jeudi 5 juillet 2012

Litchfield National Park

A day trip to Litchfield National Park.
Entrance to this fascinating 143sq km area is just 129km south from Darwin.
The area was designated as a National Park in 1986. 

The Park is historically home to the Aboriginal Wagait people. The Finniss Exploration was the first European connection within the area and the park was named after Frederick Henry Litchfield, a member of the expedition. For 75 years until the mid 20th Century, the area was the centre for tin and cooper mining.
Magnetic Termite Mounds
Driving though the park you see many gigantic termite mounds.
The mounds, standing up to 2m in height, are in a north-south orientation.
This configuration acts as a built-in temperature control mechanism, allowing only the least possible surface to be exposed to the heat of the sun.

Florence Falls
A spectacular double waterfall set amidst monsoon rainforest. 

While on my visit, I came across a group of tourists with a guide. I heard him say something interesting about termites and didgeridoos. He was explaining how this certain type of termite, that only lives in the north of australia, hollows out eucalyptus trees. Aborigines would knock on the trees to see if they were hollow or not. The hollow ones were perfect for making didgeridoos (half the work of hollowing the wood had been done by the termites). As these termites only live up north, didgeridoos were only made in this part of australia.

Tolmer Falls
Tolmer Falls is one of the most spectacular falls, cascading over 2 high escarpments into a distant, deep plunge pool.
Cristal clear water at the foot of the falls.
At the top of the Tolmer Falls.

The Wangi Falls

A walk nearby the Wangi Falls
Yet again, mosquito heaven, only this time i wasn't wearing repellent! Whenever i would stop walking i would be stormed by those horrible pests! And i really didn't want to get bitten, not after having learnt that there are still outbursts of the dengue disease in the Northern Territory!
After a while you get used to big spiders!

Time to head back to Darwin.
I decided to take the 'other' road, instead of heading back on my tracks.
A sign did warn that there was going to be 40km of gravel road. I thought that the place being a popular tourist area, the gravel road would be in good condition...
...I was wrong...
The road was really bad. My car was bumping and skidding everywhere! 
Plus during all those km i did not meet one car...
I really prayed hard not to break down out here!
After what seemed like ages of hellish driving, I saw tarmac! I was so relieved!

But it didn't last long!
I have no idea why in Australia, in the middle of their gravel roads they put 1 or 2km of tarmac road. Is it just to get your hopes up high?
'hmmm, I hope i don't end up like that car!'
Nah! All went well, I and my car got out in one piece!

The top end - Darwin

Goodbye WA, hello Northern Territory!

Finally, we arrived at Darwin.

Darwin has been knocked about a good deal. It was bombed repeatedly by the Japanese in the second world war and then devastated by cyclone tracy in 1974.

Cyclone Tracy, still the most devastating natural event in Australian history. It all but blew away the town on xmas eve 1974. According to a recored commentary, most people didn’t expect the storm to come to much. A weaker cyclone had passed though a few weeks earlier without doing significant damage, and the leading edge of tracy brushed over the town without leaving any hint of particular ferocity to come. Most people turned in as if it were a ormal night. It wasn’t until Darwin was hit by the backend of the storm system, about 2.30am, that people realized they were really in for it. As the winds whipped up to 160 miles an hour Darwin’s frail tropical houses began to shen pieces and then to disintegrate. Most of the housing was post-war fibreboard homes, quick and cheap to built but could not stand up to a real hurricane. Before the night was out Tracy had blown away 9000 homes and killed more than 60 people.

After a quick coffee, I decided to have a wonder around Darwin.

Lyons Cottage.
Constructed in 1925 of pocellanite stone by Snell and Co. to house staff from the British and Australian Telegraph Company. The architectural style, unique in Darwin, is reminiscent of colonial models developed in India, Malaysia and Singapore. 

The cenotaph / War Memorial. 
Overlooking the Harbour in Bicentennial Park the Cenotaph is Darwin's memorial to those members of the armed services, rescue services, and civilian personnel who gave their lives in the service of their country in time of conflict.

Outdoor cinema
WWII Oil Storage Tunnels.
The tunnels were constructed in 1943 to protect Darwin's oil supplies. I was told that by the time they had finished building them the war was over, so they were never actually used!
They are pretty spooky though!

The Old Courthouse and Police Station.
Built in 1884 for the South Australian Government, its simple verandah and walls of coursed rubble are classic early SA style. The courthouse adjoined the police station with a cellblock in the back. The Navy used these buildings from WWII until the Christmas day of 1974 cyclone disaster.

Government House

The Old Town Hall.
Conservation techniques are used to slow decay of these post)cyclone Tracy ruins. Along with Browns Mart and Christchurch Cathedral, the simple, rectangular building erected in 1883 during a mining boom created a human scaled streets cape of stone. In WWII, it was used for naval administration and later as an art gallery.

Christchurch Cathedral.
The original cathedral built in 1902 was devastated by Cyclone Tracy. The cathedral you see here is a totally modern design built in 1975 incorporating part of the ruins of the original structure.

Browns Mart.
Intended as a mining exchange when built in the 1880'sn this stone cottage has served many purposes throughout the years. 

The Beagle Bells
The HMS Beagle Ship Bell Chime is a musical instrument linking the City of Darwin to Charles Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836.
The display features a series of cast bronze bells, and a replica HMS Beagle ship's bell, cast in brass; the sculpture brings together the separate Eastern and Western bell traditions.

The Tree of Knowledge.
The banyan tree (ficus virens), a species revered by Buddhists worldwide as the 'The Tree of Knowledge'. This ancient beauty has been a locally-famous landmark throughout the town's history. 

Chinese Temple 
The present temple building was erected after the original temple built in 1887 was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. It is built on the same footprint as the original Temple. 

The mall

Mindil Beach Sunset Markets.

A crocodile steak burger! Delicious!

A walk around George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens.
So tropical!
So many different types of palms!
Mosquito heaven! (Even worse, you can still catch dengue disease up here!)