Multiday hiking and the Sharks is an equivocal affair. We hike quite a bit, but mostly daytrips. When we embark on multiday hikes, we usually get into violent thunderstorms, our tent gets blown off a ledge in the wind, we forget a sleeping bag, or someone gets bitten by a snake. And anyhow, why would you hike, if you have a bicycle.
But this year the Larapinta trail in central Australia was the thing to do. 200something kilometre of rugged bliss along the West McDonald ranges. We even got it organised to hike with Annie and Nick, two seriously nice people from work. Annie likes plants and Nick is on the same maturity-level as Max, so they both would be entertained. Also, they are both young and strong and we could just load them up with all our gear.
But in good old Sharks-multiday-hike fashion it went wrong even before we started, meaning it did not start as all. Annie and Nick did fly a few days earlier to Alice Springs and once they had left, Victoria went into lockdown and we were stuck and our comrades started the hike without us. Three days later regional Victoria was out of lockdown again and within four hours we booked a flight, packed our stuff, left for Alice Springs and the next day we were on the hike as well.
We all felt a bit surreal, being all in a sudden in this desert landscape, it was warm and the trial is easy to follow. Botanically we were blown away immediately. The 2019 bushfire, combined with a lot of rain earlier the year meant the desert was in full bloom. We especially enjoyed the abundance of several Ptilotus species (aptly named foxtails). In parts whole mountain slopes were covered with these plants and it felt like walking through a sea of fluffy pom-poms. The first night we pitched the tent at a hilltop in very windy conditions, but the morning sun illuminating Mt Sonder was just breath-taking.
Hiking was like hiking is usually for me, a mixture of absolute delight (particularly the first hours in the morning) and utter pain (My back does not like to carry massive backpacks, especially when we needed to take two days’ worth of water). But what I liked the most was the good old Shark spirit when we on hikes or bikerides was back immediately. It is just good fun to spend time as a family. As usually Ellie and Max walk ahead, prattle on for hours about every possible theme in the universe. Snippets I got when I was close enough were discussions like “If a zombie eats your brain and you are vaccinated, will the zombie be vaccinated then as well?” or “if this would be a mountainbike path, how would you take this corner” or even philosophical discussions like “is chivalry actually just a sexist thing?” (For the records, we think it is). I limped a while behind the two punks, enjoying the sense of remoteness and peace. Sometimes I realised that we hiked for two hours and I could not remember a thing I was thinking of while hiking. I think that is the closest I will ever get to meditation.
We were surprised that we did not meet masses of people, as the Larapinta trail seems to be very in-vogue, but Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane were in lockdown, so understandable. We met a few people each day and often had the camp spots for ourselves, which was great. However, the people we did met were all really nice people. There is some healthy comradery along these trails.
We found the hike to be tough, especially with heavy packs and on hot days. Very hard and rocky ground, and Ellie feed looked like a peperoni pizza after a while and my back was getting worse. So after a week or so, we had a tough decision to make. We needed a rest day, but comandante Clarko’s itinerary did not allow for one. We also got very intermittently mobile reception and Qantas did send us weird messages that they had to change our flight to an earlier date, so we thought it would be a good idea to have a couple of days in Alice Springs, to sort things out. By luck, we bumped into someone with a 4x4 at a trailhead who happily drove us a couple of stages to the next trailhead, and we continued our hike from there.
More beautiful days of hiking brought as back to Alice where we found sheer luxury, like a shower, a soft bed and food that was not dehydrated.
Anyhow, let pictures speak…