Larapinta Trail June 2018

 

I’m heading off to walk the full Larapinta Trail, West Bound (WEBO) over 21 days. Solo for the first two thirds, then Christine my wife will join me for the last week. This is the gear shakedown I did the other night 3 weeks out from the walk with gear weights included followed by a day by day trail journal with pictures. 3 videos will follow.

It Is Finished!

There is a tremendous freedom in setting off on foot … The constraints of your life fall away, revealing a less cluttered self.

Robyn Davidson, Tracks

West_Macdonnell_National_Park_0416.svg

Now here are my trail notes/journal…

Day (-)1 Saturday 9th June 2018.

I have done my shopping and everything is packed. My 3 food drop boxes are down at reception awaiting pickup by Zac from Larapinta Trek and Trail Support (I can’t recommend them enough – Brilliant! For around $300 they will do everything for you include bring you back to Alice from the end of the walk. I have a work function tonight, but all day I am just sitting around reading. The function tonight are the team from Mission Australia who have been out on the trail all week. Together we have raised over $70 000 for Mission Beat NT. Check it all out and make a donation here.

The temperature feels hot, 30 degrees. I’m reading Red by Terry Tempest Williams all about the Utah deserts and Canyons. She tells me how “it is strange how deserts turn us into believers“. I’m ready to believe!

From my journal;

It is an odd thing to say but I can hear the desert calling me, inviting me to come. Almost like it’s reflecting my own longing to start the walk.

Week One

Day 1. Sunday 10th June

I was aiming for Wallaby Gap campsite tonight but as I did not leave the trailhead (Alice Springs Old Telegraph Station) until 1pm and I was walking in the (very hot) heat of the day, I called it quits just before I climbed Euro Ridge. A stunning trailside campsite, albeit a sloping one! As I sit journaling a Dingo just saunters past me! And yes, the Dingo is not the only predator close to me, tonight Ive got all sorts of ‘demons’ in my head; “You’ve bitten off more than you can chew Scott, there are troubles back home, you should not be out here, get back to Perth, You can’t spend this much time alone, you will go crazy, 21 days is way too long, you will be bored…”

But the other voice says, “enjoy every moment, take it easy, slide yourself slowly into this walk. Today was hot, but you took your time, slept for an hour under the Stuart Highway overpass and wandered on slowly, you embraced the suck and you walked your own walk.”

IMG_2500
Leaving Alice
IMG_2520
Euro Ridge
fullsizeoutput_1005d
First night’s bed

 

 

Day 2. Monday 11th June

Not a great night sleep. Didn’t use my tent and there was a bit of a breeze, didn’t do up my quilt, so it blew off, it’s so light! I had a headache from not enough water, and a down hill bed setup…but what a view to wake to! The light covering of cloud had been painted pink and orange.

I was on the trail by 7.40am and up and over Euro Ridge before I knew it. Some water collected at Wallaby Gap then on to Simpsons Gap. I saw just 2 or 3 people along the way and no one heading in my direction and no one at the Simpsons Gap campsite tonight.

Today I decided 2 things; 1) To not use my watch to track my distances, too much battery but more so, it felt like a pressure. I had to ask myself, “Why?” why do I care so much? and 2) I’ve stopped reading the distance markers on the signs. Each section of the trail works from zero upwards as you walk east. I found looking at them, I became more interested in how much I had walked and how far I had to go rather than enjoying the moment. Each night I read the map and notes for tomorrow, that’s all.

Glad a I threw in a head net – FLIES!!

Fly net? yeah!
Fly net? yeah!

A Black Footed Rock Wallaby came right down to the water at Simpsons Gap while I sat there and watched…and listened to the music being played by a guy with a little guitar thing. Finches, budgies – great day, but for a continuing headache.

Simpson's Gap
Simpson’s Gap

Day 3. Tuesday 12 June

Dingoes howling a lot last night – I ended up taking a sleeping tablet.

Trail Tip – Free standing ultra light tents require weight in them on windy days!

Only about 11km today so I didn’t leave until 9am. I took 2 tablets to try to shake this headache I gave myself on the first day by walking too long in the too hot and not drinking too much water!

I spent a bit of time exploring Bond Gap, such a nice place. Still not any people walking my direction and very few walking EBO (East Bound).

Tonight I am camping in a nice big creek bed under Arenge Bluff, a few kms east of Mulga Camp. Beautiful view of the bluff turning red as the sun sets, no tent tonight.

I wrote this as the sun set;

Long shadows

shifting light

buzzing flies

talking crows

to sit here under the river white gums

…is to sit still in time

Arenge Bluff
Arenge Bluff

Day 4. Wednesday 13 June

Coldest morning yet, down to around 4.

Durning the night the strangest thing occurred. I was admiring the huge starry sky when it started raining! There was one little cloud I hadn’t seen that decided to deliver a few good showers. I pulled the fly over me and in the end draped it over the tent frame. There was even some thunder!

Trail Tip – Have a good pillow system…this is an endless experiment to get it right!

The smell of rain on the dry spinifex was nothing short of intoxicating. It sent me off on a very mindful, spiritual, quite emotional note as I loaded up and walked around Arenge Bluff. I made a coffee when I arrived at Mulga Camp and enjoyed the security of reloading my water supply. On these days in which I have been camping away from water Ive carried up to 6L but have not used it all, so I am going to carry a litre less. When I am just walking tank to tank I am only carrying 2L, sometimes 3 if the weather is warm.

I started the day so well – but finished it a bit grumpy. From Spring Gap I noticed the increasing signs of cattle damage on the track, signs knocked over, bush flattened, water holes destroyed, and by the time I arrived at Jay Creek Camp I was mad enough to miss the trail junction/shelter and walk right past, up and over the gap and 2.2km out the other side! I used the Guthooks app on my phone to identify where I had gone wrong and headed back to set up camp inside the shelter. A mistake! They are too cold. Valleys are cold enough but when you don’t have a tent around you – you freeze!

I missed the campsite!
I missed the campsite!

Sunset

Sometimes I go to take a photo of some breathtaking scene.

I stand and stare, camera in hand.

Will it look THIS good?

It never does.

I put the camera in my pocket,

I just stand.

I just look.

It’s just for me.

Love a good sunset
Love a good sunset

I found a fresh onion in the shelter cupboard which I chopped up and put in my dehyd…the hot water did not really cook it, so I guess I ate a whole raw onion for dinner!

Dinner...every night
Dinner…every night

Day 5. Thursday 14 June

I shared my cold shelter with a little mouse who managed to get into my pack last night. I ended up hanging the pack from the rafters.

On the walk from Jay Creek Shelter to my camp up high (1109m) on the alternative route I met only one other person, he was going the other way, still no one heading my way and tonight up here on the hill is the first night I’ve camped with anyone else. I’m here with a guy from Israel and one from the Netherlands. These guys assure me there are a few behind me that are heading the same way.

The climb up here onto this alternate route was clearly marked and well built, contrary to what the map says, it was not so hard at all. I arrived at 12.30pm, spent the afternoon sitting quietly, am I bored? No, not yet. There are huge canyons and stunning views all around, I keep wandering off to look around me. There is also some signal on Telstra here, so I made some texts to family. I met a lady, Jan, who is an ultra runner. She is doing the walk in 9 days this time, taking it easy she says. She told me that I would be “restless” doing it over 21 days, we will see 🙂

Tonight I present to you a new word for the trip; “Croc – a – sploring”. It’s when you arrive at a camp and strip off your hot shoes and slide into your Crocs, (socks are optional) and go exploring.

IMG_2787
High Route Sunset
fullsizeoutput_10086
Me on High Route
High Route View
High Route View

Day 6. Friday 5 June

Last night camping on the high route was nothing short of spectacular, the stars truly blanketed the sky.

Today I walked through some of the thickest gorges, filled with ancient Cycad Palms, White Gum, Red Gum and birds singing like I was in some giant aviary at the zoo! Angale Junction, Millers Flat, Tangentyre Junction to name just a few of the amazing places I saw today. Inside one of the gorges, I decided to try out my homemade gravity feed filter system, using the MSR Trailshot and and my CNOC bladder, worked a treat!

yet another stunning gorge
yet another stunning gorge

I spent an hour trying to do meditative/mindful walking. Really quite a challenge to notice everything both inside and out. You have to walk really VERY slowly to notice the wind, the sounds, the colours, the sights and all of the ways these effect your own emotions and physical being – it was great. I’ve met people along the way that could not chat for long, nor slow down for too much engagement with the surrounds as they ‘had a plane to catch’ etc. I was glad I had given myself 21 days.

Day 7. Saturday 16th June

You enter Standley Chasm through the back of the chasm. Like Jay Creek/Fish Hole you walk in from the back of the range, up and over the side of the gap/chasm and down into the front. It was very pretty and at one point quite a bit of a climb, even scramble. I knew I was close when all of a sudden I could see white haired people being lead along a path by a tourist guide. I was ready  for a break, some socialising and to review the day I had just experienced. The gorges, the sights, the smells, the sounds, this was one amazing day! The Standley Chasm itself is like a giant slot canyon. Quite the sight, you can walk through it to a chain at the end and if you are lucky enough to get there alone it’s very silent, cold and serene.

It was here at Standley that I had my first encounter with a legend of the trail – ANDREW! I will let my journal speak for me;

“…he arrived like a storm, he was delivered by car, I can’t even describe how he effected me. I wanted to run away. He knew everything about everything, he failed to listen at all, in the middle of the conversation he would throw in some random question about the shower…”

Andrew, it turns out was a bar code specialist! And a very lonely man. We did, I admit, have a few laughs about him, but afterwards we agreed that he was a guy who really just wanted to connect with people, less than he wanted to walk the trail, he was getting lifts around sections and spending days off chatting with walkers. I know he is dyslexic, but I guess he is also ADHD or something…I hope he enjoyed his Larapinta.

Dinner at Standley Chasm
Dinner at Standley Chasm

Showers…did I say showers!! Yes, a shower and a washing machine for the small cost of this campsite were very welcome! Soap supplied for the machine but nothing for the shower, so my buff was my soap.

Ironically, I’ve wanted to have the company of others for a few days, now I have a campground full of people to talk to I’m sitting here in the cafe by the pot belly by myself. I’ve ordered some of their legendary Lasagne to eat tonight!

Week One Video

Week Two

Day 8. Sunday 17 June

fullsizeoutput_1008f

Brinkley Bluff was named by John McDouall Stuart after Captain Brinkley of Adelaide. Stuart wrote in his journal whilst exploring the region to find an appropriate route for the telegraph line of Brinkley Bluff; “13th April 1860, At sunrise I ascended the bluff, which is the most difficult hill I’ve ever climbed.” (From Songlines and Faultlines. Epic Walks of The Red Centre. Glenn Morrison)

Summit
Summit

I left Standley after a hearty cooked breakfast at the cafe with my my new best bud Andrew, he shook my hand and looked me in the eye and said; “this is what it’s all about Scott, being outside and hiking and stuff, ultimately it’s all about meeting people, connecting.” I thought he would not let my hand go. About 20 minutes of hiking later and whilst listening to a Shane Howard’s song “Lonely Man”, I suddenly wished I’d given Andrew a hug, I wondered when the last time he had a good firm bloke hug, I felt sad for having missed the opportunity.

I passed three girls from Melbourne Izzy, Stell and Ell along the way, (73% of walkers on the Larapinta are female…trail trivia!) I had met them earlier in the day as they were dropped into Standley, we ended up camped up on Brinkley together along with Alice and Tom siblings from the UK, but both living in Australia.  They had such a positive relationship that I was inspired to contact my brother and sister from the signal I had up there. I also told Alice what to look for when spotting a Wedge Tailed Eagle…only to find out a few days later that she was an ornithologist!! The wedge tail eagle hovered over us for quite a while – stunning! When they walked into camp, Tom and Alice were discussing a guy who had given them some odd advice regarding campsites up here on Brinkley Bluff…Andrew!! He had never been up here.

My bed on the top of Brinkley
My bed on the top of Brinkley

The walk from Brinkley Bluff to Section 4/5 junction/Birthday Waterhole is down the switchbacks from Brinkley and into Stuart’s Gap, a stunning valley, I took a detour to explore in, then through Mintbush Spring. I was now seeing some regular hikers and this night at 3/4 Junction was the start of the Fantastic Four relationship. Tobias, Katrin from Hamburg Germany and Nicole from QLD and I were on a similar paced walk so ended up camping on and off together for the rest of the hike. We all ended up taking the same bus back to Alice.

The highlight of this day was definitely – trees!

From my journal;

I stood and observed the many sorts of gums. Obvious from a distance are the glossy leafed River White Gum/Ghost Gum, then there are the less shiny River Red Gum. Both trees have stunning colour to their trunks. I stood for about 10 minutes just observing, watching the light catch the foliage, listening to the breeze move through the branches.

Day 9. Monday 9 June

Andrew is being spoken of up and down the trail, poor guy! There are a few school groups on the trail. This school based adventure work inspires me. I am so impressed there are still schools out there with a passion to expose young people to the stunning wilderness we have in Australia. One group was local from St Phillips in Alice, the other two were from John Marsden’s school in Mt Macedon, Victoria and a Steiner school from South Australia. This was not outdoor education class, this was every child able to come from year 9! I chatted with kids and staff alike and was left with a great feeling that there are some great kids seeing this amazing planet and learning so much from what has been created for us.

Last night at Junction 4/5 a Chinese couple walked in to camp. He had slipped and cracked his head open during the day, or the previous day. His eyes were swollen and blackening. His intent was to walk through to Standley, but this morning I ran the 900m to Birthday Waterhole and made contact with Trek Larapinta’s guide Morgan, she said she would get him out to the highway and make sure someone gave him a lift to the hospital. I ran back got them both moving down to Birthday Waterhole, I then ran back (again) to Morgan to make sure she didn’t go. She was having a swim in what someone described to me as a “muddy puddle.” Don’t believe all you hear on the trail, I had a swim too. After 3 x 900m sprints I was ready to cool off…cool indeed!!

I have since received an email from the couple thanking me for my assistance – nice.

Todays walk was up through Spencer Gorge (or if you are Katrin ‘Spencer George‘ 🙂 haha) Windy Saddle and down the spectacular Razorback Ridge. My pack was heavy as I was carrying about 6L of water for a night without a water tank. As I descended Razorback’s switchbacks into my camp at Fringe Lilly Creek I was looking straight up Linear Valley to the huge red rock face that is Hugh Gorge. This sight was nothing short of magnificent.

The perfect day was capped off by a perfect evening sitting having dinner with Toby, Katrin and Nicolle … and a beautiful Black Footed Rock Wallaby that came down to join us for a snack (he ate grass).

Tobias' great wallaby shot
Tobias’ great wallaby shot

Day 10. Tuesday 19 June

Half way! in terms of days, not sure about kilometres, but I think Im at around 120km. I really feel I am in a rhythm now, I could just keep walking, I love it!

Sunrise
Sunrise

I woke early, brewed some coffee and had breakfast in bed then took some time lapse of a little bit of cloud (rare as it was) moving over the mountains.

Breaky in bed at 3/4 Junction
Breaky in bed at 3/4 Junction

I had some energy so I powered off before Nicole and only an hour or so after the early risers, Katrin and Toby. I powered up the Linear Valley to see the sun’s shadow still on the face of Hugh Gorge. Then down the other side to Hugh Junction where I chose to leave my pack on and hike up into the gorge proper. Once at the pool I had a wash with my cloth, then brewed up a coffee and ate lunch. It was a beautiful hour alone and I was then joined for a while by Nicole who took was having a great day too. I headed off to Hugh Campsite and encountered some more students coming up the gorge having the time of their lives.

From my journal;

It is seriously the most amazing place. the stillness, the reflections…lots of waterholes, small fish, birds and colours, so many colours. Zebra Finches, dragon flies, bees…what a moment.

Now we are here at Hugh Gorge camp as Fantastic Four again!

Day 11. Wednesday 20 June

‘To pass a night alone in the desert spinifex country,’ Favenc writes, ‘is to feel as much cut off from the ordinary life of the world as one could feel if transplanted to another sphere.’

I have got a bit lazy. Sometimes I get to a campsite and just drop my pack, change my shoes to the mighty Crocs, eat some food and head off Croc-a-sploring, or just sleep under a tree. Night time comes, it gets instantly very cold and I have failed to set up my tent, blow up my mattress, get out my torch, thermals, sleeping bag etc. Then when I go to pack my pack in the morning, and I’m starting to shove it all in anywhere. So NO MORE – this man needs some discipline!

Tonight we all camped in Rocky Gully and met a man with the hugest blisters between the balls on the front of both feet you have ever seen. We all did our best to deliver our blister opinions…all of us! We also met a guy (Greg) who had not eaten for days, nor had he taken a dump…no food…no poo. We all donated food to him and he took photos of my menu and gear lists with the intent of getting back in to Alice to start all over again and do it properly.fullsizeoutput_10095

Day 12. Thursday 21 June

Between Hugh Gorge and Ellery Creek is a 2 day walk across the huge Alice Valley a giant plain between the Chewing Ranges (where I have been walking to date) and the Heavytree Range, where I will walk until I reach Ormiston Gorge where the two converge. Some have said of this walk that it’s boring, no such thing! It’s different – yes. But never boring.

Last night was spent right in the middle of the valley at Rocky Gully and today we completed the walk. I arrived before Nicole, Tobias and Katrin and headed straight down to the Ellery Big Hole. To say my breath was taken from me when I saw the sight is an under-statement. This place remains one of the highlights of my walk. After walking past the grassy slopes around the waterhole I dropped my pack on the river sand beach, removed my shoes and dived in. I removed my socks, gave them a wash and only then noticed the crowd of tourists that had stood watching the whole thing, mouths gaping! Before long I was a local celebrity answering all sorts of questions about the trail. I sat in the same spot for 3 hours, one of which I was the only person there.

Swim at Ellery Big Hole
Swim at Ellery Big Hole
Ellery Big Hole
Ellery Big Hole
Dinner at Ellery
Dinner at Ellery

After setting up my tent and picking up my second food drop (first one was at Standley Chasm) I returned to the waterhole with Tobias, Katrin and Nicole to cook our evening meal, but not before I had managed to secure 6 crisp fresh red apples from a tourist guide, I felt like Santa handing those out to hungry hikers!

As we sat mesmerised by the sight of the changing colours in this magical gorge we saw a large Kite enter and perch in the branches of a large White Gum. After a time, the bird swooped down to secure a fish for its dinner, it did this two more times! The stars were out, sprayed across the sky above us – what an evening, how could it get any better?

Tobias shooting me early in the morning!
Tobias shooting me early in the morning!

It did. As I was laying in my bed eaves dropping on a briefing being given to a school group I was blessed to witness this group of kids break into a beautiful choral 4 part harmony, I was moved to tears, not for the first time on this amazing hike! The next morning I went looking for someone to thank. I found a person all rugged up from the below zero temperature and asked her to pass on to the group my thanks for the beautiful singing. She had tears in her eyes as she said,

“Thank you so very much, I am their music teacher.”

Day 13 and 14. Friday 22 / Saturday 23 June

God, in Australia is a vast blue and pale-gold and red-brown landscape, and his votaries wear ragged shorts and share his sense of humor. Space, like peace is one the most poorly explored spiritual resources in Australia

Les Murray

It was hard to leave Ellery Creek, what a great experience, but with a well below zero temp this morning I was keen to get moving, and also carrying the feeling that the sooner I get to Serpentine Gorge the sooner I get to see Christine, my wife who was being dropped in the on the 23rd by a friend from work.

Trig Point
Trig Point

Although we all eat dinner together and camp in the same spots I still spend the days walking alone, this is new for me, but I have loved it. But tonight, my first of two nights at Serpentine Gorge camp is not just the four of us, it’s really quite busy. Two guys come in talking about having adopted a walker called Jerome who was struggling with too much gear and food and not enough trail knowledge. Once he walked the wrong way and ended up back the previous nights campsite! Jerome did arrive at last, he was a real character and in some ways I was grateful for having met him as in a couple of days I would need food he told me he had left behind in a shelter down the track! Jerome, like Andrew, was spoken of up and down the trail.

Christine arrived in the Serpentine Gorge carpark at midday on the 23rd June as planned. She was exhausted from the lead up to getting here and I was happy for the fact that everyone had left the camp and we had the place to ourselves for the afternoon.  I had done some washing and even used a slither of soap Katrin had given me on my own dirty skin, I smelt so nice for Chris. She settled in, had a sleep and prepared for another busy night in the shelter including one very opinionated lady telling everyone, especially her husband what to do and how to hike. She emphatically suggested we would be wasting our time to walk the Ormiston Pound circuit, a walk that we later agreed was one of our main highlights!

Serpentine Gorge
Serpentine Gorge

By now Katrin and Toby as well as Nicole had headed off to be reconnected with towards the end of our journey.

Week Two Video

Week Three.

Day 15. Sunday 24 June

A cold night for Christine’s first, but a little sleeping tablet I slipped into her drink when she wasn’t looking (joking!) gave her a better night than she would probably have had otherwise.

We hiked up to Counts Point, the highest point on the Heavytree side of the range (1140m). From here looking west you can see 4 of Australia’s tallest mountains west of the Great Dividing Range, it’s the best view on the trail! We dropped our packs and wandered out to the Counts Lookout then headed down for a short days walking into Serpentine Chalet Dam campsite. This is the extra night we added to ease Christine into the walk rather than hit a couple of huge days first up. We found Jerome’s food here at the shelter as promised as well as a giant canister of gas and Jeromes bottle of cooking oil…who brings this??

On a hill somewhere
On a hill somewhere
Rock formations
Rock formations

This is the longest stretch on the trail without power. Almost 12 days, but I am using an Anker 10000mAh battery and no solar panels at all, and this battery has worked a treat! I did heaps of research before purchase and this one and its big brother the 20 000mAh came up winners. The 10 000 did my phone/camera and my watch (and some of Christines phone and camera) just fine. Ormiston, in a few days, is our next power.

Moving toward Mt Sonder
Moving toward Mt Sonder

Day 16. Monday 25 June

A mouse did it’s best to chew a hole in the mesh outer pocket of Christine’s new Aarn pack, but I got up and hung the pack. It was a druggy mouse trying to get to her first aid! Due to our extra day added in this leg all we had to eat for breaky was soup and nuts, so that was it. We got going pretty early (7.20am). This section would be listed as one of my favorites – Serpentine Chalet Dam (the dam is…interesting) through Waterfall Gorge (where we had lunch) through some of the most interesting rock formations, then up the serious switchbacks to the Giles Lookout.

The Interesting Chalet Dam
The Interesting Chalet Dam

We went 1km past the lookout then established camp for the night. From here we could see west towards Sonder, still just out of reach, and north east back down the Chewing Range from Giles back, and on the other side were the foothills of the Heavytree Range. Camping here in the sheltered site was a great call, it did get windy around us but the views as the colours changed at sunset and sunrise were nothing short of miraculous. There was only one other camper up here at this hilltop camp and here barely spoke a word. We sat out on a natural rock wall and ate dinner as the sun set. Christine got up at 5.30am to go the toilet and came back to wake me up to just stick my head out of the tent and see the moonset – a burnt orange fireball on the western horizon – wow!!!

IMG_3176

Day 17. Tuesday 26 June

Awake at 5am and ready to go by 7.20am again. Im still adjusting to having another person in my team of one. I tend to go super slow, wander around, look at stuff, read, journal and start the pack up around 7. Chris goes faster and walks faster, we have chatted about it and I just need to relax into this new rhythm as Chris also establishes her ‘holiday mode’.

We powered through the morning walk off the hill through some stunning valleys and quite thick vegetation into the spectacular Ormiston Gorge…and cafe! We ate Magnums, BLT and other divine real food. The other thing Ormiston had waiting for us was our food drop, the third and final one…Oh also waiting to meet Christine was Tobias and Katrin, they connected instantly, who wouldn’t with such a great couple…I mean them not us 🙂

Real food at Ormiston Cafe
Real food at Ormiston Cafe

We spend the afternoon exploring the gorge and doing the Ghost Gum Walk. The gorge brought some memories back from our visit 25 years ago on our honeymoon. In fact Christine took a picture of a tree growing sideways from the rock face, when we got home and pulled out the old photo album it turns out it is the very same tree she took a photo of 25 years ago!! We identified the rocks around it, the lumps and bumps on the tree – the same one…they don’t grow much when they grow out of a cliff!!! We also spent time in Ormiston’s hot SHOWERS!!!

Day 18. Wednesday 27 June

We arose nice and early in the freezing conditions and headed off after breakfast in bed and packed up to then do the Ormiston Pound Walk (that we had been told not to waste our time on by that lady!) WOW! It was a real highlight of the trip and I would highly recommend people not miss it. Walk it anti-clockwise. It shows off big wide riverbeds, gorges reaching up as high as a skyscraper, beautiful valleys, different types of rock formations and trees and grasses that look like a picture! We loved all 7 kms of it.

 

I “needed” to consume one of the legendary iced coffees Ormiston Cafe is famed for before we left, then packs went on and away we went heading for Glen Helen Resort…well, “Homestead” is a better description. But rustic it was. Open fires in the different rooms, cold beers…Red Centre Devil – a nice brew.

Meals nothing to write home about but after dehydrated meals I was happy to have a nice feast. We ran into our friend Nicole here and hung out a bit, it was great to introduce Christine to her and catch up on her days of walking. The night was shaping up to be another below freezing, so we remained reading by the indoor fire in big chairs for as long as we could. Oh – they also had hot showers, 2 nights in a row!!

People who empty themselves in the wilderness always find a God who is greater than what they would have dared to hope.

Richard Rohr

Day 19. Thursday 19 June

Oh that was cold! Ice on everything, but a fire was lit in the homestead and a full breakfast had been ordered…like FULL COOKED EVERYTHING! We warmed our hands and filled our stomachs, loaded our packs and with our stollen water (they only had bore water, but the tap on the bar had nice stuff, so when they didn’t look we filled some bottles!) we headed back across the Larapinta Drive to find our Larapinta Trail junction and continue our journey west to Redbank Gorge and Mt Sonder.

We didn’t carry excess water, just enough to camp away from a tank that evening and when we arrived at the Hilltop Lookout and saw the view we decided to risk it and not proceed further to Rocky Bar Gap where the water was. Nicole was up here too, she was just having lunch before proceeding on to Rocky Bar so she donated some water to our cause. A worthy cause I might add – what a stunning evening. Some of our best sunset views both ways – over Sonder and back towards Giles and Glen Helen and beyond.

Photo - Tobias
Closer to Mt Sonder every day

An American couple arrived, as did a solo hiker guy who was super quiet but real nice guy. The American couple pitched, crawled into the tent and talked and talked, missed the superb sunset…then talked some more. Then in the morning they were still zipped into their tent talking and missed a fabulous sunrise…walk your own walk I guess!

With the constant presence of Mt Sonder looming over us we were starting to feel what Toby and Katrin described later as “Sonderstruck”…queue ACDC music…

Day 20. Friday 29 June

The sunrise was…well you get that by now yeah? But it was!!

The walk into Redbank Gorge was quite relaxing, not too strenuous and quite pretty. It included some flowers! Yes, flowers had been a rarity on this walk, it had been a dry year, so very little was in flower. We crossed again, the huge Davenport Creek bed and finally the Redbank Creek bed. It was here in this final crossing we had our final reunion, Tobias and Katrin had set up camp in the river sand and Nicole had set up on the bank by the water tank – The fantastic four’s last stand! Only we were now the Fabulous Five 🙂

The 30 minute one way walk down as far as you can get into Redbank without getting wet was well worth it. In fact I would have loved to have had a tube or airbed of sorts as you can explore even further down the small gap into the gorge – an adventure for another day! The sun was getting low in the sky, the temperature was dropping so, after a quick swim (just me), Christine and I decided to head back to camp looking out for the elusive Black Footed Rock Wallaby. We were not disappointed. As we were the only ones in the very quiet gorge, these creature were all coming out to have a sip from the rock pools and eat some dinner, there was even one up a tree – true!

We went to bed at the usual time of “dark and cold” with alarm set for 4am! We were joining Nicole on a pre-dawn summit of Mt Sonder. Toby and Katrin did it this morning and said they had a beautiful still morning and warm return to camp. So we were hoping for the same…here’s hoping!

Day 21. Saturday 30 June

It was freezing at 4am as the three of us set up, we wore too many layers (start cold right?) and were peeling off jackets as we ascended to steep initial climb. Head-torches were still needed even though there was a full moon, it was shrouded by light cloud and was also behind us throwing a shadow over our feet. The climb was over 2 hours of solid hard uphill with a strong cold wind, we overtook a tour group and Nicole took the summit just before first light. We came in not far behind her with stove in hand…tea and porridge as the sun began to paint the eastern horizon. The wind made for felt temperature well below zero, some suggested -5. But the view made up for the painful biting cold as we all gasped at the beauty of the morning…and the cuteness of the little tiny marsupial running around sniffing our packs.

Sunrise on Sonder
Sunrise on Sonder
Sonderstuck!
Sonderstuck!

Having got up there early, we were beginning to numb up so we left first and headed for the tent…the tent we sadly needed to pack down for the last time and pack everything into the LTTS pick up bus that would be waiting for us not long after we descended Mt Sonder.

Yep - We did it in FOUR!
Yep – We did it in FOUR!

Toby and Katrin were waiting for the three of us and wanted to know if we had been truly “Sonderstruck”, and like them…we had indeed!

The fantastic four
The fantastic four

What great way to finish!

fullsizeoutput_100d6

I can’t recall another place where the heavens have seen fit to so illuminate a landscape so clearly deserving of mood lighting. I couldn’t count the times I have stopped driving to pull over and park on the side of the street simply to gape at a staggering blaze of pinks and reds, gold-tinged clouds melting across the ranges that themselves have deepened from brown through so many reds to rest in purple-black. Something of this landscape’s tectonic mystery may never be grasped, perhaps not by walker, writer, artist, scientist or photographer. Instead, the answer to its riddle must remain bundled and impenetrable, locked deep within the rock like a family secret. For maybe such knowledge is not ours to hear…

Songlines and Faultlines, Epic Walks of the Red Centre. Glenn Morrison

Week Three Video

 

I want to acknowledge the Central Arrernte people (and other TO’s from surrounding areas) Arrernte are the traditional owners of Alice Springs, a place rich in culture and heritage.

Arrernte Dreaming

The Arrernte (pronounced Arunda) people are the traditional owners of Mparntwe (Alice Springs).

They have been here since time immemorial. In the beginning, Altyerrenge – ancestral figures – created the landscape and its features, as well as Arrernte Law.

Arrernte people continue to live in Mparntwe, observe that law, look after the country and teach children the Arrernte language and the importance of culture.

According to the traditional owners, the landscape was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros and other ancestral figures, and as such contains many sites of importance to its traditional owners.

Some of the first Dreaming stories ever recorded were those of the Arrernte people of Central Australia.

 

3 thoughts on “Larapinta Trail June 2018

  1. This was amazing and firstly a credit to Scott for being so organised and tackling such an adventure and secondly to Christine for joining Scott for the last week enabling them to share these memories for years to come.
    A brilliant blog of the entire walk – just loved sharing it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s