The West MacDonnell Ranges National Park and the Larapinta Trail are one of those places that gets under your skin. It’s big country, deep country and although seemingly rugged and parched, contains hidden waterholes like jewelled treasures dotted throughout. I was only there for 6 days on a highlights trip (the first and second on earlier blog posts), but if you’re up to it, you can spend a whole lot more time there, including doing the full through-walk, end-to-end over 14-17 days depending on your schedule or fitness.
Larapinta Trail – The Pound Walk (Ormiston Gorge)
If you’re not so keen on a multi-day trip or can’t spare the time, I have some good news for you. There are some really incredible day walk options along the track. As explained by Ranger Daniel in my video of Part 2, some people even opt to come back several years in a row, doing sections at a time, until they complete the full 223km.
Ormiston Pound Walk
After our super early start on Day 4 for sunrise on Mt Sonder, Day 5 was set to be a fairly relaxing one, with our main task for the day to complete the Pound Walk in Ormiston Gorge. I can’t stress enough not to be put off that this is a day-walk option, accessible by car, so you might think it to be less interesting. This is certainly not the case. This circuit walk is great with some astounding views across Ormiston Gorge and inside the fascinating crater like bowl of the Pound.
After we all found our feet on the first day, we also all found our pace and our natural place within our progress on each leg. I never felt like someone was breathing down my back or that I was hot on someone elses heels. The guide would give the front runners the next goal and meeting place, allowing them to stride out. It was common to feel as though I had the track to myself and I was the only person for miles around. If conversation was sought, it was easy to alter the pace to either find it forward or drop back.
With the initial climb to a saddle and cairn behind me, I took the side-trip to the viewpoint which is a must, before descending down into the arms of the Pound. Here, I was treated (yet again) to wildflowers and colours in the landscape that only seem right in an Albert Namatjira painting.
As the track wound through the floor of the Pound towards Ormiston Creek, it became clear that we’d need to get our feet wet (and probably a whole lot more) to complete the full circuit and end back at the sandy beach by the Gorge carpark. This late in the season (before the Summer rains come) the levels in the creeks are pretty low in parts. Apparently in Winter, it is not possible to pass all the way through, without a full body immersion in icy cold waters. Brrr!
Just when I was thinking that I’d like some time just to hang around camp (because there’s so many things to like about it), the afternoon saw the rest of the group head back to Glen Helen Homestead for a swim and probably another cold beer. Ah, I could totally live here… Like permanently… Humanure toilet system and all.
Relaxing on the Larapinta
There’s something about slowing down the pace where you can actually find rest. Where finding rest isn’t just another task to undertake, but something else. Moving away from the doing and the need to be busy or occupied, and like some form of transcendental osmosis, moving through into a different space to being.
That’s something that is different about taking a commercial tour for something like the Larapinta Trail. With the style of independent walking I usually do with my friends or my club, there usually isn’t any room for just doing nothing. My days are filled with tasks that start the night before, by remembering to set my alarm and putting my porridge on to soak. To avoid the stress of rushing during packing up on a normal morning, I will usually wake up 1.5-2 hrs before we have to start walking, that usually means 6am and then reviewing the map and route over breakfast before walking, walking, walking. Doing, doing, doing from 8am until 5pm.
The thing that is different going independently, is that everyone is part of one team and all have the same skills, pitching in to get firewood, select your own camping site, gathering water and sharing happy hour that each person has brought. The doing doesn’t finish until we all kick back around the fire with a few wines and lots of laughs around 6pm. Everything is task oriented just getting from A to B.
The strategic ordered busyness of my usual preparation for an extended hike, with the nightly buzz of the dehydrator for weeks leading up, along with the shopping, spreadsheets that outline days, meals, transport and walking routes disappear by simply handing all that responsibility over to someone else. OMG that was so good!
It does however, explain the uneasiness I felt during my first few days here where offers of assistance are gently, but kindly refused. The most you can do is offer to wash up after dinner, but when you turn around you find that it’s magically already been done. I could totally get used to this.
Larapinta Trail – Serpentine Gorge & Ellery Creek
Oh dear, the last day arrived too soon and instead of just folding our swags up (to stop the animals during the day), we set about rolling them up and securing them as tightly as possible, leaving only faint impressions on the sandy dry creek bed of what had been our billion star bedroom for the last 5 nights. I’d watched satellites and shooting stars, aircraft and the Milky Way waft past me as I struggled to stay awake each night to watch this evening show. I’m sad to leave.
I think 6 days must be my ‘relaxation trigger’ or something. For some strange reason, I spent so much of this day sleeping. Firstly, I had a kip under the trees waiting for the group to return from Serpentine Gorge and then also after a bracing (yes, definitely the coldest waterhole the entire trip!) swim in Ellery Creek Waterhole and for most of the bus trip back into Alice Springs, where we were dropped off at the hotel at 4pm.
The Larapinta “Larry” Trail summary
So what can be said of the Larapinta Trail that I haven’t already said?
Big, surprising, breathtaking, overwhelming, deep, spiritual and ancient. I thoroughly recommend adding it to your Australian hiking wishlist as offering something completely different from any other great Aussie bushwalking experience.
Caro travelled courtesy of Trek Tours.
Where to next?
Check out my multiday hikes in Australia interactive map for inspiration and ideas.