It was dark when we arrived, still dark as we leave. I flip flopped like a salmon all night getting used to my sleeping mat and quilt again. I alternated hot and cold but it was quite a lovely night, although I paid the price for my diligent rehydrating before bed as I had to get up twice in the night to water the plants. Twice! Craziness.
There are camping sites spread across the Larapinta Trail with water tanks and pit toilets, and some with shelters. Without them there would be next to no water available. There are only a few permanent water holes in Tjoritja and they are very far apart.
I munch on one of my amazing peanut butter bars I made for pre-brekkie as I hike out with my headlamp on. Turtle was still filling water as I left so I enjoy my absolute favourite hiking time – solo during the pre and post dawn hours. Everything feels like a secret that you are sneaking through in the morning. It’s all so quiet and sleepy and shy. It all changes so fast as the light moves across the earth- the colours change, the smells, the noise.
My thoughts weave in and out about nothing in particular. Just me, the crunch of my feet, the dirt and the light.
The dawn light touching Mt Sonder is stunning, as it is on the bright white ghost gums on the hills around me. The trail weaves up over the mountain and there is a lovely brekkie spot at the top with a gorgeous view that would have been a brilliant camping spot. I find that the top has a very strange and mysterious name “Hilltop Lookout”. I ponder the deep meaning of this, looking out eating my pre-soaked museli. When Turtle doesn’t catch up I keep hiking, with our pre-determined hiking plan of “we will catch up at water”. I find it difficult hiking with others for long hikes – hiking styles are very rarely the same. Faster hiking vs slow, long breaks or lots of short ones, getting up early or staying in bed as long as possible. Turtle and I hike really well on day hikes together, although we have recently discovered that for long days, because we tend to chat so much we actually tire ourselves out mentally! So out here we know we will be having a good balance of company and solo time.
On the other side of the hill climb the trail weaves down into the plains, then eventually crosses the Finke River which is mostly a dry river bed at this time of year. Not far from the crossing there is a water hole that you can swim in, but I keep hiking across the deep sandy bed as I can see the shelter which means water and lunch 🙂
The shelter is an open metal roofed building with 2 large sleeping platforms, a cupboard to store food at night, long shelves above the platform, and a great information sign describing the Larapinta sections either side with distances and elevation profiles (for Eastbound and Westbound hikers).
I do all my chores – filter water, loo (I’m very excited that there seems to be no need to carry loo paper at all as the loos are well stocked and maintained), eat food, refill snack pockets, take off shoes and socks and lie down with my feet elevated. Turtle arrives after a while and it ends up being a lazy 2 hour lunch break! I love that about desert hiking – up early, big break in the middle, hike until the sun goes down. It doesn’t work as well out here as the number of daylight hours are limited, plus the temperature peaks late in the afternoon (around 4pm), but at least it’s a good opportunity to get our core temps down, rehydrate and rest before heading out again. Jack the solo hiker that was on our bus turns up to the shelter. He was camping at the same place as us last night but I didn’t see his tent – apparently there were two tents there but I only saw one, not wanting to wave my headlamp around too much waking people up.
The afternoon hiking is hot and hard underfoot. We arrive at Ormiston nice and early and collect our first food drop. Yep – food drop on day 2!!! There is a little cafe and I grab a lemony lemon calippo and ginger beer which counteract the desert heat perfectly. I wash out my socks and we are thoroughly entertained by some spinifex pigeons (punk pigeons with big spiky feathers protruding from their heads) while I wait for my things to dry and we charge our phones in the plug outside the cafe.
We find places to set up our cowboy camps and Turtle heads off to the Ghost Gum lookout while I play McGyver with my pack frame that seems to have dislodged itself. She returns a short time later and we eat delicious dinner, then I head back to my little home for the night to discover big, bitey looking ants. Eeps. It’ll probably be ok, but I’ve spent an unfortunate night being crawled all over by ants when I set up a makeshift campsite on the PCT. I don’t plan on repeating that mistake again!
Luckily there are some platforms dotted around the campground – 2m x 2m ish square platform wooden slats raised about 0.8m off the ground. I drag all my things to the nearest vacant one and that becomes my home for the night. I place my things around me and hope I don’t roll off!
The sky is beautifully dark once again, and I fall asleep with one line from an 80s song by The Church going over and over in my head “….under the milky way tonight.”