Jedda's Rock via Windolf Walk
Nitmiluk National Park
Directions - Located in the southern section of Nitmiluk National Park, from the centre of Katherine head north on Giles Street as it becomes Gorge Road and follow this for 28km. There is only one main road to the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre and it is well signed so you can't miss it. There is plenty of parking but it does fill up during the peak period around July school holidays. The walk starts from outside the Visitor Centre where you will find a large information board detailing the Southern Walks in Nitmiluk.
The Hike - With many hike options to choose from in the southern section of Nitmiluk National Park, I had one last location I really wanted to check out before our time in Katherine came to an end. Having completed Butterfly Gorge, one of the other longer day walks, I had my gaze set upon the nearby Pat's Lookout, Southern Rockhole and Jedda's Rock for my last day hike in the area. Getting up early to avoid the heat, I ventured along the road towards Nitmiluk for the final time and soaked in what is a pleasant drive in the pre-dawn light.
Arriving at the impressive Visitor Centre, the car park was relatively empty compared to the bun fight it becomes when the regular tourist is up and about. There were a few people wandering about as I made my way to the entrance to start my Garmin and then backtrack along the trail that leads to the Southern Walks. I decided against the route that takes you along the Baruwei Loop, as I had previously walked that as I headed out to Butterfly Gorge. The more direct path that runs parallel to Gorge Road I knew wasn't nearly as nice but it was quicker and I could just put on the jets and get it over with. The choose your own adventure style of trail network out here is different and while not my particular cup of tea, I can see why it was been chosen. It meant that the first 2.2km of the hike was on paths that I'd walked before, which would have been fine but half of that is on what could be called not very interesting trail.
A disadvantage of starting early was the morning light coming from the east and that is eventually the direction you would be facing. It meant the cliffs above the visitor centre were in shadow and once I reached the climb, I was shooting right into the rising sun. It did create some interesting lighting effects as I passed a section of palms and taller trees. Not far up the path was the junction with the Baruwei Loop and access to the Southern Walks. I enjoy this spot as you rise up over the hill and are presented with a seemingly never-ending expanse of national park with distant gorges providing a world of opportunity. Down the hill and around the corner is the first choose your own adventure decision tree and for me, the start of all new terrain as I turned to page 397 and followed the Windolf Walk towards Pat's Lookout.
Taking the left turn at the small water tank, I was curious to see what was to be found along this path, compared to the Yambi Walk that takes you to Butterfly Gorge. Following the compact single trail as it weaves through the grasses and rock formations of this stunning landscape, I was immediately impressed with what was out here. It shouldn't have been surprising given the quality of the Yambi Walk but you never never know if you never never go (fellow 90s kids will understand). Spotting some Yellow Kapok early on, I always enjoy photographing these against the bright blue of a clear sky. The rock formations through here provided more photographic opportunities with balancing boulders and gently sloping platforms allowing for a bit of variety to the galleries. It was nice to see both the regular Turkey Bush (Calytrix exstipulata) and White Turkeybush (Calytrix brownii), a variety that I don't believe I had seen on my NT travels before.
I was enjoying that the Windolf Walk seemed to have a much more enclosed feeling to it thanks to the narrower path and tree coverage along the way. Add in some cool rock formations, including a curved wall leading to a footbridge and it was quite the experience. Shooting it all was still a bit of a challenge so it was just a case of pointing the camera at the right angles and occasionally having to shoot in the direction I had just walked, something I don't like doing too much. The path winds a lot more as it slots through various rocky outcrops and this means you're constantly being presented with a new viewpoint. After about two kilometres you reach a shelter that provide a respite from the sun, along with being a service point for the mountain bike trails that have been built throughout the park. This is the decision point for several trails with diverging paths for the Southern Rockhole, Pat's Lookout, Bamjon and Jedda's Rock via the Waleka Walk (that also links back to the entrance to Butterfly Gorge).