Monday, July 14, 2008

Jatbula Trail

We spent the week of July 10th to the 14th just East of Katherine on the Jatbula trail that runs from the Katherine Gorge to Edith Falls. This perhaps will be noted as the turning point in our time down here. It was really good for us to get out and see the country. It was also a good couple strengthening exercise, and reminded us how well we work as a team.

We were joined on the trip by a colleague, Martin, and two friends of his Gary and Robin. Unfortunately, one person wasn't able to make it, so we ended up being just 5 people. The walk is about 60km total (depending on which map you read), and we pretty much just settled into a rutine of getting up and hiking to that day's campsite and resting the rest of the afternoon. They only allow 10 people a day on the trail, so reservations had to be made about a month or so in advance. This will probably get even more difficult as the trail has been shown in Australian Geographic, and is highly recommended by everyone we've talked to. Hopefully they don't change how many people are allowed on the trail, because it definitely helps to keep the campsites in good condition. They've done a fantastic job marking the trail, and several of the campsites had composting toilets. Quite the luxury (in the least you didn't need to carry out your TP)! David remarked to Jenni, "I'll go backpacing on any trail that has a toilet." He might have been a bit too enthusiastic, after all humans have been doing like bears (and popes) for thousands of years.

Day 1 Nitmiluk Centre to Northern Rockhole to Biddlecombe Cascades

Northern Rockhole was the first stop. Some of our party dove in for a mid-afternoon swim

This was about 100 meters away from the campsite. What will come as a shock to you Coloradoans (and those in the US) is you can drink this water. Tastes great too! Less Filling! No worries about water-born illnesses. So that meant we didn't have to carry anymore water than what we needed for that day, because each campsite had either a river or waterhole of some kind. (Photographers Note: The image below was created using a technique called HDR. It allows you to combine multiple exposures of the same photo and create some interesting effects.)

Red-tailed cockatoos above the campground.

Day 2 Biddlecombe Cascades to Crystal Falls

Setting out on day two.

There was some Aboriginal rock art along the way.

Face in a knotted old tree.

Well-marked trail. It wasn't usually necessary to have so many markers, because the trail has become well-worn, but a few years ago before it became popular, they were necessary.

Martin's Shoes deserve special attention. He purchased these shoes in 2000 and they were second-hand at the time. Unfortunately they were not the best shoes to have on this hike. They started to bug him on the second day, in particular rubbing and blisters around his ankle. Martin's solution was to revolution shoe design and create specially modified hiking boots by cutting off the offending pieces. On day two he removed the ankle support using a rather dull Swiss Army knife.

Always conscientious, Martin takes "Leave No Trace" to a new extreme.

Cascade Falls campground. David didn't get a snapshot of the actual cascade falls.

Kingfisher at the campground.

Day 3 Crystal Falls to the Amphitheater to 17 Mile Falls

Mist on the river at Crystal Falls campground.

The Amphitheater was a slight detour from the main trail, but had some amazing Aboriginal Rock Art. Unfortunately Jenni and David missed some of the bigger galleries, because the trail appeared to end.

Jenni in front of 17 Miles Falls

Rock resembling David.

Third Campground

We divided the dinner duties amongst the original 6 people, so Martin got stuck carrying the food and cooking for us by himself. Jenni and David had the first night, but brought WAY too much pasta and ended up carrying that for almost the whole trip. Pasta is surprisingly heavy. Martin the second night, and Gary and Robin the third night. The last night we threw all we had left together and created a buffet style feast. On the outside of Gary and Robin's dinner looked like complete and utter chaos. Sometimes it even like they were working against each other. But this was just on the outside, because their system worked, and they produced another fantastic meal. We definitely ate well on the trip.

Martin's Shoe part two. Ankles were feeling in top shape by the second day, but blisters on his toes were causing problems. His shoes were too tight in the front, causing pressure on his front toes. This was also helped by the fact that the sole was beginning to detach itself from the shoe, so it was necessary to tape the shoe together but the tape added more pressure to the toes. Solution 2: cut out some space for the toes (while the shoe was off mind you). Martin has copyrighted this design, so no stealing his intellectual property.

Day 4 17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp Pool

This spot quickly became everyone's favorite spot to camp at. The tents could be placed on the sand, and it would be like camping on the beach. Like camping on the beach, sand got everywhere, but that was ok too. We never found the composting toilet for this one, but there were really no places to build one.

There were actually freshies in this pool (freshwater crocs). We could see their eyes at night. Probably small ones, and they didn't bug us and we didn't bother them.

On Day five we hiked out to Edith falls and headed home.

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