Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

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Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Tue 01 May, 2018 11:41 am

I set off from Alice Springs this morning, solo, and am now having a leisurely early lunch at the Telegraph Station. Talk about a gentle start!

Already I've seen two dingoes, a rock wallaby, a euro, and some colourful birds different from what I'm familiar with from the east coast.

My base weight is 12.5kg, plus 4kg food and water, and it feels suspiciously light today. Probably because I'm fresh and rested, enough so that I went via the Bradshaw Track instead of along the Todd River, adding an extra kilometre.

I'm heading for Wallaby Gap tonight. I didn't want an eary start today because the Telegraph Station Cafe wouldn't have been open yet.

I had forgotten how annoying the Central Australia face flies can be, but I don't like repellent either so I'll see how it goes.
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Day 1
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Pack with solar panel
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Tue 01 May, 2018 5:48 pm

After spending two hours at the Telegraph Station, I put on my fly veil and set off for Wallaby Gap, where I have the campsite to myself tonight.

Euro Ridge sure is nice. The track runs right along the edge of the bluff, and you feel like you're on the top of the world, walking an elevated path high above everything else.
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Looking south from Euro Ridge
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby crollsurf » Tue 01 May, 2018 6:09 pm

Keep the reports coming. Im stuck behind a desk. Just thought I'd tell you that ;)

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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby bigkev » Tue 01 May, 2018 7:22 pm

Enjoy the walk ribuck, it's a nice one :D
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Wed 02 May, 2018 10:46 am

crollsurf wrote:Keep the reports coming. Im stuck behind a desk. Just thought I'd tell you that ;)

I'm sure it's a very fine desk, crollsurf.

After a pleasant but hot night at Wallaby Gap, I'm now on a short side-trip to Scorpion Pool. No scorpions visible, which is a pity as I've never seen one in the wild.

30 degrees yesterday, 31 forecast today, and the same again tomorrow, and not dropping below 20 until hours after midnight. I could have taken my 600g summer sleeping bag, instead of my 1.6kg monster.
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Heavitree Range from Scorpion Pool
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Wed 02 May, 2018 4:03 pm

A short walk today, 15km including side trips, but enough given the 31 degree heat.

I didn't see anyone on the track, just a baby snake coloured dusty orange and olive, probably optimum colours for camouflage in this terrain.

I have the campsite to myself again tonight. How's this for my view from the sleeping platform?
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View from the Simpsons Gap sleeping platform
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Thu 03 May, 2018 2:29 pm

Dingoes howling at dawn today.

Not another person on the trail. To think that I have this amazing country all to myself!
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The name's "Gap". ... "Bond Gap".
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Rock arch bridge on the track below Arrenge Bluff
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby jobell » Thu 03 May, 2018 7:57 pm

Lucky you having it all to yourself! Looks fantastic, keep the updates coming, following with interest

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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Fri 04 May, 2018 10:33 am

Thanks jobell.

When I was still 2km from Jay Creek I heard loud machinery operating. When I got there, the shelter was blocked by two trucks and an excavator. Plumbing contractors were replacing the dunny tank, and its contents were spilling out.

I retreated to the riverbed for a brew, all the time thinking "Get out of my campsite. Hurry up and get out of my campsite". Eventually at 5:15 they departed, leaving the site nice and tidy, including having spread earth over the spillage.

Again I had the campsite to myself.

The walk along the river bed to Fish Pond is lovely (although lots of cattle dung and some cattle too). You're not allowed to swim through the pond, so the trail goes up a side creek which develops into a gorgeous little gorge sprinkled with cycads. Only when I got to an awkward scramble did I realize that I had missed the turnoff out of the creek.

I'm now on the alternative high route. Again, no-one else on the trail.
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Hmm, time to check the map perhaps.
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Back in the high country.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby north-north-west » Fri 04 May, 2018 10:47 am

The high route to Tangentyere is better anyway.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Fri 04 May, 2018 4:51 pm

north-north-west wrote:The high route to Tangentyere is better anyway.

The ascent track has recently been reworked and has a good gradient so you hardly feel the climb. Up top there are great views in both directions, and good phone coverage too. The descent is an energetic one down a striking gully.

Again I had the trail to myself today, but here at Standley Chasm campsite I have finally met some other through hikers. They started at Redbank Gorge 10 days ago. They confirmed my suspicions that there will be no water at Waterfall Gorge, and that the water at Fringe Lily Camp will be dubious at best. It has been a dry summer, and there has been no heavy rain for over a year.
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Salt contours on my shirt, from sweat
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Standley Chasm campsite
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Standley Chasm. Best viewed off-peak.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sat 05 May, 2018 12:26 pm

Another gorgeous day, not so hot today at 16 degrees. Also a few more people on the track: day walkers, a trail runner, and a couple of section hikers.
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No Grog at Standley Chasm, but the cafe has some good alcohol-free beers.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sat 05 May, 2018 4:59 pm

So I reached Brinkley Bluff and there's no-one there. Just a couple of dozen tent pads. How will I chose? Do I need a 360 degree view, or is 270 enough? What if I have to walk five metres for the view, instead of just looking out of my tent door? Do I want to face north or south? Do I need good sitting stones and table stones?

In the end I chose a pad that had a base of dirt rather than pebbles, to protect the floor of my tent (having not brought the footprint).

The Heavitree Range, which has been visible most of the way since Alice Springs, and sometimes looms high, now looks so tiny and insignificant from this lofty perch.
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That will do.
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That will do nicely.
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Spot the Heavitree Range.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby north-north-west » Sat 05 May, 2018 5:41 pm

Yeah, that's the best of tent sites on Brinkley, but if the wind comes up overnight you're going to be very uncomfortable.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby neilmny » Sun 06 May, 2018 8:39 am

Great report and photos ribuck. Thanks for posting.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sun 06 May, 2018 10:03 am

north-north-west wrote:... if the wind comes up overnight you're going to be very uncomfortable.

The wind was OK, but there's a definite problem with the site that I picked. It's a few metres to the north of the ridgeline, and doesn't have mobile internet coverage like some of the other sites.

So I couldn't check the weather forecast, download podcasts, and post this at 7am while I was snuggled in my sleeping bag and it was 2 degrees outside. First World Problem, eh? Since I have an easy day today, I decided to wait until it warmed up a bit before emerging from my tent.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby north-north-west » Tue 08 May, 2018 9:19 am

ribuck wrote:... 2 degrees outside.

A nice warm morning for the Centre.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Thu 17 May, 2018 7:45 pm

After I left Brinkley Bluff, I had no more internet. I'm with Aldi Mobile, which uses the Telstra network, but perhaps not all of it. Using my dual sim phone, I could access internet from high places using my UK sim card on roaming, but not with the Aldi sim, and the UK sim would have been too expensive for posting here. I had hoped to "live post" the whole walk, but I'm back now :( and the rest of my reports will come over the next few days.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Thu 17 May, 2018 8:21 pm

Having done a water carry to Brinkley Bluff, I opted for a short day to Birthday Junction instead of doing another water carry up to Rocky Ridge.

Steve and Kate, a New Zealand couple, arrived later, having started from Alice Springs two days after me. Their finish date is the same as mine, so I guess we'll be seeing each other a bit.

The next day, Steve and Kate walked on to Hugh Gorge Camp (which is after the gorge), but to my mind this is a section to be savoured and I wanted to camp within it. The ruggedness of Spencer Gorge, the vistas revealed at the windy saddles, the view from Rocky Ridge past Fringe Lily Creek and up the long valley to the cliffs at Hugh Gorge Junction ... it's rewarding country.

Camping at Hugh Gorge Junction didn't appeal (too hot and dusty), but a little way upstream I found a fabulous shaded sandbank just big enough for one tent, with a view of cycads, red cliffs, and rocks of all hues in the creekbed.

These amazing rocks - purple, gold, red, green, and white - covered in streaks and dapples and swirls of other colours - are apparently the same rocks that form the rust-red walls of the gorge. Occasional floodwaters are enough to scour the oxides off the surface of the rocks in the creekbed.

I got my water from the permanent waterhole at the top of the gorge. The smaller ponds I passed along the way were stagnant and putrid (cattle), but the big pool was good water.
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Occasional dirt stretches make a nice change from rocks
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Give me a fly net to protect me from the flies, sunglasses to protect my eyes, and a flapped hat to protect me from the sun, and I'm good to go.
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An anthill giving me the finger as I pass by
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Is this a Fringe Lily perhaps? Two of them were growing out of the rock face at Fringe Lily Creek.
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Looking up from my tent site in Hugh Gorge
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Fri 18 May, 2018 12:38 pm

The next day I made my way through Hugh Gorge. There's lots of water in the gorge, but much of it is too green and frothy for drinking. There's also nowhere that's 100m from a watercourse, so I "held it in" until I reached the dunny at the official campsite.

Yesterday I had my first injury. On Rocky Ridge, I hit my head hard on a low-flying branch while I was watching my feet. The rebound almost knocked me down the cliff. I thought I might see stars, but today it's just blood and a massive bruise.

I was going to camp at Ghost Gum Flat, which was pleasant enough when I got there, but the shade soon moved away from the campsite and I figured I might as well keep moving. There were remains of a big campfire at Ghost Gum Flat, and from the map it looks like this campsite may be just outside the national park.

I pitched my tent by the side of the track, in the middle of nowhere, as dusk approached. It was a warm and still night, so I didn't pitch the outer, and I stargazed through the mesh as I have done on several nights now.
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Looking up from the table at Ghost Gum Flat
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Fire circle at Ghost Gum Flat
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Guess my footwear...
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Trackside camp
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby deadwood » Sat 19 May, 2018 10:10 am

Enjoying the blog and photos thanks ribuck. We're heading out there very soon, so nice to see some current info. What's your thoughts on whether gaiters are a good idea or not for the current track conditions?
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sat 19 May, 2018 1:28 pm

deadwood wrote:What's your thoughts on whether gaiters are a good idea or not for the current track conditions?

I wore super-lightweight long pants and was happy with that. Shorts and gaiters would have been fine too.

The concerns are snakes and spinifex. I got the occasional spinifex prickle through my pants, which was no problem, but if I was going off track for more than a few km I would definitely wear gaiters.

I only saw one snake, just a baby.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby deadwood » Sat 19 May, 2018 6:12 pm

thanks ribuck.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sat 19 May, 2018 6:19 pm

Some people find the long flat stretch between Hugh Gorge and Ellery Creek to be tedious, but I enjoyed it.

You are crossing the large plain that separates the Chewings Range from the Heavitree Range. The going is fast, and the scenery changes rapidly as you progress. At first, you can look back to Brinkley Bluff, Paisley Bluff and Hugh Gorge Bluff, but one by one these recede into the distance and new parts of the range come into view, eventually all the way up to Mt Giles.

On the other side, you see various passes and gaps, and can try to work out which one is Ellery Creek.

The Larapinta crosses to the other side of the Heavitree Range over a short but dramatic scramble. Suddenly the view changes, and so does the vegetation. There's no more of the of the introduced Buffett Grass and from now it's spinifex all the way.

I hadn't realised that Larapinta walkers are allowed to camp in the riverbed at Ellery Ck, but this would have been a far superior option because the main camping area was dusty, and noisy until after 1am. Don't expect to find a shower here - water is scarce and there aren't even wash basins in the toilet block.

Some people were swimming in the waterhole. I paddled a bit, but it was quite cold and didn't seem particularly clean so I didn't swim.

The next day is low-level to Serpentine Gorge. The track is not particularly special, but there are some nice spots. In particular I would have loved to camp on the tiny tent pad clearing just after the trig point. Lovely spot, but it was to soon to camp.
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Ellery Creek Ice Pond
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A heavitree.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sun 20 May, 2018 12:56 pm

A journalist once asked John Lennon whether Ringo was one of the best drummers in the world. John responded that Ringo wasn't even the best drummer in the Beatles.

I was reminded of this at Serpentine Gorge. There's an energetic walk up to a lookout. The setting is magnificent - you round a ridge and suddenly find yourself at the top of a dramatically-shaped cliff with a view of the inaccessible inner valley, and beyond it the narrowest and most serpentinous part of the gorge.

A National Park sign proclaims that it's one of the best views in the Northern Territory. But it's not even the best view on the Larapinta.

The best view is the following day when the track ascends to Counts Point, which is on a short side trip. Here there is a view to write home about. The whole of the remainder of the walk is laid out in front of you.

In the distance is Mt Zeil, the highest point in the Territory. It's flanked by the massive massif of Mt Giles, and by Mt Sonder which lies at the end of the Larapinta Trail. Directly in front of us is a valley, hidden to the outside world, formed by two parallel lines of mountains, which I'll be entering tomorrow.

I have another minor injury. A Telemark turn on the zig-zagging descent to Serpentine Gorge went wrong, leaving me with a graze on my palm and a sore knee.

My footwear is Dunlop KT26 runners. Nice and lightweight, and my feet feel great. No blisters, no rubbing, and not too hot on the 30 degree days during the early days of the trip.
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Looking back from "one of the best views in the NT"
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The forbidden inner sanctum of Serpentine Gorge - swimming prohibited, and not climbable
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Part of the view from Counts Point
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ChrisJHC » Mon 21 May, 2018 12:19 pm

Dunlop KT26s!

That brings back memories. I didn’t realise they still made them.


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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Mon 21 May, 2018 1:20 pm

ChrisJHC wrote:Dunlop KT26s ... I didn’t realise they still made them.

So many people have said the same thing to me, but every Big W store sells them. The design is slightly improved compared to old times: the splay on the sole is not so exaggerated, so the shoe no longer gets occasionally wedged between rocks.

I switched to KT26s after weighing them and realising they were about 25% lighter than my Volleys.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Mon 21 May, 2018 2:06 pm

Minor gear problems have arisen with my water containers. I'm carrying two one-litre bottles plus a 5 litre polythene water bag (more substantial than a wineskin).

The lid of one water bottle has developed a crack, probably from being overtightened. It now leaks slowly if the bottle is not vertical. Superglue doesn't stick to polypropylene (which is why they make superglue containers out of it), so I'll just need to be careful to keep it upright. The 5L bag has a pinprick leak which slowly drips. I've patched the hole with a self-adhesive tent repair patch, which seems to be holding.

I got to Serpentine Chalet Gorge at 2.10pm, where I caught up with Steve and Kate the Kiwis, but there was nothing special to keep me there so early in the day. I had passed a cute solo thru-hiker (Jane from Perth) who recommended a tent site near Waterfall Gully. I decided to go for it, and loaded up with water.

I didn't really expect to get there before dark, but I pulled out all the stops and headed out through Inarlanga Pass and into the linear valley. Maybe it was just the late afternoon light, but I found this valley enchantingly beautiful as I raced through it. Much to my surprise, I got there at 6.15, just in time to pitch my tent before darkness. Lovely spot, and all to myself.
Attachments
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Inarlanga Pass ... the last "wild" gap on the trip
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A ghost gum that's had a hard life. When I stepped off the trail to fit it all into the frame, it was on a side-track beaten down by countless previous photographers.
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Linear valley as twilight approaches
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Tue 22 May, 2018 6:19 pm

I got an early start. There's a small climb between the Waterfall Gully campsite and the dry waterfall, and a super view opens up briefly to Mt Sonder in the distance, at the end of a long valley. It looked glorious bathed in the soft morning light, and I can imagine it would look even better from Hill Top Lookout at sunrise.

The trail climbs to Giles View lookout, which offers an impressive vista of the whole of Ormiston Pound and the surrounding ranges. There are a few tent spots here, but they are very exposed to the wind. A short distance further is Hermits Hideaway, which would make a great overnight stop. It's pretty much the only camping space on the Larapinta Trail which is on the tops AND is sheltered from the wind.

I made quick time to the Ormiston Gorge trackhead. I have noticed that trackheads where the logbook has a pen get more than double the through traffic compared to those where the log book has no pen.

After an iced chocolate at the cafe, I filled up with water and set out on the Pound Walk, which I thought was fairly nondescript.

When I hit Ormiston Creek I turned right, then right again up the tributary that leads towards the base of Mt Giles. It's a beautiful creek, and there were plenty of waterholes so I needn't have carried water. I found a nice place and camped.
Attachments
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Mt Sonder in the dawn light
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An overdose of grand scenery
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The prevailing wind is revealed...
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A great campsite ... all that's missing is a campfire...
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Last edited by ribuck on Sat 26 May, 2018 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby johnw » Tue 22 May, 2018 10:53 pm

Nice report and photos ribuck, it looks like you had a good time. Larapinta trail is on my bucket list, so I hope to do it eventually. Just curious how you find your Naturehike tent? I've been eyeing that model off on Aliexpress for a while as they're quite inexpensive. Been looking for a freestanding alternative to my Terra Nova Laser Comp 1, and hopefully with better ventilation.
John W

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