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Litchfield National Park

Unlike my journey from Sydney to Byron Bay, I had no hint of nerves on flying to Darwin. The last week of term had been a little stressful (by my new standards of stress… life is so much more relaxed here) and I was keen to visit pastures new. I also had all my tours pre-arranged in a package from Real Aussie Adventures, so didn’t have to worry about logistics.

As the plane descended beneath the clouds towards Darwin, a very different landscape appeared – tropical and super green. It was also hot and raining hard. Fortunately this was to be my one taste of the Wet Season in Darwin. (For those who haven’t been to the tropics, the Top End year is divided into Wet Season and Dry Season. I arrived at the very end of the Wet.)

I checked into my hostel and decided to have a bit of a stroll, but wasn’t immediately taken with Darwin. It seemed a bit rainy and quiet, though my opinion was to change over the next few days. However, I did discover some heritage buildings and lovely views over Darwin Harbour. It was hard to believe that beneath the water lay several shipwrecks from Japanese air raids in World War II.

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The next day I had an early start to join my Wayoutback tour. This tour, and the other tours I joined later, comprised roughly twelve people and a guide. Everyone was expected to chip in with cooking dinner and washing up, and we stayed at campsites every night. We were transported around in a minibus, which – depending on the tour guide in charge – played music of varying quality.

Anyway, the first three-day tour started with a trip to Litchfield National Park, where we saw this cathedral termite mound.

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The magnetic termite mounds below were built by termites with a north-south orientation to control the temperature inside. The faces of the mounds were in the sun.

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We then set off for a short walk in the monsoon forest around Wangi Falls. Here I had my first experience of tropical wildlife, and it lived up to my wildest expectations. We saw black flying foxes, long-bodied and golden orb spiders, butterflies, wallabies…

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We were getting pretty hot by this stage, so we headed to Florence Falls for a dip.  We swam right up to the falls and tried to get behind the sheet of water.

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This was followed by another swim at Buley Rockhole. There wasn’t much opportunity for swimming here since the water was generally shallow, but you could lie down in the water and get a full-on jacuzzi experience!

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We stopped off at a service station on the way to our campsite where we saw our first crocodiles of the trip – Fred the Freshy and Brutus the Salty. The saltwater crocodiles are the ones with the (deservedly) fearsome reputation. Guess which one’s which:

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Our campsite for the night was situated down one of those dusty red dirt tracks which (to me) seem quintessentially Australian.

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My tentmate Maria and I were pleasantly surprised to find that tents had already been erected at the campsite. What’s more, the tents had beds inside! We just had to survive the mosquitoes..

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