Larapinta Trail Day 7 – Brinkley Bluff to Millers Flat

FWAP FWAP FWAP. Ugh why didn’t I pitch my tarp properly. Sensible Snakebite knows still night at bed means nothing for future wind potential, yet lazy Snakebite said it would be totally fine and no need to spend 2 minutes fixing it. FWAP FWAP FWAP. I could get out of bed now, or just lie in bed dozing until the next gust makes the tarp go crazy and it wakes me up. It’ll die down soon. Fwap. FWAP. Fwap.
From 1130pm until 330am it gusts, then dies down in time for me to get 2hours sleep.

I wake to people shuffling around on the ridge. I unzip my tarp, roll up the door and look at the beautiful glowing horizon. At least I pitched in the perfect direction for lying in bed and watching the sunrise.

 

Tent view


I get up and wander over to the edge where Turtle is sitting. Salt joins us after a few minutes and we stare at the horizon, chatting sporadically, and generally being in a sleepy, awestruck daze. The view is amazing across the valley and distant mountains. Last night we could see the Alice town lights.

Brinkley Bluff Morning Sunrise
Good Morning!


Eventually I tear myself away from the view and pack up my things. There is layer of red dirt on everything from the wind.
Hiking down from the bluff is, as usual, very rocky but it’s skinny razorback descent that is fun to clamber down and awesome views either side. I’m hiking straight into the sun which is blinding, but warms me up and soon my puffy and Owly (beanie) get shoved away, and my sunnies, hat and suncream appear.
A couple of very steep but short climbs but then down down down. It’s about 10km from the top down to Standley and I pass a lot of groups that are making a day trip up and back down. It’s nice to have a chat to some of them, a lot are enamoured with my socks and gaiters, and the guides are always keen for a chat. I think having a conversation that isn’t “Are we there yet” is a little bit exciting for them 😉 
Once at the bottom it’s a few more km through the creek bed in the gorge. It’s wide, easy navigation but suddenly THUNK. I’m at a bitumen road. Huh?
I spy a sign and this is actually the road. I wander 700m to the cafe where I order a ginger beer and endure stares from the clean day hikers and clueless chasm walkers. The day hikers will usually hit a few walking trails. The chasm walkers are just here for the Standley chasm and will walk about 2km. Salt is here and has decided to hike out. I sit and sip the sugary ginger goodness, pick up my food drop and arrange all my things. I clear all the little nooks of my pack of rubbish, then sit and stare into the never never while waiting for Turtle to arrive.
Salt takes off down the trail and we may see him again on the final night as he is due to walk into Alice the same time as us, but I have a feeling he will finish up early.
Turtle and I were going to stay here tonight, however there isn’t much room for camping, the food at the cafe is minimal, and the hike tomorrow will be hot and hard. So I’m just hanging until I can confirm a change of plans with Turtle.
I wander over to the lawn area, lie down with my feet on my pack and close my eyes. A few minutes later Turtle arrives! She has a special talent for chatting to everyone and taking her time 😉
We decide to hang around camp and take a few hours off out of the sun, then hike about 5km late this afternoon to make tomorrow easier.
I wash some socks and undies in the sink in the laundry area and hang them to dry. We plug our phones in to charge, order salad sandwiches that are served with a non-hiker portion of packet chips. This is inhaled and washed down with a soy flat white. I immediately feel like another, but refrain. We take the little tourist walk down the chasm which is stunning! Huge huge towering walls, beautiful lush vegetation due to it being one of only a few permanent water sources in the area, light bouncing around and little education signs along the way.

Standley Chasm


Back in the camp we fill up water, soak dinner, do all the things we can possibly do, then have one last coffee while waiting out the last of the heat before we climb the giant climb up above the chasm. Mmmm proper coffee.

The trail goes steeply above the chasm and around the back and down the other side. It is absolutely amazing. Just stunning. We make little videos and generally waste time as it is too amazing to leave. Except we have to as our light is disappearing fast. It’s not long before the headlamps come out and we are hopping, jumping and scrambling through the creek bed. There aren’t a lot of signs, so we call out “sign!” excitedly with every one that we see. A small comfort on a confusing trail. Are there snakes out here? I freak myself out a little bit, then remember all the night hikes I’ve done in mountain lion territory, eat a couple of spoons of concrete and continue. We are soooo slow tonight! Tricky tricky trail.

We finally arrive a Millers Flat, which is some tent sites cleared in the tall grass.  We set up, I heat up some delicious tempeh for dinner, then as it’s getting chilly we say goodnight to the mice and spiders crawling about, and head off to sleep with the pretty pretty stars watching over us.

Larapinta Trail Day 6 – Hugh Gorge to Brinkley Bluff

“DOO DOO DOO DEE DO”
We are blasted awake by Turtle’s alarm that she forgot to turn off. Not a big deal as we were due to wake up in 20ish minutes anyway, but the noise made me jump a mile.
I get all our things from the mouse-proof cupboard, make coffee and sit up drinking it snuggled in my sleeping bag. Luxury!
We are getting a slightly later start today as we have to navigate through a tricky canyon and headlamp is not going to cut it.
Packed and out, we stumble along in the dark into the river bed in the canyon. Within 20 minutes we are questioning our navigation! It’s very overgrown, lots of flood debris and downed trees, plus boulders and rocks to scramble over. We find what we think is a path and are rewarded with a blue triangle sign up ahead after a few minutes.
As the light grows, it trickles through the canyon lighting up the bright orange walls that surround us. There are a few pools of water in this canyon- the first we’ve hiked past in a while. The light is magnificent, the walls are mind blowing, the words are so completely inadequate. We have an amazing time doing some rock climbing and hopping up and down boulders. We see a rock in the shape of a camel that Turtle tries to call a dingo. Definitely a camel. I decide the canyon is too amazing for silence and it needs an epic classical music soundtrack to walk through! I turn up my phone as loud as it will go but it does a dismal job. Next time I’ll bring a boom box. Boom box for Mozart baby.

Early light in Hugh gorge


The canyon is all over too quickly and the trail continues into a mostly sandy bottom gully. We climb up and over a saddle, then down down down a valley until we are at the foot of our big climb.
It’s just stunning today. There are jagged peaks above me and I try to guess which is the one we’ll be summiting, but this trail always surprises!
It’s one of those perfect climbs where it is a mix of legs and hands and climbing and hiking. It switchbacks up and the sun climbs with me, getting hot so I take a few moments as the trail curves briefly around the other side of the hill into the shade to sit and nibble some dried fruit.

Top of the Razorback

 

Yew! I’m at the top of a wicked razorback! Steep drop-offs either side, big wind. Just the right amount of “ooooh dear”.  I hike along the top with the beautiful views for a while then bump into some very fresh looking people. They are hiking the opposite direction and will be camping where we were last night. I’m very confused as to how they managed to be so clean. Then I remember that there are LOT of drop off points along the Larapinta, and not everyone attracts dirt like white on rice (like I do). Oh well. I tell myself that looking feral makes me look more hard core, and move my stinky feet up  up up the wicked climb. It’s all loose rock and tiny steps. Any more wind, or any rain and it would be a dangerous spot! So. Much. Fun. 
Climbing down is sketchy, loose rock, steep slopes to step on without much foothold. Bloody gorgeous.

I climb down into the canyon jumping off giant boulders and hopping from big rock to big rock, guding myself down with my hands and scooching along my butt. I reach one giant boulder with a 2m-ish drop the other side. I’m just about to throw my poles down to the ground and jump down after them when I spy I lovely long stick in the sand. A moving stick. A snakey stick.
“Sorry mate. I’ll let you go first.” Mr Snake slides towards me and under the giant boulder. I find another path to go down, and take my time from then on as I don’t want to accidentally jump on any of his friends! Go to sleep snakes, it’s winter time!

Although ‘winter’ doesn’t really apply out here. It’s a hot hot day and I love the little patches of cool shade in between the hot sun. The traditional European concept of 4 seasons was not created with central Australia in mind. Here in the land of the Arrernte people there are 5 seasons and it is currently Alhwerrpa (roughly June – August).


I make it to the Section 3/4 Junction campsite. There is a shelter, water tanks and drop toilet. I fill my water, have a big drink, eat some food and the rinse my bandana with the tank water. I lie down on the platform with my shoes off, the lovely cool bandana covering my eyes and have a glorious nap. I wake and take my time going through my pack and reorganising my food and things. Turtle arrives and after a brief break we start the hike out to Brinkley Bluff with all our water containers full. Brinkley is supposed to be one of the best campsites on the trail. We will get there late, but it’s so nice to hike out in the low sun. It’s still hot and we are sweating bullets climbing, but it is beautiful.
After Stuart flat and up the first hill is when the real climbing starts. Giant stair climbing meets box jumps! It’s a thigh burner for sure. We are hugging the side of the mountain on a skinny switch backing trail. The light is fading fast round us and everything is glowing. With every step the view gets better. We take out our headlamps as the light is not good enough to see, and as we reach the top of the bluff we are treated to the last little glow of deep colour on the horizon, mixed with the first stars.

There are so many people! It takes a while to find a little spot to sleep. I carve out a place and set up my little tarp in case of wind. I can still peek out and see the stars so I am happy! Right at the monument on top, I manage to get some signal and check in with my dog sitter and am treated to a few photos which makes my heart happy. I would love my little fluffy guys to be hanging out with me out here! I send some emails as bats swoop swoop swoop above me. The moon is out and it is bright!  I haven’t done the best job setting up the tarp, but don’t want to re-do the stakes as everyone is already asleep around me and I don’t want to make too much noise. I fear I will regret this.

Today has been amazing! Absolute favourite day. Let’s do it again tomorrow!
Goodnight bats!