Monday, 11 October 2010

Heysen Trail: The people

Marschall Hut built by German settlers
I want to mention first that I hardly met any other hikers on the Heysen Trail. I did not see any other thruhikers like me, only section hiker - if at all. The Friends of the Heysen Trail organise weekend walks and these groups hike the whole - but it takes them 2 to 3 years..... Compared to all the other trails I have hiked in Australia, this is a very lonely trail....

But I still met some very interesting and lovely people. My first "homestay" was in Melrose where my Adelaide host had arranged for me stay with friends of his. Unfortunately, he did not have their exact address, but he gave me a vague description of Hugh's and his Japanese wife Kyoko's place. But when I was wondering around in Melrose (in the rain of course, what else!), I could not find their house. And of course there was no cell phone reception to call them either.... Melrose is a small place and so I decided to just ask around. I flagged down the first car, but they were tourists like me and had no clue. The second car I flagged down by more or less jumping in front of it was driven by an older gentleman. I asked him whether he knew where Hugh and Kyoko were living... long silence. Eventually he said: "I did not know they are called Hugh and Kyoko. I always just call them neighbors. They live across the street from me." Bingo!!! That evening I was rewarded with DIY-sushi and miso soup.

Me and John
My second "homestay" resulted out of my fall. Heather and John, who had "rescued" me, own a farm right next to the accident scene. This farm is huge! When Heather gave me a tour of the place in their 4WD she always said: "As far as you can see this way, it is all John's land". Well, you will never hear a German farmer say anything like "as far as you can see...." And you will also never see that much farm machinery and monster trucks in a German farm shed. I had lost my cap in the hole and Heather gave me new one - with "John Deere" written on it. I now look like a real Aussie farm girl and everybody asks me where I got the cap from. John is also owner of 3,000 sheep - which resulted in a wonderful roast lamb leg for lunch and me learning a lot about sheep, sheep dogs, wool and mutton. I will never forget their hospitality and can't thank them enough for their help.

Note the German misspelling
My third, but short homestay happened after a night in rat infested Marschall hut. I had arrived very late the night before and was very much surprised to read that the hut had originally been built by Germans from Spreewald, which is less than 100 km away from my hometown Berlin. When I was packing up next morning I saw a 4WD coming up to the hut. Out came Mr. Huppatz, the land owner - of German descent with blue eyes and blond hair. After a short chat he invited me to a tour of the family cemetery and his farm. Of course, I agreed and learnt a lot about the German settlers from Prussia who had come to Australia in the mid 1800 because of religious persecution.  Mr. Huppatz even had a book with his family history - but has never been to Germany.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

European settlement forms a micro thin veneer across the South Australian country side. In the 1800's people seriously believed that "rain would follow the plough". For a decade this ridiculous idea worked and there were more people in the north of the state than the south. Huge leasehold pastoral holdings were broken up into small farms and the government encouraged these settlers to buy their land and pay them to make it freehold. When the drought conditions returned,as they always do,because drought conditions in S.A. are normal conditions,huge dust clouds billowed across the Willocra Plain and other areas in the marginal lands. The roofless houses,tottering stone walls and small stone mounds are the remaining memorial to these times.
The First Australians have a different attitude to the land.They have had thousands of years to work out who is boss.
Every minute I spend on the Heysen Trail I learn that nature is very much in control in South Australia. I might even one day grasp the idea that I can't own the land.
As a final thought,Sir Hubert Wilkins,that great thru-hiker,wrote in reference to the First Australians, "in many ways their state of civilisation is higher than ours"