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The Jatbula Trail – I didn’t know if I could do it, but I needed to find out. I’m a middle-aged woman whose strength and fitness had tanked with parenthood, life and the onset of menopause. I didn’t like how I felt, and I really didn’t like not being as physically strong as I once was. I’ve always hiked, usually day hikes anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, so being on the trail wasn’t new. However, I became acutely aware that doing those hikes carrying just a daypack didn’t seem enough to maintain the strength and fitness I had once taken for granted. My changing body was languishing.

So, after wallowing for far too long, I decided to set a goal and got myself trail-ready!!

Training, Preparation & Strategy

Ten months from that day of reckoning, I was to be hiking the Jatbula Adventure for beginner pack carriers along the western edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment in the Northern Territory. I would spend five days following an ancient song line of the Jawoyn people carrying an average of 18kg.

My goal was to regain fitness, strength, and flexibility. Then, build upon them to enable hiking longer distances over consecutive days carrying a fully loaded pack with reasonable ease (and less chance of injury). I wanted to feel strong and capable. I wanted to truly enjoy my first full pack carrying multiday trek after a 25-year hiatus.

I started with training sessions twice a week at a local gym – my first ever gym membership (I never thought I would be one to sign up)! My focus there was fitness and strength. Then, I added traditional pilates classes (not KX) to gain core strength and improve my flexibility. There was also some trail time – just 1 to 3 hours around my local area in the Mitcham Hills. With that, I began slowly building.

Three months from my departure date, the Big Heart training walks began. These were awesome and a pivotal part of my preparation!! Through these hikes, I gained insight into what worked for me and what didn’t. Some things surprised me, like realising that my favourite multi-strapped sports bra cut in at the shoulders when managing the extra weight inside my pack. Plus, I picked up beneficial tips and suggestions from fellow walkers and leaders along the way. I’ve not used walking poles before, but through conversations and experimenting with other’s poles, it was clear they would be advantageous, especially when carrying a full pack. I didn’t buy any but borrowed my mum’s before departure to familiarise me with their feel.

Pack & Weight

I purchased a new pack for this trip, hoping it will now see me through many future adventures. I already had a 3-litre water bladder, which fitted inside my new 65-litre pack, but starting to adjust to the loaded weight early on was vital. I’m not a very big person, and with my average height and petite build, learning how to manage the additional weight was really important.

Using bags of flour, rice, and whatever other odd assortment of things from the pantry or around the house, upon each training hike, I increased the weight until I exceeded what I would be carrying on the trail. This was my strategy: to be strong enough to bear heavier than I would be carrying, so I could fully immerse myself into Country and this incredible opportunity without being entirely distracted by discomfort.

I’m not going to lie; I felt the weight! And our final training hike on the weekend before departure was a doozy! In the best possible way, it was tough. I carried 23kg (including 3 litres of water, which at 1kg per litre, my weight slightly reduced as I drank) over varying terrain for 8 hours. By the end of it, I was done in! But I loved it because although I felt the weight, I felt strong! And I loved knowing that that hike was more challenging than any of the days I was to experience on the Jatbula trail.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I was ready!

*Read Jatbula Trail with a Rookie – Part 2 HERE
Daily trail notes, challenges, what I packed and what I needed and what I could have done without.

Additional Reading

Big Heart Adventures is a commercial tour operator (CTO) and leads walking adventures along the Jatbula Trail and throughout South Australia, Australia and overseas. We offer fully guided walking tours and self-guided walking adventures.

Read the itinerary and view departure dates for our next Jatbula Adventure for beginner pack carriers, here.

To see all our South Australian walking tours, visit our website here.

You can check out all our other walking tours here.

Read more about ‘Big Heart Adventures’ and wellness walks

To learn more about ‘Big Heart Adventures’ and wellness walking, visit our website here.