Larapinta Trail 2 Days 5-10 2023

Day 5. Standley Chasm to Brinkley Bluff.
So. My moment of reckoning had arrived.  This was my first big test, and if I failed, I had no idea what I was supposed to then do. But, before falling into despair, I needed first to fail, so how about I set out and see what happens.

Brinkley Bluff sunset

Naturally, given my anxiety about the task ahead, I rose early, but already Deb and Amy had departed, with Casey fairly soon thereafter. I farewelled Nitya and Alex, and, just as I was setting out, Alyse joined me. (These new names are all people recently met on the track). I pointed out that I would be slow, and could go no faster than whatever the pace was about to be, and she said she was fine with that, so off we set together, chatting in pleasant harmony for the first hour (yet again, 4kms). I was thrilled to be feeling so good, and to be setting a fine pace on the mountain, but wanted to stick to my drink-rest schedule. Getting the pack off was very, very tricky, and I ended up sort of dumping it for the final 30 cms, so it paid me back by rolling further backwards into the spinifex. Alyse and I dived for it, not wanting to spear my water bladder with this grass’s fine sword. Later it developed a slow leak. Was it courtesy of this accident, adventitious damage, or caused by old age?

Brinkley Bluff. See the trees blowing in the wind

At Reveal Saddle, we came across Casey, who had made herself a cup of coffee and was enjoying the glorious view. I wasn’t yet scheduled for a stop, so went on while the other two chatted. We would reunite as a trio on the summit of Brinkley, which I reached by 11.30. So much for all that anxiety. I had no trouble with the load, the hill, or even the heat, as the day hadn’t yet reached its full potential in that regard. I really enjoyed chatting to those two, so joined them while they ate lunch and before they moved on. They weren’t doing a dry camp, so Brinkley was only a short stop for them. But, luckily for me, Alex is also a keen (and very beautiful) photographer, so had scheduled camping at every single high point we could manage (five of them).

Brinkley Bluff

At sunset we were joined by Remy, travelling in the opposite direction. Our little group of four (which includes Adi) and Remy enjoyed the wonderful spectacle of the world turning orange together, although Alex and I both dashed off here and there to get the angles we wanted.
After the others had gone to bed, Remy and I sat in the icy wind discussing the similarities between Goethe-Newton and the Bertrand Russell-Gödel conflict (which Remy told me about). It was so interesting, I sat there until I was almost a block of ice, but eventually I really had to retreat into my tent and try to warm up.

Brinkley dawn

Day 6. Brinkley Bluff to Razorback Ridge.
This was, in the greater scheme of things, a pretty short day, but we adults, being greedy, wanted to photograph and experience sunset and sunrise from both high points, and as we are talking about huge amounts of water carrying, the shortness of the day (and we are only speaking of relative rather than absolute shortness) was not going to distress us at all. Climbing another mountain became  a kind of rest day. And really, Spencer Gorge, which was part of this day, was sublime, and not to be rushed at all!!!

Spencer Gorge en route to Razorback

This leisurely agenda was a huge part of why I loved my Larapinta experience: it gave us time to maximally absorb lots of different venues. We were in no rush; there was no man with a “Go” gun to declare some race on. We had time to truly soak in each location, whether mountain top or magnificent river bed lined with white gums. The people we met were also connoisseurs of scenery, taking it slowly like we were. (Fast ones often rushed past us, sometimes in the night and sometimes too focussed to say ‘Hello;, even if we tried to greet them). We slow ones befriended each other and had time to sit and smell the flowers, marvel at the birds (and swear at the prickly spinifex). There are many different Larapinta experiences! I love trail running too, but Larapinta felt like a delicious meal I didn’t want to gulp down: I like to eat slowly if a chef has prepared a special repast, and Larapinta felt like a very special degustation menu. I’ll save my fancy times, such as they are these days now I am no longer absolutely fast, for actual races.

Razorback sunset

So, down we reluctantly went after possibly overstaying our welcome at Brinkley, and reached the 4/5 Junction shelter and water in time for a long lunch, in which we needed to gather energy (and water) for the long, hot climb up Razorback. Alex took a video of me trying to stand up once my water was loaded. I find it hilarious. It took a few attempts to eventually get up, and I then wobbled around like a drunk until I got my balance.
Spencer Gorge was shady and magnificent, although tricky to handle with such heavy packs, and rock scrambling of sorts involved. We managed, and sooner than I expected were on top of Razorback searching for a possible campsite. The wind was exceptionally strong, so most of the tiny sites that existed were just too exposed to its unrelenting blast, and others were too close to spinifex that would pierce the tent. I ended up almost on the summit up behind the track, and Alex and Nitya used a nice big site just off the track which had lots of wind at first, but at least offered space enough for their big tent. Sunset and sunrise were everything we could have wished for.

Day 7 Razorback to Hugh Gorge campsite.

Razorback dawn

Descending from Razorback (having experienced a dawn to dream of) was one of the highlights of the trip. I still had some battery left, and was about (I hoped) to be able to recharge it that evening. Nonetheless, I still had to carefully husband my remaining shots, but I could at least afford to take a few more. What a magic day!!

Razorback dawn

Hugh Gorge was rather disappointing, as it seemed crowded after our delightful solitude. The gorge itself was particularly peopled, and there were many tents, so we didn’t linger overly long, and soon we four were negotiating the last hour or so of the downstream strip, wondering what the famous “get wet in deep water” section would be like. None of us wanted to enter deep, cold water – Nitya and Alex because of the baby, and Louise because of camera gear and general distaste of being cold and wet.

Up the bluff we climb

And so we climbed a bluff off to the left, quite high, not really knowing whether it would work, but enjoying an adventure whatever might happen. It did work, so we stayed dry were all very happy.

And back down we come, nice and dry

Soon we started running into Alex and Nitya’s friends and family who had travelled out to meet us. Andrea and Bronte had cooked up a camp feast of massive proportions – Thai chicken curry and a vegan dish that was scrumptious. For dessert, Bronte cut bananas in half, filled them with chocolate and baked them in the fire. You have NO idea how good real food like this tastes after living on rehydrated dehydrated mush for a week. (To say nothing of having some variety: even though the names on the packets varied, the contents rarely did). The fire crackled out its warmth as we toasted ourselves. The wind roared and the temperature fell, but we were happy.

Along the gorge to the campground

For breakfast next day, Roger and Kate had brought me almond croissants and prepared real coffee. Andrea made a pumpkin damper. For lunch more friends arrived, bearing salads, How amazing to have to bite and chew fresh food. How delectable!!! And Alex got rid of a pile of wet, dirty nappies.

The next day, Day 8,  was a rest day so more time could be spent with these amazing friends. I was so excited to now have a battery I went back up the gorge and made up for lost time by photographing every wildflower I set eyes on, as well as more gorge scenes. It was a great day. I didn’t object one bit to the absence of my pack – or to the presence of real food.

Indigofera basedowii. At last I could photograph plants. It had hurt so much to pass them by.
One of many scenes I revisited on our rest day
I thought I’d include a bit of green from this day: it wasn’t ALL red.

Day 9. Hugh Gorge to Rocky Gully Campsite.
We knew this section was coming up, and here it was. For me it was a case of swallow it down to bring on the next phase. The land was flat and almost featureless. I found the going much harder than when there were things to climb. My shoulders started hurting, which they invariably do when it’s flat. In addition, much of the vegetation had been burned – for huge sections, so there was black scrub, red dust and more sun than I wanted. I collected water from Mulga camp, but was very glad not to have camped there.

Rocky Gully

Rocky Gully was much nicer than we anticipated: it’s always good to have low expectations. Here I met the wonderful Malcolm and Roberta, and spent a few hours chatting, waiting for others to arrive. When Mal first encountered me, I was sailing, horizontal, across the campsite, my spinnaker (tent) out the front, while I floated helpless behind, at the mercy of the wind. Mal brought me in for a landing, and then helped me tie my tent to a tree, and weigh it down with rocks.

Rocky Gully sunset

Day 10. Rocky Gully to Ellery Creek North.
This seemed another lean day, but that’s OK. The scenery was nothing much: we still had to exit this burned, flattish section, but as Ellery Creek got nearer, things picked up wonderfully. Ellery Creek North is a replica of paradise.
I sat under the spreading white-trunked gums and enjoyed a slow lunch while waiting to be joined by the others. At sundown, a flock of Major Mitchell cockatoos flew overhead. The sun was still high enough to shine straight through their wings, and illuminate their salmon-pink bellies, They looked like a flock of haloed angels. I was mesmerised. Sunset itself was predictably wonderful.

Ellery Creek North. My little tent. My happy place. More pics of Ellery Creek next post.

Before that, we found a small pool of water where Adi could have a splash. He loved that. He is greatly enjoying all the campsites, exploring at each one what nature has to offer, and finding a particular love of yellow flowers. His once white top and colourful pants are now dark brown. He doesn’t care less, of course. When books turn up in the food drops, he ignores them: nature is much more interesting.

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