Week 18 | Darwin to Lake Argyle

Day 120: Darwin

Our last day in Darwin and it’s a work day for me before we begin to head south and then make our way over to the West. Andrew is tasked with getting the van ready again for another travel day and doing the last minute running around for supplies.

We recently joined Aussie House Sitters and have today been accepted to do a house sit for 9 weeks just south of Perth at Whitby. We are both very excited and appreciative of the opportunity to look after a lovely rural property.

Wildlife: Horses, corellas, frilly lizard.

Day 121: Darwin to Bachelor

The military exercise was in full swing last night with hornets buzzing around up until 10pm. We’ve had a slow start to our day and the van is already to go.

We’re heading for Bachelor which is the gateway to the Litchfield National Park on the recommendation of new friends Tim and Lyn. It’s a short journey today of 84km and we are checking into the Bachelor Holiday Park before lunch time. We have a lovely unpowered site nestled in the rainforest and at $27 a night we are happy with that.

After setting up we have a quick lunch then head out to the Florence Falls. There is a couple of walking tracks to see the falls and I see a sign that says 430m. Great, let’s head that way. Then there’s another sign saying 135 steps down to the waterfall. Oh well let’s do it, we’re committed to the walk now! Going down was the easy part. I was dreading having to climb back up all those steps. The reward at the bottom is spectacular with an amazing swimming hole right under the two cascading waterfalls. There is a bus load of people swimming and I can’t resist getting in as well. The water is quite cold, but after the steps down to see it, there was no way that I wasn’t getting in.

Heading back up the staircase I am struggling and feeling every muscle in my legs. I stop several times before reaching the top. I am so unfit!

The next stop is Buley Rockhole. There are several small cascades and rock pools. There are people everywhere swimming and diving into the rock pools. You can also walk from here along the creek bed to the Florence Falls. The round trip is about 3.2km. After doing the staircase at the falls I wasn’t walking any further than I had to.

The Magnetic Termite Mounds are intriguing. They are all aligned North to South. This ensures that there is always an area within the mound that stays at an optimum temperature. They are also built on seasonally flooded black soil plains. Unlike the Cathedral Termite that builds its nest in well drained soils. Their nests can be up to 5m high.

Wildlife: cattle, horses, dead pig, sheep, lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos, blue eyed honey eaters.

Day 122:  Tolmer Falls & Wangi Falls

We head off early this morning to the Litchfield National Park to find the Wangi & Tolmer Falls. WikiCamps tells us that Wangi Falls are closed to swimming due to crocodiles being present. Apparently there is a cafe out there so we decide that morning tea is in order.

The falls are about 68km from Bachelor and travelling through the Litchfield National Park there are signs that the rangers are conducting controlled burn offs. The park is smouldering and there is evidence of new growth from earlier burns.

Arriving at Wangi we take the short walk down to the falls to find a group of people entering the plunge pool. They are from a tour bus and there’s lots of chatter and laughter about the recent crocodile sightings. I’m now really disappointed that we didn’t throw our swimmers in! The falls cascade over sandstone cliffs off the plateau into the plunge pool which is surrounded by pandanus palms and rainforest. It’s so beautiful and the water looks so inviting.

There is a short 450m walk to a viewing platform so we head off in anticipation of a spectacular view of the falls. The mosquitoes are bad and we’ve left the spray in the car so the walk is brisk up the hill. Then Andrew spots the metal staircase. Oh no, I’m praying there is not another 135 stairs like yesterday. Our calves haven’t recovered from the Florence Falls walk.

We climb the staircase, about 50 we think. There was no way I was counting them. We reach the top and there is no view to the waterfall. We are in the canopy of the rainforest. A selfie is in order and then we head back down. Our legs are killing us. After all the photos are taken of the waterfall we head for the cafe – closed! Oh well you can’t help bad luck!

Next stop is the Tolmer Falls. From the car park is a 500m return walk to a viewing platform which gives you a panoramic view of the Valley. The lookout walk is 800m return and the view from the platform which overhangs the cliff is amazing. Tolmer Gorge has been closed to the public since the 1990’s to protect the Orange leaf nosed bat & Ghost bats that inhabit the caves.

Our favourite falls in the Litchfield National Park were the Florence Falls and our favourite plunge pool was at the Wangi Falls. Whilst Litchfield National Park is impressive we can’t help but think about how lucky we are to live in a World Heritage listed rainforest area back at Mission Beach. Our rainforest and waterfalls are still the best we have ever seen on our journey so far.

Every day at the park the owners feed the birds.  It’s a spectacular sight to see.

Wildlife: Rabbit, kangaroos, hawk, galahs, cockatoos, lorikeets, dead snake, blue faced honey eaters.

Day 123: Bachelor to Vince Connolly Limestone Creek

It’s time to leave our lovely rainforest setting and head back through Katherine and then west on the Victoria Highway for Western Australia.

Morning tea is in the park at Pine Creek. We have 2 inquisitive blue faced honey eaters join us at the park table. We give them some fruit cake and biscuits which they quickly devour. We meet a couple travelling from Sydney who are heading in the same direction as us. Andrew has bought my attention to the slogan on the back of their pop top: The Love Shack, heading down the highway. I love it! One of my favourite songs!  I can’t get it out of my head now…

There are dark plumes of smoke ahead after leaving Pine Creek and it’s evident we are going to be coming close to a bush fire. The flames are burning right alongside the highway and you can feel the heat coming through the air vents as we travel. It’s a surreal feeling and we both hope that we will soon be far away from the fires. The bush is burning all the way to the Cullen River. We don’t know if it is a controlled burn or if it is just a bush fire out of control.

We arrive at the Vince Connolly Limestone Creek free camp and there is no one else here so we have the pick of the camp site. There isn’t much shade so we park out in the sun and take advantage of charging up our solar panels. Within 10 minutes another 3 vans pull into the campsite.

We meet a couple from NSW heading for Broome. They were at the same park at Bachelor last night and tell us of their adventures. He is doing an online course to become a marriage celebrant & has to do a mock ceremony so he approached two couples at the park and married one of them. Apparently they were in tears at the mock wedding! Shame we missed it. The other couple are from Cardwell and heading to the Kimberley’s. It’s amazing how many people we meet from Queensland.

Free camping in the great outdoors

It’s 36 degrees outside so it’s very hot getting set up. The afternoon is spent sitting by the caravan in the little shade that we have. Time for some sketching and colouring in. I’m almost relieved that there is no reception as it is a good chance to digitally detox!

Today’s travel was 262km, quite a big day for us. There will be a few more of those as we head towards the border and over to the coast of Western Australia.

Did I mention the flies are back?

Purple lilly

Wildlife: Rabbits, cockatoos, lorikeets, galahs, horses, cattle, jabiru, black cockatoos, dead pig, blue faced honey eaters, crows.

Day 124: Vince Connolly Limestone Creek to Saddle Creek

Leaving the free camp this morning it’s 25 degrees at 8am. It’s an early start as we were awake before sunrise. Last night we were visited by a herd of cattle feeding in the bush right beside the van, it scared the living daylights out of us at first. We were both sitting on the bed peering out the windows trying to see what was going on.

I’ve started to write my blog each day in Notes on my iPhone and then I can either cut and paste it into my blog site or I can email it to myself and then do the cut and paste to the site on my laptop. It gives me something to do while we are travelling as I don’t need to be connected to the internet.

As usual Andrew is at the wheel. I’ve driven about 170km for the whole trip so far & we have now clocked up over 12,000km. The Victoria Highway is a little rough around the edges compared to the Stuart Highway.

The road trains are out in full force and today one is “up our date” as Andrew describes it. He doesn’t have a load on and finally goes past. He’s wandering all over the road for quite a few kilometres.

What is it with trucks today! Another has just passed us “like a bat of hell” says Andrew and then is wandering into the right hand lane. About a kilometre up the road he puts his breaks on and pulls off the side of the road. He’s got a container & a 4WD Ute on board and one of the straps around the Ute has come loose. Let’s hope that’s all the truck experiences we have today.

The landscape is dry, red dirt, spindly grasses, ant hills and dry creeks. The clouds look like big balls of cotton wool.

And then we enter the Victoria River Region and the escarpment almost immediately changes to rolling Rocky Mountain ranges and plateaus. The colours in the rock face range from deep rust to burnt orange and black. The sun shining on them is intensifying the hues.

We pull into the free camp at Saddle Creek just after lunch time and there are several vans & motorhomes here already. It’s only 60km to the Western Australia border and everyone is talking about what you can and can’t take over the border.

There are two motorhomes parked beside us, both ladies travelling solo. One is heading back home to Perth and the other has come across from Tassie. I admire their sense of adventure and tenacity to be travelling this vast countryside on their own.

The afternoon is spent outside with fly nets on. Andrew is reading and I decide to try to sketch the blue faced honey eater who joined us for morning tea yesterday.

We also meet a couple from Lennox Head who have travelled different areas of Australia over the years. We watch the sun set with them and the moon rising over the rugged cliffs. It’s an amazing site.

With a few veggies on board I decide to grate them all up and make some veggie fritters to go with our steak. I don’t have any bread crumbs so I use some bread and an egg to bind the mix. I manage to get them into a pattie and start frying them off. They just weren’t holding together. The taste is ok, Andrew quickly reassures me and says we are having a Masterchef dinner of deconstructed veggie fritters!

Today’s travel was 281km.

Did I mention the flies?

Wildlife: crows, cattle, dead kangaroos, wild budgerigar, horses, 2 dead cows, doves, galahs.

Day 125:  Saddle Creek to Lake Argyle

I’ve had a restless night, something was biting me. It felt like ants. We also had a vehicle come into the camp site very late during the night shining their headlights. The occupants had been drinking and pulled in to use the toilets and leave their beer cans behind. Some people have no respect for camp sites that provide free facilities for travellers and that’s all I’ll say about that!

We woke up to an infestation of ants in the caravan. Out came the spray and we almost choked ourselves on the fumes. The pantry was emptied and everything wiped over, surface spray all over everything again and the caravan mopped out. An unwelcome start to the day but the benefit of an unexpected caravan clean in the middle of nowhere.

We are now on the road and heading for the border. It’s 31 degrees at 9.00am.  The border is only 60km away.  We pull into checkpoint charlie fully expecting to be here for some time.  The boot is up and the caravan open, within 5 minutes we are on our way again.

A further 41km takes us into Lake Argyle.  The scenery is spectacular and I’m busy snapping photos all the way.  On arrival we wait in the queue to enter the park.  I make my way to reception to pay the fees and then we are met by the parking attendant who rides her bike in front of us to our site.  She then proceeds to tell Andrew not to stress and starts instructing him on how to back into the site.  Within no time we are set up and ready to explore all that the Lake has to offer.

Lake Argyle panorama

You simply can not go past the infinity pool, perched on the cliff face.  It’s known as the most spectacular pool in the Kimberley.  We certainly agree, the view is breathtaking.  We take a drive across the Ord River Dam wall, it is an engineering master piece sitting on a fault line between Darwin and the Great Sandy Desert.

The resident musician is Steve Case and he’s playing on the grassed area of the cliff face in the afternoon.  Cinta is allowed to come too, so we take some drinks, nibblies and treats for Cinta and sit back, relax and enjoy the tunes from our era as the sun sets and the moon rises over the cliff face.  We continue on to the beer garden and have an amazing meal of crispy skin salmon and of course Andrew has parmigiana.  Steve plays more tunes and we enjoy quite a few more drinks.  I finally feel like I am on a holiday.  There is no work happening this weekend!

Wildlife:  Brown snake, crocodiles, sea eagles, pelicans, cormorants.

Day 126: 19/05 Lake Argyle

We have booked the lake sunset cruise and head out at 2.00pm for 4 hours cruising the lake.  The cruise also includes a swim.  While it is very tempting we both decide that we are not going in the water.  We have seen the size of the crocs along the banks while cruising and we just can’t do it.  A croc is a croc in our view and not to be trusted, even though they are freshies.

The skies decide to open up and a heavy rain cloud appears behind the cliff faces and then the rain comes.  The guides tell us that it is quite rare to experience a beautiful sunny start and then to experience rainfall on the cruise.  We all get soaked, what an experience.  Then there is a spectacular rainbow.  We stop in a secluded bay to watch the sun set while enjoying drinks and a cheese platter.  This is the life. Where to next?

It’s been a big week this past week, with lots of amazing destinations.  We are ever so thankful that we are able to experience all that Australia has to offer.  It truely is a remarkable country.

Wildlife: brown snake, crocodiles, comorants, sea eagles, pelican, cormorants.

Week 18 total expenses:  $851.57 – not too bad considering the cruise cost of $90 each (seniors discount).



That’s a wrap for Week 18 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

4 thoughts on “Week 18 | Darwin to Lake Argyle

  1. What a beautiful part of the country, this week. Great to see you got your sketch pad out- the bird was very lifelike. Hope to see more sketches of your journey.


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