Friday, June 06, 2008

We have been planning to walk a section of the Heysen Trail for months, but the weather was so hot that it wouldn't have been wise. Finally we had a spare day and decent conditions, and arranged things with nephew Matt as our guide. The beginning of the walk is at Bowman's Park, where he lives, and he has walked these hills many times.
The easy walk is along the creek bed, which is where we all started. The recent rain has helped green things up a bit, but it's nowhere near our normal winter conditions.Most of the green growth in these photos is actually a weed known as SourSobs, a form of oxalis which is horribly sour. As kids we used to pick the yellow flowers and eat the stems as a dare. Kids! (Strangely enough, when Mereth and I flew Japan Airlines one of the components of the meals tasted exactly like our soursobs.)

It's a bit worrying that the grass isn't regenerating properly. These things are another worry; they are globe thistles, and while they are strangely beautiful they are also an incredible menace. Covered in thorns, able to grow where nothing else does, every one of those strands in the flower connected to a seed; what a nightmare for farmers. They can grow 5' tall, and completely colonise a field in years. They make me think of Triffids....

Matt and I with the three dogs detoured up to the top of one ridge for a better view of the surrounding countryside. It was glorious up there, a brisk wind and a fantastic view of the valley.
The creek meanders along the junction of those folds, so it takes a while to cover any ground as the crow flies, but we weren't trying to get anywhere in particular, just out to explore a bit.

These grass trees were once called Blackboys, but now that's a bit politically incorrect, so they are Yuccas or grasstree. The tall flowering spikes set seed and dry out into woody spears. We used them as weapons when we went for picnics as kids; Mum just shook her head over us duelling with these things, and moaning about the wounds afterwards. I blame it on our brother, who always came up with the good ideas and walked away unscathed while we got into trouble.

Matt on top of the ridge, giving the dogs a drink. Mereth had followed the creekbed, not wanting to go scrambling up hills, and she took this picture of us coming down the slope at the end.We are the two dots half way down; I had no idea we were so high up until I got to the bottom and looked back. It was pretty impressive. The grass on this hill is a form of Spinifex, with every blade ending in a hard spine. It hurts to touch, so we were coming down rather carefully, except for the dogs, who leapt down the slope like circus animals. They are all energy and no sense when they get out in the country.

The sides of the valley are weathered rock, some areas with horizontal ledges. We surprised a fox who was camping on one of these ledges, and watched him run along the cliff face until he could scramble up and disappear up the hill. I can't like foxes, even though they can look beautiful; they are an introduced species here.

Even though it's winter there is no water in the creek, which should be running and bubbling along with 12" of water in it. Our weather patterns have changed so much in the 40 years since I was a child; back then we had permanent water in rivers, and every autumn we got regular rain that made all these little creeks come to life again. The big trees look shattered and battered and ill. I should stop comparing it to the country I knew back then, but I feel so sad for this area, which is really showing the stress of climate change.

But it certainly looked like rain that day. We left Mereth sketching by the creek and took off to try and reach an orchard that Matt had found on a previous trip. It's the strangest thing, 40 or so orange trees planted in rows in the middle of nowhere. Who on earth thought this was a good idea, and how have they survived? After last summer they should all be dead, but about 2/3 of them were sprouting leaves and several actually had fruit. I picked one and we ate it later, and although it was really dry it was sweet and tasted just like it should. Amazing.

On the way home the rain started, and Matt took pity on Jessie and carried her inside his coat, with just her head sticking out the top. If it hadn't been raining I would have taken a photo, Jessie looked so smug and superior as the other dogs got wetter and colder. It pays to be little and only weight 4 kilos.

We got back to Matt's and had a wonderful cup of coffee before the drive home. It took us three hours to get to the orchard and back, which is about half of that section of the trail. We will plan another days hike to get us all the way through, hopefully without getting wet this time. But who could begrudge this country some rain......


meggie 9:33 PM  

Thankyou for sharing your day out! Lovely pictures of quite different looking country to what we have up here on the Coast of NSW.

sewprimitive karen 12:20 AM  

What an intersting post. I love your blog so much. Just love seeing shots of the land there, and love your quilting activities.

sewprimitive karen 12:21 AM  

Or one might even say interesting lol.

Ann 1:28 PM  

Great pictures and descriptions of the landscape. How fun to come upon the orange grove too!

Tonya Ricucci 10:43 PM  

great photos. that thistle is fascinating to look at, but yeesh, better to not have them.

SueR 6:32 AM  

Thanks for sharing the hike with us, I just love seeing photos of the aussie countryside.

Candace 11:05 AM  

What beautiful country, thank you for sharing. I love seeing the insides and outsides of where people live, especially halfway around the world.

Henrietta 8:50 PM  

I can't express how much I look forward to your photo essays. Always learn something. Thank you.

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