ART AND SOUL OF THE HEYSEN TRAIL
HONOURING the contribution to the way Hans Heysen opened our eyes and hearts to the Australian landscape is the Heysen Trail, one of the world’s great walking experiences. Not that Heysen actually walked it as the trail didn’t exist as an entity in his time. From its starting point 100km south of Adelaide at Cape Jervis, it passes through Heysen’s favourite, and most often painted, regions in the Adelaide Hills and up to his beloved Flinders Ranges.
But in 1926, when Heysen visited the Flinders Ranges for the first time, he was so overwhelmed, he didn’t lift a brush. Nevertheless, he was to return often, and went on to portray the rugged wilderness in all its drama and harsh beauty. The roads have improved since then but the solitude and grandeur, the colours and the light, are unchanged. (Except Wilpena Pound campsite on long weekends and holidays when solitude is hard to imagine.)
The northern leg of the Heysen Trail takes walkers to Brachina Gorge, which looks just like the painting, while to simply walk and be in the region is to understand and share Heysen’s passion for the land. Eighty years ago, his Flinders pictures were first exhibited to an awestruck Adelaide and so began the process of opening eyes to the country beyond the city.
For the energetic and dedicated, the Heysen Trail will take rather longer than strolling around the Art Gallery of South Australia. The coastal walk from Cape Jervis to Victor Harbor is do-able for most keen walkers, especially with the promise of a cray lunch
Nature’s palette: View from Dutchmans Stern in the Gammon Ranges along the Heysen Trail at its end, which should get you powering along the 90km of breathtaking cliffs, with sea eagles, seals, wildflowers and ocean views.
Turning north up the Fleurieu Peninsula to the well-named Mt Magnificent is a more serious hike, although not difficult. Along the way you’ll stumble over vineyards, cafes, and pretty B & Bs.
Further north again and the Mt Lofty Range is easily accessible from Adelaide for day walks or a more ambitious trek of a few days. Continue north to the Barossa and the terrain is criss-crossed with vineyards and gradually becomes more rugged.
Would-be walkers should be properly kitted out for the journey as the weather can be extremely hot and can also turn suddenly chilly; water, sunscreen and warm clothes are essential. Parts of the track are isolated and have minimal mod cons, so take what you think you’ll need. Check conditions with the experts and pay attention to advisory signs.
The trail is usually open from April to October and closed during the fire danger season; dates vary and should be checked. Diana Simmonds