To understand what had happened and why, let me start with the circumstances. And unfortunately, all goes back to the rain. It had been raining almost every day on the Heysen Trail. This has been a record rain September for Southern Australia. So the ground was totally saturated leading to erosion.
|Still happy before the fall|
The canals used to take water out of natural creeks and at that specific place I was approaching the concrete canal connects with a creek. In order to cross the creek you leave the one meter wide walkway paralleling the canal and step onto a wooden bridge.
Everthing looked perfectly normal. There was no way to foresee what would happen now. Because I did not know that the canal was leaking and the water streaming out of the canal had been eroding the wall next to it underground. I could just see a nice walking trail with undisturbed surface leading up to bridge.
What happened next is something you would only expect in a horror movie. Only that it happened to me - in real life: I took just another step on the walkway and was just about to enter the bridge when the ground underneath my feet crumbled and gave way. The best way to describe it is to say: The earth just swallowed me. The ground collapsed and I fell through a hole in the ground into the eroded cave underneath that collapsed as well. I fell all the way to the bottom of the creek with the soil and rocks following me and burying me. I fell 5 meters straight down.
|The hole I fell through|
|The gully I ended up in|
After what seemed like an eternity the whole commotion stopped. My head was not buried. I could still breathe. I could still see. My glasses were on. I tried to move. I could still move every limb. I successfully buried myself out of the soil and rocks and assessed the damage. My clothes were more or less completely torn. I had lost one trekking pole, a water bottle and my cap. I was hurting all over and worst of all I had a very deep cut on my wrist that was bleeding profusely. I could recover the trekking pole and the water bottle, but the cap was lost under the rock slide.
|The hole again|
|The muddy creek|
Down in the back of my mind two things dawned on me now. This is a situation were I cannot cope alone any more. I needed help. And second I realised that I was probably in shock. Not in the colloquial sense, but that I really was in the state of a medical shock. I remembered seeing a farm close by on the map. I staggered out of the creek bed with a lot of pain and problems and saw farm sheds and a gate. I opened the gate and found a farm house. I could not see a car, but the place looked inhabited. I was praying for someone to be at home, but I could only see dogs. Oh god, please don't let this be horror movie part three - being bitten by a dog. But the dogs were friendly and I just stood there in front of the house shouting "Hello!" and praying for someone to be at home. After a couple of minutes I heard steps and Heather came out of the house.
|Me still in shock and mud|
|My pack used to be black|
Next morning we all inspected the scene. It looked even worse than I remembered. There was a nice little hole in the walkway - just big enough for me with a backpack. And down the hole we could see the cave and the gully I had slid now. John informed the Heysen Trail people and WaterSA who are responsible for the maintenance of the canals. They came in the afternoon and sealed off the area. Nobody could believe that I had survived that fall with only a minor wound.
|The scene fenced off|
At the medical centre I felt like a wuss. Because this is a rural area the doctors and nurses there are used to all sorts of gruesome farm accidents. Cut off fingers, chainsaw wound and broken limbs. My little cut was nothing compared to that.... Still, they took an X-ray to make sure nothing was broken in my hand. Then the wound was thoroughly cleaned and nicely dressed. No stitches necessary.
Heather and John invited me to stay another day and therefore I am now having a rest day at their farm. This is day two after the accident and I already feel like back to normal again. My bruises are already turning into purple, I can turn my head again and the wound only hurts occasionally. Tomorrow I will start hiking again. And no matter what - I will finish the bloody Heysen Trail.