Bushwalking: Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap (Simpsons Gap), Northern Territory

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Simpson’s Gap is described in the West MacDonnell National Park fact sheet as “one of the most prominent gaps in the West MacDonnell Ranges. At dawn and dusk it is renowned as a place to see Black-footed Rock wallabies…”

A short walk leads from the carpark to the Gap and is well worth exploring. After visiting the Gap I’d recommended doing one of the other walks in the area – I decided to do the Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap.

This is an excellent and reasonably easy walk of around 10km. I was there just after the end of the wet season so the area was very green and lush. The walk itself follows a reasonably distinct track to Rocky Gap through some Mulga Woodland, with good views of the West MacDonnell ranges. If you are feeling energetic you could continue on to Bond Gap – this extends the walk to 17km return.

I only saw one other person while doing the walk – what struck me (apart from how green it was) was how quiet and peaceful it was, it also felt quite remote.

Distance/Time: 10kms / took me around 3hrs (incl. breaks)
Grade: Easy half-day walk
My rating: A

Access: From Alice Springs head west along Larapinta Drive, the turn-off to Simpsons Gap is about 16km further on. The Woodland trail is about 3km from the turn-off and there is a small parking area and information board at the start of the walk (and Simpsons Gap carpark is another 3km or so).

See this fact sheet for more information, and this budget rent-a-car map for an overview of the area and attractions around Alice Springs.

Link to full photo gallery.

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Bushwalking: Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder, Northern Territory

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A trip from Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder marks the start or end of the long distance Larapinta Trail and also provides a fantastic day’s walk. Mt Sonder, at 1380m, is the fourth highest mountain in the Territory and commands superb 360 degree views from the summit. It’s a solid day’s walk but well worth doing.

The track starts at the camping area and heads downhill to cross Redbank Creek (usually just a dry creek-bed). Soon after there is a junction where the trail is joined by the previous section of the Larapinta Trail, at this point the trail turns left uphill continuing up to a saddle with the imaginative name of ‘Saddle’, and then generally eastwards towards Mt Sonder.

The trail is generally distinct and reasonably well marked – there are however a few places where it becomes a bit indistinct and care must be taken to stay on the right path. Having said that, one of the good things about walking in the NT is that visibility is generally excellent, so it would take a bit of work to get lost.

The summit, marked with a cairn, is a good spot for lunch and a rest – and the return involves retracing the path back to the start.

Distance/Time: 15.8km / took me just under 6 hours (incl. breaks)
Grade: Moderate/hard day walk
My rating: A+

Access: From Alice Springs head west along the Larapinta Drive and after 46km turn right onto Namatjira Drive. The turn-off to Redbank Gorge is another 145km or so, and then it’s about 5km along a rather rough gravel road to the campsite. The drive itself is enjoyable, going through some great scenery. Glen Helen Resort, about 20km before the Redbank Gorge turn-off is a good place for a cold beer after the walk.

More information: See this this scan of the Budget rent-a-car map which gives a good overview of the places to see around Alice Springs as well as the type of roads that will be encountered. I also recommend ‘Take A Walk in Northern Territory’s National Parks’ by John & Lyn Daly.

Link to photo gallery on flickr.

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Bushwalking: Collins Bonnet, Tasmania

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This is nice, not too demanding walk, close to Hobart that still commands excellent views. It takes in another, less busy part of the Mt Wellington Plateau and provides for walking in an alpine environment. As such, warm and waterproof clothing should always be carried.

The walk commences at the Myrtle Forest Picnic Ground, just under 5km from the village of Collinsvale. The trail crosses a bridge into forest and then follows Forest Creek southwest climbing steadily all the while. At a track junction you continue south (left) until the East West fire trail (a 4wd track) is reached. Some parts of the walking track prior to reaching the fire trail were somewhat unclear, so take care as it would be easy to drift off the actual track. There is a green shelter building at the base of Collins Bonnet that can be used as a guide if you do lose the track (head straight for it).

Around 100m or so south along the fire trail from the hut, there is a walking track to the summit marked with a cairn; this is easy to miss (I walked straight past it). Follow this track, which required negotiating some boulder fields, to the summit which is marked by a trig point.

There are excellent views from the summit, which include Mt Wellington itself.

After enjoying the views, assuming the weather is kind, you could return by the same route or alternatively take the East West trail west and then turn north on to the Collins Cap trail and at the base of Collins Cap take another walking track east to join the original track out of Myrtle Forest. This diversion also provides the opportunity to climb Collins Cap if you are so inclined – I wasn’t on the day I was there as the track is steep and looked reasonably rough and it was getting late in the day.

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Bushwalking: Mt Rufus, Tasmania

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Another terrific day walk in Tassie, this time taking in the summit of Mt Rufus in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.

The walk commences from the National Park Visitor Centre, seven or so kilometres along a sealed road from a turn-off at the Lyell Hwy. The visitor centre sits at the southern end of Lake St. Clair and is a popular and busy spot with camping, cabins, a visitor centre and a licensed cafe.

The walks in this part of the park all start by following a closed (except to management vehicles) vehicular track that proceeds west from the visitor centre. After about half a kilometre a signposted track to Mt Rufus is reached. This track climbs steadily west for about four kilometres to a junction. Ignoring the link track, the path proceeds to climb west, before turning south-west and the north-west to work around a prominent rocky outcrop. There’s a final steepish pull up to the ridge line and then a fairly leisurely stroll up to the prominent summit cairn.

Views from the summit are simply magnificent with Lake St. Clair to the east, the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to the west and to the north, Cradle Mountain and the wilderness traversed by the Overland track.

From the summit you could return the same way, but if time permits a better option is to descend north-west to a saddle and then eastwards towards Shadow Lake, before following the path through forest, an impressive clearing that requires careful attention to staying on the track as this area is rather boggy, and some wonderful woodland that includes one of Australia’s few native deciduous trees, the deciduous beech (or Fagus)*. I was there in autumn, so the leaves had started to change colour and this part of the walk was particularly attractive. The path eventually arrives at Watersmeet where it’s a 1.5km walk back along the vehicular track to the visitor centre.

All-in-all a definite A+ must do Tasmanian walk.

* I thought this was Australia’s only native deciduous tree, but a bit of research revealed that there are several others, although all are monsoonal deciduous (i.e. they lose their leaves just before the wet season) – the beech is the only native winter deciduous. This page has more information.

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Stars

One of the joys of overnight bushwalks is seeing the night sky without light pollution – I always enjoy lying back on my therm-a-rest and looking up at the stars.

French photographer Thierry Cohen wondered what the sky would look like in major cities without the light pollution (and smog). He set about creating some images by combining photographs of the cities with photographs of the night sky taken at the same latitudes but in remote areas.

The results are superb.

 

Everest Base Camp Trek Days 9-12: Pherice to Lukla

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The final four days of the trek involved re-tracing our steps back to Lukla, stopping at Tengboche, Namche Bazar and Phakding.

These days also provided an opportunity to recuperate from altitude sickness and associated loss of appetite and lack of sleep. My mild case of altitude sickness disappeared as soon as we reached Tengboche – the headache I’d had for the past four days went and my appetite returned with a vengeance. I also managed to get my fist good night’s sleep for five days, and the following night in Namche Bazar was even better with almost 10 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.

We celebrated the final afternoon and night in Lukla by playing pool with our guide (a Lukla native), as well as consuming several beers, at one of Lukla’s bars, followed by dinner with our guide and porter. A quick coffee at Lukla’s fake Starbucks (had free wi-fi and better coffee than the real thing) completed the evening and the trek.

There was one last item of “excitement” though – being the take-off from Lukla’s airport the following morning. There’s no messing around, straight down the hill and pray that the wheels have left the tarmac before the end of the disturbingly short runway. Surviving this we had one final night in Kathmandu (with a good dinner at K-Too Beer & Steakhouse in Thamel) and that was it, for this trip at least.

Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable two weeks and some of the best walking I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. The issues with altitude didn’t detract in any significant way from the trek, and I vowed I’d be back to Nepal, which I am pleased to say I will be later in 2012…

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