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New Year in Kakadu 2005-2006
Photo Gallery and Report
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Although this trip is called "New Year in Kakadu", we sometimes choose to go elsewhere. Conditions in December 2005 were perfect for a return to Nitmiluk and a repeat of our first commercial trip in February 1984, the Katherine Gorge to Edith Falls Jatbula Trail. This is a great walk you can do on your own in the dry season. In the Wet, when it is at its most spectacular, it is closed to all but licensed tour operators.
After dropping our vehicle at Edith Falls and getting a minibus to Katherine Gorge, the ranger ferried us across the swollen Katherine River to the start of our walk.
Less then two hours later, we had arrived at the northern Rockhole where we stopped for a swim before setting up camp.
One of the first tasks on any wet season trip is to put up the group fly, shown at left below. This allows us to enjoy a dry dinner if it rains. It also allows free standing tents to be set up under cover if it is raining. We didn't get rain before dinner. The photo at right below shows a distant view of our camp.
This was a wet season trip and sure enough we did get some rain overnight. When we left the next morning, we had to wade across Rockhole Creek before rejoining the main track to Biddlecombe Cascades. The two photos below show Biddlecombe, great views when you arrive but a bit of a scramble to get down for a swim.
If you can't see the scramble, click to enlarge the photo at right below.
The normal campsite was flooded so we waded across Biddlecombe Creek and set up camp on the far side. One of the advantages of walking in the Wet is that you get to use camp sites which are not available in the Dry.
Wet season wonders.
The best reason to walk in the Wet is the magic of the wet season waterfalls. The waterfall at right does not flow for most of the dry season. It is not on the marked trail. A short walk without packs from the trail brought us to the magnificent view shown. A short walk upstream got us to a lovely pool where we had a swim.
Waterfalls and more waterfalls. The waterfall at left below is right next to the trail. As with many others, it flows only during and immediately after the Wet.
Wet season walks aren't all hard work. We usually have a break at least once an hour. The photo below right shows a break in the shade near a small Aboriginal art site.
It's green! Four to eight months without rain every year means that the landscape is at its lush, green best only during and immediately after the Wet.
Swims and more swims. With every creek at its best, we can stop for swims in pools which dry up later in the year. One such swim is shown at right below.
Flowers and more flowers
Wildflowers bloom throughout the year in our region but they are at their most prolific during the Wet. The wattles (acacias) are partiularly spectacular. You walk through masses of blooms like those shown below.
Grevillea goodii and the ground orchid (Dipodium stenochilum) shown at right below both only bloom during the Wet. It was the Christmas season so what could be more appropriate than a tree full of mistletoe. Small flowers like wandering jew (Commelina ensifolia) cover the ground.
We could go on and add dozens more photos of different flowers but the few photos above are enough to give you a taste and to emphasise the fact that our trips allow you the time to stop and enjoy the flowers. They are not forced marches.
The photo at right shows the top of yet another unnamed waterfall as it plunges off the escarpment into the valley below. This was only a 15 minute walk without packs from the main trail.
Crystal Creek and Falls are one of the highlights of the walk at any time of year. The normal camping area was too boggy, so we crossed the creek and found a better spot. This crossing proved to be the most difficult of the trip, not too bad, but you had to be careful as shown below.
Once across the creek we quickly set up our camp among the flowers next to a great view of Crystal Falls and Gorge below. Beyond Crystal Falls, the trail skirts the edge of the escarpment where we get great great views down the valley below before reaching the top of the Amphitheatre and its many art sites.
There is an amazing wealth of Aboriginal art in the Amphitheatre but in keeping with the wishes of the local people, we have included only an image of one of the most easily found sites. The Amphitheatre Falls flows only during the Wet, a good time to stop for a swim. 17 Mile Falls is another one of the major waterfalls along the route. The two photos below show the view down the valley from the eastern view point (guide Russell Willis at left) and the falls themselves. Once across 17 Mile Creek, we walked down to the western view point, then back to a pool for a swim. It's easy to keep out of the main flow which is just as well as you'd be heading downstream very quickly if you got into it. Whenever possible, we like to get into camp early enough so that people can relax, read a book, have a swim and enjoy their surroundings. The photo at right shows people relaxing at our 17 Mile Creek camp site. The flattest and driest section of the walk is the part between 17 Mile Creek and the Edith River. The trail passes through typical open woodland. Mother Nature may throw up obstacles like erosion gullies, but she sometimes provides bridges as well. The walking on this section was easy enough so we had no trouble reaching the Edith River by lunch time. Another wade and another swim. As we moved on, the clouds began to build as we passed through the only section of spinifex on the walk. Then came the Channels waterhole. The clouds continued to build. This was the Wet. Shortly after we finished dinner that night, the heavens opened and we got our heaviest rainfall of the trip. The two photos below show the waterhole we camped next to. The left photo was when we arrived. The one on the right was the next morning. Note how the river has come in much further on the left and how the big rock below the cascades in the left photo has disappeared into the flood. If the rain that caused the flood above had come before we crossed the river, wading would have been impossible and we would have had to float our packs across at a deep waterhole like the one shown at right. The current is much slower here and there is no danger, as long as you can swim. In spite of the downpour the night before, some of the walking was as dry as ever. Some of it was rather wetter. If you walk in the wet season, you are going to get your shoes or boots wet. But, unlike many other places, your feet won't get cold.
As lush as the landscape may look, the soils here are very poor and the ground is dotted with little carniverous plants like the sundews at right.
People often ask us about flies and mosquitos. Yes, they were there, but never in plague proportions. We paid more attention to colourful bugs like the grasshopper at far right.
Our trip was almost over. We made our final camp at the nice dry spot shown at right. A short walk the next morning brought us to the cascades above Edith Falls, then to a view of the falls and finally our vehicle at the Edith Falls car park. The adventure was over.
Our choice of venue for the New Year in Kakadu trip depends on how much rain there has been. The walk shown above is a great choice if there has been a reasonable amount of rain. In exceptionally dry or wet years, it could be impossible or unpleasant. Whatever the conditions, we will give you the best possible walk at the time.
Our New Year in Kakadu trip notes give you more information about this and some of the other possibile walks.