JORDYN KINDNESS, 17, marked her last birthday in a unique way. Instead of the typical celebration, Jordyn brought in the beginning of her 17th year alone, in the middle of central Australia, whilst completing a 223km hike. It may have been a different way to celebrate turning 17, but with the Larapinta Trail full of "unforgettable" scenery, the experience is one that Jordyn recommends.
TOM DUNN: Who is Jordyn Kindness?
JORDYN KINDNESS: To put it simply, a person that is a little crazy but loves challenges, blue skies and being outside.
TD: The Larapinta Trail is right in your backyard. Sometimes when things are so close we lift our gaze and look for adventure further from home. What convinced you to give this local challenge a go?
JK: Ever since I heard about the trail I have always wanted to complete it. It’s a world renowned trek and I would be crazy if I didn’t give it a go.
TD: The views along the range are quite extraordinary. For those who don’t know the area how would you describe the scenery?
JK: Unforgettable. The scenery consists of sweeping views across a sunburnt landscape, fresh-water gorges that refresh you just when you need it most, and sunrises that bathe the sky in vibrant hues of pink, orange and deep purple, it is a scenery like no other.
TD: The Larapinta Trail is made up of three mountain ranges (MacDonnel, Chewings, and Heavitree). Did seeing your ‘backyard’ from the top of those ranges change your opinion on the area you call home?
JK: Absolutely. Seeing the contrast of the sunburnt ranges against the vast blue sky makes you realise how fortunate you are. To live in a place like Alice Springs where these ranges are practically in my backyard is absolutely astonishing and I am grateful every day for living in such an amazing landscape that not many people get to see.
TD: What was your goal for taking on the Trail?
JK: My goal was to immerse myself in the timeless, arid landscape and to complete my first big adventure by myself. My goal was to challenge myself so I could learn a bit about myself and the area I live in.
TD: What did you get out of the experience? What lessons will you take from the journey?
JK: The trail has taught me so much. Being physically challenged allows you to realise what you’re capable of and gives you courage, strength and motivation to take on the mental and emotional challenges at home. I learnt that there is no mountain physically or metaphorically that cannot be tackled. I learnt to become strong in spirit and face my fears, such as walking for hours in complete darkness by myself only relying on my map for navigation. I learnt to have faith in myself and in each step, even if it was outside of my comfort zone. I learnt by forging friendships with trekkers across the trail that it is never about being too old or too young to give something a go. It was about stepping up, holding on and moving forward. I learnt about the simple acts of kindness and how powerful both laughter and stories are. And finally, I learnt that at home, there is almost a constant competition for time, we are always “on” for everyone. We are bombarded by media and messages and there is often little time to let your mind wander. But on the trail, I released how insignificant all my worries are. A bad grade in school really has no cosmic importance.
TD: Being right in the heart of Australia, most would assume that activities liking hiking and exploration would be too difficult due to the heat. How were the temperatures while you hiked?
JK: The temperature was beautiful as I chose to do the trail in the winter time. Winter in central Australia means that the temperature ranges from 5-20 degrees Celsius. However, on my 4th and longest day, the temperature moved into the 30s which brought out the flies. The flies are probably the only difficult obstacle to deal with when hiking. But after a while you forget about them and if you have a fly net (which I did not) then they are not a worry.
TD: What were the most important pieces of gear that you carried?
JK: Head torch – since I was walking 30-40km a day over a rocky landscape and sometimes reaching my camp spot meant walking in the dark.
Band-Aids and strapping tape – to cover blisters and strapping for knees.
Tin of Milo – to make a warm cup of hot chocolate before going to bed.
A pair of thongs – to change into out of your hiking boots when walking around campsite.
Water bladder – So you don’t have to take your pack off every time you want water.
And then obviously the other essentials such as a sleeping bag, first aid kit, spare clothes, utensils, trail mix, maps, sunscreen.
TD: You relied on some food drops to complete the journey. Talk us through what you packed and what other preparation did you complete for the hike?
JK: To prepare for the trip, I talked to Outdoor Ed staff at my school and compared my gear list to theirs. For food, I relied on outback country freeze dry meals for dinner which I put in my pack and in my food drop. For dinner, I had dried cereal and milk powder put into a zip lock bags, which I would add water to when I wanted breakfast. For lunch, I had tinned spaghetti. However, I didn’t eat majority of my own food because during the trail I met so many kind and amazing people who invited me to eat with them and share their food. Majority of these people had already been at the camp for a while and were cooking up what seemed like a feast using fresh food. Not only did I get a great meal but I got to meet remarkable people.
TD: The majority of people celebrate their 17th birthday in a very similar way. What made you decide to celebrate yours so uniquely?
JK: When my parents turned 17 they both enlisted in the Army and they both grew up extremely fast. I am forever grateful for my parents and for their hardships that have allowed me to become the person I am today. Since it was 17 when my parents first started their adult lives, I decided it was only right for me to challenge myself. I am extremely privileged, and I thought my first challenge and adventure would be embarking on the Larapinta trail alone and challenging both my mental and physical strength.
TD: Can we expect to see another birthday hike next year?
JK: Unfortunately, I have no big hikes planned this year as I am in year 12 and cannot afford to take a week off school. My birthday presents this year will be registering for the Busselton Iron Man (3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km run), which I aim to compete in one week after my graduation. I will be 18 on my next birthday, which means I will be eligible to compete in an Iron Man, another challenge I am excited to do. Since my trail, I have decided that every year I want to do something crazy and fun. This year it is an Iron Man and next year I hope it will be horse trekking in Mongolia or maybe completing the three passes in Nepal.
TD: What advice would you give someone who is thinking of trying a hike in their own local area?
JK: My advice is to set a date and stick to it. It is easy to fall into the trap of putting off the hike and saying you will do it another time. Setting a date ensures that you will complete the hike and I promise you won’ forget it. Not only does it make you appreciate the area that you live in, but it also allows you to understand your surrounding and gain a new perspective on things. Make sure to also ask locals for advice.
TD: Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
JK: I highly recommend completing the Larapinta trail. It is a moving experience and I can guarantee that if you complete it, you will learn something about yourself, about the environment and about Australia.
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