The weather was still cold at night in Alice Springs when we decided to get further up north. We did a long stretch of 600km from Barrow Creek to Daly Waters to escape the cold asap, stopping at Australia’s home of UFOs at Wycliffe Well. Who could pass up a photo with an alien?
We also did a quick stop at the Devil’s Marbles.
The Daly Waters pub is infamous for its food, entertainment and hospitality. We rocked up about 4pm on a Saturday and checked in at the campground which was almost full, with people already spilling out of the pub and music playing. There is a lot of eclectic memorabilia on the street and in the pub, and the staff were very friendly. With so many people there, many of them apparently newly arrived from Victoria, we had dinner in the van and went to the pub later to see the band and have a couple of drinks. Social distancing was OK with plenty of room between tables. It certainly is a memorable place and no wonder it has such a reputation.
We had heard from a few people that Bitter Springs was better than the close-by Mataranka Springs, which is also famous for its thermal pools. We stayed at the campground at Bitter Springs for a couple of days. Sure enough the naturally warm turquoise creek with sandy bottom is unbelievably beautiful, although you do have to walk about 500m down the road from the campground to get to it. You take a floating foam noodle and just drift slowly about 200m down the creek, and then walk up to do it again. We had to check out Mataranka Springs as well so we could judge for ourselves which one was better, and have to agree that Bitter Springs gets the gong from us and is a must-do. The spring at Mataranka is lined like a swimming pool, and smaller, but it is inside the camping ground.
Bitter Springs was hard to leave, but we moved on to Katherine Gorge and did the 2 hour Nitnit Dreaming boat tour. It was great, the tour guide was entertaining and we saw a couple of freshwater crocodiles, but we still wished we had done the canoeing instead and taken more time to enjoy the gorge for ourselves.
Another must-do for anyone visiting the NT is Edith Falls. We again arrived about 4pm, and despite the roadside sign at the entrance saying the campground was full, we asked at the kiosk and got a small site, probably the last one. Thankfully we can fit anywhere! The lower main pool has a small waterfall but the pool itself is huge – possibly at least 20 or 30 Olympic swimming pools in surface area. The walk to the Upper Pool and to Long Hole are worth every step, with smaller pool areas but more waterfalls. This is paradise found.
There are a few marked differences once you cross the Tropic of Capricorn into the Top End. The weather warms up both day and night by at least 10 degrees, and the vegetation starts getting taller and greener. But what really gets taller are the termite mounds. What were many crazy little mounds that populate dusty fields and roadsides in the southern NT, are now, near Litchfield National Park, giant termite mounds that can be 3m tall or more, and others that remind us of tombstones.
The main attractions in Litchfield NP though are the waterfalls and swimming pools. Yes more of them, but thank god because by now the temperatures were 32C and higher in the afternoons. People come down from Darwin 130km north, to visit the Florence Falls plunge pools, to cool down. I counted the 135 steep steps up to the Florence Falls campground from the pool several times while we were there. Somehow it helped to make the climb bearable, and I was reminded of being able to do a gym workout for free. Despite the heat, we had a campfire so Mark could make bread and I made banana bread with the overripe bananas we had to use.
Our final stop in Litchfield NP was at Wangi Falls, which was the easiest to access from the campground and probably the most popular with a kiosk and picnic area. There’s a short walk around the monsoon forest with bats hanging from the trees.
It surprised me that we still did not have Telstra reception in Litchfield NP. There is free Wifi at Wangi Falls, but it is time and data limited and didn’t last the one video call I made with Emilie our daughter. I can understand not getting phone reception in some of the more remote places, but not here where a lot of Darwin locals come to cool down for the day. Telstra – lift your game. We need to upgrade our phones soon, and will seriously be considering other carriers even though we’ve been loyal Telstra customers for decades. Whinge over!