This has to be the most amazing place in Kakadu that we have found – and there have been some pretty amazing places.
I’d never heard of Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge), but first saw it when studying our maps when were down in Katherine; it was accompanied by the words ‘Permit required’. That always piques my interest because it always suggests to me it must be something special so I investigated further and decided it was definitely worth pursuing. You’re supposed to download a form from here and send it off 10 days in advance. Unfortunately we didn’t have 10 days but we managed to get a permit from the National Park visitor centre.
Permit in hand, we collected a key for the locked gate and headed off, stopping at Gunlom for the afternoon on the way. You’re only supposed to drive into Jarrangbarnmi after 4.00pm on the day you arrive. It’s apparently to keep the access track effectively one-way but there’s no real need because there would be no difficulty in passing other cars along the track.
We stayed for two full days (three nights), and decided it was time for a rest day so spent most of the first day sitting in camp playing games, writing blog posts, baking fruit loaf and scones on the fire, etc.
That was all very pleasant, but the beauty of the place only really became apparent when we went for a walk in the evening, close to sunset. We all climbed a steep ridge of rocks immediately behind the campsite and from the top we had amazing views of the Kakadu plains to the west and glimpses of the gorge itself to the east. That gave us an exciting taste of what was to come the following day.
The next morning we walked out of camp and up the gorge, leaving at about 9.30am. We weren’t back until around 6.00pm. It was quite simply an amazing day and we all voted it one of our best days of the whole trip so far.
The gorge consists of a number of large ‘steps’, each with a large plunge pools and waterfall falling into it. Most of the walking it through large boulders or up steep cliffs – exactly the right sort of terrain to keep our kids interested and excited enough that they were always happy to keep walking.
The track from the campground enters the gorge near a pool called Vegetation Pool which is a smaller pool and apparently can have saltwater crocodiles in it. There’s a track which climbs a rocky ridge that affords great views over the pool and further up the gorge.
We took some photos of the view and walked back to the main track to head further up the gorge. The track crosses over to the western side of the gorge then around Vegetation Pool and onto Pink Pool.
Along the way, Izzy found a shed snake skin which fascinated the kids for a while.
From Pink Pool we continued up, this time having to climb up one of the large rocky ‘steps’ to get to the next level and Black Pool. We spent a lot of time at Black Pool which was very large and surrounded by sheer cliffs. At first we were alone and enjoyed the solitude but we were soon joined by a group of Year 10 students from Brighton Grammar – school camps have certainly got better since my time!
We swam across to sit under the waterfall, which was really only a trickle at this time of year, and Izzy discovered she loves cliff jumping.
We found some rock art on the cliff beside the waterfall and continued up to the next two pools for another swim and lunch, this time climbing up a very steep and long section of cliff.
We couldn’t tell how far the gorge kept going, and we didn’t have time to keep exploring, but there was definitely more to discover and it’s yet another place on our list to come back to and spend more time exploring – possibly good for an overnight hike further up.
Eventually we had to head back to the campsite before it got dark. It was amazing how few people were there given the amazing scenery. The permit system definitely seems to turn people off and most of the others we saw at the campsite seemed to be locals down from Darwin who knew about the area, rather than the tourists from all around the world that are everywhere else in Kakadu.