Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Camping In Litchfield National Park

We were a bit worried about finding a camping spot at Litchfield National Park.  It had taken longer than expected to pick up supplies in Darwin and we would arrive at the park just as the sun would start to set.  As we approached Mt. Bachelor and its commercial campground, the last stop before the park, we had to make a decision.  We decided to keep moving.  If worse came to worse we could always backtrack to what looked like a typical caravan park.
In less than an hour we began the descent down a rough 4wd road to the more isolated campground at Florence Falls.  Our hearts dropped as we found the bush camp full.  The road made it impossible for caravans to drive in, so we imagined that the campgrounds on the sealed roads would be even worse.  Rather than carrying on to the fully developed campsite at Florence Falls we headed to the smaller one at  Buley Falls.  With fingers crossed we hoped that fewer facilities would mean fewer campers. Luck was on our side and we found two open spots--one next to the long drop and the other right at the campground entrance. Needless to say, we didn't spend the night next to the stinky loo.
The campground was typical for Australia with campsites right on top of each other.  We actually lucked out in that we only had neighbors on one side.  By the end of the night, even though we never met them, we knew more than we wanted about the two drunk girls camped next to us.  All the info we learned about them made it seem as if we were close friends, yet the several times we ran into the girls over the next few days they didn't even recognize us.
We quickly set up camp as the sky turned from yellow, to pink, to orange, a finally to dull grey.  We could hear the running water close by, but decided to save the exploring for morning since we were unsure about the crocodile situation.   As dusk turned to dark an eeriness settled around us. Perhaps it was my fear of crocodiles, or the crackle of the bush fires that smoldered just a few hundred meters away.  Whatever the cause there was no way that you were going to get me to sleep in the tent, and I soon retired to the back of the Toyota RAV4.   
As the first light peeked over the horizon, with coffee cups in hand, we headed down to the water pools.  It turns out that this part of the park is crocodile free and an extremely popular swimming area.  Fortunately, dawn was not a peak time to visit and we had the spot to ourselves.  As we sat next to the river, surrounded by pandanus palms and paperbark trees, with birds of prey circling overhead, I was once again reminded of why I have come to love Oz.  

As we returned to camp we were greeted by the dozen or so other campers slowly beginning to stir.  Not soon after the first cuppa was drunk and the big brekkie eaten, many of our neighbors began to break up camp.  We were faced with a decision--to leave camp set up and stay for another night or to pack it up.  We decided that even though the location was not ideal, we would stick it out for another night.  At the time it didn't seem like a big deal.  In fact, after seeing the croc free swimming holes in the daylight I was willing to sleep in the tent.  Also, we could take a short trail to the longer trail that we planned to hike.  This meant we wouldn't have to stress at the end of the day of finding a place to stay.  To top it all off we could have a riverside picnic that evening.  
Of course things didn't work out as planned.  The long distance trail was closed-- the land it traversed had yet to be declared croc free.  We ended up having to get in the car and drive to another section of the park to hike.  Unfortunately, we decided to leave our stuff at what was declared our base camp--a decision that would cost us a night in paradise...


  1. Hi Maya, it's so much fun reading your camping blogs. The location in your photos looks so beautiful next to the water and especially since it is croc free. I'm looking forward to reading about the lost night in paradise story. And btw, I would've stayed clear from the loo too. :)

    Thanks so much for another great entry. Have wonderful weekend.

  2. I know the feeling and pressure about finding a spot. Don't you always wonder if there is a better one?

    Did you drive up to the top or fly in and rent a 4x4? We've wanted to visit the top but not certain how to do it. Right now Australia is a little too expensive for us (both airfare and land costs) but we still have it on our list.

    I'd be a little afraid of the crocs also. My husband is interested in carnivorous plants and found out that they are in the Cape York area which looked a little to wild for my tastes.

    I'm looking forward to hearing more about your stay at Litchfield.

  3. Hi Kathy, thanks for the comment. The waterholes next to the campground were really beautiful. We were surprised that other people didn't visit them during the off hours, especially since the campground was so close.
    I can't say that I think camping spots next to the loo are great, but I guess some people don't like to make a midnight trek.

    Marta, it seems like we are all ways in search of the perfect spot, and are fearful we have missed something.
    We flew up to the top and then rented a 4x4, because of time. We actually took the train back to Alice, and had done the Alice/Adelaide--so we have crossed north to south by land and it was scenic. Driving would be amazing, with lots to see. The Red Center is one of my favorite parts of Australia, and I hope to get to writing about it soon!
    I've heard that Cape York is isolated, but amazing. A visit would require being very prepared. It is over in Queensland which would be an adventure in itself if trying to access from the Top End which is in the Northern Territory.
    When you are ready to prepare for your trip I am more than willing to share what we have learned in our travels.