It doesn't matter how slowly you move, just keep moving.

Over the past week, the Heysen Trail had presented a variety of energy-sapping hurdles. From leaving my homely comfort zone on Day 44, to battling Adelaide Hills’ endless range of steepling slopes, to having my hiking gear stolen on Day 49, every fibre of my being was stretched to its limits. After an undeniable rollercoaster of emotions, a demotivating lull was inevitable. Day 51 saw my typically steadfast momentum finally pack it in.

Daily Diary – Day 51

I spent a chunk of time over breakfast playing rucksack Tetris with the replacement sleeping gear I had loaned on Day 50. The dimensions of the new bedding didn’t quite fit the previous bag blueprint, but, with a little persuasion, I managed to fit all of my belongings together.

Like every other morning on the trail, I studied my official Heysen Trail map before hitting the track. Except, this time it was different. I had arrived at ‘Sheet Map Number 1: Cape Jervis to Kuitpo Forest’ – the final slither of paper to guide me to the finish line. I felt strangely sentimental plotting my route. After 952 kilometres over 7 well-used maps, this was it, the end of my adventure was nigh. I gave myself a moment, heaved a bottomless breath and marched out through the surrounding tree plantations.

Heysen Trail Kuitpo Forest path

Pine and eucalypt plantations featured heavily on Day 51.

The day’s trek seemed simple enough; 15 level kilometres through uncomplicated forest and farmland terrain along well-marked paths. It should have been a doddle. However, my momentum abruptly flatlined when I arrived at the middle segment of Kuitpo Forest. I detached the sweaty bag from my shoulders and slumped down on a freshly felled tree. It felt strange. I wasn’t any more exhausted than normal and my daily energy reserves were far deeper than what I’d expended so far. What was going on?

Established in 1898, the Kuitpo Forest Reserve was the first of several forest plantations in the Mount Lofty Ranges, created to ensure a sustainable timber resource for all South Australians.
forestrysa.com.au

I realised the issue was in my head, not my feet. The trail’s typical wear and tear had been superseded by the mental exhaustion from a demanding few days. The highs and lows of nomadic life had sucked the enthusiasm from my core. I needed a break. After an hour or more of listlessly picking at my tuna, I peeled myself off the lunchtime log and continued my walk.

Heysen Trail Trekking West Fence

Every fence felt that little bit higher on Day 51.

The set of murky overcast clouds matched my grey mood as I journeyed along country lanes and through plantation fields before I reached the busy highway intersection leading to Chookarloo Campground. I just wanted to put a line through Day 51, go to bed and start afresh tomorrow. Then, as if the heavens sensed my need for an unalloyed antidepressant, the sky behind me lit up like a Christmas Tree, or better yet, a field of Christmas Trees.

Heysen Trail Kuitpo Forest Sunset

I realised this was the first sunset I’d enjoyed since leaving Tanunda on Day 44. It had been far too long between drinks, and I was all too happy to ingest this one for as long as possible. This fleeting pick-me-up spiked my evening energy levels and sent me to bed smiling before Day 52’s walk to Nangkita.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

15.07km

Accommodation

Chookarloo Campground

Price

Available here.

Climate

Cool damp winters with light to heavy showers and some days of rain. The ranges are wet and cool during winter but are warmer during autumn and spring. Summers are warm to hot and relatively dry.

Terrain

Straightforward path with a few slight bumps.