Sitting on the edge of the waterhole having a cleaning dip.

The air temp’s okay, the water somewhat less and there’s a drying breeze.

All in all a great spot to have a scrub after a longish walk, trying to look a little civilised to acquire a ride back to Alice in the morning.

The last two days have been crossing the Alice Valley between the Chewing and Heavitree Ranges, the first day with the track barely discernible, today not so bad.

The valley has been burned out about this time last year after two years of exceptional summer rains and the mulgas have not yet begun the recovery phase. Coming through the pass in the Heavitree Range at lunchtime where the fires haven’t reached showed how bereft the valley is, basically burnt out scrub and lush green pasture.

The most scenic sections of the entire trail with the exception of the last, climbing Mt Sonder, been there, done that, twice, have been traversed.

But that’s it for me.

12 days on the trail. Time to do something else. I’ve come 126 km of the 232 km full trail.

Overall it’s been much more scenic, more interesting, more challenging than I had anticipated.

Maybe I’d thought it would be a straight forward wander through the Outback, not sleeping on the top of a mountain and seemingly to climb several, including three razorback style ridges. The big waterholes were interesting enough but some of the smaller were more compelling, more intimate, just darn more beautiful: Bond Gap and the Hugh Gap were standouts but that smaller waterhole at Fringed Lily Creek was also up there.

In the end it was two experiences, one incidental, the other huge, that are burned most strongly in my memory: something I neglected to mention, as the shadows were lengthening one evening seeing the return of a squadron of Wood swallows, beautiful charcoal coloured birds, that survive out here by catching insects on the wing, but with a contrasting band across their beak, in ones and twos, all of a sudden there were 30 or more of the gregarious birds perch in an oh so small space on a rockface, and even then a few more popped in, quite the most cute memory in recent memory.

The second was more operatic, watching the sun pop over the horizon from Brinkley Bluff, I’ll admit I cried at the experience and the enormous luck I have had to be in this place and time, seeing the grandest natural panorama, the full 360º, when the colours changed, shadows lengthening and the rows of hills in the Chewings Range becoming silhouettes like on a hopelessly cliched Japanese poster on a teenager’s bedroom wall.

It’s feeling these intense moments that makes you realise that life is such a joy, make the most of it while you can.

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