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Australia Travel > Northern Territory > Adventures > Bushwalking


The Northern Territory offers numerous unique bushwalking experiences, both in the Red Centre and in The Top End. The former arid climate creates an environment that is surprisingly rich in fauna and flora, and its ancient rocks seem like the bones of the earth. A good introduction to desert walking is the Larapinta Trail, which runs through the West MacDonnell Ranges from the outskirts of Alice Springs. The initial 38.5 miles of the trail take four to five days; a second 26-mile section to the west requires another four days of hiking. Eventually, the trail will run for an uninterrupted 137 miles through the ranges, from Alice Springs all the way to Mount Sonder. Though much shorter, the walks in Uluru-Kata Tjuta are equally fascinating. The most rewarding is the Base Walk, a 5.8-mile circuit of Uluru which takes in spectacular rock formations and Aboriginal sacred sites. At Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) the half-day Valley of the Winds Walk provides a terrific tour of the giant conglomerate domes. In Kakadu, there are numerous short walking trails, many of which are to or along watercourses, often allowing hikers to enjoy a swim at a waterhole en route. One enjoyable day-walk circuit leads over the top of Nourlangie Rock, one of the park’s major Aboriginal art sites. Longer walks are possible between other tourist havens such as Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls and Koolpin Gorge, but the scarcity of water and potential navigation difficulties – iron deposits in the rocks have been know to play havoc with magnetic compasses – mean that they are for experienced and self-sufficient walkers only. Permits must be obtained well in advance for all off-track walks. Nitmiluk National Park, centred on Katherine Gorge, also has several interesting tracks. Perhaps the best outing is the hike from the visitor centre to the eighth gorge, which takes a day, followed by a paddle down the river on air mattresses through the series of gorges. Hikers can exit from the gorge system at various points, via gullies that drop down from the southern plateau. The most interesting of these is Butterfly Gorge, which shelters a pocket of rainforest inhabited by hundreds of butterflies. The other major walk at Nitmiluk is the tough, five-day, 41-mile hike to Edith Falls. Walkers spend each night at a riverside camp site, so water is not a problem provided you carry enough during the day and don’t lose sight of the triangular blue markers that identify the trail. Another waterside walk can be enjoyed at Redbank Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges. This involves an easy stroll along a sandy riverbed, followed by a more arduous clamber through the gorge itself, across piles of boulders and a series of rock pools usually filled with surprisingly cold water. Although taxing, the return trip can be accomplished in a few hours. In Watarrka National Park, the highlight for bushwalkers is the Giles Track, a dramatic two-day, 13.5-mile walk from Kathleen Springs to Kings Canyon.

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