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Flashback to Our First Trip to Kakadu

26 AUG 2012 Kakadu - Jim Jim, Twin Falls and Gunlom

I’ll skip the planning, the shopping and the packing of the car and get straight to the fun stuff! We’ve been hanging round a lot lately with Vicky Doufa who, aside from just being a lot of fun, is also willing to share her off-road driving expertise. When the trip was first mentioned I had asked if I could do the driving and vicky agreed - with the caveat that she may take over to show me the ropes from time to time.

Setting off at half 6 on Friday wasn’t ideal but we hammered the bitumen and got to Jabiru in the dark, staying at a nice campsite and eating a great meal at the bar. After an essential stop at the polling station (Aussies have to vote - by law!) we got the trip underway in earnest, turning onto the corrugated dirt track with the music blaring and excitement building. The track went on for a long way before turning into a smaller, sandier, windier dirt track and my first proper off-road driving lesson started! Vicky was giving tips as we blasted through sand, over bigger bumps and tried to navigate on the fly. I was having a ball! Max and Vicky had already experienced a lot of 4x4-ing so left me the wheel for most of the trip. We did hit a slight problem when we struggled with the directions and slowed too much in the sand. Vicky took the reigns and flicking the car into low range was all it took to get us out of the deep stuff. Vicky kept hold of the wheel to model our first river crossing, which was amazing fun (I was looking forward to the way back!)

Our first waterfall of the day was Twin Falls. A sub-km walk from the car park found us at the river’s edge where a ranger was waiting to take us up river to the falls - for 12 bucks. We climbed onto the boat and headed up the canyon. High rock walls on both sides provided a spectacular background as we passed a couple of croc traps that the ranger explained were getting less effective as the crocs wise to them. Uh oh.

Getting off the boat as close as possible to the waterfall leaves another couple of kilometres of bush walking and scrambling over small rocks and streams. The entire route is stunning and like no foot path we’ve ever seen before! A bit out of breath as we stumble over the final rocks, the path opens out onto a massive beach, high rock walls all around us with with Twin falls looking fairly badly named as the solitary stream of water splashes towards us. At the end of the dry season, this perhaps should’ve been expected, There has been no rain up here for literally 5 months! The underwhelming water flow took nothing away from the amazing place as we sat and watched the large pool of water. No swimming - there is a real croc risk here, in fact as we were stood there an Aussie bloke warned us of a saltie watching us from afar - another one that is too wise to climb in the traps! I could have stayed there all day, it’s hard to describe the beauty of this place. Unspoilt because of the inaccessibility to tourists and other casual visitors due to the river crossing and 4x4 necessity. We almost had it to ourselves!

Back to the car and no-one is excited as me - my first ever river crossing looming. Being under the tutelage of Vicky and Max means the confidence is high and the river is calm and fairly low. It was ace!!!! It boosted my confidence nice and high and the driving from then on was with purpose - to Jim Jim Falls. Plenty of sand traps to power through, some big bumps to be more careful with and plenty of speed over the smaller bumps. This was fast becoming my favorite NT weekend!!!!

Before arriving at Jim Jim Falls we met up with Goughy, Cameron and Renee - Car 2 of our belated convoy. Radio contact between the cars was more amusing than useful but we did agree that the narky tour guide we both had to get out of the way of was a bit of a prick. After a bit more off road driving we parked up and lunched before setting off on the longer walk of the day - a few kilometres to Jim Jim Falls. The walk was brilliant - kilometres of rocks that felt like a wasteland with cliffs looming on either side and the distant waterfall visible from far away. I had spent much of the walk rationalising to Cameron why it would be extremely unlikely that there was a croc risk - despite the croc traps scattered on the river and the signs advising that swimming was entirely at your own risk! As we approached the waterfall there were stunning beaches with their own pools scattered around the rocks. The girls decided to sit on a beach and relax in the warm pool, sun beating down from above - it was a tempting spot, their own little pool in paradise.

The guys carried on to the big pool at the foot of Jim Jim Falls. Surrounded by 150m cliffs with what remained of the falls dropping directly in front of us I had to do the swim - about 100m to the rocks at the other side of the spectacular pool. It was terrifying. About half way across I had to remind myself of the rationalisations I had shared with Cameron en route to the pool. I knew how unlikely it was that a croc was in there, and that I’d have heard of it by now if there was, but there is still actually a chance that I’m sharing a swimming pool with a 5m Saltie who wants revenge for his distant cousin that I made into a guitar strap. That’s the thing about the NT, it is a rare but real risk, and swimming pools do get shut down because they turn up for a snack. You’ve just got to be as sensible as posible and take NO unnecessary risks. As dusk threatened to keep us in Jim Jim for the night we headed to the nearby campsite, with Max managing to wrestle me away from the steering wheel for a quick go! We quickly set up camp and paid our 5 bucks each before getting the bbq heated up. As usual we ate very well, a combination of steaks, snags and burgers washed down with a few beers and glasses of wine. This is how camp food should be! and still being in 4WD territory mean the campsite was quiet and the mood serene!

The next day meant an end to our convoy once again, as Goughy went to see Twin Falls and we headed to Gunlom - god’s own infinity pool. And it did not disappoint. We arrived at Gunlom and looked at the pool below the falls - it was massive and cool and shaded, seemed like exactly what we needed but somehow underwhelming. We decided to walk up to the pools above the waterfall, a steep, hard climb - especially in the midday sun! but hell it was worth it. What greeted us at the top was an amazing view over the vast plains on the NT outback on an unimaginable scale. Amazing. A quick stroll to the pools later and we were in heaven.

One pool was at the foot of a waterfall, cool and calm, with a monitor lizard swimming amongst us before basking on the rocks. Another pool was just like a natural infinity pool, with views stretching over the aforementioned flood plains! another pool was like a natural hot tub, with stunning views and a relaxing feel. Me and Max swam up a little canyon - to find another great little waterfall and another calm monitor lizard sun baking on the rocks. Wow, this place was amazing.

Everywhere we’ve been this weekend was our new favorite place, the NT just keeps surprising us with another amazing swimming spot, and another stunning weekend of adventures. Thank you to Max, Bailey, Goughy, Cameron, Renee, and especially Vicky for the outback driving lessons!!!!

Here's a quick video taking advantage of a lot of amateurish accidental double clicks on that new camera!

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