Today started with a leisurely rise around quarter past 6. The camp ground was busy with lots of noise and lights all round. Still I slept ok. I thought there was going be a fight at one stage during the night as one group of people camped closed by cracked the shits with a noisy bunch not far away, piping up for them to quieten down. The reply rang out through the night for all to hear. A savoury crowd they were. All is good and I slept well.
A cooked breakfast was on the cards at the restaurant with a large helping from the buffet. The store wouldn’t open until 8am and I had time to kill by sipping back a large flat white.
At 8 am on the dot I was in the store to purchase a few snacks to see me through to Hawker. No need for dinners or lunches, I has so much in the food bag. Still haven’t learned from past hikes and always carrying too much food.
Reading my map on my phone last night in the restaurant I thought I had a relative easy 20km day ahead. Of course this is me and of course is was going to be a bigger day. What I didn’t factor is when you’re not directly on trail my map app reads a straight line distance through to points you are looking at, as was the case when I was looking in the restaurant. I didn’t find this out until around 3km in for the morning, taking a quick glance to see that I was on route and low and behold it turns out to be a 28km day! So much for taking it easy. Tomorrow is a shorter day I promise. Oh well. I’m well fed and fuelled up for a big day ahead.
The first 9km or so were straight forward enough. Flat ground passing right through the middle of Wilpena Pound, mostly open woodland dominated by native pines and a smattering of river red gums in the low points. The reds are massive. Huge bases. Some desperately trying to hold on to life, half dead with huge hollows for half their girth, newer growth skirting around the decayed wood trying to reclaiming it.
Kangaroos browsed throughout, most skittish at the sign of a human approaching, others just couldn’t care less, having see it all before.
The flat track shape-shifted into a rocky single trail flanking the edge of a recent fire or burn area, climbing steadily to Bridle Gap, a small pass through the southern wall of the Pound. The descent was twice as long and twice as steep. Careful foot placements required to not roll an ankle.
Then it was onto yet another dry creek bed for some time. Would you believe out here in the middle of nowhere I came across a medical mask in the creek bad. How very sad for us as a society
Soon enough the trail passed through the Akabra Wildlife Conservatory. A closure through this area is expected next week to allow for feral pest control. Luckily I can make it through.
The land was barren and hungry. Anything that grew was stunted, dry and prickly. I startled a large sheep and that set in motion getting a shitty song stuck in your head on repeat. The word sheep, swung to jumbuck in my brain, then swagman, and so it ensued ‘Once a Jolly Swagman’…. It would not disappear from my head for at least an hour.
If there was any distraction from this annoying song it was the cliffs dominating the horizon. Beautiful to marvel at but hopeless at capturing in photo form in the midday sun. The saturated reds contrasting deep browns and the smattering of green just seem to wash out when viewed on my phone as photos.
The afternoon was hard going. Flattish enough ground but difficult under foot. Many sections were like walking on railway ballast, the trail thick with rocks of all sizes. These sections were interspersed with flat gravel rises for the remainder of the day. Difficult to imagine anything can grow when you get down low and recognise that there is virtually no soil, just shale rock, smashed into tiny fragments. But it does. The native pines seem to thrive on it.
I rolled into camp around 4:30pm, beat for the day, quickly getting my tent put up, unpacking and knocking back a quick dinner of cous cous and buffalo tuna.
I will sleep well again. Shorter day tomorrow. I promise.