A Travellerspoint blog

Darwin to Katherine

...via Litchfield National Park, Adelaide River and Pine Creek

sunny 39 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

After and all too short stay in Darwin, we had a drive of about 168km to a very comfortable cabin in Litchfield Tourist Park. On the way down, we stopped at Manton Dam Reserve. The dam was created in 1942 as Darwin's first water supply reservoir. After the war it was opened for recreational use by swimmers, boat folk and fishermen. It also has a lovely forested area which is home to a host of fauna and flora.

View through paperbarks

View through paperbarks

Forest Kingfisher

Forest Kingfisher

Blue waterlily

Blue waterlily

Red-collared Lorikeet

Red-collared Lorikeet

We continued to Batchelor where we visited an interesting, if somewhat quirky, butterfly farm - it's worth a visit if you happen to be in the area but personally I would rather have extra time in Litchfield!

22a93d80-9bea-11e9-a735-19592adfeea3.jpgSome of the beautiful butterflies to be seen

Some of the beautiful butterflies to be seen

Restaurant area with massive tables made by the owner from mahogany logs

Restaurant area with massive tables made by the owner from mahogany logs

Previously, the area had been cattle country but the Townsend family negotiated with the NT Government and in 1986, part of their property was proclaimed a national park and was subsequently enlarged with the addition of other stations. The national park was named after Frederick Henry Litchfield, a Territory pioneer, who explored from Escape Cliffs on the Timor Sea (about 6km NE of Darwin) to the Daly River (222km from Darwin) in 1864 (Wikipedia).

I was still feeling unwell while we were at Litchfield which was a pity as it was one of the loveliest places we have visited on this trip. As the drive down was short, we had time in the afternoon to drive out to a field of magnetic termite mounds - the mounds are aligned north-south, minimising exposure to the sun. Nearby were some huge cathedral termite mounds and clearly these little creatures cope with heat in a different way. Ideally, we needed to be there in the morning for the best light but as things turned out, this just didn't happen.

Parked up by our cabin

Parked up by our cabin

Red-tailed Black-cockatoo just by the cabin

Red-tailed Black-cockatoo just by the cabin

Field of magnetic termite mounds

Field of magnetic termite mounds

bc727120-9bea-11e9-9a0a-1158e1c3bbc6.jpgTwo examples of cathedral termite mounds

Two examples of cathedral termite mounds

Pandanus Palm showing why it is also known as Screw Palm

Pandanus Palm showing why it is also known as Screw Palm

A group of pandanus palms near the termite mounds

A group of pandanus palms near the termite mounds

From the mounds we drove a short way further to Florence Falls, a really impressive set of cascades in a deep valley, strictly a 'segmented waterfall'. It would have been good to get down to the foot of the falls but I was in no fit condition to attempt this at the time.

Florence Falls

Florence Falls

This large rock face to the side of the falls is a safe haven for some cypress pines

This large rock face to the side of the falls is a safe haven for some cypress pines

We then lost a day as I was feeling really ropey and the following day had to go to Batchelor for medical treatment. The medical centre in this little town was very impressive and they apparently benefit from being 'remote' - certainly they are financed better than many urban medical centres we have seen.

Having been dosed up, I was then fit to travel back into the national park where we visited Tabletop Swamp. This doesn't sound appealing but it is a large depression on top of the Tabletop Range which, unlike other areas of the park, relies on rainfall to fill up and usually dries out by the end of the dry season, This is another fascinating area from a geological perspective as well as the beauty of the fauna and flora.

View across part of the 'swamp'

View across part of the 'swamp'

Reflections of paperbark trees

Reflections of paperbark trees

Our last visit in the park was Tolmer Falls where I left Judith to do the walk to the falls as I was really too feeble at that stage to walk more than a few hundred yards. Thankfully, this did clear fairly quickly but what a pity I had to miss out on so much the very special place that is Litchfield National Park.

St Andrew's Cross spider - the things you find on a walk!

St Andrew's Cross spider - the things you find on a walk!

Tolmer Falls

Tolmer Falls

The smallest foothold and trees will grow

The smallest foothold and trees will grow

According to an information board at Tolmer Falls, the falls "...along with many features in this park, was shaped in the 'Dreamtime' when spirit beings in the form of humans, animals and plants created features of the landscape where they remain today." I am probably terribly politically incorrect but, while I enjoy and appreciate many of the myths and legends associated with Aboriginal culture, I find the assertion of some of these stories as fact misleading and irritating. This is only one of many such instances we have come across.

The next stage of our journey was a 314km drive to Katherine. On the way down we stopped at Adelaide River. The first Europeans to explore the Adelaide River were Lieutenant John Lort Stokes and Master's Mate L.R. Fitzmaurice in 1839 while surveying the coast of the Northern Territory on HMS Beagle. They named the river after Queen Adelaide, then the Queen Dowager and widow of King William IV who had died in 1837.

Apart from having a leg stretch, the only reason for stopping at Adelaide River was to visit the impressive War Cemetery. We had heard about this in Darwin as, in one of the Japanese raids, the Post Office was hit and the workers were killed. Their bodies were removed from the danger area and interred in a separate section of the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

Entrance to the cemetery

Entrance to the cemetery

Digger on guard at the entrance

Digger on guard at the entrance

Brass plaques are used instead of crosses, in a lovely garden setting

Brass plaques are used instead of crosses, in a lovely garden setting

We then drove on to Pine Creek for a lunch break. Pine Creek was named in 1870 by the workers on the Overland Telegraph Line who were struck by the number of pines growing along the creek. In 1889, the South Australian government renamed it Playford but the locals continued to call it Pine Creek. Finally, the town was officially gazetted as Pine Creek in 1973!

We ate our lunch in a pleasant little park and noticed some large nests in the trees around us. On checking out, we found these were green tree ant nests, constructed of leaves which are woven together with the silk form larvae. Apparently, although a tree may contain many nests, there is only one queen. I gather they have a nasty bite but am glad to say that they left us in peace!

Green tree ant nest

Green tree ant nest

Green tree ants starting a new nest

Green tree ants starting a new nest

View from our picnic table

View from our picnic table

I had been surprised to find Salmon Gums in the Top End as I thought they were confined to the south-west of WA!

20190522_IMG_5071.jpgSalmon gums in burnt out area and more natural bush

Salmon gums in burnt out area and more natural bush

About 22km before reaching Katherine, we turned off to Edith Falls but did not have much time to explore as we had to press on to check in at Riverview Village, another comfortable cabin accommodation, although nothing flash and not as well treed as Litchfield had been. The falls are actually a cascading series of falls and I suspect that we only saw the last set of falls from our viewpoint in the tourist area, looking across a huge pool, fringed by paperbark trees and pandanus palms.

View of the falls across the large pool

View of the falls across the large pool

The pool flows into the Katherine River and into gorges

The pool flows into the Katherine River and into gorges

Posted by SteveJD 05:46 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfalls trees katherine adelaide_river litchfield_national_park pine_creek manton_dam

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Comments

It's amazing country mate. What are you going to do? With all the Brexit crap & the thought of Boris prevailing you must be tempted to return for good? We have now moved into a retirement village up from Wellington. All good so far.
Kev

by Kevin & Jasmine Thompson

ditto to Kevin T

by Graham O'Riordan

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