The crunch of twigs, leaves and rocks beneath our hiking boots as we make our way upwards. The wind whistling in the trees, which sway with its unseen force, punctuated by the sounds of birds taking flight, calling to one another as we pass, of lizards [and probably snakes] scrambling away from the sounds of our intrusion - Back into the scrub away from the disturbance.
We find a moment of respite from the heat of the Australian sun as we hike into the dappled shade of the overhanging gum trees. The relief is welcome, but also momentary as after only a few brief paces we re-emerge from the cooling shade and back into the hot sun; Another trickle of sweat makes its way from our brows, nothing a quick wipe of a forearm can't handle though - And we continue upwards, towards our destination. The summit.
We stop for a nav-check on my GPS-unit, to hydrate, and take a photo or two, then it's onwards once more - Ever upwards. Losing our way out here would not be ideal - It's isolated. The potential embarrassment of being lost provides enough motivation to prepare effectively and so regular nav-checks are essential; As is hydration. Crunch, crunch, crunch...Each step taking us further from civilisation, and closer to happiness...Although, in truth, happiness arrived the moment we left home to head out into the countryside for this hike.
Conversation dropped away after twenty minutes; The initially gentle up-slope of the foothills soon gave way to steeper, rocky paths and jump-ups making continued conversation difficult. As we began to breathe deeper, heavier, with the effort of the ascent, we felt less inclined to speak, and...Somehow the sounds of human voices seemed out of place here anyway; An unwelcome noise in a place where man-made sounds seemed intrusive and inappropriate.
We knew it was unlikely we would see anyone else in this 850,000 year-old place; That’s how we prefer it too. As we continue the hike we are left with the feeling that we could very-well be the only humans to have been here, the only human feet to have stepped in this place or that. Of course, we know this ground has felt the tread of human feet before, it's a National Park after all. It's also a popular hike for those seeking a generally people-less environment which is why we come here. So, as remote and devoid of humans as it was, we knew we were not the first, or would be the last, to come here.
Nav-check, hydrate, step, step, climb, step, step. Birds fly, lizards scatter and the breeze provides a soundtrack to it all, unseen but felt and heard as the trees sing their wind-song above our heads.
We break from the cover of the scrubland for the last time. The scrub, trees and bushes, simply stop abruptly as we take the last few steps. The summit.
We grab a few deep breaths and then grins split our faces as we think about our accomplishment. We made it after three hours of hiking, nav-checking and hydrating. We shed our gear, back packs, shirts, hats and wipe our brows feeling satisfied, if somewhat breathless.
A walk around the open area revels an information board featuring local fauna and flora, some information on a few distant landmarks and little else so we explore the perimeter finding the small path circling the summit - Little more than a game-trail. Following it, ducking low branches and pushing through bushes, brings us to a rocky outcrop and the spot we will have lunch. It's been a while since we have been here but nothing really changes. The same amazing view, the same silence and the same sense of achievement after an arduous climb.
Conversation resumes but only for a time as once again words seem redundant, pointless. We sit in silence enjoying the cooling breeze and the shade provided by the rock face behind us whilst watching two wedge-tailed eagle’s catching thermals, spiralling and seeking their prey far below. We eat our trail-food, hydrate and enjoy the solitude, each other's company and sweet, crisp fresh air.
A few hours later we break from cover once again but this time our truck is in sight ahead and the pathway is clearly defined, mostly flat.
We’ve been heading due west facing the hot afternoon sun the whole way during the descent from the summit and it's hot. The mix of sweat, sun block and dust coats our faces and our containers of fluids have run dry. We’re hot and tired when we arrive at my truck, have sore feet, backs and shoulders too.
Gear drops like meteor’s from the sky and we go in search of the water bottles in the fridge on board my truck, guzzling that ice-cold fluid as if it was the last we’d ever have.
Thirty minutes later we’re refreshed and almost packed up for the 4 hour drive to Loxton and the river-leg of our adventure weekend. We'll set up camp by the river, make some chow and put our feet up to watch the sun set tonight - After we've unloaded the yaks and gotten things prepped for the early morning. We're kayaking on the River Murray the next day so we'll look at our route, get it programmed into the GPS unit and then sleep the sleep of the dead, or more to the point in this case, the hike-weary.
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