More campsites and water tanks along this section than shown on Guthook
Marion Bay, South Australia, Australia
time : Oct 20, 2021 8:58 AM
duration : 6h 7m 39s
distance : 22.6 km
total_ascent : 229 m
highest_point : 56 m
avg_speed : 4.1 km/h
user_id : gstreet
user_firstname : Carl
user_lastname : Greenstreet
Today’s walk is only 22 kilometres, shorter than expected which is the flip side benefit of yesterday’s longer than expected trek. Spoiler: the walk turned out to be much harder than expected as our walking speed was much slower than usual due to soft beaches, major headwinds and poorly defined trails; so goodbye to an easy early finish!
We left the Marion Bay caravan park to be dropped off back at Gym Beach where we finished yesterday. I had just stepped out of the car when I realised I had left my water bottles in the fridge back in the caravan park. Damn! Can’t walk without water. Compounding it, we had checked out and dropped the keys into the key box. Fortunately, we were only 15 minutes drive back to the caravan park so we turned around, drove back, collected keys and retrieved my water bottles. We got back to Gym Beach 30 minutes later than planned but, hey, this was going to be a short 22 km day anyway.
We started immediately with a beach walk and I had my first niggles that maybe we were in for a longer day than planned. We walked into a roaring 30 kph headwind, slowing our pace to around 3 1/2 kph, well down from the fast 5 kph pace we have maintained for much of this trip.
Climbing off the beach, there was a distinct lack of a marked path as we made our way up steep dunes, heavy shin to knee high brush and along rocky cliff tops. I mean it’s not hard to navigate when you are following the coastline but picking your actual path was a slow and sometimes painful process as we were scraped by the brush. At times, I could see heavy footprints, presumably from a Friends of the Heysen walking group that is section hiking the WtY and would have been here this past weekend.
And so it went. The coastal views continued to be magnificent but much like we have seen the past week. Can you have too much of a good thing?
We mainly stayed elevated and did not drop down to the shorter beaches, many of which were below cliffs with poor or no access. We came across ruins of a fishing camp and the wind continued to blow, blow, blow. I had to wrap my sunglasses strap around the back of my ball cap and the pull my buff up on top of my head, just to keep my cap on in the high winds.
After a bit over 9 kilometres and nearly three slow hours, we reached the Formby Bay shelter. A typical hikers shelter with rainwater tank and picnic table, this one was unique as people had heavily decorated it with beach flotsam- nets, fishing floats and all manner of objects that had washed up, transforming it into something cute, unique and eclectic.
We stopped for lunch here and just after we sat down, a man drove up and started chatting with us. Dave was also a hiker with a group doing shorter daily distances than us. He pulled out at Gym Beach due to heavy blistering but he had two mates walking a few hours behind us and he was providing car support. We traded hiking stories and then it was time to get moving.
From here, we dropped down on a long curving sandy beach along Formby Bay. My map said it was an eight kilometre beach walk but visually it seemed like three or so. Of course, the map was right and we spent the next several hours walking this beach. I’m certainly getting the beach walking hours up this trip!
Unfortunately, the sand was often soft except near the water but the beach gradient was steep and it was hard to stay near the water’s edge as the waves would come crashing in - I’m sure I looked like a child running up and down in front of the surf, trying to keep my shoes dry!
Hard work and one gets in a focused state so I pulled away from Chris and walked alone- not that it was easy to have a conversation anyway in the roaring wind.
As I walked, I watched three little Hooded Plovers run in front of me. Highly endangered, I’ve been pleased to see many Hoodies on the beaches we walked. They ran in front of me for kilometres which is amazing given their little legs. At times, I laughed when the strong winds literally blew these little fellers sideways!
After a long slog, I reached the far end. I had thought we were going to have a brutal long climb up a steep and massive dunes but I was pleasantly surprised to see a huge wooden staircase with at least six landings along the way. Still work but much easier than climbing steep soft sand! I met a couple halfway up who were heading down; now Adelaide based, he was raised on the Yorke Peninsula and his wife was Brazilian. We had a nice chat while Chris caught up.
From here, we crossed the headlands, passing by several campgrounds not marked on Guthook App (just rebadged this morning as Far Out, which caught me by surprise when I refreshed the apps on my phone). I think this is probably one of the poorer Guthook apps, perhaps because fewer people walk this trail and perhaps lack of engagement and proofing by WtY officials as they sell a competing set of paper maps.
Julian of Friends of the Heysen serves as the Guthook contact for the Heysen Trail and passes on corrections and improvements. I’m not sure anything is in place here which is a shame as the maps are missing a lot of important infrastructure information, particularly we’ve found more water availability recently than we expected.
Just when I thought we would follow the headland to the pick up point, we dropped down to walk one last beach. The novelty of this beach was that it was rocky and covered by stones. It required careful foot placement but soon we were across and walking along a dirt road running along coastal campsites (not marked on Guthook) as we approached our pick up spot at Gleeson’s Landing. I was pleased to see dependable Karma waiting there to pick us up.
We headed off to Corny Point caravan park, stopping by the general store for an ice cream and picking up a bottle of wine to go with dinner. We’re staying in a cute renovated stone cottage with comfortable verandas to sit out on. Just over our cottage fence is a large school group from the Barossa and we enjoyed people watching them.
Tomorrow morning, Karma heads back to Adelaide and we shift to backpacks and unsupported walking for the next week. Karma will drop us at Gleeson’s Landing and we’ll walk back to the Corny Point cottage and a pub meal. Not really looking forward to full pack weight with a week’s food carry!