As morning light flooded the gorge the steep sided red-rock walls that were hidden to us in the dark were now revealed. Captivated, we recalled a sign at the Mambray Campground that claimed some of the rocks in the park were up to 800 million years old. Then, as now, I have no words to offer in the face of such unfathomable time.
After filling breakfasts we continued along the last section of the gorge to where the tail of the snaky Hidden Gorge met with Alligator Creek running south from Alligator Gorge in the Northern area of the park. Had we more time we would have loved to explore further north but our time, unlike that of the gorge rocks was in shorter supply.
Today we had over 20 kms to cover to position ourselves for a return to Melrose the next day. Tresh’s keen reading of the map however, showed that if we went off-track for a kilometre around a gentle contour we would avoid close to 5 km and increase our chances of arriving at camp before dark. Agreeably we headed up a dry creek then slipped through the low scrub above the gorge cliff and took a visual bearing on our intended intersection with the Mambray Creek track. Our single file passage there meant scraping through patches of resistant trees until we reached the clearway of the fire track and then it was puffing steeply upwards without relent. As we neared the top the incline eased but an alpine like wind whisked up and despite the internal heat generated from walking we all began to feel the chill. At the top we donned extra layers and took shelter behind a solid trunk and a windbreak of bushes until our warmth returned.
Facing east from the ridgeline of Black Range we were poised to leave the pound behind us and re-focus our bearings on Mt. Remarkable. Once on the lee of the range we were out of the cold wind but here the track down was ridiculously steep and for me, knee-crushing. On a previous walk, Tresh had once developed some serious knee pain and still far from the pick-up point had no choice but to limp and wince the remainder of the distance. I was anxious that this might be my fate too however, the contours mellowed, my knees eased up and as we left the hostile range and discomfort behind us we found ourselves ambling comfortably through a wood of native trees.
The last few kilometres had reminded us again how quickly conditions change, how temperature, incline, surface condition, wind exposure and the sustained effort of carrying packs over distance can cause one’s body and mind to feel like its own internal landscape that wearies or rallies.
We were now in a corridor of pastoral land between the Black and Remarkable ranges which we had crossed two days before on our westerly projection. We joined a section of the Heysen Trail that ambiguously followed a gully creek and at a small sun-trapped nook we lunched and rested in no seeming rush to resume walking. We were tired, and our bodies were feeling worked, worn and in need of recharge. Fire, food, sun and a bubbling creek worked its natural magic upon us until the repose was broken as Tresh leapt up from the hot food spilled across his legs. Fortunately, twenty minutes in cool creek water administered the best first aid at hand for his blistering skin. (Put burn cream on the list of things to take next time). With the cooling air blowing on Tresh’s legs, we set off with the aim to reach the Mt. Remarkable summit by nightfall.
We made our way through the open country stopping on a saddle to take in a long view north. Then as the sun dipped we once again steeled ourselves for a sweaty climb. Perversely, I preferred the climb over a descent as it wouldn’t tax my tender knees. Conversation, albeit a puffed one, is a good way to take one’s mind off physical effort and so it was for us, and as we chatted the sloped eased and in much less time than expected we summited in good light and were soon huddled around the fire trying to minimise the bite of the cold wind. When the flames dwindled we retreated to our sleeping bags to dream out our final night.