It was more than just the sky-high scenery that blew me away on Day 27.
Before commencing the Heysen Trail, I made the slightly controversial decision to keep some hiking details a mystery. Other than setting out my basic itinerary, I knew little else about the trail conditions. My research was kept to a concise, albeit reliable, minimum in an effort to begin the trail with a fresh slate. Studying the masses of information available on the Friends’ of the Heysen Trail Forum could have inadvertently framed my opinion; I wanted to appreciate South Australia’s natural beauty through my own uncontaminated eyes. For most of the journey, this plan worked perfectly—inspiring surprises greeted me around every corner. However, by the end of Day 27, I wished I’d at least examined the gusty altitude at Whistling Trig Tank.
Heysen Trail Diary – Day 27
After a week of walking through primarily flat green landscapes, everything, more or less, looked the same; another field, another sheep, another fence, another sheep in a field stuck in a fence. The all-too-familiar path leading out of Spalding remained unchanged as I rejoined the paddock-lined channel I had followed for much of Day 26.
The Spalding region consists of cropping and grazing land in fertile valleys, interspersed by a number of permanent rivers and creeks.
I stopped for lunch in a slither of shade, supplied a roadside gum, and realised my mind had switched off. On Day 23, Briony had hinted that large stretches of grazing countryside awaited me over the next three weeks. At the time I looked forward to a refreshing green change, however, after a handful of farm-filled days, the scenery appeared static. I hoped the pastured landscapes wouldn’t become monotonous.
I scooped up my bag and continued the journey along the trail’s uninspiring dusty road. After a few kilometres of inattentive walking, the grade unexpectedly steepened. The flat fields I had lumbered through over the previous four hours were now elevated climbs. Before I knew it, I had clambered up a mountainous ascent and was transversing a windswept range—this was more like it.
Out of nowhere, a patrol of wind turbines popped up on the horizon. These energy-converting colossi get a bad wrap from the public—who can see them as a blight on the scenery. I embrace them. It’s easy to lose your perspective when you’re walking through nature all day; windmills provide a context to the enormity of your environment. Those hills are THAT big? Plus, quite obviously, they help save the planet by lowering greenhouse gas emissions—so, you know, there’s always that.
I soon stumbled upon a flock of befuddled sheep at the very top of the blustery range. They didn’t expect to see a wandering backpacker stumbling along the fenceline at this odd hour. I didn’t blame them, I didn’t expect to be there either. My lunchtime prediction of a dull afternoon stroll had vanished.
By the time I reached Whistling Trig Tank, I had walked by the glow of my flickering headlamp for an hour. After being battered by a gale for the previous 10 kilometres, I just wanted to sleep; however, it wouldn’t be easy. Due to the fierce winds and limited vision, plus a surface covered with thorny weeds and brittle cow pats, my tent took several attempts to erect. Once inside, the canvas bent and billowed above my weary head. With any luck, I’d get blown to Hallett Railway Station overnight and save me walking there on Day 28. I momentarily regretted limiting my Heysen Trail research, but, before I could truly rue my decision, I fell asleep.
All the details.
Trail distance covered
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 path leading out of Spalding is straightforward, however, the ascent up and along the range to Whistling Trig Tank is a doozy. I recommend staying somewhere else, if possible.