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Kakadu Circle No. 1, Section 2: Jim Jim to Koolpin, May 2006
Photo Gallery and Report
Click the photos to see enlarged versions. Click your back button to return to this page. Hold your mouse pointer on the photos to see captions. Special thanks to the various participants for the use of some of their photos and comments.
This was a special trip to celebrate 20 years of Willis's Walkabouts. May offers the perfect compromise between the torrents of the Wet and the idyllic weather of the Dry. A very late Wet meant that it was even better than expected. By putting in a food drop before the roads had closed for the Wet, we were able to do a full three weeks and enjoy Jim Jim and Twin Falls before they were open to the general public. It was the best way I (Russell Willis) could think of to celebrate 20 years of leading Willis's Walkabouts trips in Kakadu.
The first half of this trip is on a separate page.
What was it like? The photos can only tell a part of the story, so I'll begin with a quote from a couple of the participants.
"The experience for both of us has been special. It has been challenging and, at the end, we are elated and can understand why you love the country so much." John Mayze and Jane Searle, Brisbane.
After a night near Jim Jim where we enjoyed the special extras from the food drop, we headed off back toward Twin Falls, finding a different bridge over the tributary creek.
This was going to be an easy day, so we had extra time to stop and look at the flowers. Neither of the two shown below, Calytrix achaeta and Pimelea punicea has a generally accepted common name -- typical of many Top End plants.
We reached our camp on Twin Falls Creek in the early afternoon -- plenty of time to relax and get ready for the long walk across the plains the following day.
The long march across the plain from Twin to Surprise is the longest day on the Kakadu Circle route. With the grass still thick and unburnt as shown at right, it was even slower than normal.
There wasn't a lot of spectacular scenery, but there was still plenty to look at. Most of the soild in Kakadu are poor in nutrients so carniverous plants like the two types of sundews below are quite common. When tiny insects land on the sticky droplets, they get stuck and are slowly digested by the plant. There were other flowers and plants like the lovely closeup at left and the pandanus fruit at right below. Each of the segments in the pandanus contains a small, edible nut, very hard to get out when raw, but if you carefully roast the fruit in the fire, you can break it our quite easily. If the grass and late rains slowed us down, they also allowed us to camp before we climbed to the top of Surprise Falls. The camp site was a bit cramped, but there was a pool, most welcome after the long day's walk.
This relaxing day more than made up for the long day we'd just done.
We began with a climb up to the top of the plateau where we walked across a small rise for our first view of Surprise Falls. Nearby, a lone flying fox, resting for the day, ignored the human intruders as we wandered past his roost.
From the view point, it was an easy walk over to the pool top of the main drop where we stopped for a swim and an early lunch.
A short climb from our lunch site got us onto the top of the plateau. From there, it was an easy walk to Round Jungle, an amazing patch of monsoon forest on the flat plateau. It has been and continues to be the site of a number of research projects. There are several theories as to why it is there -- none proven. The two photos below show the group resting in the forest and the a part of one of the small ant cities found only in this type of forest. Walking through Round Jungle was wonderfully shady, but slow due to the thick vegetation. Once out, the vegetation thinned dramatically and we soon found ourselves at the top of a tiny waterfall.
From the falls, it was only a ten minute walk to Koolpin Creek where we had a swim and set up camp among the masses of bladderworts. These tiny flowers are only about a centimetre across.
We enjoyed a great pre-dinner sunset, then, just after dark, a small, striped tree snake slithered past. You can get a good idea of just how thin it is from the eucalypt leaves next to it.
It was a nice, relatively flat and easy morning. We had plenty of time to enjoy the flowers.
There was plenty of time to get close up views of some of the smaller wildlife. There was time to enjoy the intricate rock formations, and, of course, there was time for a swim.
And then, there it was, Graveside Falls, an 80 metre sheer drop into the pool below. The figures in the first photo give you some idea of the full size of the falls. The left branch as seen above is actually a flood channel. Here the water has carved some amazing potholes like the one at left. Crossing the main branch requires hopping or wading across the small falls shown at far left. This is about 150 m upstream of the main drop shown above.
From the crossing, it was only one km to the next creek where we camped for the night.
Day 15A fast, flat three km took us past a variety of wild flowers to Cascades Creek with it's many waterdfalls and art sites.
Cascades, cascades and more cascades. This creek is something special. Some of the cascades are small and easy to hop across.
Some are larger with beautiful pools that demand you stop for a swim.
Cascades Creek offers a remarkable mix, some very easy walking and some interesting little ledges that are rather more difficult. For the harder parts, there is always someone to lend a helping hand.
We spent so much time swimming and looking at the many art sites, that it was late afternoon when we finally reached the bottom of the creek shown at left. We continued on to a nearby flat camp site. This was so good that we had to return in the morning.
Morning came and we headed back upstream toward the best of the cascades.
The water was slightly high, but, as usual, the waterslide proved irresistable. The pictures below say far more than any words could possibly do. It was 10:30 am before we finally collected our packs and headed off.
From the cascades, we crossed the main valley and headed up Gronophylum Creek. What a contrast! One minute we were walking in the open as shown at right, the next we were in dense forest where we found the multi-trunked gronophylum palms from which the creek gets its name.
After a swim near the palms, we cut a corner and got into some open, dry country somewhat reminiscent of central Australia.
The area through which we were walking was covered with a variety of grevilleas. When fresh, the flowers of Grevillea pteridifolia -- the fern-leafed grevillea -- drip with nectar, ideal for all types of honey eaters, including people.
What kind of a day was it? The photos below tell the tale, left to right: Jane, George & Marilyn, Graham & Denise.
After a leisurely breakfast we headed upstream. Marilyn's shoes were beginning to break down, so gentleman George helped her keep her feet dry at our first creek crossing. From there, a short climb took us to a great view of Gronophylum Falls.
The amazing contrasts of Gronophylum Creek continued above the falls. One minute we were out in the open next to a big pool above the falls, the next we were in dense forest where the creek flowed gently over masses of tree roots. The photo at right shows a pool on the upper reaches of Gronophylum Creek. Shallow pools like this disappear later in the year, one reason why we don't offer the Kakadu Circle walk after early August. We had lunch next to the pool above, then headed overland (left below) to reach our campsite on the upper reaches of one of the tributaries of Barramundi Creek. It had been a fairly long day, the last moderately hard day of the trip.
A wonderful relaxing day!
We reached our campsite at the large pool shown at right just before 11.30 am. We spent the next few hours relaxing and swimming. It was about 4 pm before anyone wanted to head off to see the gorge above the falls. Only six of us went -- the others preferred more relaxation. The two photos below show two of the pools and falls immediately upstream of our camp site.
Although we covered only three km, it was not a lazy day. We began with the climb up out of Barramundi Valley shown at right.
This brought us to a view of the headwaters of Waterfall Creek shown below right. The view point was next to a scarlet gun (Eucalyptus phoenicea) in full bloom, flower shown at left below.
Next came a steep descent down into the forest shown in the middle right of the photo above. Here, in the shade, we found masses of butterflies.
From the forest, we moved along into the open area at the foot of the cliffs. We had lunch next to the cave entry shown at far left. After lunch, several of the group climbed down and scrambled and swam through. This is a magical spot. When water levels are right, some call it their favourite place in the entire park. You do, however, need a waterproof camera with a flash to take photos inside the cave. No one inthis group had one, so the two photos inside the cave are from our 2007 trip.
After the cave swim, we put on our packs once more and climbed to the edge of the lower escarpment where we dropped down and made our way back to the creek and our campsite.
Day 20 -- our last full day in the bush
After a short visit to yet another art site, we headed off across the Waterfall Creek Plateau. We passed some huge termite mounds, then went through a swampy section. Getting our feet wet one last time seemed a small price to pay for everything we'd seen and experienced over the previous three weeks.
Right to the very end, we always had time to look at the little things that helped make this walk so special. The little dragon lizard shown at right is commonly called the "ta ta lizard" as it sits up and waves one front hand after scampering across the rock. A final farewell.
Well, not quite farewell. We had lunch at yet another beautiful pool, then wandered down past many other pools as we made our way to the top of the falls and our final campsite.
After a final swim, we packed up and moved down to the top of Gunlon Falls where we found the sign shown below. We had spent far more than the suggested two days and had travelled through lands belonging to many clans, not just the Jawoyn. Everywhere we had been, we had found the signs left by the people who had lived their for thousands of years before the coming of the Europeans.
Then it was down to the bottom for a look at Gunlom and a group photo (left to right: John, Cora, Russell, Martin, Denise, Jane, Graham, Max, Marilyn, Margaret, Donald; George in front). Our vehicles picked us up at Gunlom and drove us to Cooinda where hopped on board the final Yellow Waters cruise of the day. The crowds took a bit of getting used to, but the cruise did give us the chance to see things we hadn't seen on the walk. We finish the gallery with a darter drying its wings in the late afternoon and the sun setting over Yellow Waters as we made our way back to Cooinda. All that was left was the final dinner, the night at Cooinda and the long drive back to Darwin the next morning. The trip was over, but the memories would last a lifetime.
For additional information, please see
- our main Kakadu Circle No. 1 page and/or
- the pdf trip notes which describe the trip in detail and/or
- John and Jane's notes on the trip and/or
- Cora's impressions.
Words and photos are no substitute for the real thing. Why not join us and see for yourself?