Uluru/Kata Tjuta/Kings Canyon trip report

The tour included transport out to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. Two nights and three very busy days. We camped in tents or you could do swags which was cheaper. All meals and passes were included. Pick up and drop off from your hotel. Knowledgeable and friendly guide and camp cook.

Day 1-Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta (a Pitjantjatjara word) is the name of one of the largest rock formations in the world. Ernest Giles arrived in the 1870s and named it the Olga’s. But it’s always been Kata Tjuka and now it has reverted back to its true name. It has 36 domes and is made from Conglomerate rock. It’s very different to Uluru and considered a sacred aboriginal men’s site and because of this visitors can only access two areas.

It’s 436m high (100m higher than Uluru). Around 550 million years ago the Peterman Orogeny occurred resulting in a big mountain range which came up 10kms high and was made from sandstone. There was an inland ocean at that time over the whole area because it was lower than sea level. So what we were walking on was originally the bottom of the ocean!

Kata Tjuta contrasts

Erosion occurred and this left Uluru and Kata Tjuta standing. Kata Tjuta continues down under the ground about 6kms in addition to the portion on top of the land. The sediment layers (stripes in the rock) trend on a 15 degree slant, due to how it was pushed up when the Peterman Orogeny occurred.

The first people have been in this area for 60,000 years and are called the Anangu people. I bought this wicked painting from a woman called Marlene Smith. There was an intense sadness about her but she was proud of her work and explained what it was to me. She seemed happy I bought it. I told her I would put it in my lounge room and think of her each time I looked at it. That made her smile.

Aboriginal dot painting of two Womens with bush tuckers

The painting has the following in it- Bush tucker- tomatoes, quondons, and bush bananas and two women (semi-circles) with a bowl (piti) and digging stick. Women hunt goannas for their flesh and eggs. The middle piece is a water hole. The word for women is (minma) and water is (kuppi).

Day 2-Uluru

Monolith- one big rock that is 338m high and 9kms around the base. It is 1.4 kms across the top and 2.5kms of it hidden underground. The climb on Uluru will thankfully be closed on 26th October, 2019. The indigenous people have been requesting tourists not to climb it for a long time because 36 people have died doing it and it makes them very sad that their sacred site is a place people die. They call it ‘Sorry business’. So they are closing it because people are too selfish not to honour their wishes.

Uluru an amazing monolith

There are interesting caves and paintings around base of Uluru. The Aboriginal people attended Uluru during times of ceremony or during nomadic travels. There was a massacre there many many years ago, and they ask you not to take photos of some areas or of respect. All photos in this trip report are in sanctioned areas.

Interesting Uluru erosion

Another monolith in the area is Attila (Mt Connor) which is similar to Uluru but it squares off and has a different feel I thought. It used to be passed off as Uluru by guides as it’s much closer to town. (Uluru is 4 hours away from Alice Springs). You can’t access Attila as it is on privately owned land.

Local aboriginal boys playing AFL

Day 3-Kings Canyon

A great 6km hike can be done that takes you over and around the canyon. There is also a 1-2 day 21km option. It’s worth taking yourself down to the Garden of Eden, so lovely and peaceful. The walk is steep and there are lots of cliff edges and stairs, so not for those who have a fear of heights!

1000 year old Cycad
Kings Canyon Domes

The area is closed when the temp reaches over 36 degrees for safety and National Parks has a compulsory 3L water rule, as people have died there from dehydration.

Yes you can hire a car, and wander around yourself. But the distances are long, sometimes 4 hours between sites. Also, with a guide I felt I learnt so much more than just reading about it on the signs. The people who guide these areas have a unique sense of humour and resilience about them. And just for that it is worth being around them and learning about their passions.

Audrey explaining the rock formations in the are

Thanks to Audrey and Kristy, such an amazing experience. One I will always remember!

PJ 🙂

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.

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

We’re taking over the internet!

Hunter Area Outdoor Women started out as small community of women in Newcastle, New South Wales, who enjoyed spending time outside, sharing skills and supporting local women.

In 2018 we went rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, kayaking, bike-packing and trail running.

We signed up for adventure races, triathlons, ultra marathons and more. Sometimes we just had picnics by the beach.

At the start of 2019, we have roughly 650 women planning trips and adventures on our facebook group. We’re constantly inspired by the adventures that are shared to the #haowomen hashtag on Instagram.

Some amazing stories have come out of this little group already. We wanted to build a new platform to share them with the world.

Photo credits to:
Tess Thompson, Georgia Marjoribanks, Francesca Davy and Lisa Thomas.