SECTION 4 – Standley Chasm to Alice Springs

Day 14 – Standley Chasm to Jay Creek

The walk from Standley Chasm began with stairs, lots and lots of stairs.  Large stone blocks arranged in steps that seemed to stretch on up the steep hillside.  They climbed to the top of a peak, down to the base of the other side, and then up another.  The second peak was just as high, but came down to a creek that led us down dry waterfalls and another ancient gorge, this one touched by fire.
At the end of the gorge, the land flattened out giving an expanse of red sandy track with occasional burnt brush on either side, but also the common light green tall grass and the occasional Spinifex bush.

The path led to a waterhole called Fishhole that blocked our path along a creek bed.  This forced us up a steep rocky outcrop – the second hardest thing to do at the end of a very hot day’s hiking.  The hardest thing to do at the end of a very hot day’s hiking is 800m of sandy riverbed.  It’s a trudge and hard on the legs, but there’s nothing too hard for the willing.
At Jay Creek was a metal shelter similar to the one at Finke River Trailhead with camping platforms and a cupboard to store food away from dingoes and mice.  We relaxed for the afternoon out of the sun, except for the showering out under a tree, laundry and making good use of a wooden picnic table.

We’d decided it was going to be a warm night, so set up just the sleeping bags on the platform.  As it grew dark, we decided the tent was a better location to protect against the mosquitoes, but didn’t bother with the tent fly, again as it was going to be a warm night.

Day 15 – Jay Creek to Simpson Gap

It wasn’t a warm night, in fact it was freezing.  We slept late even though we’d planned the day to be the longest walk of the trail, 24.5km.  It took a lot to get going but once coffee was brewed we were well motivated.

We were told that from here on in to Alice Springs are the least scenic areas, so we weren’t expecting much.  The logbook warned of brown snakes and a previous walker had said the same in this part, so we were more wary than usual.

We set out along the red sandy/rocky track with eyes peeled.  After the first kilometre or two we did see something brown, native Central Australian cows.  Not quite venomous, but we let them go on their way nonetheless.
We arrived at Mulga Camp, the midwayish point, and stopped for lunch.  Still 14km to go, but the day was getting hot and we decided to rest for a while and cook lunch.  As we cooked, a lone Dingo must have caught the scent and wandered into camp to check us out.

After an hour and perhaps a too hearty lunch, we set off again having refilled our water packs.  The rest of the day we tramped across burnt out rolling hills with little shade from the 32-34 degrees heats.  We stopped often to cool our feet with boots off, but each leg of the day seemed just as hot and long.

Eventually, having run out of water, we arrived at Simpson’s Gap.  A quick wash as the darkness closed in around us, we pitched the tent and had dinner before collapsing into our sleeping bags for a warmer night.

The night was not peaceful, however, we woke to the sound of snapping branches and the crackling yellow light silhouetted on the tent.  On investigation, we discovered that at 1am, a pair of asian tourists had lit a fire under a thatched shelter in the middle of a no fire zone.  I alerted them to the fact they shouldn’t be there and when they left we went back to a peaceful sleep.

Day 16 – Simpson Gap to Wallaby Gap

We woke early to beat the heat of the day.  We checked out the beautiful Simpson’s Gap waterhole in the fresh morning air and then began the hike up the hill.  2km in, I nearly stepped on the scaly body of a king brown snake that was draped across the trail, partly sheltered in the undergrowth.  It was a sudden shock, but for all the scariness, it marked the first snake I’d seen in the wild!
We walked carefully around the venomous creature and continued, watching more carefully for any of his friends.  A further kilometre we spied a red Kangaroo hopping away, only the 2nd we’d seen this entire trip.

The walk to Wallaby Gap, while 13.3km, seemed short and we arrived in the late morning.  We began for the last time the daily ritual we’d been keeping for most days of the last three weeks.  Tomorrow we’d be in Alice Springs.

Our daily ritual is as follows:  Arrive in camp, find a place to pitch the tent, replace boots with thongs/flip-flops.  Fill 6-litre bladder and hang in the sun to warm for shower.  Pitch tent and get area ready for relaxing.  Strip down and shower, one person squirting water from the bladder while the other washing themselves.  Dry off and dress.  Wash clothes in a bag with a small amount of water and some soap strips.  Hang clothes.  Sit and have lunch.  Dishes.  Then relax – nap, read, write, explore surroundings.  Prepare for the next day’s hike – filling water bladders and treating for drinking.  Prepare dinner, eat, cleanup, pack, sleep.

We intend to celebrate the completion of the walk in style – hot showers, restaurant dinner, beer, coffee and a real bed.  It has been a long walk, we are both weary and in some ways glad it is coming to an end, although we’ll both miss it too.

Day 17 – Wallaby Gap to Telegraph Station, Alice Springs

It was warm overnight and destined to be a hot day as forecasts suggested it was to be in the 30s again.  This close to Alice Springs, there is reception on my phone.

We began early by climbing the ridge above Wallaby Gap.  We’d heard motorbikes during the night and at the top of Euro Ridge we could see Alice Springs waking up in the fresh of the morning air.  We walked down the ridge and disturbed a trio of kangaroos having breakfast.

We plodded off across grassy rolling hills towards Telegraph Station as the temperatures rose.  At one point we crossed under a road bridge and a railway track, signs we were close to civilisation.  A kilometre on, I was surprised by another King Brown snake rolling in the grass beside me.

After a last push, we arrived at the end of the Larapinta Trail, walked along to Telegraph station, buying an ice block and cold drink from the shop before calling a taxi into Alice Springs.

After 223km, we had come to the end of our journey, a journey that changed me and would thrust me into a life of hiking around the world.  There were tough times, and happy times.  I sweated like I have never sweated before, lost almost 10kg and had the time of my life.  So, thank you Larapinta Trail, it’s been a great adventure with so many memories.  I will never forget you.

The Trail Wanderer.

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