I departed just after midday and had a quiet cruise down the Stuart Highway to Batchelor. Here I stopped at the Rum Jungle Tavern for a restorative cider. I am always concerned about dehydration on trips like this, so I like to avail myself of the facilities available at local pubs.
The Rum Jungle Tavern was a modern outback pub filled with TV's for the racing and a TAB. It had little soul or character. A pity because the name Rum Jungle evokes images for me. There used to be an Uranium mine in the area, now closed down but I have had it romanticised for me in another way. I am not sure how, but I suspect it may have been in a novel.
Shortly the road enters the Litchfield National Park. At the moment the Park is covered in a light pall of smoke. You can see it in the air and smell it. The cause is controlled burn offs to prevent fierce bushfires later in the year.
Fire is a natural part of the Australian bush caused by natural sources, such as lightning and even the Aboriginals used to burn tracts of land to drive out animals and clear the way for them to walk through. The flora and fauna are adapted to it. Some seeds will not germinate until a fire has passed over them. In places the fire was close to the road but not a source of danger.
My first stop was the Magnetic Termite Mounds. These termites build large flat mounds orientated North/South to make the best use of cooling breezes and minimise absorption of the suns rays. Quite spectacular and I was reminded somewhat of Stonehenge or similar standing stones.
Next stop was the Florence falls, a waterfall falling about 20 metres into a pool below. The pool is a designated safe swimming hole. Saltwater crocodiles are a constant menace around here. Few escape an attack from a Saltie.
The falls were delightful, even with a large group of tourists in and around them. A circular path leads from the car park to the falls and back. Walking in the direction that I did a short walk leads you to a viewing platform and then down a series of steps to the bottom of the falls. It wasn't a difficult walk or climb down. The water at the bottom was crystal clear and I could see fish swimming. It was also a pleasant temperature and after the initial chill was a pleasure to be in. I swam right into the waterfall and enjoyed a scalp massage, all the while hoping that nothing solid came over the falls.
The pool is deep and quite large with almost no submerged obstructions and yet it had sufficient places to enter and exit without too much difficulty. Thank you mother nature.
It was late afternoon by this stage and after air drying I dressed and continued along the path. This section followed a creek through Monsoon Rain Forest and then a gentle climb back to the car park. It was very pretty. Next time I have visitors they will be forced to come out here.
I made my way back to the car and drove to the nearby Buley rock hole. Not quite as spectacular as the Florence falls. But much more accessible without the walk to and fro. The rock hole comprises a series of small water holes linked by rapids and small waterfalls. Once again very pretty,but as it was more accessible and smaller it felt more crowded. I did not swim I was content to just explore the area.
From there I eschewed the other highlighted sights and made my way to my accommodation. At this stage I was feeling really good and at peace with the world. I was looking forward to a couple of nights "glamping" in an on site safari tent with fridge, lights, power, insect screens and a queen size bed. Private facilities and a private BBQ. Well that is what the brochure said and that is what I booked. You can see where this is going can't you?
I was booked into the Litchfield Safari Camp. My first doubts crept in when I approached reception.
Reception was a card table under an awning outside a shed, with a "reception" sign to remove any doubts or confusion. That was not a problem, probably quite appropriate for this climate. Reception however was unattended. I made my way to the general store next door, well tin shed actually, assuming, correctly as it turned out, that the receptionist shared duties as storekeeper.
I queued up waiting to be served. After a short wait for two people who could not make up their minds what they wanted and then another couple who had the same problem, I announced what I wanted and it was confirmed that the attendant was also reception. He then turned his attention to the couple behind me and proceeded to have a friendly chat.
I do not like waiting.
I do not like waiting, while someone, who has effectively pushed in front of me, is served. Especially when it was an obvious chat. I started thinking up some sarcastic comments like "OK I will just go back to Darwin please give me a call when you are ready to deal with me." I restrained myself.
We all eventually moved back to reception. The couple behind me had picked up my vibe, or were polite and understood that I had arrived before them, and suggested that the receptionist deal with me first.
My booking was confirmed and I was given directions to my Safari Tent.
The couple behind me commented to me that I was "in for an experience." The tone in their voices was a warning. They mentioned to the receptionist that they didn't know that my tent existed. He replied that they were expanding. Oh I thought, I get a brand new tent.
Reception man, who I think is the owner, mentioned that it was a bit older and that I did not need a key as the screen door was not on it yet. I said, "well I hope that there are no mosquitoes". He said "Oh it has screens" but he looked concerned. My doubts were now high. He continued his description on how to find it. "round there...next door to my daughters place...you will probably see the kids." Well I certainly can, and hear them, and she seems to have a number of friends over for a BBQ, one of whom has parked right in front of my
Also my Queen sized bed has transmogrified into three single bunk beds.
I had a beer and ate my lunch, as it was now 6pm and I was starving. I investigated the tent and found that the zips on the screen doors are broken, there is no way to prevent the mosquitoes entering.
So I then walked back to reception and suggested that they had made a mistake on my accommodation. I was given a barrage of excuses and no attempt to rectify the problems. I said "it's a good job my partner has not come as we don't have a queen size bed". His face brightened "oh you are on your own then" he said. I could see the relief that I was not going to claim that a couple should be able to sleep in something
Quite frankly I did not get what I booked and paid for. I am pissed off.
The Bludger made the most of what he had with the aid of part a bottle of Gin before bed.