The Jatbula Trail is a iconic walk located in the Northern Territory of Australia, A 60km hike through Nitmiluk National Park (in the Katherine region) from the Nitmiluk visitors centre (Katherine gorge) to Leliyn (Edith Falls) Since the 1980's it has been a known walking trail and was named the Jatbula Trail after Peter Jatbula, a traditional land Jawoyn Elder who saw the idea of making the trail more accessible and to show the connection between the Jawoyn country and culture.
However the trail has been walked for thousands of years by the Jawoyn people, Linking wet season and dry season habitation areas. Along the trail stories and songs were told for lessons in skills and knowledge but stories and songs were also a form of navigation.
If you have not done so already, I recommend you booking into doing this trek
We had a blast, while swimming in water holes, rivers and waterfalls each afternoon. As soon as the sun went done and dinner was digested - it was star gazing time every night, it happened to be a meteor shower event on the 13th 14th August 2018 - As you would Wake during to the night sky and see the galaxy well lit with millions of stars and the occasional shooting star / shower -
If this is not on your bucket list then put it in there NOW -
The Jatbula Trail Day 1 - 11/8/18 11am 8 km Nitmiluk Visitors Centre to Biddlecombe Cascades
A 6am early departure from the YHA in Darwin as the 12 of us jump in our rental van thats bound for Nitmiluk Visitors centre Katherine. A 3.5hr drive down the Stuart Highway and at a average of 130kmh it felt like we were there in no time. We had a little bit of time to spare before the final prep and briefing from the National Park Ranger. So why not tuck into a bit of "real food" before we depart across the river and then its rations all the way.
I had a gorgeous Vegetarian Qinuoa wrap and a orange flourless cake - Well that was left for the local birdlife because as soon as I turned my back - SWOOP , cake had gone and now in the pleasure of the THAT BIRD.
10:35 briefing by the Park ranger and then our 11pm departure at the boat ramp to basically float to the other side of the river and the start of the Jatbula Trail -
After months of anticipation, build up and watching other people / some friends on the trail, it was now left to our backpacks and our two feet to have the fun, So with plenty of water, sunblock and a wide breamed hat off we go. With only 3.4km to the Northern Rock Hole after wonderful views of gullies and eventually 17 mile valley that had Melaleucas and Red Gums.
the walk in to the Northern Rock Hole was a little unexpected as you were meandering along a creek bed and then to your right through some lush foliage there was this amazing clear green water hole with a huge dry waterfall above it and the escarpment disappearing to the right. A break was called here and as there was no food in mind, we had this hunger to jump straight into this amazing light green coloured water.
It was only another 4.5kms to Biddlecombe Cascades as we climb ever so slightly to a high lying plateau that gives us one of our first views of the escarpment and gorge to our left. We were coming into the hottest part of the day and to be our hottest day on trail, reaching 34 degrees.
after a short decent, camp was situated in a leafy plateau that was a short walk to Biddlecombe Cascades. Camp set, lunch cooked and then it was off to wade in the upper cascades and once I sighted some of the group had descended the escarpment down to the lower falls, I could not resist - I FEEL ALIVE but once I swam over to the right of the water fall, my iPhone that I had left in my shorts had DIED -
Camp Dinner (Lentils with mushrooms and veggies) followed By star Gazing
JATBULA TRAIL DAY 2 12/8/18 - 8AM - 11.5KM Biddlecombe Cascades to Crystal Falls
After a camp breakfast of muesli and pea protein we were up and ready to smash out our 11.5km to Crystal Falls. After a few hours of hiking through terrain that was not difficult but one of extremely dry and arid with the foliage telling the tale of 8 months in the dry season as they were in a yellow colour of disappear.
By late morning we reach a part of the track that is situated around a tall rocky outcrop, this is the location of some Indigenous Rock Art, amazing to see this art of thousands of years ago and the meaning it has for the local Jawoyn People
It was only another 2.5hrs of hiking from this stop to Crystal Falls and so we arrive at camp just after 1:30pm - Gorgeous camp site situated on the river and a huge area to swim upstream. and thats exactly what we did straight after lunch, I was like a kid in his element swimming all the way up stream through some amazing waterholes to finally find this cascading vista. Yep time to swim back and walk back up with the camera in tow.
Camp Dinner was Yens Home made laksa (yum) and then along came the frantic preparation to hang all our food in dry sacks between tree's via thin cord/ rope in a effort to safe guard our food from the bush rats - The following morning resulted in no attacks from the RATS.
Dinner was Followed by another night of Star Gazing
JATBULA TRAIL DAY 3 13/8/18 - 8AM - 10KM Crystal Falls to 17 Mile Falls
8am departure and the anticipation was HIGH as we had to cross the river right beside camp and some people were a little on edge. I dare say at the beginning of the walking season which starts on the 1st of June the water level here may be higher and more difficult to cross. Ok we are a group so lets cross as a group not as individuals, so David and myself were assisting each cross to safer ground and that wasn't so bad was it.
It was only 6.4km to the Amphitheatre, which is a "monsoon" rainforest located in a gully - Time for a break as the highlight for this place is the ingenious Rock Art, once you have made a short decent down some steps you will walk along the right side of some exposed cliffs to view some rock art.
With a little over 3km to go to this afternoons camp, there is not much shade here but before you know it the tail meets the steep escarpment to the left giving you great views through the gorge and 17 Mile Falls (Great lookout stop)
Like the days gone by we were in by 1:30 and today was no different, after crossing the creek above the upper falls then it was a muddy tramp and ultimately our camp which was nestled away in a leafy area, a short walk to the infinity and lower pools and a majestic view to the right as the golden brown rocks made a abrupt scramble to the lower plunge waterfall and then out to the surrounding hills.
The after noon was spent much the same being in my element in the water, swimming through infinity pools and down to 2 lower water holes.
Camp dinner, Laska with veggies and a serving of spaghetti bolognese and yes you guessed it Star Gazing on the rock (it never gets boring)
JATBULA TRAIL DAY 4 14/8/18 - 8AM - 17KM 17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp
Gee we are good at these 8am departures, maybe the group has the interest to get to camp before the hotter temperatures. This was a Big Day in walking distance terms but as the trail is fairly easy and undulating at best we still made camp around the same time as previous days.
We were told that Sandy Camp had a gorgeous water hole and it certainly didn't dissappoint. We arrived and in only a setting you would dream of, the water hole was like this huge billabong or small lake and the camp site was to the right, a beautiful sandy oasis that perfectly flowed out to the water. What a perfect place to spend a afternoon swimming.
Camp dinner was yet again Laksa with dehydrated kale chips and veggies thrown in, the last nights camp ment the last night we would spend star gazing - gee iam going to miss this.
JATBULA TRAIL DAY 5 14/8/18 - 8AM - 15KM 17 Sandy Camp to Leliyn (Edith Falls)
Our Final day on trail and while Dave and Yen left at 07:20 to walk out before us and arrive at Edith Falls for 11:00am to pick up a transfer to Nitmiluk Visitors centre to retrieve mini van that was left there.
The 10 of us were out by 07:55 and hiked the 11km which was easy and mostly flat terrain to Sweetwater Pools by 10:30. Such a gorgeous place and if I had my time again it would have been nice to camp at Sweetwater pool - We settled for a quick 20 minute break and swim which was just what we needed before out final 4kms out to Edith Falls where we would ultimately stop and have our final swim on the JATBULA TRAIL - A good hour spent at Edith Falls jumping off a rather high rock ledge before we arrived at Leliyn Kiosk for some FOOD and the bus out for the 3.5hr trip back to Darwin
The Jatbula Trail, technically and by terrain is a easy walk but its the fact that you are backpacking from each camp per day in varied temperatures of the high 20's to mid 30's and there is no guaranteed water in-between camp sites.
You will need to be self sufficient for at least 5 days, so that means light weight food, snacks, the required clothing, hat and sun protection. So in respect this is not a easy walk But its a incredibly rewarding walk if you are prepared or are a experienced back packer / hiker.
Although the trail is well worn and marked via a blue triangle, it is still recommend that you carry track notes, GPS and or a map.
Yours In Adventure
"This Blog is of the Opinion of my own Personal Experiences and are not necessarily Fact.. and is written to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes. This blog is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as any kind of advice."