5 Days Trekking the Larapinta Trail: A Photo Story
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Our Beautiful 5 Days Trekking the Larapinta Trail
Trekking the Larapinta Trail was possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Five full days of just my girlfriend and I, our backpacks and the Central Australian desert. I’d never attempted to trek a multi-day hike without a guide before. So we had to ensure we were well-prepared for this hike. We climbed up to 1, 200 meters above sea level (twice) and could only refill our water bottles once every two days. It was tough!
We’d decided to do three of the most difficult days of the 12-day trek so that we could see the best views and experience the best scenery. Here is a collection of my favourite photographs taken during the Larapinta Trail trek and some information about what we did that day.
Day 1: Standley Chasm towards Jay Creek
We wake up early and drove to Standley Chasm as this is where we were to spend the night on day 1. We had wanted to stay in Jays Creek but it was too difficult to get to (a high-range 4WD is needed). Instead we decided to stay in Standley Chasm and walk backward for the day then come back to spend the night before continuing on the next day. So this morning we put up our tent, left our things and set off for the day trekking towards Jay Creek. We hiked up hundreds of stairs, back down again (twice!) and then climbed a hill to the first saddle of our trek. The views were glorious!
Day 2: Standley Chasm to Brinkley Bluff
Another early rise on day 2 and we have a relaxing cup of tea and breakfast. We then attempt to pack our bag and start seriously freaking out about the weight of it. After all those stairs yesterday we’re wondering wether we’ve seriously underestimated the difficulty of this trek. And then just before we leave camp I break one of the 2-litre water bottles, prompting us to buy four more litres from the cafe (ha ha). Extremely heavy bag on our extremely unfit backs, we begin our hike.
This day we are to walk half of section 4 of the trail from Standley Chasm to Brinkley Bluff, where we will camp. The map says five hours. It takes us nine. The entire day is uphill and we are completely unprepared for it. Just before lunch we find ourselves balancing along the cliff edge of a ridge, trying not to fall off as we take photos. Lunch is spent balanced on the edge of the cliff as well, in a shady spot cooking food on our stove.
Finally we come to the top of Brinkley Bluff; 1,200 metres above sea level. We are alone and we have the entire view to ourselves. After dark I decided to take advantage of the clear skies and dapple in a spot of night photography… In the windiest campsite I’ve ever endured! The wind was so strong that Jodie and I hardly got any sleep because of the sounds in the tent. All night the wind mimicked someone was slowly unzipping the tent, conjuring up images of Ivan Milat reaching in and grabbing us.
Day 3: Brinkley Bluff to Birthday Waterhole
The sunset the night before was so magnificent that I decide to wake up with the sunrise on day 3 despite not getting any sleep the night before. Today we are going to walk right down the edge of the cliff face in a switchback motion. I don’t trust Jodie with the heaviest bag so I take it down to the bottom. The views are worth it though.
Once back on a more reasonable ground level, we start decent into the scrub and small trees. It’s hot and the trees don’t provide much cover. Along the way we come across a rock on which someone had penned “it’s a trap”. Weird but we decide to continue, unfazed. Finally, at the bottom we have lunch on an empty riverbed. We then follow the river to the Birthday Waterhole camp area. As we near the camp, there are cow skeletons scattered about the paths and hung up in the trees. It’s pretty weird and gives us an eerie feeling knowing we are all alone out here. Hot and bothered we dump our things at the camp and take a much needed swim in Birthday Waterhole, despite the oil slick atop the water.
We go to bed directly after dinner and our sleep this night is far better than the night before. Although, what we wake up to the next day is concerning… It makes us wonder if maybe we’d slept a bit too soundly…
Day 4: Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge Junction
Sick of walking in the full sun every day we decide to leave with the sun rise on day 4. At 5:30 am I stumble over to the water tank to get some water. On the concrete next to the tank are two red, smudged hand prints that definitely were not there the night before. That means that someone had come through the camp at night time and we hadn’t seen or heard them at all. They weren’t there anymore either. It’s creepy and Jodie and I decide to just pack up our stuff and get the flip out of there.
We start the day by first walking, then later rock-hopping up a dry riverbed. I find it super fun, Jodie not as much. Finally after hours and hours of jumping we get to the tip of the riverbed and onto a saddle where we meet with about 20 school children. They didn’t seem at all impressed with the impending part of the trail we’d just done.
We continue on until we are back up to 1,100 meters and we can see the most incredible views. Another school group points out Hugh Gorge to us and we unanimously decide that it’s REALLY FAR. It’s also going to involve us balancing along more ridges, which are always fun. At one point at the top of the ridge I accidentally veer us off the path a little and while attempting to get us back, Jodie stands in an ants nest and a gazillion ants crawl into her everything! She had to take off her pants and give them a good shaking out before we continued on.
READ: The time I totally peed on my own scarf while camping…
Due to my AMAZING navigation skills we completely missed the camp at the bottom of Razorback Ridge (actual name). So we spent another two hours trekking to the next camp instead. Which turned out fine because that meant we got a sleep in and a really easy trek for our last day. I take some more night photos of pretty Hugh Gorge and we drift off to sleep.
Day 5: Hugh Gorge Junction to Hugh Gorge
Our pick up from the Hugh Gorge Trailhead wasn’t until 3pm so we had a cruisey day ahead of us. We put on our swimmers and took a few things to the Hugh Gorge watering hole. This entailed some pretty serious boulder-hopping before opening out into a small channel. A wind tunnel. It was freezing! I could barely put my feet in the water it was just so icy! We milled about there for a little while clambering along the rocks before boulder-hopping back to camp.
We packed up our things and set off down the dry riverbed, over some more boulders towards the trailhead. Pack significantly lighter and my muscles stronger I basically flew over those annoying river rocks, with Jodie in tow telling me to slow down.
We rounded a corner and expected our 4WD to be sitting there waiting for us. But alas! Not a soul in sight. We start to walk down another trail, not sure if the meeting point is somewhere else. Nope. We use our expensive satellite phone to call the company. They say our pickup should already be there. Uh oh. Then in the distance we hear the sound of a vehicle and piss-bolt towards it. It’s our pickup and we are saved! Getting driven over the red dirt is the perfect way to end our trek. And so it should be, as that pickup cost us $500!
Did you know you can hear the River Gums drink?
As our expensive pick up bundles off across the red dirt Jodie and I are relieved to finally sit down. Our chatty driver keeps us entertained and happily stops a few times so I can take pictures of the dirt tracks. Then she quips “did you know you can hear the river red gums drink?” We can’t possibly believe her, we’ve never heard about this anywhere! So as we bounce across the next river bed she slams the 4WD into a halt and goes to to the closest gum tree to listen. And she’s absolutely right! When you listen carefully, ear pressed against the trunk of the gum tree, you can hear the hollow sounds of water passing through the roots and up the trunk.
READ NEXT: The Complete Budget Guide to Trekking the Larapinta Trail
Place: MacDonnell Ranges
Currency: Australian Dollars
$1 USD = $1.30 AUD
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