Close to 20 years after he first traversed—and fell in love with—Australia’s 225-kilometer-long Larapinta Trail, adventurer Huw Kingston revisits the Northern Territory to see if the trail still holds his gaze.

“Bad country, bad country.” These were the only words the old Vietnamese man mustered as we flew across Australia.

It was the ‘80s and he was moving to Australia as a refugee, leaving behind the troubled tropical lushness of Vietnam, while I was returning from a trip to India. For some hours now, all he had seen of his new home was the desert.

I tried to explain the landscape would change when we finally reached Sydney and the east coast. But his fear and my incomprehensible language just had him shaking his head in disbelief and repeating his mantra: “Bad country, bad country.”

Now, nearly 30 years later, I’m high above those deserts again, flying west across them from Sydney to Alice Springs, to spend some time on the Larapinta Trail (‘Larapinta’ translates to ‘salty creek’ in the local Aranda dialect)—which is now billed as ‘one of Australia’s most spectacular bushwalking and trekking experiences.’