Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting


In life we wait.
There is a distinction between the kinds of waiting one is required to abide.

There is waiting that must be endured such as waiting for—a bus, an appointment, test results, news from a lost loved one …

There is waiting that is observed with tolerance. We wait for the traffic lights to turn green, the kettle to boil, the pizza to arrive …

Outside these watch checking, magazine flicking, foot tapping, finger drumming, carpet pacing moments of waiting there is anticipation—a different kind of waiting.  Anticipation flutters, it tingles.  Anticipation contains expectation—like the countdown to a holiday or a long-awaited reunion with a dear friend.

Today’s prompt took me back to the top of Brinkley Bluff on the Larapinta Trail, in Australia’s Northern Territory, where we waited in anticipation for the sun to set.

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Is it a plant or an animal – exploring Queensland rainforests

Why did the mushroom go to the party?
Because he’s a fungi!
Louis Tomlinson

Rainforests are magical places. There is so much to see, hear, feel and smell. There are giant trees, twisting and looping vines, melodic birds, dank soil, tumbling waterfalls, and rough, fuzzy, hairy bark along side smooth and mossy rocks. Another feature of rainforests that deserves some attention are organisms that are often overlooked. Fungi.

Fungi are fascinating. Being neither plant nor animal, despite sharing some properties common to both, they are recognised in a kingdom all of their own. There are five kingdoms used for classification of organisms: Plantae, Animalia, Fungi, Monera (bacteria), Protista (unicellular organisms). Unlike plants fungi do not photosynthesise. Having no chlorophyll they can’t convert sunlight into food. Being unable to produce their own food like other plants they scavenge it, like animals. Another trait shared with animals, or more correctly insects, is the existence of chitin in their cell walls.

Fungi’s role in the rainforest while not terribly glamorous is functional. Fungi recycle and decompose material. Many people don’t realise that the soil in rainforests is quite poor. To ensure rainforests continue to grow in this poor soil fungi break down organic material allowing nutrients to become available to plants for growth. These tiny fungi enable the huge trees to live. Now that’s pretty cool.

To be accurate, there are three basic types of fungi that feed off dead or living flora and fauna. There are Saptrotrophs that break down animal and plant remains so nutrients can be released and taken up by new living plants and animals. Parasitic fungi, on the other hand, attack living tissues and divert their resources to their own use. Mutualists digest wood to help other rainforest beings such as insects and help feed released nutrients back into growing trees. Not glamorous but definitely functional and way cool!

The dampness of the rainforest is essential, as some fungi need it to pump up their cells to keep their shape. Stronger fungi don’t need water for their form but to grow they require a high concentration of water in the wood they digest.

Have you ever hiked in a rainforest or national park and been required to dip and scrub your boots? Often this is because of the way fungi reproduce. They produce large numbers spores; some fungi release up to 200 million spores an hour. These spores are tiny and once discharged can travel huge distances. They are mostly distributed by wind but in the rainforest, the spores of many fungi are eaten and dispersed by insects and animals. Humans are animals. The grooves of hiking boots can carry many spores from place to place and be deposited when the caked on soil dries and falls out. Unwanted or troublesome strains of fungi spore can easily and inadvertently be transported this way.

Of huge importance is that rainforest fungi are not for human consumption. My best advice is to never eat fungi; many varieties can be toxic or fatal to humans. Leave the slugs, snails, cassowaries, rat kangaroos and insects to feast on fungi. Eat your trail mix instead.

Next time you are in the rainforest explore the small magic; look down, pay attention to the fallen trees and stumps. Enjoy the shape and the colour and the arrangement of the fungi on display. They play a vital role in our rainforests.

If you are not quite convinced, I leave you with some fun fungi facts.

  • Without fungi, dead plant material such as leaves, twigs and logs would pile up on the forest floor to form a massive heap as high as the canopy.
  • Some fungi glow in the dark.
  • It is possible there are more fungi than plants or animals.
  • One individual fungus of the species Armillaria bulbosa covers an area of 15 hectares. It weighs an estimated100 tonnes (the same as an adult blue whale), and is thought to be over 1500 years old.

My plans went awry today and it was great!

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

Wilderness places and the natural world are antidotes for an anxious mind and tired body. I went for a drive today.  It was longer than expected ― the way was blocked by a landslide close to my destination. I rerouted, the long way, and after more hours than intended I arrived high up in the hinterland where a cool breeze whispered around my body and danced in my hair.

I set out with the intention of shrugging off months of overwork and brain drain on a 17 kilometre walk. Alas, it was not to be. The track was closed due to recent weather events and was unsafe. This was not shaping up to be the day or the soothing balm I had intended. Not to be deterred I opted for a much shorter though highly picturesque walk and drank in the gifts around me.

 

My polyester castle in the forest

My whinstone house my castle is, I have my own four walls.
                                                                        Thomas Carlyle

In my plans for this year I resolved to go on a solo overnight hike. I decided to experience life this year through being more adventurous, for me anyway.  Sometimes adventure is simply venturing out the front door and going some place new and sometimes adventure is, well, just what we expect adventure to be: an exploit or escapade.  I’m no newcomer to multi-day hikes but I usually embark on them with my beloved at my side. Going solo, a reckless escapade to some, is to me a compelling  imperative.

I am most at peace in nature and I have a thing for sleeping with my back to the earth, and while I love to share these experiences I want to experience something different.  I want to go it alone, to experience real surrender and solitude and to rely totally on myself, outside the normal routines of life. I am getting closer to my goal each day.

I bought my own tent last week. I’m pretty chuffed. My research turned up a neat little three season tent made for one.  It’s perfect for the walks I want to do but not great for snow and ice but I don’t plan on going to Everest anytime soon. I ordered my tent online and it arrived two days later.  I was bouncing with excitement as I collected my package from the post office. The Postie asked if I was going camping.  I’m doing more than camping.  I’m escaping.

More exhilarating is that I actually managed to erect the tent without help in about three minutes flat.  I known that’s not exactly a huge achievement but when one defers tasks to another on a regular basis it is affirming to know you’re capable.  It’s funny how a little thing like this can cause so much excitement.

My beloved was horrified at its size.
“It’s small.”
Exactly – it’s meant to be.
My polyester castle is roomy enough to sleep in and wriggle in and out of clothes. It’s a shelter from the elements and bugs and best of all, it’s only 1.3 kilograms.  What else would a girl need? Well, as luck would have it, the one other thing that I did want was a vestibule for my hiking pack and voila, this little tent has a very generous space for that.

The weeks draw closer to my first solo overnight hike and I find I am well prepared. I have my tent, my permit and a spirit for adventure. I know roughing it outdoors isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but there is something magical about choosing a spot of rough ground to call home for the night that transforms it.  That rough bit of ground, a small nook in the woods, begins to transform into a haven, a place of comfort and rest by the time one has pitched a tent and claimed a spot for the night. For a long time now I have delighted in the solace of nature, the calm it brings and the return to simplicity and I am looking forward to returning to it.  I’ll let you know how it all goes.

 

Walk the Australian Alps with me

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”
― John Muir, Our National Parks

Okay – we don’t have Alps in Australia like Europe but we do have a beautiful Alpine area in Victoria that is the backdrop for a sensational new walk aptly called the Great Alpine Walk. It’s a 655km one way walk beginning at Walhalla and ending near Canberra.  It is estimated to take approximately 5-8 weeks to complete and is graded 4-5, which recommends moderate to experienced bushwalking experience as there are some sections that are unmarked, rough or very steep.

The walk extends across diverse landscapes of forest, alpine grassland, ridges, high plains and, in the right season, snow-capped mountains. It’s a walk full of history. The Australian Alps is the traditional Country of the Bidawal, Dhudhuroa, Gunaikurnai, Jaithmathang, Taungurong and Nindi-Ngudjam Ngarigu Monero peoples and is very precious indeed. There is evidence of white pioneering cattlemen’s huts, logging and the Hydro Electric Power Scheme along the way.

Over use has damaged the sensitive ecosystem of the high plains and for many years conservationists lobbied to preserve the area as national park.  Finally in 1989 a number of small national parks were joined to create the larger Alpine National Park to protect the fragile landscape, flora and fauna.

Over the Christmas New Year period I hiked the iconic Falls Creek to Mt Hotham section of the trail with my beloved.  What better way to welcome in the New Year than in the wilderness, breathing in the fresh air, sleeping under the stars with only the essentials at hand?

This section of the trail is a three-day 37km crossing which links the Alpine resort villages of Falls Creek and Mt Hotham. It’s a very achievable walk and does not require much bushwalking experience. Hikers are rewarded with stunningly picturesque views from the high plains, the breathtaking ambiance of the snow gum forests and the beauty of plains quilted with wildflowers.  Some of the flat lands reminded me of walking in the low-lying wetlands of Dartmoor and the heather moors of Scotland, with the woody heath like shrubs in abundance. I definitely felt comfortable and at home here.

Just a word of advice – sunscreen up; even if it is overcast. The sun on the high plains is strong as are the winds. On day two of the hike there isn’t much shelter to be had so being protected from the elements is important. Don’t think there’ll be a nice rock or tree to pull up under for a lunch break either.  Up there just find a nice dry spot to plonk down and enjoy the expansive landscape.

The two campsites are completely different in their magnificence. Cope Hut campsite is set amongst the snowgums on the Bogong High Plains and near the first hut in the area purpose-built for tourists. In bad weather hikers shelter in the hut, which is actually quite spacious and relatively comfortable. We luxuriated on New year’s eve under a majestic tree, looking out over the blue hued landscape dotted with skeleton like trees – snow-white and bare of foliage. From our perch (all campsites are on platforms, we rose to a glorious day and drank in the beauty that lay before us . Dibbins Hut campsite was reached by a long decent onto a snow grass plain.  We felt very sheltered here surrounded by mountains.  Our afternoon was spent in the shade by the creek fed by the Cobungra River looking across the plains at the grass swaying in the afternoon breeze. It was a very peaceful and as luck would have it we were joined only by one other couple.

A permit is required to camp at campsites and sites are allocated on booking. Each campsite has a drop toilet and we were grateful we’d taken our own loo paper with us.  Water can be collected at the tank at Cope Hut and from the stream at Dibbins.  We always sterilise water before drinking.

The Falls Creek to Mt Hotham walk can be walked in either direction though all the literature we read from Victorian Parks suggested the direction we did it.  There’s a small problem following this advice though. There is a lack of transfer options in summer. Most hikers on the track began (parked their car) at Falls Creek and caught the shuttle, that runs only on Saturday in summer, over to Hotham. Another couple did a four hour car shuttle prior to beginning the walk so they had a car at the start and end of the walk. Wanting to choose the date we began and the direction we walked only one option was open to us, it was a pretty expensive option but where there’s a will, there’s  always a way.  We drove to Hotham and had Brian from the Mt Beauty taxi service collect us and drive us back to Falls Creek. It’s a definite benefit in having your own transport at the end of a walk.

There is so much to discover on this walk.  While I am always delighted by new landscapes, flora and fauna the touch of history was an additional bonus I hadn’t expected. Inspecting the pioneering huts and reading some of the information boards in the early section of the walk was enlightening and added a whole different perspective to my time there. If you plan on going be aware that accessibility is between November and April.  Perhaps if you are a cross-country skier you’d make the crossing in the winter months.

For a sense of what the walk is like, check out the video my beloved made of our time there.  Enjoy!

GOW – it’s just WOW!

A freedom and peace settle over me when I tie on my boots and shrug on my  pack. Hiking is a salve for my soul and my sanity.      Shannyn Steel

Multi day hikes while tough going at times are rejuvenating for me. Being on track with all the essentials on my back and my beloved by my side is one of the best ways for me to unwind, recalibrate and reconnect with nature. The Great Ocean Walk (GOW) allowed me to do all that, and more.

The GOW is located in Victoria, Australia, and runs through the Great Otway and Port Campbell national parks. It’s designed to be an eight-day hike through forest, across rocky shorelines and sandy beaches and atop exposed and rugged cliff tops, totalling 100 km.

We made the decision to complete the walk in 6 days, cutting down on the amount of food we needed to carry and also, allowing time for us to go off and explore other areas of Victoria.  Our GOW itinerary looked like this:

Day 1: 10 km from Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge
Day 2 (combine days 2 and 3) 23 km Elliot Ridge to Cape Otway
Day 3 (combine days 4 and 5) 24 km Cape Otway to Johanna Beach
Day 4 14 km Johanna Beach to Ryan’s Den
Day 5 13 km Ryan’s Den to Devils Kitchen
Day 6 16/23 km Devils Kitchen to 12 Apostles (and back to the car).

To give an indication of time, we travelled at approximately 3 km an hour. Which is not terribly fast though perhaps an average speed. Unpacked I can walk 6 km in an hour at a moderate pace.

The memory I will hold of this walk is of its incredible diversity. Passing though so many different landscapes with varying vegetation and fauna was a highlight. Having to be aware of the tides to make river crossings and rock scrambles was a novelty for me.

The campsites are well set out. We pre-booked our sites. There are small numbers of official sites at each campground ensuring a comfortable stay for those on track. We met five other small parties on the walk but were expecting many, many more being the Christmas holiday season so we were pleasantly surprised by the peace, tranquility and chance to enjoy the remoteness of a wilderness hike.

Water was plentiful in the tanks at the campsites due to recent rains. It’s always advisable to carry water when unsure. There are plenty of rivers along the way, though I’d always recommend sterilizing your water, whether from tank or river, before drinking. Campsites were equipped with drop toilets, not the dreadful chemical, eye burning, smelly ones either, another pleasant surprise. Some of them had amazing views. Another added bonus is the no car access to the walk-in campgrounds, making for peaceful afternoons and evenings.

We hiked over the Christmas holiday period, that’s high summer in Australia. We had two very hot days and found them quite difficult to deal with, we drank more than three litres of water each on those days. It rained a couple of nights and was a little showery one morning, cooling things down. We watched fog roll in from the sea and also inland. Friends advise winter is bitterly cold, though those of you from the British Isles might not mind that.  I might advise a September hike – though Victorian weather is extremely variable and it’s anyone’s guess as to what conditions you might face in any season. Best to be prepared for all conditions regardless of when you walk.

The trickiest part of the whole walk was organising transfers.  Having driven from Queensland nearly 2000 km away we wanted to park at the end of the walk for ease of departure. While there are several options for transfers we were only able to connect with  the Timboon Taxi service. It cost considerably more than a bus trip but the convenience outweighed the price. V line buses run every second day and didn’t line up with our dates, another transfer service did not return calls so the taxi was a great option. We were collected from the Princetown Recreation Reserve, where we parked for the small fee of $20 for six days (7 kms from the end of the walk) and were driven back to the beginning in Apollo Bay. While we carried all our food and essentials our taxi driver told us tales of people providing him with shopping lists and paying him to make food drops at each campsite. Nicely extravagant! That’s hiking in style, for sure.

The Great Ocean Road is popular with tourists. It was built by World War I returned soldiers, 3000 in fact, who tackled the difficult terrain and variable weather to build a road that links the region’s coastal towns. The GOW ends at the very popular Twelve Apostles, along the Great Ocean Road, where the crowds are a little disconcerting after 6 days of wilderness but it’s a majestic end to a brilliant walk.

The Gunditjmara people, the traditional owners of the land, ask hikers to take good care of the land they walk on and wish them a visit filled with great experiences, so that part of their Country will remain with you in good memories. I will always have good memories of that beautiful country and am grateful for the opportunity to explore and experience it for myself. I’d like to share a little of it with you in a video my beloved put together of our time on the GOW.  Enjoy! 

Walking the landscape of life

Be a hill seeker
Most of us try to avoid hills but what’s good about flat? Think about flat tires, flat hair, flat returns (what about flat cakes) and the ultimate flat – flatlining.  Life happens on the hills.  They’re opportunities to prove to yourself that you are stronger than you ever imagined.  If you never attempt the ascent you’ll never know the thrill of swooshing down the other side.

Have you read this quote before? What’s its relevance for you? As a hiker I love it but it’s also a nice analogy for life.

I’m not a thrill seeker,  I’m fairly conservative and non spontaneous and I baulk at hills, more so the physical hills but also the figurative hills in life.  I pretty much seek the easy path while wanting the ultimate outcome, prize or goal. It simply isn’t going to happen. Is it? Einstein said we can’t expect a different result if we do things the same way. It’s crazy behaviour as well as making for a mundane existence.

I’ve examined this behaviour of mine and realise the root of the issue is that I constantly underestimate my ability to tackle hills or mountains; and I’ve trekked a few in my time. You know what usually happens though? Once I begin, the apprehension lessens, the fear rolls away, a little excitement creeps in and a decent sense of achievement blooms. Oh, yes, there’s sweat along the way and some discomfort too (there might even be some cursing when the path gets extremely steep and narrow and rocky), though the more I face up to the hills and mountains the less uncomfortable it gets. Of course all hills are different and they all have their own topography to navigate, so no two are the same. Once at the top I wonder why I ever doubted myself. The satisfaction, the triumph and the joy are just rewards for a little time and perspiration.

A little fun fact that has helped me no end when setting out to climb a hill, and I realise this can help too with those figurative hills in life, is that most humans overestimate the steepness ahead of by at least 15 and in some cases 30 percent. So next time you have the option of the flat or the high road, seek out the hill because the rise ahead isn’t as savage as it appears at first glance. There’s a great satisfaction that comes from challenging yourself and doing something different. Gaining a different perspective can change the map you were previously following. Sometimes you just want to go a different way once you get that bird’s eye view. It really does just begin with putting one foot in front of the other and committing.

I agree with the above quote in that we never really know what we can achieve until we set out to conquer something, be it a physical challenge or some other goal in life. My opinion differs from the wisdom above too.  It’s all life. Life occurs on the hills, on the swoosh down and in the flat places in between.  The thrills might occur when we take a risk and veer off the flat path but the key, I believe, is to make sure we experience the range of landscapes available to us, because variety adds spice to life.

Four profoundly powerful practices everyone should do at least once

The best things in life are the people you love, the places you’ve seen, and the memories you’ve made along the way

A recent hiking holiday reminded me of several things I already knew but hadn’t fully grasped the significance of. I realised there are four things every woman (and man) should do, at least once in their life but preferably more often, for a powerful realignment to their true north.

1. Sleep with your back to the earth
There is something very settling about sleeping with your back to the earth. On several multi-day hikes around the world my beloved and I have slept in the wilderness with just the thin fabric of a tent between us and the elements. Enclosed in a small space, unadorned with furnishings, without manufactured structures between the earth and ourselves we revelled in the grounding, reconnective and healing nature of this opportunity.

I find now, having done this quite a bit, that I crave to pack up and go outdoors to sleep when things get busy and out of control.   Part of the pull is getting back to basics, it’s partly about shrugging off all the unwanted and unnecessary parts of life but a greater part is about reconnecting with nature. Feeling the warmth drain out of the earth, going to bed with the sinking of the sun and rising with the trill of birds and the breaking of day is powerfully seductive in its simplicity. Why not pitch a tent in the back yard, create a lean- to and crawl under it if you don’t have the time or means to take a camping holiday or throw a sleeping bag on the ground, if you are so inclined.

2. Go hiking and carry your belongings on your back
Like the previous item this action is mind-blowing. Apart from the reality check of hiking where time is inconsequential, devices are left behind and routine turns into a gentle daily rhythm, there is something really sobering about lacing on a pair of hiking boots, slinging a pack on your back and walking in nature for several days.

When on a multi day hike you are limited by how much you can carry. It’s a great lesson in prioritising. Only the essentials are necessary for a more comfortable experience. After my first multi day hike many years ago I realised the towel and the soap and the book I’d packed weren’t necessary. Nor were several other items I thought I had to have. Not only were they adding to the weight of my pack but in the end, I didn’t even use them. More recently I realised I could swap my small brush for a comb to lighten my load. I’d taken a sleeping bag liner that wasn’t necessary with the thermals I’d carried. Why did I pack three pairs of socks when I only wore two? Once you are out on the track things change. A clean set of clothes each day isn’t as important a priority as it usually is. Not looking in a mirror or doing the usual grooming routines, one normally engages in, is liberating and refreshing (well, perhaps not too refreshing for those in close contact with you when there hasn’t been facilities to shower or bathe for several days).

I remember on the Walls of Jerusalem walk in Tasmania, a few years back, having a light bulb moment when I realised that all I needed to survive was in the pack on my back: food, water, shelter. I realised, in that moment, that so much of what I’d acquired over the years wasn’t really necessary. Yes, definitely some things make life more comfortable but going on a walk and having to consider what you’ll be happy to carry up hill and over dale day in day out helps you readjust your values and priorities. The things I long to have with me on my hikes are not things at all but the people I would love to share the experience with. Carrying a pack on a hike is a nice exercise in getting back to basics; something we all need from time to time. I challenge you to pack up and go hiking for a few days, what will you carry on your back? Who will you take with you?

3. See the sun set and rise on top of a mountain
There is something magical about a sunrise and sunset. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve seen, it’s one of those enchanting experiences. Sharing the experience with someone is even more special but sharing both, with someone you love, in the same place, is an absolute must do.

My beloved and I camped atop Brinkley Bluff in the West MacDonald Ranges recently and watched the sunset over a magnificent and vast landscape. We woke early to watch it rise again to warm the earth after a cold and windy night. That experience will stay with me forever. It was a highlight of my life such was the magnitude of it. I totally recommend you do it, you’ll not only be connecting with nature in a very real way but you’ll be investing in a shared experience with your loved one and creating a lasting memory.

4. Be a tourist in your own country.
I love to travel. It’s an enriching experience and it changes you. You can’t go home the same after all you see, do, hear and engage with. Travelling at home and visiting places in ones own country is immeasurably pleasing.

I recently visited the heart of my country, central Australia. I’d learnt about arid zones in school when I was young, I’d seen pictures in books and watched movies set in the various places I visited but nothing prepared me for the experience of actually being there. I was gobsmacked by the beauty, the vastness, the palpable spirit of the place. Of course not everywhere you go at home will have the same impact but it’s definitely worth exploring those places you know about but haven’t actually visited. It helps you have a greater appreciation for the country you live in, its history, its geology, the ecosystems that thrive there, the opportunities and the experiences available.

Many people I know were unaware they could ride a lift to the clock tower of our city hall. Nor did they know there is a magnificent art gallery and museum on the same level as the lift entrance. Discovering and exploring these points of interest creates a greater sense of connection and belonging with where you live. It is an easy way to bring more joy into your life through adventure, curiosity and discovery. I travel for work quite often now and approach each trip away with the attitude of ‘what will I discover there this time?’ Sometimes it’s beautiful botanical gardens, or quirky public art, a zoo, often it’s a peaceful place to watch life unfolding in that place.Where will your curiosity take you? What would you like to explore that’s close to home? Perhaps it’s somewhere in your own city or town.

If you feel rudderless and adrift or stressed out and totally wired why not take some time to get back to basics, to realign, to invest in yourself, to embrace life more, to reignite your sense of wonder and awe with some profoundly illuminating, yet simple practices, such as these. Go ahead. What will you do first?

Hiking the Larapinta

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Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt.
John Muir

My beloved and I recently spent six days hiking on the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory, Australia.  I sat just now with the intention of sharing the experience with you but I’m stuck. All that will come is a factual account as the words escape me to explain the experience that is locked away, savouring and maturing in my heart, mind and body. It was a walk of some enormity, not in days, or distance necessarily but in awe. Awe for my country, awe for the man I was walking with (my life partner), awe that I, without much preparation, managed to walk with enjoyment and relative ease. It was a time of reconnecting; with each other, our individual selves and with nature. It was an immeasurably personal, spiritual and sacred time that I don’t feel I can justly explain.  I’ll  see if I can share a little of what the hike was like and perhaps my words will unlock and tumble forth as I go.

Part of the Larapinta trail was established in the 1990s, with an extension added around 2002. More recent changes and upgrades have been made in the last several years, so it is one of the newest and very popular long walks in Australia. In its entirety it is 223 km and follows the West MacDonald Ranges. There are twelve sections so hikers can choose to walk the length of the track or sections of the track as time permits. We had six days so we walked three sections from Ellery Creek to Standley Chasm. There are no hiking fees though some camp grounds do have a small fee, making this one of the most affordable walks I’ve done.

We carried food for six days, though food drops can be arranged at several key junctures for those walking further; a handy service considering the weight of packs. My beloved carried our tent, gas stove and majority of our water with a pack weighing over 25 kilograms, mine was about 19- 20 kilos at the outset, though joyously lightened with each meal. Water was plentiful on the track. Tanks were available at each trailhead, though between trailheads we carried at least 8 litres a day. Water sterilisation is strongly advised as the water may be sourced from bores in the drier months. The water we came across in creeks and gullies was not terribly inviting and during the warmer months when there is little rain there would be a tremendous shortage of drinkable natural water.

We walked in our winter, June/ July, the best time for an arid zone hike. The temperatures were around 20 to 22 degrees during the day but my goodness that sun had some sting in it. I cannot imagine the heat in the hotter months, it must be debilitating. We drank litres of water a day and were always grateful for the shade of a tree or rock or a cool breeze during our rest stops. A hat and sunscreen are essential, a long sleeved shirt is advised. I’m used to walking in humidity here in Australia so the dry air was a change and this too necessitated the intake of large quantities of water for hydration. At night the temperatures plunged to single digits, between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius so thermals and down jackets came out around camp.

Each section of the walk was breathtaking; the landscape and its features, the rock, the plants, the colours. We were mesmerised. There had been an unseasonal amount of rain in recent times and so the landscape was green. Where I had envisioned a red and raw earth, stripped of vegetation, we were instead rewarded with an arid kind of lushness. Many wild flowers were in bloom. The colours of these beauties were yellow, green, purple, white and red. Even the leaves of the trees and bushes were stunning in their many shades of green from silver grey through to army green. We crossed plains, hiked up and across saddles, climbed bluffs and plodded down gorges. Many waded through water in creeks, some waist deep, but we managed to find paths around and once we scrambled over gorge walls to avoid an early morning dip in very cool waters.

We camped in some beautiful spots. Ellery Creek campground is accessible by vehicles and so we discovered many family groups with caravans and RVs as well as a few bike riders and a couple of other walkers. Our second night was quiet by comparison. Rocky Gully was a little flat spot hidden away along, well, a rocky gully. We were one of three small groups that night. Here we met a family of three who were walking the same sections of the trail as us, in the same time as us. Day three saw us arrive at Hugh Gorge camp site. This one too was accessible by vehicle but there were only our trail buddies and us for the evening. My beloved and I made our camp on the sandy banks of a dry creek bed where we could look up at the walls of the gorge we were to travel through the next day. Fringe Lily campsite was one of my favourites. On arrival our trail buddies warned us there was a party of women bathing naked in the creek. Avoiding them my beloved trekked further down the gorge, and I mean much further. After a day of walking I wondered why he was adding another several kilometres to the tally and why we were scrambling over rocks and traversing rocky shelves but when I saw what he had discovered I was pretty impressed. Our camp was a secluded spot on a sandy creek bed with high rock walls on one side and rolling hills on the other. We enjoyed watching the reflection of the sunset in a shallow pool nearby. It was an oasis in the desert. On day four we arrive tired and hot at Birthday Waterhole. We did not camp at the waterhole but instead in the allocated campground with just our family of three to share with. Our plot was surrounded by a grove of trees and we were close to the many birds who sang us into the evening and heralded the next day. Our final camp, on top of Brinkley Bluff, had panoramic views.  After making camp quite early we sat with tea in hand and absorbed vast and beautiful landscape before us. We’d found a little sheltered wall to tuck into and couldn’t have been more pleased. It is hard to say if one place was nicer than the others, all were unique and endearing in their own particular way. I love the sense of ease that comes with pitching a tent and cooking on a portable stove.

John Muir says it best, in every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks. This walker is still processing, nurturing and treasuring the experience. I am filled with the joy of sharing every step of this journey with my beloved. I am filled with the sacredness and spirit of my country. I am filled with the wonder of adventure. This experience is so firmly held in the chambers of my heart, in the recesses of my mind and in the fluid movements of my body that I have no need of words to reflect and recall for myself. But as I hoped to share my adventure with you, perhaps, since words fail me, my photographs can explain some of the magnificence of what I experienced, so you too can share the wonders of the Larapinta Trail.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Gone hiking

On a hike, the days pass with the wind, the sun, the stars; movement is powered by a belly full of food and water, not a noxious tankful of fossil fuels. On a hike, you’re less a job title and more a human being….A periodic hike not only stretches the limbs but also reminds us: Wow, there’s a big old world out there.”
― Ken Ilgunas

I’m off on an adventure to the heart of my country. There’s a trail out there that winds along for 223 kilometres, broken into 12 sections. I’m not walking the whole trail, just a few sections of it. My beloved and I will walk for six days, carrying all we need in our packs. We will sleep with our backs to the red earth and be surrounded, night and day, by the spirit of this amazing country we live in and the spirit of the traditional owners of the land who have passed before us. I’m sure I will have some tales to share when I return.