Gourmet Trekking in the Australian Outback
If visiting the Australian outback is on your bucket list, and you are keen to get close to nature, without forsaking some comfort, then gourmet trekking may be the perfect option!
The Arkaba Walk – Flinders Ranges, South Australia
The Arkaba Walk in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges combines the majesty of the vast outdoors, up-close encounters with wildlife and nature, adrenalin-pumping hiking and rustic to refined accommodation, combined with gourmet food and superb wines. It really can’t get much better than that in my opinion! The walk is one of a varied range of hikes from beach to mountains to wilderness, as part of the Great Walks of Australia.
I had the privilege to experience this slice of Australia on a Women in Business Trek, raising money for Act for Kids – a charity that provides prevention and therapy services for abused and at-risk children and their carers across Australia. Ten women launched ourselves from our luxurious Adelaide accommodation at the Mayfair Hotel, via light plane to Hawker, to embark on the experience of a lifetime, all for a good cause!
The four-day/three-night guided hike encompasses 50 kilometres of walking in the Wilpena Pound and Elder Ranges area. This region boasts 600 million years of geological history, with majestic mountain ranges, 1000 year-old River Red Gums, and an abundance of wildlife. Expect to see colourful birdlife, kangaroos, emus, lizards and yes, snakes! There is also an array of bush tucker to sample along the way and, depending on the season, wildflowers. In the evenings, marvel at spectacular sunsets, while sipping champagne and nibbling canapes – a luxurious finish to a day of heart-pumping activity!
From rustic to refined
Two nights are spent sleeping in cosy swags in rustic, open-fronted, tin and timber huts, with the option to drag your swag onto the timber deck to doze under a star-studded sky. When we were there, it rained on the second night, which encouraged a group of thirsty and curious kangaroos to hop onto our decks to lap at the pools of water and inspect the interlopers!
The camps are rustic, with composting toilets and the unique opportunity to shower with the help of a bucket, while gazing into the great outdoors! A fire pit, around which to savour a pre-dinner drink and snack while recounting the day’s adventures, is a welcome relief to tired legs and feet. The option of outdoor or indoor dining consisting of delicious three-course meals prepared by our guides, with the help of the chefs at Arkaba Station Homestead, and local wines, add to the utter charm of ‘glamping’ in the wilderness. How our guides managed to produce the most delicious beef cheeks in red wine and roasted vegetables, followed by chocolate macadamia slice, from a camp stove, in a kitchen lit only by a lantern and head torch is a mystery!
On the last night, your arrival at Arkaba Homestead takes you from rustic to refined! Now a conservation property, aiming to reverse 150 years of livestock grazing to the pre-European settlement landscape, the property perfectly combines sophistication with authenticity. Sheep-wool bedheads, outdoor dining on a former wool-sorting table, a cosy library and even a ghost-inhabited wine cellar, succeed in making you feel like you are staying in a private home, rather than a ‘hotel’. The meals, again, are spectacularly good, and the quality Australian wines, gin bar and liqueurs ensure you have a good night’s sleep!
Trekking in the Australian outback
Trekking in the Australian outback can be harsh – the temperature can soar into the high 30s or beyond and the nights can be cold. This trek is graded moderate to challenging, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. The most difficult aspects in my view, were the scrambling over rocky terrain, climbing up steep slopes and descending some somewhat ‘treacherous’ terrains. Ensure you have good walking boots (mine deteriorated mid-hike, requiring some emergency duct tape to keep them intact until the end!). I also recommend using walking poles – they not only help you to navigate tricky climbs and descents, but also take the pressure off your legs and feet.
You only carry a day pack on this walk, with your lunch, water, thermos, sunscreen, camera and anything else you may require during the day. The guides carry extra water, first aid and toiletry items. There will be times when the call of nature will require you to squat behind a tree, so be prepared for that!
Coverage from the sun is essential, and a fly net is advisable during the hotter months. If you intend to sleep under the stars, a beanie is a good idea, as the nights can get chilly, even in the summer.
I have completed five of the 13 Great Walks of Australia (so I am almost halfway!) and they are all unique! This trek was perhaps more rugged and less luxurious than the others I have experienced, but therefore had a special authentic and rustic feel. The walking requires a good level of fitness, but can be taken at your own pace, so is suitable for anyone who enjoys long walks in the great outdoors! The food and wine was delicious and the scenery and wildlife spectacular. So, overall, for an opportunity to experience the Australian outback in a special and unique way, it is a great alternative.
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If you would like to read my other blogs on the Great Walks of Australia visit the Evvoke Conversations: Trekking the Great Ocean Road.