Spent the night in Alice Springs..not a lot here and I think a night was about right. We were getting picked up at 6.30am to begin our epic long drive to Darwin. Sina was the only person to continue the tour so she waited with me at the hostel gate. The bus turned up a little late and John our guide introduced himself. We piled on the bus and met the other people joining us on our road trip. There were 6 of us; Sina, Nicole, Kathleen, David, Inga and myself. I hit it off straight away with Kathleen and Nicole; just easy to talk to and both funny and easy to laugh. Already I feel the difference in the group.
Now just so you know these next 3 days were mainly driving filled with reading and listening to music..not as action packed as previous but those places we did stop at were good to see all the same. The best bits I think and worth writing about were the Tropic of Capricorn; a marker of the point at which the temperate zone turns tropical, I thought that quite cool crossing into the tropical heat. Next to cool off was a huge reservoir...a big great dirty lake with a slimy floor and a muddy odour once you disturbed the water. Took a while to get rid of the smell and I swear my shorts have never been the same colour since haha. That place was better to get to know the people I was with; Nicole and I just talked and messed around with stones making our very own red centre. Just funny to play off one another and have stupid laughs. The next and last stop of the day was definitely the best. It was called the Devils Marbles and was named so by shepards who herded their flock in that area. A shepard would rest at this spot for the night as it was a good source of water and in the morning the men would wake up to find half thier flock dead in the sun. Over and over shepards would come and sheep would die. The unique rock formations of circular stone on top of eachother and sometimes even balancing was created over millions and millions of years of erosion...either 1.6 million or billion I can't remember which haha. Anyway their shape and sheep losses earned them the name Devils Marbles. Little did they know the cause of death was a small poisonous plant that grew amoungst the rocks!
After some funny photos within the rocks and poses which you can probably imagine we were soon back on the road heading to our first camp site; Banka Banka station. I read a little hoping to finish a chapter of my book LOTR's, walked up the hill to see the sunset and check out where we found ourselves. At the top the sunset was nice, the sun very bright even in its remaining minutes. Turning around to look behind all we could see was endless bush...we're in the middle of nowhere!
We had a hot dinner before grabbing our swag bags to star gaze in the pitch black sky. There were a vast amount of stars shining here and the girls kept on saying "shooting star" every two minutes but I couldn't see any! It was either my bad night vision or my shocking peripheral vision haha...Eventually though I did see one or two (could have been a plane haha!)
The next day we were up early and back to driving. We stopped off at Daly Water's pub; the oldest pub in the Northern Territory, for a beer and a bite to eat. They even had a small pool there which was great..nice to jump in and cool off! Definitely miss that ocean sea breeze and strong winds of the coast!
We made one or two more stops not really worth a mention but soon we came to the Pink Panther, our accomodation for the night. Once we got there we jumped on this really old train driven by an even older man haha. It was a tiny track, a little old yellow train and a make shift trailor. Looked fun!
We set off down the railway over a bridge and through the bush. I don't really know why we were on it and once at the end we just went back in the opposite direction...As we began our return trip though a bar from the makeshift trailor stuck in the ground stopping us dead! Can you imagine if it fell off at full speed?! Probably would have been an epic accident! They fixed the problem with a coat hanger haha. Well anyway it was good fun!
Back at the Pink Panther there was even a little zoo. Colourful birds, turtles, even a salt water crocodile...feeding it chicken it leaped up and snapped its jaws to claim its dinner...got up suprisingly high!! There was two cute wallabys aswell, they were tame and used to human company so you could get up close for a great photograph. Come evening we went for a dip in the plunge pool, a bit of a water fight and then decided where we were sleeping...Hut or Swag? The further up towards Darwin the more mosquitos...ah Swag it! It's probably going to be my last chance to sleep under the stars.
Despite the increase in bugs I slept alright. Felt some on me so I was up a a few times but otherwise it was ok. This was my last day before Darwin and the stops along the way were Bitter Springs and Katherine's Gorge. First Bitter Springs; we changed into swim stuff and then stepped in. It was nice, not too hot and cold enough to be refreshing. You could float all the way down to the end with your head under the water. Was nice to just let the current carry you along its length not having to move a muscle.
The second stop was really good too. Katherine's Gorge! It was a canyon filled with water making it a good kayak trip at the bottom. Only Sina, Nicole, Kathleen and me wanted to do it so we paired off- Sina and me, Nicole and Kathleen...I think I got the raw end of that deal!! Sina could only paddle on the left side and even that was rubbish! I did all the work and by the time we reached the far end my shoulders were aching! We chilled at the beach for half an hour (so I could recover haha) and after some photos made our way back. With a tail wind it was a little easier but still I felt the burn...about time I did some exercise! My arms are going to be beasts if I ever paddle with Sina again haha!
At Katherine Gorge we ate dinner and then sped down the highway to Darwin. Darwin wasn't really what I expected to be honest. It was a length of road jammed with pubs and bars and little else; not much to do here except party and get drunk! We checked into a hostel, got changed and then headed to a bar for a few farewell drinks. Nicole and Kathleen were doing their own thing around Darwin but would still be here when I got back and only Sina continued the tour. Anyway the Monsoon bar was good, we got a few beers in, ordered food, danced, laughed and then eventually said goodbyes. It does make all the difference having a smaller group, almost like a little family; there's a better chance to get to know one another :)
The next day after the party Sina and me were up early again to catch our third and final Wayoutback bus. We were going to spend two days in Kakadu National park and then another in Litchfield..
We waited outside the hostel and right on time a monster of a truck pulled up to pick us up. Luke was our driver and he was a homegrown Aussie from the Northern Territory. We picked up a few more people at different hostels and soon we were all set to start on our way to Kakadu. On the bus it was a smaller group once again; there was Sina, Richard, Bron, Marcel, Inga and me. It appeared that we'd done well too, managing to get a free upgrade to a better "top end" tour! Sweet!!
With a quick stop off at the Kakadu National Park sign our first major stop was a place called Ubirr. This was a pretty cool walk up some rocks to an old Aborigional settlement. The cave drawings there were awesome; they went into so much detail of shape and anatomy of all their different food groups I was very impressed. Very suprised at how accurate and precise they were. So much detail! Up at the top of the rock after a short climb it was an incredible 360 degree view. All around the entire surface was deep lush green, filled with trees or some boggy wetland. It was strange to move from the barren desert of the red centre to the green tropics of Darwin...such a drastic change in climate and landscape.
From the great wetland view of Ubirr we hopped back on the truck and drove to Maguk. Maguk is a secluded pool at the base of a waterfall but also there are rock pools higher up the mountain. Luke led us up to those higher levels and there we jumped, dove and swam within the privacy of the rock. It was great, we were the only ones here...it was our own private plunge pool. Awesome!
From the pools at the top we walked down to the lake at the bottom. This was funny because everywhere we walked there were crocodile warning signs to the risk of death. Cheers for that..makes the prospect of swimming very appealing! What made it worse was the fact that again we were the only ones here, it was a huge lake dark and ominous surrounded by high cliffs at either side, a waterfall at the far end. Luke told us that the rangers check for crocodiles every week but who's to say if one swam in mid week haha! Despite a little nervousness I was first one in...phew no attacks came! Swimming over the deep water to the waterfall was a little disconcerting but the water was calm, cool and the waterfall massaged our shoulders as we swam underneath. A really nice spot and I think I'm going to love all the rivers and waterfalls of Darwin.
An interesting little fact though; of all the crocodile attacks in the Northern territory and Queensland 80% of deaths are people from Germany! Scientists in Sydney are trying to figure out why Germans are getting attacked..Maybe they taste of schnitzel? Or just because there are so many Germans here than anywhere else haha! Crazy! If ever introuble with a crocodile stand near someone German and you're safe haha!!
From here we went to our first camp ground, Gagadju lodge. The rain had begun and black clouds were looming. The camp itself was good, private tents with beds inside and there was even enough facilities for a hut each if we wanted :). After dinner that's when the rain and thunder and lightening started. Going to sleep with that going off was like sleeping through a battle; was awesome though, the whole camp lit up like day in a split second...An epic way to end the day that's for sure!
The next day was the solar eclipse. Unfortunately for me we weren't in a good place to see it, really disappointing but hey maybe next time whenever it comes again. From camp our next port of call was Gunlom...this was one of my favourite places because walking up a mountain with great views at the top there was a series of rock pools supported by a steady waterfall. The water ran off the edge and created a natural infinity pool. So good to swim and relax in the water. Again we were the only ones here and climbing the waterfall to swim the waters above I felt like an explorer discovering a new hidden place- really cool. At the edge of the cliff I couldn't resist, I had to get a naked photo...I've managed ones at the top of a volcano, and on the top of a glacier, thought one at the edge of a cliff would be a good one! Loads of laughs, photo poses and group shots we eventually walked back down. At the bottom, instead of getting in the truck we walked towards the base of the cliff. There was an awesome waterfall and lake at its base. I stood naked on the top of a waterfall haha! Hope no one was at the bottom watching!
We spend quite a lot of time here, swimming around the lake to the waterfall and taking pictures. I'm so glad I've got a 16GB memory card..I've been going mental with all the photos so far! The view was nice; a deep green in the lake, trees guarding the sandy banks while white water thrashed down from the higher levels. Definitely worth a few pictures.
Straight from here we drove across the Mary river to a crocodile tour in the wetlands. Currently Darwin is in the "Build up" season before the downpour, once that arrives, Darwin will look totally different.
Dave was the tour guide and he knew loads about the crocodile infested waters. In the build up the wetlands can get to about 4km across, come the downpour it can exceed 25km! That's a hell of a lot of space for crocodiles! On the tour we learnt about the area around us, the plants that grew there, the mangroves, the birds and ofcourse the crocodiles. We managed to spot two saltwater crocodiles basking in the sun. This is the low season for them aswell, we were lucky to see any! Chuffed to bits I got to see some in their natural environment in the wild.
After the wetlands tour we headed back to a different camp; it was the poshest camp I have ever seen, even the tents had electricity haha. I'd hardly call it camping! After a BBQ we sat around the fire, played digeridoo, guitar and drums while singinf along to tunes. A chilled evening and an early night really.
Well that finished Kakadu national park! We weren't able to see Twin falls or Jim Jim falls because it was closed due to the season. A shame but it gives me the opportunity to come back again I guess.
So my final day on the Top End Tour! Today we went all around Litchfield National Park and our first stop was Florence falls. It was just to the view point for a photograph and then we were on our way again to a different spot. We were meant to stay here for a swim but Luke said there was a better place to enjoy the water!
The place he recommended was called Sandy Creek, technically an unofficial stop but I reckon he knows his stuff so I trust him :) After a short drive down a crazy dirt road and a short walk in the bush we got there. Again we were the only ones here, a quiet secluded two tiered waterfall with dark deep water below. I took my camera into the water taking plenty of pictures and even got some awesome ones under the waterfall. A haven just for us we could do anything- really cool. We stayed there for an hour before walking back to drive to our last stop, Wangi Falls...an actual stop on the adjenda haha! We had lunch before the falls and went swimming in the big open shallow water. There were two separate waterfalls each dependant on the amount of rainfall it gets during the season. Being in the build up it was middle flow I guess. It was a popular stop to, there were a lot of people but we still managed to find a place of our own; a hole in the rock big enough for us all to swim in. We couldn't stay in there for long though, it had no grip on the walls and it went down deeper than any of us could reach.. not the most ideal chilled location.
And that was it really! The end of my Top end tour. All that was left was the uneventful drive back to Darwin..Dropped off at the hostel it seemed humidity had increased ten fold! I said goodbye to everyone, checked in to my room and had a much needed shower...I was stil sweating when I came out! Needed another one straight after haha! Once I did manage to cool down I met up with the girls from the three day drive up to Darwin; Nicole and Kathleen. They met me downstairs at my hostel and then we walked to the cinema. The girls had already booked Twilight...secretly I wanted to see it to so I complained half heartedly haha. At the cinema though Nicole just had to shout "look at this guy buying a ticket for Twilight on his own!!" I turned bright red, I was probably the only guy there haha. The movie though was good, better than I expected. It suprised me with the epic battle at the end but once again I embarrassed myself by shouting with shock "It's Seth!!" as he died in a fight! there came my Twilight knowledge haha! After the movie we just chilled a while before they caught a taxi to the airport. A shame to see them leave but I do still have America on my list so hopefully I'll see them sooner than later :)...
And that's pretty much it! Darwin adventure came to an end and all I have now is a few more days until my flight to Cairns. Looking forward to the Great Barrier Reef and my trip down the east coast!
Until then guys, I'll keep you posted!