Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Half-lap Day 41: Litchfield National Park

I was woken up around 5am by an animal noise – I wandered out to find a possum standing frozen near our table, like he was pretending he wasn’t there. I couldn’t see what he’d been eating, but moved some stuff that might have been a problem, then went to the toilet after he ran up the tree. He came back while I was gone and we realised he’d found our bread tub which had a little hole in the bottom, he’d made the hole bigger and was eating the bread through the hole. We put the tub back in the car and went back to bed, I managed to get a bit more sleep, didn’t wake up until about 7.30. The kids were all up by then and got themselves some breakfast before Tony and I came out.

The kids played with their friends again – really lovely kids (from Tasmania) who are interesting to talk to. We pottered around and got ready and were off to the national park by around 9.30. This time we went to Wangi Falls, which I think are the most popular destination in the park. There is a kiosk here and we could have camped here as well. It was the Saturday of a long weekend so we expected the area to be more crowded than when we came out on Thursday, and there were a fair few cars in the carpark but finding a spot was easy. We wandered down to the area near the water and found a spot to put our towels and snorkels and then went closer to look at the view.

Wangi Falls was also two waterfalls spilling into a plunge pool – the falls were much much higher than Florence Falls and the pool was much much larger. It was beautiful. Tony, LiAM and Caitlin went straight in the water (there were stairs to get in here, rather than scrambling over the rocks like at Florence) and Millie and I walked a short way along a board walk to a viewing platform where we could see the falls easily without being in the way of people getting in the water.

Wangi Falls
We went back and joined the others in the water, and swam across a pebbly/rocky part of the pool to a sand bar in the middle. I couldn’t quite stand up all the way so Millie hung on to my back while I swam her over. Our Tasmanian friends were there too, and we could see the dad and one of the boys over at the base of one of the waterfalls, and Millie said she wanted to go into a little pool that was over there. I wasn’t sure what she meant so Tony and Catilin swam over to check it out. Tony came back and said it was a good place to go, and he swam back over with Millie on his back. LiAM and I went to shore to get our snorkels, then swam all the way over – it was over a fairly deep channel, and I held on to LiAM’s hand as we swam and we were both confident doing it that way (he wasn’t sure he could make it all the way on his own, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be OK with him on my back). Once we got to the base of the falls we climbed up the rocks a little way to join the others – it was a bit scary for me, climbing wet slippery rocks is not something I find easy, and I was also worried about the kids falling in the water. We made it up ok (it was an easy climb really) and there was a deep pool in the side of the cliff face, maybe a metre and a half in diameter, that we all slipped in to and lay back looking up at the waterfall. It was pretty special.

The pool we swam in is in the dark, round patch to the right of the falls, a little up from the base
We climbed out so that others could have a turn in the pool, and sat in the water at the base of the rocks for a while. LiAM, Caitlin and Tony wanted to swim to the other waterfall, so I took Millie back over to the sandbar. She sat on my back while I swam over, and I was a bit nervous about taking her, but with the snorkel it was pretty easy, I didn’t need to spend energy on keeping my head up, and she’s so light that the swimming was not a problem. Now that she can swim a bit, and tread water really well, it was easier too – if she did fall off she’d be able to keep herself afloat until I could grab her.

Back at the sandbar we hung out for a while, swimming around. Millie couldn’t quite stand up so I held her for a lot of the time. We chatted to a lady and watched the others over at the waterfall. After a while we swam back to shore – this time going through a little passage between plants to a different set of steps. It was a little scary as the water at the edge of the passage wasn’t so clear so I was thinking about crocodiles – freshwater crocs do live in these waters and I wasn’t keen to see one quite that close!

Millie and I walked back around to the viewing platform and spent ages looking at all the fish in the water, and across to the falls. The others joined us, and Millie said she wanted to walk up to the rainforest platform. We got our shoes and cameras etc and set off – it was SO cool (temperature wise) in the rainforest, it was hard to believe it was such a hot day. We saw lots and lots of black flying foxes, and the noise they were making was quite loud. It was cool to walk up through the levels of the rainforest and finish at a platform near the top of the trees. Our Tasmanian friends caught up with us at the platform, and some of them were continuing on the loop walk which went over the top of the falls – Millie said she wanted to go too! Caitlin really wanted to as well and LiAM doesn’t want to miss out on what others are seeing, so we all kept going. It was hot when we popped out into the sun, but a lot of the walk was in shade. There was no view of the falls from the walk, it did cross over the creek up the top and that was cool to see, really pretty and then fun to imagine the water spilling over those massive falls in a few more metres. The view across the national park from the top was pretty cool too, although a bit hazy because of all the burning off they are doing.

View from top of Wangi Falls

LiAM and Caitlin had gone ahead with their friends and I tried to catch up with them while Tony came at Millie’s pace – I ended up doing the whole walk by myself which was quite peaceful. It wasn’t a hard walk despite the height of the falls, and we were all glad that we’d decided to do it. Our friends left when we got back, and we all went in for one more swim to cool off before we left. A French guy sitting near us asked if he could use one of our masks for 5 minutes, and he took it out to help him take underwater photos for a while. We waited for him to come back in then we got out of the water and headed back to the car.

I wanted to eat our lunch at Buley Rockhole but everyone was hungry now so we made some sandwiches at the car, and then drove to the Rockhole. The carpark there was quite full but there were spots available. Buley Rockhole is a series of waterfalls and rockholes along the creek that flows over Florence Falls about 1km downstream. It was very cool to think of the water we were swimming in heading over the falls in a short time.

We came in at the Upper Rockholes (and saw our friends on the way out as we were going in). Caitlin had wanted to jump in to the water, and was thrilled to see people jumping in to the first rockhole we came to. She and LiAM went straight over to jump in, and Millie and I sat in the shallows near the top of a little waterfall while Millie finished another sandwich. Once she was done she went into the deeper part with Tony, then climbed out with Caitlin and had a go at jumping in. It took her a little while then she jumped and swam to Tony, and she ended up jumping several times and was quite confident swimming around in the pool, even swimming over to the little waterfall running in to the pool. LiAM and I lay in the downstream waterfall for a while, then started exploring the pool below it and then the next pool. It was deeper at the bottom of some cascades (not deep enough to jump, but deep enough to swim, and the water was very clear). I lay in the cascades (it was like being in a spa) and LiAM swam against the current to get to me, then let himself drift back across the pool, then did it again and again until the others joined us.

We all played there for a while, then walked, slithered and swam further downstream. We climbed over some rocks and got to a pool where a group of Tongan guys and girls had been jumping in – we figured if they could jump in and not hit the bottom then we should be fine. Caitlin jumped in straight away, and I wanted to jump but it was pretty high – maybe 1.5m? and it was pretty scary. I let Tony go in front of me, then Caitlin again, then some other girls and some of the Tongan guys. I helped Millie climb down to where she could play in the water just downstream of the deep pool. I stood on the edge and kept trying to jump then deciding to wait a bit longer. One of the Tongan guys noticed me and said ‘you can do it!’ Eventually, after letting lots of people go first, I stepped down to a slightly lower ledge and jumped from there. It was fun although a little scary. When I surfaced the Tongan guys all clapped for me.

Sitting on the edge of one of the deep pools
Caitlin jumped many times then we moved further downstream, again climbing down some of the waterfalls and getting out and walking around others. Right at the bottom were two deepish pools. The very bottom one had a large rock where people were climbing and jumping – this one seemed a bit more risky as the water wasn’t quite as deep and there were rocks (which could be seen) not far from the jumping area. Caitlin, LiAM and Tony jumped for a while, being careful to land in the right place. I found it a hard pool to swim in, the current was strong so trying to hold Millie meant I had to tread water pretty hard and I kicked underwater rocks, hard, twice. She and I moved up to the next pool which was a bit easier and the bottom was smoother. We swam over and sat on rocks with the waterfall washing over our backs and heads, it was very cool. The others came and jumped in to the pool where we were a few times, having ‘biggest splash’ competitions.

Looking down along the rock holes
Eventually we made our way back up the path to our stuff, then Tony and Caitlin went back to the middle pool for a few more jumps. Tony hurt his knee pushing off for his very last jump. I wanted to do one more jump so jumped in to the pool right at the top where Caitlin and Millie had first started. It wasn’t as high as the middle pool so I found it much easier. Caitlin did a few more, and we watched some German guys doing fancy jumps for a while, then we headed back to the car.

The top pool (with me in the water after jumping in)
On the way back we stopped to look at the magnetic termite mounds – they are all built in a north-south direction so that there is always one side in the shade. I hadn’t seen mounds like this before, and there were huge fields of them – so incredible. There were lots of the cathedral mounds as well, we’ve seen them all over the place but they are getting big up this far north. Millie was fascinated by the termite mounds and took a video of them and the information display with her ipod.

Millie and termite mounds

I drove home because Tony’s knee was too sore. The kids wanted a swim in the caravan park pool so we had a quick dip as it was nearly 7pm, which is when the pool closes. The kids had showers and I cooked some rice noodles which we had with mayonnaise and tuna, then we got ready for bed and read for a while before crashing.

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