Listen up friends because I FINALLY did it. I finally completed my first overnight hike while carrying all my belongings on my back. It was hard. It was fun. It was long. But I did it.
Earlier this year, the NT Parks departments announced that people now needed to book their places on the Larapinta Trail in advance, and while a lot of people I know grumbled about this, it actually worked out for me. It’s what finally prompted me to book two places on the trail for an overnight hike one sunny Saturday morning while I was eating brunch at a cafe questioning my life decisions. I decided to do sections two (Simpson’s Gap to Jay Creek) and three (Jay Creek to Stanley Chasm) because both of these sections are relatively close to town so getting a lift there and back was easier to arrange.
I will confess that I packed (and re-packed) my bag a full week in advance, and every afternoon when I’d get home for work I’d tweak or add to it. Just a little bit. I actually don’t own my own hiking pack so I ended up borrowing one from friend of the blog H who has been hiking and camping with me many times before. And because I know she reads my blog on occasion, I’ll just take the time here to say a big thank you to her for doing so.
I tried to keep my packing list to the minimum since every extra item adds further weight.
Time: 8.5 hours
Bag Weight: No idea, I was too scared to find out
Weather: Fucking freezing!
K and I started on the trail at 8:12am feeling excited for the adventure ahead. K is quite an experienced backpacker with a laid back outlook on life. I specifically asked her to hike with me because I figured these two qualities would balance out my inexperience and need to over think everything.
This section of the hike is mostly flat, long and quite exposed. To be perfectly honest, it is these qualities that make it not the prettiest section of this trail. Jay Creek Camp makes up for it, but still… Anyway, I spent a large proportion of the day concerned that the clouds over us were looking just a bit too menacing for my liking, especially since I hadn’t brought any rain gear with me. It turns us we were fine, and the clouds cover probably made the long hike more bearable.
We stopped for second breakfast at Bond Gap which amazingly still had plenty of water, and resisted the urge to add extra layers as we sat and ate since we knew we’d warm up once we started walking again. We set off once again headed for Mulga Camp where we planned to eat lunch. By the time lunch rolled around I was feeling pretty good about myself and our time. For some reason, I thought we were around three-quarters of the way through our hike at this point. You see, I mistakenly thought this section of the Larapinta Trail was only 23km…not almost 27km. This was a nasty realization when we finally hit the 23km marker and there was no camp in sight!
It was around about this time that I really started to notice that my left knee and both of my hip flexsors were starting to hurt. I figured that it was just a bit of over exertion and pulled out my poles for the last 5km or so. In case you weren’t aware, I damaged My left ACL in an accident in Egypt. You can read about that real fun experience here.
When we finally arrived at camp we were both surprised to see so many other people there since we’d seen not a soul on the trail on the way in. We set up our tents, socialised with some of the other hikers and then started getting ready for dinner. I’d heard a few rumours that the mice were quite prolific following the rain over the summer, but I didn’t expect one to literally crawl up on the table between K and I and steal one of our tea bags! The audacity!
Following the mouse excitement I tried my first dehydrated dinner in a bag (it was gross) and then climbed in to my sleeping bag hoping for a good night sleep.
Time: 6.5 hours
Weather: clear, sunny skies
Unfortunately I didn’t sleep too well that night, probably because my fear of rain hadnt fully gone away (with good reason since it trained lightly over night) and because my knee was feeling quite stiff and sore. In true Emma fashion, I took a couple of panadols and told myself it would be fine.
This section of the trail is quite hard with lots of ascents, descents, bouldering and river walking. Throw in my sore knee and we were in for a long, slow day. One advantage of this is that this part of the trail is so pretty since there are lots of gullies, ferns and spectacular views.
Even though we’d set off by 8, K and I were one of the last groups to leave the camp site and hit the trail. We made our way up Jay Creek to Tangentyere Junction for our morning snack. It was here that I discovered that while I could walk on flat surfaces and make ascents easily enough, going down hill was a painful problem requiring my hiking poles.
We continued on until we reached a cross-road. This part of the trail is broken into two sections: the high route and the low route. The high route apparently has amazing views, but given the state of my leg, we opted for the low route, and to this day I am not 100% sure this was the best decision given the fact that it included a lot of walking through sand and rock scrambling. I am so grateful for K’s never ending patience with me as we walked. She had to slow her normal pace so I could keep up with her. I am also so thankful for her extra height on me. There was one part where we had to climb up a large boulder, and because I am a short-are, I couldn’t get my leg up high enough while wearing my pack to get up. She had to go up first so I could pass her my pack before I could climb up! Talk about embarrassing.
Once we hit midday things started to get harder. I think the lack of sleep from the night before started to catch up with me because for the last hour or so I started wishing for the end of the trail. I wanted nothing more than to take a seat at the Stanley Chasm kiosk and easy a burger. Despite this, the last part of the trail is truly spectacular. It feels like you are in a magical, untouched place.
So, what did I learn from this experience?