Larapinta Guided Walk and misadventure on the mountain


A 5 day guided walk with ‘Life’s an Adventure’….

We are walking in a group of 11, which includes six doctors (3 couples who know each other) from Adelaide, a couple from Brisbane and a woman from Sydney.  All nice people plus two guides.  Our first stop was Standley Chasm, which is in an area controlled by the aborigines, so all need to buy a permit to walk there.  We all walked through the chasm but the bonus of this stop was that we were given a cultural discussion by an aboriginal woman called Dee.  It was excellant and most of us agreed we had never had access to the information she presented to us about aboriginal culture.  One area she explained was the skin system and the family systems.  She was insightful, well spoken and very intelligent.  She used meaningful analogies to explain how the cultural differences were behind so many of the societal problems we (aboriginal and whites) now have.  She used to have a good government job and saw how the lack of understanding lead to so many problems and misundstandings, so she started her own company running these cultural sessions.  Some concepts presented included: the aboriginal culture has no ‘please or thank you’ concept.  People have roles according to their skin sign and that means they have responsibilities that must be fulfilled.  It is a collective society with a different concept of family and auntie and uncle.  It seemed like the sort of material that should be taught in all primary schools, and would explain to us the background to much aboriginal behaviour.

After that we drove to Ormiston Pound and did the pound walk through spectacular Ormiston George.  It was about 12k’s and got us climbing straight away.  We also did a lot of boulder scrambling through the river bed, and crossed over the river a few times.  The scenery was so spectacular we hardly noticed the difficulty.  Because there has been an unusual amount of rain we had to do a tough river crossing, where some got wet up to their neck, some slipped on the rocks and went under.  Finally Dick  and I scored a benefit of being at the end, as the guide found an easier route and we only got wet up to our waists (lucky we changed into our swimmers).  Then we had our first night in the tents which one of the guides had already put up for us.  Dick and I missed the van that night, but it was ok.  I wore thermals and had two sleeping bags as it was quite cold.

The next day we climbed up Mount Sonder, a 700 metre vertical ascent climb and  7-8 hour walk.  We got to the top and enjoyed great views the whole way. All was going well until about 3 k’s down from the top I tripped and fell and badly gashed my left knee.  It was flat and I was marching along so fell really hard on some sharp rocks.  The gash is about 2″ long and 1″ wide and quite deep.  I was a bit dizzy and felt like passing out but managed not to.  After getting bandaged up by the guide, with extra instruction from both of us, taking two neurofens and resting a bit, I managed to walk the two hours down the mountain and we got out before dark. Then we drove in the bus half an hour back to camp. There are 6 doctors in our group, so they all had a look and did a group consult and said go to the hospital and get stitches.  They did clean the wound and bandage it up.  The guide had to drive us 2 hours into the Alice Springs hospital and then he had to drive back to camp, so it was a late night for him as we didn’t get to the hospital til 9:30pm. By then I needed a wheelchair as I couldn’t walk. We got a fabulous doctor who fixed me up, and also gave us tourist advice.  The needles for the anaesthetic hurt like crazy, and then the rest was ok as it was all numb.  Got about 6 or 8 stitches, didn’t look while he was doing it.  Fortunately we had the motorhome parked at a hotel close to the hospital, so as it was about midnight on Saturday night and the town is really full, we just went back and parked in the carpark of the hotel where we had been advised to leave the van during the walk. I felt like a squatter.

Actually it has worked out ok.  We rejoined the group at Glen Helen homestead, as this was the plan for the walk.  Dick only missed one day’s walking and I had a nice place to stay to rest up my leg.  The doctor said not to walk for a few days and keep it up so thats what I’m doing.  Stayed in bed sleeping or reading the whole day.  Dick enjoyed the walk from Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet  They followed the gorge for about 6k’s and got to Count’s Point where there was a spectacular view of Hidden Valley.  Its now the last day of the walk and the group are doing an 8 k walk near the Ochre Pits up to Inarlanga Pass, another beautiful gorge.  We have the van so I have a nice place to hang out while they walk. After that walk we drove to Ellery Creek Big Hole where a few of our group had a swim.  The last stop was Simpsons Gap where we saw lots of rock wallabies.  The cliffs, gorges, trees etc were beautiful in all these places.  Dick’s summation of the walk was that the Larapinta Trail was much more spectacular than he had anticipated and really awe inspiring.  Every day we saw really great stuff.  Hope you enjoy these pictures!

Pat and Dick


Our group and Dee in Standley Chasm


In Ormiston Gorge
Looking back into Ormiston Gorge where we walked


Starting the climb up Mt Sonder
Surveying the view from the top of Mt Sonder


Track along top of Serpentine Gorge



Hidden Valley at the end of Serpentine Gorge
Inarlanga Pass


Sunrise at Glen Helen and the cliff view from our room


Ellery Creek Big Hole with Dick sleeping on the grass



Simpsons Gap at the end of the walk


Week two of Australian adventure- Coober Pedy to Alice Springs

On the road again….

Day 8 – Waking up in William Creek (no mobile or internet coverage) planning to go to Oodnadatta, but roads still closed and the fine for driving on a closed road is $1000 per wheel.  Debated waiting it out or doing a 500k backtrack detour and glad we did the waiting.  Decided to go to Coober Pedy (opal mining town) and that road opened up just after 2pm so we were the first car out and drove to Coober Pedy.   Staying in a van park on an opal mine where we got free camping if we do the night time mine tour, which we did.

Day 9 – Explored Coober Pedy-The Opal Capital of the World, well at least visited five opal shops, one gallery and one kangaroo rescue centre.  Landscape around the town is continuous mine sites identified by piles of dirt and the big danger is falling down a mine shaft.  Highlight of the day was seeing ‘The Breakaways’- spectacular, colorful flat top mounds about 33 k’s out of town, and a sacred area to the local aborigines (as are many places we have visited).  Overnighting at a free camp just before Marla and next to the track that the Ghan (Adelaide to Darwin train) passes by on.

Day 10 – Drove from one bush camp to another along the Sturt Hwy and this one is special – Rainbow Valley Conservation Park. 23 K on corrugated, dirt road but worth it.  The rock formations are stunning and in the sunset they glow as if on fire – great photos.  As we were just looking for a campsite before we got to Alice Springs we feel like we scored a bonus.  So far Wiki Camps has been excellant in helping us select stops.  Had our first campfire tonight – had to see why everyone else deems this a necessity. Reluctantly Dick made the campfire; and then conceded sitting around it was enjoyable. This is a very well set up campsite with a donation box for our $6.60 fee.  What an amazing country we live in – two days of stunning rock formations that we had never heard of before!

Day 11 – More exploring in Rainbow Valley, including a walk around the clay pans, before we drove to Alice Springs and checked into the Big 4 caravan park. Laundry, tourist info, Woolworths(supermarker) and Bunnings(hardware store) – almost like a Saturday at home.  Big change is the hot weather – goodbye to trackies and ugg boots and hello to shorts and thongs!

Day 12 – Domestic chores all day so we never left the caravan park, but did take in an outback singer, Barry Skipsey, performing in the Big 4.  The focus of the day was getting ready for the Larapinta walk.

Day 13 – A few hours on skype with Lesley, then Eileen & Darcy and then Liz. Lots of red dirt over and under the van so we found a car wash intending to get it washed for us.  In the end, Dick had to wash it using a high pressure hose.  We’ve been recommended to get it washed regularly, so now we know how to go about that. Visited the Olive Pink Botanical Garden and climbed a hill for an end of day view of  Alice Springs.   Had our first dinner out since we left home and having an early night as we start the Larapinta walk at 7:30am, which is super early for us.  The Larapinta Walk is a 223k walk thru the West MacDonnell Ranges.  We are doing a 5 day guided walk though the best parts of it.  More on that in the next post.

Good night,

Pat & Dick

This is a public phone booth – only communication from William Creek, calling about road conditions.
The long awaited sign change….
Divining for opal in the mine.


Opal mine site outside Coober Pedy and danger signs which are everywhere.
Breakaways lookout


The Breakaways


Breakaways from the first lookout

Rainbow Valley about 5pm
Rainbow Valley 5:25pm
Rainbow Valley  5:28pm
Mushroom Rock in Rainbow Valley
Rainbow Valley 5:42pm


Rainbow Valley & clay pans in the day time.
Clay pans in Rainbow Valley
Lookout in Olive Pink Botanical Garden in the middle of Alice Springs