What’s the NT Grand Expedition and how did it come to life?

Photo Credit: Night sky over Watarrka National Park – Tourism NT / Matt Glastonbury

So, the wild idea was born a few years ago: to travel across the Northern Territory (NT) and adventure trek (hike/trail run) six or more of the most iconic long-distance trails consecutively, within two weeks, but to do it in the most sustainable way possible. 

Of course, the pandemic delayed the ability for us to get this off the ground, but we brought it all back to life in 2022, and in partnership with WEJUGO, the expedition has become a reality. In a matter of weeks, our little team of four intrepid adventurers will set out to take on this mission. We are a motley crew of two Dads and two Mums, who just love to hike, and enjoy the excitement of going to remote wilderness places to immerse ourselves in the magic of nature. We all came together a couple of months ago to hike the Overland Track in Tasmania, to test out our team work and to plan how we would go about the NT Grand. 

Meet the crew

The Visionary

Luke Edwards: a.k.a the energizer bunny and visionary– this guy seems to have boundless energy for outdoor pursuits and nothing is impossible in his mind. This is an awesome trait to have given the countless hurdles we have had to jump over to make this adventure happen! He loves to book lots of things and “lock them in”, is an awesome “people person” and amazing communicator who eloquently spreads the energy and passion he has for this expedition with everyone he meets

Navigator and gear guru

Matt: Driver, map expert, connectivity guru and all round gear guru – Matt and Luke go way back and their constant banter is a source of much laughter on the trail. This is a great trait to have on expeditions as when things get hairy or tough, you are tired and hangry – a bit of humor goes a long way to bring us back to what is important! Matt has a great eye for capturing iconic images and will be helping us to capture these memories on camera. 

Nutrition and sustainability champion

Sarah Les Barton: a.k.a our sustainability expert – Biodynamic farmer, beekeeper, foodie and naturopath – this woman is multi-talented, an adventurer in her own right, and really lives sustainability – she will be managing our food and nutrition (sooo important to be nurtured on a multi-day expedition in the wilderness, with little access to supplies for days on end) and ensure we are doing our very best to be sustainable in the way we consume and travel. Of course, Sarah will be co-driver for those long journeys and can also capture beautiful photographs. 

Guide and logistics coordinator

Lisa Marshall: Adventure Guide, Trek Coach and logistics coordinator – I’m the one with the spreadsheets diligently filling out all the details of every location we plan to visit, plotting the maps, watching the budget (!) and writing and sharing about our adventures on foot. I’ll be challenged trying to keep up with Luke each day on the trails, but part of what I love about these adventures is the journey leading up to it, and the satisfaction of seeing it all come together, including my fitness! 

In the next few weeks, training is our priority, and continuing to fine-tune the logistics of the expedition.

The journey of expedition planning

Trails and National Parks to explore

2022: Defining the trails and National Parks we wanted to explore, pulling it all together into a draft itinerary and working out how long it will take on each trail and the travel distances between each National Park. Pulling this into a pitch and exploring potential partnerships that would support the ideals behind the expedition: namely sustainable adventure travel. 

Budget and partnership

Once the rough itinerary was drafted, we then worked on a budget – taking into account flights, car hire, food, equipment, fuel, permits, accommodation etc etc. In the last year, costs for some of these on the ground expenses almost doubled, making it even more important for us to be on top of the real cost of taking on this expedition. 

Once our partnership with WEJUGO was cemented we locked in the dates of the expedition, being careful to avoid school holiday periods, and finding a window that the whole team could work with. 

More logistics work to nut out the details of every trail, including travel to and from, entry/access points and resources nearby. Permits for each trail were bought, accommodation booked, campsites booked, car hire booked and the route plotted to account for kilometers by foot and kilometers by road, to assist with measuring our impact. Working with WEJUGO to map out each step of the expedition and the support required to make it happen. 

In summary, to make an expedition come to life there’s a whole heap of work that goes on in the background for months before, to ensure you have a realistic picture of:

  1. The distance to be covered on foot and the fitness/endurance required to do this.
  2. The practicalities of access to remote trails and how to piece this together to create a fluid itinerary.
  3. A realistic budget that has some wiggle room in it for things like inflation!
  4. A team you know you can work with who bring complimentary skills – and most importantly can adapt and deal with change, unexpected circumstances, challenges on the ground and long, long days being together! Read more on how to find your adventure soul mates here.
  5. The guts to go out and tell people about your adventure and to ask for their support.
  6. The commitment to making time to work on the project and of course to do the training.
  7. The diligence to capture all the details you will need when the expedition kicks off, knowing that out of all the places we visit, there will be less than five occasions when we will have connectivity to be able to access data/internet or online info.
  8. The willingness to put up with discomfort for many days, in return for visiting beautiful wilderness places.
  9. A focus on learning more about sustainability and how to have less impact on the places we choose to adventure to. Our goal in the lead up to the expedition is to connect with leaders in this space and apply the learnings and practices that they share with us, to the way we go about this expedition.

We look forward to sharing with you the next chapter, as our preparation and planning for the NT Grand in June 2023 unfolds,…