Ritchie is an active kind of bloke. He has an adventurous spirit that needs adventures to satisfy it, but as his partner is more of a five star and room service kind of girl, extreme adventures tend to be of the solo kind. So when the opportunity came up to trek the Larapinta Trail in central Australia just west of Alice Springs, he jumped at the opportunity.
The Larapinta Trail is 14 day trek over about 230km, through deserts, outback ranges and amazing waterholes. It carries an elevation of about 5000mtrs so it's no easy stroll. The trek is broken up in to 14 sections, two of these are are rated 'very difficult', six are ‘difficult', and only four are ‘moderate’. Most reviews will tell you to expect the worst...
When we say solo, Ritchie did the trek through @Australian Walking Holidays with 7 other adventurous souls for company. But still, it was single swag accomodation under the stars :). As a supported walk there was an accompanying 4 wheel drive vehicle at camps shadowing the group, and was also catered with meals provided, so there was no need to 'carry your own pack’, with only day packs being required.
Carrying day packs meant whatever you needed to be comfortable throughout the day could be stashed in a lightweight pack. Apart from weather gear, blister kits and snacks, this provided the opportunity to bring something to sit on, as long as it was light enough and compact enough to fit in. Ritchie had previously owned a Helinox ultralight camp chair that he had used on walks, but upon its demise he was in the market for a replacement to take with him. After looking around Ritchie decided on a Tuff Arse G-Banger. The G-Banger was 300gm heavier than the Helinox, but its ruggedness appealed and at less than half the price was chosen for the task. Lunch and stops are pretty uncomfortable if you're sitting in the dirt on rocks!
Ritchie embarked on the trek from West to East commencing at Redbank Gorge - somewhat controversial as it's technically back to front, but it provided the sense of ‘starting’ in the middle of nowhere and then walking into civilisation with the finish being only about two kms out of Alice Springs. The highlights began quickly with a trek up to the summit of Mt Sonder. To summit at sunrise the group were out of camp by 2.30am with a 3.5 hr trek to the top. The reward was a magnificent sunrise with an amazing view, well worth the effort! Stretching the trek over 14 days meant a cruisy average of 15-20kms a day with plenty of time to soak everything in, camping at Finke River and other places with waterholes provided plenty of opportunity for refreshing swims, although be warned the water in outback waterholes can be surprisingly cold!
The trail is very rocky in places, with twisted ankles and blisters being the most common injuries. So be prepared and invest in decent shoes and a hiking pole. The terrain varies from flat to extreme climbs and descents so you’ll have a changing variety of landscapes most days along the way, with places like Simpsons gap providing plenty of ‘wow’ moments. The wildlife is there, but also good at staying hidden, keep your eye out for Perentie Monitors who are local to the area and can grow to a length of over two metres. In addition there's the usual deadly snakes and spiders to keep you company at night, and depending on the season there is also a surprising amount of wild flowers and fauna on display. Ritchies standout on the trail was the walk form Hugh Gorge to Birthday Junction (section 5) and then from Birthday Junction to Stanley Chasm (section 4). Ritchie says these sections were outstanding, featuring plenty of climbs, amazing views, and well marked trails.
As Ritchie says to see a landscape first hand that was formed eons ago and is steeped in the history of our first nations peoples, is indeed a priviledge and something very few of us either make the effort or have the opportunity to see. Ritchie's takeout? Do it, see you own back yard while you can, don’t wait for ‘right' time. And for those who don't pack a portable chair, Ritchie warns the G-Banger became in quite high demand as a preferred seating option to a rock. So if you do take one, guard it!
There's a bunch of companies that offer guided tours of the trail, or as Ritchie says it's well marked and well travelled, so is ideal for self guide solo trek. For more info or to book yourself a tour:
Aust Walking tours: https://www.australianwalkingholidays.com.au
Waking Country tours: https://www.walkingcountry.com.au
Official Larapinta: https://www.larapintatrail.com.au
NT Parks Trail site: https://nt.gov.au/parks/find-a-park/tjoritja-west-macdonnell-national-park/larapinta-trail