All aboard for Darwin!

Next stop, Darwin. Our original plan was only to spend a night or two in Darwin, but our plans changed which meant we ended up spending about 10 days hanging out in Darwin. For some of this time Tom headed back to Melbourne, so I was left to explore Darwin with the kidlets.

Really, Darwin is just another big town. It has all the same things any major centre would boast, including numerous McDonalds and I am ashamed to say that we actually frequented this establishment a little bit when we were in Darwin as it was hot and they serve up $1 slushies. If anybody knows me you will know that letting our kids have slushies never happens!! But I was desperate for air conditioned comfort and coffee and our kids thought they were in heaven!!

We found a caravan park that was not too expensive and luckily had a pool in which they could swim!! This in the end became the favourite pastime for our kids during our stay in Darwin and all the kids showed great improvement in their swimming abilities. Amelia and Isaac learned to dive and Matisse and Tobias became more and more confident in the water.

Matisse jumping in the water.
Preparing to jump together.
Isaac doing a belly flop – deliberately!!

A visit to Darwin is not complete without a trip to Mindil Sunset Markets held every Thursday and Sunday during the dry season. Yum!! Yum!! With over 200 speciality food stalls there was food a plenty and although we blew our food budget it was worth it!! The other reason to go to the markets is not just to taste the food, but also to see the sunset on Mindil Beach, although we nearly missed it because we were too busy chatting to some new friends. We focussed our attention just in time and managed to get the obligatory family photo.

A beautiful NT sunset on Mindil Beach.

The Mindil Market also saw Isaac finally having a go at trying to crack a whip. Isaac has been desperate ever since our visit to Little Roper Stock Camp in Mataranka to try his luck at wielding a whip.

Such determination!

Our days in Darwin were spent engaging in a whole wide range of activities. We went to visit a school, we visited the Martin de Porres Aboriginal Mission, we explored the Botanical Gardens, we went to the wave pool in the CBD, we frequented the free water parks, we visited a crocodile park and we looked through the aviation museum that housed old war planes and other aviation equipment.

The other highlight were the water slides that we got to play on!! Seriously cool!! And free to boot!! The other great thing was that seeing it was term time there was no one there (other than other TAWKers). We just got off and ran back up to the top and got to do it again!

Sooooo much fun!!

The Northern Territory Museum was also of interest and Tom and I particularly enjoyed the display on Cyclone Tracy that devastated Darwin during the Christmas of 1974. The 5 metre ‘salty’ nicknamed ‘Sweetheart’ was a winner with the kids along with other preserved animals, particularly the creepy crawlies! The kids also really enjoyed the interactive kids space and even I got in to the spirit of it painting up a storm!!

It would have been nice to have gone to more of the sites around Darwin that delved more deeply into the impact that the cyclone had on the city. Similarly we would have liked to have explored a little more about the bombing of Darwin Harbour during WWII. It all costs money and the kids really didn’t have it in them! Oh well, Se La Vie, next time.

Hard at work in the children’s interactive space!!

Litchfield National Park

After Edith Falls we headed to Litchfield National Park. Litchfield, like all the national parks in the Northern Territory had lots to explore and we had to make decisions about what we would do! We were camping in the national park at Florence Falls. Florence Falls was only a short walk from our campsite, so as it was a steamy afternoon this was our first stop.

While Florence Falls was a great place to swim and the kids did in fact make the trek out to the falls, the most fun was had with the kids amusing themselves scrambling through the rocks and trying to dam up the trickling river. This really captured their attention for the afternoon.

Our ever creative Matisse also came up with a wonderful imaginary world where our blue towel represented the sky, the green towel the land and our swimming paraphernalia representing a whole array of farm animals. Thongs became pigs, sheep and cows. A drink bottle became the farmer and the goggles and noodles something else! I love it when the kids are at this type of play and they use whatever is at hand to enter their own world.

They following day we kicked the 4WD into action and went exploring off road. We ventured into ‘The Lost City’, a remarkable series of sandstone rock formations that seem to herald a lost civilisation and evoke a sense of intrigue and mystery. The kids started telling stories of prince and princesses and magical curses that foretold the destruction of the city.

An illusion of a lost civilisation!
Exploring ‘The Lost City’.
Sandstone rocks formed by thousands of years of rain and wind erosion.
Having a little rest!!

After we explored The Lost City we moved on to Wangi Falls. We arrived in time for a late lunch and a long awaited swim. Even I got in the water!! I might add I had to swim past about 19 orb spiders innocently lurching at the water’s edge. While I didn’t swim out to the falls, the others once again did!!

Heading for the falls!!
At home in the water!

Our final stop, Buley Rock Pools. We wish we had more time to explore this fun little spot but Darwin was calling. The kids had a great time jumping into the water and climbing up the little waterfall. We got some great photos of the kids mid air!!

Getting ready…
,,,and go!!
Not to be outdone!

Nitmiluk National Park – Edith Falls

After our beautiful visit to the gorge, we made our way to the western side of Nitmiluk National Park to Leliyn/Edith Falls. We set out early from Katherine to make sure we arrived early enough to secure a campsite. The Northern Territory have great camping facilities in their national parks, but it is on a first come, first served basis, so in the height of the dry season you are competing for sites. Luckily for us we were coming out of the peak season and into the shoulder season, so we were able to secure a ripper of a campsite. It had been a while since the kids had so much green grass on which to play, so if was lovely to see them building tent cities and playing so nicely together.

Having fun playing on the grass.

This was also when we first bought out ‘Finska’ and had our first family games afternoon. It was a little fractious if I’m honest, however there were some valuable teaching moments!!

After settling in, it was time to hit the falls. At Edith Falls you can access both the lower plunge pool and the upper pool. We decided we would swim in the lower pool first and explore the upper pool the next day. Having now visited a few waterfalls (as you will see in the coming posts there is a recurrent theme) it has become a bit of a custom for Tom and the kids to swim out to the falls. This was first instituted at Edith Falls. The kids have become so much more confident in their swimming and have loved exploring all the waterholes and pools.

Heading out to the falls.
On their return…
Feeling tired after an afternoon of swimming!

The next day we headed out to explore the upper pool. It is starting to heat up and by mid morning it is in the mid 30’s. Not the best time to be heading out on a walk but we are just not very good at getting going some mornings!!

Anyway, as we have done on a few occasions now and I am sure we will do again, we underestimate how strenuous a walk this is. While the older kids bound up effortlessly, it takes a lot of coxing to get Tobias up to the top pool. We eventually get there and we are all glad we have made the effort, including Tobias who is keen to jump into the water. It really is a beautiful part of the world!!

Amelia at the Upper Pool at Edith Falls
More rocks to climb!! Then a refreshing dip in the water!!
The Upper Pool.
Tom and the kids swam out to these falls too!!

Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge)

Katherine Gorge has been on my bucket list for years. I don’t know why really, but it has always been this place that I have heard of and one day hoped I would visit. I can now tick it off my list, although as with many things on this trip, there is so much I didn’t get to see.

It is the sheer size of Nitmiluk Gorge that is so overwhelming. In fact it is not one gorge but 13 gorges. I quickly realised that we were not going to see much if we relied solely on our feet for walking so we decided that we would splurge a little and take out one of the cruises. I am so glad we did. The cruise has been one of the highlights of our trip so far. The kids were all very excited too. One day in the future I would love to canoe down the gorges and camp in one of the camp sites situated throughout the park only accessible by canoe. How cool would that be? There is one gorge aptly named ‘Butterfly Gorge’ that provides shelter for thousands of common crow butterflies. Hopefully in the future…

Our day at Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge).


One of our favourite places so far would have to be the four nights we spent in Mataranka. We rocked up to The Little Roper Stock Camp and straight away felt at home. This was the ideal spot for a family to hang out and and explore the area. More than just a place to park the van, this camping experience was a little more unique. Our hosts Des, Telka and little Darcy, would light a nightly campfire where people would gather to chat and share their travel stories. The fire would again be stoked in the morning where johnny cakes and freshly brewed billy tea would be on offer. The kids would be off feeding the animals, holding the resident snake or exploring with one of the many other kids who were also spending extended time on the road. In fact the family parked next to us were on their way back to WA after having spent 4 years living in their caravan!!!

Just another morning at The Little Roper Stock Camp.

Mataranka is a small town just south of Katherine and is famous for it’s thermal pools which keep a constant temperature of about 33 degrees. It is also the setting for the Australian novel ‘We of the Never, Never’ by Jeannie Gunn, a book written about life on Elsey Station at the turn of last century. I started reading this book while in Mataranka and I really got a sense of how isolated and harsh this land is and definitely would have been in early pastoralist days. Jeannie Gunn only ever spent a year in Mataranka, but she was changed because of it. The area had somehow captured her heart.

There are two main thermal pools in which to swim when you come to Mataranka. The first is accessed via the grounds of Mataranka Homestead. This pool is little more ‘manicured’ than the other pool, ‘Bittern Springs’ which is found on the other side of the town. The kids loved Bittern Springs because they got to use their pool noodles and float down the springs with the current.

Swimming in the thermal pools at Mataranka Homestead

Tjoritja – West MacDonnell Ranges

We have been busy over the last little while, but with little internet coverage we have not spent much time writing this blog, so we thought we better update our page and share some of the amazing things we have been up to.

After spending some time relaxing and regrouping in Alice Springs we headed for the West MacDonnell Ranges. One thing we have really noticed on our trip is while you think you have all the time in the world, you really don’t!! When initially planning our trip I had all these plans for our time in the MacDonnell Ranges, but unfortunately we only got the chance to explore such a small part of this amazing landscape.

The West MacDonnell National Park stretches for 161 kms to the west of Alice Springs. We were able spend time exploring Glen Helen Gorge, Redbank Gorge and Simpsons Gap, not far out of Alice itself.

We located ourselves at Glen Helen Gorge and explored from there.

The beautiful Glen Helen Gorge.

One of the kids’ favourite adventures so far is our walk into Redbank Gorge. The walk was only about 2 kms but took us about 2.5 hours to complete. The walk required lots of ‘rambling’ over rocks and time spent convincing Tobias to keep going. The walk followed the creek bed and eventually came to a waterhole. The big kids loved all the rock climbing and kept looking for the biggest rocks to scale. We were lucky to stumble across quite a few rock wallabies as we walked (or Wobblies as Tobias calls them).

The dry creek bed leading to Redbank Gorge.

Redbank Gorge
The waterhole at Redbank Gorge.
Happy Families!!

Uluru – The Heart of Australia

“I can see why people call this the heart of Australia,” resounded Isaac as Uluru loomed in the distance. Isaac in particular has surprised us both during our trip with his fascination and interest in all the new places we have visited. His curiosity and his inquisitive nature has given us a new perspective. He has made us marvell at things through the eyes of a child. Both Tom and I have had the pleasure of visiting Uluru before when we were both much younger and perhaps a little less receptive to just how amazing a place Uluru is. Neither of us remembered being as moved as we were on revisiting Uluru. There really is something special about this land, about this place that speaks to the heart. Let’s be honest – its a giant, red, rock in the middle of nowhere, and yet for some reason it draws upwards of 250 000 visitors a year from all over the world. Like Kings Canyon, Uluru humbled me and made me acutely aware of my humanity. There is a rich story being told and now we have become a part of that story. A story that will be told (God willing) for another 600 million years.

Sunset at Uluru.
Riding around the base of Uluru.

The kids were able to ‘back up’ the Kings Canyon Rim Walk with a ten kilometre ride the following day around ‘the rock’. Matisse has just mastered the art of riding with no training wheels, so her effort was awesome. Tobias wasn’t so keen. We got a few hundred metres in to the walk and I called it!! So unfortunately I was left to drive around the base while Tom walked. While we have had our challenges (be assured our trip has not been all sunshine and roses) the kids continue to exceed our expectations when it comes to their endurance and tenacity. They have been real little troopers.

One thing I have not gotten use to is the ‘red dirt’. This is the overflow campground – just red dirt!! I’m channelling my mother and reliving my childhood in Karratha. I have so much more appreciation for her. I don’t know how she managed!! I’ve given up trying to keep things clean. As Amelia said to me the other day, “You’re the only one that cares mum!”

Uluru is sacred to the Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land. Uluru, while originally sitting at the bottom of the sea, now stands about 348 metres high and in fact continues for a number of kilometres underground. Geologists estimate that it’s formation began around 550 million years ago.

Fun Fact – There are shrimps living in Uluru. After heavy rain, tadpole like shrimps hatch in temporary water holes and rock pools.