Heysen Day 13: Camp 6 to Wilmington (28km today, 286.7km on trail)

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An interesting day today.

As expected, with my tent out in the open, condensation was an issue this morning. My tarp is wet both inside and out, and my quilt is damp, particularly at the feet. I slept with the tarp beak open however there was very little wind during the night blowing through to help whisk my warm breath away.

I carry a car cleaning chamois as a towel and for wiping condensation off my tarp before pack up. Weight for weight chamois suck up so much water and will become bone dry while hanging off my pack during the day. After packing up my gear under the tarp, ever careful not to brush the sides and have it rain down inside, I got to work wiping the condensation off and wringing out the chamois. A cups worth at least was collected. The wringing out was bitterly cold work in the crisp morning air.

I had to pack slightly differently today. Knowing I’d have to dry my quilt out in the sun during a lunch break, instead of being packed first, the quilt was packed last for easy access when the time was right.

Leaving Camp 6 on the correct farm track I found it was about 200m off trail and I could have easily avoided the extra distance at the end of yesterday. Oh well, at least I can help others by adding some notes on the Heysen Trail Facebook thread.

The trail was really uneventful today. For just about the entire day it followed a route through farmland over several properties. Sheep are the stock of choice for this hungry country. Hundreds of them, mostly mothers with calves that I came across. Constantly calling to each other as I approached, mums very protective, shepherding their young away long before I got close. The odd lone lamb with no mum, not frightened at all would approach curiously trying to work out what I was and if I was a threat, before being spooked by all the other animals fleeing, motherless lambs following suit.

There were some good views south to Mt Remarkable but other than that 90% of today was unremarkable.

A short section of the Heysen followed along side a main road leading into Wilmington but I missed a marker, continuing along the road shoulder instead of the trail itself about 20m off the roadside. I was thinking waling on the road was odd. The first bitumen road section had quite a bit of traffic. Several corners are really tight and to stay out of harms way I was walking on the outside of steel barriers lining the road. Talk about carnage central. Just about every 100m I’d pass by a kangaroo skeleton and the odd sheep, mostly scattered dry white bones, some fresher, pungent carcasses.

I finally twigged that the actual trail was to the side of the road and made my way back to it.

In the early afternoon the strangest thing happened. Here I was in a world of my own, mind drifting while walking up a road following trail directional arrows, when out of no where a farmer appears out of his shed door and starts hurling abuse. “Get a job ya fucking parasite. You fucking walkers. Piss off the lot of ya.”

Taken aback for sure. I had no idea where this guys was coming from and had not expected anything like that. Most people you meet along any trail are friendly, will get out of their way to help you and wish you safe passage. Off guard I didn’t really know what to say. I just shot back matter of fact that I indeed had a job, that I was on leave and this is my holiday. Well that just triggered even further.

At a quick trot I was out of there, passing as quickly as I could and so distracted I missed a trail turn off. And damn it, it looked like the trail cut across this guys property. I found the stile, climbed over the fence and made sure not to deviate from the marked route across paddocks. I was relieved to find the next gate and get away from there.

I was furious but determined not to let this dickhead ruin my day. I took a photo of the property and a grid ref from the maps and posted them on line as a warning to others to be wary when passing this area. Comments back suggested that this fella was a known quantity and generally unhappy with the trail passing so close to his house. Previous negotiations to relocate the Heysen off its current alignment along a road reserve to pass across his property away from the house have failed. The trail remains where it is on a legal reserve that look like paddocks tied to the farm.

For a short time after, scenarios were playing out in my head. What if I said so and so, firing up right back. What if I asked if he was Ok? What if I tried to toy with him by asking ‘sorry mate can’t hear you, can you say that again’. It didn’t matter. The moment had passed, never to be repeated. I told myself he must be struggling with the farm and is waiting for some rain or something.

My mind quickly moved on. With only a few kilometres left to for the day I was thinking through all the jobs I’d have to do in town. Have a shower and give my clothes a quick wash, update my blog, sew a hole in my shorts that a piece of wire had torn today and mend a hole in a mesh pack pocket that got caught on some barbed wire. Plus plan ahead for Melrose tomorrow. The forecast is for up to 20mm of rain and I’m definitely seeking the refuge of a hotel room.

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