This year I ventured overseas for the longest and hardest hikes I’ve done to date, enjoying some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen. Hiking in Australia and Europe was quite a different experience from New Zealand, in particular accommodation options, track conditions, popularity, and the landscapes walked through.
The Larapinta Trail made for a complete contrast from New Zealand, walking 260km over twelve days from Mt Sonder to Alice Springs in central Australia. No huts here, but plenty of decent campsites, with water tanks, toilets and usually shelters, shared with a handful or fewer people each night. No mud here either or shelter from the sun, just rocky exposed track relatively free of other people. The scenery was an expansive landscape of red, yellow and green, with some incredible rock formations and never ending vistas. Due to it’s length and carrying a 24kg pack the Larapinta was the hardest walk I’ve done so far, but in retrospect it was one of the most enjoyable. I often think back to the sense of wilderness and wonder I felt on the trail.
Tour du Mont Blanc was a complete contrast again, with a landscape of glaciers and forest clad mountains, and effectively hostels high on the mountainside serving three course dinners. With food and bedding provided these allowed me to carry a much lighter multi day pack than usual, making the ~11,500m ascent and decent along the track far more manageable. I was very lucky with the weather, which was near perfect for most of the eight days walking 170km. The price to pay was the popularity of the track, with it rare to walk for more than fifteen minutes without coming across someone.
Much shorter than both but as enjoyable in its own way was a wonderful day walk in the Albanian Alps, a 16km return hike toward Maja E Kollates in the Volbona Valley. With ~1,700m of ascent and descent it was a decent walk, but rewarded with some spectacular views, and seeing almost no one else around.