By Xavier Anderson
The day had started off well. We made good progress for the first few hours until we came to our first junction or should I say – lack of junction. The GPS had showed a track that left the management rail in favor of a more direct route. The only problem was when we got there, there wasn’t one.
There was a turn off following the Alps Track 30 minutes before this point but I was not game to head down it with an out of whack GPS that didn’t even show the trail in the right place and no maps to help us either. Instead, we were going to follow the management trail around into limestone creek. The long way around just became longer. Then came the 4WD track.
After making our way around to Limestone Creek campsite, the trail became an entirely different beast. Immediately after a seasonally locked gate (I can now see why), the track shot straight up the slope.
Whatever momentum I had was gone after this first climb: we still had four more to go. And all the climbs did the same thing and ascent straight up the slope, topping out at the ridge before dropping back down again. It was a large departure from the contouring management trails we had enjoyed just a few days ago. Why they do this? – when to me these trails also could be contoured around – I’m not sure. But I asked myself a thousand times when I came to the bottom of another ascent. I stood on an island of flat halfway up steep 4WD track.
My lungs were working hard and my helmet was clipped to my chest strap where it had been most of the day – dripping with sweat. It was the last climb of the day but I could only manage a shuffle. The pains across my whole body would play out like an out-of-tune orchestra, striking different and wrong notes at the same time It was hard to tell where it was worse.
The last couple of hills had even slown my shuffle to a complete stop. With the setting sun, I had resigned myself to being out well into the night. But Jason had other plans.
As I started up my slow shamble again, Jason appeared at the top of the next rise. He was walking down without a pack, and when he came, he gestured for me to give him my pack. "I don't want to be out here all night" he joked. We had two kilometres to go, but at my pace, that was close to true. Besides, my pride was already gone. He had already helped me over the previous rise.
It was humbling to reach my physical limit. Mentally, I was pressing on; resigned to the fact that one day, eventually, I would get to the camp. But the pace I was going at was ridiculous. I'm just thankful that Jason was there and wasn't as broken as I was.
So, Jason left his pack by the side of the track and we made the final push to camp: Jason with my pack on, and me stumbling along beside him. He did get his moneys-worth though. He decided it was the perfect time to do a vlog. Now, my delusional state is forever immortalized.
When we got to camp, Jason dumped the pack and went back for his, while I set up camp. When he returned to camp in the dark, I was already in my sleeping bag. There was no dinner for us; we didn't have the energy. We were supposed to be here two days ago. Each day we hiked; we were another day behind: the end just seemed to get further away with every step we took. But tomorrow, we were finally on the river. And hopefully, there were no more "easy way arounds".