I’ve never been to north western Australia before so when the opportunity arises to come here for a work meeting I book a flight without delay. My meeting is finished by 11am so I buy a hat (I forgot to pack one) and set off on the heritage trail in the hills behind Karratha.
It’s 37’C when I set off. Too hot to run or contemplate the entire 7km return course. But not so hot I can’t casually stroll along the red rock path. I carry 3L water, lunch and a bottle of Gatorade. I hope it’s enough.
The colours of the Pilbara are amazing. The blue sky contrasts strongly against the bright red rocks and lime green spinifex grass. I know I’m falling in love.
I walk for about 20 minutes up a hill, along a ridge and then down into a deep gully. The gentle early warning signs of heat stress tell me that I need to rest. There’s a white gum offering shade so I take a 10 minute break, sucking down water and sports drink. When my pulse slows I walk again. This time I cover just 6 minutes of track before another white gum beckons. I check the weather report on my phone, it’s now 40’C.
It’s magical under my tree in the gully. Wedge tailed eagles soar up on the ridge line above rust-red rocks. Spinifex adds softness to the harsh terrain and the few white gums add highlights. My tuna and crackers are delicious. It’s likely to be what I take when I walk the AAWT.
After a 20minute break I tackle the next steep hill. It takes 10 minutes and the view from my next rest spot in the shade of a small shrub is awesome. The ocean in the distance has those changing hues of blue that you only get when the water is clear. To my east the land becomes flat.
I stay up on the ridge for the return walk. Not the safest option in this heat because there’s no shade for the next 45 minutes. The early warning signs of heat stress again remind me to seek shelter and take it easy.
A small tree on a rocky outcrop becomes my next rest stop. I sit here for 30 minutes to fully recover. I read some of the book I’m carrying; it’s about a man climbing a mountain in freezing conditions.
It only takes another 15 minutes to finish the walk. The water cooler at the visitor centre is a welcome relief.
While the heat made the short walk tough it was wonderful to be out in the colours of the bush. It was also fantastic to be out bushwalking, even if only a short way.
It’s my first official training session for my AAWT expedition next year. And what a fitting way to start; with a walk the total opposite of my 650km alpine quest.