The day the rain well and truly arrived in the region. Awesome for ducks, not so great for walkers.

The first 17 days on the trail was near idyllic; warm days, clear blue skies and very little wind. Other than a few exceptions, including suffering dehydration in Wilpena Pound, a gloomy walk through The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park and almost getting blown off the top of Mt Arden, the conditions were more than I could have expected. However, unlike the weather, my luck was about to dry up.

Daily Diary – Day 18

In the wee hours of Day 18, I discovered why hiking on ‘rest days’ is recommended. Despite tired eyes and a sleepier mind, my body was remarkably restless. Because my legs were accustomed to walking significant distances each day, the energy that wasn’t burnt over the past 24 hours was instead used to kick Mount Remarkable Hotel Motel’s bed sheets. An extremely odd sensation for a weary body.

Notwithstanding my agitated sleep, I felt fresh. A day spent fattening my belly and catching up with old mates in Melrose had recharged my batteries for the long, isolated haul to Crystal Brook on Day 22. I shovelled down one last cooked breakfast, threw my restocked rucksack over my shoulders and trudged to the outskirts of the town where the trail continued through a collection of soggy paddocks.

Field south of Melrose on the Heysen Trail

Fields, fences and a godforsaken forecast filled Day 18.

After a day and a half of eating everything in sight, I’d hoped my lean frame would cast more of a shadow. It did not. My new rain jacket, kindly provided by my new besties Alex and Celia, draped clumsily around my withered waist. It may not have been a perfect fit, but I was extraordinarily grateful as the sky had already turned sour. The jacket, at least, matched my clownishly bulky wet weather pants. I can only imagine what the farmer thought, looking on from his ute, as a blob of flapping black fabric wafted through his crop in the wet, blustery conditions. Nevertheless, he checked if I was ‘ok’ (probably in the head, more than anything).

Fortunately, most of the terrain was as instantly forgettable as the weather. Other than the occasional pleasant provincial landscape, the trail followed muddy roads and swampy tracks. I wasn’t missing any mindblowing scenery.

Canola field south of Melrose on the Heysen Trail

My first of a gazillion canola fields along the Heysen Trail.

By the time I arrived in Murray Town, my body was tired from battling the stormy conditions. I was thankful to find a warm shower and a functioning kitchen attached to the community campsite. I slipped my $7 inside the provided yellow envelope, dropped it in the honesty box and unpacked my belongings in the vacant shed.

Settlers arrived in 1883 and turned Murray Town into a bustling community of bakers, grocers, butchers, pawn brokers and general stores.
mtr.sa.gov.au

This settlement was less of a sleepy town and more of an unconscious one. I did not see one body in the township for my entire stay. I was back to living in solitude. A handful of passing cars provided the only ‘excitement’. I’d endure more than my fair share of action, however, on a punishing Day 19.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

16.53km

Accommodation
Price

From $7 via the honour system.

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

Despite the inclement weather, the flat, uncomplicated terrain remained super cruisy. The 2-kilometre ‘off-trail’ stretch to Murray Town was a necessary evil.