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Litchfield National Park

DON’T FORGET TO PACK THE BEANS

 

This stunning national park was recommended to me by a family of Territorians on their way from Darwin to Katherine. We met at the Pine Creek lookout which has a commanding view of an old mine site, now a man made lake. I was warned not to expect too much of Kakadu, ‘Kaka-don’t the locals call it,’ I was told that instead of putting all my effort into the most famous park in the country, it was worth my while spending time at Litchfield as well. ‘If you have to see one or the other, go to Litchfield.’

The fun really started when I locked my keys in the car and needed rescuing – as luck would have it two very friendly and charming park rangers came to my aid.

IMG_4570‘Sure, we’ll help you steal a car,’ I was told by Steve, over and above several protests that it really was my car. ‘We don’t care. We’ll just help ya steal it even if it is yours.’

They definitely enjoyed clowning… while simultaneously stirring the pot.

They also seemed to be in good cheer in spite of having no success at all getting into the car after a good hour spent trying. ‘At least it’s not a sunny day,’ it was true to the extent that it had rained all morning and most of the early afternoon. It was also lucky it wasn’t raining while they struggled to get a door open. And they tried all four doors.

Wringing his hands from cramp, Steve explained that a hammer against a window would be a lot more efficient.

The other ranger, (I am pretty sure her name was Kate) replied that she had found that a gun fired at any car window at reasonably close range was known to work. She said in 100% of cases it was an effective means of obtaining entry. ‘Usually breaks at least two windows though,’ was added as an afterthought.

A few minutes more of their combined efforts and a few more jokes about breaking into cars using firearms and a door was open.

Being a good Australian, I immediately offered a carton of their choice of beer in exchange for their help. That was graciously declined, they just can’t accept any form of payment, no matter how beery, innocent or innocuous it is, they just won’t do it.

Then Steve turns to me and says, ‘you camping in the park tonight or are ya gonna miss the cyclone?’

Cyclone? What cyclone?

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‘You got a tin of baked beans?,’ he wondered, ‘could be needing that to get through the storms. Might get locked into the park for a few days before the roads clear of flooding.’

‘Are you serious?’ I was certain he wasn’t. Nothing he said seemed serious…¬†cyclone schmyclone.

They looked serious enough but then they had pulled my leg so many times in the previous ninety minutes it was not clear if my leg was still actually attached. Were they maybe pulling on the other one? But a few seconds of nodding in solemn silence convinced me they were just not kidding about the cyclone warning, ‘It’ll pass through here about 6 in the morning.’ Steve smiled at me. He was really enjoying this.

I’d seen enough flood warning signs in the last 5,000 kilometers to convince me that if it was possible for the Pilbarra to become an interior lake and a thousand dry creeks to become real, actual creeks, if it was possible for rivers breaking at Fitzroy crossing to send floods as far as Derby then it was likely that a cyclone hitting Darwin would close off the roads in Litchfield, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the world. The only question which lingered was how far away from Darwin was going to be safe?

Considerations like this are all flashing through my head when Steve warns me again about the dire peril of being stuck in a storm without a tin of baked beans. So, I have a car again but no baked beans. Clearly a major crisis!

‘Well, I have a box of Jatz crackers,’ I put it out there with an optimistic smile, ‘surely that counts for something.’

IMG_4371‘Hah, yeah okay, maybe that could¬†work. But you might have to space ’em out. Gotta make ’em last a few days.’

When they left me with a few waves and smiles I got straight to work filming, eyeballing my stash of Jatz crackers pensively, wary of the pending storm. Checking every few minutes that I had my car keys in my pocket.

We can get really lucky in life sometimes. This was certainly one of those times, I could sense my luck was seriously good. The notion of being stuck in a national park, locked out of my car, not seeing anyone for three days or more while the roads cleared of water was pretty sobering. Those rangers really saved my arse and when they brushed off my gratitude like it was an annoying fly, hey, I was kind of awestruck.

It all made me think rather seriously about just how little I know about how to live outside the world of shelter, supermarkets, take away fast food, cars with climate control and central locking.

I speak three languages, not well but I can do it. I know a fair bit of mathematics and physics. I play guitar badly enough to upset real musicians and neighbours and I quite like to draw cartoons. I even studied one of the martial arts for a while and know a bit of Australian Sign Language… but I still know absolutely nothing at all about making it through a storm for three days without any food, nor how to break into my own car.

Without their help I was completely screwed.

So a huge thanks to the Litchfield rangers. Definitely visit the park if you ever get the chance. It is stunning.

But, you know, bring a lot of baked beans. Just in case you run into Steve…

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