Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV) Inspired Adventure to Larapinta
With one of our flights with 3 people on board being diverted to Uluru airport (and finally onto Alice Springs), the ICV Walkabout for Change trekkers have now all arrived and are meeting each other for the first time. After a beautiful Welcome to Country and a gracious thank you from fellow trekker and ICV CEO, Stephanie Harvey, we had a team briefing and our tour leader Belinda explained what was in store for the week ahead. We are all very excited to start walking. Only 5 out of the 17 Trekkers have trekked before so this is to be a walkabout that would challenge the best of us, but the enthusiasm is palpable and the group camaraderie is clear from the start. Some know each other, one is a second-time Inspired Adventurer, most have come as individuals, but all have a come together after raising valuable funds for a charity which amongst other things provides opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop community and human capacity to improve their quality of life, health, social and economic wellbeing and inclusion within Australian society (see www.icv.com.au). The trekkers are also here to experience and learn more about this culturally-diverse part of Central Australia.
Trek Day 1 – Monday 9 July: Ormiston Gorge (7km) We left early from the hotel and were waved off by Jenny and Nina, staff from the ICV Alice office. The drive took us to the far end of the West MacDonnell Ranges some 135kms west of Alice Springs by road. We drove straight to the start of our first trek of the week; the stunning Ormiston Gorge.
It was a moderate walk with the group staying together and getting to know each others’ stories. We stopped for lunch under the shade of a tree on the sand near an ancient creek and found two logs to act as our table. Belinda prepared a lunch fit for a king – it was to be the first of many of the same. Belinda’s ability to lug a 15kg pack up the mountains and ridges in order to provide us with such niceties as fresh salad wraps, tea and biscuits, was truly admirable. Refreshed from lunch, we precariously made our way through the gorge marvelling at the range of rocks and stones both under foot and all around. Five of us trailed behind the main group to accompany a very determined Glenda who had ‘screwed up knees’. We helped Gelnda across the rocks but also took delight in naming them everything from ‘raspberry ripple’, to ‘that one looks like its been sprayed with gold paint’ and the one ‘that looks like a fossil’, or as Bri put it ‘well it’s a something anyway’. The gorge spat us out at a rock pool which either needed crossing or climbing over. It was interesting to watch as the group split into teams of climbers or swimmers. Both groups were as brave as each other as the climb was across the face of the gorge, and the water was extremely cold. The climbers watched from above as the swimmers stripped off to take the plunge below. There were gasps and much more, with Jodie wanting to turn back half way, Glenda turning the air as blue as the water and Mike showing modern day chivalry in the form of 5 dashes back and forth as he carried others back packs across on his head in his undies! Our reward the other side was to see two dingoes drinking from the creek up ahead and a chance meeting between Lynne and a friend… a true whodathoughtit moment.
Finally we got back to camp around 5pm and were treated to stir fried chicken and noodles – again, the first of many campfire delights that we would sample this week. And who could forget the fire toasted marshmallows which were eagerly consumed like we were all kids again.
Trek Day 2 – Tuesday 10 July: Mount Sonder (16 km round trip to the summit)
A chilly -2° crawl out of our tents at 4am started our big day – the climb to the top of Mt Sonder (the tallest mountain in the Northern Territory). With thermals, beanies and head torches on we first ate Belinda’s amazing porridge to give us fuel to snake our way up the ridges and across the deceiving five knolls to the top of this mountain known as ‘the Pregnant Lady’.
Being that it was so dark, we left 3 people (including ‘Bridgie’ the hand puppet) at the water tank but they soon caught us and up, up, up we went. In fact looking up at the group in front it was hard not to mistake the head torches from the stars with comments such as ‘oh my, the group ahead is a looong way up! Oh no nevermind, that’s a star!’. Being that we were a diverse bunch ranging in all ages and ability, inevitably some division in the group needed to happen to get us all to the top of this small, but challenging, mountain. Glenda made a good effort but the knees took their toll and she reluctantly turned back after a valiant effort, as did Frances who turned back just before the final ascent. Both had witnessed the reason for our early start though and that was the amazing 7am sunrise and oh wow; what a beautiful rise it was as it skirted around the ranges below and above us. We warmed up with coffee a-la-Belinda and then regrouped to make the final ascent to the top. What greeted us was a spectacular 360° of the surrounding ranges and a feeling of elation that we’d made it. There was a visitors book at the top and Dennis, being a man of few words, simply wrote ‘ampile boson’ (ample bosom) referring to the place on which we were standing. We arrived at the top at 10:30am and after a one-hour stop for morning tea, we began the long descent back down the Pregnant Lady’s hands and belly to our truck below. The ‘wow factor’ view at the top inspired a team photo and Bridgie the puppet wasn’t excluded! We had a couple of ‘open air mountain clinic’ stops on the way down to treat blisters. We also nearly lost Desanka off the edge (ok, not quite). We all managed to arrive safely back down by 2:30pm where another refreshing lunch greeted us. We then headed back to our campsite to relax and help prepare our evening dinner – BBQ steak with salad, potato bake and the most delicious kangaroo I have ever tasted. And as extra special treat, Belinda even baked us apple crumble with custard – it’s amazing what can be cooked on a camp fire! Two of our younger trekkers, Alisha and Lynne, had won places on the trek compliments of the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (www.fahcsia.gov.au) who endorsed the trek as a way of engaging youth (18-25 yo) with Indigenous Affairs. This evening, both girls agreed to share their ‘Closing the Gap’ winning entries with the group. By the end of their recitals there wasn’t a dry eye in the camp and we all congratulated them on such amazing work. It gave us all hope that future generations will see a narrowing of the gap that currently exists between indigenous and white Australians. Check out their entries:
Trek Day 3 – Wednesday 11 July: Ormiston to Glen Helen (12 km)
It was a more leisurely start this morning with bacon ‘n’ eggs for breakie and a short drive to what was to be one of the most beautiful walks of the week. We started through the bush, went up and over ridges and knolls to make the final climb to a breathtaking view. The trek had been punctuated with beautiful flora and Mellisa did the dutiful deed of taking a photo of almost every plant, tree and flower for us all. Lunch was served on top of a windy hillside and was complemented by another 360° perspective, looking down on the only resort around – Glen Helen. It was 7km between us and what was to be our first shower and well-deserved drink of the trek. Off we trekked to get there before sundown. Tim lead the way and a very determined Glenda made up the rear making the full journey back to the truck and the final ride to the resort. We even saw a snake (ok a legless lizard) on the way! The shower was the best and the laughter afterwards was even better – the group has really come together with firm friendships being made and lots of ‘six degrees of separation’ being realised along the way. We live in a small world. It was back to the campsite where Nonie and I got down to chopping up chicken ‘n’ veggies with penknives for our meal tonight; risotto - all 4kgs of it. It was incredible. The freshly made damper was too.
Trek Day 4 – Thursday 12 July: Counts Point, Alice Valley (14km)
After porridge and a massive fruit salad it was off to do a big 1150 metre climb up to the top of Counts Point – a natural valley between two ridges (or a ‘bowling alley’ as Mellisa called it). It really was quite an incredible sight and we spent quite a long time there in awe of it. While there we also created what has now been named the ‘Scarpa tree’ – where Belinda had the great idea to get everyone who was wearing Scarpa boots to hang them on a tree for a marketing photo shot. Sue even made up a song for the occasion too. Team ICV are a resourceful bunch and what happened next was even better…. Led by Fiona, we did a team singalong to the tune of YMCA but for ICV – check out the video on You Tube! (coming soon!). Frivolities over, we began the long march back down the ridge and home. There were a few hiccups along the way but nothing Nurse Belinda couldnt handle and although it made walking slow, before we knew it, we had all regrouped back down at the base. A great effort by all the team. Being our last night in camp, Belinda, Bec and Rhett cooked us a delicious roast pork ‘n’ beef dinner with a self-saucing chocolate pudding for afters. With the stars above, we felt like we were in heaven! The marshmallows came out again with Sara practicing some childhood skills of setting them alight, but nothing was to be as funny as the end of the evening when Belinda invited us all to sleep under the stars in our swags. Most of us accepted and school kids giggles continued to abound til late into the night, with the Milky Way turning to blamanche through the tears of laughter while Dennis found his beanie and jokes flowed.
Trek Day 5 – Friday 13 July: Wallaby Gap to Telegraph Station (Section I/13km)
None of us can believe that it’s the last day already – the week has flown by. It had been decided that due to several factors, the last part of our trek would be to walk Section 1 of the Larapinta Trail back into Alice. So after rolling up our swags, collapsing our tents, putting our bags on the truck and eating campfire porridge for the last time, the group set off for the drive back towards Alice Springs. The sun was coming up and we played music, sung and generally reflected on what a wonderful few days we had had. One of the songs we played was ‘I can see clearly now…’ and for me at least, it seemed to be the perfect metaphor for what this week had represented.
It was a beautiful ridge walk looking over the plains from Euro Ridge towards Alice and beyond. Such an amazing view with even the odd Euro kangaroo sighting too. We slowed the walk down to take in the last few kilometres as a complete group and we walked across the finish line altogether. I call it a line because the ICV team from Alice had strung up a finish line at the official end of the trip.
The Old Telegraph Station and had champagne waiting our arrival – it was a great finish to an awesome trek through incredibly beautiful countryside. We’ve learned so much about the country we trekked through and the local cultures and beliefs. Our respect has grown, our eyes have been opened and our feet have trodden gently through this rich and historic land. We will leave with renewed hope that the gap in this country will narrow through the generations to come. The day was completed with a hot shower back at our hotel and a lovely group dinner at which two very tired tour guides, Belinda and Bec, joined us. It was a great celebration at what had been achieved on many levels, both personally and for ICV.
Saturday 14 July: Titjikala Community Visit (1.5 hrs dirt road drive south east of Alice Springs)
The trek might be finished but our learning had not and today brought new meaning to what had been provided to ICV by way of the funds raised. ICV had arranged for us to visit an Aboriginal Community where over many years volunteers have helped to establish an Art Centre for the display and sale of local artworks (where all sales go back to the artist’s family). It was a wonderful to experience and the whole group gained so much from the visit including the purchase of lots of beautiful art and crafts. We were able to meet the artists and even engaged some of the local women to take us on a tour around the community. Lunch was provided to anyone wanting to join in and it was so nice to experience the community coming together to enjoy our visit with us. A memory we will all savour and cherish I’m sure. Thank you to all for making us feel so welcome.
Tonight really was our last night together and we had arranged for a special celebratory dinner under the stars at Simpsons Gap. We shared the evening with famous aboriginal artist, Tommy Crow, and our chef for the night, Bob Taylor, who cooked an amazing array of food including roasted macadamias, emu, pumpkin soup, kangaroo, and Quondong (a native Australian fruit) with white chocolate and wattle seed steamed pudding for dessert. In total, we’ve trekked almost 70kms, climbed the Territory’s tallest mountain, walked 133,694 steps (confirmed by Kaely – and she’s only got little legs!). Steve the Starman also gave us a lesson in stargazing which was really enjoyable and informative too. The stars really are quite incredible from this part of Australia. Some of the local ICV staff and volunteers and guests joined us and a great final evening was had by all. To keep Dennis happy, we even managed to finish it off with a brave few making it to the infamous Bojangles back in town for bevvy or two.
TEAM ICV 2012:
- Helen (Inspired Adventures Tour Escort)
- Stephanie (ICV CEO), Briallen, Dennis, Glenda, Sara, Fiona, Jodie, Desanka, Sue, Nonie, Tim, Mike, Kaely, Alisha, Lynne, Frances and Mellisa.
Blogs from the 2012 Walkabout for Change
- Blog 1: From the coast to the Red Centre
- Blog 2: From the Summit of Mt Sonder
- Live updates on our Twitter feed: @inspiredadvntrs
- More about Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV)
- Read more about ‘The Pregnant Lady’ and the trek on our Larapinta Destination Guide
- Closing the Gap Competition Winners: