Trekking with fundraising groups is such a wholesome experience, and meeting like-minded people is a must when tackling a challenging trail. Read on to find out more about our Travel and Creative Manager Tash’s experience with Oxfam and Soulful Concepts on the Larapinta Trail.
Day 1: Flying into Alice Springs is a glorious experience – especially if you score a window seat! Red desert as far as the eye can see and an expanse of land that looks like it should belong in a different world. Arriving at the airport with new COVID requirements takes a temporary shine off the excitement but 20 minutes later you are smelling that outback air and the buzz of adventure is kindling inside your soul. We meet the first of the trekkers at the transfer desk operated by Emu Run and hop in a shuttle that will take us to our hotel where we meet our local guides for the first time and get briefed on what to expect the next day.
Day 2: 6am and we are a bleary eyed bunch gathered at reception eating our boxed breakfast and awaiting our outback bus to take us to the first section of the walk that starts at the Telegraph station in Alice Springs. Backpacks are being adjusted, snacks are being hidden in jacket pockets and water bottles are being filled. Once our first group photo is taken we wave civilization goodbye and fall into step behind our guide. Conversation is in full swing as we make our way through rugged landscape on our way to Wallaby Gap – spectacular views from euro ridge reward our efforts as we stop for a hot cup of tea and coffee before walking on to our finishing point where we are greeted with a scrumptious fresh lunch before making our way to our campsite for the first time!
Camp is much more than we expected, twin-share canvas tents are scattered between the bushes and a large common area with a magnificent campfire greet us as we drive in. Due to the small number of trekkers we all got a tent to ourselves – score!- however they are roomy enough for 2 people to fit very comfortably. We settle in and then meet back at the campfire for snacks, a hot drink and dinner prep! By 8 PM we are all shattered and we know that it will be a 4:30 AM start so we finish star-gazing and snuggle into our tents ( or swags to those who chose them) and are asleep within minutes.
Day 3: 4:30am sharp we are woken by some lovely music, we get dressed, head to the fire where have breakfast, 2 cups of coffee and then its day-pack packing and back onto the bus to the next location, typically called the “Ridge Walk’ we expect extreme sun, high temperatures and vast consumption of water. 5 litres is what is packed and we exit camp with the sun still in bed. As it rises while we travel to Serpentine Chalet Dam we notice no blue sky, this, according to Jack, is a good thing. As we begin our trek we thank the weather gods that we are given a reprieve from the sun, easy walking conditions allow us to make good time and easy conversations take us all the way to the top of the ridge where we are rewarded with a scrumptious lunch of pesto pasta! Yum! An easy walk takes us along the ridgeline where views in both directions are spectacular, photos are taken in abundance and even a small amount of reception allows us to make contact with the rest of the world for the first time in days. A steep descent follows the ridge walk and by the time we reach the bottom we are exclaiming again how each day the landscape is more beautiful than before. We head back to camp with the idea of a good sleep as tomorrow is a ‘no trek’ day – conversations about how nice it would be to have a bottle of wine with dinner tonight take up the rest of the evening and a funny game of spoons brings us to the end of another fantastic day.
Day 4: It is getting easier to wake-up in the dark now, our morning routine complete, we head to the next stage of the walk. We start at Ormiston Gorge where the sun rises over the tall red rock formations, camera’s are already out and we all fall into step behind one another. We are greeted by flocks of budgies as we make our ascent and layers of clothing are getting tucked away as the sun beams overhead. We settle among the wild flowers for our tea and biscuit stop and discuss how today’s walk is by far the prettiest one we have done so far. We return back to camp in the afternoon and relax by the fire until we are sent to bed in the early evening in preparation for tomorrow’s early departure – and by early we mean 1 AM! Goodnight all!
Day 5: Is a hard wake-up. We gather our head torches, pack our bags and blurrily make our way to breakfast. Yawns and tired eyes are gathered around the campfire while copious amounts of coffee are drunk in preparation -Mt Sonder ascent is today! A few fall asleep while we travel to the starting point, a quick toilet stop and we begin to walk in the pitch black, with only our head torches to light the way. Conversations are sparse as we make our way through the ascent. We make great time and as we start to wake up we are all exchanging ideas of what to expect at the top. Small circles of light in the distance show we are almost at the top, another group has beaten us but the sun is still very much asleep. We find a spot at the top and start to brew some tea while we wait. It is bitterly cold and extremely windy but the orange sky starts to appear and the cold is forgotten. The sky grows lighter as the sun makes its appearance and as we all clutch a cup a-soup we exchange looks of wonder while we take it all in. After 2 hours when the sun has risen and our phones are full of photos we make our way back down separately. Some stay for more pictures while some are already half-way down. The descent is quicker and we marvel at the sheer drops next to the path that we were unaware of on the way up! Claps and cheering greet each member of the team as they pass the finishing post and once all the team have returned we head back to camp for a scrumptious meal of bacon and eggs!
Day 6: Our last day in the outback! We were told that the Ormiston pound walk was left till last for a reason and boy were they right. Wild flowers cover the ground for as far as they eye can see, purple, pink, white, yellow,blue – the colours are spectacular. Each step brings us to another patch more beautiful than the other and our cameras are working over time to try and capture it all. Once we reach ormiston gorge and the main visitor area it’s time for a last group photo before we make our way back to civilization that is Alice Springs and a well deserved hot shower! Once we arrive back at the Hilton we can’t resist jumping into the heated pool and what bliss it was! An hour later when we are dust free and looking like brand new people we all head to our venue for our farewell dinner. We eat and drink the night away while talking about our amazing trip and after a bit of dancing we head back to the hotel for our final night.
Day 7: Today we bid farewell to the incredible Australian Outback. Departure transfers can be booked at Emu run on arrival or at hotel reception, you just need to give them your flight details and they will arrange to collect you from the hotel on your final day.
A truly amazing experience, stepping out of regular life to take on this challenge and appreciate the beauty of our outback. A life-changing trek with new friends to recharge the soul while travelling with purpose for OXFAM – Natasha Leuenberger, Soulful Concepts Travel Manager 2021.