Day 11. Ellery Creek North to Serpentine Gorge.
I was already wildly in love with Ellery Creek North before ever sunrise materialised, but emergence from night to day sure cemented this place in my mind as a slice of heaven on earth. I find the contrast of glowing orange rock and white Ghost Gums or River Reds (both were here at Ellery) to be tinglingly superb. As usual, I woke early, breakfasted in the dark, and then photographed to my heat’s content as day broke. There seemed endless possibilities for pleasing compositions.
Packing up was a bit slower on this day, as it was just too wonderful to leave Ellery in a hurry, and the schedule we were on only had a short day for this one: we merely had to get to Serpentine Gorge. By now, as you might imagine, Alex’s pack had a huge number of wet nappies inside. I have no idea how he managed. He was starting to get blisters from the effort. They looked shocking to me, but he shrugged them off. They were part of the trip for him. My raw hip bones had healed up once I switched to merino nickers, and my feet showed no sign of blistering, so all was going well on that front for me. My shoulders had only hurt on the flat sections. My clothes were filthy, but so were everybody else’s. so that’s the way it was.
On this morning I spoke to two new people in a tent nearby and happened to mention the fact that my water bladder had developed a slow leak, so I had to carry extra water to compensate for the loss that would occur while I walked. They said (i) I could borrow their 10 litre bladder, as this was their last day on the trail, and (ii) it just so happened that they live around the corner from my daughter, so getting it back to them would be easy. These were not the first South Hobart people we had met on the trail. Thanks Jane and Matt!!
The trip to Serpentine Gorge was as lovely as every other part of the trail, with nothing special beyond that to mention. I arrived before lunch, chatted to the couple there already and then watched on as people emerged from the bush in both directions. I’d better nab a spot before they were all gone! I happened to camp next to a lovely girl, a librarian, Cat, and we two later sat on rocks and chatted our way through dinner time, enjoying the peace of the bush together. The shelter had become too crowded for my tastes by then.
Somewhere in the afternoon I visited the actual gorge, and enjoyed being there. I loved the ones that were not crowded with busloads of tourists. I guess I am selfish, but I do enjoy having special places in solitude to soak in the atmosphere without jarring noise. I feel their mood much better that way; it becomes an experience of the soul.
Day 12. Serpentine Gorge to Counts Point.
Counts Point was one of the four places that I had really been looking forward to on this trip, and it did not disappoint. By now I was getting used to the ultra heavy pack that dry camps up a mountain necessitated, and took it in my stride, although, I did, of course, depart by 8.30 so as not to have to walk in the big heat. Serpentine involved no dawn photography for me, so I allowed myself the luxury of breakfasting in the light. I’m sure the gorge looked wonderful at dawn, but sometimes it’s nice to just sit around like a normal person and have breaky looking at the scenery. Next time I can go there for dawn.
So, with my normal earlyish departure and fine enough pace I reached yet another campsite before lunch. I watched on with envy as one of those tour groups of packless walkers had a lunch of avocado and real salad. My stomach churned; my mouth salivated. I watched people throw away the excess into the bush, no doubt rationalising that act with the fact that it was biodegradable rubbish, but that act encourages mice, and we campers get to suffer. They were using the spot I wanted to pitch my tent in, so I waited for them to finish so I could move in. Some of them were very nice people, and we saw each other again at Ormiston and exchanged happy greetings.
Later Nitya, Alex and Adi arrived, and we became occupied with exploration, tent pitching, and early dinner so we could shoot the sunset afterwards with no remaining tasks. We were being very lucky with the weather, and had lovely light each time we needed it so far.
Day 13. Counts Point to Inarlanga Pass to Pioneer Creek.
This was a record-breaking day. Alex and Nitya were ready to leave before the tardy Louise. I was obviously really enjoying Counts Point! The day was another short one, and I knew we would connect at some point in the future. The day was already hot by the time I shouldered my pack. Grr.
Down I climbed, until I found a beautiful shady spot next to a really interesting seam of rock. The spot was framed with magical mulga (Acacia aneura), which is not only beautiful, but smells divine. I hadn’t gone nearly 4 kms, nor had I been underway an hour, but stopped anyway as it was so lovely I felt like enjoying it a bit. I was both thirsty and hungry, so, despite the early hour, ate a snack. This was going to be a long day!
Further along, I met two people. It just so happens that I have had email contact with these people but had never met them. Will and Emma are, like Alex, Nitya and I, Abelists (climbers of all 158 Tasmanian Abels). There are fewer than 30 such people in the whole world, but here we all were by accident in a tiny section of the Larapinta Trail! It was lovely to meet them, so, of course, we stood for a while chatting. It was nice for me to learn that Emma was as keen on photographing and IDing the desert flowers as I was. It was fun to encounter a fellow enthusiast: not everybody on the planet goes gaga over plants.
I never did catch the fast-moving Alex and Nitya this day, but I knew they were up ahead somewhere and that I would find them at our camp spot, so just relaxed and enjoyed the wonderful Inarlanga Pass, and the truly amazing land beyond. This day I had time, inclination and the right conditions to photograph flowers, so lazed along doing just that. The problem is, when your pack is super heavy, it is a big effort to crouch down low to be at ground level for the flowers. They had to be pretty perfect to justify the effort.
I made it before the gloaming but was pretty late – there was just enough time to choose a beautiful spot in the river bed and set up before dinner time arrived. It was a beautiful, peaceful spot, not normally used for camping. We purified the water, such as it was.
That night, one of the “night runners” came through at 3.30 am, and seemed to consider it important to shine his torch into my eyes several times and make a lot of noise. I later heard reports that he had woken up people further up the track. Odd habit, that. These days, the temperature overnight had warmed up somewhat, and the scenery was so beautiful that I didn’t close down my fly, sleeping instead with a perfect view out to the moonlit desert landscape. Such a pleasure when there’s no passing person to shine a torch at you.
Day 14. Pioneer Creek to Hermits Hideaway via Waterfall Gorge.
On this day I made a tactical error. I really needed my normal 4 km rest for shoulders and water, but Waterfall Gorge was only another 2 kms on, and we were going to stop there for lunch. I was with Alex and Nitya, and they weren’t stopping, so I decided to press on with them, even though I needed the break. Surely a short postponement of water wouldn’t matter? I felt fine and didn’t feel any thirst. BUT. It did. When we finally stopped, I felt quite dizzy. Then I felt nauseous. I was very dehydrated. In such a short time!!! I thought I was about to pass out, so plomped down on the ground (after drinking 250 mls), so that if I fell, the distance of the fall would only be small. In about 5 mins I had picked up, but learned a big lesson: keep to my original plan and don’t put off dinking for any reason! I didn’t feel at all thirsty – just sick.
We had a nice long lunch. I was a bit scared of now climbing a mountain, and knew I needed to take it very slowly. I set out ahead of the others so I could do it at amble pace, but the water I had imbibed at lunch time had done the trick, and even though the day was still hot, I made it up Mt Giles Lookout in good time. There, a pretty stiff breeze welcomed me to the top and cooled me down nicely.
It was only a bit over a kilometre from there to Hermits Hideaway, our chosen spot for the night, so on I went to finish off the day. Here there were trees and a rock ledge for shelter, so, given the wind, it was a good choice. I might try Mt Giles Lookout next time, although I did love the Hideaway. There were plentiful spots, each set in amongst a group of trees – mostly bush fuchsia (Eremophila latrobei). Mauve fuchsias (Eremophila christopheri) were also in abundance on this and every hilltop. They are obviously a plant that likes a good view.
I sat on “my” piece of rock wall, enjoying the scenery out to Mt Giles during my early dinner, and, of course, enjoyed the sunset that followed.