Thanks to Andrew who drove me to my pick up point at 6am, I was readily waiting when my tour bus from Wayoutback Tours came to pick me up. We drove around town some more to pick up other people until we were a group of 19 girls, two French guys and our guide Kel.
He drove us for about 1,5 hours into Lichtfield NP. The roads started to look more like dirt again than concrete. Then, I realized that I had actually missed these outback roads that build an orange red contrast to the sky and that cover the cars and everything in red dust. It’s just an experience you could never have in Switzerland.
We quickly stopped off at a café, where we’d leave the trailer for the day. Then, Kel brought us to Buley Rockhole. It was a clear stream, floating over rocks, building several swimming pools and waterfalls. It looked incredibly beautiful, plus the water was the perfect refreshing temperature. It was a lot of fun to fight against the currents of the waterfalls and then float back to the edge of the pool, where the next waterfall would drop into a lower pool.
Too soon, we had to head back into the bus and then drove to Florence Falls. There was a viewing platform from where the two broad waterfalls looked amazing! The hike down to the pool was an easy walk and probably took less than 5 minutes. It’s definitely worth to go and jump in the water again which shone green against the rock but was crystal clear too. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people there but once you swam out to one of the waterfalls, you were pretty much alone. The view from when you are floating on the back, looking up at the falling water is indescribable. It was possible to swim under the waterfall and have a nice shower. On the sides, the water pressure wasn’t that hard.
Again, too quick we had to hike back up. That was a bit harder in this heat.
We then drove to the Wangi Falls, where we set up for lunch. A chicken burger with lettuce, tomatos and cucumbers. After lunch, we walked the two minutes to the falls. Again, I couldn’t take my eyes off them, they were so stunning!! Amazing colors and this big amount of water! In this national park there probably are some of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve seen.
I realize that here in Australia I say a lot that this is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. So, I asked myself, whether I just forget how beautiful the other places were, whether they are just differently beautiful or whether they really are prettier…
I also jumped into the Wangi Falls pool and again, it was cool to look up to them and the water was green and clear.
Our next stop was a place with many termite mounts and a termite ‘grave yard’. The rocks that the termites are building look like tombstones. When we stopped to observe the plain, Kelly caught a yellow ant with a green tail from a tree and asked us whether we wanted to lick it. It would taste like lime. One girl was brave and so…licked the ant. She confirmed that it tasted sour and so Kel caught a few more ants and we all had a go. It really was quite sour!
Then we had a 2,5 hour drive ahead of us. We picked up our trailer and made the way towards Point Stuart Campground. After the sunset, the bushfires were very well visible and since they all were controlled and purposely laid, we could drive right past them. It looked quite pretty, like thousands on lanterns in the forest.
The campsite really looked like a group camp with cabin tents arranged around a big kitchen hut. So it was actually quite luxurious to share a little house with someone else.
We checked well for spiders and frogs (snake food) and were happy not to find any. Only the mosquitos really were a pain!
For dinner, we had a big and delicious bbq with sausages&steaks, a Greek salad and coleslaw. We were all full after that and ready to go to bed.
During the night, I heard new animal sounds again and wondered which animals they were.
The night was short. At 5.30am, still in the dark, breakfast was served. Surprisingly, everybody got up to eat. Travelling just makes you hungry!
We packed up while the sun was rising and then drove to Murray River, where our boat cruise would start at 7.30am.
We boarded a small boat with about 24 seats and a driver brought us up and down the river in the early morning sun (I was glad brought my sweater; mornings are quite chilly compared to the day).
We saw a few big saltwater crocodiles, a few freshwater crocodiles and even a baby. Plus, there were a lot of birds and water lilies. The two hours on the water passed really quickly and soon, we were back on land, where a fruit platter awaited us.
Then, we drove on to the Mamukala Wetlands, a beautiful wetland bird watch place. There also was an interesting painting about how the aborigines tell the seasons.
Then, we jumped back on our ‘school bus’ and drove on to Jabaru, where we made sandwiches for lunch in a nice park. There were some little aboriginal children playing on the swings. Sadly, these were the first happy aborigines I have seen in Australia.
After lunch, we entered the beautiful Kakadu Nationalpark and drove to a sacred site called Ubirr. It’s a small mountain from which you have an amazing view! On the way to the top, it was like an outdoor museum with ancient wall paintings. We stopped at every spot and Kel would tell us a story about it.
We took our time, so that the walk wasn’t too exhausting, despite the heat.
Back at the start, it was already time to drive to the campsite. We arrived at Cooinda shortly before sunset and had time to swim in the nice pool with a small waterfall and hot tub.
The camping huts were similar, except that here, we had actual beds with mattresses. The one the night before almost felt like sleeping on bare wood.
For dinner, we had stir fry chicken with rice. Such a simple but delicious dish! I have to remember that for home.
Here, the bathrooms were a bit further away and it was quite hard to find the way in the dark. Plus, there were so many frogs and (poisonous) cane toads that you heard a scream by a girl from our group once in a while:)
The next morning, breakfast was at 5.30 again. At 6.45 (unbelievable how much time packing up with a group needs) we were ready to roll. Our destination was Gunlom. To get there, we drove along another 4wd track, which was quite fun with the bus. I even saw wild donkeys, a wallaby and a pig somewhere in the trees. In the golden morning light, everything looked even prettier than during the day.
At Gunlom, we hiked for 20min up a steep path over slippery and uneven rocks. On the top, there was an amazing view over the plain and a little further back, there were pools from a waterfall glistering in the sunlight. Once I walked there, I realized that we were actually standing at the top of a waterfall that fell over the cliff we just had walked up. It was beautiful to swim in the pools. They looked like infinity pools because behind them, a huge wall would drop down.
We spent about 1,5 hours up there but I could have stayed all day!
Nevertheless, we hiked back down and this time, had wraps for lunch. There even was grated cheddar cheese! Not just the slices in plastic foil.
Then, we walked the two minutes to the bigger bottom pool and just relaxed until it was time to drive back to Darwin. After all, it should take us 5 hours to get back. It took us a bit more and so shortly past seven, we were finally dropped off at our hostel.
Quickly, we hurried to Coles to buy some more road trip snacks for the rest of the tour. On the way there, I ran in to two guys I met at Peterpans the other night. That’s the good thing about only having one main street, you run into people you meet again and again. Since it was a Monday, we made plans to go get 5$ Domino’s Pizza afterwards. However, since it was a public holiday for the queen’s birthday, there was a 10% surcharge this time. The evening passed too quickly. I had planned on going to bed at 9.30 because I was so tired and I had to get up at 5.30 again but in the end it was midnight after all. Fault of the good public wifi in Darwin 🙂 But I’ve learned from experience in Australia, that you have to enjoy the wifi while you can and I assume that I won’t see much of that on the way to Alice Springs.
Anyways, exploring the top end was amazing! I could have spent weeks in these national parks. There would be so much more to see but I was really happy with the places we visited. Every stop was a highlight!