Sunday, October 30, 2011

Twin Falls & Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu

We picked a very hot day for our trip to the edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment -to Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls - with driver/guide Steve from Top End Explorer Tours. In these last few weeks of the season we were Steve's only passengers so we had the undivided attention of this genuine Kakadu character and fearless four wheel driver.

It was an exciting drive to the Twin Fall gorge - a tough, sandy, 60klm or so, four wheel drive track that the Landcruiser handled easily even though the bumps and gullies looked pretty mountainous to me. We also drove through 80-90cm of water at Jim Jim Creek - "that's nothing", said Steve, "compared to how it is in the wet season"!

This was (saltwater) crocodile country so the small boat that carried us up the Twin Falls Gorge was a sturdy little thing.

Once off the boat we had a long, difficult walk over sand slippery boulders, and a short boardwalk (which gets removed by helicopter at the start of the wet season) to get to where the spectacular Twin Falls makes it's way over the edge of the escarpment to the Kakadu floodplain below.

140 million years ago (the age of dinosaurs) Kakadu was under a shallow sea. The sea cliffs that formed the shoreline are the remnant escarpments we're seeing today. They've been eroding at the rate of 1 metre every thousand years, so these escarpments would have been a huge amount higher when the dinosaurs roamed this region.

We were hot and bothered from navigating the boulder walk (in 39oC heat) but no swimming allowed in this beautiful pool!

Steve then drove us North to the point on the track where we could start the walk to Jim Jim Falls. By now it was REALLY HOT and our boulder walking track was very craggy, slippery and uneven...and over a kilometre to navigate to the Falls. Very helpfully Steve estimated that the capacity of the boulders to absorb heat probably made the track around 70oC at some points.

Steve was a bit younger than us: curly long grey hair, no hat, beer belly and surf sandals (get the picture). He was also carrying a pack with all our lunches and spare water. He still managed to dance over those boulders, while I made every gingerly step a very considered and sweaty one!

But, no crocodiles at Jim Jim Falls, nor any actual waterfalls at this time of the year, so it was fabulous to take a dip and cool off in the crystal clear water, straight off the escarpment.

Steve was a very interesting fellow, despite his ruffian persona. He lives with his German scientist wife and young son in Jabiru, along with a local Aboriginal elder artist and his grandson, plus extended family members at various times. His insights into the the issues facing Aboriginal people in NT and the impact of the government's Intervention and the effect of mining royalties on local communities were very thoughtful, sensitive - and eye opening.

He was also a politics junkie - knew as much as we did about the minutiae of current federal politics (if not more). Apparently he quizzes all his clients about what they think of Tony Abbott. He reckons 98% of his clients think he will never be Prime Minister!

Rob did enjoy meeting someone new to have a good rant with!

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