Florence Falls

We had worked up an appetite with our morning explorations of Litchfield Park and found a secluded spot for a picnic lunch alongside Florence Creek.

The spring fed watercourse bubbles along, tumbling over a series of cascades until it reaches the escarpment at Florence Falls.

A stunning panorama from the viewing platform takes in the lush monsoon forest surrounding the falls.

The multi-tiered falls drop around 40 metres in total while the main cascade is around 20 metres.

There are 160 steps to the swimming hole at the base of the falls. Tempting though it was to cool off in the pristine water, the return climb would have been a step too far.

Tolmer Falls

Feeling inspired by our Wangi Falls expedition, we ventured 10km further down the road to walk the 1.6km Tolmer Creek loop before lunch. The trail started with an easy amble along a flat path surrounded by scattered rock formations

and sporadic blooms of Sturt’s desert rose. The floral emblem of the Northern Territory, this delicate flower was named after the explorer Charles Sturt. Interestingly, the stylised version on the official flag has seven petals instead of five.

Hundreds of cycads dotted the prehistoric landscape.

The male plants grow a large, pollen producing cone on the top of the trunk but the females grow a cluster of stalks that grow upward until the seeds at the end get heavy and they droop. They are not recommended for a bush tucker menu as they contain a neurotoxin and are poisonous.

The track became steep and rocky as we neared the top of the falls, taking a moment to ponder some carefully constructed rock art.

The crystal clear water of Tolmer Creek trickled its way over golden sandstone to the edge of the escarpment.

We were rewarded with awe-inspiring views and spectacular cliffs as we made our way to the viewing platform.

Explorer Frederick Henry Litchfield named the falls after his late father’s colleague in the South Australia Police, Alexander Tolmer. The water cascades over two high escarpments into a deep plunge pool where swimming is prohibited.

The panorama from the other side of the viewing platform was quite different but equally as impressive.

Wangi Falls

It is many years since I have been to Litchfield National Park and on my recent sojourn to Darwin, a visit was included on the agenda. Named after Frederick Henry Litchfield who explored the Northern Territory in the mid 1800s, the 1,500 square kilometre park is a comfortable 90 minute drive south of Darwin. The park has several stunning waterfalls and crystal clear swimming holes, the largest being Wangi Falls.

In 1883, surveyor David Lindsay named the falls after his youngest daughter, Gwendoline. Forty years later, Max Sargent took up the pastoral lease over the area and renamed the falls after his second daughter, Kathleen, who was born in 1954. The Townsend family took over the lease in 1961, built an outstation nearby and called it Wangi, the local aboriginal name for the area. Consequently, the falls became known as Wangi Falls. There are actually two cascades at Wangi, the morning sun wasn’t conducive to photographing the narrower stream flowing to the left of the main falls.

We set off on the Wangi Loop Walk, a 1.6 kilometre circuitous trail that climbs the escarpment to the top of the falls and returns on the other side of the pool. Colonies of flying foxes roosted above us, not bothering to seek shade for their morning slumber.

Meandering streams tumbled their way through the lush forest,

the canopy opened up to reveal a breathtaking vista as we neared the summit.

There is no view of the actual falls from the top and it is surprising that these trickling water courses create such a spectacle as they plummet over the cliff.

Smaller waterfalls accompanied us as we twisted and turned our way down a series of stone steps

to return to the pool for one last look at the majestic Wangi Falls.

Huka Falls

Our wonderful four days at Buckland B&B had come to an end and it was time to move on to new adventures. We had booked a house on Lake Taupo for the next three nights but there were amazing things to see on the way. Huka Falls may not be the highest we have seen but they are certainly spectacular.

The largest falls on the Waikato River, the name Huka is the Māori word for ‘foam’ of which there is much generated by the falling water.

From the lower lookout, the power of the falls soon dissipates while the river continues its journey to the Tasman Sea.

We wandered upstream to a footbridge crossing to the other side. New Zealand’s longest river at 425 kilometres, the Waikato is normally up to 100 metres wide. It narrows abruptly to just 15 metres as it crosses a hard volcanic ledge, a huge volume of water collides before rushing over the cliff face and under the bridge we were standing on.

At this point, the water is flowing around 220,000 litres per second, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool in 11 seconds.

We followed the footpath to the top of the falls where the water bursts out of its rapids and over the 11 metre drop

back into the Waikato River.

Cascate del Mulino

After a few hectic days, a soak in the healing waters of hot springs sounded like heaven. We made an early start to avoid the crowds at Terme di Saturnia, a group of thermal springs a few kilometres from the town of Saturnia.

According to medieval legend, during one of the many fights between the god Jupiter and his father Saturn, a lightning bolt thrown by Jupiter missed Saturn and hit the ground. The impact of the projectile formed a crater and its heat warms the water that continually fills the spring. The pool from the legend is actually enclosed in the 5-star Terme di Saturnia Spa Resort and from there, the water flows along a travertine channel, called Gorello, for just over a kilometre.

The gentle pace picks up as the water tumbles over rocks at a magnificent thermal waterfall.

Over thousands of years, the cascading water has created terraces and shimmering blue pools.

An old mill house lends its name to Cascate del Mulino (Mill Falls)

which used to consist of two waterfalls. The first is the one beside the mill house and the second one dropped from an elevated terrace (at the far end of this photo).

In October 2014, 140mm of rain and hail fell in two hours, floodwaters brought mud and debris and a landslide damaged the lower terracettes. It took six months to repair the damage and the second waterfall no longer exists. Fortunately, there is still much to enjoy.

The water is a constant 37.5°C, the scientific composition described as, “a sulphurous-carbonic, sulphate-bicarbonate-alkaline mineral water, and includes among its peculiarities the presence of two dissolved gases such as hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide”. We soon got used to the odour, it certainly wasn’t overpowering. We found our own private space in one of the tiered pools, it was impossible to not be relaxed.

There are no changing facilities on site but a huge towel preserved a modicum of decorum, although I did notice one curious observer.

The early start certainly paid off, another couple of hours and it would be standing room only.