They saved the hardest for last. In doing so, they saved the best for last.
It is pitch black, and I am trekking up a mountain in the pre-dawn. Mt Sonder in the Northern Territory to be precise. It’s our final day of walking the Larapinta trail and it’s cold. In the absence of daylight, my sense of hearing and touch is heightened. The crunch-crunch of rock under foot is metronomic, as is the constancy of my breath. In…..and out. It’s moving meditation.
The reward of sunrise at the summit keeps us going. And what a reward it is! Witnessing the black ink sky shade into purple, then dark blue and then, a searing orange. The landscape revealed itself – evolving every minute, and my eyes welcomed the respite from blackness to delight in the dramatic panorama. It’s the most spectacular view I have ever seen. What a start to a day!
It was the culmination of a 5 day GirlsTrek through one of the most highly rated walking regions on the world. The Larapinta trail in central Australia is a wondrous place. Our trek started on the outskirts of Alice Springs and travelled west along the trail. Each day had its highlight – be it the famous Simpson’s Gap, Standly Chasm, Ormiston Pound or stunning Counts Point. Covering between 15-22 kms each day, the hiking environment was diverse. I was surprised at the variety of the surroundings. Sometimes sandy riverbeds with huge ghost gums and enormous smooth boulders, other times shale-y russet-red rock, dusty and scrubby with wildflowers and prickly spinifex. Part moonscape, part movie set – this was like nowhere I’ve ever been.
After a long day’s walk, the campsites were mini oases. We were welcomed into camp with cool drinks, fruit and cheese platters, and the smells of camp roast in the fire. Gee I love not having to think about food preparation!!
The bush shower was also an unexpected highlight. The rustic set up with tin buckets, canvas and open sky was decidedly therapeutic. Call me crazy, but I have missed that open air shower a lot. Somehow, I don’t think the set up would have quite the same impact in suburban Brisbane.
Other highlights of the trip were the company of like-minded women. There is no faster way to get to know someone than on a GirlsTrek. Conversation is never a problem and firm friendships blossomed over the 5-day trip. Whilst chat was always available, there was plenty of time for quiet introspection. We decided to trek silently trek through the Ormiston Gorge to truly appreciate the surroundings. The bonus of no mobile phone range in most of the region makes me contemplate moving there!
It’s been a month since I returned to suburbia from my desert adventure with GT, and it’s been a thud back down to earth from the otherworldly landscape of central Australia. The come down from the high has been harder than expected. My soul is stirred a little. In the space of a few short days, this walk had cleared my head and soothed my mind and confirmed my need to spend more time in remote and beautiful places. There is simply nothing quite like it. In the meantime, during domestic grind I’ll attempt to visualise myself as that speck on the mountaintop, feeling totally free.