Jeff's Walk

Gulf
2
Gulf

 

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Day 1

                             First Step
                     The Adventure Begins

          
   Day 1 Thur April 5th

   By 7:30am and with a mild 16deg C I had had a morning shower and was fully packed up and loaded and ready to go.

   In hindsight, although I had mentioned to other travellers what I was about to do, more or less in conversation, I could most probably have generated some media coverage of my “first step”.  As it was at the time, I was walking out the gate of the caravan park and realised that I should at least have a photo of “the moment”. But, how to do it? I hovered, feeling a little ridiculous with the big backpack, solar panel hanging off the back of the pack and floppy hat on wondering what kind of photo it should be and how to go about it.

   There was absolutely no activity from the caravaners who have a tendency to chat into the night and sleep late but after 5 or 10 minutes, I have no idea how long I was there but I could not consider not recording this moment somehow. Eventually, a lone walker, a 30 something guy who had been on a morning walk, came back into the park. I waddled up to him and “excuse me, I wonder if you would do me a favour? I am heading off on a walk up through the centre of Australia and I would like a photo of the occasion.” He readily agreed and I whipped out the camera and handed it to him. I then recalled thinking about the walk being from coast to coast, Gulf to Gulf. I asked if he would walk with me the 250 meters to the shore of Spencer Gulf and take a couple of shots there as I took my “first step”. Again he readily agreed and took 3 photos, one of which became the photo on the home page of the web site. I am sure I asked him his name but I do not have a record of it. I owe him one because if he did not turn up just at that time, I probably would have started the walk with no photographic record of that important, symbolic beginning. These photos are numbers 96, 97 and 99 in the photo collection.

   Photo numbers refered to are the numbers of the photos in my full DVD photo collection. 240 of these are displayed in these web pages and there are 2500 altogether. The full DVD collection is available by emailing to 

                 Email address for photo collection DVD

   I walked (strode purposefully, stepped out) for about 1 kilometer and was passing a Mobil service station where I had had a hot breakfast the previous morning and thought “What the hell. Why not.” So I went in, dispensed with the 26kg backpack and sat down for my last hearty meal for a week. During my 2 cups of coffee I sent off a group SMS to 21 family and friends to say that I was officially on the road. I was inundated with return SMSs with “Good luck”s and many a phone call as well.

   In spite of all this photo taking, walking all of 1 kilometer fully kitted out and the electronic send off I still felt that I was just “going for a walk”.

   After consulting my map, which did not have a lot of detail of local streets, I headed off “in the general direction” of ENE to pick up the road that goes north from Port Augusta and follows the railway line running along the Western side of the Flinders Ranges. My intention at this stage was to stop at a corner store and pick up several pieces of fruit. I find this a good supplement to my meagre fare but can only carry enough for one day because of the weight. Also, fruit does not travel well cramped up in the backpack. So I get half a dozen pieces as I leave civilisation and generally eat it along the way during the first day. But,,, I found myself on the light industrial outskirts and no shop. Oh well, I sure wasn’t going back. There are a maze of small roads going in all directions but I found one marked “Racecourse Rd” and the racecourse was on my map so I was going in the right direction. It would not be a good thing if I got lost trying to get out of town on my first day.

   I called into a nursery/landscape supplies and got instructions or at least confirmation that the dirt road that I was about to turn onto (this was the very end of town) was the right one. It was difficult to ask for instructions as this road did not go anywhere. Well, it went somewhere, but not to a town. But it was feeding pastoral stations and eventually I would cross to the eastern side of the Flinders and down into Hawker. I knew from the map (see map ‘Day 1-3’) that I needed to eventually get to the one that followed the railway line north. The “target” for today on the map was “The Ten Mile”, about 15km away, and I don’t know what was there (nothing as it turned out) but it was prominent on the map. I chose to take this dirt road to Hawker as I wanted to avoid the bitumen main road to test out my equipment (and me). Photo number 100 gives a general idea of the road surface, the countryside and the ranges in the background. It was for a distance of about 120km and I figured I could do this in 6 days max and probably 5 based on past experience from walking 600km from Coolangatta to Gladstone over a 1 month period.

            I carried maps of this resolution to get me all the way to Birdsville

   The picture above is a map for days 1, 2 and 3 into Quorn, approximately the same size as the “day” maps that I carried. The latitude and longitude lines are on the map with divisions every ‘minute’ which is approximately 2 km. I could find my position by reading the lat and lon from my GPS and finding this position on the map.

   I had purchased a CD based set of maps from the Gold Coast Map & Charts shop at the Harbourtown shopping complex at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast. The proprietor, Phil, and I had developed a friendship over several years as I hounded him for information regarding this walk and previous outings. I had also purchased one of my GPSs from him. At first I was looking at “paper” maps but realised fairly quickly that if I got maps with sufficient detail, they would represent about 50km from the bottom to the top and I would “walk off the map” in a couple of days. Besides the cost, I would not have been able to justify the weight. When Phil showed me the “Australian Government, Geoscience Natmap Raster” 4 CD set (and offered me a very generous discount) I was hooked. I spent hours printing (double sided) and cutting map sections about 20cm X 10cm with the plan being to use them to light the evening fire when I had “walked off” both the front and back of the page. Great solution, minimum cost, minimum weight and dual use.

   The road surface was stony but ok underfoot. The rail line was alongside the road at this time and photo number 101 shows a crossing from this road to Emeroo homestead several kilometers to the east in the immediate foothills of the ranges. The photo also shows one of my many constant companions (Louie) in close-up where I captured him in flight.

   And not much further on I came to the sign showing where the City of Port Augusta ended and what the next district was called. Uh oh! Only half a day on the road and already I have crossed the line into “Out of Districts”. See photo 102.

   Around 1pm it was time for a break, as I had been walking for 4 hours or so, not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was now around 30 degrees. I searched the horizon for shade but the prospects did not look too good till I found a culvert under an old railway line so I took a 15 minute break to rest the legs but mainly the shoulders. Although I abandoned the idea of a trolley or something similar fairly early in the planning stages because of the hills and sandy country expected, it sure sounded like a good idea now. Photo 106 shows the much appreciated shade with the magnificent view of the Flinders out the “back door”. Note the solar panel placed to collect as much sun as possible. Also there are several fairy martin nests up in the corner of the culvert and photo 105 shows a good close-up of these.

      Out of districts already     Nice shade     Close up of fairy martin colony

                   Photo 102                              Photo 106                                Photo 105

   I stopped when I got to “The Ten Mile” as shown on my map. There was nothing there of civilisation but it was the first creek I had come to for a while and looked like a good spot to set up the antenna and the tent for the night and there was a good supply of firewood. However, I had only covered 15.5 km from Port Headland (as the crow flies) a reading taken from the GPS (lat 32:22.914 lon 137:51.327). This was a total of 20 "road" kilometers so I was not particularly happy with this although it was a late(ish) start and also I had done no physical preparation for the walk as I was sure I would get fitter as I went. I had a long way to go on my rations and I was looking like I would take longer than planned to get to Hawker, the next town on my route, so I just had a glass (plastic) of milk, about 600ml. This was made up of 3 tablespoons of powered milk and a tablespoon of Nestle Banana Kwik for flavouring (and it has a bit of extra sugar for energy). This was all I had since breakfast but I am blessed with a body that does not get hungry. I love my food and have as much trouble as the next person keeping my weight under control, but I eat when it is convenient or when food is in plain view. I consider it a personal victory every time I pass a Kentucky Fried Chicken joint without going in (and Subway, Red Rooster, etc, etc)

   The only traffic on this road so far today was a motor bike that I saw going north and returning half an hour later. I was a bit surprised at the small amount of traffic as part of the safety planning for the walk was to only go where there was reasonable traffic.

   I made camp and then set up the antenna and connected the radio. I got good reception and heard several hams talking but heard nothing from Roger or Bill. And, even though the solar panel had been connected to the battery pack all day, it only lasted 10 minutes or so. I was flabbergasted. Had I calculated wrong?


     Read on. Tomorrow I continue up the Western side of the Flinders