Litchfield National Park

Day 1

Litchfield National Park is a much smaller park and definitely more accessible than Kakadu with most of the roads/trails open for 2WD vehicles. Due to this fact we had heard that it could be considered the more beautiful of the two parks. I would argue that they are different and offer different things which in my eyes makes them equal. That said, the waterfalls and vistas that were accessible during the wet season were quite impressive. There was a lot we wanted to see, so we planned to spend two days exploring everything slowly versus rushing through. It would turn out to be a wise idea.

litchfield sign

We arrived from Kakadu in the late afternoon on Saturday and stayed at a mediocre (at best) motel in the town of Bachelor about 5ish miles from the park boundary. Nothing fancy, but a good kicking off point.

On the drive through Kakadu and into Litchfield we had seen lots of HUGE termite mounds of varying shapes. These were pretty cool because they loomed large throughout the savannah woodlands. Inside Litchfield there was a specific termite mound viewing area we thought would be cool for some pictures. We were kind of right. The half a dozen mounds were interesting enough, but we saw everything in about 5 minutes. The unique thing about these were that they were built in a north-south direction which always kept one side of the mound shaded and thus climate controlled. Pretty neat nature at work.

North-South Termite Mounds Magnetic Termite mound Tall termite mounds!

From there we headed to the Buley Rockhole for some swimming. There were lots of cars in the parking lot, but we really didn’t know what to expect. Turns out it was a long series of waterfalls which had carved out deep washouts below almost every little falls. The holes themselves were anywhere from 2 ft to 15 ft deep and nice and cool. We had a blast lounging and soaking up the sun and water.

buley waterfalls drew and buleyautum in buley

After that we moved a mile down the road to Florence Falls to hang out under a BIG waterfall. There were lots of locals swimming and enjoying along with a few tourists. Some of locals were jumping off the top of the falls which is about 60-70 ft! Crazy considering that they had to climb up in between the two waterfalls over wet, steep rocks.

florence falls

After an enjoyable time hanging in the water we headed for Wangi Falls for a bite of lunch and to soak in the sights. Due to the wet season, Wangi Falls was not open for swimming, but they made an impressive sight nonetheless!

us wangi fallsrainbows and waterfalls

Close to both Florence and Wangi Falls there were lots of very large bats roosting in trees. Totally cool and yet a little eerie.

We wrapped up the first day by staying at a quaint little resort with small cabins and lots of Wallabies hanging around. We were treated to wallaby watching while a huge storm moved in with lots of lightning courtesy of the Lighting Man.

Watching the storm roll in Sunset Storm Wallaby Wallaby sneak attack


Day 2

Our second day in Litchfield was reserved for the remaining lookouts/tourist spots that we missed on day 1. First stop Tolmer Falls. Tolmer Falls lookout is an amazing view from above a waterfall that was the tallest we saw the whole trip. I’m not sure the pictures will do it justice, but here goes:

Tolmer Falls Tolmer Falls (closer shot)

After a quick stop for lunch we headed to the upper Cascade Falls which was a 3.6km round trip to the top of the falls. Not only was the temperature in the upper 90’s, but the humidity made it feel like 108 degrees. Quite hot on the walk up, but getting in the falls at the top was worth it. Besides, the walk back down was easier and was much cooler thanks to a rainstorm that came through. 🙂

We had planned on driving north through the park and going a different way back to Darwin, but we soon learned about what the wet season does to roads. It didn’t take us very long before we came to a spot where the river was 1-2ft deep and flowing right over top of the dirt road. While it was an easy decision to turn around, neither Autumn nor me looked forward to the extra 100 km’s we had to backtrack to get to Darwin.

We made it back to Darwin in one piece, checked back into our hotel, and then enjoyed one and a half free days before we headed for Bali. Much needed rest as well as good air conditioning!

Kakadu National Park

As most of you know, Autumn and I are big fans of natural sights and wildlife. Instead of hopping a plane from Thailand to Singapore or the like, we decided that we wanted to head for some more natural places. Enter Kakadu. Kakadu is a very large (7,642 square miles) jointly managed National Park as well as a world heritage site. What’s really neat is that it falls within Aboriginal owned territory, but has been leased back to the government to allow for tourism and joint management. It was the first park to be “joint managed” which means that all management done within the park is done in cooperation with the local people and their laws and traditions. That philosophy seems to make perfect sense considering the Aboriginal people are the longest living people with confirmed history and culture going back 50,000 – 60,000 years. They say they have lived on this land since creation, which if you ask me, gives them a pretty good idea of how to manage things.

kakadu kakadu

We arrived at the end of the wet season, which means a little more limited access to things, but hardly any other tourists around. It is incredibly quiet, and full of color and life. On the drive over from Darwin we were treated to 50+ wallabies grazing here or there on the sides of the roads. A few were curious enough of our bright yellow car to stick around for a picture, but most of them bounded back into the brush before we could snap a picture. In addition to the wallabies, we also saw a pair of Emus. They were right on the edge of the brush and then went bobbing and weaving back into the grass. Add in plenty of birds including cockatoos, kites, doves, and lots of others I can’t name and you have an abundance of wildlife to keep us amazed during the drive over.


One of the things that we try to do when we visit places like this is to get involved in guided tours if possible. Not like huge tour groups, but small local tours where there is real knowledge to be gleamed about where we are, what we are seeing, and what it means. To that end, we stopped by the Bowali Visitors Center on our way into the park and found a couple of Ranger led activities that we then planned our days around.

The first was a crocodile discussion held in the aptly named (and shaped) Crocodile Hotel in the small town of Jabiru. We spent about 1.5 hours learning about Crocodiles (both fresh and saltwater) and asking all sorts of questions about them. Did you know that Crocodiles have teeth within teeth? It’s crazy, if a Crocodile loses a tooth, there is another one right behind it that will start showing within a couple of days. How crazy is that? We learned a ton of great information, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of what there is to know about these amazing animals.

salty croc

The second Ranger activity we participated in was the Nourlangie rock art discussions. First of all, the Nourlangie rock area is BEAUTIFUL! There is an amazing escarpment which stands tall in the background and has plenty of hidden areas and caves. It is a truly powerful place where you can feel the incredible nature that surrounds you. The talks themselves were very informative as well. They covered everything from Aboriginal law, land and family, to ancient artifacts and the living heritage that is the Aboriginal culture. The artwork and the language form parts of the greater tapestry of the Aboriginal people. As an aside, the Ranger that we had for both talks was a gentleman by the name of Christian and he was an excellent guide who is incredibly passionate about the subjects of his discussions. Be very glad if you get him.

nourlangie rock art

Afterwards we moved south towards Cooinda and the Yellow River.  Drew and I got a Buy One Get One 75% off cruise deal, so we could do a sunset river cruise as well as a sunrise river cruise.  We boarded the extra large pontoon at 4:30pm in hopes of catching a croc heading out for his evening dinner. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot one : (

But, we did see tons of blue, purple, & white flowering water lilies. Not to mention stunning views of the immense wetland.

A few Jabiru or Black Necked Storks.

Jabiru Stork

Numerous Darter birds….when drying out their feathers they summon the energy of Batman.


We also saw a snake hanging out in a tree, many Magpie Geese, Forest Kingfishers, Sea Eagles, and a few Cockatoos.

Magpie Goose

There were also a few Jesus bird sightings! The bird’s real name is Comb-Crested Jacana. It has extremely long toes that help it to walk on lily pads which in turn makes it seem like it is walking on water. Get it? Jesus bird? Walks on water!! HA. Anyways…


The guide’s commentary was a little lack-luster and his creature spotting abilities were a bit slow, but in all we were happy to be going again in the morning. With views like this who could complain?!?!

Billabong Sunrise Billabong Sunrise

The morning was a basic rinse and repeat, BUT with a fun surprise at the end. A CROCODILE!!! Now crocodiles can get up to 20-25 feet long. This guy, or likely lady, was about 8 or 9 feet long. Not a huge lunker by any means, but definitely impressive to both Drew and I!

Ginga! Salt Water Croc (Ginga)

After a late breakfast we packed up and prepared for a 3.5 hour drive to Litchfield. We were fully prepared to spend the next few hours scouting for wildlife!


We arrived in Darwin, the biggest town in “the top end” which is what the locals call the northern part of the Northern Territories. Darwin is a nice small city with a good sized business district as well as shopping, hotels, and bars/restaurants. They have recently done a huge redevelopment on the South East corner of the city. It is now full of restaurants and businesses as well as a wave pool which no fewer than 4 people said we should go use. Since we were exhausted, laying out in the sun floating in a wave pool was way way down the list of priorities. Maybe another time.

After spending most of the first day resting up, we caught a beautiful sunset and some dinner at the Ski Club. The next day was when we decided to see a little more of Darwin and do some walking around the East Point Nature Reserve where we had heard there are wallabies. It was a beautiful walk along the coast and then back across some nice pastures where there were plenty of horses and, much to our delight, WALLABIES!!! Unfortunately for you all, that evening we forgot our camera sitting on a wall after we were done watching the sunset and alas it was gone when we returned to find it. Bummer, but not a major bummer as we only lost one day of pictures. A mere inconvenience.

Tomorrow is when we pick up the car and head from Kakadu National Park (amongst others). After taking public or taxi transportation for a month plus, I am ready to get behind a steering wheel again!

The Pivot

So you know the phrase “rules are meant to be broken”? Well up until recently I was unaware that the word “plans” could replace “rules” in certain situations.

Autumn and I had been having a good time in Thailand when I was knocked down and out by a rough bout of Thailand Tummy (traveler’s diarrhea plus some). I had the first inkling of it in Pai, but it came fast and furious as soon as we got back to Chiang Mai on March 9th. Our travel plans had us flying to Yangon Myanmar at 5pm on the 10th, which was now suspect. After a very rough night with little sleep and more sickness, my wonderful wife decided that we were not leaving Chiang Mai until I was better. I actually told her that I was “good enough” to travel 9 hours, but she overruled me. The winning point was her position that she felt much more comfortable in Thailand versus Myanmar if I ultimately needed to see a doctor. Point Autumn.

While things didn’t get better too quickly, I did start recovering slowly which gave us an opportunity to relook at our plans since we had already missed our initial flight. What interest I had left in exploring SE Asia left me (along with everything else) so we said “enough of Southeast Asia”. So, we decided to do a quick 10 day trip to Darwin in the Northern Territories of Australia.

We had not been planning on going to Australia until May, but the long list of things we wanted to see/do meant that we could sneak in some adventures if we went to Darwin now. Australia has been on the top of my bucket list forever so I have been advocating hard to spend lots of time here. By making this change we can get a few things crossed off the list in a country where we really wanted to go without interfering with our other plans. Awesome!

We were pumped about the decision. A little while later we had tickets and were primed to hit the road. Unfortunately… Thailand wanted to make sure we didn’t forget them before we left.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time for our flight, checked our bags, and headed toward security and immigration. Security? No problem. Immigration? Problem…

Turns out that foreign countries don’t like it when you overstay the time on your travel visa. The immigration officer handed us off to the police so we could receive our fines and paperwork. We were each fined 1,000 Baht (about $28) for overstaying 2 days in Thailand. That wouldn’t have been an issue, but we only had 1,890 Baht left from our travels. Shoot. Back down the stairs we went, exchanged ten whole US dollars, then went back up, through security again, and paid the fine. Whew! Good thing we give ourselves lots of time at the airport in case things go sideways.

All in all I think we handled things quite well and rolled with the punches instead of getting worked up about it. Lesson learn; although I’m not sure how we could have handled the immigration thing differently.

Anywho, we made it to Darwin safely and are about to enjoy a great first day!


Pai is a small city about three hours north of Chiang Mai. We read and heard many great things about Pai, so we didn’t want to miss out!  Unfortunately, the road to Pai is not for the faint of heart.  The 135 kilometer road had 762 curves in it! The driver we had seemed to think he was driving a Ferrari not a minibus filled with ten people. Drew and I were the last ones to get picked up, therefore sat in the way back where we could really appreciate just how windy the road was (ick!). We both departed the minibus feeling pretty shaken, incredibly sweaty and quite nauseous, BUT neither of us puked, so that is one small victory we can celebrate!



A cold drink, some food, and the tranquility of Pai soon soothed our trembling hands and we were able to enjoy ourselves.  We decided to stray from the “main attractions” of Pai and instead hide away at a local fish farm. Beung Pai Farm is surrounded by rice fields, mountains, and the buzzing of nature.  Our hut walked directly out onto a dock over the pond.


IMG_2842 fish pond

The pond was full of HUGE, well-fed fish.  The reason we chose this resort was because of the fishing option.  We were not disappointed : ) When fishing we were encouraged to use “bait balls”. It was basically a large egg sized ball of mush packed around a hook.


bait bals

Drew caught the first fish. It was a giant sucker fish of some sort! I had a hard time helping with netting it because it was so big!


got one big sucker

I caught the next one, but this guy was a big ole catfish-looking thing! And I really didn’t “catch” it because I could only reel it in part of the way….that thing was big and strong!



The rest of the time was spent blogging by the pond, watching the fish feed on top of the water, and enjoying our first cool nights in a while. It was 95 degrees during the day, but at night it got down into the lower 60s. It was so nice to be able to snuggle up under blankets for a change!



The ride back was as terrible as we expected, but luckily we sat in the front and our driver went a little easier around the curves. We are back in Chiang Mai now before we head off to the next country. Thailand is very touristy, therefore really easy to navigate, safe, and comfortable. So many people spoke English, most signs were in English, internet access was everywhere, western toilets were the norm, and transportation was fast/efficient. But, we experienced a lot of new things as well: awesome food, haggling, tuk-tuks, “Thai Tummy”, beautiful islands, temples, and the say-what-they think, but kind Thai people.  Thailand gets a thumbs up from us!!

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park

The Elephant Nature Park has been on our radar for months! We considered volunteering for a week, staying overnight to visit for two days, and then finally settled upon doing a day visit. This was not by choice, but due to the fact that they were booked basically until May. This fact helped get us really excited for what ENP had to offer….if that many people want to do it, then it must be awesome!

During the 45 minute drive there we watched a video that gave the history of the park, info about basic elephant behavior and safety rules. Here’s what we learned:

1.) Stay behind the red line when feeding the elephants!
feeding elephants
2.) If you don’t have food please stand next to the elephant, not if front of it.
3.) Never touch an elephant when you are behind it…especially if the elephant is “Donald Trunk”
4.) Watch out for their active trunks!
donald trunk
5.) Selfies are okay as long as you are vigilant 🙂
6.) Elephants love to get wet…just watch out because they have a much bigger hose.
bath time
7.) Elephants like to hang around their herd.
8.) Elephants need lots of room to roam.
9.) Baby elephants are the CUTEST!!
10.) After 50 years of forced labor & abuse elephants adjust well to a life of peace and quiet.
11.) Elephants have patches of course hair all over their body.
tough skin
12.) They still like to show off sometimes.
show off
13.) They love the mud!
14.) Elephants are wise creatures that deserve our protection, respect and love!!!
wise up close

This was an experience that Drew and I will never forget!!! Getting to be up close and personal with these amazing creatures was hopefully NOT a once in a lifetime chance. We’d both love to do that again and would recommend it to anyone! Warning: not every elephant park is a “sanctuary” do your research and choose wisely.

Watch this video of an up close and personal elephant experience:
Elephant encounters

We leave tomorrow for a smaller village 3 hours from Chiang Mai. Pai is the name of the village and it is supposed to have a more tranquil feeling than the bustling streets of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a small city PACKED with guesthouses, massage places, restaurants, outdoor markets, travelers, and temples. Our guesthouse was located inside the Old Walled City, so we were able to walk to just about everything we might need or want to do. Upon our arrival we decided to wander the city awhile to get a general feel for it. It was a short 1.5 hour journey due to the fact that it was 95 degrees, but we were able to enjoy a delicious mango/strawberry smoothie and a peanut butter & Nutella pancake for the street vendors. Many of the street vendors had their station connected directly on the side of their motorbike…we didn’t see any of them driving around like that, but I’m sure it would be quite the spectacle!

street venders

As I mentioned before Chiang Mai has a lot of temples. The pagodas are situated throughout the city and the first thing you see is usually a large golden peak. The temples are similar in that they are all beautiful, they have many ornate decorations, their names are hard to remember and they are covered in gold, elephants, dragons & Buddhas.

temple fat buddha

But, my favorite one was old and crusty: Wat Chedi Luang. This temple has obviously been inactive for quite some time, but it was fun to imagine how magnificent it was 100s of years ago.

old temple old temple

The largest and most popular temple is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It is situated on top of a hill overlooking Chiang Mai. The journey itself consisted of a 30 minute taxi ride (“taxi” being the back of a pickup with bench seats and a cover) up the steep hill and then walk up 100 or so steps to reach it. There were numerous pagodas filled with statues or shrines, mini prayer rooms, beautiful flowering bushes/trees, and one giant pagoda made of gold. It was impressive to say the least!

doi suthep doi suthep steps up to Doi Suthep

doi suthep doi suthep doi suthep

The temples themselves were powerful symbols of the Buddhist religion. Unfortunately, we did not get the same feeling when viewing the Monks. More often than not we saw monks or novices (monks in training) doing very “unmonk-like” things. One monk was loudly talking on his cell phone inside the temple. Another one, while in the middle of blessing a woman, pulled out his wallet to give his lunch order to another man. At one of the last temples we visited Drew and I were happy to finally see and hear a monk praying in the temple. Only to realize that his keys and cell phone were laying on the altar not 6 inches from him. Maybe our perception of what a monk does is incorrect, but needless to say we weren’t expecting to see these things. I did a little research and it seems like the Thai monks are having a difficult time finding a balance between tradition and the temptations of the 21st century. Seems accurate to us!

Drew and I went to three outdoor markets while in Chiang Mai: the Night Bazaar, the Sunday Walking Market, and a night food market that may or may not have a specific name. All of the markets are similar in that they are packed with people, filled with color & energy, the air emits delicious smells from the food stands, and things are cheap, cheap, cheap! Fortunately, we have no real need for more crap, so we mostly walked away from these adventures with full bellies and massaged feet. : )

night market

Here are some of the different street foods we tried:
*Shrimp & pork dumplings- the shrimp were 10x better, but both were good
*Pork Satays with peanut sauce- dipping anything in peanut sauce is a great idea
*Passion Fruit Pops- a delectable frozen treat that will pucker your taste buds
*Mangos & Sticky Rice – we always opt out of the sticky rice because that means more mangos!
*Banana Pancakes – basically a yummy crepe filled with bananas and covered in caramel, or peanut butter, or Nutella or a combo
*Seafood Fried Biscuits – so hot that you can’t really taste them and so small that there wasn’t really that much seafood in them…we will probably pass on them next time
*Cake donuts – they were sugared and still warm…what more could you ask for?

We are Chiang Mai for one more day, but will be using that time to visit ELEPHANTS just outside of the city. SO EXCITED : )


Phuket was never really on our list of islands to visit in Thailand, but the necessity of an airport pushed us in that direction. We were going to avoid that area because it is very popular, therefore very touristy. After five days in the Phuket area we figured out why it was so popular: THE BEACHES!!! Wow, Wow, Wow. Our first stop was Karon Beach: The sand was powdery, the water was incredibly clear, the ocean floor was rock-free, and the beaches seemed to go on forever!! There were people everywhere, but still plenty of room to find a spot for yourself.

karon beach karon beach karon beach

Pretty sunsets too.

sunset on karon sunset parasail karon sunset

It’s easy to forget about adventuring out when you have so much beauty at your fingertips. Not to mention that it was Drew’s turn to get sick : ( So while he laid in bed I went to the beach. Luckily for him we figured out that A/C was completely necessary whenever we weren’t directly on the beach, so he could rest well without sweating to death.

solo swim

A few more things to note about Karon. First, it is supposedly the “family” beach area versus Patong which is the “party” beach. While it is true that we did see many more families around, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to bring a child (or multiple children) to this place. The odds of a kid getting run over in this city are about 60%, with the other 40% being sheer luck. Like other places we have been the traffic here is ridiculous. Nobody abides by the lane lines. Motor bikes zip around cars like traffic cones. The cars don’t care if the motor bikes are there, they will move over whenever they want without concern. Let’s just say that even crossing the road was an adventure and riding in a tuk tuk (cab) was downright crazy.

The second thing to note about Karon (but I suspect it is the same in all of Phuket) is the daredevil Parasailing people. I’m not talking about the tourists that went parasailing; I’m talking about the INSANE operators of said parasail. The video will do it justice, but these guys hang on to the parasail ropes and pull themselves up to stand on the ropes and steer above the tourist who is strapped in. Mind you that they are 200 – 250 feet in the air and aren’t harnessed into anything. They are just standing and holding onto the parachute lines. If this were America they would have been shut down after the first 30 minutes. CRAZY.


The last thing to note is a “new” massage technique that we witnessed. That is what it was called, but it really was more of a foot/leg exfoliation. Anywho, most massage places in Karon had tanks of teeny-tiny fish that people dangled their feet/lower legs into. These fish would then eat the dead skin from their feet, leaving them soft and smooth. Audi and I have yet to try this, but it is on the list.

After three days in Karon we moved farther north to NaiYang which is close to the airport and in a national park. This area of Phuket promised fewer people and a slower pace than southern Phuket. The description was right on the mark, yet still offered the most amazing beach! The weather was glorious so we were able to adventure up and down the beach to see which swimming area was the best. Rough life….

stud in nai yang naiyang

naiyang floating

Walk, swim, walk, swim, eat mangoes, walk, swim, watch the sunset, eat dinner…repeat. Absolutely, delightful!!!!

sunset naiyang

Drew and I won’t be having anymore beach adventures again until we get to Bali (get ready Amber & Reid!). We couldn’t be happier to have had all this time to relax and enjoy the wonders of the ocean : ) We’re off to Chiang Mai next!