We pick you up from your accommodation between 7-7.30am. Our walking begins at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station which also marks the beginning of the Larapinta Trail itself. The stone buildings here date back to 1872 and housed the first Europeans to live in Central Australia. Initially the trail from here winds among boulders of granite, the highest of which offer fine views of the town and Mt Gillen.
The trail passes through Witchetty bush and Mulga scrub, over exposed hills and shady woodlands before we arrive for lunch at Wallaby Gap. From Wallaby Gap, we follow the trail west through magnificent, shady Bloodwoods and tall Ironwoods, the dominant trees on this narrow alluvial flat. We may catch sight of a shy Echidna or Black-footed Rock Wallaby as we approach Simpson's Gap and our remote campsite.
From Simpson's Gap we walk through pleasant, grassy flats and low, rocky hills bearing the scars of early cattle grazing, evidence of the fragility of this arid environment. Graceful Ghost Gums are also to be seen on this section, coated in a white powder with powerful antiseptic properties used by Aborigines. One of the most peaceful parts of the trail is Spring Gap. We observe a wide variety of plant life and watch for birds at the waterhole. We then walk on through ever changing countryside to our idyllic camp at Jay Creek.
Leaving Jay Creek we are on sacred ground, where the Aboriginal custodians ask that we walk only in the creek bed. Today's walk is nothing short of spectacular. We continue on through varied terrain dotted with Mulga and Witchetty Bush to Tangentyere Junction. Here the track diverges to follow the ridge line above the Finke River. We trek to our lunch spot at Millers Flat, from which we climb through rocky terrain before descending into Standley Chasm from the north. Camp is at Standley chasm.
From Standley Chasm we follow the spectacular Bridle Trail, an old trading route used by the early settlers in the region. We head up to follow the ridge line over Reveal Saddle to Brinkley’s Bluff. From this high point, just over 1100m, we are rewarded with superb views of the spine effect created by the West MacDonnell Ranges. After lunch we take on a steep descent and pass Mintbush Spring, named for the native plant that grows here, a beautifully mint-scented bush related to sage and lavender. Our welcoming campsite tonight is at the peaceful Birthday Waterhole.
An early rise today for one of the most challenging and rewarding sections on the trail. We head into Spenser Gorge and Paisley Gorge then up to Windy Saddle and Razorback Ridge for expansive views. The trail continues down to Fringe Lily Creek and follows the Linear Valley. Our trek this afternoon takes us on a rough spinifex journey through this semi-arid region allowing breathtaking views of Hugh Gorge, our camp spot for the night.
For the next two days we stay on the south side of the West MacDonnell Ranges whose soaring presence dominates our vista. The trail remains low, undulating gently through lower level woodlands and spinifex fields, taking us past Hugh View and Ghost Gum Flat. We hope to chance upon some of the Larapinta's unique birdlife, such as the Splendid Fairy-wren, Spinifex Bird and Painted Firetail Finch. We camp at the remote Rocky Gully Campsite on the evening of Day 6 and Ellery Creek on the evening of Day 7.
Today we are walking through the vertical-spined dolomite country of the Bitter Springs formation. These 800 million year old rocks contain fossilised stromatolites, the cyanobacteria that were amongst the first life on this earth. The trail is again through woodlands and spinifex rich in birdlife. Arriving mid afternoon at our camp provides an opportunity to relax or wander at leisure around the hills of our campsite.
This section of the trail offers breathtaking views as we walk along the high quartzite ridge lines that typify the West MacDonnell Ranges. We ascend to Counts Point where we are able to take in clear views of Central Australia’s western horizon, to Mt Zeil (1531m) the highest peak in the Northern Territory, and Mt Sonder which marks the end of the Larapinta Trail. We can even see the fascinating, huge comet crater of Gosse Bluff. A descent through mysterious old Mulga stands brings us to our camp at Serpentine Chalet, where we enjoy another great evening meal together.
An early start is required to fit in all of the highlights of this section of the trail. Today takes us into the rugged heart of this ancient landscape on a track only opened to the public as recently as 1997. The trail today is again challenging as we ascend to 1088 metres. And again, as always on the Larapinta, our epic climb is rewarded with expansive views. The view opens up across the Alice Valley to the giant, bulky mass of of Mt. Giles, one of the Northern Territory's highest peaks at 1389m.
A shorter stage of the Larapinta Trail today, leading us into the head of the Finke River. The local Arrernte name for the river is 'Lhere Pinte', meaning salty river, which is where this trail gets its name from. The Finke is also estimated at being the oldest river in the world. Arriving at Glen Helen Homestead there is the opportunity for a well deserved “remote” beer, ice-cream and hot shower.
These two days have views and trail dominated by the bulk of Mt Sonder, whose colours change magnificently throughout the day. We initially head north-west through spinifex before crossing Davenport Creek, a tributary of the Finke River. We climb over a low section of the range and descend into Rocky Bar Gap, our camp for the night. The next day we head west under the flanks of Mount Sonder passing through some dense Mulga and mallee woodland until we reach the beautiful Redbank Creek and our nearby camp.
This morning we are up early for our ascent of Mount Sonder – known as the pregnant lady by the local Aranda Aboriginal people. An early start allows us to climb in the cool morning air, before the sun heats up the landscape. To view the surrounding country from the top, knowing we have just climbed one of the highest peaks west of the Great Dividing Range, is an unforgettable moment of this trek – what a reward for all that we have done over the last two weeks!
Having reached the highpoint – many consider it the highlight – of the Larapinta Trail we drive back to Alice Springs, concluding around 5 or 6pm. This evening your group may like to get together in Alice for a celebratory meal.