A Return to the Heysen

March 7th - March 10th, 2017

Heysen Trail Journal


 Day One

Greenock, SA to the Bethany Reserve

The day passes as it must. Hour by hour. The first 25 minutes is always the same. The bearing of the weight. The slow growing realization that this is more, much more, than you are accustomed to carrying.  Hour two is the best. By then you have all but forgotten your weight and your woes. It's just you and the day. Hour three is different and it begins to dawn on you that rest is a mighty powerful prospect. The weight begins to take its full effect and you can feel it in your hips. Your knees. Four is the worst. By now you waddle more than you walk. And then you stop. The weight is placed on the ground and you exalt in your newfound freedom. 

We walk from Greenock to just past Tanunda. Lunch is last night's leftovers. As we eat we lighten the load. Chicken salad wraps, a granola bar, a banana, cheese chunks, Oreos, pretzels, ramen. We are rewarded for our toil. 

My feet refuse to take another step and we make camp in a place once called Bethany Reserve according to our trail maps. Technically it says we aren’t allowed to camp there, but as it is a place that doesn’t seem to exist I care little for its regulations. I am done for the day.

The Bear is a bashful pioneer in the sport of hammock yoga.

The Bear is a bashful pioneer in the sport of hammock yoga.

The hammock I've lugged this whole time is the first thing out of my pack. I want us off our feet. We swing, contented, for hours. We stare into the distance at nothing and everything. 

Our first time using a camp stove, it is a slow process. Always? Or is the wind to blame? We start boiling water just as the sun begins to sink below the horizon. I am still boiling long after it disappears. Finally I can take no more. I consent to use the water at whatever temperature it has reached. Tea and ramen noodles with cheddar cheese cut straight from the block - a foolish thing to carry in the summer. The tea is forgotten then carelessly toppled. It proceeds to spread its contents across the tent floor. I wanted that tea. It's water was precious. We have no towels and must use what little gear we have brought to mop up the mess. A shame. 

We spread the Bear’s sleeping bag across our weary bodies and allow sleep to take us. I wake in the night to write this. The wind is howling past our tent. Hopefully I find my way back into a world of dreams soon. 


Day Two

Bethany Reserve to Rossiters Hut

We are slow to wake and slow to pack away. Our routines are as lethargic and relaxed as our usual state of being demands. I expect this will change soon. 

After discovering the lid for the pot I was able to boil water more effectively. Oatmeal and tea for breakfast. 

Nothing but hills the whole day through. The inclines ceased only to drop us into the lap of another one. Hour one we are silent. Just the rolling hills. The rocks at our feet. The cattle in the paddock. No breath for speech if it were warranted. 

The hike ends quickly despite the difficult terrain. We arrive at the Rossiter Hut and find it far less magical out of season. Last visitors were in November of last year. Cobwebs, spiders, and earwigs have made this their home. We do our best to clean the mess. Drop toilet called a loss. Full of spiders. 

We arrived too early. Our feet thank us, our minds do not. We are unoccupied. Bored. Without distraction on this increasingly hot day. I climb the knoll to hang a hammock among the trees. We enjoy it's simple pleasures before the sun finds us again. 

Our return to the cabin offers no reprieve from the boredom and we consume. Pho, lady grey tea, cheese, pretzels, m&ms, mint chocolate carob bear, olives. I am not sure I have done enough work to have earned these calories. I use the excuse despite these qualms. 

Jorge and I unanimously decide that while Danners may be great boots, for us they are the enemy. His bone spurs. My pinkie toes. It's too much to sacrifice. We must find him some trail runners. 

Camp stove again. Risotto for dinner. Too much residue to be a proper trail food. Cleanup is a pain. Gas canister ran out. Thankfully we have a back up.


Day Three

Rossiters Hut to Tanunda

Day breaks and I miss it again. Mosquitos woke me up around seven. Good, we want to be on the trail soon. The days have been too hot to be caught out. Oatmeal and tea to start the day. Next hike there will be sugar. 

Thinner socks today, hoping it will help with my right foot. The hills we crossed yesterday are just as cruel on the return. I begin to despise the downhill. My right leg rejects my current reality. I try not to think about the throbbing. Pinky, ankle, knee, then hip. It is all I think about. 

I focus on the individual steps. The ants parol every blade of grass. The grasshoppers make their click click click as they fly aimlessly through the air. I forget about my tired joints. 

A quick flash of movement on the right alerts me to their presence. Gentle faces with enormous graceful ears. Politely attentive to our crossing. As we come closer they are spooked. Human or beast we have crossed the barrier. Having failed to escape under the fence they now leap over it. One bound. Such little effort. Our crossing is not so elegant. Slow steps. Hands wrapped around the stile pole for support. Two steps up. Two back down. The only way to balance the scales. 

We cross into the paddock again. The cows have reclaimed the track for their own and we are forced to navigate around their patties. We skirt the valley. I can see the creases where hill meets valley floor. The cattle low in the distance. I can just make out their shapes. Muddy red coats rimmed with cream. Eyes that stare from a distance. They are not surprised by us. 

As soon as we leave the hills behind the trudging begins. I do not enjoy this part. Trodding back to civilization. Weary. Laden. The pain in my hip recalls itself to me. An injury sustained from overcompensation. My pace does not slow, for I am already slow. Content to put one foot in front of the other until the street gives way to town. 

Cold brew, waffles - fully loaded with ice cream. I have reaped my reward. 


Day Four

Bethany Road to Rossiters Hut and Back Again

Back on the hills again. Trail-runners today in lieu of the boots. My feet rejoice at the new found comfort. I wish I had worn them the previous three days.

My right hip aches. It suffered most from the boots. I feel a pop with every step. We are out here looking for something we lost. We are sentimental and do not want to leave it behind. It has been with us so long. I’m talking about his Poler travel pillow, the match and mismatch of my own. It must be found.

The reason I'm always falling behind. I am a big fan of taking breaks at the least provocation.

The reason I'm always falling behind. I am a big fan of taking breaks at the least provocation.

The weather is perfect for the hike. We move more swiftly without our packs. We walk with purpose. We know our way. We know we will have to go back to the beginning. That’s where it will be. Unburdened by the weight of his hiking pack he flies, staying a few hundred meters ahead. I walk steadily behind. I am in no hurry. It will be found.

We grow closer to yesterday’s starting point and he gives it a final push. He leaves me with the water and sprints ahead to save me an extra hill. I am grateful. A handful of moments pass and he is jogging back to me, pillow tucked under his arm. Triumphant. I marvel at his energy as he claps his heels together. We turn to walk the hills a fourth and final time. 

The day is beautiful. I can feel the sun warming every inch of my exposed flesh. Warm turns quickly to hot. The trail offers less and less shade. My hip has stopped aching. We finish the hike and greet the Falcon cheerfully.

Pizza and beer for dinner. We sleep like the dead.


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