangers. They have a tough time of it picking up rubbish left by visitors and telling people not to dive into the waterholes, and emptying rubbish bins from the hordes of ‘tourists’, but when I asked if they were happy with their work, the answer was invariably ‘Life’s great!’

Practicalities

If you have the choice, avoid the place on the weekends, and particularly on Sundays and school holidays.  It was literally like a public pool in Melbourne during a heat wave. Not a good place to be. 

I asked a few locals (rangers included)  about personal safety of travellers. The only problem they all mentioned is a bit of late night drinking and ‘fun’ for the local teenagers. Otherwise there wasn’t a problem. Obviously, lone females always gather a little more interest, but Jett and Albert won’t leave me alone…

Please don’t 

Please do not litter. The area is famous for its pristine, clear waterholes. We found bottle tops, cigarette butts, paper, chip packets and glass bottles left around the area.  (The rangers say its mostly the locals who disrespect the park in this way.  We also met a few people along the way, just as vocal as the rangers in there shock at such a place being littered.)

Don’t feed the animals. It makes them aggressive and you damage their diet. 

Don’t jump into the water holes. The rangers were pretty unhappy about having to deal with nong nongs jumping into bubbling water where maybe there are submerged rocks and branches waiting to make contact with your head.

Please do

Stop in Batchelor at the information center there. We were fortunate enough to meet Jeff and Kay, two volunteers, with a mine of good information about the area, and about travelling in Australia in general. They gave us tips about what roads to take (considering our World Nomads Travellers Auto Barn campervan) and told us great stories of inveterate travellers- from out woop woop, to the middle of nowhere, to the back of beyond, and further down the way, back beyond the black stump. 

The national park doesn’t charge for entry, but there is a good will system for camping. Please pay! We’re big believers in karma for this stuff. If you don’t pay for it now, willingly, then you’ll pay for it later, unwillingly. 

Pick up firewood for camp fires along the main road – there’s plenty of it.                           

Go really slow.  These places come alive under a patient gaze. The ground, the trees, the  water holes – everything is full of life.  After gazing at the stars, and out back, they are spectacular, I saw a shooting star every night! (three nights in a row) I’ve only seen two before in my entire life before this! 

Do take lots of water!! Um, I often feel I’m allergic to water, but out here, I’ve been drinking, of my own free will, more than I remember.  I also, typically, never sweat, but up here, in the top end, while the humidity is up around 80% (!!!!!!), I’ve been drenched through. IIIIK…and just forget glamour. I saw a lady with lipstick on and nearly bowed down at her seemingly unperturbed efforts of maintaining the semblance of city life. (written after a whole 5 days on the road without a full length mirror anywhere)

Do wear protective clothing. Insects bite, the bush scratches and rubs, the sweat makes your skin itchy. Not to mention snakes and spiders…. 

Insect repellent is a BIG must have.  Also include mosquito coils for the evening.

Campervan tips

– I mean, it’s bloody hot, all the night through, until about 4, then the temperature drops so you need a sleeping bag. We kept the back door open all night and rigged up a mosquito net on the outside, by pegging it to the gummy stuff around the door.

- You may like to spray the van, once a day, before a hike or a dip in the water holes, with insect KILLER (in case, just in case, the HUGEST spider you have ever seen is sitting in with your pillows, just in case)

Disasters

Well, it wasn’t a reeeeaaaaalllll disaster, but I lost my cool. 

Albert and I were having an avid discussion (domestic) about a linguistic issue (when someone says a thing, then its NOT just ‘a way to talk’ – its an indication of what they are thinking/inquiring/ commenting etc) , when I felt a sharp sting on my right hip, and while screaming at a frequency unknown to the area since 1820 when Mrs Smith lost her third round at poker and subsequently the deed to her father’s land, I saw a flutter of yellow wings off to the side.

Simultaneously, a felt a paralysis of the skin, up to my under arms, and down into the hip region.  I started shaking and felt my left middle finger throbbing also. Seems in my sudden motion, I bent the nail of my finger back. Not a pretty sight today. 

The physical sensation died away, but the fear that gripped me took a little working through. My yogic breath hasn’t been so shaken since I first started practising David Swenson’s ashtanga yoga routine suggestion.

Anyway, the bite is swollen and manageable today.  The disaster was to my sense of ‘peace’. I feel, still, a little shaken by the experience. 

It didn’t help, when a little later, Albert gestured for me to come into the van. I was surprised at his serious face, but after seeing a HUGE light brown coloured spider up in Jett’s bunk, and his ‘you deal with it’, I understood all.  I’ve grown up in Australia, and in any similar situation, I’ve been with people much braver than me. This was the first time I was going to have to do something I detest. Beat to death an innocent and rather fascinating creature for accidently invading our living space. I looked at my green tara and begged for forgiveness, and started my attack. I was having flashes of  similar Buddhist stories of  offering my flesh to the spider to gain instant enlightenment while at the same time I thought, Jett can’t see this thing up here, he’ll never go up there again… and I hope I kill it quickly and I’m so sorry… and then, to my horror, I started to beat the thing.

After stabbing madly at it while in a chaos of emotions, the spider stayed alive. Honestly, it just looked the same. Walked happy a few paces and I thought no chance, I can’t do this again. ‘Albeeeerrrt! YOU do it.’

Big Brave Dirty Bertie came to the rescue. 

We mourned the pour creature and miraculously, since Jett was in the very near vicinity, managed to convince him that we’d been talking about beating a sharp nail down on the bed. 

Wildlife we saw (check out the photos for proof)

Rock wallabies with babies (do we call them joeys if they come from a wallaby?)

Red Fox Bats

Signs for crocs

Dragonflies by the hundreds at Florence falls

Lizards

Goannas

Cockatoos

Gallahs

Hawks (quite a few actually. Jett says there are more as the season dries up. How did he know? Nat Geo channel)

Crows

Green ants

BIG spiders

Fish

BUGS         

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes

Butterflies

Moths

Mosquitoes

(and stuff I’ve forgotten)

Stuff I want to check out the next time

In Batchelor, they have an Indigenous Institute. It was closed because of the school holidays, but I’d love to meet the people there and talk to everyone some time.

I want to see a tiny kingfisher!!

The cool of the Global Gossip head quarters here in Darwin is just heaven.  Its busy and people from everywhere are tapping into their computers.  There’s a post in the centre dedicated to sharing information about cars for hire, jobs on offer and people looking for a lift, for ‘fuel and fun’.

See you at the next one! Good night mum!

 

 

 

Tags: allwelcome, ambassador van, t a j, water, wildlife

 

Comments

1

wow, u survived the first part, so brave to tackle that spider tiff, don,t forget your hand cream, bill took the albatross to work lat sat, going well, battery is not happy, have fun, mum, bill

  mum , bill Apr 14, 2008 9:30 PM

2

Hi there lovely nomad family, I really enjoyed meeting and talking to you, and am so in envy of your amazing opportunity of adventure and your incredible talent in bringing to life your tale of your visit to Litchfield.
Thanks for your honest account of your experiences,I really enjoyed every bit and am looking forward to following your travels down the road. I am going to forward your blog to my friends and family as Im sure they will enjoy it as much as I.
Take care and safe travels

Jules
(Litchfield Park Ranger)

  Jules Apr 15, 2008 9:13 PM

3

Hija all.
Yeah, well done with the spider ...shudder....and the
bitey thing....shudder. Went to Espern tonight to higher the bar for normal people's standards. Succeeded.
Thinking of yous...shudder.

  Katrine Apr 18, 2008 8:22 AM

4

Hi Mum and Bill!
We survived and are still posting! Hope the albatross's battery lasts! Keep taking her out for a fly!

Jules! So totally excellent that you had time to check this out. You were so helpful and I'm happy to have your name (Barraboof!!!!? :D) atached to your circle of good deeds. Thanks so much for the positive comments! Without you there's no post!

Katrine! You are making me afraid of your Espern activity. Do you know what the term 'spotting' means yet?? :D hugs!

  allwelcome Apr 21, 2008 1:56 PM

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