We landed in Darwin during the first rainstorm in 155 days. It is the end of the dry season/beginning of the wet and is very hot and humid even after some acclimatization in Bali. I was so excited to be in Australia – it is a country I’ve always wanted to visit and my expectations are high for this part of our journey. Our first week didn’t disappoint!
Our road trip began in Litchfield National Park. Our first stop was to see row after row of Magnetic Termite mounds. Found only in this part of the world, the slab-like mounds are built in a north-south direction to minimise the internal temperature of the mound. It was a sight to behold, and reminded us of rows of gravestones. The more common Cathedral termite mounds are equally as impressive and are scattered around the landscape wherever you go. We saw plenty that must have been well over 4m tall.
We arrived at Wangi falls in the heat of the day – a perfect time to cool off in the clear pool underneath. I admit we were all slightly apprehensive as freshwater crocs (apparently more afraid of us than we should be of them) live in the region and a number of large-ish spiders were hanging overhead, but all was good. We thoroughly enjoyed our swim in this beautiful spot. We then dodged a big rainstorm and walked to the bottom of Florence Falls before ending the day with a dip in Buley Rockholes where we were excited to see huge wild cockatoos in the surrounding trees.
Our bed for that night was at Batchelor Butterfly Farm – probably the highlight of the day for the children as they got to feed the resident bunnies, pigs, goats and ducks. It was a happy, hippy-ish place with the farm and a butterfly house. The girls are still asking to go back.
Next stop was a night in Katherine before a dawn cruise down the incredible Katherine Gorge, in Nitmiluk National Park. I was very excited to see my first wallaby bouncing across the road on our way there! Ellie was excited to see the trees by the boat dock teeming with bats, and we also spotted our first kookaburra. The gorge itself is breathtaking and the colours of the rocks looked stunning in the morning light. We saw a freshwater croc, a wallaby and some lovely little ‘Fairy Martin’ swallows building their bottle-shaped nests on the roof of a cave. We had intended to kayak in the Gorge but in hindsight the cruise was probably a better idea as temperatures were reaching 40degC by the time we left at 9am.
From Katherine we drove to Kakadu National Park where we spent 2 nights. Due to budget constraints we rented a 2WD car which meant we were restricted on the places we could visit, so we were happy we had visited some waterfalls in Litchfield.
We used our time in Kakadu to learn a bit more about the Aboriginal people. We joined the excellent (free) 2-hour ranger-led trek of Ubirr Rock at sunset, and the morning trek at Nourlangie Rock, two areas with high concentrations of rock art. We learnt about the kinship of the local tribes, how they get their skin names, their belief system and how they live(d) in this extreme environment. Some of the art and artefacts found have been dated up to 50,000 years old and the paintings are fascinating. Over 5000 rock-art sites have been found in the park so far. We also learnt a lot from the well presented exhibits in the two visitor centres (also free) within the park, described by Aboriginal people. As with Native American history, I can’t help but feel guilty for the actions of my European ancestors over the last few hundred years.
We ended our road trip on our approach back to Darwin with a touristy cruise to see jumping saltwater crocodiles on the Adelaide river. We saw three and a baby. They are certainly enormous and I would not like to get much closer than that! We were also lucky enough to spot one in the South Alligator river, when we just pulled over to have a look on the off chance that we might spot one.
Back in Darwin we stayed in an Airbnb caught up with schoolwork, emails and rest before flying to Cairns. We didn’t even see downtown Darwin…
Click here to check out the rest of our Northern Territory photos.