Heysen Day 6: Mayo Hut to Hawker (22km +6km today, 132.2 on trail)

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Shortly after posting last night, thinking I had the run of the place to myself, Jo strolls in just before sunset. The first Heysen hiker I have crossed paths with. From Melbourne, Jo was between jobs having just spent two years working in a covid ward and decided it was the right to take time off for herself. She is out to section hike the Heysen from Hawker to Parachilna. Quite the accomplished hiker herself, we traded stories of the places we’d been over dinner. Her cinnamon tea as a desert drink was just what I needed.

Food is running low and I needed to get to town to resupply. Hawker is the nearest small town, with two options of getting in, both 6km or so of road bashing. Option A was to hike 12km from Mayo Hut, hit the road and walk 6km, so an 18km day. Option B was to do the same 12km from Mayo but keep on trekking along the Heysen for another 10km over a stunning high ridge line overlooking the farming flats below and more awesome views out over the Flinders, then a 6km road bash into town. I was very keen to do the high route but its a Saturday and the general store in Hawker closes at 3pm. Decisions, decisions… would I make it to the store before closing if I took the high route.

I backed my hiking abilities and took a gamble on the high route. This would mean an early start to play it safe.

The alarm buzzed me awake at 5:15am and it was time to get moving. It wasn’t the greatest sleep in Mayo Hut with a howling wind ripping through the rafters all night, the tin roof groaning with noise as well.

Staying in a hut makes for a quick pack up though as everything is prearranged ready to be thrown in its designated place in the pack. Sleeping bag, thermals and puffy jacket first. Wrapped in a water proof bag to ensure they stay dry. These items are my lifeline in all circumstances. Next, mat deflated and rolled, thrown in with my cook pot, electronics, ditty bag, waterproof pants and any other loose items. Food bag next and the pack is sealed. In the front stretch mesh pocket, my tent, rain jacket and toilet kit. Later I’ll strip off my wind pants and jacket and stow then in the front mesh as well – that mesh is like the tardis – always more room. Snacks are dispersed on my shoulder strap pockets along with my phone, wallet and emergency locator. A bum bag carries my gopro, more snacks, beanie, pocket knife, phone charger and charging cable in front, anything that needs quick access through the day. Water bottles stowed in the side pockets and its time to hit the trail, walking poles in hand. 6am. The sun isn’t quite up yet but the half moon casts enough light to throw shadows of its own.

The first 12km flew by this morning. Following the same dry river bed as yesterday, I played a game of trying to find the hard packed ground, moving between the river bed itself and up onto the banks. Plenty of kangaroos and sheep grazing in the morning light.

Then came a hard slog across dry, open paddocks, walking dead straight along a ridge line for what seemed hours. The distance escarpment I’d soon be climbing slowing creeping closer. In reality it was only around 4km, about an hour.

The highlight of my day was the escarpment ridge itself. Slowly the trail ascended, trailer markers easy to follow, initially on broken ground and soon on solid rock. Up and up the trail climbed, reaching a crescendo on a thin spine of jagged rock, stretching out in front. Layers and layers of sedimentary rock laid down eons ago, uplifted to form the escarpment out in front of me.

The view opened up to 360 overlooking the harsh farming flats below and other rock formations forming the Flinders Ranges. I was loving life for sure.

One layer of rock really caught my eye. A single seam of rock with wave formations embedded between many other layers. I imagined this to be tidal flat at one point, the waves forming as past water retreated and then gently covered by other sediments preserving the wavy structures today. Bridget Potts will know – spill the beans Bridge.

The escarpment was longer than I anticipated and I needed to get a move on. Time is easily lost exploring these amazing places. Along the way the trail cut under a huge overhanging roof.

At a quick trot I reached the other side if the ridge and descended as quickly as I could, feet paining in these small shoes. Only another 4 days or so and I’ll have new shoes.

After such a huge highlight through the mid morning into midday the come down had to occur. The road bash into town had to be done. Its a one way desolate road and the chances of a hitch were slim. Nothing for it but to plug in some tunes on my remaining phone battery and power on into town.

It was a tough slog for sure on that road but I made it into town with half hour before the general store closed. Not enough time for a shower yet, the store clerk would have to cringe at the sweaty stench emanating from my soiled shirt.

Such a good day.

Unfortunately I have to back track along the same road bash tomorrow morning.

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