Up before the crack of dawn with travel mug in hand. Heater pumping inside the laden Ute. Sleep rubbed from eyes while completing the final mental-check-list. And it was a moment of silence before the adventure begins.

Past streaming road-trains and sleeping roadside caravaners. Thankfully, away from non-English-speaking backpackers in Kombi-vans driving on the wrong-side of the road. (But they soon grasped the concept of international sign language.)

Leaving the blacktop to the sound of a child’s whine for being ‘out of range’ and electronic gadgets are soon secured away and the ‘Dirt-Track-Dance’ begins. Here reflexes are tested avoiding: inquisitive camouflaged wallabies; roaming roadside cattle; ferreting feral pigs; dumb-ass donkeys; and sun baking snakes. A play-list change creates an eerie silence through the termite graveyard. Through dodgy-deep, crocodile-crowded river crossings. Then over teeth-chattering corrugations and sinus-stuffing bull dust. Ending at a trillion-star base camp, with the perfect view of the full moon rising.

The kettle sings as the crow caws. The smells of red dust, dew and campfire smoke mingles with eucalypt honey and sizzling bacon. Dawn’s emergence dazzles its witnesses, presenting an infinite sapphire sky.

On goes the backpacks, boot laces tightened and the next step of the journey begins…

Body sore. Feet ache. But new boots are well broken in. Shins and calves scratched. Can’t tell the difference between dirt and sock-tan. Spasmodic rock-wall climbs test tender fingers. Hungry, hot, tired, and thirsty. The back-pack weighs a tonne on a seemingly incessant hike.

A look upwards and jaws drop along with the temperature. Clips released and the backpack falls from shoulders and everything is forgotten.
Was it worth it?

You tell me…..

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For more photos please feel free to browse my Instagram site @MelAROWE

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