The Larapinta Trail, in Australia’s Northern Territory, beckons with desert expanses, swaths of cloudless sky, and the rippling ridges of the West MacDonnell Ranges. At 223 kilometres long, the trail is one of the longest and most popular walking tracks in Australia. An Inspired Adventure to the Larapinta trail will usually cover four sections of the trail (about 70 kms) over five days of trekking.
Want to know what it’s really like to take on the Larapinta? Inspired Adventures’ Campaign Managers Johanna and Kate recently completed the trek and they have plenty to share about the experience and what it’s really like to sleep in a swag in the middle of the Aussie outback.
What sections did you hike?
– Old Telegraph station to Simpsons Gap. Section 1
– Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam. Section 8
– Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge. Section 9
– Mount Sonder ascent. Section 12
– Ormiston Pound circuit. Not an official section, more a short scenic add-on
What is the most challenging part of the trek?
There are a lot of rocky sections which are challenging. Careful footing and good ankle support are a must! I found trekking poles a huge help for stability and for my knees.
Prepare yourself for a very rocky and uneven terrain. This might put more pressure on your knees than you think so if you are worried, bring a knee strap. I have had 2 knee surgeries, and I was fine, but this is a good thing to bring with you in case your knees start hurting.
Anything you packed others might find useful?
The packing list is pretty extensive. I brought a battery pack to keep my phone charged which was great, but better to switch off if you can! Being in the middle of the outback without battery power or signal is a pretty great excuse to unplug.
Can you use your phone while on the Larapinta trail?
Phone reception is available (only with Telstra) at certain ridges and the summit of Mount Sonder. So if you really want to send a text or check Facebook, you have to keep hiking and reach the top of that ridge! The homestead at Glen Helen also offers free, but not very reliable, internet access.
How did you prepare physically for the trek?
I keep fit throughout the year but increased it in the 2 months before my trek, especially with long hikes at the weekend. Hiking on uneven terrain is great training.
You will need to train and prepare yourself if you’re not used to trekking long distance and consecutive days. Make sure you improve your cardio and endurance. And train in the right shoes! Don’t take old shoes with you – if they are more than 5 years, please take them to an adventure shop and get them checked out. A good idea would be to also bring a pair of trainers as spare shoes in case something happens while you are trekking.
What's the swag situation?
Sleeping in a swag is unbeatable! You have front row tickets to the most star-studded night sky you will ever see, shooting stars and all. In fact, many people complain about not being able to sleep as the view is too good! The swag itself is really warm and comfortable. Nothing beats unrolling it next to the camp fire and having an authentic outback experience.
(For the uninitiated, a swag a like a super sleeping bag designed to be used alone without a tent. Just you, some zippers and canvas, and the open sky.)
Any surprises from what you expected?
I was surprised at just how rugged and hilly the terrain was! Many people imagine a flat red centre, but the West McDonnell ranges are tall and long. You will mostly be ascending ridges and descending again, rather than a flat trek. It was also very luscious and green after recent rainfall, the wildflowers were beautiful!
What was the most memorable part?
The most memorable part… I have to mention a couple of things here as I can’t just pick one!
Firstly, walking in to camp at night after a whole day of trekking, having a quick ‘baby wipe shower’, and then sitting down next to the campfire with the team with a nice cup of coffee. These were really great moments and every night we learnt something new about each other.
Secondly, I think it was day three of trekking we had a rocky path between two cliffs where you had to climb and jump across the rocks. It was a never ending trail but it offered some beautiful views. I felt like I was in the Jurassic Park movie!
What are the toilets like? Any hygiene tips?
There is a chemical toilet at camp, which is out in the open surrounded by nature. Such a great view! It’s well away from camp so you do have privacy. Otherwise, it’s a bush toilet. Remember to take keep a zip lock bag for any toilet paper and don’t leave anything behind in this pristine environment.
Baby wipes and hand sanitiser are my major tips for this trek. Considering there’s no showers, and you put on sun screen every day, it’s nice to freshen up a bit after a long day of trekking.
Are there animals?
We came across lots of animals with beautiful birds, wallabies, lizards and insects. Snakes are generally hibernating in winter so it’s rare to see one. Dingos may visit the camps during the night but are harmless, they may steal a shoe though so don’t leave them out!
Any final words of wisdom?
The Larapinta Trail is an amazing experience. Switch off, relax and just go with the flow – schedules don’t matter in the bush!
Check out our upcoming Larapinta adventures and take on the challenge to help out your favourite cause!