Category: Heysen Trail – South Australia


IMG_9635The Flinders Ranges is a very special place.        A geological wonder on display with secrets hidden in plain sight. The mere sight of it’s majestic and proud sculptures contrasted against the vast Aussie azure, will silence the most hardened city dweller.

The backbone of the Flinders rises out of the endless flatness of the Eyre and the Willochra. Worn by the passing of time and the elements, the ranges are a mere shadow of what they once were. Even so, the dramatic remains are still impressive standing tall and proud.

IMG_9623Most however, will look but not see.   If only those would stop for a moment to marvel and wonder at how this geological masterpiece came to be.   Even some of the ancient local rock art is unknown to the more recent inhabitants. You know, the ones who have been here for the last 40,000 years or so.

Our last walk takes us to the end of the Heysen trail at Parachilna Gorge, and like all journey’s,  is looked on with great anticipation, but this one also with regret.  Regret, that by the end of the day, our many years on this journey will be finally over.

IMG_9625We kept to “business as usual” for this walk. Prepping all our gear, food and water the night before. Even so, we ended up managing to forget some things. Seems to be innately human to miss something, or perhaps I am just not quite as clever as I think I am.

The following morning we rose well rested and after a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast (Heysen Trail traditional), we set off once again to play with the Kangaroo’s and the rabbit’s.  The morning parade of Kangaroo’s was at it’s best this morning, with mobs left right and centre. Very sensible they were though, giving us room to pass with no harm.

IMG_9611Another perfect day in the Flinder’s was dawning as we neared our starting point.  The sun had breached the far off horizon while the cool breeze freshened up our early morning languor. By the time we got our selves organised the bright sun stood alone in the bright blue, “big” Australian sky.     We were now about to commence our last walk to complete the Heysen Trail. We paused for a moment to suck in the occasion, standing amidst the weathered hills and majestic mountains, as well as the old Eucalypt men of the Aussie bush. We were apparently still chilled from the early morning air it seems.

IMG_9631Wandering up the small rise on our start we checked the ruins of Aroona before heading off proper on the trail. The gentle open trail we started on is a little deceiving and is not indicative of the full walk ahead.  Although not challenging in gradient, it is quite long and very rocky in parts. The trail is also not well marked in the creek we were to walk in.

On our left, the ever commanding Heysen Range towered above us.  As if sitting on a throne watching it’s pilgrims pass by in a never ending parade of obedient subjects. We silently payed homage as we passed by.  The “junior” ABC Range on the right was still big enough to command some respect also.  We humbly walked on, in the shadow of both giants.

IMG_9639A bit up and down for the first six kms in open woodland with plenty of Pines eking out an existence in red rock of the Wilcolo sandstone.  Our trail slowly dragged us up hill 200 metres topping out at 585 mtrs above sea level.   After that it was all down hill. Almost. Good smooth track. Then rocky track. Good smooth creek, and then rocky creek.

The trail wound it’s way through the open woodland, in and out of the creeks until our final crossing of Five Mile Creek.  Leaving the creek we headed up hill to the right. The trail markers progressively becoming more sparse as we headed into the next gully.

IMG_9667The trail now basically followed Wild Dog Creek, however we were mindful that a “hard left turn” was coming up further along, and as it happened my GPS had run out of charge and guess what items I’d forgotten to bring? Yep the spare batteries. With my GPS now flat we had to re-acquaint ourselves with some old fashioned orienteering with the map.  All seemed fine for quite a while, in spite of the fact the Heysen signs had left us. We knew we would be following Wild Dog Creek for no more than about 3km’s before turning,  so when we hit the 3k mark we stopped to assess our lack of Heysen Trail signs.

IMG_9682It appeared that the hard left turn had eluded us at some point “back there”, and we were off the trail and still in the creek.  We knew pretty well where we were but had not seen any trail markers for the last kilometre or so.   A quick scan of the map and the immediate terrain gave us our likely location and off we went up the rise to the left, meeting the trail again having only missed it by a smidge.   Ps the “hard left turn was in actual fact a gentle left.  The creek turns right and the trail goes fairly straight.

IMG_9704Once over the rise and into the final gully, the last section (as always) seemed to go on for just “ever”.  “Surely this next corner/rise should reveal the end” I said many many times. Rocky creeks are always tiresome and this one was no different.  Finally seeing signs of the end(“see I told you it was around this bend”), Grant strode off confidently while I paused to take a few pictures and soak in the moment. Delaying the finality of our journey just a little while longer.

Triumphant at the end, we breached the stairs with a whoop and a yell!

Or, did we?

I’ll leave you all with three possible endings to our “most excellent” Heysen adventure.

 

Distance: 19 kms

Speed: 5.1 kph

Terrain: Wide track and rocky creek walking.

Altitude: 194 metres up hill, and 330 metres descending to the end.

And a few more sights……

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That lovely sight of my car at the end of a walk. Always means a cold beer.

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Aroona ruins

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Wilcolo Sandstone

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Would have loved to see the water that did this.

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Token offerings for the Heysen Trail Gods?

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Wild dog creek missed turn

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IMG_9008“Here Comes The Sun” sang softly to me from my phone, waking me from my slumber. The night had not been restful though. Wave after wave of Flinder’s Mosquito’s dive bombed me every ten minutes or so. Just enough to disturb my attempts at sleep, and when I did manage my way to unconsciousness, I awoke soon after with throbbing bites the size of almonds.  5AM finally finished the Mozzie onslaught and I arose in a stupor, keen to take on the day. Anything to remove myself from this Mozzie nightmare.

IMG_9026With the sun yet to make an appearance, we headed off towards Brachina Gorge. Today’s walk  will be Terezona to Aroona Hut. On the road we ran the gauntlet of kangaroos and rabbits skitting across the road all the way to the trail head. The pre dawn drive was interesting with kangaroos feeding along the roadside and many sitting on the road with little intention of moving along very quickly.  Our strike rate for today would end up being “zero”. Quite amazing considering the dozen or so Roo’s every kilometre. The Heysen Range standing proud with it’s striped bands of glowing ochre in the early morning sun as we headed north to Aroona Hut.

IMG_9035Quite an easy going track in the undulating terrain amongst the native pines and the wattle, with Emu’s and Kangaroo’s a plenty. The Roo’s maybe a bit shy, but the Emu’s are still pretty dopey.

The gentle track soon challenged us a little with an increase in grade. Uphill we went, topping out at above 550 metres. With the sun’s heat now beating down on us, it got a little more challengin g. The trail down the hill was welcome, although still a little uncomfortable without the refreshing breeze at the top of the hill. Once on the access track roughly following the creek, we “roller coasted” up and down before reaching today’s destination, Aroona Hut.

After downing an icy cold beer and a snack, we chatting to some other visitors, before heading off. With this walk done we have just one more to go to finish the 1200km trail.

I have to add, that like many parts of the Flinders Ranges, Trezona has quite the geological past for those interested.

Trezona to Aroona Hut.

Distance :14.3kms.

Speed :5.2 kms.

Terrain: Open woodland. Good track, Rocky in places. Two moderate hill climbs.

Elevation: 315 up and 300 down

And……the rest

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One of the Bunyeroo Creek tributaries

Trezona is a message in a bottle from our very distant past. The rocks containing fossils from 600 million years ago are our companions during our walk back in time for our Heysen walk today.

Our start was a little earlier today to attempt to miss the heat of the day. We needn’t have worried though, as most of the walk today was fairly easy with a good trail on a mildly undulating terrain.

Not quite so many Kangaroo’s this morning, although there were bountiful rabbits. We saw lucky rabbits. We saw smart rabbits.   Then we saw the two rabbits that were neither lucky nor smart. But they did appear to be very attracted to my car though.

Now, with Grant’s car still in Hawker, we had to be a little creative with our logistics today with only one vehicle. Oh that’s right, I haven’t shared that story yet, have I.

On the previous day:

We had been scouting out Aroona Hut this afternoon and found ourselves chatting to some Queenslander’s who had been travelling aimlessly around the country.  Ending up in SA at Aroona Hut just at that moment we were there.  Go figure!  Reminds me of that old  saying. Where ever you go, there you are.  Anyway, we headed off to Wilpena for a coffee, but having the two cars this particular day, we decided to leave my car at the Brachina turn off to be picked up later. On arriving at Wilpena in Grant’s car however, there was concern over one of his car’s tyres.  His “smart” car was telling him that one of the tyres was a little flat, and on inspection we could hear a very disappointing hiss coming from the rear left. Oh dear! With no repair facilities at Wilpena Pound, a trip to Hawker was now required.              Back in the car we went for the extra 50 km trip down to Hawker.

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The start of Grant’s walk in Bunyeroo Creek

The lovely people at Hawker Motors inspected said problem tyre while we went for a coffee, and on returning were told it was not fixable and a replacement tyre would take two days to get in! Oh dear again!

Now in Hawker with no car. With my car nearly a hundred K’s away in the middle of nowhere, and our cabin even further away, we had to do some quick thinking.  While Grant sorted out the details for the car I headed over to the Servo to see if I could hitch a ride north, and as it happened just at that moment, a work team were about to head north to repair a gas turbine. And, they had a bit of room to spare, but only for one.  Awesome! So I left Grant to stew over his misfortune while I climbed aboard and we headed off.

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Nearly the top of the hill

Nice company these fellows, and I was very grateful for the lift. We chatted about the Flinder’s, our respective homes, and serial killers (SA has had a fair few). Just what you do while travelling in the outback in Australia with total strangers! They were joking about whether my car would still be there, or be on blocks. I just shrugged it off and said, “ Not many thieves out here to worry about, just those Wolf Creek type serial killers!!! 

So, on reaching my shiny blue Camry, I thanked my new found buddies, and hit the road again heading back to Hawker.  For a moment I did consider leaving Grant in Hawker and heading back to the cabin, but then I remembered I had left my wallet in his car. Damn! Back down the road to Hawker again, picking up Grant before returning to Angorichina. Clocked up quite a few K’s this day.

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“V” shaped creek bed. Bunyeroo

Ending a long day of driving, we dined on some spicy spaghetti bolognese.  A tasty Mount Jaggard sparkling Shiraz was the perfect accompaniment as we sat at our outside dining table, watching the evening’s orange glow slowly recede into the darkening Heysen Range.  The sharply defined silhouettes sitting atop the western ridge, persisting with their shadow puppetry until well after the bottle of wine was finished. 

Needless to say, after all of the events that has happened today, we slept very well.

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Great views this morning

So, back to today’s walk.  With only one car now we had to vary our traditional method of drop off etc.  Our plan now is for each of us to walk opposite ways on this track with me walking from Trezona, and Grant walking from Check point B7.  Meeting some where on the trail in the middle to hand over the car keys.

Grant dropped me off at Trezona, and drove onto Bunyeroo Valley heading to Check Point B7.  I would walk south to Check Point B7 while Grant would walk north to Trezona.  Remembering to hand over the car keys when we passed by on the trail, so I could drive the car back to pick up Grant afterwards. Very efficient of us really.

IMG_9382While Grant was still driving to his start point in Bunyeroo, I started off from Trezona in the dim light.  Wandering alone on the well worn path in the cool pre-dawn air,  the morning rays of light peeping over the hill caressing my skin with a suggestion of the day’s heat to come.  The sweet scent from the wattles wafted carelessly across my path, while the native bees hummed as they attended to their business, delighting in the yellow bonanza on display for as far as the eye could see.  The easy terrain on most of this walk was over all too quickly.

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Good Morning Trezona

The hills and creek walk were a little more challenging, especially for Grant who was walking from south to north. Great views of Wilpena Pound and surrounds again today.

The creeks were interesting, particularly the “V” shaped one. Straddling the creek with one foot either side was interesting. Stretched out the inner thighs quite well.

Such an early start and an easy walk today. It was even too early for us to have our mandatory cold beer at the the end!!

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Easy walking this morning

The rest of day we checked out Parachilna Gorge and the Northern Heysen trail head, as well as the Prairie hotel for dinner arrangements for later in the week.

It was now getting late, and with the shadows now stretching further across the land, and the Roo’s awakening from their slumber to once again play Kangaroo pinball, we headed back to our cabin. Our strike rate today…. two rabbits and one Kangaroo. Just a little stressful driving during the change of light, though it does get the adrenaline pumping. We headed back to our cabin for a BBQ, another sparkling red, and some music for the soul. Hard to take really. A nice Red. A red sunset. BBQ and the Blues. All while nestled in the magnificent Flinders Ranges.

In Short:

Check Point B7 Wilcolo Circiut to Trezona

Distance: 15 kms

Speed : 5.2 kph.

Terrain: Creek walking and then a bloody great big hill on a rocky track. The rest is open flat woodland. Good wide track.

Elevation: First 3kms in the creek with a 150 mtr ascent in less than a kilometre. The rest is not worth mentioning. Maybe 20 metre decline over the whole rest of the track.

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The gate heading into Check Point B7. Bunyeroo

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Heading off from Trezona (south)

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Easy walking from here (heading north)

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Morning my feathered friends.

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A view of where we will be walking. From way off to the left to the bottom of the hill where this road goes

After a year in the wilderness of the city, work, house, responsibilities, family and kids, I finally find a few days spare to return to the place of my heart.  Mile by mile heading north, the cars, buildings, and people become fewer and fewer, as does all of the “stuff” in my head.  Some have suggested that there is not much in there most of the time anyway.

A quick stop at Lochiel to say hello to the ladies at Jitter Bean for a delicious lunch, then on to Hawker for a final fuel stop before heading off towards Blinman, and Angorichina.

The next four days will be our final leg of the Heysen Trail from South to North. Walking from Wilpena Pound through to Parachilna Gorge through some pristine Flinders Ranges wilderness.

Day One: Wilpena Pound to Bunyeroo

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Some of our welcoming committee.

First. Compliments to the Adnyarmathanha people for looking after this wonderful land.

Cool morning so far today, even an hour after sunrise when we started the trek.  The wind was blowing quite firm and was pretty cool. The first 1.5 kms around the Wilpena Caravan Park seemed a bit of a chore, so we walked it the previous day when we were scouting out for today’s walk.  Seemed logical and easy to do, and reduced the following days trek just a little.

A nice easy track greeted us this morning with a committee of Grey and Red kangaroos cheering us on. A solitary Emu watching over the proceedings.  We were soon on the ascent up hill albeit quite slight. A rise of about 70 metres over a few kilometres.

IMG_9524With mist cascading over one of the Wilpena peaks, the early morning sun bathed the ridge in a warming glow.  All while we strode on through open grassland in the chilled morning air. The cypress pine’s slowly grew before us, filling our view.  We were soon immersed into this native forest which would be our friend for many a kilometre.

The views of this side of the Pound were pretty damn good. St Mary’s Peak and her companions towered above us for most of our journey today. With some of the trail a little uneven and rocky we had to remember to occasionally stop and look up at the magnificent views.  I nearly did an ankle admiring the view, at least twice. Good hiking boots always save me though.

IMG_9536The first part of the walk peaked at about 57 metres, before we started a long slow descent, albeit a bit up and down.  A very easy walk amongst the pine trees, and the path of red Wilcolo sandstone was at times just like a manicured city park path.

Leaving the Wilpena Pound area we continued on with the pine trees and the red path.

The nice wide track could easily lull you into missing the major right turn on the Heysen Trail.

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“It’s this way”. Yes yes Grant, I can see that.

The other track (straight on) is the Mawson Trail(for cyclists). This would be easy to miss if chatting at the time of passing it. Would never happen would it?

Our right turn took us through the creek and then up the hill, but just before the start of the hill, there was a great little camping spot. Very nice. Clearly some had taken the time to camp there to take in the atmosphere. We were now in the Wilcolo Circuit which will take us up this dirty great big hill and then down again eventually to the circuit check point B7.

IMG_9569We followed the creek for a way before heading up the substantial hill.  The moderate climb on a narrow trail got the blood pumping and cresting the hill we rejoiced in reaching the top.  Looking into this new valley, we stood and pondered. Somewhere down there was our finishing point for the day.

Bunyeroo Valley opened up before us with wonderful views.  We knew roughly where our exit point should be from our elevated vantage point, however the trees obscured our view until we descended into the very bottom of the valley.

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Check Point B7.

Check point B7 revealed itself right next to that big gum tree.   This is where we had to exit the Heysen Trail for the day. We followed the creek down stream on a rough track going west until we found the Bunyeroo Valley road. The end of today’s walk.

We drove up to one of the look outs on the ridge, before cracking a cold beer to celebrate and refresh.  Knowing that there is a cold beer in the car is always a motivating factor when struggling in the last few kms. It always works.

 

In Brief:

Wilpena Pound to Check Point B7 Wilcolo Circiut

Distance: 20 kms

Pace: 5.5kms

Terrain: Forrest walk on a good track. A narrow track up the big hill. A little bit of creek walking also.

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Wilpena to Bunyeroo

Wilpena (at bottom) to Bunyeroo Valley (Top “E”)

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Check Point B4 at the top of the hill

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On our way down to Check Point B7

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Bobby Creek Road

We played with the kangaroos again this morning on the way to Bobby’s Creek road. The Emu’s and the Wedgy’s were a little shyer though, keeping well away from the road. Fortunately the Roo’s tire pretty quickly of playing with cars, and so made their way through or over the fence.  One needing to learn how to jump a little higher, as he clipped the top of the fence almost completing a somersault with a half twist. Shame about the landing. Could have been a “ten”!

img_7660Sunny day, but with plenty of scattered cloud, which would persist all day. With a nice cool breeze, this made it a perfect day for walking in the Flinders.

Our trek today takes us from Bobby Creek road through to Jarvis Hill. Not far from Hawker. The road took us though the scrubby bush, slowly evolving into a off road track, albeit a good one. We meandered through the undulating grassy hills which were in the process of drying out. Although, there was still some water persisting in some of the creeks.

img_7674Water is always a rare sight up here, and it still amazes me that there are tadpoles a plenty in the remaining pools. Where do the frogs go during the many dry months? Life is truly amazing.

Plenty of hawks and kites circling for their breakfast this morning, as we continue on our hike through the waves of greens and yellows. The coloured carpet softening the harsh red and sandy earth below.   A quiet reverence filling the space within my mind, but seemed to extend in all directions to the visible horizon. Nice.

img_7685We wandered on in the bright sunshine, refreshed with the chilled breeze.  All external senses engaged, while the mind quiet and still while we drifted through the landscape.

We met the first of our scaled friends just after our first break. Lazing in the sun, this very sandy coloured specimen greeting us with the usual grumpy stumpy hello.

His blue tongue flashing a fairly decent warning.  This would be the first of many today. Stumpy’s rule this landscape.

img_7695Life abounds out here at the moment. From grasses, and wild flowers, to all manner of six and eight legged warriors, and of course the stately and confident lizards. Do I have to mention the Kanga’s, Emu’s and a vast variety of birds?  My favorite though (sorry Stumpy), was the Bearded Dragon. What a beautiful creature! Too cool to even be bothered by us.

We wandered on the plains adjacent the ranges, mostly on good tracks, but occasionally having to contend with loose rocks of all sizes. How many ankles have been twisted on these I wondered?

img_7717Patches of white were splashed carelessly about by Mother Nature’s artist, with the occasional curse of the Patterson, only finding salvation in the arms of Jane.  In spite of it’s reputation, purple looks good in any environment.

The walk along these ranges seemed to go on for ever, and was at times quite challenging with loose rocks on the trail. We did however finally “hang” a right, heading downhill and looking towards Jarvis Hill, visible in the distance as a slight “V” in the opposing hill line.

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Mt Elm Camp site dunny

We had a brief stop at Mount Elm camp site before our final leg. It looked like an internally troubled hiker may have “blown” the door off the camp dunny!  I was however, not game to investigate further!

Once again the last few K’s seemed the longest, and as the gradient slowly increased, it only confirmed my suspicions of this ever increasing truth. The trail also got a little “abstract” before we hit the road (thank you Garmin for keeping us on track).

img_7749A shortish walk up the hill and around a couple of bends before we arrived at the gate of our relief. The beer was especially cold today, as we shared our company with the smallest of lizards. As we sat at our table of recovery and satisfaction, two Skinks cavorted about for our entertainment.

With our catch up walks now done, we will continue our trek north of Wilpena Pound in 2017. The last leg of our Heysen adventure takes in Wilpena Pound to Parachilna Gorge.  But for the moment, I will have to cope with my PHTD.

In Short

Bobby Creek Road to Jarvis Hill

Distance : 25.6 kms

Duration : 5 hours 10 minutes

Pace : 5 Kph

Terrain : Good tracks on the flat and undulating hills. Rocky, uneven ground and scrubby in later parts of the trail.

Elevation : Gain  573 mtrs.  Loss  331 mtrs

And…. the rest in pictures.

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Recent erosion from the storms

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Shortly before turning towads Jarvis Hill

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img_7799A coolish and cloudless day greeted us this morning. Certainly much cooler than the usual October weather in the Flinders. The road to our start point had plenty of furry and feathered friends greeting us along the way, slowing our journey at many a point. Mostly Kanga’s who seem to want an early morning race. One hitting 44kph!  Just a young’n too.  Leaving our friends, we kicked up a trail of dust leading to the gorge. The rock face stood large in front us. An amazing rock  sculpture that is Buckaringa Gorge.

img_7816Lizards feature quite regularly on our two walks this trip. Lazing in the sun seemingly without a care. Right in our “boot scootin” way on the trail.  Until we get too close of course.

The Stumpy’s are always grumpy, flashing their blue tongues. Every bit as aggressive as a Maori, in full Haka.   The bearded dragons however are pretty chilled. Not moving a muscle no matter what we do.  Grant has also learned to look first before stepping on them. It only took about a thousand Km’s to learn that one.

img_7817Seems to be a very healthy ecosystem out here. The recent rains have transformed the normally dusty grey landscape into a myriad of colours. Muted greens, browns and ochre bleed into each other, just like a Monet painting.

Once at the entrance of the Gorge we hang a right heading across the creek heading North East and onto a slightly overgrown track.  Gaitors were a definite necessity today, as we were not keen to end up with porcupine img_7820socks.

The trail wanders along the edge of the range undulating a little up and down with open views to our right of scrubby grassland with the occasional tree line creek. Plenty of Roos to the left and the right, with one Mob numbering in the teens.

The scrubby bush persisted for the first 11 kms or so without any decent rest spots.  Not until we walked through the second gorge did we find a comfortable seat. The Heysen camp site with a seat and tank water was a welcome respite instead of having to sit in the prickly grass. Those grass burs f’n stick to everything.

img_7823A couple of wild goats welcomed us into the second gorge, but did not stick around to chat. The goats headed off into the scrub while we climbed the stile to the right and after a short rest at the camp site, we headed up the first of the two major hills. About 50 metres each. Nice views from the top, and even though there has been plenty of rain with the recent storms, it does not take much time for the land to dry out. This was evident today.

img_7849Off in the distance we could see a break in the landscape. A lighter coloured crescent splitting the land in two.  It became apparent soon that we would be heading straight towards this oasis in our muted Monet landscape.

Coming off the second hill, our “roman road” trail did not deviate until we reached the break in the landscape which is the “glistening” Willochra creek. But before we hit level ground, we spied a pelican circling high in the sky. I had not seen a pelican out here before.

img_7871Must be water in the creek I thought, or that jumbo of the bird world must be really lost!

The creek is a wonderful place to stop for lunch. The layered cliff face with whites and browns, stood silent watching over the still waters.  Wonderful clay pattern in one section. Looking just like a paved patio. If you do this walk, plan to spend your longest break here.

After a short steep climb up the cliff face, we were once again walking the fence line in the grass and burs, leaving Willochra creek to disappear from view. Once again swallowed up by the hardened dry landscape.

img_7878A couple of K’s later and after crossing Kanyaka creek, we hit the road. Although the walking was a little easier, the hardness of the road and the increased heat was starting to  take it’s toll.  Even though the road walking was only 4.5kms, it seem much longer and harder. Why is it that the last few K’s always seem to be the hardest. Strange that.

Our trail end today was Bobby Creek Road, and while we were still 3 odd kms from our end point, we could see a shiny blue glint in the distance. The bright beacon of my small piece of civilization parked in the harsh wilderness.  The thought of a soft seat and a cold beer teasing us for just a little longer.

In Short

Buckaringa Gorge to Calabrinda (Bobby Creek Road)

Distance : 21.4 kms

Duration : 4 hours 14 minutes (walking time). A bit over an hour of breaks.

Pace : 4.9 kph

Terrain : Undulating hills with only two major hills (50mtrs each). Rocky in places

And the rest…….

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Camp site just off of Buckaringa scenic drive

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Lone cyclist heading off into the wilderness.

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Feathered friends

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Looking back towards Buckaringa Gorge from Willochra Creek

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Willochra Creek

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The Camry still rockin on in The Flinders.

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IMG_6644The night before our walk, Malcolm was doing his best to warn (or scare) us about the walk through to Eyre Depot. He had heard many a tale of heart ache and tears, so just in case there was a smidge of truth to his tales, we decided to leave a little earlier giving us sufficient time for any unforseen outcomes. (code for stuff ups and slip ups).

We managed a pre 8am start at Buckaringa Gorge in the cool and cloudy morning.  Armed with plenty of equipment for the day. Variable clothing to cope with Melbourne type weather (You know, four season in one day), topographic maps, Heysen book, GPS, and plenty of food and water.  We headed off with much confidence that we could tackle anything this day, and as it turned out, we needed most of what we took.

IMG_6641A stroll through the Gorge soon brought us into a creek bed again, and like the obstacle course on the previous day, it slowed us up considerably.  Again.

A few gems along the way though with a white Kangaroo stopping to say hello,  some interesting rock formations and plenty of flora with splashes of colour among the green and ochre. We made our way in and out of the creek meandering uphill slowly but surely.

IMG_6596The five K mark rescued us from the creek and we headed up the hill above 500 metres. Up another hill, and up another hill, until finally atop the ridge which would take us all the way to Mount Arden, 12 K’s in from the Gorge.

The panoramic views in all directions opened up bit by bit as we topped each hill.  The higher we got the windier it got also. We had been warned that the ridge is windy and usually in spite of any calm weather down below.  So we were prepared with arctic style tops to fend off the icy blasts.

IMG_6691The ridge meandered left and right and up and down a little, before the final push up above 800 metres, to the summit of Mount Arden.  At the top the wind was even more intense and absolutely relentless.  It was only a short stay at the peak, to catch our breath and snap a few photo’s, before descending down the southern slope back to a more tepid temperature.

The drop is quite dramatic, but very tiring. I certainly would not want to be going up this section though.

IMG_6748 Just after we saw horizontal ground again, the terrain opened up to a lazy creek with majestic old Gum’s and what looked like manicured lawn area’s either side. Every bit the public city park, but smack dab in the middle of the bush.

This is Mount Arden South camp site, and was very clear why it was here.  Fantastic spot, so we stopped for a break, having lunch and resting in the natural beauty of the surrounds.

IMG_6767We headed off again refreshed, and wandering along the idyllic creek setting, we were easily lulled into the comfort zone in these gentle surrounds.

The easy walking was not to last though. After a few more K’s the terrain turned back to the “obstacle course” of rocky tracks and in and out of the creek again. It seemed to go on for like, “evar”.  Pretty dramatic scenery, but pretty wild I have to say, and one of our more challenging walks.

IMG_6782Just when we thought we were nearing the end, the trail took us up the side of a very steep hill. So steep it had rope to hang onto. Great view at the top, but at this point we were a bit shagged to really care too much.  Once back in the creek we meandered our way through the canyon until coming to a rather steep waterfall. No water flowing over it, however it was much too steep to climb down, so we back tracked to where the trail actually IMG_6596leads up the hill and around the falls.

A rocky dirt road (twisted my ankle here) took us eventually out of the hills and onto the plain at Eyre Depot.

The last 3 kms to the car seemed like the longest leg though. Funny how it is quite regularly the case.

Ps. The gate that we had passed through at Eyre Depot to drop the car off, now had a sign saying, “Trespassers will be prosecuted”.

The walk in to Eyre Depot is now 6 kms, not the 3 that we did.  Best bet though if you are not doing an overnighter would be to get Malcolm from the Argadell’s to take you through Thompson’s Gap for a drop off or pick up.

In Short

Buckaringa Gorge to Eyre Depot

Distance : 27 kms (with an additional  3 km walk out)

Duration : 7 hours 1 min walking time. 2 hours 12 mins worth of breaks.

Pace : 4.3 kph

Terrain : Track (20%), steep hills/ridges(30%), and creek walking(50%).

And…….the rest

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Only three more hills before Mount Arden. Or was it four, or five?

 

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There is that song again. “and those big black birds they were circling in the sky”.

 

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Argadell’s from Mount Arden

 

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Looking north along the trail from north of Mount Arden

 

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Now where did I leave the car?

 

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Our Hosts for the weekend

 

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It was very windy on the ridge. You need to dress warm for the occasion.

 

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Lovely day for a stroll. Pity this view did not last.

 

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Looking down the valley towards Eyre Depot, way off in the distance.

 

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Grant and his lizards again.

 

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Almost looks like the shape of my old Holden panel van.

 

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The all seeing eye!  Ancient rock carving, or natural formation?

 

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Can you see the cat in this rock pattern?

 

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Just before sunset, we headed off in the car. Tired but satisfied.

 

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IMG_6522We arrived in the dark on a dusty red track with thick scrub all around.  An old blue tractor lit up in our headlights as we came upon the open grassy spread at the Homestead.  It was only in the early morning light on the following morning that the dark veil was lifted revealing the oasis that is the Argadell’s. A picturesc Flinders property to relax and explore. More about the Argadell’s later.

IMG_6548This trip will see us do two days of quite challenging walking.  The logistics of start finish points without doing an overnighter is, well, also challenging.  Our agreed plan was to walk from Eyre Depot to Dutchman’s Stern on day one, and then walk from Buckaringa Gorge back to Eyre Depot on day two. We will leave my car at Dutchman’s Stern and then drive to Eyre Depot, leaving my trusty companion’s car there for the day and overnight. The following day we will drive to Buckaringa Gorge, before walking back to Eyre Depot where Grant’s car would still be waiting (we hoped). Simple enough, and to our surprise, it also worked. Go figure!

IMG_6560A 3 km walk-in to the Heysen trail to start at Eyre Depot got us warmed up for todays trek. Not that it was needed as this section of the trail is challenging enough without the extra K’s. We strode along adjacent the ranges with the plain stretching out along our right, almost as far as we could see. The salt bush only giving way to the occasional depression of the  salt lakes.  It wasn’t long before Grant, (the lizard magnet), nearly squished a bearded dragon underfoot. Completely missing it visually as well as orthopedically!

IMG_6577Our direction and landscape soon changed as we headed into the foothills with some moderate climbs along the track. It wasn’t too long before we left the pretty rugged fire track only to enter a pretty rugged creek bed. This creek trail was to be our companion for most of today’s walk, and I use the term “trail” only very loosely.  Now deep into the canyon ,we heard some crashing through the bush and some bleating going on. thinking it was some harmless wild goats just looking for a feed, we took no heed.

Suddenly though we were ambushed by IMG_6605what I can only describe as, a small agile group of “terrorist” goats, who attempted to “take us out” by rolling boulders onto our heads. If it were not for my lightness of foot, I would have copped one shoulder height. It was big enough to do some serious bone crunching, flesh tearing damage. I can clearly move quickly when my life is in danger it would appear.

One of the goats(clearly on recon) trailed us for the next 3 or so kms, before clearing off over a hill, once we had id’d him in a clearing.

IMG_6610Anyway, we struggled on over boulders, loose stones, trees, and rocky ledges. It was slow going heading upstream towards the Dutchman’s Stern, but once into the guts of it, there is no turning back. Tough as it is though at times, it is always amazing.

Still a bit of water in the creek with life abundant. Including lots of taddies. Truly amazing that frogs can survive here over the long months without rain, only to spawn thousands of tadpoles when it does rain. Very cool.

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Essentials for walking.

The trail got steeper and more cumbersome before we finally emerged up a steep incline onto a much more civilised track.  Once out of the creek we paused to reflect our journey so far.

After cooling off with a head soaking, and with the Stern now in full view we paced out the last few kms on the road to the Dutchman’s Stern accommodation.  With numerous Kangaroos , just lazing about with the family waiting for us to take their photo’s, we said hi, snapped a few, and walked on.

IMG_6624The car park which was only 3 dozen paces away was where my lonely car was waiting with a very special cargo inside. Two ice cold beers!  They always taste good at the end of a walk and sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me going over the last few K’s.  It’s the old carrot trick. Self imposed I know, but it works every time.

This walk was tougher than it looked on paper. Would have been easier walking the other way, but was not an option for us. If you can manage the logistics, I would suggest walking from the Stern to Eyre Depot.

In Short

Eyre Depot to Dutchman’s Stern

Distance : 17 kms (with an additional  3 km walk in)

Duration : 4 hours 15 mins walking time. 1 hour 17 min worth of breaks.

Pace : 4.7 kph

Terrain : Undulating hills(25%), steeper hills(20%), and creek walking(55%).

And…….the rest

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Off the plain and into the hills.

Terrorist goats hideout.

Terrorist goats hideout.

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That’s what we have just walked through.

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Eyre Depot walk in gate

 

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Rounding the Stern

 

 

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View from Bridle Gap. Not that Grant was interested.

Still a little sore from our previous day’s epic 34k walk. However, our spirits are high with our task today to conquer the “Wilpena wall” and for me to revisit Ikara after a 39 year absence. A meeting place for sure. A convergence of time and memory.  Our journey today takes us from Moralana Drive through Blacks Gap, up the wall of Wilpena and into the Pound via Bridle Gap. 15 kms to finish off a week of Heysen trail walking in the Flinders.

 

IMG_6138Vague memories flood back as we wander the trail. Mostly not memories at all, just feelings and sensations of familiarity. A sense of comfort. Like coming home after a long journey.  The connection through time though, cannot be explained, only experienced.  The heart of this land clearly lives within me. Though I only dwell in this reality for short periods of time, my soul appears to be connected to the land.

 

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Looking back at Blacks Gap

Black Gap road, broad and flat, soon transforms into Bunbiniyunna creek. I guess not too surprising as the creeks are the highways of the bush. The walls either side soon steepen as we reach further into the gap.  Familiar colours return beneath our feet and by our sides. The richness of this natural gallery on show in the cool silence of the morning. Only a sliver of light and warmth penetrating into the depths of this ancient bed.

 

We soon emerged from the creek, bathed in full sun and slightly daunted by the scale of the climb ahead. Little did we know that what we could see, was hiding the hardest part of the climb.

old and newOn the narrow path on the side of the hill, I travelled back in time. Once again amongst my peers from Seacombe High. Our very fashionable 70’s gear seeming out of place in this environment, but also, just out of place!  But a sense of wonder, along with blissful ignorance of youth made this a great time.

IMG_6150We paced steadily up the hill, stopping briefly at a ridge or two to catch our breath and admire the steadily expanding view.  The track to the top is a little vague at times along this section. In scrubby bush, we meandered on and off the trail, keeping a keen eye on our GPS.  Looking back at one stage I noticed something a little different about one of the Heysen signs I had just passed.  Ordinarily, the arrow points up to indicate straight ahead, yet this one was pointing straight down. Intentional or not, I loved the humour of the directional indication.

IMG_6158Breaching the top of Bridle Gap, with the entry to the park boldly etched in the space, we paused to reflect on our journey from the Elders. Mount Alec and the receding ridge standing tall in our view. It only seemed like yesterday that, ….. Oh that’s right, it was just yesterday.

Looking forward now, and gazing at the ridge to our right we noticed some movement. Contrasted against the bright blue was a very healthy goat, standing proud atop the ridge.

IMG_6196Off again after a short break, with the environment changing around us. Scrubby trees slowly giving way to taller native Pines, and eventually stately Gums dispersed in the manicured grassy land. Lazy Kangas and Wallabies not fussed by our presence, with only the slightest of a stoic glance, soon return to their languid tasks.

Almost as flat as a “Bundaleer pitch” and as curated as a city park, the path wandered though the Pound ending up at the old homestead.  We paused to take in a bit of the history before walking the final few kms to the visitor centre and the car park.

A coffee at the visitor was very civil (it was a bit early for a beer), and a bit of lunch finished off a very pleasant mornings walk.

In Short

Walk : Moralina Drive to Wilpena Pound

Distance : 14.77 kms

Pace : 4.5 kph

Duration : 3 hours 15 minutes

And the rest……

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Bridle Gap

 

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Just before descending below the tree line – Wilpena Pound

 

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Omlette for 6, perhaps. (Emu egg)

 

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Wilpena homestead.

 

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IMG_6062Today will be a big day. 30 kilometre walk with a 1.5 k walk in through Mayo Gorge. Walking past the majestic Elder Range, we will be trekking through the amazing Arkaba Station. Stunning views, ever changing geology and plenty of wildlife.  We will end up at Moralana Drive in between two Titans of the Flinders. Elder Range and Wilpena Pound.

A nice cold 6° and sunny this morning, with “sinister” clouds creeping over the imposing Elder Range.  A fresh road kill on the Outback Highway was breakfast to a pair of very impressive Wedge tailed Eagles, as our driver Kym, shared his experience climbing Elder Range.

IMG_6040Feeling a little pensive about our walk today though. I was not feeling particularly well yesterday and with the pending 30 kms through some pretty remote country side, I was not feeling as confident as usual.  We were well prepped though, with a days rest before and carrying extra gear and water for any unforseen events. My good lady had also given me some sound advice if we get lost and run out of food. “Eat Grant first” she said. My wife the ultimate survivor!

IMG_6048Fear though, is a funny thing. It is always important to take note of your feelings, but check that the fear is based on something real, and not just an irrational thought.   Clearly I was just feeling a bit off, as once we actually got going, all seemed to be ok.

Heading east up Mernmerna creek from Mayo Gorge, we wandered in the creek as we did in Wonoka .   The northern edge of Elder Range already quite impressive, followed our left as we snaked along the creek for the next four k’s.

IMG_6053A Wedgy perched atop a nearby hill watched intently as we passed by. Waiting, I am sure, for us to stumble and fall, so he could pick our bones clean.   A song popped into my head just at that moment, “The Holy Grail”. That particular line, “And those big black birds, they were circling in the sky”. (Betcha you are singing it right now too).  Kinda felt appropriate with the Wedgy watching and waiting, as well as the fact we are on a quest for our own “holy grail”.   It stayed in my head for quite a few k’s.

IMG_6058The left hand turn out of the creek was always going to be hard to find, so we kept a keen eye on our distance travelled, and the map.   A bloody big fat old Gum with a very little Heysen sign marked our exit from the creek. A short break  was in order before venturing up the hill though. We were not looking to break any speed records today.   Into Arkaba Station we went. Over the hill and following the track for a while before taking a right down the hill and into a creek again. This time it was Slaty Creek. IMG_6067

Gums and native pines abound with Kanga’s and Wallabies plentiful in this marsupial haven. Steep hills keep watch over the creeks and the gorges, with the ever present Elder Range imposing itself over the entire area.

The occasional stone fireplace still standing as a reminder of a  harsher life. The earthy tones continue through the creeks with the surrounding hills contrasting ochre, tawny, and pine against the vivid blue.   Smaller creatures, mostly hidden, reveal themselves on occasion.

IMG_6094A young bearded dragon narrowly escaping a hungry crow, while we narrowly miss walking into a massive Orb weaver strategically strung across our path, just waiting for a delirious Heysen Trail walker to stumble in.  Face height, I came to within 20 cms of wearing this very ornate eight legged face jewellery.

The creek is pretty easy walking, although following every meander did get a bit tiring. Heysen signs are a bit scarce through here and as it turned out my GPS sent us a little awry out of IMG_6099Slaty creek and into a feeder creek heading the wrong way. Took us 30+ minutes to work out what happened and to get back on track. Very easy to get lost in this hilly landscape. They all look the same. Even checking our direction was no help as the creeks meander from west, to north, then to east again in every kilometre.

After a stop for lunch we, strode on keeping a keen eye on trail markers, GPS, and the map. We were now a bit behind time, and needed to make up some ground to get to Moralana Drive before dark.

IMG_6100I started hearing voices at one point, and in this sacred landscape, thought my spiritual ancestors were breaking through to speak to me, but alas, it was just Red Range camp site, and there was a quite a group.  Chatting and having a great time.  Now, ordinarily we would be stopping for a chat, but no time to waste today.  With this being only our half way point, we picked up the pace.

We paced up hills, through creeks, traversed gully’s and battled through scrubby trees, until we came to the “garden of stones”.

IMG_6113Perfect place to pull up a rock and rest our bunions.  The hills we now traversed were comprised of compacted red stone chips, which were devoid of all but the hardiest of plants. How the hell does anything grow in this stuff?

A little further along we crested a hill, and the wonderful Wilipena Pound came into view, meaning we were on the home stretch (albeit a long one).  A few more gentle hills and we made our way to the car park at Moralana drive.

Seated between Wilpena and the Elders, we rested our weary bones. A little sore and a bit fatigued, but mind at ease in the peace and tranquillity of the Flinders.

IMG_6305Every thing at peace, except maybe for our taste buds. The crisp bite from that first sip of amber joy, ruminating throughout my body in repeating waves. Ahhhhhhh.

It’s easy to understand the spirituality of this place. As we sat quietly between the majestic Urdlu Warlpunha, and Ikara in the fading light, we breathed in the  very soul of this most ancient of lands. Easy to do, especially after a beer.  It’s the simple things really. Life on the trail.

In Short

Mount Little Station to Moralana Drive

Distance : 31.5 kms  (we walked 34kms due to slight detour)

Pace : 4.8 kph

Duration : 7 hours 33 minutes

Calories burned : 4442!!!!!

And a couple extra….

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Mount Aleck

 

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Elder Range (in full)

 

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Mernmerna Creek