The University of Newcastle, Australia


What can I expect from the Larapinta Trail?

The Larapinta Trail is one of Australia’s most spectacular landscapes. National Geographic has voted it as one of the top 20 trekking experiences on the planet. The Trail offers participants opportunities to see magnificent gorges, canyons and high ridges, abundant wildlife, native plants, and a taste of rich Indigenous culture and history.

The area has significant Aboriginal heritage and deep links between culture and country. Many sites along the route will provide glimpses of the longest continuous cultural history in the world, the Arrernte People who have lived in the region for the last 50,000 years. Your guides will share their knowledge of the area’s history and culture and help you spot and identify the many birds and wildlife.

Each day will be tough – you’ll be challenging yourself and working together in a supportive team with your fellow trekkers. However, you’ll be able to focus on the trek with all food and accommodation organised for you. You’ll only carry your daypack with water each day.

Have the traditional custodians of the land approved our visit?

The University of Newcastle Larapinta Trail Challenge project team has sought advice and approval from several Indigenous leaders to ensure that we are giving due respect to the traditional custodians of the country.

Challenge participants will be Welcomed to Country by a local Arrernte woman based out of Angkerle Atawtye (Standley Chasm), who will also provide an additional Cultural Tour and a Cultural Conversation.

We have approval from the Indigenous Land Council and have been assured that we are welcome to visit the area. NT Parks and Wildlife have given permission for us to visit. Life’s an Adventure, our chosen tour company, has approval to lead tour groups through the area. The guides are experienced and have led many groups along the Larapinta Trail, so are aware of the areas of particular cultural significance.

Two highly-respected Indigenous leaders from UON will be taking part in the Challenge – Professor Steve Larkin (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Education and Research) and Aunty Bronwyn Chambers (Elder-in-Residence, The Wollotuka Institute).

Cultural perspectives

The traditional owners of the Larapinta Trail are the Arrernte [pronounced Ah-rrrun-da] people.

The Larapinta Trail, with its magnificent gorges and canyons, is one of Australia’s most spectacular landscapes. The trail has a rugged, ancient landscape and is one of the most spectacular multi-day hiking experiences in the world. The area has significant Aboriginal heritage and deep links between culture and country. Many sites along the route will provide glimpses of the longest continuous cultural history in the world, and the Arrernte people.

The Arrernte people are the original Indigenous inhabitants of Arrernte lands, the land occupied by the township of Alice Springs (Mparntwe) at its centre, the land to the east as far as Wallace Rock Hole and, to the west to Kings Canyon (Watarrka) and as far as the Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park.

Arrernte country is rich with mountain ranges, waterholes, and gorges. As a result the Arrernte people have set aside 'conservation areas' in which various species are protected.

According to the traditional owners, the landscape was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros and other ancestral figures, and as such contains many sites of importance to its traditional owners. Some of the first Dreaming stories ever recorded were those of the Arrernte people of Central Australia.

Arrernte people maintain a strong presence in Alice Springs, and have formed the Arrernte Council of Central Australia, as well playing a major role in the Aboriginal organisations in Alice Springs. Many Arrernte people also live in communities outside of Alice Springs and on outstations.

On our trek, we will be Welcomed to Country by a local Arrernte woman based out of Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm), who will provide a Cultural Tour and a Cultural Conversation. Our trek guides are experienced and have led many groups along the Larapinta Trail, so are aware of the areas of particular cultural significance and we will hear more about the area and its people when we are there.


The Arrernte language is one of the most widely spoken Indigenous languages. It is spoken by around 3,000 people around Alice Springs, is taught in schools, and heard in local media and local government. Many Alice Springs workplaces require employees to learn at least basic Arrernte and often fund courses. Along with verbal communication there is also a complex systems of sign language used in Central Australia.

Arrernte has only been an evolving written language for the past 120 years. There are many sounds in Arrernte that do not occur in English. Instead of creating symbols to represent these sounds linguists have used combinations of Roman letters together to represent these sounds. For example the name of the language has been spelt a number of ways: Aranda (English influence), Urunta (German influence) and today is spelt Arrernte (with a rolling rr).

Some simple phrases and words from the Central and Eastern Arrernte language are below.

  • Hello / G’day, what’s new? werte
  • Nothing much ware
  • Are you alright? unte mwerre
  • Yes, I’m alright ye, ayenge mwerre
  • Goodbye / See you later urreke aretyenhenge
  • OK kele
  • How many? nthakentye?
  • The Dreamtime altyerre
  • Red kangaroo aherre
  • Emu arleye
  • Dingo akngwelte artnwere
  • Witchetty grub atnyematye
  • Sand goanna alewatyerre
  • Boomerang alye, ilye
  • The Milky Way amiwarre

Many more vocabulary examples can be found at and pronunciation tips can be found at the Central Land Council website


What will my impact be?

After discussions with Indigenous elders on funding strategies and areas of need, funds raised through the Larapinta Trail Challenge will support UON’s Indigenous students (undergraduate and post-graduate) and UON research into Indigenous community health issues.

Where will the funds raised be directed?

Any fundraising tips?

Yes, we have prepared suggestions to support trekkers to raise funds for the cause.

Yes, businesses and individuals can partner with the University of Newcastle for the Challenge. A range of opportunities are available for sponsors to promote their organisation, engage with Challenge participants and align businesses with a worthy cause. Packages start from $2,000. Contact to discuss options.

How fit do I need to be to take part?

Being well prepared will help you fully enjoy the experience. You need a good level of fitness to complete the Challenge. It will be run in two groups of up to 15 participants, each with guides. On day 2 of the Challenge there is the option to do an alternative walk for those not wanting to walk to Mount Sonder.

Is there a suggested training plan for trekkers?

Our tour company Life’s an Adventure recommend a couple of months’ preparation to complete this Challenge with some regular aerobic activity and a longer walk once a week. The qualified trainers at NuSport/The Forum have prepared a suggested training plan specifically for our trekkers.

The Forum has also offered Larapinta Trail Challenge participants free membership until the Challenge in the small-group training program held at the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus. Contact for more information.

Any hydration and nutrition hydration tips?

NuSport/The Forum has prepared hydration and nutrition sheets for the Larapinta Trail Challenge participants.

What equipment do I need to bring?

The Larapinta Trail Challenge is fully supported and guided by our chosen tour company, Life’s an Adventure.

The only sleeping equipment you will need to bring is a sleeping bag, which can be hired directly from Life’s an Adventure for $40 – bags are dry cleaned after every use – (, or you may choose to bring your own, which should be rated for temperatures lower than -5C. Pillows and all camping gear are provided.

What clothing and gear do I need to bring in my overnight bag?

The choice of clothing and gear is personal – there is no universal equipment list. Provided here is a guide for the type of clothing and gear to take on the Larapinta Trail Challenge.

Your overnight bag will be transported to the campsite/accommodation each night. Any large suitcases should be stored at the hotel in Alice Springs for the duration of the trek.

You will need a variety of clothing due to the temperature variations. Our tour company Life’s an Adventure suggest wearing layers so you can remove or add as you warm up or cool down.

Bring walking clothes suitable to protect you from the sun, such as light cotton trousers or shorts, t-shirts or shirts with short or long sleeves, a polar fleece jacket (preferred) or woollen jumper, thermal underwear, clothes to change into at night (e.g warm long trousers, long-sleeve shirt, shorts or t-shirts and a pair of shoes), warm accessories for night (e.g scarf, beanie, gloves), underwear and at least three pairs of thick walking socks.

Also, personal toiletries, a towel, insect repellent and strong garbage bags or dry bags to waterproof essential equipment.

What clothing and gear do I need to carry in my daypack?

Provided here is a guide for the type of clothing and gear to take on the Larapinta Trail Challenge. You just need to carry a small day backpack designed for bushwalking/trekking, including:

  • camera
  • sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Goretex or lightweight rain jacket, preferably made of a waterproof and breathable fabric, and if possible, waterproof trousers
  • band aids and any personal emergency medication
  • a headtorch or lightweight torch with spare batteries
  • consider a traditional fly net to pop over your hat
  • swimmers (for swims/gorge crossings)
  • (optional) walking poles are useful for uneven terrain and steep descents, and
  • a water bladder or containers with at least 3 litres of water (see note below).
Do I need special walking boots?
  • Good walking boots or good quality bushwalking shoes with a firm sole and ankle support are essential as you will be walking on hard, sharp and uneven quartzite rock. Please visit an outdoor fitter for boots and shoes if you’re unsure. Ensure you allow at least eight weeks to walk in any new boots before the Challenge.
  • NOTE: Sandshoes/runners/trainers are not sufficient for this trek and the guides will be unable to take you if you turn up in these.
  • If you suffer from blisters, be sure to tape up before the day's walk. The guides from our tour company Life’s an Adventure are more than happy to assist with preventative foot care. Your feet will be very valuable to you during the Challenge, and a little preparation can go a long way.
Will the University of Newcastle provide any gear?

The UON Larapinta Trail Challenge project team will provide each participant with a trek pack containing:

  • Two recyclable, BPA-free, Triton 750ml drink bottles
  • An enamel mug (for morning and afternoon tea breaks)
  • A breathable, UPF-rated 50+ bucket hat
  • Two breathable, UPF-rated 50+ polo shirts
  • A chill cooling towel in pouch
  • A pack of water purifier tablets (Puritab), and
  • A carabiner incorporating a small flashlight and compass.
What are the expected weather conditions?

Winter is the best time to walk the Larapinta Trail. There are clear blue skies, low-mid 20C temperatures and cool breezes – ideal walking conditions. Nights are often cool and it’s not uncommon for 3-5C nights. All trekkers should prepare for wet weather, particularly drizzle which can last for days. Heavy rain, while not common during winter, can and does flood rivers and creek lines. Wind is quite common along the Larapinta Trail particularly on high ground, in valleys and along ridgelines and saddles. Wind chill considerations are important and note that wind also contributes to dehydration. UV exposure during the day is almost 100%, even when it’s cloudy. Exposure to sun and its effects are one of the most important considerations, particularly in regard to dehydration, sun burn and heat exhaustion.

The Bureau of Meteorology historical data for August shows:

  • mean temperatures are (max.) 22 to (min.) 6 degrees centigrade
  • mean rainfall 9.2mm
  • mean daily sunshine is 9.8 hours, with mean of 22 clear days and 3 cloudy days.
What kind of wildlife could we expect to see?

The MacDonnell Ranges bioregion (the area traversed by the Larapinta Trail) is home to incredible diversity, including mammals both marsupial and placental, birds, reptiles and frogs and insects. There are more than 200 bird species in the region, and around 1500 plant species and numerous wildflowers that add colourful bursts of yellow, purple and red to the landscape. This is a surprise to many who expect a desert landscape to be devoid of life! notes that 53 of the species found in this unique region are listed as threatened, including 14 plant species, 18 vertebrate species and 21 species of invertebrates. There are also a large number of species in the region that are found nowhere else in the world - including an incredible 15 species of land snails! This makes the bioregion an extremely important haven for wildlife conservation, and a very special place to experience.

The Black-footed rock wallabies commonly spotted at Simpsons Gap are extremely popular for wildlife watchers trekking the Larapinta Trail. These small, agile marsupials are less than a metre in height, and spend their lives on the rocky escarpments where they rely on caves and crevices for shelter.

Any dangerous wildlife?

The official Larapinta Trail website notes that risks posed by wildlife along the Larapinta Trail are limited, but they can be dangerous and fatal. The highest risks are posed by snakes. The Trail is home to some of Australia’s most poisonous snakes such as the King Brown, but it is highly unlikely you will come across them, particularly during winter. If you do, exercise common sense and caution, but in most cases, just leave them be. Insects you may come across include spiders, bull ants and ticks, all of which can bite.

Another risk, albeit a low one, is dingoes. They are most often heard and only occasionally seen. However, dingoes are not shy about visiting the campsites during the night and stealing any food, boots, equipment, cutlery, bags and other items of interest. They are superbly crafty, patient, stealthy and skilled animals. Secure all of your equipment at all times and never leave any rubbish lying around. Finally, please never feed wildlife on the trail.

The Challenge itinerary

Note that due to the large group travelling, the order of your itinerary may vary to the details below. A summary of the itinerary is below.

Travel, Monday 14 August:

Day 1 – trek, Tuesday 15 August:

Approximately 10km, 6 hours walking with breaks, total climb 110m, total descent 100m, medium grade

  • 7.30am: meet guides for pre-tour briefing
  • Morning: Telegraph Station for Welcome to Country ceremony, cultural tour and conversation, Simpsons Gap
  • Afternoon: Ormiston Gorge and pound

Day 2 – trek, Wednesday 16 August:

Approximately 16 km, 6 hours walking with breaks, total climb 710m, total descent 710m, hard grade, section 12 of the Trail

  • A wander to Mount Sonder (or there is an alternative easier walk option)

Day 3 – trek, Thursday 17 August:

Approximately 12 km, 7 hours walking with breaks, total climb 100m, total descent 130m, medium grade, section 10 of the Trail

  • Ormiston Gorge to Glen Helen Homestead, Glen Helen Gorge

Day 4 – trek, Friday 18 August:

Approximately 15 km, 8 hours walking with breaks, total climb 460m, total descent 380m, hard grade, section 8 of the Trail

  • Eagles Landing, Counts Point, Serpentine Chalet Gorge

Day 5 – trek, Saturday 19 August:

Approximately 12 km, 6 hours walking with breaks, total climb 210m, total descent 210m, medium grade

Travel, Sunday 20 August

  • Morning: transfer to Alice Springs airport
  • Afternoon: return flight to Sydney, transfer to Newcastle.

Where will we stay overnight?

Trekkers will stay two nights at the Glen Helen Homestead, which is basic, rustic and simple accommodation. There is a restaurant, bar and lounge area, a swimming pool and a natural swimming hole. Trekkers will also stay two nights in pre-prepared campsites with stand-up touring tents with off-the-ground beds.

Will we have any free time in Alice Springs? What is there to do there?

Yes, there will be free time in Alice Springs, and opportunity for you to have two (self-funded) dinners (Monday and Saturday) where you choose. One of our UON team members is a former resident of Alice Springs and suggests the following.

Sights and things to do

Restaurants and cafes

Special dietary requirements

If you haven’t already done so, please advise Life’s an Adventure ( and the UON Larapinta Trail Challenge project team ( if you have special dietary requirements or allergic reactions to food. Our tour company Life’s an Adventure offer two choices for all dinner main meals during the trek, so it suits a number of tastes.

Can you help with my travel needs?

Yes. We have engaged travel consultant Kylie Amos, iTravel The Junction who is able to assist our volunteer trekkers with flights, transfers and additional accommodation needs. Contact Kylie on +61 (0)448 386 875 or

When is payment due?

All fees for trek participants in the UON Larapinta Trail Challenge are to be paid directly to the tour company Life’s an Adventure (for the tour, and food and accommodation while on the trek), and to the third-party provider Kylie Amos, iTravel The Junction (for additional accommodation, transfers and flights).

Deposits to each of these providers is to be paid upon registration, with full payment due by Friday 16 June 2017.

What is the cancellation policy?

Cancellation fees are based on the Cancellation Policies of the Life’s An Adventure tour company and third party providers. This document provides reference to these policies, and a summary of cancellation fees.

For the full Cancellation Policy for Life’s an Adventure tour company, please click here.

Cancellations from the Larapinta Trail Challenge must be made via email to either Connor Brown ( or Lisa Calder-Patrick ( at the University of Newcastle. Notice of cancellation is not effective until received by UON and must be made during office hours (i.e. if cancellation is emailed over a weekend, it will become effective on Monday morning).

It is the responsibility of the participant to provide written cancellation to all third party providers including Life’s an Adventure ( and travel company iTravel (

Cancellation by the Participant

Period before departure within which notice of cancellation is received by us in writing. Note that the date of departure is Monday 14 August 2017.

  • 91 days (before Monday 15 May 2017) or more ahead of departure – Loss of deposit from iTravel and a $35 administration charge from Life’s an Adventure
  • Between 90-57 days of departure – 50% of trek fee paid to Life’s an Adventure and 50% of deposit paid to iTravel
  • Within 56 days (Monday 19 June 2017) of departure – a 100% cancellation fee regardless of circumstances.

Cancellation by the trek operator or UON

Tour company Life’s an Adventure or UON may cancel the trip at any time prior to departure if, due to terrorism, natural disasters, political instability or other external events it is not viable for the trek operator to deliver the planned itinerary. In circumstances where the cancellation is due to external events outside our reasonable control refunds will be less any unrecoverable costs. UON is not responsible for any incidental expenses that you may have incurred as a result of your booking including, but not limited to visas, vaccinations, travel insurance excess or non-refundable flights.

Funds raised from supporters

All money received from supporters as part of fundraising for the Larapinta Trail Challenge is non-refundable, except under extreme circumstances. If the trek were to be cancelled by the tour company Life’s an Adventure and could not be moved to another date, UON would attempt to hold a similar event for participants to trek, in keeping with the spirit of the event.

Is there insurance coverage?

All participants in the Larapinta Trail Challenge will be covered under UON’s Volunteer Personal Accident Insurance from the start of their participation in the Challenge, namely:

  • from time of the transfer departure from Newcastle on Monday 14 August, or from the time of arrival at Sydney airport on Monday 14 August if participants are not availing themselves of the bus transfer from Newcastle to Sydney
  • until the arrival of the returning transfer  to Newcastle on Sunday 20 August, or from the time of return arrival at Sydney airport if participants are not availing themselves of the bus transfer from Sydney to Newcastle.

To find out more about your level of cover as a Volunteer on the UON Larapinta Trail Challenge, please click here.

What happens if there’s an accident during the trek? Will there be first aid officers?

In addition to the four guides from the tour company Life’s an Adventure, Larapinta project team coordinator Connor Brown is a trained first aid officer. If you are a qualified medical doctor and/or have had first aid training please email

If there was an extreme medical emergency, helicopter rescue would come in less than an hour from Emergency Services in Alice Springs.

The Larapinta Trail Challenge project team will seek emergency contact names and numbers from trek participants, which will be:

  • provided to Life’s an Adventure
  • held securely by UON staff member and trek participant Connor Brown during the trek, and
  • held securely by Brad Holmes, Head of Philanthropic Programs at the University of Newcastle.

In case of an emergency during the Challenge, concerned parties may contact Brad Holmes on 0419 435 228, office 02 4921 5309, email

What is my acceptance of risk?

You acknowledge that the nature of the trip is adventurous and participation involves a degree of personal risk. You will be visiting places where the political, cultural and geographical attributes present dangers and physical challenges greater than those present in our daily lives. It is your own responsibility to acquaint yourself with all relevant travel information and the nature of your itinerary. You acknowledge that your decision to travel is made in light of consideration of this information and you accept that you are aware of the personal risks attendant upon such travel. Any vaccinations are the responsibility of the participant.

What is the limitation of liability?

UON will be using third party suppliers to provide the trek, accommodation, food and transport. UON is not responsible for the acts and omissions of these third parties.

To the fullest extent permitted by law:

  • Any liability for any loss, death, injury or damage which you may suffer (directly or indirectly) in connection with or arising out of your participation in a trip, is excluded;
  • You release us and our officers, employees, agents and representatives from any liability and expressly waive any claims you may have against us arising out of or in connection with your participation in a trip; and
  • Any condition or warranty which would otherwise be implied by law into these Booking Conditions (Implied Warranty), is excluded.

Any claim by you is excluded to the extent that it is for indirect or consequential loss, loss of profits or economic loss, however it arises, or for indirect, special, punitive or exemplary damages.

If a participant misses a transfer or flight before the trek begins, it will be the participant’s responsibility and expense to arrange to join the main group of trekkers in order to participate in the trek.

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