How to Cool Down at the Top End
Our destination in Australia this time was the Northern Territory (NT) and here the northern part also known as “The Top End”, one of the very hot areas. But before we arrived there, we stopped over in Melbourne to visit a friend of us. Rik not only provided the great RegionBound clustering for our main map on this site but he was the one who helped us to discover the cute little blue penguins at St. Kilda. Very popular and one of the most visited places on our site. This time he introduced us another species in Melbourne, the flying foxes. Roughly up to 50.000 of them stay in the Yarra Bend Park. At daytime, if it became too hot for them, they started flapping their wings. After sunset, the flying foxes fly out for feeding. This amazing scenery is much better than Hitchcock’s “The Birds” movie.
A few days later we arrived in the north. At daytime 38°C was not unusual, and our decision to go for camping turned out to be challenging during late afternoon and night times. The temperature dropped slightly around 24°C, and although we took this time an MSR Freelite 3 tent instead of our MSR Mutha Hubba NX, we felt pretty warm inside. Depending on where we pitched it we were surrounded by millions of mozzies (that’s how the Australian call the Mosquitos). But if you are prepared with the right repellent and take care how you enter and exit the tent, you will be safe at least for the night.
Luckily we could start with our first destination the Litchfield National Park shortly after our arrival in Darwin. The park was closed a week ago due to heavy rainfall and floodings, but we thought we were lucky and started our visit at the Florence Falls on a Sunday. Litchfield is well known for the waterfalls in the early dry season, but to our surprise, we run into a very crowded place. Of course, many locals come here to cool down in the falls and the pools on the weekends. So we deferred our visit to the next day and moved on to the Warangi Falls to pitch our tent.
Although the walk at Warangi was closed due to seasonal weather conditions, we enjoyed this night under the stars and the next day at much calmer Florence Falls. We continued to Edith Falls with great sundown and a refreshing morning bath at the upper pool. The lower pool was still not opened due to possible saltwater crocodile occurrence. To keep the mossies away from our tent we always placed a view natural citronella sticks around it. Unfortunately, I inflated our Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite mattress this time outside the tent, and when moving it in the tent, the citronella stick burned a nice little hole into it. Now it was time to use the included repair kit, which worked very well. To avoid any further leakage I asked Micha to use this mattress onwards because she is much lighter than me.
Next stop on our route was the famous Katherine Gorge in the Nitmiluk N.P. After watching a beautiful sundown at Pat’s Outlook, we started early next morning our hike from the visitor center. We planned to cool down at the Southern Rockhole before we walked over Jedda’s Rock into the Butterfly Gorge. But as we entered the top of the escarpment, the path became less accessible; the temperature raised quickly over 40°C.
Luckily we had plenty of water with us and even refilled our bottles at the provided water tanks along the way. Now we used the water not only for quenching our thirst but as well to pure it over your clothes to cool the body down. Anyhow it was much too hot for us, and the decision was clear, we gave the Butterfly Gorge a miss and returned to our car earlier than expected.
But the next challenge was not far away. We visited the CattaCatta cave a tropical cave very different to the ones we know. A lot of history from the discovery over the military usage to species found here 19 meters below the surface. At the end of the guided walk at the deepest accessible point in the cave, we were sweating at nearly 100% humidity and again returned thirsty to our car.
We continued driving northeast to enter the Kakadu National Park. Many roads were closed due to the weather conditions, but we found a great place to cool down. Although the name "Motor Car Falls" implies, you could visit them by driving you had to walk to reach this excellent opportunity for swimming after another hot day.
For the following day, we planned to walk the Gubara Hike which leads towards a Monsoon Forest covering a creek. At the end of the gravel road, we had to stop a view hundred meters before the trailhead. The road was blocked for our car by some floodings which we only could pass by walking through the water.
Although we found many warnings for crocodiles at the end of the trail, we enjoyed the cold bath in the shallow water of the creek before we returned.
Some areas in Kakadu are very remote and can only be reached by 4x4 vehicles, but even most of this ways were still closed. Anyhow, by car and driving all roads you may see only 1% of the whole park, so we decided for a flight to view JimJim Falls and Twin Falls and get an overlook of the entire area.
Up to know we had seen a view Aboriginal rock paintings in Nouranlangie but still waiting for the large and fascinating paintings at Ubirr. But we run again into an obstacle we couldn’t overcome.
On the way to the South Alligator Region, flooding on the road made it impossible to reach Ubirr without a high clearance car. We decided to look for a lift and left our car in front of the flooding. Fortune smiled upon us as Pip and Dave stopped by and we could join them for sundown at the Nadab Outlook. The walk at Ubirr was peaceful and quiet because not many made it through the flooding and we could enjoy the magnificent rock art site almost alone. We climbed up to the Nadab Outlook very early before many people arrived and inhaled the sheer endless view over the wetlands, monsoon forest, and the escarpment surrounding Kakadu.
Along our way, through the Top End, we missed the dangerous and unpredictable saltwater crocodile mainly seen in Billabongs. So we pitched our tent at a campground close to the Corroboree Billabong and signed up for a sundown tour with Wetland Cruises. Of course, we sighted some of the ancient predators, but as well we discovered a variety of birdlife including the Jabiru and enjoyed beautiful sundown again this time from the water.
Many people we met asked if we could manage the heat at the “Top End”. For us, it was sometimes challenging, but with the many opportunities to cool down, (either a bath in one of the natural pools or an ice-cooled cider) we felt quite comfortable. Now we headed southeast to Brisbane region before we start our next adventure soon. There we urgently need to fix our MSR Whisperlite Stove (the gas canister adapter thread is not working any longer)