Litchfield // Crocodiles & Waterfalls

I've been back in the UK for over a month now (how sad!) and whilst I've had an optimal amount of time to park my ass down and actually write these blogs I've just not done it. I've had too much fun applying for jobs (ha ha) and trying to catch up with a few people that blogging has been at the back of my mind. I've got a fair bit to go before I essentially conclude my year of travel but never mind, it's good to revisit right? It's good to go back to the happy memories (particularly whilst I'm stuck at home, jobless, moneyless, and bored). Hopefully I'll be done before 2014 wraps up... Hopefully...

So, back to the past.

Leaving Dundee Beach was always going to be emotional – I was leaving behind the family I'd acquired in the 2 months I was there. It might not seem like a long time, but when you're with these people consistently for those 2 months you build relationships like no other. That's the same reason why travelling, as beautiful and enlightening as it may be, is a difficult journey of heartbreak when you leave those newly acquired friends behind. 

Teary goodbyes, a very bad hangover, and an eventful trip back to Darwin involving a car and a radiator that was spewing out water (fun times), I was checking myself into the Youth Shack hostel. I'd never stayed there before, in fact I'd never stayed in Darwin before, but the guy behind the desk was kind and welcoming and we had a bit of banter before I went up to my room. I threw everything in, whacked the now-dead phone on charge, showered, then went out to explore... Sunsets without friends and cider and a long walk to find some food – some uninspiring Pho (even though the setting was nice, the bowl, the colours, the tea, the juice, everything was perfect if it wasn't for the meat that resembled some chewed beef) – and then I was back in the hostel, time for bed. 

Waking up early, jumping in the shower and scoffing a muesli bar (not at the same time, that would be rather odd), I got ready to embark on a day trip to Adelaide River (to go on the jumping crocodile cruise) and Litchfield National Park to check out the waterfalls and go for a little swim. The tour itself was $119 booked from the Kakadu Dreams website and I'd booked about a week in advance with no problems. We got told we were being picked up at about 7am so - knowing how they can either be early or late - I got there a little bit earlier and stood outside. Waiting. Waiting. Still no one. The moment some other guy and myself sat inside we had an excitable man running into Youth Shack saying how he couldn't park and how we should've been on the road (um, we were) but to not worry at all. Okay then!

First stop - and definitely the highlight of the day - was a river cruise down the Adelaide River to see the famous jumping crocodiles. I'd not seen a salty in the wild to this point (which I think is more blessing than anything, I wouldn't want to get in the way of one of those) so I was so excited to see these incredible animals jumping out of the water to grab the bait. We started off with a little briefing and handing out of passes before we had a little walk around the main hut and got told we could handle the resident water python if we wanted. 

We saw quite a few, some smaller than others, until we came across ol' Brutus or Stumpy - he's a 5.5 metre, 70-80 year old beast and so beautiful. He didn't jump out of the water for us, not like the little ones, but he was still so incredible to watch.


A little further down the river and after some of the crocs had been fed (they aren't fed continuously as to not damage their natural feeding habits more so) we came across a beautiful white breasted sea eagle. I couldn't get a good photo but he was also a beaut, sat on his perch. It didn't take long after a bit of meat was hung over the side of the boat for the bird to come swooping down and grab the food.

Okay - it's coming to show that my bird-photography skills are a little (lottle) poor but as I've never practised snapping away on fast-moving objects you can't blame me. The second sort of 'focus point' of the cruise was the number of whistling kites in the area. Remarkable raptors - birds that feed on the wing - were circling overhead. The trained croc-feeders then proceeded to throw little scraps of meat into the air for the birds to come swooping down on both sides of the boat.

Once disembarking the boat we all huddled back into the van to head towards Litchfield National Park. The first stop was to see the termite mounds, both cathedral mounds and the incredible magnetic termite mounds.

 Whilst the cathedral mounds are remarkable in stature (imagine them to be like icebergs where the majority of their surface area is actually under the surface) the magnetic mounds were just something else. Imagine a plain of these thin yet wide structures, hundreds dotting the grounds, all of them facing the same direction. This is the termite's method of thermoregulation. I believe (if I remember rightly from what our guide was saying) they can survive at only 30 degrees C. Now, this is the Northern Territory. It's hot. The idea is that when the sun is at its hottest - midday, when it's directly above the mounds - the surface area is at its lowest. Incredible huh?

We jumped back in the car and headed further into Litchfield National Park towards the first stop (and swim point), Wangi Falls - 'women's business'. As I understand from Aboriginal culture (that I've picked up, I honestly don't know an awful lot) there were places reserved for men's business, and women's business. This was an area for the women. It was against their beliefs for a man to know what the women did (and vice versa) at these areas. So... We don't know what activities they pursue here. 

It really was beautiful, albeit a bit busy (you can't really tell from this photo - people were either under the falls or by the shore). It was quite eerie swimming out as the water is that murky and you know that there are freshwater crocs in there but it's a nice little experience anyway.

We dried ourselves off and jumped back in the van towards the next swim spot - Buley Waterholes. This was lovely but again, busy. I met a lovely couple at Wangi who funnily enough knew some of the same people that I did back home (small world, hey?) so us three went to the bottom pool and chilled out for a little bit.

Returning back and after some fruit we hit the road again towards our last top - Florence Falls. We were only there for a few minutes which was a shame as it was beautiful. I wasn't sure whether you could walk to the bottom or not but as it was already getting late in the day and we had to return to Darwin we couldn't stay longer.

Excitingly (at least I thought so!) as we were heading back to Darwin our driver slammed the breaks on the van and came to a stop, exclaiming that there was a frilled neck lizard in the road. I didn't get a photo but we saw the little bugger scamper off into the distance utilising its iconic running skills. You know the one, they run on their hind legs, well documented on nature programmes. Apparently this was the first one he'd seen that year!

Returning back to Darwin, tired but yearning for another adventure, I went for a walk in the evening to try and hunt down some crocodile (in restaurant form, of course). Unfortunately I ended up going round in circles and ended up walking up and down Mitchell Street looking for some more food. I didn't have much money and with a very early start the next day I just needed something to eat that wasn't going to take all night. I settled (after walking past it a million and one times) for a restaurant next to the hostel. It wasn't really all that fancy, in fact looked a bit outdated, but meant I could have a fairly nice meal for less than $15. Win win. 



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