Thursday, August 14, 2014

Larapinta Track, Section 7: Serpentine Gorge to Ellery Creek Big Hole

Another section of the Larapinta track that is easy to walk in a day, and, was in fact a nice easy day after yesterday's 30 km march. I started the walk at Serpentine Gorge and walked east to Ellery Creek Big Hole. Overnight the weather had changed. We'd had a bit of rain, some cloud, and, more importantly, the incessant wind that had been howling for the past week had diminished greatly in intensity. The sun felt warm again, verging on hot when there was no breeze. It was really all very pleasant striding along a good track in the warm sunshine. 

Looking north from Serpentine Gorge lookout

Serpentine Gorge is a full one kilometre walk from the car park - gasp! - a fact that seems to make most tourists faint just thinking about ambulating that far. I was away fairly early in the morning so did not encounter too many people staggering along the level track thinking they were going to die, but Doug, who walked east to west and thus arrived later in the day, was asked by at least three people if the walk was "worth it." I'm pretty sure if you have to ask if it is worth it, you'll find it isn't. 

It is, of course, completely worth it. As is the short walk up a steep stepped track to the lookout. Serpentine Gorge is almost 2 km long and snakes in a sinuous fashion narrowly through red rock. The south side of the gorge is barred by a waterhole in which swimming is prohibited. Parks and Wildlife seems to be trying to keep the gorge as a nature reserve as untouched by people as possible. Not a bad idea. You may not be allowed to walk/swim through the gorge, but you can get a pretty good view through from the lookout. I suspect that were swimming allowed, not that many people would swim through the gorge and explore its northern reaches. Just walking one kilometre to the south end was enough to give most folks a moderate coronary.

Southern end of Serpentine Gorge

Once I started down the Larapinta Track heading east, I left all the weebles, wobbles and whingers behind. There is a very fancy camping shelter for walkers a short step down the track and a young fellow was packing up for his days walk as I passed by. Other than that I didn't see anyone else (excepting Doug) until I was about 0.75 km from the car park at Ellery Creek Big Hole. 

Section 7 is one of the less remote/closest to the road segments of the walk and follows the south side of the Heavitree Range and, unlike the other segments west of Ellery Creek, the track never climbs up onto the Heavitree Range. It does, however, wander up and down every small hill along the route between Serpentine Gorge and Ellery Creek. In some places, I must admit that this incessant up and down seemed somewhat inexplicable, particularly when the walking on the ridge top was over sharp and/or loose dolomite/chert and, a mere 20 or 40 metres downhill on either side, flat sandy ground would have made easier walking. But, the Larapinta Track is situated for scenic walking not necessarily easy walking and, some undulations in the terrain actually make for more interesting walking than merely plodding along the flat. 

 On the dolomite ridge

I paid no attention to the time on this walk as the distance (around 15 km including the side trips to Serpentine Gorge and lookout) is so short that unless you are a weeble, wobble or whinger, you can easily walk this in a few hours and time becomes unimportant. Tomorrow, we begin the final six sections of the Larapinta track as we walk from Ellery Creek east to Alice Springs over seven days. This last half of the walk heads northeast into the Chewings Range and is much more remote than the first six segments which are all easily accessible in about an hours walk from Namatjira Drive. It will be nice to camp out for six nights away from, you guessed it, the weebles, wobbles and whingers, but, I'm sure I'll miss my comfortable caravan bed and, more importantly, my light day pack.

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