30th April 2015
Ziggy and the Bears (210.9) to Bushcamp (238.1)
There was talk last night of some hikers making a move onto the trail at 2am. The early rise they rightly summised would make travel easier. It was expected to be the hottest day of the year today. Over 100F (38C). Hiking in that kind of heat is not possible for most people. I declined the offer of a 2am start, but did start early. Oh, I also should mention I weighed myself last night, I’ve lost 2kg (5lb) in the first 2 weeks, looks like the extra 6-7kg I put on for the hike won’t last long!
It was just after 4am when I woke. There was a dim light in the backyard at ‘trail Angels’ Ziggy and the Bear. Just enough for me to see and pack up my gear. As I cast my eye across the backyard I observed that many people had already left. I packed my gear, put on my headlamp and set off into the cool, dark desert alone. I started hiking with the stars overhead and slowly began climbing through a gully that had hundreds of wind turbines. Initially I couldn’t see them through the darkness but I could hear their distant wurring as the blades spun in the wind. By 5.30am the faint glow in the east began to outline the shapes of the wind farm. I continued yet further uphill till I reached the crest of the first climb of the day. It was here I had breakfast.
The trail continued another couple of miles till it reached the Whitewater Creek. This rather large river by desert standards flowed with ice cold water. I met up with a couple of hikers I knew. They told me they left at 3.30am, not 2am as discussed the previous night. We hung out, chatted, ate and refilled water bottle. It was around 9am and I had already covered around 10 miles. It was already brutally hot with no shade so we set off another 6 miles to the promise of more water and shade.
By midday I reached the next creek with flowing water. The heat was unbearable for some. Most hikers I saw looked in horrible shape. Most people crowded the first few large trees. I decided to continue another hour on the trail that follows the creek upstream. I’m lucky enough to do very well in the heat. Actually I love the heat, that’s why I live in Darwin, one of the hottest cities in Australia. I found my shade, cooked up a large lunch, rolled out my sleeping mat and had a 2 hour siesta.
I already hiked about 18 miles and felt quite good so continued up the long hot valley. As I hiked I climbed higher and higher. It became cooler. By late afternoon I grabbed the last refill of water from the creek before I set off upwards away from the creek and any water source.
While hiking with headphones listening to music I heard this strange sound that I walked past. It sounded like a cross between a bumblebee and a buzzing cicada. I stopped and went back a step or two to search for the strange sound. I heard it again. A strange buzzing. A rattlesnake. Brown and Tan in colour. It moved away from me as I approached. I must have walked within striking distance of it but it didn’t try and bite me. It didn’t sound anything like my expectation.
By 7pm I was done. Exhausted. But there was nowhere flat to camp. I was at around 7000 feet, having set off this morning from around 300 feet. I already covered more than the distance of an Olympic marathon. My first marathon hike. I was done. I couldn’t make another step. There was no flat ground in the hilly area to camp so I rolled my sleep mat on the trail. During the night 3 hikers stepped around me while night hiking. Guess my choice of camp could have been better. So ends my first marathon day, but how will I feel in the morning?