Heading to the NT for a week of hiking to raise funds for MS seemed like a wonderful adventure to me, (your trusty Intouch editor and a 26-year-old idealist, heavily over estimating her trekking experience), so when I was offered a place on the MS Red Centre Adventure in May, I jumped at the chance and figured that it wouldn’t be that hard. (In case you were wondering, I was incredibly wrong. Turns out trekking for a week in the Aussie desert is definitely very hard.)
The MS Red Centre Adventure, which involves seven days of trekking through the Larapinta Trail follows on from our inaugural expedition to The Great Wall of China in 2018, which many readers would have seen in the last edition of Intouch.
This year’s fundraising challenge however was a bit closer to home, exploring the West MacDonnell Ranges in the NT. Spanning over more than 200kms, the Larapinta Trail itself is on the bucket list for many hikers all over the world and is home to some truly spectacular views and walking tracks.
So, at the end of May, I found myself in Alice Springs with 14 other strangers ready to tackle an increasingly daunting hiking challenge to support people living with multiple sclerosis.
Anyone who has ever hiked for more than one day in a row will know that the first day of walking is full of exhilaration. Mostly because all your training has led up to this day, and partly because your hiking boots still feel good and you don’t have any blisters yet. Savouring the lingering creature comforts of our hotel in Alice Springs, we headed off from Telegraph Station for day one of our seven-day hike.
Fast forward a few days, and we all found ourselves slowly acclimatising to the rocky terrain and steep ascents of the Larapinta Trail. But we also found ourselves forming some strong bonds with each other. There’s something special about keeping watch for someone who you only just met while they find a good bush to wee behind on top of a mountain ridge.
But jokes aside, the friendships that we began to form were different. Maybe because we were all there for the same reason, or perhaps because most of us were out of range and weren’t distracted by our phones. Our campsite seemed to exude laughter, constant chatter and serenity.
Our days began around 5.30am with a beautiful song which our guide, Joe, would play to let us know that it was time to get up, and usually under the stars, we’d get ready for another day of walking.
There were unsurprisingly a myriad of blisters and bruises, sore feet and cold hands. But it didn’t stop our group from crossing each day off, discovering our resilience and the power of teamwork.
Watching the sun rise on top of one of the tallest mountains in the Northern Territory is without a doubt one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever done. (Climbing the mountain for four hours in the pitch black of the early hours of the morning with no other light aside from the moon and my cheap headtorch is without a doubt one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but that’s a different kettle of fish). Difficulty aside, to do it with new friends who share a passion for raising money and awareness for multiple sclerosis added something remarkable to the already breathtaking experience.
Embarking on the MS Red Centre Adventure taught me a few things. Firstly, sleeping in a swag is actually really nice (despite my very serious doubts about that), and waking up to a starry sky is strangely addictive. Secondly, you can almost definitely achieve more than you think you can. There were some days when I thought that if I had to walk up another mountain, I would actually just fall over and never stop crying, but spoiler alert – I managed to walk up that mountain with some necessary tough love, and amazing support from the whole team which we routinely passed around to whoever needed it that day. But lastly, meeting people from diverse backgrounds and different parts of Australia is great and sharing a common connection with all of them is truly special.
As I write this, the second MS Red Centre Adventure group is about to head on their own journey. Collectively, the May and June groups have raised over $140,000 and will have walked 240kms for MS.
Interested in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and raising money for MS at the same time? Head over to doitforms.org.au/Vietnam and register your interest for next year’s adventure in Vietnam. There are only a few spots left!