They make sunsets differently out here.

It doesn’t matter how far you trek, how many hills you climb or how many rocks you roll your ankle on, the sunsets in South Australia’s Flinder’s Ranges make all the aches hurt 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 all of the motivation I could muster on this exhausting 35-kilometre day.

Daily Diary – Day 8

Due to a calamitously short Day 7, I had to endure an industriously long Day 8. Fair to say, waking up in a tent covered in ice wasn’t the best way to begin a stretch that would take 12 hours to complete. I had almost certainly never walked 35 kilometres in 1 day; especially not with 23 kilograms strapped to my back. Yep, it was going to be a doozy. I eventually stuffed my belongings (albeit still dewy) into my rucksack and set off through the infertile Wilson Valley in the shadows of the Yappala Range.

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 the South Australian wilderness, the route between Mt Elm School Shelter and Buckaringa North Campsite was near-ideal. For a majority of the day, I followed straight fences and drifted down dirt roads that allowed my fatigued brain to rest, while my legs worked overtime. The terrain was not only flat, but it descended gently down to my campsite for the night.

Day 8 - Hills Walk

It turns out the rain in this terrain doesn’t fall mainly on the plain

Day 8 - Lunch Tree

Rule 1: If you can find shade, use it.

Day 8 was another lesson of ‘expecting the unexpected’ on the Heysen Trail. Just when you thought it was safe to quickly chew through some extra kilometres, along comes the brilliantly barren white-walled Willochra Creek. As much as I wanted to reach camp before sunset, I, of course, unpacked all my camera gear and snapped every angle of this stunning landscape. I didn’t have a choice, did I?

Day 8 - Willochra Creek Landscape

Other than the dramatic creek cliff faces, the surrounding arid features were similar to the rest of the scenery I had trekked through all day. But there’s something special about this landscape at dusk. The abundant saltbushes shimmer gold, the red dirt illuminates under your feet, even the rusty red fences create a distinctive ambience. Throw in a smattering of Kangaroos nibbling on their dinner in the fading light and you find yourself in a truly authentic Australian landscape.

Day 8 - Walking White Cliffs

The white walls of Willochra Creek glowing in the setting sun.

And yep, you guessed it, the final hours of the longest day on the trail were spent hiking in the dark. But the stars were out, the moon was glowing and, despite the draining 35-kilometre journey, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. What an incredible way to finish a day I was not at all looking forward to tackling. Day 9 would have to be very special to surpass this feeling. It was.

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 35km 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.