Day 10/35

Magnetic Termite Mounds

The plan for this morning is to go to Litchfield National Park that’s on the way back to Darwin. Had in mind that that’s very closeby, but it’s actually 230 kilometers away from here. I get a lead for a nice resort in the area, surrounded by wetlands with lots of birds. The owner of my hotel has been living there and her ex-husband still runs the resort today.

The sun rises at 06:30 and this is the moment I leave the hotel. I already know that I will arrive far too late in the park for good light, but there is nothing I can do about it. Barely one hour on my way I squash a large bird of pray to pieces. A couple of hundred meters in front of me I see a cadaver (probably a Wallaby) and around 7 or 8 large birds on top. These you see a lot out here. Not sure what they exactly are. Wingspan about a meter I guess. During the Yellow Water Cruise two of these birds were trying to rob the Sea Eagle of it’s catch.

The birds always get out of the way early on an approaching car. Birds of pray are particularly swift about it. The same this time. The whole flock lifts off well before I’m there. As I am getting closer, one of them appears to be still there. It gets in the air as an approaching car passes, but immediately lands again and tries to tear a chunk of meat from the pavement. I hear myself saying out loud ’Stupid bird’ and try to avoid hitting it by moving to the other track to the right of me but I can not make too abrupt movements with this speed (130). Especially with this car. For breaks it’s already too late. I hit the bird full with both left wheels and see a large clouds of feathers flying around in my back mirror. Luckily this is not half work, that bird just got a one-way ticket to the eternal hunting grounds. Damned. What a waste of such a wonderful bird. I guess it didn’t see me at all, blinded by that huge steak it thought taking.

A while later, I arrive in Litchfield National Park. The first attraction is a field with large termite mounds oriented in north-south direction, giving them the name ’Magnetic Termite Mounds’. Has something to do with sun heat based climate control inside the mound. Didn’t dive into it sofar.

It’s clear that Litchfield is located only one hour away from Darwin. Everywhere signs with ’Watch your stuff’ and busses full with people that are loaded and discharged. Not my cup of tea. Photographing is a real disaster with all those people. I am waiting on a wooden walkway until it doesn’t move for a few seconds, but they all trample by and there is not a single moment that all of them are standing still. Weird actually now I’m forced to observe this behaviour. They all look so nervous. Just like they see things better by constantly moving. Well, after a quarter of an hour I can finally shoot my pictures and I leave it with that. The light is not great at all.

Magnetische Termiethopen

Magnetische Termiethopen

It’s like a graveyard.

Magnetische Termiethopen

Termite Mounds I have seen by the thousands these last days. Along the road to Bungle Bungles it’s full of them. Most were sleek towers less than a meter high. At other places they where quite broad instead. Here they are extremely large up to 5 meters high. The largest is 50 years old (so they grow about 10 centimeters a year). Along the road to Kakadu I have seen them also. Every area has it’s own color. At first I thought it had something to do with the type of termite (and in fact this just might be the case), but it’s far more logical of course, that these towers have been build with the material they are standing on red, brown, yellow, gray.

There are a couple of waterfalls inside the park. At the first one the viewing platform is closed for construction. This is about the only point the waterfall is viewable from, or I would have to go all the way down. But I see flocks of people in bathing suits going from and to the waterfall, so I expect it to be quite a madness downstairs.

The second waterfall is almost dry. There is an interesting sign though. Behind the waterfall are a couple of caves, where bats and Olive Pythons are living. I have seen these on television before, but didn’t know that is here. The pythons hang on the walls and catch passing bats. Usually they grab them but sometimes they knock them down as well. Using their heat sensors the snakes can find back the bats. For sure I would like to see this, but it doesn’t seem easy to get there. Besides it’s really hot now. Will be glad to be back in the car. Both waterfalls are oriented towards the east, so will be nice here with early morning light. The third waterfall is another 20 kilometers further and I let that one go.

Once outside the park, I visit the resort that was recommended in the previous hotel, but this is a dry, unattrative terrain and I decide to continue to Darwin. Arriving there all hotels appear to be completely booked. Only a few rooms are available in the center, last week around 270 dollar (expensive already) now between 450 and for the love of God a whopping 870 dollar per night. Good heavens! The lady behind the desk of one of these hotels tells me this is normal if there are only a few rooms left. Prices sky rocket. Apparently there are people paying these prices. She wants to help and finds a camp site a couple of miles back where they rent bungalows. 190 dollar for my own shed. Ok fine. 10 minutes driving from the airport, so that’s easy for tomorrow.

Overthere I start emptying the car. Closeby is Crocodylus Park. I play with the idea of going there as it is still early in the afternoon. On the other hand I have still a considerable amount of sleep to catch up with because of these last few nights. At first I had figured to catch some sleep tomorrow afternoon in Perth, but if I do that today instead, I can continue to Nambung National Park tomorrow, only 200 kilometers north of Perth.

After 3 hours of sleep I pack everything and go to bed for real. I have to get up at 04:15 for the flight to Perth.

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