The amount of waterfalls that you can find in the outback is a bit confusing. When I think of the outback it is rocks, brush, and endless sky. The next two days in this national park gave me towering cliff sides, deep and lush ravines, crystal clear pools teaming with fish, and spiders. Needless to say it is not a barren desert.
Barrkmalam (Jim Jim) Falls
This was more of less the main event. The name Jim Jim is a bastardized version of the Aboriginal word andjimdjim named for a water plant. These waterfalls are at the end of an hour drive on an unsealed road that makes you thank God you went to the bathroom before you started driving. At the end there is a pathway through the jungle and mud, ending with boulders you have to crawl over hands and knees. The sign says 2 hours… I did it in 45 minutes.
From the beach, you swim through a deeper and colder body of water than you expect and climb over one last row of boulders towards the main pool. This massive, almost complete circle looks to be a half a mile across with the rock wall launching 850ft into the sky. This rock wall surrounds the entire ravine and hike to this water fall point and really makes you imagine what this would have looked like completely submerged underwater. The sun was cut off by the rock cliffs leaving this dark water damn cold.
In the dry season, the water barely falls down the cliff but is enough to splash you. Depending on how dry the season is, the trickle can actually stop. It looks like we were lucky to see any water descending. I ignored how deep this pool likely was considering the strength the waterfall has during the wet season and swam across with my new friends.
Australia has rangers check the water for crocodiles when the dry season starts. Since the waterways are so connected, they can come from anywhere and then get stuck in a smaller part of the river that used to connect to the ocean. Menacing signs sit outside of all the watering holes warning you that crocodiles can literally be everywhere. Comforting.
Our last day, and my birthday! My new friends on the tour I made sang me happy birthday twice before we even left camp. People offered to boil water for my coffee. I felt like an outback princess.
Our first stop was to another waterfall, Maguk Falls. Another long, windy path greeted us with smaller rocks to master, first leading from the forrest to a small stream; as the water grew, so did the rocks. Eventually we crawled over some and saw the falls. The distance felt like a half a mile to to the waterfall although maybe the deep water made it seem farther to me. The water was crystal clear and we had no hesitation diving in.
By the waterfall, there was a rocky ledge to perch on. We took turns going under the falls using my goggles to find fish swimming under our feet in the sun’s rays. Looking up was daunting and reminded you how tiny you are compared to these epic and ancient cliffs.
The Spider Waterfall
The last stop on this tour had to include some adventure. Considering this tour had been a breeze, every “hike” much shorter than expected and basically no challenging moments. Not really my normal type of trip. I never caught the name of this hidden waterfall, but down a short unsealed road that looked barely ever traveled, we arrived. The walk was not even 5 minutes and before us sat a short waterfall cascading into a happy pool leading off down to a brook. Across the waterfall was a spider web the likes I had never seen. More spiders than I could even try to count, created a massive, extensive, looping, spiraling web from one rock wall to the other, creating a little box in the air with the waterfall coming down the back side. With the sun coming through over the waterfall, these spiders literally glistened in the sun. Fucking hell.
Spiders are the scariest thing to me – well, all insects – but they are the kings. In Australia, that is always the fear: “where are the spiders.” While camping and exploring this whole time I had been lucky enough to stay out of their way. It was only fitting now, on my birthday, I be greeted by 20 of them. A couple people in the group where brave enough to venture. I thought strength in numbers.
As I swam forward, the floating wall of spiders seemed more menacing. Our guide assured me they wouldn’t just jump off in mass to try and devour me. I was unconvinced. Their web sat 4ft above the water with the waterfall splashing merrily along behind it tempting me. I decided to dive down to give the spiders more space and reemerged at the waterfall. My own Everest conquered.
Swimming back, I posted up on the rocks with my new friends warming up in the sun. The difference between the hot springs on the west side of this state and these waterways on the east side really cuts you through. We start to pack up sadly as we know this is the end of the trip. My tour guide says: “Angela, sit here for a minute and take it all in. We’ll wait at the truck, Happy birthday.” I bask and meditate, not on anything specific, no goals created, no ideas analyzed. Just breathing. There was a lot of change coming for me soon but right now all I needed to do was, as corny as it sounds, be one with nature.