Larapinta Day 15. Hermits Hideaway to Ormiston Gorge.
I can’t believe it: this is kind of the business end of the trip; the last hoorah before the end that I don’t actually want to happen. From now on, feel free to read into my account a taint of early nostalgia, for already I was feeling the end and emotionally striving to push it backwards. I could just walk this track forever.
First stop in the end game: the famous Ormiston Gorge, famous for a very good reason, but to be enjoyed by us for a mere 24 hours. Next time I will schedule a rest day here to allow further exploring. The walk there was beautiful, but I was happy to arrive. The last bit on the sand was hard work, and, well, I was just ready to arrive.
My clothes were saturated with sweat as I entered the cafe to order my panini for lunch. (This is the second of two places where one can purchase real food along the 230km trail.) Real food again was most welcome. I downed two bottles of OJ without batting an eyelid. It seems I had missed that too. The guy at the cafe leant me a plug so I could use their electricity to charge phone and camera battery. Unfortunately it was very slow, so not too much charging got done.
The campsite itself was a huge disappointment, being a long way from a source of power so I couldn’t guard my equipment while I charged. It seemed too open, and quite crowded. I didn’t spend much time in its ghetto.
As with Standley, I spent most of the arrival afternoon washing self, hair and clothes and trying to power things up and sort through my new food. I didn’t visit the gorge itself until after dark, when, as with Standley, I actually enjoyed having it all to myself. You can feel a place’s soul that way.
Day 16. Ormiston Gorge to Finke River.
This was another short day, so we didn’t bother getting started until after lunch. But first, I had important photographic work to do. I set my alarm and got up in the dark, returning to the gorge to shoot the first light. My early shots were long exposures in total darkness.
That done, I then took my breakfast, such as it was, to the top of the Ghost Gum walk for actual sunrise. We had added an extra day to our itinerary, and somehow I hadn’t catered for the extra day, so breakfast this day was only a muesli bar and an apple (from the food drop). I knew I could get coffee and scones from the cafe later to compensate, so this seemed a good day to skip my normal porridge that I am so dependent on.
Be scones as they may, when Kate and Dan arrived with real bread, avocado and green leaves for us, I dived in, shamefully, uncontrollably greedily. I realised I was absolutely starving for this kind of food and just couldn’t stop. I fear I have now earned a reputation as a glutton.
We chatted to them, and also to some new friends made at the cafe whose conversation I really enjoyed, and then it was afternoon and time to move on to Finke River. In the cupboard at Ormiston, I had found another item I was really missing: a book. It was John Bryson’s Evil Angels, telling the horrific tale of a society and a legal system gone mad in the case of Lindy Chamberlain. His narrative style was excellent and I wanted to pursue his theme. I read a bit and popped the book in our box to be collected later. This is a truly frightening book about, amongst other things, the media’s power to completely damage another person’s life by its own prejudices. Even back when the trial was occurring, and I was only young, I had the distinct reaction that the media hated the Chamberlains because they hated their religion and not because they were actually guilty. The extent to which prejudice and unfairness governed that trial was truly alarming in its detailed account thanks to Bryson. I see he has won many awards for this work, all justified. That level of legal incompetence and prejudice needs to be exposed. To be innocent but pronounced guilty must be one of the most horrific things that can happen to someone.
Book in box, unfinished of course, off I set for Finke River. This was another amazingly beautiful campsite. I had trouble selecting the perfect spot: I wanted a tree nearby to anchor my tent to, and wanted to be low enough to avoid mice but high enough to find said tree. I ended up parking near Tom and Hayden, with whom I later shared a fun conversation about conservation as gloaming turned into night. No mice came.
Day 17. Finke River to Hilltop Lookout.
Despite wanting my normal early start, Finke River was so pleasant I hardly seemed to be in a rush for departure, and was only rescued by Alex and Nitya from being last to leave of the people travelling in our direction.
This was to be another short day, but, having left late, there were several other people on top when I arrived. Many of these, it turned out, were just going to have lunch up there and then amble on down to where there was water, at the next official camp spot. I searched for quite a while choosing the best spot, firstly for Alex and Nitya with their big tent, and then for myself, seeking a smaller room with a view. Happy with both choices, I then joined the others while they ate. As we chatted, I looked up and saw a crow flying by with a packet hanging from its mouth, which I immediately recognised was MY packet of gluten-free macadamia and white chocolate shortbreads, the next three days’ breakfast, in fact (apart from porridge and coffee). I yelled abuse, but he ignored me.
When I later found the packet that he’d dumped for me to carry out, I saw he had scoffed the lot. Greedy, selfish pig. I also found a now empty packet of freeze-dried strawberries, also mine. It seems that the crows had a good party that night.
It was a long wait for dusk, and there was little shade. I explored about the place, but was just marking time, waiting for the real point of the day. Apart from the promise of a view, Hilltop didn’t really do it for me, but maybe that was just the mood I was in. The social dynamic wasn’t working for me at present. The only photo of sunset I have saved is of my tent. Sunrise next day suited me better.
Day 18. Hilltop to Redbank Gorge, then up Mt Sonder for sunset.
After another beautiful dawn, it was time to pack – our last real pack up. The next day we would merely be packing up to get in a car. It was with a heavy heart that I stuffed my gear yet again into my waiting pack and headed down for water. There was nothing to slow me down, so once I’d had a drink at the beautiful campsite on the bottom and refilled my bottles for the next stint, off I set for our final tent spot, Redbank Gorge.
I must have pushed the pace a bit, as I arrived very hungry and thirsty, and was then feeling that post-prandial lethargy that sets in with satiation when Alex and Nitya arrived and said they wanted to climb Sonder for sunset rather than sunrise, as that would fit in with Adi’s needs better, and they felt they could do it. Fair enough.
But. Sunset is at dinner time. I quickly stuffed my face with more food, knowing I would get hungry on top, but wanting a proper cooked meal whenever dinner actually occurred, which would be quite late. I wanted to do this last hoorah all together: to end as we had begun, so hurriedly prepared my daypack with warm clothes, water and camera for the top.
Not long after departing, Adi wanted a yellow flower (his norm), so we stopped to get it for him. For some reason Alex and Nitya felt they were holding me up, which was not the case, but they said they’d be more comfortable if they didn’t feel bad each time Adi required a stop, so I agreed to meet them at the top. I was then a free bird with no rucksack weighing me down. Upwards I flew, released from my heavy cage and with no other matters to slow me down. I decided I might as well have a workout, so proceeded at a pace that was much faster than anything I had done in the last few weeks. I had had a message from my daughter that she had entered me in two orienteering races on the fast-approaching weekend. I wasn’t sure if a workout right now would be good preparation or the last straw to break this camel’s back. Who cares? I just felt like going at near lower threshold level, so did – not into puff, but hovering just below, singing as usual while I did so now that I was alone again.
We were all on top by the time the sun set. I ate my muesli bar while the others ate more savoury stuff, and we had all the obligatory photos. It was bitter sweet. I don’t like endings, but was very glad to be there on Sonder. Those who went for sunrise next day reported busloads of tourists and little space or quiet on top. I am so glad Alex and Nitya had us going for sunset.
The trip down, in the dark, was slower than the trip up, which is quite normal for me. It was quite pleasant doing it by moonlight. I only turned on my torch for the last bit.
Day 19. Zero. Get in the car and go.
Well, not quite zero. In early light I went and explored Redbank Gorge, which was very beautiful, and then packing took the remaining time before we were collected.
What a fabulous trip. It will always fill me with joy when I look back on it, and I hope I have many photos I like to prompt the large number of happy memories in my bank. Don’t fret: there are far, far more photos than you have seen in this blog. And meanwhile, I just can’t wait to go back and do it all again.