When your imagination wanders and you think of the movie-esque campground of the rugged Australian Outback, images of desolate scrub, horizons stretching beyond normal vision under a scorching sun, an oasis of sorts at the end of a dusty, narrow dirt road, and perhaps an old, faded blue tarp draped over some form of a dusty office outpost where, hopefully, someone in an Outback hat will eventually emerge and grant you a plot of ground for the night. Well, at least that’s what I imagined, and at Litchfield Safari Camp, I met my imaginary match. Rural, remote, dusty and absolutely perfect.
We trekked up from Katherine, and like everything in Australia, were reminded that it’s a long way from here to there. It looks simple enough, maybe three hours between Katherine and the Litchfield turn-off, but as Columbus and I have discovered, the good stuff is always way off the highway, and in this case, our campground was at the end of the road, literally. Now old-hands at the road-tripping aspect of RVing, we almost looked forward to our numerous encounters with Australia’s ubiquitous Outback road-trains, which Bill Bryson best describes as “…multilayered trucks up to 150 feet long…coming at you at full throttle on a two lane highway where it desires all of its lane and some of yours. (It’s) an explosive whoomp as you hit its displaced air, followed at once by a consequent lurch onto the shoulder, several moments of hypermanic axle action sufficient to loosen dental fillings and empty your pockets of coins, an enveloping shroud of gritty red dust and the metallic dinks and savage thumps of flying rocks, some involuntary oral emissions on your part as the dust clears…and a sudden, miraculous return to tranquility and smoothness as the car regains the pavement, entirely of its own volition. ” And Bryson didn’t encounter road-trains from an RV, with two children. Suffice it to say, we were ready for a tinnie from the esky by the time we rolled into Litchfield.
Waterfalls, monsoon rain forests, termite mounds the size of small huts, and desolate scrub to the horizon and beyond, Litchfield doesn’t disappoint. Trekking into the rainforest surrounding Wangi Falls, we found ourselves in a Halloween haunted house of sorts, hundreds of bats hanging in the trees above us, screeching wildly as they jousted for position, and spider webs encapsulating large chunks of the forest, home to the scores of massive Orb spiders we’ve come to love. The trek to Tolmer Falls took us through rugged scrub and over rock cliffs, rewarding us with magnificent vistas of the falls and the horizon beyond. At Florence Falls — the crown jewel of the bunch — Dundee was ecstatic as he swam under the falls and into the caves, while Sacagawea and I enjoyed swimming with the fish a bit closer to the bans. Exploring Buley Rockhole after lunch, quietly aware that our adventures were drawing to a close, Dundee and I were climbing over the rocks to our next swimming hole when he reached back and took my hand. ”Let me help you, mom,” he said quietly.
Thousands of miles, countless adventures, moments to treasure a lifetime.