Well what started as me hijacking my best friend Yoni’s family five day desert hiking trip (Yoni, her daughter and her seasoned hiking parents) on the Larapinta Trail, fast became a matter of sheer survival at times!
With temperatures in the mid 30’s (degrees celcius) every day, hauling 15kg+ backpacks on hot rough terrain underfoot, along with thousands upon thousands of flies, we were tested, sometimes to our limits.
I was privileged to observe a young person demonstrate courage, grit and bravery well beyond her years. I was left in awe of the mental strength and determination of two gutsy septuagenarians despite the harshest of environmental conditions and also laid witness to a mothers’ unwavering love and profound devotion to her child.
After a gruelling total of 75kms over 5 days, I finally got the life changing experience that I had been searching for on the Overland Track and learned a few new things about myself along the way too.
From shooting stars to dingo prints, innovative ways to create shade to carpets of pink, purple and orange rocks, punctured sleeping mats to blisters on blisters. From Fool’s gold to vomit and early nights to hiking in the dark. This trip almost had it all!
Not long before I set off on the Overland in January this year (2019), my mate Yoni said she was chaperoning her 15 year old daughter Lily on some sections of the Larapinta Trail, west of Alice Springs in Central Australia, and suggested I consider joining them. It’s a 223km hike broken into sections that traverse the Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges). Yoni’s parents Fred and Sue wanted to take Lily who shared their love of hiking.
At the time that held no appeal to me at all (I don’t do the heat) and I kindly declined. However, on returning from the Overland filled with more hiking confidence and listening to all of Yoni’s planning for the Larapinta, my interest was piqued. So I started doing some research and I was hooked. I then asked Yoni if I could invite myself along. Her family very kindly agreed for me to join them and the 9 week count down began.
The biggest issue for me on the Overland Track was my knees. I was 84kgs when I started that. My pack was 16.5kgs with 2L of water. That’s 100kgs of pressure on my knees. When I was at the airport coming home from the Overland I purchased a book called Fast 800 and set about shedding some weight. I’m happy to say I dropped 10kgs in 9 weeks. I also dropped my base pack weight by 3kgs. It was absolutely worth the sacrifice (ie less wine and chocolate) as my knees didn’t hurt once during the Larapinta!
I spent a lot of time researching others’ experience on the Larapinta to ensure I was as best prepared as possible. I joined the Larapinta Facebook page, bought the maps, analyzed the weather almanacs for average temperatures and how much water to carry. I bought a lighter sleeping mat, quilt, stove and pot. I scoured the world for what I am pretty sure was the last remaining reflective umbrella to protect from the sun as the heat now became my driving fear. Kane and I invested in a very expensive but ultralight tent too which I would take with me. I was packing solo so I needed everything including the purchase of a PLB (emergency beacon). My pack weight with 4L of water and 2kg of food now came in at 15kgs with a base weight of 9kg.
Once again I was weighing everything and entering it into spreadsheets (I know every last item weight to the gram), ordering dehydrated meals and a larger water reservoir (water needs to be carefully managed on the Larapinta). I love learning tricks and tips from people who have done the trail. For me knowledge equals control – control increases my enjoyment.
I did a training walk with Yoni and her parents about 4 weeks out. That frightened me. They were all strong and fast – way faster than me and scrambling up ascents with ease. So I increased my training to full pack weight, chose especially hot days and included lots of stair work (which for me paid off in the end). When the time came I felt I was ready.
Fred and Sue were waiting at Alice Springs airport and took us into town to explore. It’s a nice little town. That night we went to the Festival of Lights then settled in early to bed in anticipation of our walk in the morning.
I’d like to preface this account by saying that I did this track with four other people. This is my interpretation of my personal experience only.
Full of hopeful anticipation
Day 1 – Telegraph Station to Wallaby Gap
In an amusing start, a vomit smattered maxi-taxi picked us up from the caravan park and dropped us to the starting point and we headed off on the trail at 7.30am, fly nets veiled over our heads and faces. This created a filter that we eventually saw most of the track through. The pace was quick as the trail gently weaved its way north. We were initially accompanied by rock wallabies for the first few kilometers which inspired a sense of wonder and excitement at what could be in store for us.
Rock wallabies wishing us well?
By about 9.30am the sun got a bit of a kick in it and as we changed to a westerly direction, the ascents began. This is where it became challenging. It was difficult to maintain the same speed on the ascents as it was on the flats so there were lots of breaks.
Creeks and river beds are the outbacks oasis’
When shade becomes a valuable commodity
As the mercury rose, so too did the difficulty. We pushed and pushed our bodies. You don’t notice all the sweating in the desert as it dries the minute it hits your skin. I was careful to keep sipping on my water bladder and my paranoia and fears that lead me to research and prepare for this track served me well. I carried 4L of water and hydrated well in the 24hrs prior. I got stuck into the magnesium and had electrolytes in my water bladder. For me the challenge was keeping up with the speed (5km hr with full packs).
Steeper than expected
As we continued to climb, the Fool’s gold glistened from the rocks along the track like disco balls. The temperature got to 34 degrees and it was only 11am. The whole area was extremely exposed with very little shade opportunities. Yoni kept reminding Lily to drink.
Fool’s gold (mica) along the track
I have to say these conditions were pretty torturous and as the dry spinifex scraped our legs, we all looked out for each other. I’m pretty sure we were all wondering how we were going to make the whole five days. I know I was. But we had to get to camp. It was too late to turn back.
Euro ridge – breathless
I loved the hills despite the heat. I find a rhythm and stick with it. I love the challenge of them, they are easier on my knees and there is almost always a reward at the end in the form of a scenic vista. But what goes up has to come down and that’s where I come unstuck. I’m not a descent kinda girl. I need my hiking poles and I have the thudding grace of a full-term pregnant elephant.
Euro Ridge – not for the faint hearted
As we reached the top of Euro Ridge we were very careful with our steps as we were meer centimetres from the edge which dropped away dramatically.
When we finally made it to Wallaby Gap camp, there was a sense of shock at how harsh the conditions were. In fact, some of the finer details of the track that day are hard to recount just for the sheer challenge of it. Yoni and I both had headaches. Everyone was exhausted. Lily started perking up to her friendly chirpy self again which was a wonderful relief. There was just no reprieve from the heat and flies though. We did a lot of nothing until 630pm when the flies pissed off as the sun went down.
My tent pegged to rocks
I was excited to put my tent up for the first time in the field. I tried to peg the guy lines but the ground was too hard. So I had seen other people secure their tents to rocks on the Larapinta FB page and that’s just what I did! I felt a great sense of independence doing that. My husband Kane would have been very proud of me. Some credit to Fred who checked it all and taught me a new knot technique.
Sun setting on Wallaby Gap
As I settled in for my first night alone in the tent, I could hear a lot of sounds outside. I felt like it was one of those scenes from the movie Ace Ventura where I was surrounded by animals of all shapes and sizes. I started to freak out a bit but then realised it was my tent making the noise in the breeze. I did two piddle’s within an hour of going to bed that I swear totalled two litres. My average daily consumption of fluid on the track was at least 5 litres a day. I had a cracker of a headache and couldn’t get to sleep for two hours. To make things worse there must have been a pub downwind and the breeze was helping the noise of what I thought was a really crap band, travel. I even woke at 3.50am and it was still going. My new super light sleeping mat had a slow leak and went down overnight much to my aggitation. For the rest of the trip I’d have to reinflate it 3-4 times a night. Grrrr.
Day 2 – Wallaby Gap to Simpson’s Gap
We were all up as the new day was beginning to dawn. I packed up all my gear in the tent as the flies were already out and about. Our plan was to get off as early as possible to beat the heat. I enjoyed my hot Milo and Moccona (with Coffee Mate for a milky finish – my go to hot drink when hiking) before heading west with Simpson’s Gap in our sights.
Starting Day 2
The track gently meandered for a good 7kms alongside a jaggered orange ridge to our right. In the distance we could see a rather large looking hill that resembled a Digger’s hat. Given we were headed for “Hat Hill” we deducted that was it. However it seemed so far away and bloody high! We passed through outcroppings of white quartz which, against the orange/red of the soil, shimmered with the sun behind us. It was so beautiful. At every turn there was a photo opportunity but I had to curtail my urges to snap everything beautiful and interesting in order to make camp before the real heat of the day.
Hat Hill off in the distance – looks like a Diggers hat
When we eventually reached Hat Hill we began our ascent. It was so wonderful to get up nice and high to see the surrounding environment from a different perspective. As we climbed further, the south western side of the hill turned into cliffs of red rock with bursts of white and pink quartzite. The scary thing was that there were massive boulders peppered along the track, evidence of previous falls. Lily said, “Look at these awesome boulders. It’s so cool!” I was like, “Yeah, nah.” That was a little unsettling for me.
View back towards Alice on the ascent of Hat Hill
Beware of the falling boulders
As we began our descent into Simpson’s Gap the quartz turned pink! It was like raw rose quartz. And then the rocks turned purple. I spent a lot of time picking up rocks and observing their magnificence that day. Some “fell” into my pockets. Later back at camp when I looked them they lost their beauty a little. They were much more stunning where they lay on the track.
When the rock turned purple
Getting into camp was wonderful. The shelter was very “fancy” compared to Wallaby camp with platforms to sleep without having to put our tents up. It was at this point we started scouring the maps to look for extraction points along the track as we felt it would be way to hot to do the Jay Creek to Standley leg (renown for being a difficult part of the track) and the temperature was expected to peak on that last day. Continuing as initially planned without an exit strategy was a amateurs game.
Walking into Simpson’s Gap
Best shelter ever!
Nothing was really going to work when Lily, using her wonderfully fresh, young, clever brain, came up with the idea that we could continue on to Mulga camp then turn around and head back to Wallaby. Now that could work with a great emergency service trail there. So the decision was made. That was the new plan. We’d get up at 6am and head off as soon as possible as the forecast was for an even hotter day tomorrow and we had our longest distance day (15kms).
View from the shelter
That afternoon we dozed on and off patiently awaiting the retirement of the flies and the heat. The tin roof of the shelter cracked and buckled above us while our outlook was Simpson’s Gap. It was a really lovely camp.
Just as the sun was setting we walked down to the Gap to take a look. The tourists had all disappeared and Fred and Sue told us if we waited patiently enough the rock wallabies would come down to drink. And that is just what happened. They were very pensive no doubt hoping we would leave but we were patient. It was such a wonderful experience and as we left the Gap, the moon was rising and the flies were leaving.
Dusk at Simpson’s Gap
Night time under the shelter
As became our habit, when the sun set we made dinner, prepared our water and bags for the next day, washed and hit the sack. Each night I would wash by the water tank, getting all my gear off. I’d fill up my 750ml water bottle and use 3 different coloured Chux wipes – one for my body, one for my lady garden and one for my feet. I used Wilderness soap leaves and had a good scrub and rinse. Then I wash my knickers for the next day. Voila! I really loved washing in the dark with the Milky Way above me. I wore the same clothes each day, alternating between my two pairs of socks and undies. I had one set of camp clothes which I slept in. No amount of washing can take away the stench of desert hiking though and by the end I smelled of BO and arse sweat. It was generally around 7.30pm each night we were tucked up on our sleeping mats drifting off to sleep.
Literally the Milky Way I washed under. Naturally it was much much brighter and vivid.
Unfortunately with Simpson’s Gap being a tourist hotspot, a car drove in that evening and decided it was party time. That was actually really annoying. It also created a sense of danger not knowing what type of people they were. Our sleep that night was very irratic.
Day 3 – Simpson’s Gap to Mulga
That forecast for a hot day was spot on. Holy smoke! We woke just after 6am and it was still dark under our nice shelter. Inititally the walk was quite easy with very gentle undulations and I think Yoni let me lead out because I was definitely struggling to keep up the same pace as the girls. They are sprinters and then stop and have breaks where I am more of a slower hiker but don’t need breaks. And given this was Lily’s hiking adventure, I really didn’t want to hold her up.
Starting Day 3
As the heat increased so did our exposure to the sun. Things that were so lovely to see yesterday such as granite outcrops, were not as appreciated today. And at some stage Lily looked at the map and discovered that the calculation of distance to Mulga camp was actually 16.4kms not 15kms! Every step hurts and that is a lot of extra steps. As the girls stopped for breaks every now and then in any shade we could find, we tried to stay positive and talked about how wonderful it would be to get to Mulga camp and get under the shelter. We expected it to be a shit shelter (not unlike the crappy one we experienced at Wallaby Gap) but it would be reprieve from the increasingly scorching sun.
Resting in the shade
By the time we hit 15kms I decided to get my very expensive hiking sun umbrella which actually did decrease the heat by about 5 degrees celcius. I felt pretty good that day physically no doubt because I set the pace.
One of my favorite things about the track – rocks, rocks and more rocks
We knew we were getting close and Lily couldn’t wait to get to the camp shelter and she set off ahead of us. So it was with utter deflation when I heard Lily call out, “There’s no fucking shelter!” I stopped in my tracks and Yoni did too. She turned back and looked at me. Words were not needed. We were both thinking the same thing – faark!!!
Mulga camp – Hell on earth
Mulga camp – Hell on earth
As we walked in all we saw was a desolate, dry, dusty, barren “camp site” with a water tank, dunny and two picnic tables (in the sun!) As I set my bag down next to a tree I noticed the bones of dead animals and that’s exactly how I felt this place looked – like a place things come to bloody die!
Note the bones scattered around
Mulga – where things come to die
We looked for shade but there was very little as the only trees were Mulgas which provide the most rudimentary of filtered shade. As I took off my gaitors (canvas leg protectors) I noticed a rash on my legs becoming more aggressive – oh great. Let’s increase the shittiness level.
The ball of my left foot was painful. I normally get pain here but on examination I found a blister – I never get blisters but this trip I decided to forego my sock liners. Never again. Yoni found a spot to put up her tent. Then she and Lily retired there for a little while. I took off my shirt as it was so hot and put up my tent in my bra and shorts in what I predicted would be a shady spot in a few hours. This later resulted in a nasty sunburn on my back that I am still scratching!
Yoni’s tent is on the far left
As I ate my lunch of dry crackers underneath the fly net over my head, I felt a little broken. Fuck this place to hell. Actually, it was Hell. I’m sure I could hear Satan laughing behind the picnic table in the sun. As I was making a video to prove I had made it to Hell, a little breeze came up and blew my tent down! It was the only time I laughed that afternoon.
When you can’t do simple calculations and your tent blows down
I then just walked around camp with the aim of finding shade. That was a task let me tell you. The only shady spot was the shade of the dunny. Was I willing to go there? But just near it I found a cluster of Mulgas together that I predicted would work with the sun moving west. On the hard, dry, rock strewn ground I laid on my ground sheet (which is the base for my tent) and I was still getting burned. Then it occurred to me that I could rig up my umbrella to the tree. That worked so I then grabbed my shirt and pulled out my sleeping bag liner and strung them up from the tree. Success! And there I lay from 1pm to 6.30pm, moving with the shade as the sun travelled through the sky.
Make your own shade 101
When desperate times call for Dunny shade
Lily and Yoni came out at about 2pm and they did what I couldn’t/wouldn’t – lay in the shade of the dunny! Six hours is a long, long time in those conditions. I get the feeling that’s what it would be like on Survivor. Time moves slowly. Every annoying thing is amplified like pain, hard ground and flies. Again, once the flies and the sun were put to bed we made dinner, washed and readied for the next day.
Mulga – much nicer in the evening
We all agreed to get up at 5am to get an even greater headstart on the sun and despite the ugliness of that camp during the day, it was a lovely quiet night at Mulga. I liked “Hell” at night. Go figure.
Inside my tent at night
Day 4 – Mulga to Simpson’s Gap
I slept like a baby that night (no doubt thanks to a poor sleep the night prior and a couple of Mersyndol). The alarm went off at 5am and we were off by 6am. I enjoyed being up to see the Milky Way. It is so dark out there and the moon set around 3am. I saw a satalite that morning which satisfied my inner uber nerd.
Venus and Mercury – an early start
We set off with our torches and enjoyed the lack of flies and the cool air for the first 5kms. Early on the blister that had developed on the ball of my left foot burst. Owwy.
The girls leading the way
I did my first bush poo that morning! Unfortunately the ground was too hard to dig a hole so I had to cover it with a pile of rocks – yummy. It was about this time that I hit the wall. The terrain was easy so perhaps it was the fatigue of the days previous combined with my own personal need to want to keep up with the girls but Day 4 was a really shit day for me.
Nice tree – shit day
I felt angry that I couldn’t keep up and got frustrated that Yon and Lil were chatting away merrily with each other. I was just managing to breathe. They were enjoying the walk and found it really easy. Every step felt like torture to me. Each time they stopped my feet would burn like Satan’s ring after curry night so I ended up asking if they’d mind if I went at my own pace and would not take stops. At the time I must have been feeling really sensitive because I felt like Yoni was cranky at me for this (which was not the case at all) and goes to show my level of discomfort that day. It was kind of like when I come off night shifts – I’m delicate and emotional. So then I had guilt on top of all the frustration and anger too!
So damn rugged – day getting shitter
The last 8kms I pretty much did my own thing. Close to camp I ran into a girl who was doing 36kms in total that day. She looked and sounded like a country girl and I don’t know how she possibly could have done it to be honest. I wonder now if she did. The last kilometre we all walked in together. It was like coming home. Simpson’s Gap camp had the lovely shelter.
I love you Simpson’s Gap shelter
Sue and Fred were there waiting for us which was so very wonderful. It was so great to see their faces. It made me emotional actually. I almost collapsed onto the shelter platform and I think it took me a good 15 minutes to recover puffing and panting. And after some snacks and drinks within an hour I had hardened the fuck up out of my funk and felt better.
It was super hot though and rather than just remove my shirt like yesterday, I got down to bra and undies and I didn’t care who was around! I must have been a sight – bra, undies, Birkinstock type sandals and a fly net. Sexy times.
Fashions in the field – bra by Bonds, undies by Kathmandu, sandals by Teva, fly net by Sea to Summit
Again, we spent the afternoon dozing in the heat waiting for it to settle. I really missed my husband that day. The boredom is real during this time. I like it though as it forces me to do nothing and according to research, apparently that’s a good thing for your brain. At one stage (and just warning, this gross) I decided to tidy up the newly formed callous’s on my feet with some scissors. Not long after, and to my amusement, I noticed the ants had started picking the ‘cuttings’ up and heading back to the nest. It’s a sad state of affairs when it creates excitement amongst your camp mates who join you in watching the ants communicate and interact with each other over this lovely “gift” of my toe clippings. There were aggressive ants, ants that worked as teams and others that you could see negotiating ownership of said callous’. Fun times.
Day 5 – The Last Day – Simpson’s Gap to Wallaby Gap
We had planned the night before to wake up at 4am. We told Lily 4.30am because no self respecting teenager would willingly agree with 4am. But just after midnight I woke to Yoni and Lily talking beside me and the next thing I knew I heard poor Lily start vomiting. After this I fell into a deep sleep again and just before 4am I heard Yoni asked Lily if she wanted to continue with the walk. Lily sounded terrible and said she still felt nauseous. She would have been completely devastated. Yoni then asked me if I wanted to continue on. At the time I said that I had a sore back (which I did from a deflated mat) so I would stay with them, and because Simpsons Gap was accessible by road it would be an easy extraction with Fred and Sue on the job. But I got up to go to the loo and I actually felt pretty good.
As I sat on the toilet I thought to myself that I didn’t want the trip to end on the bad day I had yesterday. I was pretty nervous at the thought of doing the last leg on my own but I have hiked alone before. I had an emergency beacon so I would be ok.
I came out of the dunny and said to Yoni, “Do you mind if I carry on?” She very kindly said, “Of course not,” and I began packing up with Yoni keeping me company. At 4.45am with my head torch on my forehead, trepidation in my stomach and a tiny smidge of courage in my heart, I hugged my dear, dear friend goodbye and set off into the dark.
Throughout my whole trip I looked to Venus and Mercury in the east every morning. Venus was brighter and higher than Mercury but neither had risen yet. It was just me and the Milky Way. I got out to the road and had a bit of trouble finding the trail entrance.
From here I crossed the sandy river bed and started the long ascent back up Hat Hill again but from the west not the east this time. A couple of times I lost the track but backtracked and found the way again. There are markers along the track about every 300m but it’s a different experience in the dark. Visibility is limited to a metre or two. As I looked up I could see one reflect back in the distance which was a relief. I was heading in the right direction.
Two markers and a planet! Venus rising!
About 1km into the ascent I thought I could see a marker but it was Venus rising! I was so comforted she was there to guide the way east.
I got a bit further up and stopped and turned off my head lamp. There I stood in the quiet and it really was just soooo quiet. And still. I looked up to the Milky Way and back west to where I had just come from and I saw a shooting star. I’m not a very spiritual person and I’m not really into “signs” but on this day I took it as one that I was meant to be here. Right here, right now.
The crunch, crunch, crunch
I climbed a little more and all I could hear was the sound of my own breath, the crunch, crunch, crunch of my soles on the gravel and my poles hitting the ground and as I reached the saddle of the hill, I turned off the head torch again. I breathed in deeply and could see the glow of Alice Springs off to the east with Venus getting higher in the sky, now joined by Mercury. And then another sign. Another meteorite shooting from behind the ridge and past Venus herself! Well that was it for me. I was all night sky nerded out!
Venus and the lights of Alice coming into view
I was filled with such simple, flat out, no bullshit joy. I had an overwhelming sense of being OK. The, “Yep. I’m good,” feeling. Of peace and calm. I felt safe. I felt centred. I felt connected to the earth and the sky and the universe and I felt that way for a good couple of hours. It was one of the most profound and memorable moments in my life.
Remember in Forrest Gump when Jenny said she wished she was with Forrest when he was travelling and he said, “You were with me”. Well my mum was with me then. I wished so much she was there.
Buoyed by my happiness I sang songs in my head as the sky slowly lightened putting the Milky Way to bed and the lights of Alice began to twinkle. I turned off my head torch and relied on the dim light of the dawn that was still a way off breaking.
Walk with me
I saw some dingo poo (they all turn white in the sun). That made me a bit nervous. Then a little further onwards I saw some fresh dingo droppings. Hmmmm. I turned around to make sure I wasn’t being followed by a rabid pack of local werewolves. As I hit the flat my phone began pinging with messages. Sadly I was getting closer to civilisation.
Dawn takes a long time to break
As it got lighter I could see the track better. In a sandy section I saw snake tracks. I’m actually glad I did as I really wanted to see some snakes . We didn’t and I was somewhat disappointed.
I stopped again and looked behind me. What I saw was mind blowing. Hat Hill looked like it was made of fire! It was iridescent with the light of the rising sun hitting its eastern wall. I could barely believe my eyes!
Hat Hill “on fire”
When I finally reached Wallaby Gap I took the opportunity to use the very nice pit toilet. I know you’re thinking, “Is there even such a thing?” Well, yes. Yes, there is. Hence my reason for mentioning it. Puts the Overland Track dunny’s to shame. Then I head off on the 4km service track toward the highway. I could see the footprints of dingo tracks the whole way along. I like looking at tracks. I do it on my nice sandy walks at Wyrrabalong too. This dusty service track had it all – bird tracks, lizard tracks, human tracks, wallaby tracks, snake tracks and car tracks.
Fresh dingo tracks
As I was getting close to the highway (I could hear vehicles), I was startled by voices and as I looked to my left I saw two people on bikes – WTF? I’d barely seen humans in five days! Where the hell did they come from? They said “hi” and I watched them ride off to my right. This was a cross road with stop signs and a pathway. I figured that they must be heading toward the highway on the path and followed them but something didn’t feel right and I turned back to the cross road. I hadn’t noticed the service track continued on and there was a sign with directions. Had I continued to follow the riders, I’d have ended up at Kings bloody Canyon! It was absolutely the wrong direction.
As I laughed at myself for getting off track again I could see two people in the distance. I recognised Yoni’s dress. So I started waving my arms but then they were hidden by low Mulgas (bloody awful trees they are – Satan’s trees). I kept on walking knowing this was the end. The end of a wonderful, challenging adventure. Yoni and Sue got closer and we all walked it in to the end. They told me Fred was back at Alice Springs nursing Lily who couldn’t even pick up her bag she was so weak. As they chatted I quietly mused at how glad I was that I took that final step out of my comfort zone and continued the track this morning. I wasn’t going to but I was so glad I did. I loved Day 1 but without doubt this morning was magical. It made me feel like I was absolutely able to do a solo trip now.
As I started thinking about where that would be I saw the car waiting for me and felt alot of love for Yoni, Fred, Lily and Sue for supporting me and allowing me to join them and for coming to pick me up. And to my husband and sons who encourage me to step out of my comfort zone so I can experience life to the fullest.
The car waiting for me
It was a hike with lots of lessons learned. I was very happy with my preparation in the end. Preparing for the worst was the best thing for me. I learned that it really is OK when things don’t go to plan – that literally is life. You can let it beat you or you can adjust accordingly and that’s exactly what we all did on this hike. And let’s face it – a good dose of suffering is actually good for the soul. It reminds you of what you are made of. Of what you are capable of.
I learned that Bushman’s Insect repellant doubles as nail polish remover (my sleeping mat and toes of my socks can attest to that). I vow to attend to those hotspots in my boots earlier – rather than just preach it to others. I will never hike without sock liners or gaitors again. In future I will run my own race and pace – thinking that I was trying to please others was not the case at all and I suffered unnecessarily for it. Bonds of friendship were strengthened when they could have easily unravelled as the conditions tested them to the max.
Leaving early to beat the heat is great but night hiking is really fun and rewarding too. There will be more of that in my future. Never take chocolate that isn’t M&M’s into the desert – it ruined most of my scroggin (trail snacks). Being 10kgs lighter in body weight and reducing my pack weight made all the difference to my pain levels and increased my enjoyment.
And finally, the land out there is special. It’s ancient and magical. The biggest surprise was that I had feared the desert but I absolutely loved it out there. It’s not for everyone but I felt connected to it and overwhelmed by its rugged beauty. I will definitely go back. But in winter. And I’d like to take my Mum.