2018 Larapinta itinerary, tips and budget

Below is a sample of my 2018 itinerary so the services and prices have likely changed.

I hope you are able to glean some useful information from this article on what to expect on the trip, useful hints and tips for planning and packing.

Trip itinerary

August 7th – Arrival

  • Flight arrival to Alice Springs Airport – taxi to YMCA
  • Arrange for Gas canisters, food to fill in back and 3 tubs for the trip
  • Pick up Food storage key from Visitors centre 

Note: Food drop tubs will be dropped off by the local transport company. We will be packing our food for the hike that night.

8th August – Hike begins

  • Taxi from YMCA to Telegraph Station (Section 1)
  • Alice wanderer transport company pick up the tubs and distribute to the 3 food storage locations in Standley Chasm Camp site, Ellery Creek Camp site and Ormiston Gorge Camp site

8th Day 1: Section 1 – Telegraph Station to Wallaby Gap | 13.9kms – 5 hours (easy)

9th Day 2: Section 1 – Wallaby Gap to Simpsons Gap, visit Alice Springs Desert Park | 10.8kms (easy)

10th Day 3: Section 2 – Simpsons Gap to Mulga camp | 13.6kms (easy)

11th Day 4: Section 2 – Mulga camp to Jay Creek | 10.8kms (easy) 

12th Day 5: Section 3 – Jay Creek to Standley Chasm | 13.6kms (Hard)

Food Drop @ Standley Chasm

  • Catered ‘pampered’ 4 course dinners
  • Alcohol free area
  • Supplemental provisions can be purchased at the kiosks

13th Day 6: Section 4 – Standley Chasm – Brinkley Buff | 10kms (Hard, best scenery)

  • Angkerle cultural experience – Half day tour with an indigenous guide (9am – 1pm)

14th Day 7: Section 4 – Brinkley Buff to Birthday Waterhole | 8kms (Hard, best scenery)

15th Day 8: Section 5 – Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge | 14kms (Hard, best scenery)

16th Day 9: Section 6 – Hugh Gorge to Rocky Gully | 15.3kms (easy)

17th Day 10: Section 6 – Rocky Gully to Ellery Creek | 15kms (easy)

Food Drop @ Ellery Creek

  • Supplemental provisions can be purchased at the kiosks

18th Day 11: Section 7 – Ellery Creek to Serpentine Gorge | 13.1kms (Hard)

19th Day 12: Section 8 – Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam| 13kms (best scenery)

20st Day 13: Section 9 – Serpentine Chalet to Waterfall gorge | 16kms (hard, best scenery)

Dry camping spot – Giles Lookout over Waterfall Gorge. To acesss going west it is about another 1km or so. Up a creek bed then quite a climb 300m up up up. Perfect view when we got ther with sun setting behind Sonder and the full moon rise in the east.

21nd Day 14: Section 9 – Waterfall gorge to Ormiston gorge | 15.5kms (hard, best scenery)
Food Drop @ Ormiston Gorge

  • Supplemental provisions can be purchased at the kiosks
  • Alcohol free area

22rd Day 15: Section 10 – Ormiston Gorge to Glen Helen/Finke River | 13.6kms (easy)

Glen Helen Private Camp site

  • Pub / Restaurant

23th Day 16: Section 11 – Glen Helen Junction to Rocky Bar Gap | 13.9kms (medium)
24th Day 17: Section 11 – Rocky Bar Gap to Redbank Gorge | 11.6kms (easy)
25th Day 18: Section 12– Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder (return) | 15kms (Hard, best Scenery)

Best at Sunset OR Sunrise (allow 2-3 hours to summit Mount Sonder from Redbank campsite/Car park)

  • Regardless of whether you get of sunset or sunrise, bring something warm to eat and/or drink.
  • Bring a strong headlamp (avoid slip, trips and falls)

August 25th

  • Redbank Gorge 11am Pick up AliceWanderer transport service, will pick up the 3 tubs on the way back to Alice Springs
  • Stay at Mercure Rest Alice Springs

August 26th

  • Taxi to the Alice Springs Airport
    • If you want to stay an extra night to explore Alice Springs a bit longer, consider driving out to Uluru, kings canyon

Paid campsites: Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen

Food drops locations: Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek, Ormiston Gorge

Accomodation resources

Standley Chasmhttp://www.standleychasm.com.au/

Camp Fees $18.50 Privately owned camp, cafes and facilities

Facilities: Kiosk (pay camp fees here), toilet, tent in carpark

Standley Chasm is in a private flora and fauna reserve owned by the Iwupataka Land Trust and is operated by Aboriginal family members that are direct descendants from Aboriginal people that have lived in this area for thousands of years. They operate the café as a profitable concern with no funding and as a training facility for their children. Angkerle Atwatye, a significant “woman’s’ dreaming” site

HALF-DAY Local Indigenous Tour of “the Jewel of the West MacDonnell Ranges NP”

From 9am (sharp) to 1pm $85 / Adult – to attend the following day

The Chasm itself is a Rock Wallaby Dreaming place that’s sacred to Arrernte women.

In traditional times, only women could come here to collect bush medicines and perform sacred rites. These stories and songs are still used by Arrernte women today – most of them cannot be revealed unless you’re a woman who’s been through the appropriate ceremonies.

Ellery Creek – http://traveloutbackaustralia.com/ellery-creek-big-hole.html/

Camping Fees $6.50

Facilities: toilet, shower, BBQ area, water (will need treating) and the waterhole feature

There is advice on several sites that recommended bringing water to this campsite. 

Feature: waterhole, advice that the water is very cold and there is a risk of hypothermia. 

Ellery is also a sacred site for the Central and Western Arrernte people. Its name in Western Arrernte is Udepata (oo-DEP-pa-tuh).

The main Dreaming story here is Honey Ant Dreaming, although there’s a Fish Dreaming story that travels through the waterhole as well.

There is a Dolomite Walk that leaves from the shed shelter in the carpark and is a 3km loop which takes about 1.5 hours.

If you look carefully on this walk, you’ll find lots of Pitchuri or Native Tobacco growing on the ridges. Ellery is a favourite place for Western Arrernte women to come and collect pitchuri (called ingwulpa in Western Arrernte).

Ormiston Gorge – http://traveloutbackaustralia.com/ormiston-gorge-west-macdonnell-ranges.html/

Camping fee $10

Facilities: Toilet, showers, Kiosk that operates 7 days and serves coffee, water* (will need treating) and the waterhole feature

*Drinking water is limited – you would be advised to bring your own, and of course, if you are taking water from the Gorge, treat prior to drinking.    

Feature – waterhole (Gorge) – the water is very cold and there is a risk of hypothermia. 

Ormiston is also a sacred site the Western Arrernte people. Its name in Western Arrernte is Kwartatuma.

The Dreaming story for the waterhole tells of the adventures of a group of Emus who came to the waterhole from the East, and the man who hunted them whilst they were there.

Something else that’s popular at Ormiston is birdwatching. An early morning stroll around the campground will reveal dozens of birds here. If you’re a keen birder or a twitcher, and a careful look at the right time of year will reveal some of Central Australia’s most sought-after birds.

Ormiston is renowned as a place to see Spinifex birds and Dusky Grass wrens.

Glen Helenhttp://www.glenhelen.com.au/camping/

Camp Fee: $12

Facilities: Enjoy hot showers, use of free BBQ, gas cooker and fridge freezer. 

Features: Swim in the swimming pool or the natural waterhole of the Glen Helen Gorge, relax in the homestead at the bar or take a night off from cooking and enjoy dinner in the Namatjira Gallery Restaurant. End the night with free live entertainment from talented Australian musicians.

The Glen Helen Story

The story of Glen Helen is one of hardship and determination dating back to the explorers of the late 19th century.

Following discovery, the property was established as a cattle station covering a much larger area between what is now Redbank Gorge and Ormiston Creek.

Pre/Post trip Accomodation

Prices from 2018, price will have inflated since then

7th/8th August: YHA Accommodation $130/4pp=$32.50

24th/25th August: Mercure Superior Room – $133 (2 x double beds) = $133/4pp = $32.25

Food drops

Alice Wanderer(08) 8952 2111info@alicewanderer.com.auwww.alicewanderer.com.au


Transport and food drops – http://larapintatransfers.com.au/transfer-costs-and-online-booking/

At this point, you will need to supply your own food. We will need to pack for 4.5 days of food and potentially water depending on the availability closer to the date. There is possibly some space to include spare clothing – pending confirmation on tub size. 

Alice Wanderer will drop off three tubs for our food drops. There will be 3 official campsites (including 1 Private campsite) where we will access our food drops at – Standley, Ellery Creek and Ormiston. Standley and Ormiston have kiosks with limited food stock, so you will be able to treat yourself there. It is still recommended for everyone to carry 4.5 days of food between drop sites, as it will be dependent on our arrival time to these sites whether those kiosks will be open.

Once we have completed the End to End trail, Alice Wanderer transport will pick us up and our food tubs on the way back to Alice Springs.

[Please refer to Paid Campsites for more information on kiosks]

Adding luxury canned food (fruit), Beer and wine in the food drop boxes. (Standley Chasm and Ormiston Kiosk as alcohol free zones)


The best time to hiking the Larapinta trail is April to October. Peak season around July. Essentially avoid hiking during the official fire season (November to March).

Temperatures range from -1 to 7 degrees at night and 19 -28 degrees during the day.
Even on warm days, it’s warm in the sun but quite cool in the shaded valley.

See detailed climate and temp average here.

Water carry, access, sources

You will be hiking in warm weather even for winter, and as such you will need to bring about 3-4 litres of water with you. I recommend investing in hydrolytes in either tablet or powder form (such as Sistema) and collapsible water bottles to lighten your pack weight!

At each section there will be either a water tank or reticulated bore water for you to refill your water. The quality of these waters is not guaranteed and it is highly recommended using some sort of filtering/purification method to avoid ingesting water contaminants.

I brought 2x 1 litre plastic water bottles, a water filter (brand Hydroblu), a 2 litre collapsible water bladder (brand CNOC), and a 3 litre Nalgene collapsible bottle.

Comment on water carry from a friend which helped a lot:

“For Standley Chasm to Four-five Junction, overnighting at Brinkley Bluff, in hot May weather, I carried 7 litres but only used 5.5 litres (I discarded 1.5 litres after breakfast on the second day). For Four five Junction to Hugh Gorge Camp, overnighting at Hugh Gorge Junction, in hot May weather, I used 5.0 litres (I carried three from Four-five Junction and collected two from the waterhole). For Hugh Gorge Camp to Ellery Creek, overnighting trackside along the way, in hot May weather, I carried and used 4.0 litres. For Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge, overnighting at Waterfall Gorge, in cool weather, I carried 7.0 litres and used 5.0 litres (I discarded 2.0 litres after breakfast on the second day).

On the walk, I usually drank between 1.5 and 2.0 litres during the day’s walk, although on one exceptionally hot May day I drank 2.5 litres. Then at camp I usually used between 2.0 and 3.0 litres. On hot days, I added a couple of hydration tablets to the first litre of drinking water for the day, then drank the rest plain.

Depends on the day and the person.
Just did Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge overnighting at Giles Lookout. I started with 7 litres. My 3 companion’s brought between 3 and 4 litres each.
Contributed 4 litres of my water to the group. Collectively we probably needed about 4 or 5 more. Minimalist meal and no breakfast as water was tight.
But overnighting at Giles Lookout was awesome.

I think that would be fine. Just make sure to drink lots when you are at the tanks, you can even do any cooking (i.e. eat dinner early) at the tank or soak your food there, brush your teeth there (i.e. do all your “water chores” there) so all you need is the water for the hike to the campsite and to drink in the morning. Just pay attention to the forecast and if you hike in the cool of the evening and get up early to get to the next tank before it heats up it’s easy https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/images/emoji.php/v9/f8a/3/16/1f642.png

We dry camped Brinkley Bluff, Razor Back & Hilltop Lookout.

Water holes:

No water in Fringe Lily Creek when I was there earlier this month. Lots of waterholes in Hugh Gorge, and the one at the top of the creek is permanent.

Or camp at Hugh Gorge Junction, which in my opinion is much nicer anyway.”

Hiking (distance and elevation)

Hiking distance will be between 10 to 18 km per day, with roughly 500m of ascent and descent included.

It is highly recommended that you bring new hiking shoes/trail runners for this trail as you will shred them!

Shoes or Boots? I carried the Salomon XA pro trainers. I opted against gore-tex (water proof) for the Larapinta trip because you wanted to maximise on breathability and quick drying. Gore tex tends to retain moisture for days.

Hiking Level: Moderate to Challenging.

Whilst the daily distances look easy, it’s the varying terrain that will mess with you. Larapinta trail is known for loose shale rock that will wear down your shoe treads. So its recommended to start with relatively fresh shoes.
The loose shale will make it hard to summit some sections, whilst other sections its the fixed shale jutted out of the ground that makes you focus on staying upright.

The sun’s UV is strong so definitely slip slop slap! I was sunburnt on the right side of my face (East to West) on the first day. Sun care recommendation: Wear a legionnaires caps (a baseball cap with a neck flap) or a sun hoodie and baseball cap. Protect your face, head and neck! I recommend and wore an Outdoor research Echo sun shirt plus a cap.

Drink heaps of water because the heat can impact your hiking! members of our group started at dawn, have a mid day siestas and then continued hiking when it was cooler in the afternoon.

Packing light weight (to Ultralight) weight: Aim to be 15 kg or less with consumables. A light pack with increase your walking pace, make it feel less hellish with your ascents as well!


Tent areas are first in best dressed.

It is recommended to have a mixture of wide tent stakes for sand and wire stakes to tie around rocks.

There are three-side shelters provided at each section of the trail. They provide USB charging with solar panels on the roof. outhouses, and water tanks.  

It’s good to know where the shelters are on your trailer and take advantage of them when the weather isn’t the greatest. However, I strongly recommend dry camping when the conditions are ripe! Camping on a mountain for the expansive vistas, or camping in a dry river bed for the peace and quiet.

Mobile Reception

Mobile reception is generally restricted to ridge tops and other high points. The trail is split between Telstra and Optus.

Telstra – From Alice Springs to mountain peaks before Ormiston Gorge

Optus – Alice Springs, Ormiston Gorge to mountain peaks between Glen Helen and Mount Sonder.

Trip budget

The budget I provided below was what was agreed upon between a group of 4 people. There are costs in the table that can be omitted like camp fees, tours, and prepaid for books if you wanted an budget friendly alternatives.

Opt for the free campsites available throughout the trail, eat only the food you pack, hike longer distances for the overall trip is shorter, hitch hike back to Alice Springs or to Redbank Gorge carpark.

Actual Cost Break down Per Person (budgeting for a group of 4)

ItemsIndividual costFull cost*
YHA Alice Springs*$32.8$131.0
Standley Chasm
Camp site ($5 powered facility + $20 camp fee pp)
Tourist bonus – Indigenous Dream time tour $85
Tourist bonus – Pampered food (4 course dinner) $55
Ellery Creek Camp Fee (cash in person)$6.5$26.0
Ormiston Gorge Camp Fee (cash in person)$10.0$40.0
Glen Helen Camp Fee (book online)$14.0$56.0
Transport Company
Storage Key $105 (refund is $50) ($55/4pp=$13.75)
Secure Luggage Storage $25
Food drop ($60*3=$180/4pp=$45)
Food Pick up (pickup $30*3 food drops=$90/4pp=$22.5)
Pick up from Redbank Gorge ($725/4pp=181.25)
Mercure resort* Alice Springs
Deluxe 2xQueen beds ($310/pp)
Cash for kiosk food and some resupplies$150.0
Total (estimated)$751.8$2,512.1


Larapinta trail permit did not exist as the time of this budget in 2018.

*Prices for the accommodations are an estimate.

*Full cost is relates to a 4 person budget breakdown.

Pack list

I have provided two links to my Larapinta pack list:

Pre-Larapinta – What I packed at the start of the trip.

Post-Larapinta – during the course of the hiking trip, I found that I was carrying a number of items that weren’t necessary for the hike. Due to fair weather, shelter provided at the trail, excess of equipment etc.


Book Recommendations

Majority of my recommendations come from Audiobooks. I have a deep love for narrative books whilst I’ve gone for a long hike or driving or even washing the dishes!

The odd times I do sit down to read a paperback I’m either in bed, on a bus/tram or by a river side which I canoed into stay for a few days (bushcraft).

Updated 14/07/2021

Hiking books

[Audible] Thru-hiking with break your heart by Carrot Quinn

[Audible] AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

[Audible] Wild by Cheryl Strayed

[Audible] Where’s the Next Shelter? by Gary Sizer

[Audible] Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman

[Audible] Thousand Miller by Melanie Radzicki McManus

[Audible] A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

[Audible] Tracks by Robyn Davidson

[Audible] Almost Somewhere by Suzanne Roberts

Books on History / Evolution

[Audible] Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

[Audible] Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

[Audible] The Ethical Butcher by Berlin Reed

[Audible] The Ethical Carnivore by Louise Gray

Australian Indigenous history

[Audible] Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

[Physical] Fire country by Victor Steffenson

[Physical] Australia Day by Stan Grant

Books on social evolution / Productivity

[Audible] Lost Connections by Johann Hari

[Audible] The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

[Audible] The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people by Stephen R. Covey

[Audible] Atomic Habits by James Clear

[Audible] You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

[Audible] The life-changing magic of tidying by Marie Kondo

[Audible] Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

[Audible] Waking Up by Sam Harris


[Audible] Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

[Audible] Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews

[Audible] The Kremlin’s Candidate by Jason Matthews

[Audible] The Partner by John Grisham

[Physical] The Guardian by John Grisham

[Audible] Mythos by Stephen Fry

[Audible] Hero’s by Stephen Fry

[Audible] The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs

[Audible] The Martian by Andy Weir

[Audible] Tales from Watership Down by Richard Adams

[Audible] Animal farm + 1984 by George Orwell (performed by Stephen Fry)

[Physical] hatchet by Gary Paulson

[Physical] The River by Gary Paulson

[Physical] Brian’s Winter by Gary Paulson

[Physical] Brian’s return by Gary Paulson

[Phsyical] Brian’s hunt by Gary Paulson

How to hike 100km? It starts with taking the first step.

Nothing has made me want to travel more than being housebound for most of this year due to the 19/20 Bushfires, COVID and a spinal injury. 

With border restrictions in place, I wanted an activity that gave the same sensation of travelling with the least amount of friction – Hiking.

ACT is the Bush Capital and the local government has tried to make sure that Canberra has as many reserves, sanctuaries, and national parks to stay deserving of the title. So why not take advantage of what you have in your backyard.

Mt Aggie, Namadgi.
(Shell (left), Caitlin (right)

There is not one complete list of combing trails from all the ACT Nature reserves, sanctuaries and national parks. Those spaces only contain information about their specific areas.

Instead, australianhiker.com.au compiled a lot of these trails including the authors, Tim, and Gill Savage hiking experiences into a field report format on their website. I figured that this would be a great reference to start from. 

Due to spinal injury from my volunteering efforts for the 19/20 bushfires, I am physically restricted to 5km distance per day for a few months and will expand the distances over the next year. The Australian hiker website has a lot of trails under 5km. I was able to copy the ACT trails a list from their website and organise the data by distance in an excel spreadsheet.What I found was that they had over 40 trails under 5km. 

Mt Painter

However, considering that parts of Namadgi are still closed due to fire damage, how many trails are open to the public? There are 37 trails under 5 km now open. That is when I realised that this would be an interesting challenge to complete.

Starting from the 1st of August, I planned to complete 2 to 3 trails (5km most) per weekend. Hiking all 37 trails across the next 14 weeks until 31st of October. Note: that most, if not, all these trails are well-marked and many within the suburbs of Canberra. By the end of August, we will have completed about 13 trails which are roughly 40km. 

Mt Aggie

When planning trails on the weekend there a few things to consider:

  1. Check the weather forecast in the areas you might be interested in to ensure the conditions are safe. 
  2. It is always good to have a plan B option for when there are road closures or timing restrictions. 
  3. Notify multiple people not hiking with us of our intended hiking place and rough return time. 
  4. For areas where there is dodgy reception, I will take my Garmin Inreach which is a subscription-based satellite texting GPS.

What do you hope to gain in the end? 

Fitness and improved health. A chance to visit different places within the ACT border and explore different micro climates. Once I’ve completed this challenge I will add the details on my website so I can offer more notes and maps of the trails that weren’t included or have changed since being posted on ‘Australian hiker’ website. 

Can others do this? 

Anyone can take on this challenge or even use the spreadsheet that I will include in this article as a reference when exploring Canberra.

You can follow for my under 5km challenge on Instagram.

Larapinta 2018

Larapinta, Alice Springs 7th – 26th of August [Completed]

What is Larapinta?

Trip type: Bushwalking
Difficulty: Medium
Start date: Tuesday, 7 August 2018 – 6:00am Sunday, 26 August 2018 – 8:00pm
Season: Winter
Months: June to August
Sights: Arid mountains, gorges, dry creek beds, waterholes
Hazards: Dehydration, Snakes, Hyperthermia, Hypothermia
Activity Leader: Jay Sims
Group: 10 female maximum

The Larapinta trail hike takes 18 days, plus another 2 days for arrival – the day before, and departure the day after (in total 20 days).
The group is a female empowerment group to help women appreciate the great outdoors with other like minded sisters.

Trip Proposal
She Devil Trekkers Larapinta hike 2018
ANUMC – Larapinta hike 2018

2018 ANUMC Larapinta Trip Summary

Nothing prepares you for the beautiful experience of the MacDonald Ranges, the appreciation of arid nature, and the intense connection you have with it.

I organised the trip for women, those that identify as female, and non-binary folk, under the banner of She Devil Trekkers (see https://shedeviltrekkers.wordpress.com/). The group promotes female empowerment and diversity.


The planning of the trip began last year in a discussion of the next She Devil Trekkers trip after completing the Overland track in Tasmania 2017, a 90km hike through the winter period thick with snow, storms, and crowded huts. I was the only She Devil from that experience who would continue onto the next adventure. There were four people in the new group including myself.


Yushu applied through ANUMC trip. Yushu and I had hiked before on a snow shoe trip and even on two of my first lead trips in Namadgi National Park.

Next were Trish and Simone, mothers based in Melbourne who had applied through my trip promotion on the She Devil Trekker’s Facebook page. We did not meet until Melbourne airport when we realised we were on the same plane to Alice, briefly catching up like old friends over coffee together before flying out.

The Larapinta Trail is an 18-day extended walking track in the Northern Territory, Australia. Its total length covers 200km – 300km+ from east to west with the eastern end at Alice Springs and the western end at Mount Sonder, one of the territory’s highest mountains. It follows the West MacDonnell Ranges, sometimes along the ridge line, other times on the plain below, in the West MacDonnell National Park.

Image from https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Larapinta_Trail#/media/File:West_Macdonnell_National_Park_0416.svg

The trip will test a hiker’s skills on multiple fronts:

  • It is medium to challenging difficulty, where the hikers must carry their shelter, sleep and cook systems, with 4-5 days’ worth of food which can weigh between 15 to 20kg.
  • Rock scrambling climbs through the mountain ranges which are not only steep, but as many guides and trip reports advise, the shale rocks wear down hiking shoes very quickly. Newly worn-in shoes are recommended for this trip.
  • The arid climate additionally presents multiple challenges including the requirement to manage water (up to 5 litres), the food between three scheduled food drops along the route to replenish supplies, and to conserve participants energy based on the time of day.

No matter how much you research and try to prepare you can only do so much without adding to your pack weight with unnecessary equipment. I was the lead hiker and organiser for the She Devil Trekkers Larapinta Trail 2018, so I needed to make sure that I carried a PLB, GPS, physical maps, first aid kit, and that everyone else carried the necessary items to be fully self-sufficient. Sometimes, things don’t go the way you planned, and you just have to accept and adapt, more on this later.

My equipment laid out pre-trip

Day one set the pace with seeing a dingo in the first 10km hunting a euro (cousin to a kangaroo/wallaby). A week later, as we camped on a river bank. We encountered a black bearded dragon that emerged out of the sand in front of us while we were having dinner. Like typical tourist we surrounded it in seconds to taking pictures and recording its movement in the wild. Later, we encountered wild bulls that had escaped from the many cattle farms in the area. There are even rumours of brumbies this far north, we found a horse skull near one of the water gorges.

We spent each night either cowboy camping (without tents) watching shooting stars under the moonlight or enjoying the luxury of the three walled shelters. We had breakfast at sunrise, and dinner at sunset. We would grow stronger and faster carrying our homes for 18 days on our backs. Ascending and descending hills with the best views of the red desert. You grow to appreciate the minimalist life only using essentials but when the opportunity arises you do really enjoy a properly cooked meal (or five) after surviving on dehydrated (cold soaked kangaroo Bolognese) meals day in and day out on the trail.

Mt Giles lookout

It took us 10 days to build up callouses around our feet, for our bodies to adjust, and to strengthen from hiking with pack weight. Our bodies were not used to crossing such distances, especially in the weather we were not acclimatised too. Our hiking distances were between 18 – 25km per day, in dry heat through rocky ascents, dusty red desert, rocking hopping dry rivers or rock climbing/scrambling with weight of our packs. At the beginning we hiked as a group, later paired up and hiked at our natural paces.

We were humbled by beautiful vistas on mountain ranges, marveled at the water gorges, occasionally taking an ice-cold dip in some. We took photos of lizards, birds, and vibrantly coloured flowers that were a stark contrast to the red, sandy desert and sparse woodland environment.

Camp at summit of Mt Giles lookout, Mt Giles in the background

Views from Brinkley Bluff [High Route]
The best bonds you form are those you form during the struggles together. You become accustomed to being isolated in the wild. We knew when we were alone and when we weren’t. The hikers we met shared the same sentiments and appreciation of the land. For those 18 days our lives comprised of hike, eat, eat, eat, drink, sleep, and repeat. It was a simple life. More time to think, to appreciate your surroundings and to sit down and get to know your hiking pals.


There were times where things still went awry, even after all my planning. My booking for Standley Chasm for a cultural tour for the group fell through. Turns out their online booking system doesn’t work and even though I booked and paid I still had to pay again in cash. The first lesson learnt was to bring receipts for everything, because I couldn’t just go online to prove my purchase as the Wi-Fi they had specifically doesn’t work for iPhones. We were all iPhone users…

The second time things went awry was on the last day, when the transport company we were expecting to pick us up never arrived. Thankfully my Garmin InReach GPS had texting capabilities and I was able to get my partner, Eddy, to follow up with the transport company. Turns out they had the dates wrong (pick up the following day would have caused issue with our flights home), here we were at the end of the trail expecting an 11am pick up. Eddy was able to save the day by getting the company to arrange a later pick-up on the same day! Lesson two: check you have the correct dates and double check the transport company has those dates plus a copy of the itinerary from the company to make sure that it listed the with right dates.

Trish having s siesta and Simone being pensive

After the trip was done and dusted, would I do it again? Yes, I would change very little of the trip, as for the most part it went well. I was in good company, there wasn’t a day where I wasn’t laughing with the women I was hiking with. You had to laugh at the difficult parts and reminisce about the highlights.

The experience from this trip has me eager to plan another longer distance trip. What do I have planned in the future? Bikepacking, the Hunt 1000 (ACT to VIC in 11 days through Alpine ranges) and 6 weeks on the Bibbulmun track (1000km hiking) in Western Australia.

You can see the rest of the trip photos on Instagram, just follow: #OAUSLarapinta2018

Written by Jay Sims

Edited by Alex Hay aehay@hotmail.com

Larapinta Day 18 (LAST DAY)

Day 18 Red Bank Gorge to Mt. Sonder (Return)

We got up at 2:30am and leaving camp at 2:45am, the hike up to Mt. Sonder to watch the sunrise as part of our final goodbye to the beautiful trail we spent our 18 days living simply on. Arriving at the peak by 5:20am the wind was so cold that the layers we had on were not enough. Our fingers and toes were in pain as the cold wind bit through the material of our clothes. We were waiting for an hour and a half for the sunrise. As the rays of the sun began to peek from the horizon, many day tour group hikers started pouring through. They crowded around each other for warmth, making a lot of noise on top of a mountain waiting for the sunrise.  By 7am the sun had mostly risen, we had taken enough selfies. We promptly left the noise of day tourists behind us walking down and watching the shadow of Mt. Sonder retreat from view.

Arriving back to camp at 9am, we packed all of our things and got ready for the car, we excitedly discussed what we would do once the bus picked us up. We could get food from Ormiston, and snacks from Standley as we retrieved our food drops. By that time, the bus was overdue and by thirty minutes. We realized there was a chance the bus might not come.

After a worried GPS text sent to Eddy, he checked and confirmed that the transport company thought they weren’t picking us up until tomorrow!

Eddy was able to get them to arrange transport for pick up at 2:30pm that day instead, as well as confirmed the hotel booking was on the correct date. Thankfully it was! I was greatful to have my InReach Explorer with the ability to send texts as there was no reception to contact the transport company.

The bus finally rolled in and we took full advantage of the stops to retrieve our tubs to also pick up our desired food. I, of course, went overboard with pie, coke, banana, and ice cream from Ormiston, then more ice cream from Standley Chasm.

Organising lessons for next time:

  • Print bookings receipts along with the itinerary for the trip
  • Keep receipts during the trip.

Written by Jay Sims

Edited by Alex Hay aehay@hotmail.com

Larapinta Day 17

Day 17 Rock Bar Gap to Red Bank Gorge

The hike to Red Bank Gorge was uneventful in terms of the view, but a good time to chat with Simone at a cruisy pace (4.28km/h).

We arrived at Red Bank Gorge by 11am! qw rested, had lunch, and then headed over to the gorge which was stunning with turquoise water, lots of bird life. It was a peaceful couple of hours there with a little boulder climb for me and Yushu.

I did an interview on my gopro with the gorge as my backdrop before heading back to camp.

As we were setting up our tents for our final cowboy camps, we listen to excited conversations from hikers who were about to start their endeavours from Mt Sonder. Good luck to them, I felt jealous that they were about to start their amazing journey as we finished ours.

Red Bank Gorge

  • Water tank x 1
  • Outdoor toilet 50m away towards the car park
  • No shelter

Written by Jay Sims

Edited by Alex Hay aehay@hotmail.com

Larapinta Day 16

Day 16 Glen Helen – Rocky Bar Gap

Woke up at 7am to pack up and have breakfast at Glen Helen by 8am. We left at 9am to head towards Rocky Bar Gap. Missing the entrance, we had to backtrack about 30 m.

Feeling slightly lethargic and hungover from the night previous, I slogged through the hike the slowest of the group. We had lunch at Hill Top to see the intimidating views of Mt. Sonder starting to tower over the trail on our way to Red Bank Gorge.

Starting to become more sombre as the trip nears the end. I missed being in the outdoors with a group of people who share the same appreciation fr so long. Though we didn’t know each other at the start; coming to the end I wouldn’t change the people and the experiences we shared on this trip for a lifetime.

Rocky Bar Gap Campsite

  • Water tanks
  • Outdoor toilet
  • Dirty camp areas boundaries lined with stone


Written by Jay Sims

Edited by Alex Hay aehay@hotmail.com

Larapinta Day 15

Day 15 – Ormiston to Glen Helen

  • Left 7:45am, arrived 11am

We missed the breakfast period and were too early for the lunch period from 11:30am to 2:30pm, so we opted for a meat pie, fruit salad, orange popper juice, and a crunchie. On the bright side, we still had Optus reception!

Yushu arrived at 11:30am, and Trish and Simone 11:50am. Trish was not in a good mental state, the last unexpected 4km to Glen Helen wore her down mentally and physically in the heat (29 degrees). She has booked herself into a proper room to have time to herself away from the heat. There was concern whether she would continue or not tomorrow.

We had a large lunch, a couple of beers and too many potato chips. I think the fried food and alcohol got to me, so I spent the rest of the morning in the shade trying to nap off my bloated and tipsy state.


I sat by the Finke River, pant legs folded up to my knees. The only sound was the soft breezes rustling the dry grass reeds across the bank. The water was cool enough to walk through in the shallows. If you’re still enough, you start noticing the bird life that surrounds this area.

After I walked back to the camp, the girls confirmed that the showers here were hot! Taking my time, I hopped in and, low and behold, actual warmth! The luxury of a warm shower was bliss.

Back at camp, i interviewed Yushu and then headed to the restaurant for a couple of wines and a cheese and cracker nibble.

I met a mother and daughter, from Ormiston (we met them as they were hiking towards Mt Giles).  Unfortunately, Sunday, the daughter, got a sweat rash infection in her underarm that was the size of half a golf ball. They returned the following day and stayed at Ormiston before staying another night in Glen Helen. 9 days from Red Bank Gorge to Ellery, cut short by 1.5 days.


Glen Helen Campsite

  • Powered Campsite
    • 4 dual plugin ports
    • 4 showers (though the ones around the back of the caravan campsite had HOT water)
  • Flushing Toilets
  • Bar
  • Restaurant that serves hot potato chips!
  • Decently stocked fridge for hiking snacks, icecream and chocolate
  • Outdoor seat facing a sandy river beach, where people can go for a swim

Written by Jay Sims

Edited by Alex Hay aehay@hotmail.com

Larapinta Day 14

Day 14, Ormiston Zero day

Woke up at 5:30am.

I laid in bed watching others pack for their next section of hiking. My group did not get up until 7:30am! it was justified rest day to enjoy ourselves and explore this hiker’s heaven.

Before breakfast (kiosk opened at 10am), hiked the Ghost Gum trail, a lookout over the gorge with an amazing view of the main waterhole, turquoise in the morning sunlight below with white sand. The hike looped down through the gorge back to the kiosk. The 1.5km trail probably took us about 2 hours, as the boulders between the smaller waterhole and the main waterhole was an obstacle in itself to cross.

We had a big breakfast of course. Cheese and bacon turnovers, plus two cokes, an apple and an orange (hiker hunger for Jay).

After breakfast, we hiked Pound Gap Walk, to walk all the excess amount of food while maintaining fitness. Seeing the adjacent views from what we had at the Mt Giles Lookout. The hike to the highest point was uneventful but the views were worth it while enjoying a green apple. We completed that hike without packs in 2 hours (8km averaging 4km/h). Afterwards, we celebrated with a quick dip in the main waterhole in the gorge in our bra and undies. Though the water was nice in the shallows, the further into the centre you swam the cooler the water temperature was. Not as cold as Ellery Creek though.

We saw a Perentys lizard sunbaking in the shallows of the main waterhole.

For the rest of the time we were enjoyed our lunch meals with a dash of iced coffee/chocolate, coke, chips and fresh fruits.

Ormiston Campsite (100m from campsite look for Larapinta sign!)

  • The Kiosk carries fruits, drinks, ice cream, iced beverages (chocolate and coffee), smoothies, variety of meals (all day breakfast and lunch), packet chips (chicken, salt and vinegar, twisties), chocolates, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush/paste, deodorant, conditioner (no shampoo…) and band aids
  • The outdoor seating area of the kiosk has two power points to charge from, plus another two on the kiosk external wall with the two lamps
  • Caravan park section
  • Coach campsite section (just before hikers’ campsite)

Larapinta campsite

  • Two outdoor toilets
  • Three raised platforms (two in the tour site and one in the Larapinta campsite
  • Multiple natural water holes at the gorge, the main one gets the most sunlight (closest to the kiosk)
  • Multiple walks around the area (Ghost Gum walk and Pound walk being the most popular)

Written by Jay Sims

Edited by Alex Hay aehay@hotmail.com