Friday, February 6, 2009


FEBRUARY 6, 2009 - 29/103 - DARWIN (DAY 2)

After a solid twelve hour nap, Dick is up by 8:00AM to enjoy a coffee and to work on this blog. Carolyn finally rolls out shortly before 10:00.

Darwin has two seasons: THE WET and THE DRY.


By 9:15, the first torrential rain of the day is sweeping across the area. We have been warned that this will happen off and on all day and to just expect it. Most of the rain is supposed to arrive in the afternoon but we are off to an early start today. While the sky does not clear immediately after the rain, it does brighten considerably and one can see heavy thunder heads off to the northwest and west with a patch of blue here and there.

The deluge is over within five minutes. At the height of the deluge, Dick sees a lady pushing a baby carriage in the Esplanade Park as if the day were still bright and sunny. She is dressed for jogging, the carriage has a minimal covering over its passenger and nobody seems concerned about the rain.

After breakfast, at 11AM, we head south toward Litchfield National Park. It is showery but not bad and the highway is good. For the last stretch on the Stuart Highway, before the turn for the park, the speed limit is 130 kmh; 81.5 mph.

All along the highway are markers for WWII fighter airstrips which were used in defense of Darwin during the war. The strips are right beside the highway and one of them has mockups of period fighter planes on the strip. We also stop at the sight of the Number 1 Medical Receiving Unit where casualties from the area were treated. Nature has reclaimed the area and one would never know it was a major forward hospital for over two years.
The road into Litchfield is lightly wooded with brushy trees and, right now, lush bright green grasses. There are 4-5 months of wet season with frequent floods and the rest of the year is bone dry. There are perfectly flat stretches of the highway with flood warning signs and markers over two meters tall that warn not to enter without checking the flood gauge. We are not sure where that much water would come from and can’t see why this particular stretch of highway would be subject to flooding that extent.We stop at one, very tall, Magnetic Termite Mound and take photos. It is easily eleven, if not twelve feet tall. They are called Magnetic Termites because they orient their mounds north-south for heating and cooling purposes. One field has 40-50 of them but it is starting to rain and so we don’t get a photo of those. Actually, it looks like an old cemetery with weather worn old fashioned, monument style headstones. We stop and walk the 80 meters down to "Buley Rockhole", a series of large pools connected by little falls at the foot of a big waterfall series. There are several couples swimming. This is one of a couple of swimming holes that are free of crocodiles! We then move up the road to Florence Falls. We could have walked the 1.1 trail to the falls, but drove and walked the two hundred meters instead! It is beginning to rain again and the falls are roaring due to all the rain! We head back for the car without getting too wet. Little do we know what is in store for us down the way. The next falls to see is Tolmer Falls. A few kilometers from the turn to the falls, we see a dark wall of cloud heading our way and getting darker and closer by the moment. As we arrive at the parking lot for the falls, it is beginning to sprinkle. The walk to the falls is 400m, one way. We elect to go for it and head down the path. About 100m from the falls, the heavens open up and it starts to rain with a vengeance. We are soaked in moments, so we just continue on to see the falls. Heading back up toward the car, the walkway is running ankle deep in water in some places. By the time we get to the car, we could not be wetter and, naturally, we had neglected to bring a towel.We head back toward the park entrance in driving rain that comes in swirling waves of water punctuated by moments of no rain at all. It is 60+ kilometers back to the Stuart Highway and it takes most of an hour in the heavy rain. At places, the water is now over the road but not to the point of danger.

We finally run out of the rain but it is a wall of dark cloud behind us and moving our way. We stop at the Didgeridoo Hut and are pleasantly surprised to find authentic aboriginal art and crafts as well as a three month old "Joey" (a baby Kangaroo) that is being raised by the owner. The mother was hit by the train nearby and the rangers brought the baby here to be nursed. He is a friendly little thing and likes to have his ears rubbed just like a dog.
Still wet, we arrive back at our hotel with the dark cloud of rain still in the south and southwest heading for us. Fortunately there is a washer and drier in our apartment and we begin to do laundry immediately after walking in the door. Carolyn begins to pack for our move to "The Ghan" tomorrow morning. As we work on our projects, the rain catches up to us and our room’s patio is deluged with a flood of rain so thick and heavy that we cannot see the harbor waters 100 meters in front of us. We treat ourselves to dinner in the hotel restaurant and are pleasantly rewarded with a very nice meal of tempura coconut tiger prawns, steak, garlic mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables and a trio of ice creams with a poached berry sauce. While eating, three waves of driving rain and wind assault the glass doors to the restaurant. The glass doors do not fit well at either the top, bottom or middle and the wind howls through the gaps in the glass. Rain has been blowing under the doors and towels are on the floor against the doors but the wind is so strong that it blows the wet towels back from the doors. In Texas, we would be placing plywood on the windows and running the bathtub full of water but it does not seem to effect the wait staff at all.

We return to our room, finish packing for our move to the train and set our alarm so as to be ready to be picked up by our complimentary transfer at 7:45AM tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow we begin our two day trek through the Red Center on The Ghan.

1 comment:

Orlando Vic said...

Hi Carolyn-
Thanks for the very detailed info on Darwin and surrounding area.

I am wondering why you opted to rent a car and explore Litchfield NP on your own instead of a group tour with APT, AAT Kings, etc. Was it for maximum freedom and flexibility?

Any plans to visit Kakadu?

Also, in hindsight, would you still visit Darwin and surrounds again in The Wet, vs. later in the year?