Sunday, June 7, 2009

Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park - 6th – 7th June 2009

Litchfield National Park, Florence Falls
Litchfield National Park, Florence Falls Northern Territory Australia
From Litchfield NP

We set off for Litchfield reasonably early leaving all the hardcore campers to cook their breakfast over an open fire back at the springs. Litchfield is well known for its waterfalls and waterholes to swim in… Our thoughts turned back to the ‘Salties’ “Surely people don’t swim if there are Crocs around?” We had heard that Litchfield is croc free.
We arrived at Florence falls and were hungry so did lunch first, then onto the falls lookout before descending to the pool under the falls for a swim. The falls looked great and we could see people at the bottom having a great time swimming “Great we thought we can get out of this heat!” We walked 135 steps down to the bottom and dropped off our stuff, by now there were at least 20 people in the water and having a great time. Heidi said that it was always a dream to go for a swim under a real waterfall. She carefully climbed barefoot over the rocks to the pool edge and negotiated the underwater minefield of boulders to jump forward and swim. I followed and the water was great, it was such a hot day. We swam over to a few rocks in the centre of the pool and sat looking at the falls cascading down from at least 10mtrs right in front of us. I said “well what are you waiting for, shall we go” “if you’re sure?” came the reply. Off we went the 20 or so meters across the pool to what now seemed a very powerful waterfall! When you are under a fall like this water is spraying everywhere and it is very difficult to see. We tried to look up at the falling water, catching mere glimpses of it falling before we had to wipe our eyes once more. We then looked across to the other smaller waterfall into the pool and swam over. Here you could haul yourself up onto a ledge and sit with the water falling on to your head and back. When Heidi jumped up I swam back a few metres… What I would have given for a waterproof camera! The backdrop she had sat there was amazing and I hope I never forget it. Water tumbling from high up off red craggy rock as she sat there laughing, it was awesome!

Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls
Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls Northern Territory Australia
From Litchfield NP

Later in the afternoon we went back up the steps and headed expectantly for Wangi Falls and another swimming hole. We stopped at the lookout over Florence once more and saw a guy climbing the side of the falls and looking over the top of them… remember at least 10 mtrs up! “Surely not we thought” Then after what seemed like an age he leapt from the top and took an eternity to hit the water. It was so high and how did he know what was under him?? He rose safely back to the surface and 2 more of his friends gave it a go – madness if you ask me.
The walk to Wangi Falls was considerably easier – just a gentle slope to the waters edge where a series of steps and a handrail were waiting. On the way down we had seen a sign advising that Estuarine Crocodiles (Salties) can enter the area and to please not swim in the water if the sign advised it was ‘Closed’. This was a little unnerving but the sign said “Open” and there were at least 50 people in the water. We thought that if there was a croc and he were hungry he would sure have eaten by now!! All jokes aside we were sure we’d be ok before entering the water – please don’t any of you worry!
This place was much larger than Florence Fall’s pool, but no less spectacular. There were again 2 sets of falls and we swam to them both. A little further this time (around 35 metres approx). First to the heavy and sprayful one and then over to one where you could haul yourself out – seemed familiar (Which only added to the enjoyment). This time though you could climb up a few easy steps to what appeared to be a little pool next to the falls. We dutifully waited our turn to sample the pool and were rewarded with a little hole no bigger than a dining room table yet over 2.5 metres deep! The water was much warmer than the main swimming hole and had a little waterfall of it’s own. We spent a little while here before letting the next in the queue have there turn and we swam back over to the main sand bank where there were many people enjoying the cool water.
It was at this point that we noticed an Asian girl and her male friend. We recognised her as the person in the little pool before us, she was beckoning her friend to go and have a look at the pool. The swim as I have mentioned was a calm 35 mtrs across to the other rocky side. She swam slowly and unconfidently over and motioned for him to join her. He was shaking a little and then sprang forward into the perfect ‘2 stroke then breathe’ front crawl. Heidi and I looked and thought oh well he must just be scared of the deep dark water… It was not until he neared the rocks and stopped that his problem became apparent- he couldn’t tread water! He was flapping like a dying bird just 2 metres from the rocks where he would be safe. His friend jumped in and ungainly tried to push him to safety. Phew we thought, hope he is ok.

Heidi's Knee Injury
Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls Northern Territory Australia
From Litchfield NP

We were about to leave the cooling waters for camp when we noticed the guy sitting on the opposite bank. He was not interested in the pool but looking back longingly for the shallow waters of the sand bar! Heidi said we better wait to see if he was ok and I agreed.
We waited for what seemed like half an hour before Heidi jumped in and swam across to ask the last 2 people on the opposite bank if they were ok. The Young Asian man immediately said to Heidi in broken English that he was not ok and that he needed help. He said that he was very tired from the swim across and scared that he could not make it back! After a 10 min conversation Heidi had made it known that she was not strong enough to get him back on her own. She had signalled breast stroke and he had agreed to do his best and just keep going.
They set off, Heidi on one side and his friend on the other, it was not long before he was going under and Heidi was grabbing him by the arm to keep him afloat. I (Carl) am not the greatest swimmer and waited anxiously as deep as I could manage holding out my hand ready to pull the guy across to shallower waters. Heidi looked like she was struggling now to hold the weight but they were making slow progress. The guy seemed blissfully unaware how close he was to sinking. Just as Heidi could give no more I was in arms reach and grabbed the guys hand pulling him passed and over to safety.
What a day we had had! Heidi was shaking, telling me that if the pool had been 5 metres longer she would have really struggled - swimming one handed was not easy!! Wow he was a lucky boy!
On our way out of the pool, I sat on the rather high step, up to my chest in water waiting for Heidi to confirm the guy was ok and to come swimming over. For some unknown reason she walked and in trying to get up the step whacked her knee on the very rough almost pebble dashed step. She held her knee and looked in real pain, at first I thought she would be ok, but then on 2nd inspection the cut looked very deep and the visible white flesh was quite disturbing. We had only said the other day that we had hoped to never have to use the first aid kit! My first thought was that it would need stitches 
We hobbled over to the car and decided that antiseptic followed by some of those little strips to hold the wound together and a plaster (Band-aid) should do it – the bleeding was already virtually stopped. We got it done and she managed a smile and thanked me – I will forever be known as doctor Carl (K), just like the legend from Neighbours!!

Enjoying Wangi Falls
Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls Northern Territory Australia
From Litchfield NP

We headed off to camp at the Wangi Campground and found the very last available site in the whole place – lucky for a change! In the morning we went to set off for Darwin and OJ wouldn’t start – Dead battery! In the evening we had the fridge running from both batteries in a bid to keep it cool and we also had the stereo on, OOPS! Luckily our neighbouring camper had seen me try and start the car and was already on his way over asking if I would like a jump start? He said that he had no jump leads though.
It was ok, we are very prepared and I foraged through the back of the car looking for something I thought I would never need! 10 mins later and with half of our possessions on the floor I emerged triumphant with the jump leads and we pushed a very heavy OJ over to his waiting Pajero. She stated first time and we thanked our neighbour for his help and set off in the direction of Darwin via a dirt road shortcut.

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