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Trip Report Playing Marbles with the Devil - AKA 2 weeks in the Northern Territory

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13 nights (12 bush camping)
14 days
4000km in Apollo Euro Tourer (Mercedes Sprinter)

Lichfield NP
Katherine Gorge Cruise
Devil’s Marbles
Cape Crawford and the Lost City - Helicopter ground tour
Gregory NP
Victoria River Cruise
Kakadu NP
et al

I hate travel writing (reading or writing) so I don’t write “normal” Trip Reports. I have done Tasmania in Numbers and the A-Z of Tasmania.

This time I thought I would do it as a dating agency for the Northern Territory’s most eligible ie what attributes do you need to have to get the most out of each park. OR Is it worth your while?

I’ll start with the most visited but our least favourite and work through them in order from our least to most favourite.

Somewhat Secluded but outgoing National Park seeks mildly adventurous tourist. Must love tropical weather (30+) or at least tolerate it for short periods of time. Must be tolerant of smoke from constant burn offs. MUST HAVE A VERY HIGH INTEREST IN WETLANDS AND BIRDS*. A high interest in indigenous culture is desirable but not essential. Candidate does not need to be fit, although the agility to walk on rocky surfaces and get on and off boats is desirable. Accommodation provided at all levels (for a fee).

A boat trip is expected to be taken to fully appreciate the NP. A mandatory fee of $25pp is required to demonstrate love and devotion prior to fully getting to know the Park. A token of this dedication must be carried at all times (and is valid for 14 consecutive days) Must be prepared for an open polygamous relationship no secrets or privacy in this relationship. People are everywhere.

Apply to KAKADU NP (250 km form Darwin on a sealed road).

* We live 10 minutes’ walk from a RAMSAR Wetland; there were only a couple of birds we had not seen before. Compared with everything else the NT has to offer we were greatly underwhelmed by Kakadu. Having paid the $25 each we considered it not well spent. IMO not worth going all the way to the NT for. Great as part of a trip but not as the main destination.

Easy accessible cruise desires non adventurous tourist for a lazy date. Light snacks provided. Must be prepared for an open polygamous relationship. Must have a HIGH tolerance of idiotic tourists*. A keen interest in rugged scenery is recommended. A low level of fitness is required although the more game can delve into my depths (swimming). A mild fascination in Geology and indigenous culture is appreciated but not mandatory. Good summary of each provided, but no ear bashing. Bring a jacket is planning a matinee.

Apply KATHERINE RIVER THREE GORGES CRUISE (If you are interested in indigenous culture there is a two hour two gorges cruise. There is also a sunset dinner cruise $146)

* Part of the cruise involves swapping boats at each gorge. The boat driver said not to get on the next boat until he arrived. When we arrived with the boat driver everyone else was on the first boat on the wharf. The other two boats were a little way away from the wharf. The driver got on and jumped onto the second boat and untied it. Still everyone stayed on the first boat. As he backed it out to bring it to the wharf (a good indication that he was on the boat we were to use) an idiot (tourist) said to us “why aren’t you getting on?” It was only when he said for everyone to swap boats that if finally dawned on everyone that they were on the WRONG BOAT. They were not impressed that we had been right all along.

Unpretentious and remote Sunset Cruise seeks likeminded tourists. A high interest in viewing crocodiles in the wild is a must. Must like both kinds Fresh and Salt*. Must have no desire to see teasing of crocs to make them jump.

Must love White bellied Sea Eagles; Whistling Kites and Black Kites. Once they are fed you will also be fed. A strong desire for excellent Finger food is a must, as is a hearty appetite.

Delight in seeing agile wallabies and birds also desirable. Ability to walk up and down 20 steps needed.

(600km from Darwin)

* How to tell the difference. Jump in the water. If it swims away from you it is a freshy. If it swims towards you it is a salty.

You want waterfalls - I have three biggies and a few smallies.
You want to swim without being ripped to shreds but giant lizards - I have water holes and creeks as well as water falls.
You want HUGE Termite mounds – I have the BIGGEST.
You want lots of Termite mounds – That’s me too.
Magnetic Termite Mounds – Yep, got them in spades.
Historic Mine Site – Got one of them too.
Campground full of rubberneckers – Oh yeah.
Quiet camp ground – Two of them.
Very quiet campground with only a few walk in sites – Yes, but don’t tell too everyone.
Café – Sure and I have great Ice coffees and Ice chocolates.
Kiosk on the back of a truck – yes siree.
Wild Pigs – Of course.
Water Buffalo – Don’t be daft, of course I do.
Eagles and Kites – Hundreds.
Flying Foxes – thousands (OK hundreds and hundreds)
Great Rock features – Certainly.
Long walks; short walks – You bet.
Free Entry – a given.
Accommodation without wheels or nylon – NO, but my very close neighbours do.

Apply LICHFILED NATIONAL PARK (100km from Darwin)

Remote Rugged NP seeks moderately to highly adventurous camper. A 4WD is a must for a detailed relationship will be rocky and bumpy. A 2WD will suit for a “one night stand” or short term relationship providing you do not have a hire car as these are not allowed on my dirt roads. Some parts on are sealed roads.

A good level of fitness is required for the more active parts of the relationship, such as mounting the heights of ecstasy (escarpments). A tolerance for hot days is required although the nights are much cooler than Kakadu and Darwin.

Although not in the top five* must see geological features of Australia, I am in the top ten and my escarpments are bigger and more spectacular than Kakadu. (In some things size DOES matter. You can’t pat butter with toothpicks.)

A love of history is desirable but not essential, I do possess the hand carved Gregory (explorer) Tree. Much better than the "Dig" Tree" A desire to see Boab trees in their natural state is also recommended. If you have an aversion to having your limbs ripped off, don’t swim in my rivers. I take no responsibility for my pets.

Apply GREGORY NP (600km SW of Darwin, 300km SW of Katherine.)

Quiet Remote Rock Formations seek somewhat adventurous tourists with reasonable level of fitness and agility. Must have a 4WD or a Helicopter (one can be provided for a $300pp). One small part available to 2WD over a roughish dirt road. Must enjoy walking around giant Phallic* Symbols of sandstone (a “Break Away” from the surrounding plateau). some are less graphic and look like snails, tanks and just plain columns.

Not seeking long term relationship, more suited to a quick fling. Seven minutes in a chopper. Ninety minutes meandering and another seven minute chopper ride. With luck you may see Jabiru tree top nest and chicks.

I too, am in the top ten must see geological features of Australia. Without bragging I am well worth the effort of 600km return trip. Although, if you are into partner swapping, there is fishing, a pub and other distractions.

Bear in mind when visiting via the Tableland Highway from Barkly Homestead it is 400km on a single lane sealed road with road trains. It is a busy road with one vehicle every 20-30 minutes or so. It also has a 90km floodplain of no trees. A must for lovers of wide open spaces. A good circuit is Stuart Hwy, Barkly Hwy, Tablelands Hwy, Carpentaria Hwy back to Stuart Hwy - but don't expect them to be labelled on Google maps. Clockwise or anti clockwise doesn't matter.

Apply LOST CITY GROUND TOUR - Heartbreak Hotel – Cape Crawford. As a sign of my unique character I am nowhere near an ocean. (900km from Darwin or 500km from Katherine)

* Not surprisingly this was an ancient site for circumcision ceremonies although the local elders had never been there in their sixty years on this earth (**See Below for more observation about indigenous people).

Remote, Small and Ancient Conservation Park seeks independent traveller in search of unforgettable romantic sunset or sunrise assignation. Luxurious camping facilities are provided (pit toilet and fireplace - BYO wood). Other slightly less luxurious facilities are located 10km away (caravan park). MUST love rugged granite geological features. Low fitness level is fine for a superficial relationship. Agility is required for those seeking a more committed relationship. For the really superficial or time poor you can even stay in your car (I think there is a term for that). As modest as I am, I must say I am number three of the top five* must see geological features of Australia. I am well worth the drive.

Apply DEVIL’S MARBLES (1 000km south of Darwin or 400km north of Alice Springs)
I took three hours to wander around. My wife took 30 minutes. But then again, I spent five hours on top of Ayer's Rock (and could easily have doubled it)

* Ayer’s Rock, Wave Rock, Devil’s Marbles, 12 Apostles, Olgas.

$1.70 -$2.20 per litre of Diesel. Much the same for petrol.
$5 for stubbie/can of beer at pub. $9.50 for can of rum and cola.
$30 homemade ginger beer and cakes at Fran's in Dumarra
$20 for milkshakes and cakes at Timber Creek's Croc Stock Shop.
Woolworths in Katherine and Darwin similar prices to Sale (Vic)
Duck's Nuts restaurant in Darwin similar prices to Sale ie $30-35 for Steak.
Kaherine River 3 Gorges - 3 hours - $120 each.
Victoria River - $95 each.

Daly Waters pub is very gimmicky but worth the 3km detour off the main highway.

** Having now been to several major indigenous sites it is fascinating to see how each one is treated so differently by their traditional owners. No judgement - just observation.
Ayer’s Rock – Don’t walk on it. Don’t touch it. Don’t photograph certain parts of it. $25 entry. Hard to find any geological information only dreamtime stories.
Devil’s Marbles – Prefer if you didn’t walk on them, but don't really care, have paths through them. Camp ground metres from them. Minimum story telling, basic geology section.
Katherine Gorge – Concrete paths over and on the rocks; 400hp boats; hundreds of tourists. Rock paintings – take as many photos as you want. Equal mix of both geology and dreamtime.
Kakadu – even balance of both, but with the $25 entry.
Lost City – Elders who are 60 years old had never been there until the last 6 months or so. Not much info on either geology or dreamtime. Hard to find anything on the internet either.


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