Trek Larapinta, Northern Territory, Australia August 2020

Views Larapinta Trail

The sun has finally risen on my travels again although I have been restricted to my ‘own sandpit’ because of the coronavirus global pandemic. My playground for the last 9 days has been the classic Larapinta Trail hike over the West Macdonnell mountain ranges situated in the Great Sandy Desert in central Australia. The trail stretches from the Alice Springs Telegraph Station (on the historic Overland Telegraph Route) to Mt Sonder some 200km to the West. This is the traditional land of the Arrernte (pronounced Aranda) Aboriginals which also extends down to Uluru in the red centre of Australia.

    Ormiston Pound Views

With some local support I joined a group of 5 other adventurous souls to hike around 150km of the trail- a unique experience trekking in an arid, desert landscape.

Team Larapinta 2020

As retold to me by the local guides the Aboriginal Dreaming tells us that the creation ancestors in the region were giant caterpillars (Yeperenye) who formed the long ridges of the West Macdonnell Ranges (Tjoritja being the local name). The deep gorges were thrashed out by the tails of 2 fighting kangaroo brothers and the rivers were carved out by the rainbow serpent who is still the guardian of many precious waterholes. There is a magical beauty to the red quartzite and sandstone rock that makes up the mountain ranges for it is swirled with rainbow minerals that can streak the rock green, purple and yellow. The scene is contrasted with brilliant blue desert skies. It is not hard to believe as you journey through these painted rocks and via precious waterholes (connected deep into an underground water basin) that mystical ancestors created these lands.

Quartzite Cliffs

The trail includes many sacred Aboriginal sites (and already 40 000 years of indigenous visitation) but has only been promoted as one of the great walks of Australia since the 1980s. Winter is the only season to attempt the hike – the 30 degree (Celsius..) daytime temperatures in midwinter are as mild as it gets in this blistering part of the continent. 

Towards Brinckleys Bluff

The journey on foot has given me a closeup appreciation of desert life – the hardy spinifex grasses that cover the hills, ancient cycad trees hidden in gorges, mulga and mallee eucalyptus shrubby trees that somehow survive in the parched soil.

At the waterholes (which were often dry) we were taught to press our ears against the trunks of the massive river gums and listened in amazement to the tinkling of water within their veins and deep roots that tap down into the hidden water table below. We were also treated to the transient blooms of many wildflowers by the trail edge – a few days of rain the week before our arrival brought new life to the dusty soil.

A lot has changed for many of us this year and it’s been a time to reflect on what we have and what we appreciate. The horizons seem smaller at the moment but my backyard is no less amazing than some of the other destinations I have travelled. Indeed I have never seen a sky so big and so full of stars as the view from the Larapinta Trail.


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