Sophie Giles, WA
The prevalence of rock was the single constant in our recent five-day walk from the northern trail-head of the Heysen Trail in South Australia. At the end of the trek we learned about the beliefs of the local Adnyamathanha (the rock people) from Ringo Coultard at Wilpena Pound. Beliefs relating to the rocks and the sky continue to prevail deeply in this land.
Having walked the Larapinta Trail in its infancy, the Overland Track and the Bibbulmun Track we were well prepared, but unsure of how rapidly the terrain might change from spinifex and shale to woodland, interspersed with twisting fertile gullies of river red gums.
After a ten hour bus trip courtesy of Genesis Transport, punctuated by tiny Australian towns, listening to a sound track of Slim Dusty and enjoying the lifelong collegiality that a ten hour bus trip engenders we joined Dave at the Parachilna Siding for the short drive through the gorgeous Parachilna Gorge to the trail-head. In fading light we were grateful that the first camp with a full water tank was only 400m away along a rock tumbled creek bed.
Surprised by a head torch a few hours later, we were fortunate enough to share the camp with Jeff Ellis, who was on the last night of his 1200km end-to-end, as we were just beginning. Conversations concerning goats and weather, water-tanks and food transpired.
The walk has some highly visible settler history and an invisible, immense indigenous history, now believed to be at least 50,000 years old. Goats are the mobile and destructive remnants of the settlers, leaving their multitudes of goat paths through this ancient land.
We were able to enjoy a diverse environment over the five days and stayed in remarkably different huts—the Merino stamped corrugated iron of the Yanyanna Hut, with the luxury of an outside timber platform donated by the Friends of the Heysen Trail. The Aroona Hut, which was a pug and pine settlers hut, now really just the pine, a remarkably sturdy but relatively open structure. Some of the largest wind gusts we’d ever heard blasted our tent, suggestive of those on Everest, but thankfully not as cold!
The landscape is constantly amazing. The trail follows the Brachina and Enorama Creeks, both abundant in fascinating rock types, evidence of glaciation, with a Golden Spike marking the Ediacarian period. (Ed: Golden Spike is a very specific geological term, Google it!). This appeared close to a wild dog lair, empty but for a kangaroo carcass.
Of geological significance are the 600 million year old marine cyanobacteria evident in forming the Precambrian stromatolites of the Trezona Range. These rocks are just adjacent to the trail, stripped of all colour and life, a reminder that the land is so, so old, that wind, rain, life and sore legs are just mere moments in geological time.
The large landforms in this northern section are the ABC Range, so named for the innumerable hills named alphabetically, through to the Heysen Range. The rim of Wilpena Pound and the Heysen Range were apparent in the far distance and the vestiges of the ABC were visible through the bluish haze.
We met a large number of drive-in campers at Trezona campsite, where there was a water tank dribbling out its last few millilitres, but another tank closer to the trail and away from the campground was thankfully full. Besides the car campers, we met just one cyclist who was on the Mawson Trail (both Trails occasionally align), one end-to-ender, one pair of sectional end-to-enders and one trail runner. Conversely our sightings of emus and wallabies, including the rarer yellow footed rock wallaby, were beyond counting. Other wild life included eagles, goats, sheep and a dead feral cat.
Walking toward a resort is a well-honed wisdom, as thoughts of a full buffet breakfast can sustain anyone for days through jagged hills and rocky descents. Thus we made our arrival at Wilpena Pound Resort, within the Ikara-Flinders National Park and delighted in the extravagances of showers, food, Adnyamathanha guided walking tours, and three days of huge hilly day walks without a pack!
This is a remarkable ancient land in which we were so lucky to have the opportunity to set foot.
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