As it goes once again this year, we had to suspend our walking program in September/October. It seems unimportant things like work, family, birthdays, illness, charity work etc, seemed to get in the way of our scheduled Heysen walks around this time.
We did however manage to squeeze in one more trip (motivation high) for the season in mid October, in-spite of the warming weather. To allow for our now lack of fitness and for the increasing temperatures, we have only two short walks to fill in the gaps before tackling the more (logistically) challenging treks north of Dutchman’s Stern.
Walk one is the catch up walk leading into Melrose. Just under 15 kms over gentle slopes and along meandering trails and roads. Walk two is the Quorn to Dutchman’s Stern trail. A 10 km stroll through fields and park trails, finishing up in the shadow of the Stern itself.
Walk One : Wild Dog Creek to Melrose
The land has changed in the last 7 weeks. We had left a green paradise at the end of August, brimming with promise of a bountiful harvest. Now only scattered patches of moisture remain in the washed out landscape. This also reminded me of what hazards the trail presents us with, once the land is parched and cracked, and a few billion grass seeds of all descriptions wait for an unsuspecting sock to brush past. Last year my “porcupine” socks were finally “de-seeded” only after four separate sessions over the following week. Gators were deployed from the outset to battle the hoards this time. Just as well too, as my boots as hardy as they are, still managed to pick up a few dozen hitch-hikers in the grass, but my socks, remained as socks, and not hedgehogs this time.
The memories of the flies also live large in my mind, and although this day would not be quite as warm as our last walk in 2014, it could still turn into a miniature winged nightmare. It is no fun sucking in a fly up your nose and having it end up in your mouth. The insect netting we purchased earlier in the year would finally put an end to that unsavoury event. And that it did.
The walk itself was fairly easy and benign. Just under 15 kms and ending at the Mount Remarkable pub in Melrose (how did that happen?) No wild life today, and the only life we saw were a few sheep hugging the sparse shade, a very fine white horse who came to say hello, and two riders on the Mawson trail, whom we met again at the pub.
Coming into Melrose, a road sign was giving up more meaning than it probably intended, I’m sure. I think it is the perfect advice when coming to a place like Melrose.
After two of the best tasting beers ever, (they always are after a walk), we had the pleasure of being picked up by our mid north taxi service, Judy and Nigel. Great service and it only cost us a couple of bottles of wine (albeit very nice Killakanoon wine), which we donated to their “anti sobriety” social club.
Day Two : Altman Road Quorn to Dutchman’s Stern
Leaving early today to beat the heat, we set off crossing the main road about a half hour after sunrise. The air was cool, but the sun was already making it’s presence felt. A few steeper hills today as we walk beneath the imposing ridge to our left and Willochra plain stretching out to our right, with Devil’s Peake at our back dominating the southern view, standing alone and proud in the landscape. We wandered through fields along the fence line until crossing into the park, continuing along tracks, meandering through the bush from bow to Stern. The Dutchman’s Stern of course.
Ruth does have eyes. she just decided to close them exactly at the wrong moment. Good one Ruth!
We don’t get to meet many people on the trail, but today just as we crossed the Dutchman’s Stern summit trail, I heard voices (again?) and thought my insanity may be returning, but to my surprise, it was just a friendly trail walker keen for a chat. It would seem she also does not see many others on the trail. A lovely Australian lady with the hint of a German accent. Very chatty about her exploits and very inquisitive about our Heysen trail journey. Ruth, as we found out, had travelled extensively around Australia and walked many a trail on her own. Even driving the Simpson Desert. Nice job Ruth. Her task today however, was the Dutchman’s Stern loop walk. Not a gentle stroll on such a warm day, and 800 odd metres up as well. Thanks for stopping for a chat Ruth. We love to hear tales of exploration and adventure. (Ps Ruth. if you want to add your own thoughts, please comment below).
We had some extra time today to take in an extra sight, so our mid north taxi service ferried us up the road a bit to Warren Gorge. The narrow entrance opens up to a wider space, Perfect for camping. The locals were a bit camera shy though, but I did manage a glimpse of two of the Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies. Amazing how in contrast, the big muscly Grey Kanga’s not far away were just lazing around with the family. Looking tough enough not to care about any human wandering by.
Warren Gorge is definitely worth a visit for the Wallabies. Very cute. Best times are early and late for the Wallabies, and I am guessing the colours through the Gorge would be pretty dramatic as well.
With that diversion done it was off to lunch at Emily’s in Quorn as recommended by our tour guides. Who were we to argue? Always trust the locals, I say. Sundays at Emily’s is “spit roast” day apparently. Awesome! Roast lamb and veggies with mint sauce and damper. Accompanied by a regulation two beers of course. Very tasty. Thanks Sally for the service, and Rob for the cooking and the carving. Nice job.
After paying our dues to our hosts (hope you enjoy the wine and the bubbles Judy and Nige), we headed south back into the “Matrix”, to toil away earning enough credits to hopefully return to the Heysen in the coming year.
Day One : Wild Dog Creek to Melrose
Distance : 14.7 kms
Duration : 2 hours 40 mins
Pace : 5.5 kph
Best Bit : The two beers at the Mount Remarkable pub.
Day Two : Altman Rd Quorn to Dutchman’s Stern
Distance : 10 kms
Duration : 2 hrs 5 mins
Pace : 4.9 kph
Best Bit : The Stern
Another year on the trail completed. 264 kms over 6 trips this year, which is most consistent effort yet. Not bad considering our work and family commitments. It definitely helped doing a bit more “pre season” training and keeping up our fitness in between walks.
Grant, I have seen enough of the back of your head this year on the trail, so until next year, see you later my friend.
A few extra’s
I keep finding the remains of Heysen walkers that didn’t quite make it! It’s a tough trail!
Grant finally found his perfect country “getaway”. I’m sure the missus will be impressed.
Our taxi service providers (hehe) Thanks J&N.