Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tops off, tools down. Top times with CJ in the Top End

Yesterday we spotted our favourite newspaper headline of the trip so far.

According to the NT News, topless European sunbathers are distracting the people building the new Waterfront development to such a degree that the project is now miles behind schedule.

We've had a great week with Candice in tow. Lots of action and a good chance to show off what we've been getting up to over the last 9 months.

We made an early exit from the Big 4, did a quick bit of shopping and then headed back out to Litchfield National Park, stopping en-route for a relaxing dip at Berry Springs. This time we entered Litchfield on the dirt road from the north and we made our first stop in the park proper at Wangi Falls.

The falls themselves were lovely but the place was absolutely crowded. Heaps of tour buses, and the camp ground was chockers. Luckily our plan was to take on the Reynolds River 4WD track again and set up camp in the southern part of the park.

We left the crowds behind and bagged an awesome campspot at Sandy Creek. The campground was much shadier than Surprise Creek (where we'd stayed on the weekend) as there hadn't been any hazard reduction burning. A half hour walk from the campground was the delightful Tjaynera Falls, and other than an older couple quickly putting some clothes on as we approached, we had the place to ourselves. The water was a bit refreshing for me to get in.

Our first whole day in Litchfield saw us lazing around, playing occasional frisbee, and getting on the beers early.

We had three attempts at damper while we were at Sandy Creek. The camp oven wasn't flat for the first one so the damper was horribly charred on one side. The second one (pictured) at breakfast time was great until Candice had the seemingly good idea to put the leftovers back on the dying coals to keep it warm while we went for a walk. The coals turned out to still have some life in them so that one was charred all over when we got back three hours later. Third time however was the charm, which was a good job as it used the last of our self-raising flour.

Our second whole day at Litchfield we packed up the rooftop tent and headed off for some sightseeing. We'd not gotten very far though before Candice took a turn for the worse and jumped out of the car for a quick spew and a lie down. Luckily she chose a good spot close to a crossing so I could pass on some sageful advice to people taking it on, camera at the ready in case anyone came to grief.

Once Candi had recovered we checked out Florence Falls before it got too crowded but Buley Rockhole was already full, so we headed back down to the 4WD track and visited the Blythe Homestead and then down to Surprise Creek where again we had the falls and swimming holes to ourselves.

A section of the Reynolds River 4WD track.

The obligatory termite mound shot. This one was at least 15ft tall. Apparently the air moving up inside the column provides cool ventilation for the folks living downstairs. Clever little things these termites.

We got up early on Thursday and made for the Buley rockholes before the tour buses arrived. I got a message from work to say I could hold off on what I needed to do until Friday so we then made a quick dash to a crocodile boat tour on the Adelaide River.

I didn't get any pictures of the boat we were on, but it was lot smaller than the one we walked through to get on to it. We had the gun seats at the front of the boat and had prime position to watch the jumping crocodile action. The biggest croc we saw was around 4.5m. And he was only a few feet away from us. Scary stuff.

At the end of the jumping croc tour we were treated to a Whistling Kite feed with them lining up to take turns to sweep down to catch scraps of meat.

These birds have been such a feature of our trip and it was awesome to get such a good opportunity to take some snaps at relatively close quarters.

After the croc tour we dashed back to the world's noisiest caravan park (Darwin Big 4) to quickly set up camp, have a shower, scull a quick goldie, and then catch the bus in to the sunset markets at Mindil Beach. The general merchandise was a bit disappointing and despite plans to spend up big, the girls had to satisfy themselves sampling some of the 1200 menu items available in the numerous food stalls.

I tried to engage the operator of a foot detox stall ($40 for half an hour) to get his explanation of how toxins are supposed to find their way out through your feet to turn the water dirty but he was busy scamming a couple of gullible punters and I couldn't make eye contact. (Pretty sure he wouldn't have been too keen for me to stick my filthy feet into his machine in any event.)

After gorging ourselves on some more snacks we headed down to the beach (along with the rest of Darwin) to watch the sun go down. I googled 'best pub in Darwin' from my phone and once the sun had set we walked up to the town centre to check out 'Bar & Bikini'. The girls weren't keen when we got there and we didn't end up going in. Turned out Bar & Bikini was more Bikini than Bar and also had the 'Honeypot' brothel next door.

Instead we pushed on to 'The Tap on Mitchell' for a few hours of concentrated drinking time and some top people watching.

The girls did some more Darwin sightseeing yesterday and left me to catch up on some outstanding Challenger commitments. Telstra wrecked my day by continually crashing my internet connection and losing my work.

Very frustrating and there were a few other angry punters at the Big 4 who kept dropping by to see if I was having any luck. A crazy lady from two tents down was convinced it was a conspiracy and that Big 4 were 'jamming' the Telstra signal.

She kept repeating the 'jamming' claims despite me pointing out that (i) Big 4 weren't selling wireless access at this park so why would they and moreover (ii) Telstra had confirmed to another punter after 8 phone calls to the helpdesk that there was a problem with our local tower that might take a week to fix.

I finally lost my cool with trying to work around 4pm, sculled a couple of beers and headed in to town to catch up with VJ and CJ at Buzz Cafe - a fancy restaurant overlooking the harbour at Cullen Bay. We'd been pretty disappointed with the last few meals out, possibly caused by the weight of expectation. Eating out is a bit of a treat these days, especially compared to the old four or five times a week regime we'd adopted back in Newtown. Buzz Cafe however did not disappoint and we had a delicious end to the day. Apparently they sell more Barrumundi than any other restaurant in the world. They also have one of those one way mirror urinals in the gents so you can pee against a see through window overlooking other diners. OK in a pub environment but a bit weird in a restaurant.

We reluctantly farewelled Candi at 7am this morning and after stocking up at the book exchange and Woolies we pushed on to the Corroborree Inn caravan park (with working wireless internet) on the Arnhem Highway. Our permit to cross the top corner of Arnhem Land was approved and after exploring some of the local wetlands and a sneak preview of Kakadu we'll be heading up the Cobourg Peninsula for some quiet time. Telstra won't be wrecking any of our time up there as we'll be at least 300km from the nearest phone tower. Peace and quiet at last!

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