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Kakadu & Litchfield Parks - Awesome!

Darwin, Australia

Another retrospective...

We arrived in Darwin, Australia intent on visiting world-famous Kakadu National Park and perhaps other surrounding parks. We hit an immediate hiccup in that it was a school holiday at the time and many Australians were on the road making a similar circuit as we were. As a result, our “play it by ear” plan ran into some availability issues that put us in Darwin itself for an extra day while we waited for a camper van to become available through Wicked Campers. Two days after arriving, however, we were packed into a –crazily-painted converted van packed with groceries and were on our way to the park.

We made good time (4 hours) and arrived just in time to check out some of the Aboriginal (“Traditional Owners”) rock paintings for sunset. True to in-town warnings, there were many people there, but the park was big enough for our experience not to be hampered by the presence of so many others. The artwork was very cool (ranging from 20-years old to thousands of years old), and the vistas were spectacular.

The next day began with a 9am cruise of the yellow river. Although it was pretty pricey ($55/person), it was very cool. Over the course of 2 hours we saw numerous crocs (from a safe distance and the security of a boat), and a lot of neat birds. It was also cool to cruise the floodplains, which are an interesting geological feature in and of themselves.

We spent the rest of the day touring a few of the other sites of the park, including another Aboriginal painting site, a lookout or two, and a long washboarded dirt road out to our camp area. We arrived there just as the sun was setting and booked it up a short hike to some croc-safe pools at the top of a mountain – gorgeous view, and for the small price of hiking back down nearly in the dark, we got a pretty secluded experience.

On the whole I would say Kakadu was very good, though I am infinitely glad we did it on our own power and not with a tour; otherwise, I think it would really have felt like a ton of driving for some good (but not really spectacular) photo points amongst many other tour groups.

Our next stop was Litchfield Park, another park in the area that’s less known world-wide but was supposed to be beautiful. We planned a climbing stop along the way and successfully made an afternoon at Robin Falls, a small turnoff with some beautiful falls and decent slab climbing (and only 1 or 2 other groups there, none of whom were on the wall). It was fun to do a different kind of climbing and a nice way to break up the drive from Kakadu to Litchfield.

The next day we entered Litchfield, which is most known for its many swimming holes. (Litchfield is more or less croc-safe because its water access is not from the ocean). We drove to several beautiful areas, but more or less made a bee line for our target camping area so we could have some down time in the afternoon.

We had planned to camp for the night at a less crowded pool accessible only by four wheel drive (which our little van supposedly had), but hesitated because it turned out the road involved a river crossing that looked fairly formidable, and our van had no snorkel. After carefully measuring our clearance against the .6 meters that the depth stick was registering, we decided to wait to see if others came by, and within minutes a new Nissan arrived and barreled right through it, then hollered from the other side that he would wait to make sure we made it. Note that there was another croc warning sign, which again seemed “unlikely”, but it was interesting to think about what exactly a contingency plan would entail if we got stuck. Carl put the car in gear and powered right through it though! It was very exciting.

The successful crossing led us then to a camping area with only one spot left (we grabbed it, and then shared with another car that came in a little later – we’re such nice people). We packed up our reading materials and hiked out to the local swimming hole, but found it plagued with flies and much colder than others we’d passed, so after a quick dip and courageous (because it was cold; this one was asserted croc free) swim to the falls, we headed back to camp for some bug repellent and dinner.

The drive out the next morning was also exciting because we couldn’t really get the car into 4WD (or we couldn’t be sure that it had worked) and we no longer had an escort for the crossing. We made it, though once on the other side the car wouldn’t go into 2-wheel drive for a while, making horrible grinding noises whenever we changed gears. Thankfully, it worked itself out though, and we proceeded on to our last Litchfield stop: “Lost City.” This place is basically a big boulder field, and we found a nice traverse that kept us busy for a few hours and left us worked and ready to just drive again at the end. We refreshed ourselves at yet another swimming hole on the way out (this one was sort of a terraced stream), and then headed for Darwin again.

Our last night there was rough in we had to return the van in the morning, but our flight was at 6am. So we slept in the parking lot, which I found nerve-wracking because it wasn’t in a great area of town. It worked though: no incidents, and our taxi showed up on schedule at 4:15 to pick us up. Next stop: the Great Barrier Reef!

permalink written by  GoBlue on August 4, 2007 from Darwin, Australia
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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