If you though yesterday was a killer transition day, welcome to transition day number two.
I knew it was going to be a big day, I’d planned it that way, in order to reach Dutchmans Hut tomorrow night only have 12 kms out from Quorn to make for half day on trail and a full zero day the following day. Otherwise it would be a full day of walking into Quorn and only able to enjoy a single day off. But they are never really days off with so many chores to do – washing to be done, food to purchase, shoes to collect from the post…. I just want to relax in Quorn.
And so I found myself packing up in the dark and walking on trail by first light. The road bash I ended the day on yesterday continued for the first part of the morning. I keen to beat it out and get it done. Head down I was moving fast to the click clack rhythm of my hiking poles…. clip clack, click clack, click clack. I was in flow state, mind switched off and feet moving along… click clack, poles tapping on the road.
So in the zone I missed a trail marker directing my off road but didn’t pick the error up for at least a kilometre. Not to worry though, may map showed the Heysen makes a bit of a dog leg here and the paddocks are sparsely covered, easy to pick your way across. I made a bee line across country back to the trail, not having lost or gained any distance.
A few more kilometres and fence line and I was led to climb up and along a rocky bluff offering up expansive view across the Southern Flinders Ranges. Descending back down it didn’t take long to reach Barkaringa North Camp Site.
A quick top up of water from the tanks and munching down the most deliciously crispy apple I’d carried out from Hawker it was back out onto the plains following a rocky track towards Barkaringa George.
Around half way to the Gorge I spotted something coming towards me, something I’d not yet seen on trailer – another hiker. We eagerly greeted each other, huge sniles on our faces, stopping to chat for a bit. Neither of us had seen any other hikers out here. I recognise this was Aneeta from a Heysen Facebook group I’d joined. She had been posting updates of all the places I had been to and I took it she was a SOBO hiker a day or two ahead of me. It turns she was out section hiking this part of the Heysen, had reached her destination and was now back tracking to be picked up at Barkaringa North Camp. I’m pretty sure she had just completed the whole Heysen as a section hiker by completing this part. Well done. Huge effort. We wished each other less and went our separate ways.
By now the sun was beating down and I was loathing the track the Heysen was following with its lack of shade. I reached Barkaringa Gorge and was done. I needed a break and rest the feet.
From here the Heysen ascended for the rest of the day a good, 11 kilometres. Initially following a gravelly farm road through private property, before merging into a dry creek bed. The creek bed started out ok but given it was climbing, moving up stream so to speak, it waa tougher than the flatter, meandering dry creek beds that have been followed to date. Several vertical rock bars requires some easy scrambling.
The animals out here are smart and don’t traverse through the centre of the rocky creek bed, instead forming paths, literal goat track, just off the side of the banks and often cutting across the small spur lines to cut rocky corners out completely. The bends ways have the roughest terrain and largest boulders. Some summoning my inner goat I followed many of these paths through the day.
Eventually the trail emerged from the creek bed and led into open paddocks, passing through the Yadlamalka Pastoral Station. Hard, hungry country. The path led upwards, steeply upwards. Roos and goats would scattered as I approached. Often I would have no clue they were there, hidden behind a bush, before a rock would be heard, skipped up by fleeing feet. Other times I would hear a roo give out a huff, almost like half a dog bark (i had idea they made this sound), before eyeing me up and making a decision to run before I got too close. Little joeys are cute as hell. The goats tend to just bleat loudly to signal my approach before scattering.
Up and up and up, the Heysen continued following a system of interconnected spur lines towards Mt Arden. The last little push up to Mt Arden it self almost killed me. Even the road sign for maintenance vehicles suggested Low 4WD. I was on the lowest gear I could muster. A pair od wedge-tailed eagles circles above. I joked to myself that they were waiting for me to collapse on trail and feast.
I had to stop up on top. Completely smashed, saturated in sweet and out of water. The views made it all worth while. The 4G coverage was a bonus.
A 2km decent and I was done. My longest and toughest day on the Heysen thus far.