Girl Power in the Red Centre: Trekking the Larapinta Trail

Finally, I am sitting down to blog about the Larapinta Trail, a 5 day trek I did a couple of months ago in the Northern Territory. It was strenuous, relaxing, meditative and adventurous all at the same time. I came home feeling accomplished, a little bit sore, and with a new appreciation for this part of the country, otherwise known as ‘The Red Centre’.

I did this trek with a women’s adventure organisation called ‘Women Want Adventure’. I’d discovered the group while scrolling through Instagram of all places and it didn’t take long for me to read about the range of trips they offer. Going with ‘Women Want Adventure’ meant I only had to worry about getting to Alice Springs and packing the right clothes and shoes. All food, guides, transport and swags were organised, which gave us more time enjoy the trek and bond with the other women.

Walking through the vast and rugged landscape of the Northern Territory, getting to know 16 other adventurous women and sleeping under the stars was just what my mind, body and soul needed. It’s a trip I won’t forget for a long time, especially with the many photos I took.

 

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What is the Larapinta Trail?

The Larapinta Trail is an extended walking track in the Northern Territory that stretches for 223kms. It begins at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station and finishes at the top of Mount Sonder (Rwetyepme is its Aboriginal name). The trail is divided into 12 sections and it can take up to 14 days to trek the whole thing. There are various campsites along the way where you can set up your swag or tent.

On this trip

We trekked sections 1, 10, 11 and 12. We walked approximately 80kms over 5 days, including hiking up Mount Sonder on the final day, an 8 hour return journey. We spent our first two nights at Glen Helen Gorge and our final two nights camping in dry riverbeds along the trail. We slept in swags for all 4 nights, and I learned just how the bright the moon can be when you’re trying to sleep!

 

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The landscape

Has to be seen to be believed. The Northern Territory is so expansive and it’s quite overwhelming to think you are right in the middle of the country, or thereabouts. The Northern Territory offers the type of landscape often seen in movies about Australia, though that doesn’t take away from how special it is. Shades of red, brown and green stretched as far as the eye could see, with a bright blue sky topping it off.

What is most incredible is how old some of the mountain ranges and rock formations are. I’m talking up to six hundred million years old. I can’t even comprehend that. One of our guides was was also studying environmental science and knew a lot about the landscape we were walking across. This made for some informative sessions as we sat around the campfire each night.

If there’s one thing I consistently thought while walking along the Larapinta Trail, it was how lucky we are in Australia to have this landscape right here, in our own country. I think everyone should try and experience the red centre at least once in their life.

 

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The trekking

Was equal parts relaxing and challenging. The flat parts allow you to get into a rhythm and the inclines give your legs a decent workout. Each day we’d set off in different groups, depending on how quickly we wanted to trek that day. Even though we were a large group, we were still encouraged to enjoy trekking on our own in silence, with just the sun beating down and flies hovering close by.

According to my step counter watch, I averaged between 25,000 and 30,000 steps per day. It’s the type of trek that definitely requires some prior hiking experience, proper hiking shoes, and at least 2 litres of water in your backpack.

The food

Was impressive! We were given plenty of opportunities to stop for water, a snack or just to have a breather. Each day we were treated to delicious morning tea and lunches, prepared by the ‘Women Want Adventure’ crew. While the landscape and overall experience exceeded my expectations, the variety of food we were given was one of the most impressive components of the whole trip. Porridge, granola, yoghurt, muesli bars, fruit, banana bread, crackers and hummus, salads, sandwiches, cookies, vegetable stew, rice, pasta, chocolate, marshmallows by the fire. You name it, we ate it.

The flies

Were everywhere. As long as the sun was up, there were probably a hundred flies on your backpack, arms and face. Fly nets were used by more than half of the women on the trek. I didn’t use one but probably should have.

 

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Watching the sunrise on top of Mount Sonder on the final day

Meant waking up at 2.30 in the morning! After a quick muesli bar and a piece of fruit for breakfast, we began our hike at 3am. With the only light coming from the full moon and our head torches, it was a slow and steady hike. We were advised  not to speak, mainly for safety reasons, and also to truly immerse ourselves in the experience of hiking in the dark. I’ve never known many people to be super chatty at 3am anyway. I was expecting hiking in the dark to be a daunting experience, but it turned out to be incredibly peaceful. While we shuffled up in one straight line, only the steps of our hiking shoes could be heard and the heavy breathing that was accumulating from the incline.

After 4 hours of hiking, we reached the top just before 7am with sunrise due for 7.15am. Feelings of excitement and accomplishment swept across the top of the mountain as the bright star came up to say hello. I was actually amazed at how quickly the sun rose. It felt like it was over in less than 5 minutes. What was also cool was turning around the watch the moon set. A true night and day experience.

I chose to walk back down the mountain on my own, taking in the land around me. Back down at base camp, we had pancakes for breakfast and packed up our swags for the final time.

 

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Being immersed in the Red Centre

Was as calming as the ocean blue. This experience gave me the chance to be adventurous, meet some new people and most importantly do something for myself. Not having phone reception for five days was a blessing in disguise and something of a luxury in this modern world. I would take this type of holiday over sipping a cocktail by the pool any day. Moving your body and immersing yourself in the outback is just as refreshing as a tropical getaway, and I would recommend it to any keen hiker.

 

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