As we got ever closer to Darwin there was another National Park to visit, Litchfield.
With daytime temperatures exceeding 30 degrees, Litchfield provides a crocodile safe environment where one can swim and cool off regularly, and often. We stopped in the first campsite with a space just inside the park at a place called Buley Rockholes, set-up camp and went in search of water. We found lots of it!
With limited time we packed the activities in. Driving to the northern end of the park we walked up to the Cascades, immersed ourselves in the deeper upper pools, then worked our way down the creek, trying out some of the many pools along the way.
Wangi Falls was a short drive south, the main camping area for the park and when we arrived the pool beneath the falls was more popular than a local swimming pool. By early afternoon every day tour bus from Darwin had arrived and spewed out its contents into the shallow waters near the car park. Even so it was a beautiful spot, with two sets of falls cascading almost 100m down a precipitous cliff into a relatively shallow sandy lake. To get perspective we walked through the rainforest and massive colony of fruit bats, first, over the top of the falls and back down to the lake. At that stage everyone was sufficiently hot and bothered and needing a swim.
Once again Oscar swam out first to the falls and scaled a few metres up the cliff to find the “spa” pool. With forty toes in the pool it was sufficiently squeezy that all other occupants exited to regain their personal space while we enjoyed.
Hannah had seen the Tomer Falls in a brochure and demanded to see them so a quick walk to the lookout made our final stop for the day. They were impressive though Hannah remained unimpressed claiming the photo she had seen (probably in the wet season) was much better.
Back at camp Xavier, Hannah and I dashed down to the rockholes to check it out. All the tour buses had left, leaving a veritable wardrobe of towels and clothes behind, but we could pick and choose which pool we wanted to swim in.
The next day saw us rise early to swim in Florence Falls, before the tour buses arrived. With our first splashes the tranquillity of the place was dashed and shortly after a sole man meditating on the opposite back of the creek got up and left. Hannah and I grabbed a Geocache moment taking in part of the beautiful walk between the falls and our campsite. And as the first trickle of daily visitors appeared we made our exit.
The Lost City requires taking the 4WD track for about 12km into the bush where you encounter sandstone rock formations that could be mistaken (with a little imagination) for an ancient city. We explored the nooks and crannies, seized another geocache moment and realised that by the time we had finished lunch we hadn’t been in the water for a few hours. This needed to be addressed urgently as it was hot, as it always is up here. Another 4WD track, a bit further in, followed by a 1.7km walk and we discovered the less frequented gem at Sandy Creek. Tjaynera Falls there sprinkled lightly on the rocks at the base and Hannah found a rock to practice her newly-found daredevil cliff-jumping antics. She repeated it four or five times before goading her father into reluctantly copying. Here we also shared the lake with hungry sooty grunter who didn’t hesitate to seize any crumbs of snacks dropped into the shallows by the kids.
Then we met the “Grismacks”, just as we were leaving the carpark. On their recommendation we chose to drive further down the track to see Surprise Creek. I was happy because I knew it meant a Reynolds River crossing and it sounded like fun (long and deep). This swimming hole was three in one, the top two pools being 6+m deep, relatively small pools into which you could jump from up to 10m into. Hannah once again lifted the stakes, and after a couple of lower confidence-gaining jumps, leapt from the top of the second pool. Thinking, “If my 8 year old can do it so can I” was my first mistake. After a painfully long and lonely contemplation of the jump from the top of the cliff I forced myself to go – exhilarating? A little, yes. Scary? Absolutely. Never again? Well that’s what I told myself.
With the day fading fast it was a bumpy rushed drive back to give Amanda and Oscar a chance to enjoy Buley Rockholes before we left. As the sun faded we immersed ourselves one last time in the safe waters of this beautiful park.