The route takes walkers on an adventure along the western Arnhem Land Escarpment
Info: www.nt.gov.au/parks When to go: June-September Grade: Moderate
THE JATBULA TRAIL is the perfect Top End accompaniment to the NT’s other multiday walk, the Larapinta Trail. The six-day, 62km Jatbula takes you through some of the most vibrant and engaging terrain in this country. It can be walked independently (you need to book well ahead for park/camping passes, see the NT parks link above) or you can jump on board a guided adventure with tour operators such as World Expeditions.
The Jatbula is located in Nitmiluk National Park and winds north (you can only walk it in this one direction) from Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) to Leliyn (Edith Falls). The route takes walkers on a tropical adventure along the western edges of the Arnhem Land Escarpment, passing through savannah grasslands, over quartzite cliffs, and through creeks and monsoonal rainforest. The terrain itself is amazing, but even more so are the campsites you sleep at every night: right beside waterfalls that drop into pristine and croc-free swimming holes below. This is the home of the Jawoyn people, and you’ll have the daily chance to spot some beautiful rock art in a number of caves, rocky overhangs and outcrops. Each day of walking is around 10km, with the longest being 16km, on the section between 17 Mile Falls and Sandy Camp Pool.
The first few days see you traverse what is known as “stone country” before entering pockets of monsoonal rainforest. After a few days you’ll follow a gentler track as you walk beside the Edith River on your way to Sandy Camp Pool, where you’ll camp for the night, before continuing the next day through paperbark forests and past more waterholes to Sweetwater Pool.
The Jatbula Trail can be done at an easy pace. We’d recommend starting early, however, to miss the heat of the afternoon, and also take advantage of each campsite’s location where you can cool off in the camp-side waterholes. As well as warm days and coolish nights, you should see plenty of stars in the clear NT skies.
The Jatbula’s start/end points are ideal for other day walks, or canoeing the gorge (see page 39) . The alternative is to keep living that waterfall dream and spend a few more days lolling about at Leliyn at the end of your trek. Yep, the NT can be tough sometimes…
The Jatbula Trail takes hikers through a wonderland of tropical landscapes.
Pic: Tourism NT/Bruce Baker