Like I said, my hike of the Larapinta Trail (see earlier blog post) came to rather an abrupt end midway along it, at Ellery Creek. I'm at pains to describe exactly what happened, but one moment I was excitingly opening my food drop package, and moments later it seemed to game over.
Larapinta Trail, West Macdonnell Ranges, Alice Springs
I didn't want to taint my previous post about the Larapinta Trail with this ending. It was with great reluctance and disappointment that I decided to exit the trail here, at Ellery Creek. I had hiked five days and 100 kilometres, six days and 120 kilometres remained.
At the campsite, the open food drop box beside me, I removed all my various foot bandages, some merely for protection, others for injuries. What I saw had me a little gob smacked, for I knew this could only mean the end of my hike. As some of you know, my immune system conspires against me. One author of a novel I read when talking of a similar condition, described the double edged sword that medication treatment held, "it was not so much pain relief with side effects, but effects with side relief."
Ellery Creek was a good spot to exit the trail, the main bitumen road lay just one and half kilometres to the south. The following morning, I bid farewell to my new trail friends, as they continued on eastwards. I plugged in my iPod, I hate it when I see hikers walking with iPods, but my hike was over and I needed cheering up. If anything, it helped me remove myself from the natural world, an attempt to pull me back to our world of cars and cold supermarkets. I walked slowly, hiking boots carefully attached to my pack, crocs on my feet, out to the bitumen road. I stopped by the emergency phone, checking out the criteria for it's use. On the road I hitched a ride into Alice Springs with a local retired butcher doing some plumbing work for his son. He had spent almost his whole life in Alice, he had seen it transformed from a town of 1,500 people with an unreliable railway to the south, and a hastily constructed world war two single lane bitumen road to the north, to a town with 25,000 people. He recalled from his childhood how the train came almost to the main street, how there was just one house on the other side of the Todd River, now there is urban sprawl.
In Alice I phoned each of the four medical clinics in town. None could fit me in for a further five days. One rather hopefully offered me an appointment on August 26, some 14 days away. In terms of infections, five days was an eternity, 14, well, at least four times an eternity. So I had no choice but to wait four hours in Emergency, simply to get some antibiotics.
The following day I decided I would pay a little visit to the Old Telegraph Station, which is where I would have finished hiking the Larapinta Trail. The trailhead stood some distance from, and well out of sight, of the Old Telegraph Station. Shunned to a obscure corner of the carpark, the trail's presence was left unmentioned amongst the short walks trailhead in the Old Telegraph Station's grounds.
On that sunny afternoon I gave up the idea of completing the trail. When I exited the trail, I thought I would spend a week recovering, checking out some Alice sights and the distant Uluru and Kings Canyon, but having partook of the convenience of the supermarket with it's boundless food choices, and realistically assessing the health of my feet, I realised returning to the trail in seven days time was impossible. I tallied up my time spent on hiking trails in the previous four months of travel, and it rather neatly totalled 600 kilometres. It had been, in anyone's book, an excellent hiking season.
Hopefully a few kilometres remain in my feet, I want to walk around Uluru and Kings Canyon, but we shall see. What else could anyone do. The Larapinta Trail will wait for me.