Located in the lovely land of South Australia, the Heysen Trail extends for 1200 kilometres (more or less) from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge Road. Scenery includes the Flinders Ranges, the hilly country around Adelaide and a chunk of coastline, with the route crossing both public and private land. The trail itself contains some single track, but is mostly a mix of directives like ‘follow creek’, ‘follow fence’ and ‘follow road’.
I was inspired to hike the Heysen for two reasons:
1. I wanted to see the Flingers Ranges, which is why I’ve chosen to start with the Quorn to Parachilna section (about 245 km, a nice experiment for my foot).
2. It sounded challenging in terms of navigation and terrain (a guy came up to me when I was looking at a map in Adelaide and said DON’T DO IT, IT WILL KILL YOU), and I wanted a challenge for my wits and a break from the more commercial hiking environment of the Australian hikes I’ve done so far. For example: On the Great Ocean Walk, two (perfectly lovely) slackpackers were being met by a tour operator at the campgrounds, most of which you could drive to. He brought/set up their tents, cooked, etc. The first time I arrived at camp, they had set up two camping chairs between the wooden benches and table inside the shelter for hikers. I didn’t feel like another hike where people, however lovely, set up their camping chairs, literally or metaphorically, inside the shelters.
More extreme example: The Tasmanian government has developed a 4-day hike that you can walk for the low price of $495. You wouldn’t think that anyone would need convincing that this is ludicrously expensive, but a surprising number of people have tried to defend this price to me by saying ‘a Port Arthur pass is included, boat trip included, nice huts, etc.’. Of course the retort is, it’s a hike and why should those things be included for any purpose other than to inflate the price? I’m not saying that glamping and/or the principle of making hikes as easy as possible to appeal to a different crowd is ‘wrong’ on any level other than my own preference. It’s just different and we all want our own crowd to be appealed to.
If you’re thinking of walking the Heysen, there are a few things you should know immediately:
1. You need the maps.
2. The maps lie.
And with that, let the journal begin.