The group set off at 08:30 the next morning, heading Northwards and crossing the river back and forth by hopping across rock fields. On one occasion (approximately 2 kilometres in), we had to trackback a little and rock hop across to a small peninsular in the middle of the river. The bush became very dense here and we were forced to bush bash for a while trying to find a point where the rocks continued to the other side, allowing us to cross.
We then entered a grassy area that was surrounded by swathes of fine sand. The area soon have way to a small grove of watyl bushes (Acacia cyclops
), two to three metres-high, their spindly branches and leaves clawing at us as we pushed through, leaving us stumbling on brick-sized red sandstone rubble that was strewn across everywhere. Just as the bushes cleared, my peripheral vision caught a flutter of movement. A tiny bird flew away just as we approached, leaving another on the ground flapping around. It seemed to have somehow gotten its foot tangled in the grass! The foot was very frail so we took great care untangling it before setting it free.
We ended up cutting up the hill on the left towards the carpark
at the 6.9 km mark. Everything seemed to have just flashed by, and the end came upon me very abruptly. I also felt that for some reason, everything seemed to have just blended together on this section of the route. Perhaps it was because this section of the gorge was mainly just crossing back and forth from one side to the other; or maybe it was because I was keenly aware that this was the last day, that we weren't too far from the end point, and that we would be leaving all this behind soon after......at least there was still The Loop!
The Loop*Cick here to learn more about the difficulty rating.
Soon after reaching the carpark
, Damon and I proceeded to head down 'The Loop
', a trail that followed the switchback course of this section of the Murchison River. The path descended down a stairwell that lead to a wide, red bitumen path that wound its way for 600 metres to the iconic 'Nature's Window', a naturally occurring window that seems to perfectly frame the gorge that lay in the distance.Nature's Window
We carried on walking past Nature's Window and descended down to an area that was completely filled with cairns of all shapes and sizes. The path lead its way up to the ridge with the Murchison River running below on either side. I paused involuntarily here as my gaze was drawn off to my right, looking at the magnificent views of the gorge that we had walked up over the past week, as it disappeared off into the distance.Walking up on the ridge after a week deep in the gorge left me noticing every single difference between the two, almost as if my senses had been left heightened. I was keenly aware of the height and the precarious drop-offs on either side that seemed to wait for the unwary walker, and the air that would gust every now and then felt, and seemed to even smell, different. The cairns that lay beside the windswept trees continued to line the broad path for a while, along with stalks of purple grevillias (Grevillea sp.
) and yellow Wattles (Acacia cyclops
) that added a welcome splash of colour amongst the otherwise reddish-brown terrain.
As we rounded the shoulder, cliffs that were filled with caves and undercuts that exposed layers and layers of rocks appeared across the gorge on the other side. The path then descended pretty sharply (at the 3.3 km mark), and zig-zagged down the cliffs to the soft sand below. At the bottom lay a sign that issued a warning - that the path up ahead would become progressively strenuous, and that those who were unprepared should turn back.Jagged undercuts slicing through the cliffs
We continued walking along the sand for a while before it gave way to ledges that lined the cliffs, with sheer drops down to the river on the right. There were all sorts of patterns around the rocks here, the coral-like criss-crossed shapes, waves and undulations perhaps left by the tides, and huge sharp overhangs protruding out and over the river. Approximately 4.5km in, the path began to broaden and level out, speeding up the slow traverse into an easy flat walk, before dropping down to sandy swaths once again after a few hundred metres. There was a 4km marker about 4.8km in (according to measurements from my Suunto Ambit
), more likely because the start of the measured routes differed, rather than inconsistencies with the GPS.The path lead up from the sand to rocky ledges once again, then descended down to swaths of grass for a short while. The red brick-strewn path wound its way under huge red sandstone cliffs that were filled with a myriad of various shapes and patterns, before switching to sand once again. The sounds of the plopping of water bobbing on the banks constantly accompanied us, along with the melodic twittering of birds that flitted from tree to tree. We were treated to a surprise near the end of the loop - a red kangaroo (Macropus rufus
) joey was foraging in the grass several metres away from us. It looked up at us curiously for a few seconds then carried on foraging after having determined that we were no cause for concern. We stayed there for a while just watching it before making out way back up the final slope, past Nature's Window once again, and back to the car.For some reason, the longer the hike is, the more it seems to not be long enough...