We have just returned from 23 days walking the Larapinta Trail, which snakes its way for 223km – up ridge and down gorge – through the Macdonnell Ranges in arid central Australia.
It has been a long time since we had done a hike like this, and we weren’t sure how we’d manage. We exceeded our own expectations, but found it exceptionally hard at times – as indeed many of our fellow walkers on the trail seemed to.
Walking 10-15km a day sounds easy, but the reality is different. Covering even small distances can take hours when confronted with splintered, rocky terrain, boulder-hopping down gorges or negotiating steep gradients.
There was also the necessity of carrying additional water in the dry conditions, on occasions as much as 10 litres per person for two days. At a kilo/litre, this weighed heavily on our already laden packs and slowed us down.
Oh, and it got down to -7ºC one night. Thankfully we had our sleeping bags re-lofted before we set out, and slept snug.
All physical challenges aside, we loved it. We loved the country, the solitude, the magnificence of the place. We loved the simplicity of life on the trail, letting our bodies find their rhythm, even on those times we had to push ourselves beyond our limitations.
And we loved the cameraderie of the trail. Older walkers in particular we found an inspiration; with dicky knees and wobbly ankles, but resilient and irrepressibly cheery attitudes, some of the spirited elders we encountered gave us much to aspire to.
The last time we were in central Australia was in the 90s gathering recordings for ‘Spirit of the Outback’. You can listen to some of those sounds as you view pics of our recent journey.
First day out, stage 1 of the journey – the trail lies ahead…
Day 2 – walking steadily away from Mt Sonder, our starting point at the western end of the Macdonnell Range.
Our first rest stop at Ormiston Gorge – a majestically peaceful place. Nice to be back, we haven’t been here since our recording trip in 1998. The Pied Butcherbirds were still in fine voice!
Stage 2 of the journey; Ormiston Gorge to Ellery Ck – no water ahead, so we’re carrying 10litres each for two days. Heavy, very heavy.
Labouring, and behind time – climbing to a ridgetop in late afternoon.
Arriving at the top on sunset – where are we going to find an improvised campsite here?
The only flat spot on the ridgetop – and a spectacular sunset develops.
Wow! Sun sets over Mt. Sonder in the distance.
The following morning, knowing we have a long day ahead to catch up, we begin walking at dawn.
On top of the world, overlooking Ormiston Pound and Mt. Giles.
Looking east along the Macdonnell Range – this is where we have to go.
Perilous descent off the ridgetop. Steep, loose shale, track not clearly marked… Glad we didn’t attempt this last night. It takes us two hours to get off the ridge.
Later that day, we reach a high saddle and survey the valley ahead. It seems to go on forever and we have to reach the far end. This will be our hardest day; 14 hours walking. We nearly get trapped by nightfall, boulder hopping in failing light through Inarlanga Gorge. We arrive in camp at 8.30pm, after trudging the final kilometres by moonlight.
When we arrive after nightfall we are exhausted, and these three lovely women – Sue, Sue & Doon – pile out of their tents, cook us a meal and help set up our camp – champion companions!
Stage 3 of the trek – in the Alice Valley. Walking the bones of an ancient land – the rocks under our feet are 1000 million years old.
Solitude. Our remote camp in a riverbed in the Alice Valley.
Full moon rises at Rocky Gully camp.
It is a small world! Gib and his family live about 20 minutes from us in central Victoria, and we knew each other through involvement with local conservation initiatives.
Beginning to look scrappy after 10 days in the wilderness.
‘Pussytail’ wildflowers at sunset.
End of the day at our favourite camp, a rest day from our walk.
The massive folding of rocks that has created the Macdonnell Range.
Last stage of the journey – setting out from the campground at Stanley Chasm.
Late in the day negotiating the gorge near Jay Creek, getting tired and footsore.
Jay Creek Gorge.
Spring Gap waterhole.
Our last day of walking. Looking back to where we’ve come, west along the range.
Some final rest days – our camp at Trephina Gorge in the Eastern Macdonnells.
Until we visit again – our last morning sunrise at Trephina.
Established in 1993 by nature sound recordist Andrew Skeoch and photographer Sarah Koschak, Listening Earth offers a range of beautiful nature sound recordings from around the world.
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