Life on the Larapinta Trail

Australia’s most iconic outback trek was the last tick on my Australian Bucket List, and one of the first things I tell people to add to theirs.  The landscape is truly extraordinary, and with World Expeditions taking care of everything including the logistics, meals and accommodation, you don’t have to sweat it either.  As with all the other experiences in my book, just a few photos made it to print, but I took so many more.  I thought I’d share some of them this month as the outback sun cools down and the Larapinta Trail season kicks into high gear.

Smashin’ the Pinta!

Firstly, a shout out to my group.  Yes, they happened to be predominately women, which is awesome, and from New South Wales, which we won’t hold against them ; )  Point is, doing the Larapinta in Comfort, as this World Expeditions package is called, will appeal to all shapes and sizes, and anyone who enjoys day hikes.  Don’t be put off by the multi-day trekking aspect of it, because we’re not in the Himalayas, there’s no altitude, and the pace is doable for anyone with a modicum of fitness.  Two exceptionally able guides are with you all times, and if you want to sit it out, that’s entirely up to you.  While I wouldn’t recommend this one for young kids, trekkers well into their 70’s have been “smashing the ‘Pinta” successfully for years.

Away we Go

I took this picture just minutes into the start of our six day adventure.  Everyone was fresh and eager and getting to know each other on the trail.  It’s also a good opportunity to figure out how your boots, poles and gear is going to hold up in the days ahead.

Into the West MacDonnell Ranges

It doesn’t take long before you crest the plateau of the West MacDonnell Ranges and instantly grasp what all the fuss is about.  The gradient is relatively flat, and the views incredible.  Before each leg, your guides explain what’s coming up next, and prepare you mentally for the hike ahead.  There’s plenty of time to stop and take photographs.  Incidentally, I carried a mirrorless Olympus to keep things light. Some hikers brought their DSLRs, others were more content to just use their phones.  One of the best shots in my book was taken by a fellow hiker using her Google Pixel phone!

Check out the video! 

Into Camp
Camping in Style

World Expeditions have their own impressively sustainable camps set up.  It’s like camping without the hassle.  Delicious meals are cooked for you, there are solar hot showers, cots and sleeping bags in large canvas tents, and couches to stretch out your feet and enjoy a glass of wine.   Speaking of which:  hikers can pick up their own booze in Alice Springs before the journey, which is driven ahead (along with your bags) to each campsite along the trail.  Just to clarify: You’re not doing the full Larapinta trail, but a curated six-day hike that encompasses the very best bits!  And compared to sleeping in a small tent, carrying all your food and cooking it on scrappy camp utensils, this is very much what comfort looks like.

Simpsons Gap
Serpentine Gorge

Each day’s hike has a destination highlight, bursting with natural beauty and cultural significance.   Sacred watering holes and slices in the red escarpment, both of which attract wildlife and wonder.  They’re also great spots for snack breaks!   Most of these can be accessed by bus from Alice Springs and form part of the tourist attractions in the region.  You’ve come in on foot though, so you’ve earned it!

One Step at a Time
On the Trail

Here’s some hiking shots to give you an idea of the landscape and trail quality.   Low shrubs and trees, blue skies, and comfortable trekking.  Most of us used a pole or two, some didn’t feel the need for them. We carried only daypacks with snacks and water, bug spray and sunscreen.   One guide in the front (with the faster walkers) and one in the back (with the straddlers, like myself).

Lunch Break

Lunch consists of sandwiches and wraps, fruits and nuts, carried in and out by our wonderful and superhuman guides.  Always a welcome opportunity to top up the energy reserves, stop in your tracks to look for wildlife, and appreciate the surprisingly dense vegetation.

Mount Sonder Sunrise
Coming down Mount Sondor

The climax is undoubtedly Day 5, which involves a steep, 8-kilometre long climb up Mount Sondor to catch one of the most epic sunrises in Australia. We woke up at 3am. It’s quite an experience hiking at night under the galaxy of stars that paint the skies in this part of the world.  It’s hypnotic watching your headlamp light the way forward. Mount Sondor is officially the end of the Larapinta Trail, and also its highest point.  We watched the sunrise, and returned along the same path to witness the spectacular scenery we’d missed in the dark on the way up.  It’s a challenging day, but after 4 days trekking, your muscles are warmed up for it, your boots are broken in, and the sheer adventure gets you over the tough part. After that, it’s downhill all the way.

Pounding the Pound
Ormiston Pound

The final day is an easy 6-kilometre walk into Ormiston Pound, which isn’t technically part of the Larapinta Trail, but you can quickly see why its on the itinerary.  Hiking between the spiky spiniflex, we were asked by our guides to enter the gorge in silence, reflecting on the beauty around us, and also the adventure we’d had this past week.  It’s a very special place, and impossible not to enjoy a very special moment.  From here, the bus picked us up, and returned us to our hotels in Alice Springs.  The group met up that night for dinner and drinks, and a well-earned toast to one of the greatest adventures on The Great Australian Bucket List.

Special thanks to the ‘Smashin’ the Pinta’ crew who made my experience so memorable.

If you’re inspired to tick off the Larapinta Trail, click here for more information from World Expeditions.


We Won Tickets on the Ghan!


When Katie Horn received a surprise email from us that she’d won our Grand Launch Prize, she knew exactly what she’d do with it.  Gift it to her parents for a bucket list experience aboard the Ghan. Her parents Andrew and Anthea report back from their holiday of a lifetime.

Andrew and I wish to thank you, The Great Australian Bucket List competition and Great Southern Rail for making the holiday of a lifetime a reality for us.  We recently enjoyed the experience of a train trip on the Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide.

Our accommodation in Darwin was provided by the Oaks group of hotels, and the room provided a stunning night time vista. We had time to do a tour in the afternoon and take in the sights of this beautiful city.


Firstly we wish to mention the outstanding service provided by the staff on the Ghan, they could not do enough to make our trip more memorable, they were warm, friendly and we felt we got to know them through the conversations we had with them over the 3 days and 2 nights of our journey.  There were 283 guests on board, 39 carriages, 802 metres of train and all were provided with first class hospitality which made our holiday relaxing and enjoyable.  At times the train travelled around long sweeping curves and it was exciting to see the carriages in front and behind as we moved through rolling countryside.

I must also compliment the clever chefs on board for the variety on the menus, we were able to sample buffalo, emu, crocodile and kangaroo dishes.  The meals provided were sumptuous, they were an adequate size and were beautifully presented.  It was a pleasure to be shown to a different table each night in the Queen Adelaide dining car to enjoy a superb dinner with great conversation and lovely wines. The deserts were absolutely amazing and enjoyed by all.

Katherine Gorge

We found the variety of excursions to have something for everyone and we chose two cruises up the Katherine Gorge which was lots of fun with the local indigenous rangers providing us with colourful stories.  We were lucky enough to see a crocodile on the water’s edge before he slid into the murky depths, to be followed by a pungent fishy odour which denoted his presence.  As it was a very warm day we appreciated the thoughtfulness of the staff to provide us with cold water and fruit on our cruise.

We also enjoyed a tour of Alice Springs, the Memorial Hill and monuments to past wars, the Old Telegraph Station where the ranger was so passionate and knowledgeable about the facility and the early pioneers who had lived and worked on the station.  The highlight for us was a visit to the School of the Air where we were able to watch first hand a lesson between the teacher and students on outlying stations.  What a privilege to visit such an iconic educational facility.

BBQ Dinner at Alice Springs

Perhaps the highlight on last evening was a bonfire at Manguri station.  It was noted that staff had prepared for our arrival as lanterns had been placed all along the railway line to assist guests to disembark and find their way to the bonfire in the distance.  Staff had set up a table with nightcaps and chocolates and we were treated to a warm night, under the stars enjoying the company of other guests. The area around the bonfire was well set up with tables and chairs which added to the comfort and ambience of the evening.  We climbed back on board and continued on our journey southwards and arrival in Adelaide the next day.

We wish to thank everyone responsible for making the trip available to us.  We highly recommend a trip on the Ghan, if you are thinking of taking one, just do it, and you will make wonderful memories to take with you. We met folk from all walks of life, from all over Australia, England and the States.

Click here to tick The Ghan off your own Great Australian Bucket List.  Special thanks to Great Southern Rail, Oaks Hotels, Affirm Press, and everyone who entered.  Sign up to automatically be entered into future Great Australian Bucket List contests, including the next exciting one, courtesy Skydive Australia.