The Trail

A short moment, whether a lost memory or a story – unknown.

The Heysen Trail. I suppose in some ways it’s a trail of pilgrimage. Maybe similar to those other pilgrimage trails in the Northern Hemisphere. Similar, but not the same. There are no way-stations, no regularly-spaced towns, no flowing rivers or rest stops to shelter undercover at the end of each hike.

Not for the best parts.

The trail starts at Fleurieu Peninsula (if you want to start easy and green) and ends at Parachilna Gorge, in the Flinders Ranges. Oh, the Flinders Ranges. To see them at sunrise and sunset, to see them when a tropical storm is rolling over those rocks. And Wilpena Pound is a marvel to behold. Breathtaking.

A moment at the lip is worth the dangers and toils to get there to feel that moment of loss of self and selfishness.

A moment to spark with the reality of life’s meaning.

These days, there are campsites, occasional signs, and even tourist guides (and buses!) to take parts of the trail despite the rating of 4-5 (that’s tough to challenging, if you don’t know the ratings). And it has a website for seekers.

A long time ago, I walked parts of the trail. Not all at once, not a single pilgrimage. I did it in bits and pieces, a different section each time I travelled through South Australia. I didn’t do the whole journey, even though I promised. Twice.

It’s this time of year that I think about it, about walking another part of it, of sitting on top of a rock and staring across the land, breathing in the sense of home, crying the tears of loss, saying another goodbye.

But it’s October when I think of it. October was the month they left to walk another path, a path only they could take.

In a few days, the track is likely to close. It’s a walk that can’t be done when it’s hot, so it’s open in the cooler weather – in this part of the world, that means April opening and November closing (depending on conditions, especially heat and fire risks. Or flooding).

Walking the trail in October is a risk. All those things are possible. Death is likely for those unprepared for the rigors, the heat, the aloneness.

I feel the need to walk the trail, or some part of it that was loved by those I loved.

The first time I walked the trail, I took the child’s photo and left it in a place with the best view, held down by a rock so it wouldn’t blow away with the wind as she had.

The second time, I took a photo of my father. He remained to watch over the sunsets that rippled like water over the haze of desert.

I need to do the walk, to finish the task, to find the space where I can breathe, where I can see the silence of a life left behind in the bustle of living, where I can free the soul of burdens.

The Heysen Trail – it will be my Camino, my pilgrimage, my spark of fire to remember those lost.

But will I provide pics?

No, you’ll have to look it up, look up all the places the trail goes. Wilpena Pound is startling. Several of the gorges are inspiring. Some of the open spaces covered in red stones with glints of quartz are mesmerising.

But it all depends on how you want to look at it. Open spaces can be overwhelming, crushing weakness until it becomes dust, until nothing remains of expectations or masks. A person must be prepared to become bared to the weight-bearing bone.

That was the trail then. What is it now?

I see there are glamping options for some of these places. Painted signs so people don’t have to stop and wait for the insects and birds to come into the gnamma holes at dusk.

Painted signs, because we’ve forgotten how to see what lies before us, to feel what we are part of.

Maybe I’ll do the old trail, the one that exists only in memories. Until it becomes covered with red rocks and history.

image by Jacqui Barker 2012.

19 thoughts on “The Trail

  1. Thank you very much for posting this. I’ve wanted to go to the Flinders Ranges all of my adult life but never made it. I didn’t know about the Heysen Trail. All the more reason for getting there – maybe next autumn. Coincidentally this is the second time this week I’ve come across information that inspires me to finally make the trip. I love the way you describe the trail as a personal Camino. I’ve been feeling the need for a pilgrimage for a couple of years now but don’t want to go overseas. I’ve been tossing up driving to Uluru but you’ve convinced me doing part of Heysen Trail would be better for me – it’s closer to my home in Victoria for a start. Thank you again for the inspiration.

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