From the euphoric and literal highs of Day 10 to the demoralising lows of Day 11. The daily swings and roundabouts of a long distance hiker.

It’s astounding how quickly your mood can change when you’re pushed to your limits. The first week and a half on the trail was packed with challenging, yet rewarding, ups and downs, but there had been one unwavering constant; my positivity. Through everything, I had remained resolute. That headspace, however, changed dramatically on Day 11.

Daily Diary – Day 11

The best thing about walking 20-odd kilometres each day is that you sleep like a boss. While the elements swirl around outside, you can sleep through it all. I learnt on the morning of Day 11 that an uninterrupted sleep can also cause headaches. Due to powerful overnight winds and the brittle topsoil feebly earthing my tent pegs to the weathered ground, the fly, covering me and my belongings, came unstuck, inviting dust from around the district to accumulate in my canvas home. From here, everything went downhill, including my state of mind.

The overcast morning consisted of dreary showers, blasts of cold wind, cleaning out spilled water from my tent and a failed effort to clear a sizeable heap of unwelcomed dust from of my food, clothes and inner ears. Even my reliable, yet always unsatisfying, daily porridge mix was a disaster. I mean, how can you stuff up oats?

Day 11 - Red Soil

The skies weren’t the only moody thing on Day 11.

Once I started moving, I expected my mood to change. The undeniably breathtaking Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park should have been a constant source of inspirational, but my gloomy outlook wouldn’t budge. I simply couldn’t enjoy my unique surroundings while my head was buried in misery.

The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park gets its name from the bluff’s similarity to Dutch sailing ships of the eighteenth century. It was named by Captain Matthew Flinders who charted the nearby Spencer Gulf in 1802.
parks.sa.gov.au

While the first 10 days certainly weren’t easy, Day 11 felt near-impossible. My bag was a heavy burden, each shuffled step seemed forced, a light sprinkling of rain felt like a downpour; everything was a cumbersome effort. For the first time on the trail, I didn’t want to be there anymore.

Day 11 - Dutchmans Stern Walk View

One of several secluded spots for some quick-fire reflection.

Day 11 - View Dutchmans Stern

I somehow managed to remain uninspired despite the incredible landscape.

It was only once I left the park that I started feeling better, but that improved mental state quickly turned to remorse. I was frustrated with myself for not making the most of this stunning setting. A poignant reminder to try to stay positive, even when things aren’t going your way. By the time I’d walked the 7-odd kilometre alternate route into Quorn, I had picked up the pieces from the discouraging morning’s trek.

One important trait I’d acquired on my first 11 days on the trail is to find the positives. While, on reflection, there were several meaningful points I could take from a troubled 24 hours, one stood out overall; a chance encounter with a legend named Norm, from Pindan Tours and 4WD Training. He would help me right a serious wrong on Day 12.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

26.07km

Accommodation

Austral Inn

Price

Free (sponsor)

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

While there are a few tricky creek beds to navigate inside the northeastern boundary of the park (especially in the rain), much of the hilly terrain is straightforward.