Friday, July 29, 2016

Final Sights to See: Litchfield Falls

We are at the top of Australia in Darwin, the
capital of the Northern Territory (NT)
As we began to wind down our inland tour, our final exploration was to the southwest of Darwin. The bus trip was shorter than the one to Kakadu National Park. The natural features of Litchfield National Park are its monsoon rainforest, stunning waterfalls, termite mounds and historic ruins. The area is home to the Aboriginal Wagait people and was formerly a tin and copper mining center. Many of the areas are only accessible during the dry season and by 4x4 vehicles. Note: there are only two seasons in Australia: wet and dry!

Throughout Australia, we have seen huge termite mounds. Most of them are built on the ground, although we have seen a few of the type built in the trees. These mounds are somewhat like ant colonies as there is a queen and her “soldiers” and the workers. A cross-section of a mound shows a very sophisticated structure inside.

This is a Cathedral Termite Mounds
Many of the mounds we have seen are built from the soil and are either dark brown or reddish brown. They range in size from a foot high to many feet high. In Litchfield, we saw two different types. The red soil type, known as Cathedral Termite Mounds were huge in several places.

Then we were shown the Magnetic Termite Mounds. These are found on the floodplains and stand about two meters high. What is so interesting is that these mounds are orientated in a north-south direction which is different from the Cathedral Termite Mounds.

These are Magnetic Termite Mounds
The north-south configuration acts as a built-in temperature control mechanism. This allows the least possible amount of surface are to be exposed to the sun throughout the day. The termites actually move from one side of the mound to the other during the day to maintain their desired body temperature. Amazing!

Florence Falls

We stopped at three waterfalls and hiked to the best viewing areas. All of them had pools at the base, but some of the falls were creating a dangerous current so swimming was not allowed there. And there is the issue of crocodiles! Between falls, we stopped at a couple of rock pools where most of those on the tour took a dip.

The first falls area we visited was the Florence Falls with its double waterfall set in the monsoon rainforest. It is seen from a viewing platform from the bottom of the gorge, which is 135 steps straight down! Dennis went to the bottom where there was a swimming hole. I stayed on the viewing stand and then took a walk upstream to enjoy the peacefulness of the rainforest. I injured my right hip in the climb to the top of Kings Canyon a few days prior.
This was my peaceful find!
Unfortunately, I missed the note in the travel information about bringing a swimsuit and towel! This park is known for its beautiful waterfalls and rock pools, but I hadn’t done my homework.

Dennis swam in his shorts as they were fast-dry material. Unfortunately, I was wearing cotton capris that would have never dried so I just watched. Although it was refreshing to swim, most of the people said it would have been more enjoyable to have been able to stay longer. That’s the challenge of group tours again!

Even though the water looked pristine clear, you can never be sure of what is in it. One woman came out with blood dripping down her thigh. When she cleaned it off and finally got the bleeding under control, it appeared to have been a leech bite! I guess I am glad that I didn’t go in the water after all.

The next stop was at Tolmer Falls to see the dramatic falls. However, there is no swimming or camping in this gorge as it is home to a protected species of Orange Horseshoe Bats and Ghost Bats. I don’t think I would have wanted to go walking among the trees filled with bats anyway!

Wangi Falls was our next stop. This is a very popular one because it has easy access from the carpark. And because it gives 100 MB of free Wi-Fi! Apparently there were a number of swimming holes within hiking distance as well as camping areas. The mist coming off the falls was very refreshing, too.

The tour continued on the Buley Rockhole, which is a series of small waterfalls and rock pools. It was like a stream flowing down a gentle mountain side with plateaus along the way. There were many people soaking up the sun and cooling in the water of the pools. Although there was no shade on the banks so I didn’t stay there too long. That northern sun is hot! It would have been nice to join the others in the water to cool off.

I suffered from a bad sunburn on my upper lip! It felt dry and was cracking some so I kept putting on lip balm, but realized later that it wasn’t the sun-block type. The dry cracks split open and very sore. I kept touching it unconsciously so I must have introduced some nasty germs, because it swelled up to the point that I looked like Daisy Duck! And it hurt!! It took about two weeks of Neosporin to get it healed – and it wasn’t a pretty sight for all of that time. I will now be much more careful about the type of lip balm I use.

All in all, we enjoyed our visit to the Red Center area national parks as well as those near Darwin. Each has its own unique beauty and interest. I guess I would liken the trip to what one would do in the USA by traveling out west to visit the national parks. These were no more spectacular than anything we have in America, but I am glad we have seen them.

This trip to Red Center and Darwin pretty much wraps up our inland touring of Australia. Unfortunately, we did not have time to get to Adelaide or Melbourne or Perth. Australia is nearly the size of the USA and the distances between cities are huge.

Waiting for the tour bus after a long hot day!
They have great trains and buses as well as reasonably priced flights to get you from place to place, but time becomes the factor when you are sailing with weather windows. So now it is time to finish preparing the boat for the Indian Ocean crossing in September and move up the coast where we will rejoin the World Cruising Club’s World ARC to head toward South Africa.

The future plans with the WARC are to go to Lombok, Indonesia, then to Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling Islands before the long sail to Mauritius and Reunion. Then the final leg this fall will be to the east coast of South Africa and around the bottom in a challenging sail to Cape Town for Christmas.
In January we will be heading across the South Atlantic Ocean with a short stop in St. Helena before landing on South America in time for Carnival in Brazil! And finally, we will be heading back up the Caribbean Island chain to complete our circumnavigation in St. Lucia in early April 2017.

We have mixed feelings: 1) happy to complete the circumnavigation, 2) anxious to have time with family and friends back home, 3) concerned about readjusting to life on land, 4) worried about being bored, 5) missing the adventure of new places, etc. Time will tell!

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