Day 18: July 10th……. back on track
With business sorted back home we caught an early morning taxi back out to Standley Chasm to recommence the hike with Jay Creek being our destination.
The track took us straight into a climb followed by decent that had us guessing which way down into the creek bed. A couple of times having to throw the packs down followed by us jumping down to the next level, certainly giving our agility a testing.
The climb up Gastrolobium Saddle wasn’t too challenging but perhaps our track fitness had kicked in. A great spot to pull up, throw the packs off, enjoy a cuppa and the views. One thing that the Larapinta isn’t short of is views.
Descending from the saddle we followed a well defined track pad that wasn’t covered in rocks!!! On reaching Millers Flat we needed to make a decision, the high route or the low route. The high route was up for more views and the low route was boulder scrambling. Don’t be tricked into thinking one route is any easier than the other.
Knowing there still was a few climbs further down the track we opted for one last challenging boulder scramble along the low route. As challenging as scrambling up, around and over these boulders could be it fed our adventurous spirit. We met a guided group enjoying a “6 day highlight hike”, the ladies were very cautiously negotiating the boulders.
I reassured them by day 6 they would be boulder scrambler experts with no fear of doing an ankle. Reaching Tangentyere Junction where the high and low route rejoin we chatted to a guy who took the high route and said he had enjoyed watching us climb around the boulders.
Continuing on we eventually descended into Jay Creek. The width of this so called creek was amazing and trying to comprehend the amount of rain it would take to fill this creek was mind boggling. Trudging through the loose dense sand over rocks was slow and hard going. Bypassing Fish Hole which is a sacred place for the local indigenous people the creek exit into Jay Creek campsite appeared and soon had us on solid ground again.
Only 13kms walked today but the track was anything but flat and there was plenty of time taken up pic snapping and pausing to take in the views. We are never in a hurry on the track as there is so much to see and take in. Often we will pause, perch on a rock or log and allow our body, mind and soul to be captivated by the beauty nature has to offer.
On arrival to camp only two other guys at camp but that didn’t last long as others drifted in. A large guided group arrived but they weren’t roughing it as a bus was waiting to transport them to the Old Hamilton Downs Homestead where a hot meal and comfy bed awaited their arrival. With tent set up and evening meal enjoyed we settled into chatting with the other hikers, all sharing our adventures. Eventually we rolled into our tent for some well deserved zzz’s as another day on the track awaited us.
Day 19: July 11th……..
The mornings conversation over breakfast was ‘who had heard the herd of cattle go through camp in the early hours of the morning’, certainly not me. With 26kms to Simpsons Gap leaving in the cool of the morning and walking along a relatively flat defined track made for some easy walking.
Rather than walking along creek beds today we crossed through them. Once the sun was up it didn’t take long for the heat to hit us as the scrubby mulga vegetation has no height to throw much shade.
Stopped and chatted to a couple of hikers on there way to Jay creek, they had stayed at Mulga camp overnight with another herd of cows!!!!! Plenty of manure along the track to suggest the cows were roaming free in the area. Passed by Spring Gap and Half Gap which were both dry. In recent times an out of control fire caused by a possible lightning strike had swept through the area.
The ground, vegetation and rocks still very black. Arenge Bluff the feature of this section normally covered in native pines and eucalypt trees but due to the fire it was very baron. Arenge Bluff is significant to the Arrentte people.
Passing by Bond Gap we continued on and eventually out of the fire damaged area back into mulga vegetation.
Stopping for lunch at a spot that gave lovely views over the ranges we chatted and reminisced about our days on the Larapinta. We were abruptly interrupted by an Irish lady who was incredibly pleased to see us and fill us in on her woes. Pack was too heavy, the sun was hot, and the track had a lot of rocks on it……. Oh goodness if she thought this section was tough there was a few surprises down the track before she arrived into Standley Chasm.
She had arrived in Australia to walk the Larapinta by herself as her partner couldn’t be convinced to join her. Claiming she didn’t have too much hiking experience but was eager to have an ‘aussie adventure’. Dressed in jeans, a jumper and no sun hat we suggested she remove her jumper and at some point search for her sun hat. At least she had sun screen on her fair skin.
With lunch finished we strolled along the arid track to Simpson Gap campsite. After setting up camp we headed down to the Gap which is a well developed area for tourist. The Gap itself had minimal water but the real attraction was to spot a rock wallaby or two which we did.
Day 20: July 12th………a cruzy day
Flicking back the tent flap a crisp morning greeted. Today was only a short day into Wallaby Gap. We hoped to have walked it in to Alice Springs but a phone call to arrange accommodation resulted in a no go as Alice Springs was totally booked out due to some sporting event.
A pleasant climb up to Hat Hill gave us views of the valley floor with Rungutjiba Ridge looming above.
A group of guided day hikers came puffing up from the other side on their way to Simpsons Gap. I was able to give them the good news that their guide was just around the bend setting up morning tea.
Descending into the flats the intensity of the sun hit and we were accompanied by many flies as we walked the last few kms into Wallaby Gap. Bypassing Scorpian Gap turn off as we decided it probably would be dry had us arriving well before midday.
Mid afternoon a guide walked in with afternoon tea for a group walking from Telegraph Station. Generally 2 guides walk with the group and the third one drives the vehicle with all equipment and food and is set up ready for the hikers, great option if you choose to pay for that service.
Spent the arvo lulling around and a walk to the gap but no water and no wallabys. We pondered the idea of continuing on and bush camping but the guide had earlier informed us there wasn’t anywhere suitable to pitch the tent.
Just on dark a woman and man walked into camp followed by another two stragglers. They had walked from Jay Creek, 36km for the day. We laughed at our 10.3km day. One of the guys stated their “unofficial leader” was all about big daily kms but he was planning to return and walk the track taking more time to really see and explore the area rather than just get up and walk 30km days.
Day 21: July 13th……..the last day
My goodness the last day had finally arrived and was one of those bitter sweet moments. One thing was for sure we’d had a fantastic time walking the Larapinta Track together.
The climb up out of Wallaby Gap wasn’t too challenging as we made our way to Euro Ridge. The views from Euro Ridge certainly didn’t disappoint as we gazed over the Heavitree Range and peaks of the East MacDonnell Ranges in the distance.
Hovering here for sometime taking pics and just poised in complete silence as we pondered the beauty and magnificence of nature.
What was truly overwhelming was we had been in the midst of this for the last couple of weeks, nothing comes close to this simplistic way of life being in the midst of pure raw nature.
The time had come to make the descent down and continue on to the Telegraph Station being the official end to the Larapinta.
Once again the track meandered through very dry harsh vegetation as we crossed through many small creek beds. Stopping to chat to a few hikers just beginning their adventure, we were in no hurry to finish our walk. Eventually crossing the Adelaide to Darwin railway track which was only completed in 2003 with the Ghan passenger train making its first run from Adelaide in 2004. No train today though.
On arriving at the Geoff Moss Bridge we pulled up and made a cuppa in the shade of the bridge. The sand was so cool that I moulded a sand pillow and tunnelled out a bed and just chilled out taking a break from the sun. With only 4.5km to walk it was time to get back on the track and just put up with the intense heat from the sun.
The walk followed a path being the first road between Darwin and Adelaide which was completed back in 1872 now a cycle/pedestrian track with some poles of the Overland Telegraph Line still standing.
Reaching the final Larapinta notice board we signed in noting our completion of the track, 230kms, not bad for a pair of old codgers!!! What a fantastic adventure we had experienced together.
We wandered over to the historic Telegraph station which is now set up for the tourist before making our way into Alice Springs.
No birdbath, no thermarest mat, no tent, no dehydrated meal tonight, it was all comfort and indulgence.
Until next yarn, happy hiking