After years of pondering, months of training and weeks of planning, the day had finally arrived.

The date was August 13, 2018. My bag was heavy, the time was late, the sun was high and the weather was heating up. But at least my breakfast belly was full of anything but porridge (the last time this would happen for a week). After an extended lead-up to the trek, and a few delays in the morning, I just wanted to get the adventure underway.

Daily Diary – Day 1

Despite an interrupted sleep, riddled with bouts of adrenaline and chills from the desert air, I felt fresh. Setting off from the remote, but ever-popular, Prairie Hotel, I was delivered to the Parachilna Gorge trailhead. From here, I began my epic 1,200km trek along South Australia’s incredibly diverse Heysen Trail, until I reached Cape Jervis in the south some two months later.

Parachilna Creek takes it’s name from the local Aboriginal word patatjilna, meaning “place of peppermint gum trees”. The area is thought to be the most northerly place where these gums are the dominant tree.
Heysen Trail Map Sheet 8

The unimaginable amount of warm fuzzies I’d received over the previous few weeks was enough to give anybody heatstroke. Luckily, I’ve stayed hydrated, because it wasn’t long before I ran into some trail-derailing water storage issues. There are some aspects that you just can’t plan for; your 3L water bladder developing a leak only 5km into a 1,200km trail is one of them.

Day 1 Creek bed Heysen Trail

The views were amazing, the unsteady rocks were not.

Day 1 Jumping over a stile Heysen Trail

These fence-hurdling ‘stiles’ are a constant feature along the trail.

For a majority of the day, I was on the verge of giving myself whiplash continually looking around at the plethora of unique arid landscapes; dry creek beds, incredibly bare ranges and the startling realisation the earth below my feet was now red. So, I was completely surprised when I finished the day in a grassy field, complete with leafy peppermint gums and snacking kangaroos; I had officially entered National Parks of South Australia’s Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Every eco-climate imaginable!

Day 1 Aroona Campground Heysen Trail

I learnt that the landscape and the conditions can change very quickly out here.

I quickly set up my tent, took off my boots and ate the first of what would be waaaaay too many dehydrated meals over the next 8 weeks; but hey, that’s the life of a hiker. All-in-all, this stretch of trail was a pretty cruisy way to begin the adventure. But, I don’t suspect it will last; undulating hills start first thing tomorrow morning.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

18.33km

Accommodation
Price

$15 per site + park entry fee. Book online via parks.sa.gov.au

Climate

The region has hot dry summers with cool to cold nights and cool, wet winters. Autumn and spring can be warm and mild with occasional periods of rain or showers.

Terrain

Compared to the rest of the region, the trail from Parachilna Gorge to Aroona Campsite is relatively flat. Dry creekbeds, uncomplicated gullies and station tracks transverse the channel between the Heysen and ABC Ranges.