Heavenly help from a true blue Trail Angel.

After almost two weeks of riding adrenaline-packed highs transversing majestic, yet exhausting, terrain, my enthusiasm had finally slumped. It was the inevitable lull that had to come. Fortunately, following a rejuvenating night’s sleep at Quorn’s iconic Austral Inn, my head had cleared and my hiking legs were eager to kick on with the trail on Day 12. But, not before revisiting the scene of yesterday’s deflating journey. The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park is far too picturesque an experience to leave it as I did.

Heysen Trail Diary – Day 12

Through the deepest darkest hours, positive lights tend to shine in the most unexpected places. While I walked along the final stretch of uninspiring bitumenised road into Quorn on Day 11, pondering the misery that had befallen me, a waving hand appeared from a parked 4WD in the distance—this warm greeting came from a man named Norm, owner of Pindan Tours and 4WD Training.

Two months earlier, via an email stream seeking assistance along the trail, Norm had kindly offered his logistical expertise when I arrived in the Quorn region. The last thing I expected to see was his smiling face popping out of a car window as I trudged toward civilisation (and my first shower) for the first time in five days. He had just arrived home after he, too, had spent several days in the wilderness, although he appeared infinitely fresher compared to my dishevelled state.

After describing my miserable mornings’ events, he suggested driving me back to The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park to enjoy the experience that had otherwise eluded me—what a man! This generous offer would save me several hours of gruelling backtracking. A true Trail Angel!

Day 12 - Dutchmans Stern Range

I spent the morning seeing conservation park through fresh eyes. The region’s endemic Quorn Wattles twinkled, foraging kangaroo nibbled on their breakfast and the bright sky, which eluded me for much of Day 11, mirrored my modified mood—this was more like it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sit and enjoy the scenery all day; I still had 20 kilometres, including a stretch following South Australia’s famous Pichi Richi Railway, to complete before dusk.

The railway from Port Augusta through the Pichi Richi Pass to Quorn opened in 1879. As a part of the Great Northern Railway, the connection intended to link Port Augusta with Darwin.
pichirichirailway.org.au

Other than the customary hiking-induced aches, plus my feet taking off before my brain realised I’d left my hiking poles a kilometre back up the track, the day’s walk was straightforward. However, I became a little nervy when the path jumped a fence stating that there were arousable bull camels on the premises. But, in my bedraggled nomadic state, I don’t even think even they’d be interested.

Day 12 - Pichi Richi Railway

Following the famous tracks of the Pichi Richi Railway.

I arrived at the picture-perfect Pichi Richi Park just as the sun had dipped over the adjacent range. The retreat caretaker greeted me with a smile and the ingredients for a hearty bolognese. We then shared two bottles of chardonnay and an entertaining conversation about our travels around the world. My head hit the pillow that night swimming in positivity and the effects of South Australia’s finest alcoholic exports. I was officially back on track and ready for Day 13’s mammoth climb to Mount Brown.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

18.97km

Accommodation

Pichi Richi Park

Price

Available here.

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

The paddock-heavy terrain remained fairly flat with fence lines and railway tracks easy to navigate. You will, however, need your wits about you for the rocky ridge that bypasses Pichi Richi Park.