My alarm buzzes. No cursing at the early wake up today though as I am about to embark on a trip that I have been wanting to do for years. I pull the curtains aside and stare out onto the darkened silhouette of the mountains before me. I brew my cup of tea and step onto the balcony to watch the mountain begin to glow orange and then red as the rising sun bathes it in its early morning light. I would love to linger and watch the full sunrise but I need to be downstairs and ready for my pickup within the hour. I finish breakfast, pack my bags and head downstairs. Running man and 2 other trekkers and I chat as we wait in the set down zone. We are all awash with anticipation about what the next week will bring.
The van pulls up outside of the hotel and 3 enthusiastic guides jump out to greet us. With the bags packed away securely in the trailer, we climb in and greet the guests already on board. After a short drive around Alice Springs collecting the rest of our group we are off, heading into the West McDonnell Ranges to spend 6 days walking part of the 230 kilometer long Larapinta trail.
A short drive from Alice Springs brings us to our first stop, Simpsons Gap. Here we have a bit of debriefing from our Trek Larapinta guides, Kate, Stella and Ash, about the plans for the rest of the day and do a quick introduction of ourselves to our fellow trekkers. We then make the short walk down to the permanent water hole being straddled by towering red and orange quartzite cliffs. This is a nice easy introduction into the landscape we are going to be spending the next week in. After wandering around and taking a few photographs its back in the van to drive to the Ormiston Pound trail head, which will be our walk for today.
Ormiston Pound walk
The hour long drive from Simpsons Gap to Ormiston Pound gives a us a chance to soak up the scenery around us, there are definite benefits to having someone else take care of the driving. The drive out here leaves me feeling like i have been transported to another country, if not another planet, the geology being like nothing I’ve seen before. We all grab our fruit, muesli bars and trail mix (this stuff is scrumptious and I eat more trail mix than i have ever consumed in my life over the week!) from the snack box, strap on our day packs and head off into the pound.
About 3 weeks before the trip the region had a huge amount of rainfall. As the plants of central Australia are opportunistic rather than seasonal, this means that everything is green and flowering. One of our guides Stella, has a strong background in botany and so she imparts her knowledge of different plants as we walk along.
We all settle into walking the pace that suits us. I have to admit I am going pretty slow today as I can’t stop taking photos and just standing still and taking in the views around me. I can’t believe we are actually here. The walk gently climbs uphill onto the escarpment where we are provided with amazing views of the mountain ranges making up the walls of Ormiston Pound. We have some morning tea up here and then make our way down the escarpment, crossing through the middle of the pound and follow Ormiston Creek up towards the gorge.
Our guides leave us to meander along the sandy creek bed taking in the views, while they race ahead to set up lunch for the group. When we catch up with them a short while later they have set out a spread of fresh rolls, salads, chutneys and an assortment of meats on a big granite rock slab. Yum! As we eat our sandwiches in the cool shade of the towering river red gums I feel like I am a million miles away from anywhere and without a care in the world.
Running Man and I are walking at the back of the group with Stella and taking lots of photos when Stella points out some spinifex pigeons on the ground just in front of us. There are two males doing a little call and dance as the female hops along the ground in front of them feigning disinterest. Rather than be scared off, the trio perform their little courting dance for a good few minutes, hopping down the track in front of us as we walk behind. Stella tells us this is a very unusual sight to witness so we feel pretty chuffed that we got to see it.
The afternoon sun begins to drop as we enter the gorge, the cliffs towering above us now turning a deep shade of red. The walking pace slows now as we pick our way over the rocky creek bed. This walk is so varied with the geology and vegetation. We go from spinifex dominated hills down to the barely vegetated harsh interior of the pound to the river red gum lined creek. The rocky landscape made up of limestone, granite and quartzite juxtaposed with the red earth and vibrant vegetation really is a sight to behold.
Some of the trees are growing in places that defy belief. Running man points up to a tree growing straight out of the rocky cliff walls. “That” he says pointing up “is the very definition of resilience”. I laugh and agree, nature really does overcome some serious odds to survive sometimes.
After skirting around the edges of the creek for a bit we come to a section that requires us to cross the creek. We watch our guides and some of our fellow trek mates beginning to take off shoes and lift their packs over their heads to make the crossing. The water is calf deep, then waist deep then breastbone deep. I look at Running Man and a couple of others who are still yet to cross. “We are all amongst friends here aren’t we?” I say. A woman who is not part of our group but has tagged on to the crossing at our guides suggestion, looks at me and looks at our companions wading out the other side with dripping wet clothes. “Pants off?” I suggest. The woman replies “Friends or not, pants off!”. So the rest of us take off our shoes and long pants, stow them in our packs and wade across in our undies. The water is freezing. Everyone is laughing at the unexpected adventure tacked onto the end of the day with our creek crossing. After we put our pants and shoes back on and continue up the gorge I am so thankful that I didn’t wear my pants through the creek as we still have another half hour until we walk back to the van and drive the short trip to our campsite and what will be “home” for the next 5 nights.
Ormiston Creek Campsite
As we drive into our campsite the sun is slowly beginning to set. We all grab our swags and go choose a tent and settle in. The campsite is lovely. Set out in the sandy riverbed of Ormiston Creek, it comprises a nice big central tent, a campfire down in the river bed, 2 composting toilets and an outdoor area for “bird bath” washing. The tents are nicely spaced out too.
Running man and I have bought along a few bottles each of some nice red wines to enjoy fireside. Kate tells us the hill near camp is great to scramble up and watch the sunset, so we grab some wine and glasses and head up to catch the last rays of the day. And what a way to finish the daylight hours. The sun is setting over Mount Sonder in the distance, the mountain we will be climbing to watch sunrise in a few days time. We clink glasses to a magic first day and when the last of the sun is gone, descend down the hill to to find the fire is roaring and a big antipasto platter has been set out to enjoy while we wait for dinner (which just happens to be a delicious prawn linguine)
The stars of the Milky Way begin to twinkle to life above me as I switch my gaze between the flames of the fire and the sky. I think about the day I have just had and how this place has got under my skin already. I cant wait to see what the Larapinta will reveal to me over the next 5 days.
At a Glance
Trek Larapinta offer a number of different walking tours to explore the Larapinta Trail I did the 6 day tour
Simpsons Gap 25 min drive (24kms) west of Alice Springs
Ormiston Pound Walk 135 kms west of Alice Springs 3-4 hour walk (approx 8 kms) http://www.nt.gov.au/westmacs/things/activity/11