Northern Territory Trip Report – Larapinta Trail

I had a little too much city in me…

I could feel it tightening my neck muscles and loosening my character.

So I booked a trip with Women Want Adventure on the Larapinta Trail. I’d never heard of it before, but it looked remote and that was the hook for me. I’m not fit enough to do it on my own. While some of my friends are at the more extreme fit level, other friends are not as adventurous as I am. I didn’t feel fit enough to do it solo. So I found a company to make it achievable for me.

The Larapinta Trail is arduous and relentless. I’m rarely speechless but I was often on this trip! The views are spectacular. But also those bloody hills are also hard core! Also you are walking on rubble, which is often unstable. So every step requires consideration and concentration. But like anything, if its hard, its worth the reward.

We did 5 days of the trail- Sections 1, 10, and 12. There are a total of 12 sections, potentially taking 12-16 days to complete 223 kilometers.

You can find detailed information on a quality FB page called Larapinta Trail. There are loads of tips and tricks people share plus local information on the condition of the trail, water supplies and fire issues. Very helpful if you are planning to do an unsupported trip! You’d have to consider the following gear and its weight if you want to do it unguided:

  • Three season tent
  • Quality insulated sleeping mat
  • Thermal sleeping sheet
  • Cooking set up
  • Phone and power banks
  • Food (and food drops)
  • Hiking boots and spare sneakers
  • Water purification set
  • 3-4L carrying capacity
  • Warm/cool/wet weather clothes
  • Emergency beacon
  • Emergency first aid equipment and training
  • Good quality walking poles
  • Adventurous, can-do attitude

Women Want Adventure

To be clear from the start, I have no affiliation with Women Want Adventure. But I do admire people with a solid philosophy and tenacity. WWA’s pioneer and owner Monique Farmer is creating such a great community for women to get among the harder stuff, but with an inclusive and positive vibe. She’s a peaceful and energetic leader, self-assured and authentic. You can find our more about WWA on their website.

Getting the low down from Monique

We slept in swags, which we were responsible for setting up each night and getting back on the truck in the early morning. Surprisingly comfortable! Each night, the fat wichetty grub (me) would wiggle down in my leaf (the swag) and absorb the millions of stars and a crescent moon. Sometimes I would wake up and have no idea what was going on but good old Mr. Moon was looking over me. So I would drift back to sleep peacefully. Was a great way to re-balance myself and calm my fractured city spirit.

Camping in the river bed

Each morning the guides were up before us to cook a hot breakfast. The first morning I woke up to the smell of toast and I thought “who the hell is making toast in the middle of the night! Crazy people”. Then I realised I had crashed out and it was 6am already! Each day one of the four WWA guides moved the 4WD truck and camp to the next location, where hot meals were ready and a fire blazing.

Hard core hiking means serious eating!

Hot, tasty and plentiful meals were provided with plenty of vego options. Amazing desserts were on offer, as was tea/coffee/juice several times a day.

Even in the middle of a hike a hot thermos was produced for a cuppa as we looked over the McDonald ranges. Cheese, biscuits, cakes, fruit and nuts; you name it, we ate it! And with the most incredible views. Wine was offered with dinner each night and as much laughter as you could handle!

Campfires and loads of laughing

Day packs

These included 2-3L of water, medications, morning tea, lunch, protective equipment- such as a wind breaker, down jacket and fly net. The weather can change quickly from cold to rather warm even in winter. Most nights were 0-2 degrees and days 20-22 degrees.

Dangers

It’s remote, so there’s plenty to be aware of:

  • All year round- exhaustion, blisters, rashes
  • In warmer weather, snakes and hyperthermia
  • Spinifex! Imagine spears imitating grass. Nasty stuff if you fall or sit on it
  • Hypothermia is real; you need to layer up with thermals and down jackets
  • The trail is closed during the hotter months. You would probably croak it if you tried it then
  • There are dingoes, but no issues with them as long as you protect your food supplies sensibly
Don’t mention the flies! So so many flies!

Day One – Section 1

Telegraph station->Wallaby gap
14kms.
A total of 790 meters elevation to Euroridge.
Difficulty- medium.
There were toilets at the end.

We saw lovely Wedge Tail Eagles and spirited Rock Wallabies. The key highlight for me was walking along an incredible ridge line with a deadly drop off.

Ridge line with a deadly drop off

Day Two – Section 10

Ormiston Gorge->Glen Helen
16 km with an elevation of 720 meters to the hilltop lookout for lunch.
Difficulty- Medium.

The flies were feral- a net is a must! Toilets are available at Fink river. Swam in the gorge, which was very cold but amazing!

There’s a great bar at Glen Helen with food and some supplies. Flush toilets and showers. Camping/Caravans only. Water and electricity available.

Glen Helen Gorge was beautiful, but freezing

Day Three – Section 10

Glen Helen->Davenport creek
19kms
Elevation of 1000 meters to hilltop lookout.
Difficulty- very hard.

Great views. Rocky and rubbly++ This is one part you definitely need hiking poles. Camping in the creek bed was very peaceful and remote. The creeks are just sand. The waterways are called “upside down” in this area. You can dig down only 15cm and find wet sand. No real chance of flooding according to the guides. Drop toilet 1 km away.

Lunch and a midday nap

Day Four – Section 12

Davenport creek->Redbank creek.
13.6km and mostly flat and winding.
Difficulty- easy.

Lovely gorge 1.2 km away at the end of the day- very rugged access but some great rock wallaby’s. Camp in river bed. Drop toilet and water tank.

Stunning country

Day Five – Section 12

Redbank creek to Mt Sonder
16kms with an elevation of 1390meters and an 8 hours return
You can go half way for good sunrise views though.
Difficulty-very hard! But equally rewarding!

Great bunch of humans

A common thread

There are lots of different types of people on the trail, but we all seemed to have a common thread. Often we saw no one at all, except a solo hiker with a full pack! Some people do sections of it and come back finish it the following year. What I did notice is the happiness in our WWA group, particularly the support, laughing and kindness.

Also impressive was the organised nature and quite leadership of our guides. Nothing was ever a trouble. They were authentic, knowledgeable and relaxed. They genuinely loved being out there. They helped us be brave and feel safe in a very rugged environment. Their depth of knowledge about the area and a real respect for the earth and indigenous culture was brilliant.

Thanks to Monique, Sue, Claire and Liv for a life changing experience. Just what I needed!

Made so many awesome friends

Massive thank you to PJ for sharing this trip report.

A story about confidence, fun and beer

By Anja Fuechtbauer

Originally published at https://vsco.co/anjafuechtbauer/journal/confidence-fun-and-beer

 “I don’t want to fall.” – Climber.

“I don’t want to swim.” – Paddler.

“I don’t want to cry.” – Woman.

Maybe you have had those thoughts before? On the odd occasion when you make that desperate move well above your last piece of gear. Or that time when you are in a whirlwind of white-water and not sure if you’ll make it down in one piece.

We probably all had those thoughts. But what if those thoughts start to appear every single time you go outdoors? What if they define your whole experience? They make you clench your teeth and swallow hard? When you are driving out on a Friday night and instead of looking forward to your adventure you just wonder if you will fall, if you will swim and if you end up crying? Out of disappointment in yourself. In your own skills and abilities and in your lack of believing in yourself?

The above is the start to an article I wrote about four weeks ago. When my confidence in skills was basically non-existent. When I was desperate to understand why I turned from absolutely loving going outdoors and challenging myself to almost being afraid to go. I had very high expectations of myself.

Let me explain a bit more. Two years ago I was a confident lead-climber. Nudging on 20s on sport lead outdoors, competing in bouldering and generally being strong and fit. Then I injured my wrist and it’s been average ever since. Climbing was completely off limits, bike riding was gone too and I couldn’t even open a door knob without being in pain. Stand still.

Kayaking: somehow I could still do, so I threw myself into it. I went to NZ Kayak School in that year and again early this year. After returning from NZ in February I had an awesome day at the whitewater stadium in Penrith. I was stoked. I took so many rolls and did so much “cool” stuff. I taught others.

After that, no more kayaking really. A trip to Peru where I rafted the Marañon and beat myself up on the inside for not being a good enough kayaker for this trip of a lifetime.

Upon return to Australia in August I tried to go surf kayaking. It was small surf. I didn’t even get out to the waves, just got stuck in the whitewash. I tumbled. I got dragged around and I swam. And then walked along the beach crying. I had taught others how to roll a kayak – successfully. I went to kayak school – twice! What the hell was going on? I was so disappointed in myself.

On a trip to Penrith (the only other whitewater running this part of town this time of year) I tried to roll in the outwash of the last rapid before heading up to the top of the course. I swam again. And I beat myself up so much – mentally not physically. Tears coming down my cheeks and I paddled over to the lake to grimly practise my roll.

At the same time, I started to go back to climbing. On a trip to the Blue Mountains, I worked up the courage to say yes to an ‘easy’ lead climb. I made it to the last clip and then bailed before the anchor. And instead of being totally happy to have pushed for the last clip so much when I felt so awfully terrified, I felt like I had failed. I mean – it wouldn’t have been a ‘hard’ climb for two-years-ago-climber-me, a grade 16. But now I felt shattered. The things I used to be so proud of all seemed to have gone.

So, self-analysis here we go. Sitting down to ask ‘why’ and to get the fun back into the outdoors. Because instead of properly enjoying the beautiful afternoon on the rock with my friends, my brain and emotions just swirled out of control.

There was a rational reason for all the things that were going on. Namely, I haven’t climbed in two years – which means no physical strength training, no exposure to leading and particularly no training for my head game. And all climbers know that if you lose your head game you should probably call it a day and just go to the pub for a beer and come back another day. We all have those days when we are just not up for it. And that’s ok!

And kayaking is very similar. It’s mighty helpful to be confident. Daan from kayak school used to say “either you own your kayak or it owns you”. You need to actively drive your boat to get where you want. Confidently. The crux in kayaking, in my opinion, is a bomber roll. If you can roll up anytime then your kayaking improves by roughly a gazillion percent.

Surrounding yourself with super awesomely talented friends who make everything look easy and are more ballsy than you can be great. But it can also trigger feelings of inadequacy and make you feel like you are the one that holds others back. Or you head out with people who have started at the same time as you but they are further ‘ahead’ (hint: there’s no ‘ahead’ in having a good time or fun) because they kept at the sport or maybe didn’t get injured. The truth is though that these friends are actually just super stoked you go out with them after a time away and give it a go. And half the time they might just fake their braveness anyway.

And despite it all, you see, somehow, last weekend, I competed, well participated, in a whitewater kayaking race. On a grade III section of icy icy icy cold river. Happily. And I swam. And I had a fantastic time. Like – super-duper-awesome-making-me-smile-right-now time. And the weekend before the race I climbed in the Blue Mountains and lead two pitches on a climb called Sweet Dreams – a 10 and a 13. And it was great.

So why all this rambling? Injury, parenthood, change of interest or moving city / town and travelling can all be factors that get you away from your training routine. Maybe for quite a while. When you get lucky and re-discover your love for your sport again and go back, and you are on the competitive spectrum of personalities, something like this might happen. And hopefully you don’t beat yourself up on it.

So how did I get back to actually being a noob at things, ‘failing’ and having fun while doing so?

One – an article I read that said asking ‘what’ instead of ‘why’ is a way more positive way to look at things. “Why am I bad at kayaking?” Because I lack confidence and I haven’t paddled etc. You end up feeling like a failure. Rather ask: “What do I not like about my kayaking?” That I can’t roll. So fix that!

Two – back to basics. Step back and start easy. Do a multi-pitch but maybe let your partner lead the harder pitches. You still get to do the whole thing and can relax seconding the hard moves. And do ‘pretend-lead’ and/or lead in the gym. In kayaking, go back to video analysis of rolling in flat water. Get those chicken-wings sorted. Get your friends to push you over. Hold your breath for 5, 10, 15, 20 seconds before you roll. Take your goggles with you and your nose plug. You know, pretend you’re back at kayak school. And allow yourself to fail.

Three – choose things you are good at. For me this meant to go on a multi pitch climb in which I swapped the ‘hard’ pitches with someone else. And we took out someone who was completely new to outdoor climbing. I know how to setup systems safely and I got to explain a whole lot of (basic) outdoor climbing knowledge. It made me feel really confident and competent about an important aspect of climbing.

Four – take those friends on outings that are emotionally on the same wavelength. We all know people that are awesome at the sport they do but they might not be quite emotionally tuned in with you or just not a good teacher. Maybe go with them next time and choose someone that you can just ease in with and don’t feel like you need to proof anything. If you are a woman, an all-girls trip can be a good idea too. Sorry lads.

Five – all you need is 20 seconds courage. I read about a female adventurer who uses this method and I really like it. When you are at the crux, at the rapid or whatever it is – ask yourself – “Can I be brave for the next 20 seconds?” And be! 20 seconds is long enough to get you through whatever scares you. No need to be tough all the time. Just 20 seconds a time.

Six – line up those bootie beers. I mean it! When Anna and me had to join the line up at the Snowy River Extreme Race to please the river gods after our swim during the race, I was laughing seeing how many people had to get up there. All those good and not so good paddlers seemed to have been pummelled out of their boats throughout the day. We might have been ten or 15 people. It’s always nice to know we are all between swims (or falls).

And seriously, if the day just isn’t going well take your friends and have a beer. And come back next time. We all have those days, weeks or sometimes months. But hopefully you will be able to come back to whatever you want to do and have fun! See you out there!

Anja Fuechtbauer

You can find more of Anja’s writing and photography here.

Going solo in Yuraygir National Park

A trip report from PJ’s 4 day solo hike in Yuraygir National Park

When: 1-4 November 2017

Where: Yuraygir National Park

What: Yamba to Red Rock Coastal Hike

Why: Needed a challenge to focus on

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Day 1 – Marra Creek to Red Cliffs campsite

18kms/4 hours

The National Parks guide recommends doing this walk North to South and I can understand why. The first day is pretty easy, the third day is hard.

This first day is mostly a dirt/sand track. Very peaceful,  easy to navigate and well sign-posted. It’s obvious where the track goes.

There is fresh water at the end of the day, but it’s an extra 2-3 km round trip. I just asked someone’s Nan and Pop in a camper if they could spare some, which they were happy to do.

Great spot for a swim and lots of kangaroos! You can have a fire there, but its BYO fire wood. I scavenged around the fireplaces for peoples left over bits and had some Firestarters with me.

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Day 2 – Red Cliffs to Illaroo

25 kms/6 hours

Mostly beach walking. Fairly compact, though it’s worth working with the tides, rather than against them.

I used an app ‘Map my ride’, which provided speed and distance at 5km intervals. On the beach I did about 3.5kms/hr in soft sand, and about 5kms/hr on hard packed sand. Knowing this helped me plan my water and food consumption.

I made sure I was up early, packed and walking by 6.15am. This made the most of the mild temperatures and meant my water lasted me the day.

When I did find opportunities to fill up my water, I made sure I took 10mins to drink as much as possible, often a litre, sometimes more.

The first water crossing is via a National Parks canoe, which was on the other side when I came through, but I asked around and a father gave me a lift in his two person kayak. You can’t walk across it as it’s too deep and fast.

Illaroo campsite is lovely and has a good beach. There is also a great general store at Minnie Waters, which is about 1km south of the campsite and does hot food, wet/dry goods, coffee and alcohol.

You can have a fire at this campsite and there is water 3 kms away, but you can also get it from the general store if you ask nicely.

Day 3 – Illaroo to Pebbly beach campsite

28 kms/8.5 hours

Beach walking- a lot of it. Especially Wolli beach, which I struck at high tide. It wasn’t fun but I found a rhythm and just kept going. I didn’t stop much on the beaches, because I found it hard to get started and sand gets everywhere when you put your pack down!

You need to book the water crossing at the end of Wooli beach. Information for this is on the websites provided below. The water crossing costs $10 per person and it’s the only way to get across, unless you happen to find someone with a private boat.

Then there is a 5 kilometre long ‘Rock Platform Crossing’. It is pretty challenging. The rocks are sharp and on awkward angles, which makes it strenuous. Look for the ‘goat track’ people have made up above the rocks. I used sections of this to make it easy, but it wasn’t a proper trail and you would want to carefully assess the risks. In a group, the rock platform would have been easier and less brutal I think.

There is a lovely beach at Station Creek. Nice for a swim and you can have a fire. No water there though, so make sure you take this into account or try to get some from another camping group. Plenty of people, families mostly when I was there and they were great. You MUST cross Station Creek at low tide. There are no formal arrangements for crossing it. But I got a lift by one of the fathers with a 4WD.

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Day 4 – Pebbly Beach to Red Rock

4kms/1 hour

As I did far more kilometres on day three, this day was just a stroll and a final water crossing. Again, you need to book the guy with the boat, but he was easy to deal with. At very low tide you could probably put your pack on your head and try to walk across, but there is a general store on the other side with great burgers… so you may not want to wait for low tide!

I got a mate to pick me up at Red Rock, but there is a bus service too. Check the timetable though because the buses aren’t that frequent. Alternatively you can camp at the Red Rock campground and have a hot shower.

The beaches in Red Rock are amazing and worth the effort.

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Lessons learned

All the hard work for this trip was done in the preparation phase. You could do it without planning (meals, training, getting other peeps advice) but it would make things harder than necessary.

The trip restored my faith in people. There were several times when I needed some help, with water crossings or just extra water. I just approached people and they happily helped me. Maybe it was because I was a single female, but I think it was also that I was doing it solo and they appreciated the difficulty of it.

I looked up some blogs on solo hiking and there were a few gems.

Firstly when you encounter an unexpected challenge or something goes wrong-> STOP- Stop, Think, Observe, Plan. I used this several times to make decisions, when there was no one else to consult.

Also – one blog made a valid point, that you are not alone when doing a solo. You have your thoughts, memories and own company. This was a valuable piece of advice when I was doing hard sections on the soft sand or the rock platform crossing. I had some very funny moments and laughed out loud literally!

Equipment

  • 60 Litre pack
  • 2L Water (plus 1.5L emergency water)
  • cereal, long life milk, chocolate, high calorie CLIF bars, dehydrated meals, fruit, snacks
  • First aid kit
  • PLB
  • Tent
  • Klymit sleeping mat, summer weight sleeping bag +thermal liner
  • Jetboil
  • matches/fire starters
  • reading book
  • trip notes
  • iPhone with spare charging bank
  • sense of adventure and a positive attitude

Resources

Any questions – I would be happy to help. Comment below or get in touch via the Hunter Area Outdoor Women facebook group.

PJ Wanderlust