Early start to the day. The watch alarm was set for 5:30am as I was yet to do a final pack. The bus was to leave at 6:45am. But come 4:30am I was wide awake (being 5am back home in Victoria) and there was nothing for it but to get up and get the day underway.
It was only a short stroll to the central bus station. I was early. There were a few others waiting for the same bus, not hikers, just regular folk on their way home or sightseeing. This one guy Jeff, was a character for sure. An American who has been in the country for years travelling all over and following his heart to where ever it takes him. In stark constant to my luggage Jeff had a million heavy bags in tote. I have no idea how he travels the country, car free with all his stuff. With no particular destination for the day Jeff has decided to just ride the bus to the end of the line, then travel back to Adelaide and make his way buy bus to Darwin, covering much of the ground we’ll cover today. The epitome of eccentric. He had a captive audience of the driver much of the way.
The bus ride was long and unspectacular. Scattered showers along the way and overcast. A few stops along the way, several places I’ll pass through again over the weeks – Crystal Brook, Murray Town, Melrose…. later on Hawker and Quorn. Saw my first official trail marker as we passed through Crystal Brook.
You’ve got to love South Australian roads. Basically just two speed limits, 50km in town and 110 on all highways. Shitty roads though.
At Melrose we picked up three riders heading north to ride the Mawson Trail back to Melrose over 4 days. All great guys and the conservation flowed most of the way. We were all entertained by Jeff’s left field conversations.
We reach Parachilna around 2 o’clock. Unfortunately the Prairie Hotel was closed. Damn, I was looking forward to a cold one before hiking the 16km road bash to the trail head. The riders were tounging for a coldie as well. Oh well, nothing for it but to hit the road.
I strolled around 2km down the road, maybe further. I wasn’t really paying attention. The bikers passed me and wished me good luck, rolling past and away over the horizon. A few 4WD passed kicking up dust in my face.
It soon dawned on me I was going to run out of light before reaching the trail head and likely walking in the dark. 16km was a bit too much to chew off starting at 2:30pm or so in the afternoon, especially this early in the trip. Later in this trip when my legs have some miles then but not today.
I heard a 4WD approach and took my chances, throwing the thumb out and smiling nicely. You little ripper. Alf, a ranch hand at a station only 1 km from the travel head pulled over and gave me a ride. Three farm dogs in the back I jumped in the front nursing my pack on my knees. A rifle on the dash, dirt stained clothes and akubra to match and dark tan told the storey of a ranch hand right there.
Alf was awesome and drive the whole way to the trail head, overtaking the Mawson riders shortly before.
It was about quarter to three and I hit the trail for real. Dry creek beds and open forests of native pines set the scene. Feral goats walking the dark scree slopes.
Walking low in a gully the sun dropped below the horizon around 4pm and it was time to find a camp site for the night. I like to take my time setting up for the first time on a trip, to get things right, rearrange gear and iron out any kink’s. I reached the 5.6km mark and found a nice sheltered spot under a stand of native pines. Day 1 done.