More 'Heysen' references than you can shake a gum branch at.
Everything came up ‘Heysen’ on Day 2. From the name of the vibrant range that surrounded the Aroona Campground to discovering the lookout where Sir Hans painted the ‘Three Sisters of Aroona’ way back in 1927 to a fortuitous run-in with 40+ Friends of the Heysen Trail members. This constant exposure helped me feel at home, despite my obvious distance from civilisation.
Heysen Trail Diary – Day 2
I awoke early, eager to tick off morning miles, but was confronted with a finger-chilling film, which coated the outside of my tent. Not ideal for a quick getaway, especially as I hadn’t packed gloves. However, there was one incredibly warming source of inspiration shimmering through the vestibule; the Heysen Range radiated a robust red via a lustrous 7 AM sunrise.
The Aroona Hut (now a ruin) was built in the 1920’s, and was used by Hans Heysen as a base for his many painting trips to this region.
Heysen Trail Map Sheet 8
Day 1’s steady 18.33 kilometres were a gentle easing into hiking life; flat tracks, gentle slopes and shady creek beds underlined a fairly uncomplicated route. Day 2 ramped it up a notch. And when I say up, I mean geographically. My first task (other than painstakingly scraping shards of icy dew from my rain fly) was to trek straight up and over ABC Range. From there, the path continuously climbed, then dropped until I arrived, exhausted, at Trezona Campground for a much-needed break.
Aside from the myriad of breathtaking high-altitude views, my highlight for the day involved picking the brains of several hikers who were nearing the end of their Heysen Trail journey. An ‘end-to-end’ group, run by the Friends of the Heysen Trail, had just arrived at my shady lunch spot puffing and panting, but, overwhelmingly, in a celebratory mood. They were just two days from completing the entire 1,200-kilometre trek. The relief was palpable as they marched into camp with their hiking poles held toward the sky.
I gathered as much insider information as possible, trying to figure out how I would get through the next two months. ‘Just enjoy the experience’ was the main advice, ‘you’ll probably never get a chance to walk it again’. Amen to that!
A majority of the hiking party had toiled along the trail over the past 6 years. To commit to a monthly-task over such an extended period of time shows enormous dedication. I can only imagine the tight-knit bonds this group must have created since 2012; an experience completely contrasting to the one I was about to undertake. I felt fleetingly jealous as I finished my canned tuna, hoisted my 95L Black Wolf rucksack over my shoulders and disappeared alone over the nearest hill. I had a distinctively different project ahead of me.
My mind had started to sync with the trail, however, my body required more convincing. Due to continuing issues with my water bladder from Day 1, I had to cradle the leaky mess in my arms and couldn’t utilise my hiking poles. Consequently, without the added stability, my back, legs and butt were in a world of pain when I eventually made it to Yanyanna Hut on the outskirts of the Bunyeroo Valley.
A swirling wind had begun to howl through the surrounding hills, and I was thankful to be tucked inside this small tin hut. I did not want to be outside getting buffered pillar to post in these blustery conditions. It’s incredible how quickly you appreciate every small convenience when you plonk yourself out in the elements. However, despite my acute gratitude and the fact it was only the second day, I was itching to eat anything but another dehydrated meal. Perhaps I wasn’t yet acclimatised to hiking life just yet. Thankfully, the Wilpena Pound Resort could provide something deep-fried for my belly on Day 3.
All the details.
Trail distance covered
Free + National Parks Pass.
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.
The undulating hills kicked in straight away and my legs and hips didn’t know what hit them. Thankfully, there is a ‘relatively’ flat stretch between Trezona Campground and Yanyanna Hut that softens that blow.