Having completed the Larapinta Trail, I thought I would write about my opinion of it, and add something about the logistics of organising the hike. Read my day-by-day account of the trail here.
Wow! What a hike! The Larapinta Trail can’t be faulted in any way and is one of my favourite ever hikes. Everything about the trail is well organised, from the website, trail notes and really amazing maps (you buy the maps and trail notes as a package), to the campsites and water tanks. The trail is well waymarked, so it’s very difficult to get lost.
The Larapinta Trail is an amazing 223km hiking route in the West MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia, which took us 17 days to complete.
The trail takes hikers through remote areas without a soul around, and then emerges into tourist-filled gorges. I actually liked this combination!
Hikers can walk the trail in either direction, so we opted to start from Redbank gorge (which is the official finish-point of the trail) and walk to Mparntwe (Alice Springs), therefore finishing in the city.
We hiked the Larapinta Trail in the first half of October 2017. It’s taken me a while to type my notes up!
This post is a day-by-day account of the walk, including the amount of water we carried (because I know that this was my main concern before I hiked) and the time it took us (without breaks). We pretty much followed the suggested itinerary and usually camped in the locations that the official trail notes suggested.
A follow-up post will cover the logistics – how we did the food-drops etc – as well as reflections of the trail, and tips for others.
Uluru: an iconic, magical, sacred landscape. A loud American tour guide shuffles slowly past us with a group of foreigners, spouting nonsense about local customs. Young people take selfies. Bus loads of people seem to arrive by the minute.
We pass the American tour guide and find ourselves alone in silent contemplative bliss. Suddenly, the tour guide appears round the corner with his booming voice, oblivious to the fact that he is standing next to a sign urging visitors to “sit and reflect” in this “quiet place of respect.”
“If you were a woman I’d give you a lift,” a sleazy truck driver says to Chris. It’s late afternoon in Charters Towers in eastern Australia. We’re excited and nervous as we stick our thumbs out and wait for our first car to take us into Australia’s Outback. A billboard poster behind us advertises how to make ‘fuller cattle’.
The sky turns pink as the sun goes down. Miners drive past us on their way to one of Australia’s many mines. Road trains (giant four-carriage trucks) speed past us, full of cows who have been transported through the 40°C heat.
It’s immediately obvious that the Outback is going to be frustrating for two vegan activists who have just come from protests on the east coast against coal mining.
** I’d like to acknowledge the First Nations peoples of Australia, their elders and their ancestors: custodians of the land that I have been travelling through.**
Imagine a place where dolphins play amongst surfers in the waves. A place where parrots squawk above you and pelicans sit on shores. A place where kangaroos hop into gardens for their breakfast of grass. A place where koalas sleep in eucalyptus trees. A place with thousands of kilometres of perfect beaches. This is Australia’s east coast.
** I would like to acknowledge the First Nations peoples of Australia, their elders and their ancestors, custodians of the land that I have been travelling through.
Throughout my blog posts about Australia, I will refer to the original people of this land as ‘First Nations people’, ‘Aboriginal Australians’ or ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’. I asked a few people which term they prefer, and these were the preferences. The term ‘Indigenous’ was not liked. First Nations Australians often refer to themselves as ‘the mob’, too, and this term is often used by their friends and allies who are of European heritage.**
As a child of the 80s, I was in love with Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. I spent my dinner times transfixed by Neighbours and Home & Away and I cried my eyes out watching Charlene and Scott’s wedding. An impression of Australia was implanted into my brain: a vision of a blonde-haired, tanned, surf-loving nation.
At school in England, we learnt how the ‘hero’ Captain Cook sailed around the world and ‘discovered’ Australia. There was no mention of the most ancient continuous civilisation on Earth who had lived on the land for 65,000 years before the British came. And there was never any criticism of the ‘Great’ British Empire.
I didn’t think much more about Australia as I grew older. Why would I want to travel to a country that was just like England, only hotter?
But then I discovered the words of Australian journalist John Pilger, and the beautiful songs of Xavier Rudd. Between John’s articles and Xavier’s music, I gained a new understanding of Australia – a country with one of the bloodiest, falsely-told colonial histories of all time. A history where white Europeans committed genocide on a massive scale. A history of racism, land theft, concentration camps and apartheid. An attempt to completely wipe out the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.
I’m always a little bit nervous when hitchhiking in a new country, especially where there’s a language barrier. But Japan is great to hitchhike! People know the concept (pronouncing it ‘hitch hike’, emphasising the space between the two syallables). We also saw some Japanese hitchhikers.
To hitchhike, you do the same as you would in western Europe, and stand with your thumb out. Sometimes we used a sign, sometimes we didn’t.
Waiting times were similar to in Europe, ranging from three minutes to three hours.
Hitchhiking at the exit of a rest area. We have a sign which may or may not say ‘west’!
The mountainous island of Yakushima is said to be 90% covered with forest. 90%! Because of this, Chris and I board the oldest, rustiest and cheapest ship in Japan’s waters and sail to this fairytale place.
Yakushima has actually been extensively logged and replanted. However, some old-growth forest still remains, and two-thousand year old yakusugi trees live on. They silently watch Japanese walkers who come for a two day holiday: a brief break from their sixty-hour working weeks.
“Remain calm and ready your bear spray,” I read on the Bear Smart website as we go up up up in a cable car.
“BEAR SPRAY? What bear spray?” I moan at Chris. “No-one told us to carry bear spray! Do they sell it in the tourist information shop down there? WE NEED BEAR SPRAY!”
But it’s too late. The cable car is already taking us up through thick clouds, leading us to the trailhead of our hike in Daisetsuzan national park. My phone loses signal as I frantically search online for what to do if you don’t have bear spray.
Japan is a hiker’s paradise, and the Dewa Sanzan (the three mountains of Dewa) is a pilgrimage route of the aesthetic Shugendo religion. Shugendo pilgrims and Japanese hikers can walk all three mountains – Haguro San, Gas San and Yudono San – although many non-religious hikers choose to walk just one or two of the mountains. Each mountain has a Shugendo shrine perched on the top.
The first mountain of the pilgrimage, Haguro San, is an easy walk, involving hundreds of beautiful stone steps.
Walking the hundreds of steps between Japanese cedar trees up Haguro San
Shrines at the bottom of Haguro San. These shrines weirdly worship the deities of mining, nation-building, fisheries, and national prosperity, to name a few. To me and Chris, this is contradictory to the little we have learned about Shugendo