After the stint at Yellow Water to watch the sun set, we rushed to Garnamarr Camping Ground before the gates shut, or risk being locked out to sleep in the bush with crocs for company.
Garnamarr Camping Ground is the only campsite that allows access to Jim Jim Falls. It can take up to 250 people at any one time, and camping on the grounds is on a first-come-first-served basis. This campsite is not opened all year long – just during the dry season (May – October).
I must admit that I wasn’t expecting much from this camp ground in terms of public facilities. However, I was pleasantly surprised! Clean toilets, hot water showers, cubicles fitted with a dry bench area, available drinking water – what more could a tired visitor ask for? Security is also commendable. The camp gates are locked from 8.30 pm to 6.30 am daily.
On the way to Garnamarr, the bumpy gravel road caused a runaway stone to hit the back window of the 4WD, resulting in a tiny crack that gradually spread out to fill the entire frame. This incident forced us to make an unscheduled stop in No Man’s Land, in an effort to seal down the cracked glass with tape and bandage the injured window with a towel. Suddenly, the desire to sit closest to the rear door of the vehicle was gone! Everyone was hoping that the glass window would not crumble and give way.
Luckily, the cracked window remained intact right up to the end of the tour!
It was great fun sitting round the campfire. There were a number of new things I tried out that evening. I learnt how to set up a tent on my own, and then had a go at the didgeridoo but failed to get a sound out of this ancient aboriginal wind instrument. Finally, I tried barbecued kangaroo meat and buffalo sausages with mashed potatoes and salad for the first time in my life. It was a simple but tasty meal.
As I settled down inside my tent for the night, I started to recollect the day’s activities – from the rocky waterfalls, massive gorges, gushing creeks, thriving billabongs, unique wildlife and diverse forests to gazing up at the twinkling silver stars peeping through my tent – what a precious gift to have the chance of experiencing those rare moments in the outback.
Jim Jim Falls
The road from Garnamarr Camping Ground to Jim Jim Falls is only suitable for high clearance four-wheeled vehicles. The track was uneven with deep ruts, gravel and sandy patches, creek crossings and thick muddy soil. Sitting inside the 4WD was like getting a strong massage. The ride was so rough that we were falling all over each other – forwards and sideways –especially when navigating the tight corners!
It is a 2 km round hike from the carpark to Jim Jim Falls The Jim Jim track is basically divided into three levels of difficulty. The first 100 metres or so is fairly easy, with the second part requiring scrambling over rocks, and the last part entailing a steep and slippery climb up the escarpment. What got me thinking twice about making it all the way to the waterfalls was our guide saying that accidents were quite a frequent occurrence during the last part of the hike, with some victims having to be air-lifted out of the area!
I managed to breeze through the first part of the track and was even walking in front of the rest. However, as I hiked further in, the trail became more and more challenging. Soon, I found myself scrambling over jagged rocks and sandy boulders, trying to keep my balance and not slip between the rocks.
The hike took us past the Gorge Viewing Area where we got our first view of Jim Jim Falls. I could already see Jim Jim’s rocky escarpment in the distance. After this viewing area, the rocky track enters its third level of difficulty. At the thought of the struggle that lay ahead, I decided to remain at the viewing area and not proceed to the waterfalls.
So while the rest proceeded with their hike, I stayed behind to catch my breath and enjoy the view. The place looked so serene that it was rather difficult to imagine that there is always the real danger of crocodiles waiting for their prey- under water and on land. While clicking away at my surroundings, I had to be extra vigilant that the world’s oldest reptile was not going to jump out of the calm water or appear from behind the rocks, and have me for its meal!
One of my biggest regrets about this trip is that I didn’t do enough reading about how fast crocodiles move on land. If I had, I would not have had to worry about what to do if a crocodile DID appear from behind the rocks, or wonder if I could scramble fast enough to outpace the reptile. This is what happens when you watch too many Sci-Fi movies about mutant super crocodiles that can chase you across the forest at 50 km an hour!
My decision to stay behind at the Gorge View Area was the right one. I felt good to have made it this far, and relieved that my limbs and camera were intact. After all, I was already at Jim Jim Falls – standing on the very ground that becomes a river bed during the rainy season. I scanned the raw landscape, grateful to have a few quiet moments to myself instead of feeling rushed and stressed out.
If you’re not too fussy about sleeping and want to see as much as possible within a short time, travelling in a 4WD is a great way to see Kakadu National Park. Entry to Kakadu National Park is AUD25.00 per person, valid for 14 days. Those under 16 years of age and Northern Territory Residents are exempt.
Would I do it again? Absolutely, without a doubt! There is still so much to learn, see and do. Getting a taste of Australia’s remote and wild outback – now that is really something to remember!
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway