Garry Ponder – out of our Bowral office recently participated in White Ribbons ‘Trek for Respect’, where he joined others from around the country to walk 65kms of the Larapinta Trail near Alice Springs. Total money raised so far from the Trek for Respect has exceeded $219,000 – with Garry personally doing an amazing job with $11,917.91 raised from his fund raising and contributions from friends and family.

Garry completed the 5 day trek with 169,971 steps – a total of 69.7 kilometers!

From all the pictures and stories Garry’s been telling us here in the office, the trek was an amazing experience and Garry has created some unforgettable memories and made friends for life.

One of Garry’s fellow trekkers, Donna Douglas, shared some great words and pictures via Facebook and we share them below.

(p.s. be sure to check out the video at the end!)


Day One

We headed out to Telegraph Station. This is the start of the Larapinta Track. A little chilly to start. Incredibly beautiful. Clear blue skies, red rich soil, brilliant green scrub and silence. Us city folk forget how stillness and complete silence sounds – to this country girl it is pure bliss. Our destination was Wallaby Gap, 13.5kms away, following a range of low hills towards the West MacDonnell Ranges. We had a fun moment walking over the Ghan railway line. This leads to the highest point of the day on Euro Ridge where there is a magnificent view of the south-east of Alice Springs and higher ridges towards the west. The views were amazing, the silence deafening. A late lunch was served in Wallaby Gap. It’s amazing that after a hard trek food tastes delicious! From there it was all aboard the nice air conditioned bus for the bumpy ride out to Glen Helen Gorge. The campsite is a dedicated camp site for trekking groups, so tents are set up, with an area for cooking and a fireplace. Colleen and I headed straight to our tent and then after a quick change headed to the Gorge for a swim. The Gorge is fed by an underwater spring. The most incredible surroundings with tall red cliffs and beautiful clear water. Did I mention it was cold? There was a lot of screeching and screaming…. and that was just Adrian! It was refreshing and took the heat and tension out of our aching muscles. Colleen and April took a while to get into the water, and then turned into Mermaids. The late afternoon flew by as we prepared for the evening and got ourselves organised for the next day. Dinner was served and we ate around the campfire. Our trek guide (Linz) used to be a chef. From the BBQ she served up rice, sweet and sour chicken and sweet and sour vegetables – amazing! Greg was the designated fire starter and did a fantastic job! As it got dark we sat around the fire talking and laughing about our day and our adventures. Every one has a story and everyone has a passion for White Ribbon and making a difference. The nights up here are extraordinary. As the light fades the stars come out. The colours are brilliant blue and then fade through to yellow, orange, pink, inky blue and dark grey. The heat from the day settles and everything goes quiet and still. Our country is truly beautiful. After dinner we had a debrief for the following day. All of a sudden one of our fellow trekkers – Ian – called out “Shooting Star”. Turns out it was a meteorite flashing across the sky. Like a rainbow it arced across from south to north taking around a minute to do so. On its path it picked up the stars along the way. Brilliant and glowing we watched with disbelief at what we were seeing. As it left the sky we felt incredible joy at seeing something so remarkable. We had a moment of complete awe. Our trek guide said it was an omen to bring us good luck. We called It the White Ribbon Meteorite.


Day Two

An early start this morning with Linz waking us at 5am with some Aboriginal music. We were on the road by 6.15am. The sunrise was spectacular. So many stars and as the sun rises and the stars dim the colours are amazing. Today our trek was Section 14 of Larapinta – 13.4 Kim’s on a hard track, climbing 460 metres. We started at Serpentine Gorge. It’s a steep climb to the crest of Heavitree Range with sweeping views of the surrounding plains and ridges. The highest point is Counts Points. We left our packs under a shady tree and climbed up for magnificent views of the mountains at the western end of the West MacDonnell Ranges. The lookout also provides a good vantage point from which to see the overall geology of the ranges. The scenery is just spectacular. From there it was down……. the trail was pretty challenging as it’s very rocky so we had to take our time. From there the path heads into woodland. It was a challenging trail and we complete it with a sense of accomplishment. On the way back we stopped at the Ochre Pits. Amazing colours, red, yellow and white. Our legs were a little weary but we covered the 300metres there and back! Back to the camp for a swim in the Gorge and a cold drink or two


Day Three

This morning was a sleep in with a 6am wake up call. It’s amazing to wake up to the sounds of Aboriginal music. It’s so quite and peaceful – soothing. A beautiful way to start the day. We were on the road just after 7am. It was a short drive to the Mt Sonder Lookout. Our destination was the Ormiston Gorge. Lindz had told us that the Gorge was a magnificent and refreshing water hole and the cafe sold amazing Iced Coffees and Iced Chocolates. Motivation indeed! At the lookout we had a good view of Mt Sonder and could see what our challenge was the next day. We started climbing up to the most amazing window in the rocks. Walking through there we started walking on a path like it was through a paddock surrounded by mountain ranges. That was the easy bit! The Finke river is one of the oldest river systems in the world. The Finke River was called “Larapinta” by the Aboriginals. This literally means ‘salt creek’, which dates back to when our land was covered by salt water – amazing! We weaved over the dry river bed a few times over the day. Very strange walking over a dry river bed that is flooded for a couple of months of the year! The climb went up and up. There seems to be no end to the ranges and cliff faces. The wildflowers are starting to come out. The native Hibiscus and paper Daisy’s are starting to come out – beautiful. An amazing sight in this diverse country. Morning tea was at the top of a peak with glorious views over the ranges. From there it was down and up again to arrive at Ormiston Gorge. The last section was HOT! It’s warming up here – which makes it even more challenging and dusty! The swim at Ormiston Gorge was breathtaking! Literally! It was so cold but incredibly refreshing! I love our daily baths in the water holes. There’s lots of teasing and heckling as each of us hit the water. It’s a fun and inspiring group to spend time with. The afternoon is for snoozing and relaxing. Tomorrow we conquer Mt Sonder

Day Four

The alarm went off at 2am this morning and we were up and on the road at 2.20am. Pretty impressive for such a large group! At that hour of the morning it’s REALLY dark. The stars are incredible, the stillness serene. We started the climb at 3am and headed out for the 8kms to the top of Mt Sonder. If we had any idea where we were climbing our courage may not have been so strong! In the dark you literally can only take one foot in front of the other. In the dark you plod on and up. We reached the top a few minutes after 6am. The sky was starting to lighten up in hues of yellow and orange. The wind was quite strong and unbelievably enough it was cold. Linz had pre-warned us so we had carried our winter woolies with us! As the sun rose the cameras came out. The sun lifted up and over the horizon in a ball of bright orange. Spectacular!

Cheryl and Anne had taken the 3am wake up start option and climbed as high as an area called the Saddle, which is about two thirds of the way up. Their view was slightly different to us but still spectacular.!

The climb down was bizarre in the light. It felt like a completely different place! Mt Sonder is 1380 metres so the views down were wide and sweeping and truly amazing.

Our guide Lindz is the most beautiful woman. Funny, strong, caring and knowledgeable. She’s a real live wire! As we board the bus she gets on and tells us that we are all legends, followed by “It’s 10am you all look like shit and you smell!”

Back to camp for showers, breakfast and a restful day.

We all have this incredible sense of achievement. For our DV survivors it’s proof that they can achieve amazing things. The team environment can only be described as beautiful


Day Five

The last night in camp was party night for most of the trekkers. This boring girl went to bed early leaving the trekkers to party on.

I woke up around 5.30am and headed outside to see the stars. It’s amazing how many there are which we can’t see in the city! Before sunrise the dingoes started howling. The echo throughout the valley was soulful and eerie. As the sky became lighter the stars seemed to disappear – a reminder that they are always there, just hidden to us. The birds woke up and started their morning calls. It sounded beautiful in the cold morning air. The sky turned from orange to yellow to light blue to bright blue, the stars disappeared from sight and my fellow trekkers started stirring. Behind our camp was this magnificent cliff. Watching the colours change on the cliff as the sun rose is a memory I will have forever. We left camp at 8.15am and headed back to Ormiston Gorge. The hike today was short – to the Ghost Gum and back via the Gorge. The ghost gums are amazing. Hanging on the edge of the cliff, somehow they grow and actually flourish. One of our DV survivors said that it was a reminder that anything is possible. After an early lunch it was back to Alice Springs for our project visit. The first presentation was by the Women’s Family Safety Group. This is a group of women who support each other. The women who form the group are mostly DV survivors. They are passionate about connecting and sharing. About having an impact on women, the family, the community and the land that they belong to. Their message is one of hope. To not have violence normalised, to have a voice, to be visible, for the media to get the facts straight.

These women share their stories and encourage other women to share their story, to listen and to be understood. Together they are strong, strong enough to stand together against women’s domestic violence. They want something different for their children and grand children. Their goal is to heal, be happy and have respect for each other.

We then heard from a man who manages mens behavioural change programs. In the Aboriginal community women are 35 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence. YES! 35 more times! Despite that horrendous statistic things are changing. Fatalities are down. More importantly the feelings of shame are diminishing. That’s when real change is possible.

Next up was a man who manages female rangers. They are out in the community. educating and spreading the word. The word of hope – that there is a choice.

Back to our hotel to quickly wash off some red dust before we head out to our farewell dinner with the team. It’s been a life-changing experience…..

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