We have settled into a week in Darwin, picking up all the things that have broken, replacing clothes that are stained and torn – not sure how they manage it! And spending our last few days with Dad. We headed into town to see Crocodylus Park, our last crocodile hurrah – Jamie is a bit over crocodiles at the moment. There are 2 crocodile parks in Darwin who breed them, we choose the park over the cove because it offered more animals and the chance for the kids to hold a baby croc.
We also got to see Lions being fed as well as monkeys and Jack got to feed a large crocodile – I missed it :(. Everyone got to cuddle baby croc and stroke a large snake. Hurrah more creatures who want eat my kids! The park is pretty good, the cages aren’t particularly big – although the big cats are moving into a larger enclosure soon. Afterwards we headed into the centre for some culture. I’d highly recommend the Northern Territory Museum and Art Centre. It’s free – always a bonus, and filled to the brim with exhibits. We wandered through some aboriginal art, read up about Sweetheart – mammoth boat eating crocodile – a huge section on animals and evolution and finished with Cyclone Tracy. A great way to beat the heat and learn something in the process!
After that we headed o the Mindhl Sunset Markets. They run every Thursday and Sunday – although the Thursday one is the big one. Definitely not something to be missed if you are in Darwin. We settled into a spot near the entertainment and sampled the large array of food stalls, ummmmmm. The kids watched fire twirlers and performers, Abi was picked to help a man climb a ladder and juggle. She almost sliced him in half when he foolishly asked her to throw him his knife – she just chucked it rather than wait for him to count to 3. He made her hand it to him after that. We finished the night with a hair braid for Abi and a tattoo for Jack (the airbrush kind!)
The next day Dad dropped us a the Wave Lagoon and went to explore the Military Museum. Next to the wave lagoon they had set up a big blow up, I don’t even know what you call it but let’s say water bouncing thing. Jamie took one look and signed him and the kids up – Abi and Jack. Zachary took one look and point blank refused. Instead we swam in the sea and he made moats and castle in the shallows.
The kids had a ball. Jamie managed to burst a complete stranger’s ear drum when he and another guy bounced him off the end, and everyone got their daily exercise. Afterwards we retired to the wave lagoon for some wave action.
Dad’s final day, we left him to pack and ran some jobs, packing is always easy without 5 other people getting in your way. Then the kids and I went with him to look at military airplanes on show nearby. The boys discovered there were very few signs saying don’t climb so took that as an invitation to climb. No one seemed that bothered, I guess if a plane has survived a World War it can probably deal with a couple of curious kids. That evening I drove Dad to the airport, got a bit teary and said goodbye. Now we are just 5 again.
The day after Dad left we went to the Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta, Jamie’s sole purpose for arriving in Darwin. We met up with Simon and Indi, and camped near the beer tent for the afternoon. We watched the boats sail their race and the kids “accidentally” fell in the sea. Funny that. We finished the night having pizza, while the kids watched Australian Ninja Warrior with an African American couple who basically babysat them for us. Occasionally Jack and his new mate Reggie would high five each other after a particularly awesome ninja moment.
Our final Darwin day was spent at 2 free water parks, complete with water slides. Because really why would you not??
We finished up in Darwin and headed for a night in Litchfield. Jack had a desperate need to see the Lost City. I think he imagined something slightly different, although he did find a little nook to crawl through and appear out the other side of a rock while I envisioned him being attacked by a giant snake and eaten alive. I think I need to be less imaginative or deal with my apparent overwhelming fear something will eat one of my kids (or just accept I live in Australia and move on). We then finished the day with a dip on Florence Falls.
After Litchfield we headed onto Douglas Hot Springs. We heard about this place from a lovely family we met in Alice Springs. It has only just opened so we figured we would take advantage and explore. We rolled in and tried to find a bit of shade – there was none so we parked near the skinniest tree and left it desperately trying to throw as much shade on the van as it could.
The hot springs lived up to their name, although they are not deep. There were people everywhere lying in ripples of water that barely came up over their ankles. We headed further up river but quickly discovered the water is almost too hot to touch, so we joined everyone else in the ripples of water. Watch out for the fishes that sneak in to nibble you while you are lying there. Then occasionally someone further up would move and a flood of cold or hot water would hit you.
The next day we trekked out to Butterfly Gorge, just 17km down the road. It was a beautiful pool of water, with a hidden secret. If you swim all the way to the other side you discover a narrow gorge that leads to a series of waterfalls and plunge pools. We explored for a couple of hours before Zachary got cold and the kids started to flake. We finished the day with a quick hot springs dip before munching on homemade pizza on the baby webber q. Perfect day all in all.
The next day we packed up and headed back into Katherine to grab petrol and sort out our water tanks. At some point we have picked some bad water and it basically taste like dirt. We found a tap, blasted the tank out and restocked. Now maybe everyone will actually drink water!
We left Katherine and headed down the Central Arnhem Highway for the Beswick Community. We arrive with half an hour to spare and grabbed our wristbands for the Walking with Spirits Festival. I can no longer remember how I stumbled across this, or what actually happens. Jamie is more than a little dubious of my choices. It is run by the Australian Shakespeare Company and is a celebration of aboriginal culture and music held each year in the Beswick Community, and for this weekend only you can travel into the closed community, take part and enjoy the area.
We arrived and got our wristbands – we had opted for 2 days of camping, although most others only took the 1 night. I would recommend the 2 or 3 nights, it seems crazy to get there, see the show and shoot off first thing in the morning as so many people did. We also discovered the last 20kms to the campground and festival area is apparently complete bull dust. Think silky sand almost impossible to get a grip on. Also we have discovered the van is very much not dust proof, after dusty tracks there is a fine coating of dust on everything inside. But a handy tip from another jayco owner means we have so far avoided any more dust – 1000mile tape is your friends.
We were told that on top of the dust apparently there have been 2 cars bogged already and they weren’t carting a van behind. The lady on the gate said she didn’t think we would make it and we probably shouldn’t go as we would bog and block the road. But Jamie loves a challenge and once we dropped the tyre pressures it was plain sailing. And the tape worked!!
We arrived a bit late, so we had to throw up the jayco – which sank a bit in the sand, slightly concerning for when we try to leave! Made some sandwiches and then headed to the festival, although when it comes to time keeping they run to our kind of time, so l had lots of time to spare in the end. There were lots of young families, so we settled nearby and watched everything unfold. It was pretty amazing. The kids and Jamie got involved in some dancing while Zachary was a bit under the weather so spent the evening in my arms. We listened to songs, ate kangaroo sausages and bbq pineapple with coconut cream, and watched the local children dance and play in front of the stage and occasionally on it. It’s run by the Australian Shakespeare Company but still has a local feel, it’s not a slick performance which only adds to its success I think. At 10pm we called it a night just as the group from Fiji came on, the kids were cold and tired, Zachary was running a temp. We fell asleep that night listening to the music dancing through the night sky. Most amusing moment on the way back was when our 2 way radio crackled and you could hear a slightly stressed lady saying “ Could someone please get those children off the stage!”
We had one more night at Beswick, so spent the day catching up on journals and then went swimming and fishing. They were still packing up, so we settled under the trees with everyone else and the kids dived in and out of the pools in the shadows.
As we were thinking of heading back, Tommie – the guy running the show last night – appeared and told Jamie about a waterfall area out of the back the camping. We could have walked apparently but chose to drive, mostly because the conversation went as follows….
Jamie: So how far would you say it was to walk?
Tommie: It’s nothing, like half a k….. 1 km…..maybe 1.5 kms. You could walk like 2 -3 kms.
We took the stony barely there track and Jamie even got to put the car into 4 wheel drive! We emerged over the top and through the bush to a little series of pools. It was beautiful and empty of people. We opted for a dip in the waterfall plunge pool. Zachary refused, still very suspicious of deep and cloudy water. It was a refreshing end to the day. Even better we were all home and fed by 6:30am, so got a tired and cranky Zachary to bed and asleep by 7:20pm.
Now we are heading back to Katherine to see if we can get a travel permit for Arnhem Land, seems crazy to be this close and not go and see it??! Wish us luck…