They make nature differently out here.

It doesn’t matter how far you trek or how many litres of sweat you lose, the sunsets in the Flinders Ranges make every ache sting that little bit less. The vibrant glowing pastels, the lengthening soft shadows and the gradual reveal of every star in the galaxy are a constant inspiration. I needed every morsel of motivation over Day 8’s extended expedition through South Australia’s authentically untouched landscapes.

Heysen Trail Diary – Day 8

Due to a calamitously short Day 7, my legs had to endure an unprecedented 35 kilometres on Day 8. I had almost certainly never endured this distance in one day, especially with 20+ kilograms strapped to my back. This industriously long stretch would take twelve gruelling hours to complete; every little thing needed to go right. So, waking up in a bitterly cold tent coated with frigid ice wasn’t in my plans. I eventually stuffed my dewy belongings into my rucksack and set off through the barren Wilson Valley.

The Wilson Valley sits nestled between the Yappala and Yourambulla Ranges, and started out in the 1880s as a farming district. By 1929 droughts had seen most landholders leave to become pastoralists.
Heysen Trail Map Sheet 7

Of all the days to traipse 35 kilometres through South Australian wilderness, the route between Mt Elm School Shelter and Buckaringa North Campsite was nearly ideal. For a majority of the day, I followed straight fences and uncomplicated tracks that allowed my overworked brain to recuperate. The terrain was not only flat, but it gradually descended down toward through the uncultivable region.

Day 8 - Hills Walk

The rain in this terrain doesn’t fall mainly on the plain.

However, just when I thought I could grind through the day’s extra kilometres, along came the mesmerising white walls of Willochra Creek; another acute case of ‘expecting the unexpected’ on the Heysen Trail. Golden rays from the setting sun rebounded off the pearly cliffs bringing the ephemeral body to life. As much as I wanted to erect my tent before dark, I, of course, had no choice but to unpack all of my camera gear and snap every angle of this remarkable scenery. I hardly had a choice. When would I ever see this striking spectacle again?

Willochra Creek Landscape

There was something especially unique about the Willorcha Creek landscape at dusk. The abundant saltbushes shimmered gold, the crimson dirt illuminated beneath my feet, even the rusty brown fences created a distinctive ambience; throw in a smattering of feeding kangaroos and there may no more an authentic environment in the whole of Australia.

Willorcha Creek White Cliffs Heysen Trail

Willochra Creek’s white walls radiated in the setting sun.

The final hours of the longest day of the trail were once again spent hiking through the undiscovered dark. But, the stars were twinkling and the moon was glowing, and, despite the draining 35-kilometre journey, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. Day 9 would need to produce something special to beat this feeling. It did.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

35.12km

Accommodation

Buckaringa North Campsite

Price

Free

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

If you were going to smash through 35 kilometres at any point along the trail, this would be it. Creek beds, flat tracks and fence-lined paddocks were the main features through this section. Easy on the legs and the mind.