This could very well be the best long distance hike in Australia, says writer Harriet Farkash. We know, big call. But here’s why you need to put the Larapinta Trail on your bucket list
There I was, baking under the sweltering desert sun, trying not to sip too much of my fast-evaporating water, buckling under the weight of my enormous backpack and wondering how the heck I could fix the chafing on my damn thighs… it’s not exactly the stuff honeymoon dreams are made of, but for my husband and I, hiking five days on Northern Territory’s Larapinta Trail was the highlight of our four-month long honeymoon adventure that took us across parts of Africa, America and Australia.
What the long-distance trek through the West MacDonnell Ranges lacks in romance, it more than makes up for it in stunning visuals, varied terrain and sense of achievement when you finally walk into the main street of Alice Springs (and straight into KFC if you’re naughty like us!)
If you’re thinking of taking a hike, put the Larapinta Trail on your list for the following reasons… It’s one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done. Hiking is my jam and I’ve done several in Australia, some in New Zealand and a handful overseas in America and Europe, but this one is at the top of my list because it’s so visually stunning and varied. Think: craggy bluffs, hidden waterholes, gorges and 360 degree views so rammed with beauty you’ll get shivers. It’s gaining a world-wide A+ reputation so you wanna get in now before the secret it well and truly out. Also, the trail is very well marked, so there’s no fear of getting lost, and no need to try to pretend like you know how to use a compass.
Lastly, you can beat the Sydney winter because the best time to do this hike is between April and September, where a bit of sunshine is a welcome relief from grey skies. So just nab some flights early and start training!
The 223km long Larapinta Trail is divided into 12 Sections. We got dropped off at Section 3: Standley Chasm, and hiked our way back to Alice Springs, covering Sections 2 and 1. Yes, we did it ‘backwards’ but it doesn’t matter what way you hike. For us, we liked going this way because it seemed to be going against the general flow of people, and getting the first view of Alice was an incredible feeling. Getting to Stanley Chasm might be the hardest part of your trip, as the shuttle there costs $150 each! So we decided to see if we could just grab a lift from a kind stranger. Yes, it’s 50km out from Alice Springs, but it’s a well-travelled road and you’ll find lots of people are going past there and will gladly give you a ride, perhaps in exchange for a six pack beer! You can pick up trail maps for $38 in Alice Springs but in my opinion, they’re not worth it. The trail is very well marked, and there’s great information boards at each trailhead so just print out the relevant maps and info sheets from here and take those with you.
All up, doing just three sections ended up being about 60km of rough and rugged terrain, which we did in five days, hiking about six hours each day. You’ll need a moderate to high level of fitness and be ok with carrying at least 20k on your back.
What to pack for a five-day hike
Several water bottles. It’s the desert and dehydration is a real risk, however there is water at all trailheads. Officially, you’re supposed to treat this, however we didn’t and we lived to tell the tale.
Sunnies, hat and sunscreen, PLUS beanie, gloves and thermals. It’s freezing cold at night, and hot hot hot during the day so come prepared.
A good sleeping bag. Like I said, freezing at night so make sure your sleeping bag is high quality.
A bottle of whiskey (or whatever your vice is). We took a bottle of Bulleit Rye, some oranges and maraschino cherries for cocktail hour every night. It’s what kept me going at 4pm when I wanted to keel over and die.
Gaiters or hiking pants. The thistles and spinifex are out of control.
Wigwam socks and blister bandaids. Your feet are going to get pretty cut up, but I swear by these socks for long distance hiking. I only got one blister, that I covered with a Compeed Blister bandaid, and I was right to go.
Your toilet kit including toilet paper and hand sanitiser. I cannot stand long drops (they make me gag!) but some along the trail were very well maintained and quite delightful! Still, I preferred to go at least 100m away from water source.
Enough food to keep you going for five days. We packed our JetBoil (the BEST for these kind of trips) and used it to make oats for breakfast (with peanut butter and jam for flavour) and to cook pasta or a dehydrated meal for dinner. For lunch we had wraps with tuna and cheese and we snacked on apples, muesli bars (I discovered Carmen’s Dark Choc Espresso Nut Bars and they were such a delicious treat.) Oh, and several KitKats!
Sudoku book. For night time entertainment (I know, we need to calm down, party animals!)
If you want more info on how we did it, feel free to reach out to me and I can go into more detail. Can you tell I’m super passionate about this hike?!