Parallel lines – an adventure for everyone

Apart from the Canning Stock Route (which was planned prior to Bryn), we’ve done most of our adventuring as a family for the last 4 years.  As he’s grown and become more part of the team rather than someone to be transported, we realised that we needed to branch out into trips where the focus is something sufficiently satisfying for one of us while the other ‘supports’.

Sarah (particularly) has long had the Larapinta Trail on our List*.  It’s a 223km walk along the West McDonnell Range from Redbank Gorge into Alice Springs in the middle of Australia.  At this time of year the weather is perfect for walking with clear days and cold nights.  Sarah did the walk with her friend Bridgette (just 3 days back from a 5 month trip riding from Cairo to Cape Town), and Bryn and I aimed to meet up with them where possible.  After the trail maps arrived, I realised that the two of us could get into the majority of the marked campsites (with water tanks) using 4WD tracks…

*this  actually exists – on a whiteboard in the kitchen – a lifetime of fun!

With a lot of very generous help from a contact in Alice Springs, we were all deposited at the far end of the walk (Redbank Gorge) having done our boxed food drops on our way out.  Then an amazingly smooth, relaxed (for me, anyway) trip began – with my main aim being to hang out in the bush with Bryn and make it to camp in reasonable time :-)

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Preparation – although there are a couple of kiosks along the way, food is managed using food drops. In contrast to other walks where ‘double-bagging’ and use of heavy rocks is needed to stand a chance of seeing your food again, the Larapinta has 3 secure food rooms where boxes can be left. We planned for 18 days (knowing that the girls would get the bit between their teeth and it may be shorter)
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I’d naively thought that I would be able to ride dry river beds wherever they seems to form the most direct route. It took me 20 minutes of pushing the bike/trailer through deep, soft river sand/grit with Bryn meandering after me and an attempt to ride with him in the trailer to put a stop to that delusion. I may have been able to ride them unloaded (especially with a maximised fat-tyre set-up) and probably with a light (‘just me’) load, but there was absolutely no way it was going to happen with any degree of comfort/reserve with Bryn.
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Swimming in the water holes is inviting, and extremely invigorating… (Redbank Gorge)
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Sometimes walking was his idea, rather than mine. It was great to have the leisure to take the whole thing at his pace without having a schedule to keep
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Lots of the camp access was 2-track like this; and absolutely ideal for our fat-bike/trailer combination
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There were also plenty of rocks to climb :-)
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Camping together worked really well- for all but one night of the trip in the end. Especially as we had clear skies and no urban light pollution to diminish the milky way and stars
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Watching the walkers head off in the morning. We didn’t usually take much longer to get going, but it was good not to have to be ready in a hurry (especially if you’ve got some more climbing/exploring to do)

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More walking, with shoes too! The spiky nature of the underfoot meant that he even suggested he wear them himself. We only realised we’d lost the previous pair 3 days after the event.
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Bryn and my set-up :-) In order to be self-sufficient we carried a tent, stove and cooking kit. As the Singletrailer precludes use of a seat-pack I ended up mounting one directly on the trailer. To increase my water capacity while keeping food capacity under his trailer-seat, I used a backpack with 3L bladder. Solar power (GoalZero Nomad7) kept us going nicely through the whole trip, though on the road sections I got up enough speed to charge of the dynamo hub.
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Despite soft sand and river-rocks, I rarely had to push
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For the latter part of our trip the morning temperatures were around freezing, so we loaded Bryn up with lots of down in the trailer
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Evening light on our last night out before getting to Alice Springs

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The trip took us 12 days in the end – and even with that the girls mostly got to camp around 3pm and so got plenty of sitting around time.

Logistics/Kit: The Tout Terrain Singletrailer worked really well, and with use of the seat-pack mounted directly on the trailer didn’t really suffer from a lack of storage.  Bryn didn’t have any issues despite this trailer offering less headroom or elbow room compared to the Chariot CX1.  We ran tubeless (split-tube ghetto for the bike wheels) and put sealant in the trailer wheel tube – and didn’t get any punctures despite plenty of thorns etc.  Flying with the trailer wasn’t an issue. We described it as a ‘sporting item’ to the airline (Qantas), and as it only weighs 9-10kg it meant we could load it up with kit to minimise bike-weight.

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4 comments

  1. Sounds like a great trip. I’ve done overnight trips out of Alice Springs to Larapinta trail trailheads at Birthday Waterhole, Hugh Gorge and Jay Creek (via the Tanami Road), but always limited by time and lack of food and water resupply options. Food drops are an excellent idea if you’ve got time to this, I’m guessing you could have done this in a day? A few food options exist at Glen Helen, Ormiston Gorge and Standley Chasm, but they’re mostly just sit down or takeaway options, not great for restocking lightweight camp food.

    Keep an eye out for updates on the West MacDonnell Ranges bike trail. The NT Government has announced a 200km trail paralleling the Larapinta Trail which will allow cyclists to avoid using the narrow Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive to get to the 4wd tracks (the fun bits) that lead to the campsites.

    • We did good drops at the Larapinta trail food drop rooms on our way out to the end of the trail.

      Great that the NT government has seen the potential for making what we did more ‘legal’ :-)

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