Kakadu (July 2017)
After our walking and paddling in Katherine Gorge we had a couple of days off before we joined our SBW group in Darwin. We spent a very enjoyable day at Umbrawarra Gorge – lots of rock-hopping down a gorge which just kept getting deeper and deeper.
Tom didn’t believe me that we might get wet but there were some compulsory wades – no great hardship when it’s over 30°C.
Back in Darwin we met up with the other 9 people in our group and hopped in a mini-bus which dropped us off at Maguk (Barramundi Gorge). We had a short walk before we made camp. The real walking started on day 2. Disaster almost immediately as we managed to become separated from 2 members of group within 20 minutes of leaving camp! Many ‘day-o’s’ later we were reunited and actually on our way. Much of the first day was on a fairly well-formed (but unmarked) track.
We had a delightful lunch at the “Jade Pool” before spending most of the afternoon at Picaninny Pools.
I’m not sure what possessed me but I did a 6m jump – but I wasn’t standing at the top waiting for the photographers to get in position – I was either going straight away or not at all!
Day 3 we left Barramundi Creek and headed across to Gronophyllum Creek.
There were many beautiful waterholes on this creek but we pushed past many of them to have a late morning tea at the “Lap Pool”. [Though it seemed there were multiple “Lap Pools” depending on who you spoke to]
More swims in crystal-clear water before lunch at another delightful pool. We camped earlier than intended as progress had not been as fast we would have liked.
Day 4 we intended to get going early so were up well before dawn. One of the party had taken some heavy falls the previous day and wasn’t faring too well. We waited for a helicopter to take him out. Subsequently we started walking a fair bit later than planned. Eventually we were on our way down Gronophyllum Creek before crossing over the flood plains (very quickly as they had been burnt) to the exquisite Cascade Creek. Up until this point I’d been a bit ho-hum about the trip. I felt that the creeks we’d walked through in the Kimberley were as good, if not better, than what we’d been passing.
Cascade Creek is spectacular. Unfortunately as we were trying to make up time from the previous day we couldn’t spend too long here – only 2 hours to enjoy the many jumps, water slide and beautiful pools.
Mid-afternoon we reluctantly headed upstream through an attractive gorge with lots of rock-hopping.
Again we camped earlier than intended as it was getting late in the day and we were still over an hour from our planned campsite. Our spontaneous campsite was attractive but a little slopey.
We had an early start on day 5 to to continue making up lost time from the previous two days. The party split – 3 of us continued up the gorge, with an expected compulsory swim (pack float), while the remainder headed cross-country to cut off a bend. With some judicious scrambling we managed to avoid swimming but subsequently missed some art work which we were looking for ‘after the packfloat’.
Patsy got through all the tricky sections only to slip on the last climb-down and took a full dunking (with a non waterproofed pack!). The others had beaten us to the rendezvous point by a few minutes, where they were ‘camelling up’ for the cross-country trek to come. The first 8km or so was easy walking through burnt or low vegetated country. I was feeling confident we’d get into camp in the early afternoon which would be a nice change from the previous few days. We had a dry lunch at 1pm and then continued on. The country got more difficult, progress slowed in a tangle of small tributaries and head-high spear grass. It was after 4pm when we finally found ourselves at the top of the (dry) waterfall we were planning to camp at. There wasn’t a lot of water at the top but a large pool at the bottom. Peter and I headed down to check out the camping options – I was relieved to find an acceptable flat campsite next to the pool. It was a long, tough day with no swims so we were happy to get into camp and have a wash.
Day 6 surely had to provide some relief. This wasn’t the trip I was expecting!? Where were the early arrivals at camp, followed by multiple cups of tea, swims and general relaxation for the afternoon?
Fortunately we made good time in pretty easy walking country and were at a lovely campsite by 1:30pm. Everyone enjoyed the chance to chill out after some pretty long days.
Day 7 started with a short walk to the start of Koolpin Gorge (Jarrangbarnmi).
Once in the gorge some of us opted to pack float where we could while others boulder-hopped. Some people’s packs were more waterproof than others… fortunately a leisurely lunch break provided time to dry out wet sleeping bags.
Our last camp was on the flood plains so we savoured the final swim above the last waterfall before making camp in the late afternoon.
The last day we only had 5km to get to Flying Fox Crossing on the South Alligator River where the mini-bus would pick us up. It was good walking and we made it with half an hour to spare. From there it was what felt like a long drive back to Darwin. The trip finished with the buffet at Seafood on Cullen taking in the sunset over the water.