A lesson in checking, double-checking and then triple-checking your bearings.
While I’d briefly misplaced the trail several times by the end of Week 1, the overgrown Yourambulla Range left me completely befuddled. The view from on top of Jervis Hill was bewildering, but so, as it turned out, was locating the markers hidden amongst the sierra’s dense undergrowth. Day 7 served as a harsh reminder to always pay attention.
Heysen Trail Diary – Day 7
My time in Hawker was almost entirely spent refuelling my stomach. I stuffed my face with cake, chocolate, an egg and bacon roll, a kumquat pie (a local delicacy) and a heavenly chicken schnitzel from the Hawker Hotel Motel. My belly had never been so full of guilt-free calories. After six days of arduous hiking, my physique had begun to wither, and, honestly, I didn’t have that much excess weight to lose. I needed to eat as much as possible so I didn’t completely disappear.
Much to my delight and eternal gratitude, my mates Jodie and Lewis delivered a newer, much sturdier 3L water bladder at the end of Day 6. My previous container, which had caused headaches (and severe thirst) since Day 1, was ceremoniously dumped in the bin. I could now carry enough water to keep me hydrated throughout each day; one less thing to worry about.
I began Day 7 backtracking along The Outback Highway to where the trail split from the wilderness, and continued my journey toward the billowing Yourambulla Range.
The labour-intensive climb to Jervis Hill included some of the most difficult terrain I’d encountered so far on the Heysen Trail. This time-consuming stretch, coupled with an extended breakfast break in Hawker, meant my schedule was pushed to its limits. But, nothing in the world would make me rush these phenomenal panoramic views.
The Jervis Hill lookout was the perfect place to stop and reflect on how far I’d come over the past week, both physically and mentally. From the top, I could identify the ranges I’d transversed some days earlier; a truly contemplative sight.
The Yourambulla Range was populated in ancient times by the Adnyamantha people. They are responsible for a series of well-preserved cave paintings at the southern end of the range, about 6 kilometres south of the Heysen Trail.
Heysen Trail Map Sheet 7
I could have ogled that sweeping view for hours, but the sun had already begun to dip and I still had several kilometres of dense bushland to navigate. I packed up my camera equipment, threw my bulky bag over my shoulders and renewed my assault on the scrub-filled range.
The trail markers had become increasingly difficult to spot as they scattered themselves amongst the unruly terrain. I was so focused on chewing through quick kilometres that I’d forgotten to scan for the correct direction. I mean, how can you get lost on a straight range, right?
After an hour of vigorous bush bashing, I arrived at a clearing and immediately realised my boots had strayed from the track. I knew the trail continued down the east side of the range and down onto a dirt road; I, however, had unwittingly wandered into a dead-end on a separate westerly ridge.
By the time I found my way back to the trail, the sun had already nestled on the horizon and I still had half a day’s walk from my intended campsite. Due to the weight of my replenished rucksack and my energy stores being absorbed by condensed scrub, I could barely go on. Fortunately, another clearing at Mt Elm School Campsite was a short distance up the track. Reluctantly, I decided to shorten my adventure on Day 7 and consequently lengthen Day 8’s trek to a daunting 35 kilometres.
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 climb up and over Jervis Hill more than made up for the two flat days since leaving Wilpena Pound. While the distance may not be far, give yourself plenty of time to navigate this dense region.