Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Awed by the outback

Day 2 (Fri, 1 June 2012)

Today, we made a trip to Litchfield National Park. It's not as popular as Kakadu National Park but it's only an hour-and-a-half drive from Darwin city centre and we opted for the shorter journey.

This 1,500 square kilometre park was the original home of the Wagait Aboriginal people. Call me sua ku but when I hear park, I envision green and lush. It was only when we reached the park and I was surrounded by sand and bush that I remembered - we're in the outback and this is desert territory. Doh.

The first attraction we came to was the magnetic termite mounds which provide cool shelter for the termites. Nature never ceases to amaze me.

The cathedral mound is especially majestic. Standing at 5 metres tall, it is home to grass-eating termites. Up close, the mound is both creepy and awesome at the same time.

I will state upfront that I am not fond of insects. They, in fact, terrify me. So I went, "oh, that's amazing!" but stayed a safe distance from the creepy, amazing termites. By the way, I was surprised to discover that these termites are not white. And that they eat grass, not wood.

We then drove on to Florence Falls, one of the many waterfalls at Litchfield. Nestled in a monsoon forest, the falls cascades into a plunge pool where the locals love to swim. This is the picturesque scene from the viewing platform.

To get to the bottom of the falls, you either trek 1 km or climb 135 stairs. We chose stairs.

The pool really is gorgeous and clearly, we're not the only ones who think so as it was crowded. Kids were splashing about, families laid out picnics and couples were just hanging out by the rocks.

It would have been an idyllic scene if not for the abundance of flies. I didn't expect this since it's still winter but in Darwin, even the winters are warm. It was averaging about 30 degrees celcius in the day when we were there. Lesley-Anne was wildly flapping her camera about each time a strong breeze blew a swarm of hapless flies and mozzies in her face. Keke.

As we headed back to the car, I got in, looked down and saw a bug on my pants. A bug with a shimmery emerald green shell and big bug eyes. I screeched so loudly the Litchfield termites probably felt the vibrations, until Kenneth flung it out of the car.

There are other waterfalls and sights only available via four-wheel drive in Litchfield but we decided we'd seen enough of the park. We're truly city folk. Confirm, double confirm.

A quick lunch at Litchfield Tourist Park before we headed back to the city.

Back at the hotel, Kenneth and the kids decided to have a dip in the pool to cool off. The water is cold, even in the scorching heat. Nevertheless, the pool is great. A reviewer on Tripadvisor called it the "Flintstones pool" which I thought was pretty funny. It's admittedly a little kitsch but some outback humour never hurt anyone.

In the evening, we drove to the nearby East Point Reserve as we'd read somewhere that the wallaby colony comes out here at dusk. East Point seems like a high end real estate vicinity, with sprawling seaside homes along the beach. It's a lovely environment with joggers and families taking walks by the pond.

No sighting of wallabies, I'm sorry to say. We did, however, catch yet another breath-taking, sigh-inducing sunset. Glorious.

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