Saturday, August 15, 2009

Central Australia Adventures

Returned home on Thursday after a sensational three weeks in Central Australia. The first two weeks were spent trekking the 230 kilometre Larapinta Trail along the West McDonnell Ranges. The trek starts at the Old Telegraph Station just outside Alice Springs and ends on the South Summit of Mt Sonder. In between is some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen in this country - and some of the hardest terrain. I couldn't complete all the sections because of severe bruising to one of my feet. It still hurts!
Some of the highlights: Standing atop Euro Ridge on Day 1 - fantastic views; the hike into Standley Chasm - although I could give the 'pole' a miss; Brinkley Bluff on Day 4 when one of the team had a stroke and had to be helicoptered off the ridge. The rest of us had to build a helipad ie clear away rocks, spinifex and shrubs so the chopper could land. Very gusty winds made landing tricky. Then, after a 3-hour wait for the rescue, we all had a 3-4 hour hike to rendezvous with the rest of our crew who had no idea what had been happening. The good news is that Nick is making a full recovery. Digging the Canter - 12-seater 4WD vehicle - out of the Finke River where it was bogged up to its differential in sand. Spotting wedge-tailed eagles, whistling kites, zebra finches and Port Lincoln parrots. Watching a dingo fishing at Ormiston Gorge. Falling asleep in a swag under a sky full of stars and a full moon.
Reaching the summit of Mt Sonder in time to see the sun rise. Listening to dingoes howling around our camp. Having my first shower in fourteen days back in Alice Springs.
Smithy and I stayed on in Alice after everyone else flew home to join a 3-day camping trip to Watarrka (King's Canyon), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru (Ayers Rock). So, with a busload of twenty-something backpackers, we had a fantastic, albeit very dusty, three days exploring these three magnificent icons of the outback. I loved every minute of it but was very happy to get back to Alice Springs and away from the dust. It ain't called the Red Centre for nothing! The dust gets into everything. I don't think my hiking boots will ever return to their original colour!
Before I went, I had no idea just how spectacular Central Australia is. I thought it would be pretty flat and barren for miles around, but it's not. Ranges of mountains stretch to the horizon and the land is covered in mulga, spinifex, ghost gums, wattles and a myriad of flowering shrubs. I'd like to go back some day and re-visit some of the places we saw on our trek.