The Larapinta trail is one of our first loves. We’ve been running tours along this iconic walking track for 14 years and every year we fall in love with the region a little more. However, there is one thing that gets in the way of this wonderful relationship. Something that infiltrates our beloved private campsite year after year. Something that keeps coming back and threatens to take over the place entirely if it’s not kept in check. Buffel grass or Cenchrus ciliaris.
The Origins of Buffel Grass in Australia
Native to most of Africa, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, southern Iran and some parts of southern Europe, buffel grass is a deep-rooting perennial grass, which is likely to have come to Australia with the camels in the 1860s.
Until the 1920s, Afghan camel traders carted most of the goods needed by those living in central Australia across the vast dry heartland of the country. The padding used for their saddles contained buffel grass. When the saddles became worn out or torn the buffel seeds escaped, taking root in the central arid zone.
Why Buffel Grass Removal is Necessary
While the use of buffel grass was widespread in Alice Springs to help with dust storm management, the grass is an aggressive colonizer and grows vigorously after heavy rains. It displaces native grasses and is significantly more flammable than soft native grasses, making it a major threat to biodiversity and maintaining a healthy environment. What was once the solution has become a problem.
Every year, in preparation for our Larapinta trail season, a team of guides, campsite builders and tradesmen travel up to our Epicurious campsite and spend days removing buffel grass around the campsite before building our semi-permanent campsite for the season.
It is tough work in often extreme heat, but it is essential to keep the buffel grass in check and ensure fire hazards around the camp are minimized.
This year, Jen – lead guide, Justin – guide, and our regular builder extraordinaire John joined Epicurious’ owner and director Jennifer Wilkinson on the annual pre-season working bee. In between repairing and updating some of the infrastructure on the site, the team spent days clearing the buffel grass from the immediate area around the campsite and disposing of it carefully.
Parks and Wildlife visited the campsite a few weeks ago and reported the grass hasn’t returned. Yet.
Next year, after the rains, the team will have to do it all over again.