It’s the beginning of the Dry in the Top End, it’s the edge of winter and the weather is divine. Litchfield is gunna be crowded! Knowing this is the season for the tourist in the Top End, knowing already that people are out and about, and knowing that Litchfield is a short 100 klm from Darwin and a renown tropical savannah of considerable fame, we were expecting crowds. We however had a plan.
Certainly there were crowds. The primary tourist camp in Litchfield is Wangi Falls and it is a lovely well serviced camp but it is not the experience we are looking for. Walkers Creek, also a popular camp and exceptionally pretty, is designed for walkers and back packers… you carry your gear to your camp but the beauty of the water and surroundings is exceptional. Florence Falls are also lovey with a spectacular waterfall and plunge pool that is much loved.
Water, born of springs and ground flow is the attraction of Litchfield. It is essentially what attracts the growing crowds. The springs, dip pools and plunge pools are plentiful and a welcome relief from the heat of the Top End, the bustle of the city and the pressure of modern living. For this reason we made enquiries and decided on the less accessible of the camps, Tjaynera camp, also once known as Sandy Creek camp was the choice we made, primarily because it is off the tourist track in general. Tjaynera is situated along a 4×4 track and is much less accessible with the plunge pool that is only reached at the end of a 1.7klm rough foot track, but its peace and solitude is unsurpassed and believe me… I could use the exercise of the walk to the plunge pool.
The small campsite has only several well defined allocations for campers and they fill quickly in this season. We arrived just after lunch to find only two campsites left, within minutes these were taken and following travellers had to make other arrangements. Being an honesty box camp… you register at the bollard with the provided envelope and failing to do this can earn you $153 fine per day. Fees are within National Park guidelines at $6.60 pp per day, which is reasonable for a camp that provides basic facilities. Still there are ratbags out there… more about that in another post.
Tin mining was an industry here in the beginning of the 1900’s and on into times where the NT was still very much a pioneering society. The old tin miners hut at Blyth Homestead is testimony to the harsh environment and a delight to visit, as is Bamboo Creek Tin Mine at the northern end of the park. Sluicing the tin ore was an occupation many Indigenous women undertook, often for and with their husbands and pioneering families. Aboriginal men and whitefella’s also found occupation here and it was a good living for many. It is fascinating to hear and read about many of their stories and in season the Ranger will share many of the tales on their information tours.
Visiting the parks attractions is a delight and you can see why so many tour into this region. What was striking to us though was the vast number of European travellers, some in campervans, other in trailers and a few with just their mostly reliable off road vehicles and a pop-up shelter or tent. We overheard some lamenting the lack of Aussies travelling, those under the age of 60… and this made us smile as they forget, as do we, that our population is relatively thin in comparison to other countries and this IS a vast continent where most people are living in our biggest cities and along the east coast. It is not a situation many countries have. In fact vast and relatively accessible wilderness regions, in their season, is not a situation many countries have as well, with the possible exception of Canada in their summer.
Our campup at Tjaynera was extended some as it was such a pleasant camp that we decided to use it as a base to explore from for the extended time we decided on. We also met up with fellow travellers who we had met along the Savannah Way… quite a few actually. All seeking the quieter experience compared to the other park campsites. Like people and like minds often come together.
Plan your trip into Litchfield… it is a much loved park and expect the crowds as the season climbs out of the Top End winter and into the full roar of the summer sun. You can just feel the humidity now… seeping along the many valleys and gorges. Sumer is around the corner and its gunna be HOT one. Time to begin planning our escape to the Tropic of Capricorn.
Jan is an Author and Traveller, you can discover more on her books at Amazon.com.