Jeff's Walk




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Day 3

   Saturday 7th April, 2007

   It was not a case of  "up at the crack of dawn" but more like "is it light enough to start packing up yet". Having turned in relatively early, as there is virtually no night life when camping alone, I had had more than enough sleep long before the first light of dawn. I packed up as soon as soon as I could see enough not to leave anything behind. We had no radio sched as agreed by mobile phone last night, so I was away at 7:30. Breakfast this morning was a glass of powered milk flavoured with banana Kwik.

   I headed north for 1km to the turnoff on the right that went 6km right up to the base of the Flinders Ranges. I was just a 100mtrs or so along here and came across a family of happy campers. They were enjoying the outback in relative style with a 4WD and a family sedan and a couple of trail bikes for the kids. The fire was up with breakfast just over. "Cuppa, mate?" says the bloke in stubby shorts and thongs. "Yeah. Ta." I answered and dropped my pack. After introductions all round the talk quickly got to "What are you doing out here on foot? Aint nothing 'ere, mate." I explained that I initially was heading up the road alongside the railway line when I decided to cut through the Ranges. "There's no road through there mate. We live in Quorn" (just 15kms away on the other side of the Ranges) "and come out here campin' and 4 wheel drivin' and there's no road through them hills." I dug out my map and showed him and the kids, whose ears pricked up at the thought of an unknown dirt road to explore. "Well, I'll be damned. That'll sure save us a long drive around if we could find that road." The boys headed for the bikes but dad called out "Finish your breakfast first."

   I finished my cuppa and thanked them and was on my way. When I got to the hills, I turned south to follow the road along the foothills for about 4kms and came to a recently abandoned shack where the road through Thompson gap wound its way up into the hills. The "tin" walls and roof were in pretty good condition and there were locks and signs to keep out the honest ones. An adjacent bore, tank and trough were looking very second hand. It was about 11o'clock, so I decided to take advantage of the shade and wait for the boys on their trail bikes. I reckon I had about a 45 minute break and was about to start off again when they arrived. They took a fair while because they had tried by car first but couldn't find a way across one of the dried creeks so went back for the bikes.

    We talked a bit then they headed off over the obvious road that was there alright. I followed a few minutes later noticing as I went through the fence that there was a "tourist" sign advising those walking the Heysen Trail to "follow the fence". Boy, the part I could see was like a well worn goat track following the fence. I was glad that I was following a road that went through the fence and at right angles to this walking trail and not "roughing it".

   I had gone about 2km up and down serious hills on a very rough road when the boys on their bikes came back. They told me that they had been stopped by a locked gate but had "lifted it off its hinges" and got the bikes through. They followed it to the "main road" which headed down into Quorn. They were familiar with this road into Quorn but would be reporting that this road that cut through the Ranges was not only locked but "not recommended" even for the "wildest 4 wheel drive fanatic". From what I had seen of the road I had already travelled over, I agreed wholeheartedly. Maybe I would have been better off following a maintained walking trail.

   I pushed on but it got worse. I saw a few kangaroos and started to see sheep here and there but the road condition was wearing me down. I was reduced to walking (trudging) up a steep, loose underfoot, slope for 2 minutes, then sitting (usually no shade) for 5 minutes, then having another go. I could see that even a 4WD would have a problem getting a grip on the steep sections with the loose stones under the wheels. When I got to the locked gate, I took my pack off and placed it over the fence then climbed through myself.

   After 5km (it seemed like 25) the terrain started to ease and eventually I walked out of the "gap" into the rear end of a sheep station homestead nestled right up into the eastern foothills. Green lawns, electricity, satellite TV antenna. Civilisation. It was a big surprise. I walked up to what looked like the front gate and called out "Anyone home?" I repeated this several times, a bit louder each time and finally decided that there was no-one there. I didn't realise for several days that it was Easter weekend!

   It was 3 o'clock by this time and I was ready to chuck it in for the day, so I walked on till I was well clear of the "home paddock", passed through a gate and dropped the pack. I had a sip of water and pulled out the map. I saw that I  was only 5km from the "main" road (dirt) that led down into Quorn, so I decided to up camp again and push on.

   I reached the Arden Vale Road (it had a name even) and went only 500 meters towards Quorn and found a reasonable campsite alongside Ingaree Creek. I did not expect anything good from the radio and poor batteries so I called Bill on the cell phone and gave my location and that I would be in Quorn in the morning. I was dog tired from the mountain climbing expidition, but high on the exercise and achievement, and happy to hit the sack as the sun went down. The temperature got up to 27deg today with clear skies and this added to the strain, but I reckon I did pretty good for an old bloke. I'd covered about18kms over the road from hell and lived to tell the tale. My camp was at Lat 32:15.898  and Lon 138:00.970.

   I was sleeping soundly untill around 11pm when I was rudely awakened by the sound of an empty bottle exploding on the ground right outside my tent!