The Heysen Trail section hike NOBO 2022 - Part 1

Heysen Trail campsite with DCF pyramid shelter made by OrangeBrown. Australia

The Wild South Coast Way on the Heysen Trail (WSCW)


In early May 2022 I packed my car early one morning, loading it up with a full backpack and several plastic crates packed with re-supply food and back-up hiking gear. I was about to start a hike in a few days - the Heysen Trail.


The drive I was taking was from my place in the Dandenong Ranges, located south-east of Melbourne, towards Adelaide in South Australia. My friends David, Anita and Olive the Lab had recently moved there and offered for me to stay with them for a few days in final preparation for my hike, as well as offering to be my ‘trail angels’ throughout the time I would be on trail. A couple of days after I arrived they drove me down to the trailhead at Cape Jervis (on the westernmost point of the Fleurieu Peninsula) and dropped me off - thank you, you three!


I was finally out and about again. Although I’d been out for a few short hikes over the previous six months, this really felt strange after the long Covid lockdowns. I started walking along the coast with the sun shining - I had no fixed schedule and wondered how long it would take to get used to the ‘no restrictions’ life on trail. A pod of dolphins appeared in the waters close to the shore and swam parallel to the trail - it felt like the best welcome party I could have for the journey!


Heysen Trail, Cape Jervis, a pod of dolphins swimming along the beach.

Coastal hinterland along the Heysen TrailIsolated beaches along the Heysen Trail in South Australia.Campsite along the southern parts of the Heysen Trail at sunset with DCF shelter. 

Over the first few days I hiked along the Wild South Coast Way towards the town of Victor Harbor. This section of the trail meanders along the coast for 74 km, offering varied terrain, some spectacular views and great campsites. It follows the coastline along beaches, veers off from the beach and into some of the coastal hinterland, goes up along the steep slopes of numerous headlands, taking you up onto the clifftops with magnificent views and then down into wind-protected valleys carved out from the land by small creeks.


Heysen Trail. Coastal hinterland.

Dark clouds covering the sky over the ocean along the Heysen Trail.Rockformation along the South Australian coastline. Hiking the Heysen Trail.During the five days I hiked along this stretch of trail I experienced all sorts of weather. Glorious warm sunshine would be taken over by cold southerly wind gusts within minutes, with rain whipping against my bare legs, then changing back to blue sky and sunshine soon afterwards.


One night at around 8pm, soon after I had fallen asleep, I was woken by loud thunder. The wind was increasing and lightning lit up the sky as the thunder ripped through the air. It started raining and the thunder was getting louder. I was tucked away warm and cosy in my sleeping bag, but worried about the strengthening wind and heavy rain, and started feeling unsafe. I sat up and got fully dressed, with my rain jacket as the top layer. The shelter started pushing against my back from the strong wind gusts. I deflated the sleeping mat and stuffed all my gear into my backpack. Water was blowing in under the fly sheet and sprayed through the mosquito mesh of the inner of the shelter. It felt like a road train was approaching! I felt very vulnerable. I was trying to decide what to do next, when the noise from the wind and the rain, thunder and lightning receded. I risked opening the zipper of the shelter to check outside, and it was a white wonderland, covered in hail. There was a small wall of hail around my shelter, but luckily no significant damage.

 My shelter after a storm super cell hit me with high winds, rain and hail.

I have experienced wild weather, but this 20-minute event topped everything, even the snowstorm in the Norwegian Fjell in mid summer! It took a while to settle down and get back to bed after that, but I eventually fell asleep again, and woke up the next morning to cold wind and more rain. The rest of the day was very windy and cold but fortunately no more rain or hail.


Storm clouds ahead. Hiking the Heysen Trail along the south coast.

Hiking the Heysen Trail along the coast.

This stretch of coastline was just fantastic – despite the wild weather! I had a few more adventures which included a mouse, two day hikers who had walked from Victor Harbor,  and being told that as someone born in Germany I had to know all about good sausages and potato mash. Also running along a beach while being chased by a super-storm cell, and seeking shelter from another hail storm under a little piece of tyvek groundsheet.


Once I arrived in Victor Harbor I took a zero day, did my laundry and re-supplied, then continued on further north along the Heysen Trail the following day.


All images copyright by Thomas, OrangeBrown.
No copying or use of images without written permission. 

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