So: Would I recommend the Heysen Trail to a friend? The answer is unfortunately very easy and clear: NO!!!! There is only very few people I would recommend this trail to. For example you would probably like the trail, if
- you want to study the design and construction of cattle fences and gates.
- you are an outdoor shoe designer and want to find out how much abuse your newest shoe creation can take.
- you think that hiking is only good when it is painful.
|Me at the end of my hike|
So what makes the trail so bad?
My biggest complaint is the lack of trail. I have written a whole entry about that so I don't want to repeat myself here. The Heysen is bloody hard because there is no trail and you are following barbed wire fence lines on insanely steep up and downhills. This is just no fun at all if you are doing this day after day after day. In the end I got so frustrated that I was bashing Heysen Trail signposts with my trekking poles swearing at them in German. (Don't worry, I did not damage them...). I never got that mentally deranged on any other trail. The absurdity is that the trail does not have to be so tough. If there was actual trail and switchbacks (that word apparently does not exist in Australian English), it could be quite pleasant to walk. But the way it is it is just tiring, exhausting and sometimes outright dangerous.
Second frustrating issue is the shelter/hut/campsite situation. Again I have written a whole blog entry about that but I still cannot understand how inconsiderately this trail has been planned. The camping situation is not a real problem: It is just frustrating to arrive at a wonderful hut at a rainy day just to find it locked - because you have not been able to hike a detour of 50 km to pay 3 AUD at the forestry headquarters and book it.....
Third problem is the unreliable data source. Although the Heysen Trail website has quite a good forum there is not much information there for thruhikers. I could not get any information about the availability of gas cannisters or what sort of supermarkets to expect. The guidebook maps are quite good, but the rest of the guidebook is a disaster. The two volumes are too heavy (printed on glossy paper!!!), the written information is useless and there are no distances given in the Northern guidebook. In the Southern guidebook the little distance information is often wrong on top of all that.
Is there something good about the trail, too?
|On the final 60 km|
|In the Flinders Range|
Final recommendation for potential hikers in Australia:
- If you want to hike a nice long-distance trail, hike the Bibbulmun Track.
- If you have less time, but want to see much and hike an easy trail, hike the Great South West Walk.
- If you want to see stunning scenery, hike the Larapinta.
- If you are a glutton for punishment, then hike the Heysen....