The Top End

A Capital Time

No tour of Australia’s Top End would be complete without visiting the capital city of the Northern Territories, Darwin. Named after Charles Darwin, but ironically Darwin never set foot on that part of Australia. Yet, this hasn’t stopped Australians from naming a university and a national park after him. Admittedly, Darwin is a pretty important historical figure and did visit Australia on his trip around the world, so a little leeway should be given.

The city itself is nothing outstanding as cities go, but it did hold a few treats for us weary travelers. First and foremost, it provided us some much needed rest and reprieve from the swelter heat that typifies the weather of the Top End. Reprieve came in the form of a room in the house of a woman named Ursula, through Airbnb. She lives with her daughter, a roommate, and much to Christina’s and my delight, a female Australian Bulldog and her puppies!

Christina with Victoria and her puppies
Christina with Victoria and her puppies

 

Christina and Matilda
Christina and Matilda

Ripping Christina away from the puppies was difficult, but we did eventually get to explore the city. One of the major tourist attractions is the Mindil Beach Sunset Market. From time to time extremely touristy things live up to their hype. The sunset market was one of those times. The sunset market has the feel of an american county fair, but as you make your way down “food alley” you notice that instead of cotton candy and deep fried everything, you find samosas, chicken satay, fried spring rolls, and fruit smoothies. Obviously, Christina and I were happy has kids in a ball pit. The rest of the market is filled with booths selling the usual handmade jewelry, paintings, photos, boomerangs, assorted nic-nacs (or x if your Australian) all with an very aussie twist to it.

Mindil Beach Sunset Market, complete with fire juggler
Mindil Beach Sunset Market, complete with fire juggler

One of the truly stunning things about the sunset market was not just the awe inspiring sunset, but the shear number of people who populate the beach during this daily event.

Mindil Beach, complete with tourists
Mindil Beach, complete with tourists. Busiest beach we’ve been on!

Litchfield National Park

After resting, playing with puppies, and washing the car it was time to hit the road again and head south to complete the Savannah Way. As we headed south we made a few stops along the way. The first of our stops was at Berry Springs. Yet another warm water river that flows in the Norther Territory much like that of Bitter Springs previously mentioned. We enjoyed a refreshing swim and lunch, but in our relaxing we failed to take a photo. But Darwin and Berry Springs were just warm ups to the main event: Litchfield National Park.

As you might have noticed, water has played a central theme in almost all the places that we visit. Either wading in the ocean or playing a spring, but nowhere has water played a more central role in our day to day activities than at Litchfield. Water and the effects it has on the landscape is the main attraction for Litchfield and you’re extremely happy it’s there since the weather requires you to have access to cool refreshing pools of water.

Litchfield has about six major attractions and we did them all. On the first day we setup our tent at Wangi Falls, but drove up the road to Walker Creek. To get to the swimming area at Walker Creek you have to hike about a kilometer and a half up a small incline. The hike alone is worth it complete with a boardwalk and really cool looking palms.

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Christina on the way to Walker Creek
Christina on the way to Walker Creek

Our next stop that day was at Cascades. At Cascades you have the option of either going to the upper falls, a hike of about two kilometers return, or go to the lower falls, about one and a half kilometers return. We were feeling a little lazy at this point and decided to do the shorter of the two hikes. We were not disappointed.

Cascades, with Christina flailing
Cascades, with Christina flailing

The next day we lounged around at Buley Rockhole and splashed around at Florence Falls. Buley was by far my favorite part of Litchfield.

Buley Rockhole, crawling with peoples
Buley Rockhole, crawling with peoples

As you can see from the photo the river has cut away at the rock creating a staircase platform effect leaving small deep pools of water to swim in at different levels. This was by far one of the most popular places in the park with people all over the place, but not so crowded that you couldn’t find a spot jump in and cool off.

As the day started to warm up we decided to walk to the next swimming area at Florence Falls. But before we got to the falls and the plunge pool below Christina spotted, I don’t know how, these really cool harlequin beetles.

Harlequin beetle. Stunning!
Harlequin beetle. Stunning!

Florence Falls didn’t disappoint either.

Florence Falls
Florence Falls

Another very popular area and for good reason. The water’s a bit cold, I could only be in for short periods of time, but very refreshing after our hike out to the falls. One particularly interesting thing that happened while we were there was that a few people climbed to the top of the falls and jumped back down to the plunge pool. If I were to guess, I would say that the height of the falls was about 13-14 meters or about 40ft. This all wouldn’t have been that interesting except that the rangers came by and gave all who were involved a very stern lecture about how jumping from rocks was not permitted. Luckily the climb up to the top of the falls looked too difficult, so I avoided being one of those being reprimanded.

On our way back to the car we saw the dried up corpse of a Cane Toad.

Cane Toad, extra crispy
Cane Toad, extra crispy

We should mention here that cane toads are invasive and are considered a menace since they endanger local wildlife who try to eat them (they eat everything and they’re toxic). So don’t feel too bad about this dried up toad.

The next day we started making our way south once more, but not before we finally explored the falls around our campsite. Wangi Falls had a beautiful plunge pool where we swam around for a bit and had a surprise for us in the form of bats!

Fruit bats hanging around, sleeping. There were hundreds!
Fruit bats hanging around, sleeping. There were hundreds!

 

The next stop was at the termite mounds. Termite mounds usually don’t inspire a lot of awe, but these termite mounds are really quite cool. What makes them interesting is that the termites construct their mounds along the magnetic poles, north-south, so that one side of their mound is always in the shade helping to regulate the temperature within the mound itself. Cool, right!?

Magnetic Termite mounds
Magnetic termite mounds

There were also some giant mounds that stood about 4-5meters tall. So, we pulled over at a particularly large one and took photos in front of it. I’m not a fan of jumptography—but Christina insisted.

Paulie being abducted
Paulie being abducted

The last stop we made before continuing on the Savannah Way was at the Katherine Hot Springs.

Paul soaking in the last of the hot springs on our journey
Paul soaking in the last of the hot springs on our journey

You can’t tell, but I’m actually quite cold during this photo. Who else gets cold in 32 celsius water? No one? Just me?

And top it all off, a photo of me in our home.

Paul in our tent, our home.
Paul in our tent, our home.

Overall, the Top End was extremely beautiful and definitely a place I would visit again if given a chance, but maybe in a different season just to see what it’s like in the wet season.

Next, on to Broome!!!

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