Day 13 to 19. 120 km to Collie. Total km walked 320.

Not a lot to say about the tracks in this 7 day section as everyday was nearly flat, about 20km long and through native bush full of wild flowers. I walked alongside the Murray River and actually got my feet wet for the first time walking through a deep puddle on a dirt road. I saw some kangaroos and lots of ants. The huts are all very much the same as they were all made at the same time 25 years ago when the tack opened. However there was a new rammed earth shelter at one place as the original hut was burnt down in a recent fire.

At Swamp Oak and Murray Campsites we were joined by a school group who all tented. One of the teachers was a Kiwi woman so we had a good chat. Most nights on they section there were another 5 or 6 people out for a few nights or going in the opposite direction to me. Other campsites were Dookanelly, Possum Springs, Yourdamung and Harris Dam. Funny names!

I have started too develop my Tramily (Trail Family). It consists of 81 year old Darcey Mawson from New Zealand and “Handful” Peter ,68, from Victoria.   Also John who is about 40 and looks more like a hobo than a hiker as he wears steel capped boots, overalls and looks like he hasn’t had a shower for months rather than just a week like the rest of us. We have been going hut to hut this whole section. Peter arrives first and collects up the firewood and keeps the fire going into the evening. I do enjoy sitting around the fire at night as it gets down to about 7 or 8 degrees after the sun goes down at about 6.15pm. We are usually in bed by before 8pm, which is hikers midnight.

On Day 15 I started the day remembering that it was the 17th anniversary of Garry’s death. First I thanked him for continuing to get the weather right for me by buying the Weather God a beer or two. I know I will have a huge bar tab to clear once I get up there but it is well worth it

As I walked I recognised a feeling I frequently have. I feel that there is a blank in my life. That blank would be filled by the man who would be carrying the heavy pack ,  driving the car, spraying the weeds,  doing the cooking, telling me to settle down,  pouring my wine, and snoring beside me, being very excited about the grandkids coming to stay and lining the cups up in the cupboard.
The blank is Garry Cole.

I soon caught up with Darcy and decided to walk with him today. I needed the company and I know he did too. Lots of good stories from Darcy made the kilometers tick by without effort. He walks a wee bit slower than me which makes for an easy day. Darcy has been a hunter,  sea kayaker, tramper all around the world, worked in  Cook Islands head of high school. Great story teller. He kept me amused all day.

Unfortunately we were both engrossed in on elf his stories and we missed a marker that should have taken us off a dirt road onto the track in the bush. Using my app I could see that the track was only about 50 metres from the road we were on. Unfortunately there was thick bush between us and it. Just our luck that it wasn’t bush that had been burnt lately. I tried to get through to find it unsuccessfully so Darcey went off to have a look. I stayed on the road calling out to him every few minutes so that he could find his way back to me if need be. But both of us have ears that are a bit on the old side so it wasn’t long before we lost sound contact. After about half an hour Darcy appeared just up the road a bit. He thought he had found the track but had just gone around in circles. He looked like he had gone 3 rounds with an angry kangaroo as his old this skin was all scratched and bleeding. Being a Kiwi he was in shorts and a short sleeved shirt. So we went to plan B and retraced our steps back up the road until we found the track crossing. We both decided that this little adventure added something different to the day so was worth it. I helped patch him up when we arrived at camp.

Never look at an old man and just see an old man. Remember those wrinkles and scrawny legs could have done way more than most people will do in life time And Darcy is still doing it. This is his 3rd time on Bibbulmun and I am amazed at the details he remembers from 10 years ago.

He carries a pack that is twice as heavy as mine. His pot and plates are not lightweight titanium like mine; they are over 50 years old and have the dents and marks to prove it. They have been all over the world with him on hikes and months of sea kayaking. The tent he carries is one he bought as a young fella so it is probably older than me. It is canvas and has no floor or bug netting. He walks all day with only a few 2 minute “sit on a log stops” eats nothing and only drinks about 300mls of water over 5 -6 hours of walking. Mention any place in the world that you could do outdoors stuff and he has been there. Just don’t stop he says.

Food seasoned with hunger and  excersion is always the highlight of the day. As the days are easy I usually arrive at camp by 1pm so have my lunch there rather than stopping on the track. Crackers with salami and cheese accompany my soup. My dinners have been varied: couscous, noodles, pasta with mixed veggies, TVP or jerky. Any food is good out in the fresh air.

Sometimes I wash out my socks in the plastic bin that holds the hut book. I also try and be first to put my food bag in the bin overnight for safekeeping against critters.

In the evenings Handful (Peter) kept me amused with his tales of hiking, kayaking and a 35,000km motorcycle ride planned  from Sydney to London. He only got has far as Pakistan because he had his bike confiscated at the border basically because he didn’t bribe the right people.  Most people who are out on the trail are adventurous people so there are lots of tales to share around the fire or table. If you wanted to make a podcast about adventures and around the world these fire pits would be the place to hang out.

The wild flowers have been something to see. Ne Zealand bush is rugged and green and thick and beautiful but has few colours so this is a real novelty for me to see. I do not know the names of any of these plants but here are some I have seen in this section.

I saw a number of these emu poos on the ground. Apparently the emu eats these seeds then poos them out. The seeds need to go through the stomach to be able to germinate and the emu spreads them far afield. Very clever I thought.

Emu poo carry seeds

Cameron, Amanda and Rebecca came out to Collie to meet up with me for the day and bring resupplies. We went for a drive out to the magnificent Wellington Dam and had some nice normal food. I stayed at the Black Diamond backpackers which is a really lovely place. Lots of extras like fruit juice in the fridge, good coffee, a section of teas, condiments and a proper bed with a TV and a fridge in the room. Even. fire pit that Peter and I ate our very expensive fish and chips beside. $9.50 for a piece of shark! It was a public holiday here and a Monday so there was nothing open for dinner. I have a rest day here today so have done some shopping and washed all my clothes. I enjoyed my first shower in 7 days and slept well in a proper bed.

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