When Dave told his cousin Peter that we would visit Darwin in July, Peter immediately invited us to join him with a crowd of mates, camping in Litchfield National Park.
Litchfield is only an hour’s drive from Darwin so it is a great spot for locals to head for a weekend.
Anyone that knows even just a little bit about us will have a pretty good idea that we’re not avid campers. In fact, my son Adam suggested to me many years ago that my idea of roughing it was to stay in a motel without air conditioning. I thought that was a bit harsh but as I reflect on that statement now, I reckon he was close to the mark and he knows me well.
Anyway, Peter and his wife Pauline generously offered to provide the camping gear for us, which meant that all we had to do was turn up.
Pauline did mention something about Saturday night cocktails but I obviously didn’t pay much attention, beyond making a mental note to stock up with an adequate supply of gin.
Had I been on the ball, I’d have heard that this crowd of campers traditionally frocks up in fancy cocktail attire to party in true Northern Territory glamping style.
Just as well they’re an inclusive bunch because all we had in our luggage was, for me a scarf, and for Dave a signature loud shirt (those shirts have taken Dave to some pretty extreme places).
I was really impressed by the thought and effort put in to the outfits of the troupe, even the kids were suitably decked out. The local op shops must’ve done a roaring trade that week.
What a terrific soiree, but we didn’t party too hard into the night because the following day would be yet more hiking for us and we weren’t sure how difficult the tracks would be.
No need to worry because the paths were mostly well graded with only a few significantly steep climbs and we were once again rewarded with the most spectacular bushland, views and wildlife.
Crocodiles don’t seem to be as much of a threat at Litchfield as in other parts of the Northern Territory, however the occasional salty gets washed in during the wet season.
After the rains the salties are trapped and moved out but there will always be freshwater crocs around. The freshies don’t generally attack humans unless provoked, but on the morning we wanted to swim at Wangi Falls the area had been closed down due to a teenager being nipped.
We were told a group of visitors had been throwing stones at the croc and it retaliated in the only way it knew how.
Heading along the only sealed road into Litchfield National Park you can’t help but notice hundreds of tall pillars of clay that look oddly like towering graveyard headstones.
These are in fact magnetic termite mounds, randomly lined up with their pointy ends facing in the same direction – north to south, and the broader, flat area facing east-west. Apparently this is so the mounds receive the least amount of the blazing northern sun, and the shape keeps those millions of little termites cool inside, a bit like a refrigerator. Nature’s own clever insulation.
The really tall Cathedral mounds can grow up to 4 meters tall and it can take around 100 years for the termites to build a home of that size.
A viewing area has been created with a boardwalk so we could get up close to the mounds without destroying them and the surrounding area.
We easily got around Litchfield National Park in our little rental car because the roads are so well maintained with lots of accessible car parks. With a 4WD and a few more days we would have had lots more options because there are plenty of off-road tracks that lead to even more bush streams and waterfalls with safe free-camping options. But that will be for another time perhaps.
Anyone that’s ever been to Litchfield National Park will tell you it is one of the most amazing experiences they’ve had. Some people say they favour Litchfield over Kakadu. I can’t say I’d agree with that, they are both unique and magnificent places to visit and I’m so grateful that Dave and I had the chance to explore these lands together.