Sailing into Darwin Harbour, our last port before returning home was definitely one of mixed emotions. Being a Saturday and docked close to the heart of the CBD we had decided to take in some sights outside the city. Luke, Louise and the girls set off by bus to Litchfield National Park while Chris, Elisabeth, Simone, Marloesje and David headed off to the Adelaide River to see jumping crocodiles.
After a mini bus ride to the river they were dropped at a rickety old wharf where they then negotiated a narrow gangplank over croc infested water into a small flat bottom boat for their journey down the river. It wasn’t long before they spotted the first of many huge wild crocodiles in the water. The guides dangle chunks of buffalo meat over the edge and coax the crocs to leap out of the water. David was mesmerized by the sheer size of them and how close they were able to get.
Meanwhile after an hour and a half bus trip Luke, Louise and the girls arrived at Litchfield National Park. The park is a huge raised area in an otherwise flat landscape and is predominately a sandstone plateau. In the monsoon season the plateau soaks up and catches a lot of water. This then slowly seeps out through many natural springs that flow all year round into the surrounding plains. Apart from various palms, shrubs, small trees and grasses large termite mounds are everywhere. The two main types are called cathedral and magnetic.
The magnetic mounds are named due to their orientation as they are flat and wing shaped and orientate from north to south to take advantage of the morning and afternoon sun while minimizing the direct heat of the midday sun. The cathedral type is up to 5 metres high and 1.5 meters in diameter. Like ice bergs these structures have only one third exposed with twice as much below the ground surface. The mixture of saliva and dirt that the insects use to build these is so strong that locals collect the disused mounds with tractors and crush them for use as driveways or tennis courts.
After a brief stop at one of the several waterfalls in the park we made our way to one of the biggest waterholes. Fed by a spring and a spectacular waterfall the swimming hole is about 150 metres wide. As well as being home to a population of large native perch which swim around your feet there are warning signs about the freshwater crocodiles that sometimes inhabit the hole. Fortunately local park rangers regularly check the area to make sure it is safe.
After one and a half hours of swimming and sitting under the waterfall we headed to a nearby campsite for a BBQ lunch.
We had been looking forward to a thick, juicy top end steak but unfortunately it was the toughest piece ever encountered and we had to settle for salad and bread.
From here we were back on the road toward the city and after a drive by tour of Darwin city we arrived back at the ship in time to enjoy a sunset over Darwin Harbour with a cold beer.