Some final thoughts on our holiday...
Was it worth the wait? Yes!
Would you go campervanning again? It's probably a bit early to say, but we survived and our friendship is still intact. Campervan life did take some adjustment - having to put the beds up each night and down each morning did get tiresome, figuring out where you could sit or stand so you weren't in the other person's way (especially when it involved doing something in the kitchen), trying to park level so that the sink would drain properly. We also should have allowed more time to collect it (2 hrs instead of 1). It also took us 45 minutes of driving around at the end finding somewhere to refill the gas bottle (solution: BBQs Galore).
But it wasn't all bad. Taking the same bed with you everywhere helped (once we figured out the optimum mattress and sheet/duvet combinations), having an on board kitchen meant you knew what you had to work with each night instead of wondering what the next motel or lodge would have in terms of cooking facilities. We hired a table and camp chairs and we used them pretty much every day.
After the trip I did a quick comparison of 'regular' hire car and lodge accommodation, and the campervan option worked out at least $500 cheaper. So overall it was probably worth it. But we were glad to get to our motel in Darwin where we could spread out and have our own spaces!
How would you rate the campgrounds? We opted for powered sites wherever we could (i.e. everywhere except for the national parks). In order from best to worst:
1. Anbinik (Jabiru). En suite bathroom, not too close to the neighbours
2. Ivanhoe Village (Kununurra). Decent sized plot, good amenities, close to the pool
3. Florence Falls (Litchfield, unpowered). Huge plot, large bathrooms, not too close to neighbours so was quiet. Only downside was the plot had a slope
4. Riverview Tourist Village (Katherine). Noise from neighbours and the road
5. Djarradjin campground (Kakadu, unpowered). Cheap, had hot showers
6. Nitmiluk campground (Katherine Gorge). Amenities block way down the other end, small plots, noisy, tiny shower cubicles
7. Cooinda Lodge / Yellow Water campground (Kakadu). Tiny plot right on the road, busy, amenities block quite a walk
8. Victoria River Roadhouse (Victoria River). Sloped ground, very dated amenities, no toilet paper
Impressions of Kakadu? LOTS of driving. The rock art and walks were good, but did get hot later in the day. We didn't go to any of the waterfalls as we didn't have a 4wd vehicle.
Impressions of Litchfield? Points of interest were closer together than Kakadu. Waterfalls flow even in the dry season. Again, there were places we couldn't go as they required a 4wd vehicle. Like Kakadu, it did get hot later in the day, so if you plan to do any walks, try to do them in the morning. The same was true for the Nitmiluk Southern walks.
Impressions of the Bungle Bungles? Hard to say; it was a bit of a mixed bag. After the campervan (which also doubled as our accommodation) and flights, this was the next most expensive thing we did. Flying overhead gave a unique perspective. The walking tour was a bit disappointing not to be able to explore at our leisure. The lunch was quite fancy and may not have been to everyone's taste (quiche with quinoa salad).
How would you rate the activities you did?
A+ Kayaking in the Nitmiluk gorge. Highlight of the trip for both of us
A+ Barrk walk at Nourlangie and the associated rock art (two locations)
A+ Jumping crocodiles, both for the wow factor and the tour guide's dry humour
A+ Nitmiluk Southern walks - Jedda's rock and Pat's lookout. Worth the effort
A+ Aquascene fish feeding, Darwin
A Mirima National Park, Kununurra
A Katherine Show
A Victoria gorge escarpment walk
A Triple J Ord river sunset cruise (Kununurra)
A Rockalong gallery (Kununurra)
A Deckchair cinema (likely good rating because we enjoyed the movie)
A Ubirr (not the guided tour though)
A Litchfield: Wangi Falls
A Litchfield: Florence Falls & Shady Creek walk
A Mini golf, Palmerston
B Bungle Bungles tour overall (A Flight, B- Domes walk, A+ Cathedral gorge)
B Litchfield: Magnetic termite mounds
B Kakadu: Nawurlandja lookout walk
B RFDS (Darwin) - virtual reality headset displays were the best part
B Diamond shop in Kununurra
B Kakadu: Anbangbang billabong walk
B Cutta Cutta caves
B Nitmiluk southern walks: Butterfly gorge
B- Darwin self-guided heritage walk
C+ Mindil Beach night markets
C Darwin oil tunnels
C Gregory Tree
C Darwin botanic gardens
C- Yellow Waters cultural centre
C- Mamaluka wetlands walk
C- Kakadu: 2x lookout walks between Cooinda and Pine Creek (Gungurul, Bukbukluk)
Any surprises or things you learned? Where do I start...
The terrain is not all flat, like I was expecting - the Arnhem Land escarpment, Victoria River, Kimberley were all quite prominent geographical features.
Speed limits being 130 kph!
Driving from NT to WA and losing 1.5 hrs (time difference).
The different purposes of rock art, and how it wasn't ok to touch up someone else's painting but was perfectly ok to paint over it.
Some of the rock art we saw was made as recently as the 1960s - not all of it is ancient.
The orange and black stripes of the Bungle Bungles are only a surface coating, not the colour of the rocks themselves (which are white).
Crocodiles can sense vibrations 1-2 km away!
Barramundi can't reproduce in fresh water.
Freshwater crocodiles swallow their food whole, so they don't attack humans unless they feel threatened.
The waterfalls at Litchfield flow all year due to water seeping out of the rock slowly.
'Magnetic' termites are blind and can sense magnetic fields. Their mounds are oriented to give the most consistent temperature; if the alignment is changed then internal temperatures increase significantly.
At one point in history, 75% of Darwin's non-indigenous population was Chinese.
70-80% of Darwin's buildings were destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. 30,000 people were evacuated (out of 46,000).
It took 20 years to install the 9" guns at East Point, and they were never used in combat (only tested).
The Darwin oil storage tunnels' budget of £200,000 blew out to over £1,000,000 - and they were never used in the war.
The oil storage tunnels were a secret project, but the excavated dirt was simply piled up at the entrance; any Japanese reconnaissance officer would have instantly known what was there!