For the majority of Aussies who live on the coast, getting deep into the heart of the continent is big on the bucket list. These stunning visuals of the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory are certainly a bit of inspo to getting that item ticked off.
In the last eight months of travelling across Australia, I’ve certainly done my fair share of hiking. The Scenic Rim of South East Queensland provided some amazing mountainous climbs and I fell in love with the Gondwana rainforests in New South Wales. But I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to test myself in the remote Aussie centre – then in comes the Larapinta. 233km of outback creeks, climbs and claypans was the exact challenge I needed.
We started at the end of the trail and walked back from Redbank Gorge – one of the permanent waterholes that is pivotal for the survival of animals in the outback. The freezing water and cool breezes in the gorge made for a great spot to unwind after a day hike up to Mt Sonder.
Redbank Gorge River Gum
River Gums, like this majestic specimen, litter the dry sandy creek beds that wind through the West MacDonnell Ranges. Although they drop their branches like it’s going out of style, they were sometimes the only place we could catch a break from the unrelenting sun.
Mt Sonder At Sunrise
The outback landscapes transform dramatically through the changing light of sunrise and sunset.
6 image stitched pano 1/60th sec, f/2.8, ISO 800, 24mm
We reached Ormiston Gorge after three days of relatively untroubling hiking. It was still early days of the hike, and we enjoyed lying on the sandy banks of the gorge in the afternoon. We got talking to a couple from Sydney who were heading the opposite direction. They didn’t seem to have enjoyed their last couple of days as much as us. It seemed like we were in for a bit of a shock!
Landscape Of Section 9
We had been warned, but it still didn’t sink in until we got there – a bushfire had scorched much of the ranges in February and the land was still slowly recovering. Burned trunks surrounded by a layer of ash were virtually all that remained. From dawn till dusk the flies mercilessly dive-bombed our nostrils and eyes like kamikaze pilots. With no shade, we got accustomed to piling up rocks for seats in the sun to take a rest and listening to podcasts to drown out the monotonous buzzing of flies.
First Light At Counts Point
After a few days in the sun we were quite pleased to notice the temperature dropping and the winds picking up, taking with them the dreaded hoards of flies.. Having been disconnected from society for a week at this stage we learned from other hikers that the overnight temperatures were getting down to below freezing due to a cold front pushing up from Antarctic. It looked like it was going to be a chilly week ahead!
Ellery Creek, Big Hole
This oasis marked the end of the burned land and the halfway point of our walk. The cold front was in full effect but didn’t stop me from getting in for a quick dip.
Rocky Saddle At Dusk
The cold front had brought with it strong winds that blew unrelenting for the rest of the hike. The patches of spinifex grass did little to stop the wind and it roared through the valleys. Without my trusty tripod on hand it took me a few attempts to get a crisp photo, having to squat and lean back into the wind to stay upright.
View From Brinkley Bluff At Sunrise
We rolled the dice and decided to camp on the hilltop campsite at Brinkley Bluff. We’d passed a few hikers the previous day who decided against the idea because of the wind and pushed through to the campsite at the base of the mountain. We were delighted and relieved to find a couple of sheltered sites on the top and had the peak all to ourselves to enjoy this gorgeous sunrise.
Landscape Of Section 4
Every now and then I would spot some fellow hikers in the distance, looking like ants crawling across the surface of Mars.
Our final stop before the last push to Alice Springs was Standley Chasm. The towering cliffs were an appreciated refuge from the sun, wind and flies that had tormented us for the whole trip.
It was a relatively uneventful final two days making our way back to Alice Springs. Through the sun, flies and wind we enjoyed some spectacular scenery and are now looking to push the boundaries further as we head north through the Northern Territory.