Hiking The Larapinta Trail with Anna Kernohan
“Why?! There is nothing there.”
This was most people’s reaction when Anna Kernohan, of Carry on Wandering, said she was walking the Larapinta Trail. After we moved past the “Lara what?” questions and Anna explained it’s a 230km hike through central Australia, they inevitably said there was nothing there but sand and snakes. It’s a common misconception and many people think there is nothing but desert in central Australia but they couldn’t be more wrong...
The Larapinta Trail runs along the MacDonnell Ranges between Alice Springs and Mt Sonder and if you love spinifex grass, close encounters with snakes, being overrun by millions of ants and jaw dropping scenery then this is the hike for you.
When you are doing nothing but walking for 2 weeks straight you can’t help but notice everything around you. The many different shades and textures of sand, the difference in vegetation as you approached a water source, the number of animal tracks along the trail and the sounds of shale scraping on shale as you walk over land that is the remnants of an ancient sea.
You notice all the different kinds of spinifex grasses and how each one tries a different way to attack you. Some just scratch you on the way past, others will just stab you with their needle sharp “leaves” and the special ones will stab you then break the ends off so you have something to do in camp that night by pulling thorns out.
You notice all the different kinds of ants. There were millions of them of all different sorts and no matter how hard you tried to not sit on a nest, not pitch your tent on a nest or not drop your pack on a nest -always there would be a nest. Even going to the effort of scouting out a place with no ants, no sooner had you settled in than they would magically appear out of nowhere - little ants that just crawled on you, big meat eater ants that tried to steal your beef jerky snacks or ants with yellow bums that I could never figure out what their purpose was and many other sorts of ants all with their own unique way of building their nests.
Despite the heat and the weight of a pack it felt comfortable, even natural to be walking through central Australia. You could lose yourself for hours staring at the stars at night or the million different shades of orange in the shale rock during the day as the sun cast shadows and reflected light as it moved across the sky.
If the sky and the fauna and flora don’t really appeal then do this hike for the views. They are some of the most spectacular in Australia and words really don’t do them justice. We started our hike by climbing Mt Sonder for sunrise and the views were non stop from then on. Every time we dipped into a valley or gorge we were stunned at the beauty, every crest we summited we were in awe of mother nature and to maintain this level of wonder for 230kms says a lot about the scenery.
"Nothing there", turned out to be one of the most remarkable walks I have ever done in Australia and would recommend it to everyone. It is also a good reminder that if you are going to be a true adventurer, you have to ignore the opinions of others and go see it for yourself.
Best time of year - April to September. Avoid Summer as the track is exposed, it’s fire season and there is little to no water.
Remember to bring - water purification, gators or long pants as protection from the spinifex, trekking poles, sunscreen, maps, first aid kit
Camping - We had been told that we could camp wherever we liked along the trail however unless your idea of a camp site includes spinifex and shale rock there were few opportunities to camp outside of the designated areas at each trail head.
Food - There are no shops to re-supply so you will need to be well provisioned. There are 2 opportunities for a food drop and a small kiosk at Simpsons Gap however supplies are limited.
Safety - we hired an EPERB from the outdoor store in Alice Springs. Thankfully we never used it but I am glad we had it in case of emergency.
If walking end to end does not interest you there are many options to do day trips or shorter overnight hikes. There are also many options for assisted and catered hikes if being self supported is of no interest. Check out http://www.larapintatrail.com.au for more information.
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Website | www.carryonwandering.com
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