TUESDAY 18 JULY LITCHFIELD
It was our day off.
Yesterday, we’d asked boss 2, very sweetly if M could have the day off, too. He agreed, before he went off back to Darwin for his break. Fait accompli!
We had, last week, arranged to go out to neighbouring LaBelle Downs today, and be taken by the owner, P, on his boat cruise on part of the Reynolds River. He had recently developed a camp ground on his station, near his homestead – as we had seen on the promo board by our front entrance.
Needed to be up early, to get out to LaBelle at the 8am specified.
With M in the back seat, we drove the gravel Channel Point road to the homestead.
Passed the new campground near the house. It looked rather good. Sites were laid out and had shade. There was a row of individual shower/toilet rooms. P later explained that his concept was that, upon booking in, you got a key to one of these, for your group’s sole use. Throughout your stay, you were responsible for keeping it in the state that suited you. One way to save on the cost and labour of daily cleaning – made a lot of sense to me.
It was early days yet for the set up, but it was certainly attractive enough to make us think about camping here at some future date.
P drove us in his vehicle, along station tracks, from the house to the river, where a good sized boat was moored. There were some gates to open and close and I did those.
We paid him $40 each for the cruise – before we left on it. When we paid him, he put the money into a kind of money belt, that was stuffed really full with notes – and just tossed it back onto the back seat. Very casual.
The cruise on the river and billabongs took the best part of a couple of hours.
The scenery was beautiful and the cruise really interesting.
There was lots of bird life, and some crocs, of course. They were large ones too!
Some of the way was on fairly open river channel, some was through more shallow billabong sections, and backwaters.
The vegetation beside the river was varied, but always lush.
One section featured several Leichhardt Pines.
Everywhere, we disturbed birds, that flew around.
Back at the house, we were treated to drinks and talk with P. He essentially allowed us to wander around the living rooms of the house – a fairly modern one – and browse things like paintings, photos, books. Again, it was all very casual. I was not sure if we got standard treatment, or if this was much more friendly than normal, because we were “neighbours”.
P seemed quite lonely. He told us he was divorced recently and that his ex-wife had gotten to keep their Kimberley cattle station, near Fitzroy Crossing. We got the impression that it had been his favourite place.
Eventually, feeling that we had stayed long enough, drove back to camp, where we had a leisurely lunch.
Then, since we had a rare day off all together, decided to go out to Walker Creek, for an explore.
Drove out past the Woolaning settlement, and on to the parking area for the Walker Creek track.
This was a 3.5km return walk, mostly along side a beautifully clear little cascading creek.
The track passed through some stands of cycads.
It was, in the Park information, graded as a moderate class walk, but we found it easy going. There was quite a lot of shade along the way, which made it feel easier.
Only walk in camping was allowed in the handful of sites we passed – no vehicle access to these. This, clearly, limited their popularity, and none were occupied. So it was lovely and peaceful, with no other people, unlike somewhere like Wangi.
The section of track where the main stands of cycads were, had been burnt fairly recently.
The Park Rangers had told us they were plagued by the local indigines, who persisted in setting fires, even though they had been asked not to, and the reasons why had been explained. So areas that the Rangers did not want burned, were – and it was an ongoing task for them, once things had dried out, like now, to keep control of these fires. They believed it was not so much that this was traditional country management, but more that it was a way of annoying the white people Park authorities.
There were a couple of places we could have swum, had we wished – in some lovely, small clear pools, under little sets of cascades, and in the larger plunge pool at the Falls. But I think we had rather acclimatized to the temperatures up here, and somehow it did not feel like swimming season.
It was a really lovely little walk. It occupied us for some three hours. Much enjoyed.
We were becoming conscious now that we did not have all that much more time left here, so had to make the most of our days off. One of the benefits of time off in mid week was that there were less day tripper crowds from Darwin. There were still all the tour groups and lots of tourists at the popular places – but not as busy as on weekends. Which, of course, was why we were given mid-week days off.