Now we’re Hiking!
Or are We?
Got to Alice Springs at night… It was cold… quite, very, really bloody cold.
Everyone else was sorted. All their food drops had been neatly packed into plastic tubs ready to be dropped at multiple points along the way. I was standing over my overburdened pack (The one I’d brought along with me instead of the one I needed… The one I decided on my last hike that I would never use again!), wearing my most beautifully designed Italian Leather, Scarpa hiking boots, the second toes already numb from the pressure of ‘Toe-Strike’ (A word I just invented… maybe already exists but I didn’t know… so it’s my word!). Nothing organised, gear still strewn throughout the Horror Truck… and I realised I am simply not prepared for a hike of this magnitude!
The others were all psyched and trying to pump me up so I’d be a positive contributor to the morale of the group, a reliable participant in the journey… ‘n’all that. Then I pealed my boots from my swollen feet and they saw the pink/blue pulp that emerged. The blackened toenails and blistered heels made it very obvious that my feet were not fit for this journey… My overloaded pack was not suitable for carrying even a moderate load… but now weighing close to 20kg it was positively a hinderance!
I looked around the disappointed group, I had successfully wet-blanketed the night. We said goodnight and hit the sack… I think I slept about two hours!
The hike began at the Telegraph Station on the North side of Alice Springs. Starting at Sunrise, before the gates were opened… At this stage nobody bemoaned an extra 700 meters. Spirits were high! Finally I felt like I was kind of free. The long days and weekends I’d been putting in at the office suddenly melted away… the drama with the white Truck of Doom was a distant memory. Fresh air and gravel underfoot were my new reality! Off we go!
First leg of the hike was wonderful, along a dry creek then up into escarpment, up and up until the first great view if the hike. Euro Ridge. As we arrived, already tired from humping our packs up hill, we spied a lone hiker in the distance… but he wasn’t hiking, he had no heavy pack or stiff boots. He was jogging!
“Hey fella, how’r you doing? Where you coming from?” We ask.
“Redbank Gorge.” He replied, In a quiet unassuming and completely believable tone. (Redbank Gorge was at the other end of the trail… Over 200 km away!)
He jogged it in three and a half days!
We celebrated our grand achievement of about 10km with a group photo atop Euro Ridge and trudged onward.
I wouldn’t say our first day on the trail was tortuous. The weather was cool and the trail was well marked and relatively clear of scree and boulders, there were hills but nothing in comparison to what was ahead of us.
When we reached the dry creek bed of Simson’s Gap I collapsed in a heap! We still had a way to go before we reached our camp but I was spent. My feet were causing me so much pain it exhausted me totally. I couldn’t talk or think, I just trudged off at a cracking pace until I reached the hikers camp. Dropped my pack and dropped my bundle! I took off my shoes, put down my ground sheet and curled up in the foetal position for the rest of the afternoon. I had the shakes, I wrapped myself in my sleeping bag and fell asleep.
In the morning I felt much better after hydralight, vitamin B and Panadol! My feet refused to be squeezed back into the boots. They remained swollen, the tips of my second toes on both feet were black and throbbing… I had lost most sensation from the one on the left. That was it for me. I could not continue hiking with these boots or the pack with the dodgy waist strap!
I travelled with the support vehicle back to Alice Springs, where I found a cheap pair of trail shoes. The next day we met the gang at Standley Chasm. From here on I would travel with the vehicle, make camp and hike with only a light pack with snacks and hydration to meet the gang. Standly Chasm was a great camp site, we met a bunch of other hikers and formed a larger group. Some of the other hikers were struggling with their gear or the sheer difficulty of the hike so I volunteered as support person to escort them and carry gear over the first few hills before turning back to camp.
We had intended to bring supplies and drop some hikers off at the Junction of 4/5 but flood waters had cut off the 4×4 track leaving that part of the trail inaccessible to service vehicles. Of course this was not communicated to us until we’d crossed several sand traps and had managed to travel down a narrow track to a road block in a spot that was impossible to turn around! Naturally, we got bogged in the sand!
This was very disappointing. We had to travel a couple of days ahead of the group to the next access point at Ellery Creek Big Hole (South). Naturally our gang hiked through to Ellery Creek Big Hole (North) on the other side of the water hole, a long walk around. We stayed one night then moved on to a great little camp at Serpentine Gorge.
I camped at Serpentine Gorge with one of our crew and another hiker we’d picked up along the way. It was nearly time for me to return to work so I set up camp for three days and spent the mornings carrying other hikers packs to the top of the hill… 5km along the trail, steep grade max elevation 1,000 meters (or so) Seriously! Across a five kilometre lateral distance we were climbing one km! This was hugely satisfying! I could do a 10km hike. Get maximum elevation and walk back without having to carry a pack! By now instead of trudging I was virtually skipping. My feet had recovered from the torture of my boots and I was getting plenty of exercise before lunch every day.
On the third night the rest of our gang arrived. We had a grand feast and laughed a lot. I could see they had found their rhythm. Though I’d missed a lot of the trail, I was absolutely sure I’d made the right decision. There was no way I could have continued in those boots or with that pack.
In the morning Trail Support Guy and I said farewell to our gang and we drove back into Alice to get some tools for the truck and eventually drop me off at the Greyhound bus stop. We arrived in Alice early but the truck had to have the final word! It was here that I foolishly suggested to it’s owner that we should check the oil! So we let the engine sit a good hour while we went and voted (Federal election! Labour Won! Morrison is OUT!) We ambled back to the truck, I pulled the dipstick out of the engine, wiped it carefully, clean, sunk it back in it’s hole then retrieved it! There was a black glob of tar stuck to the bottom of the dipstick! “No Mate! This will not do! You’ve got to get oil into this car asap!”
The rest of the day was spent fussing after that damned Truck! It got to have the final word! 10 minutes before the Greyhound arrived I stripped down to my jocks in the carpark and gave myself a coke bottle shower! The dust and grime of a week of hiking and bush camping rand down my legs like dirty river water, red and brown! I poured some under my arms then threw on some clean dry clothes for the bus ride home! I couldn’t wait to sit comfortably in my own private cocoon on the bus. Nobody next to me, usb charger for my phone… A blissful slumbering road trip Finally finished reading Out of Census Vol. 2.
Peace out Babies. No Expectations… No defeat No one to beat, Nothing to prove!