Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

24 August 2009

Jim Jim Falls: Kakadu

Jim Jim Falls
Saturday 27 March

There was a marked change in the weather. We sniffed it as we walked outside our room; a different feeling. The sky had changed, too and instead of there being clear blue above but cloud over the escarpment we now had strings of high cloud overhead, soft feathers against the blue.

We drove out to Jabiru airfield and found Des-of-the-huge-hands sitting in his air conditioned, forest-green cuboid shed; he agreed to take us up.

We lifted off in the Jet Ranger, having waited four days for a break in the weather, and headed south-east towards the escarpment that’s virtually the western boundary of Arnhem Land. From just a few metres above the ground Kakadu National Park was revealed as an open-forested plain stretching limitlessly west, a sameness of trees and shrubs on a vastly flooded grassland base. Nothing could more emphasize that this was the wet season than the straight, red-clay tracks we occasionally flew across that ran into water, to reappear again later, tracks impassable even to four-wheel drive vehicles, their usefulness proscribed by the slightest descent below flood level. Short of foot-trekking (which would be madness) the only way to the waterfalls was by helicopter.

To the east the escarpment rose, at first unimpressively. Its geological importance lies not in its height but in the difference it marks between the Kakadu flood lands and the hard rock crust of Arnhem Land. As we approached the cliffs they became more impressive but again this was not because of their height - no more than 100 - 200 metres - but their length, they stretched to north and south, a forbidding red-rock wall. We flew at no more than 500 metres and hugged the cliffs for a considerable distance until, after passing low over a detached outcrop which came up to meet us, its crazy stones labyrinthine as a brain, we were confronted by Twin Falls, where the escarpment runs east-west. This was the lesser of the waterfalls but grand all the same, its modest plateau stream bifurcated at the lip into sudden turmoil. Des held the Jet Ranger steady as we waited for cloud shadow to pass and then photographed the falls, fully lit by the late morning sun.

Jim Jim Falls are to the east where the escarpment has turned north-south. A much more splendid display than Twin Falls, the waters drop into a self-carved gorge the northerly face of which, this day, was in deep shadow. We were probably a little too early - maybe thirty minutes - but the falls themselves were in full sunlight and as we made our first pass the spray clouds billowing from the base of the fall threw a brilliant rainbow. Then, having passed the rim, above Arnhem Land and looking back towards Kakadu, we could see that the stream that makes the falls seems nothing much at all; Jim Jim Creek - its name both above and below the falls - weaves as a thousand other water courses across the plateau, placid, narrow but not apparently deep, until, like Twin Falls, it hits the edge and turns into a fury.

Des lowered us down the face of the falls until we were almost at the gorge floor, slowly gyrating and moving gradually across the deep and surprisingly still sandy-beached pool at its base. Looking up from there I marvelled (as even a child of the technological age can) at the ease with which we had been above, around and below the falls in a few minutes, seeing it as only a large bird could.

Back over Jabiru we dawdled above the Crocodile Hotel and took pictures. Only from the air, of course, does the crocodile shape become real - and really quite inspired. I still couldn’t work out, though, whether the architect’s motives were born of kitsch, humour or näivety. Probably tongue-in-cheek.
From diary notes: ‘Kakadu and Beyond’


No comments:

Post a Comment


Blog Archive

Hits Counter


Loaded Web

Blog Directory for Albany, New Zealand


Blog This Here

Blog Flux

Commentary blogs
Blog Directory


  • <$BlogCommentAuthor$> // <$BlogCommentDateTime$>


By Don Donovan