Anna Dakin on the Larapinta Trail
We often mention how our guides are the best in the business and apparently the judges for Northern Territory’s Top Tour Guide award agree.
Our very own Anna Dakin has been crowned the Northern Territory’s Top Tour Guide for 2022 and will represent the Northern Territory at the upcoming 2022 Australian Top Tourism Awards.
Based in Alice Springs but originally from the UK, Anna believes it was her passion for the landscape of Central Australia that cemented her win.
‘I really like to go the extra mile and learn all of the nitty gritty facts about specific areas of interest to me, which are mainly culture and geology and astronomy,' she said. 'It was that passion in learning the information and sharing. I love doing what I’m doing. I couldn’t be happier.’
Certainly, her happiness comes bursting out when you meet her. And why not? She has been guiding the Larapinta Trail for five years, and still finds joy in every step. She began guiding the classic Central Australia walk for us in 2019. She’s walked the Larapinta Trail dozens of times and never tires of the walking or the scenery
‘What I find special about the Larapinta Trail is there is an ancient energy in the landscape here that I think is really profoundly linked to the local culture, the Arrernte culture,' she said. 'And the more you’re here the more you kind of tune into it. I reckon there’s a strong presence of the ancestors in this landscape.’
Anna, who grew up in northeast England, is quite at home in the Red Centre of Australia. She studied art in London, and in 2012 decided to visit the Northern Territory on a camping trip. In 2014, she walked the Larapinta Trail. She was immediately hooked.
She then started bringing artist friends out to to the Red Centre and showing them the landscape. Oftentimes armed with art supplies, Anna and her friends would head off into the bush and indulge their passion for the environment and their art. The event-based group became known as The Artist Expedition Society. Eventually, Anna moved back to Australia and started working as a guide.
She is now a senior guide with World Expeditions. She’s in the process of writing a book about the environment for artists and designers, explaining aspects of the flora and geology that might not seem obvious to a casual observer.
She still paints (watercolours), but in the past year or so she’s gotten into sound recordings.
‘There’s a relationship between walking and time-based experiences and sound-based art,’ she notes. ‘There’s something about listening to sound in the moment versus listening to it in an isolated environment later. There’s part of the experience that’s captured in sound that’s not captured in other media.’
In one project several years ago, Anna travelled to Iceland during the winter. There, she and a friend wandered around at night capturing sounds.
‘It was so surreal because the Icelandic landscape is very different to other landscapes,’ she said. ‘It’s kind of bubbling, it’s alive with geysers and steam and other things that make noise. It was a really interesting way to experience a place. And then to try and translate that into an experience for other people was pretty cool as well.’
Anna plans to capture things about the Central Australian environment in art for people who don’t have the opportunity to experience this place firsthand. Ultimately, she hopes to do some big installation and exhibition art projects using space and sound.
Astronomy is another of Anna’s passions. She loves teaching people about the stars when she guides trips and she often holds mini workshops, too, in which attendees paint at night without the use of artificial light—'Paint the Light by Moonlight,' she calls them.
‘It’s great because there’s no light pollution in central Australia and it’s almost always cloudless,’ she said.
The Larapinta still excites Anna, but she’s also excited about a trip she has created herself, Culture and Art of Central Australia with Anna Dakin, which begins with a visit to the famous Desert Mob art fair in Alice Springs.
‘After the Desert Mob market we’ll head out and visit a couple of remote art centers, including Hermannsburg, the community which is the birthplace of Indigenous artist Albert Namitjira, and we’ll go to Papunya, where contemporary dot painting originated,’ she said.
'It’s going to be really cool,' she added.
Indeed—it sounds really cool.