Peter and I had decided to double hut the next 2 days even though there was a “huge” mountain to climb. This would get us into the young of Walpole where we were to have a rest day.
The two young girls were doing the same and we were all up with the sun at 5 am and I was off by 5.45am. It only takes me 45 minutes to get up and go as I have a good routine perfected over about 5,000km of hiking.
As I should have expected the mountain had me huffing and puffing for about half an hour and wasn’t hard at all. It was overcast and through lovely Tingle Forest. These are very old breed of trees dating back to the Gondwana days when Australia was joined to Africa. I am not sure where the name Tingle comes from.
I had the billy on when Peter arrived so we patted ourselves on the back as we both finished the last of our food. Then it was mostly downhill for about 10km into the town of Warpole where I am giving a rest day.
Last night we went up onto a granite rock behind Woolbales Hut to watch the sun go down. I managed this little climb without a problem. The sunset wasn’t very striking but the view to the coast was welcomed. I really needed a change if scenery. This flat walk gives little chance of ever seeing very far ahead.
Today there was more wet parts underfoot given that we are walking through a low flat drainage system that leads west towards Boke Inlet. Then the sand started.
The wild Southern Ocean is reached via Mandalay Beach which was a good half way stop for me.
The reports told of a hard beach walk and huge sandhills to climb before the day was finished. The sun was out and temperature about 24° just as one would expect at the beach. So I sat and rested, drank heaps of water and checked out what was left of my daily allowance for snacks. (Daily allowance is 6 dates, 12 cashew nuts, half a protein bar and 2 snakes). I was pleasantly surprised to see that the snakes had bred and I had a cute wee baby one.
The walk along the beach was only about 1km so nowhere like my 100km of beach walk at the start of Te Araroa. I am glad I know what hard really is as i gave something to compare with. Consequently this little beach walk wasn’t too bad at all. Peter and the girls all stopped for a swim when they reached the beach but I didn’t. The signs said not to swim and the hassle of getting dry with a 10cm square towel put me off.
I wanted to get the huge sandhill out of the way and get out of the hot sun. Not many photos today as I didn’t have much charge left on my phone. The sandhill wasn’t so big. I believe it is all about managing expectations. Expect the worst so when I get better than that I will be happy. I have learnt that what Aussies think is really hard os nothing compared to what I have done in the past. So at the end of the day I am happy.
I saw a beautiful tiger snake coiled up on the side of the track. It looked at me then slowly slithered off into the bushes uncoiling as it went. So I am happy with that snake encounter and do not need another one.
I also came across a wild cat that hissed at me before running off into the bushes. It looked and acted very much like my daughter’s mad cat Maizie who died recently. Maybe she hads been reincarnated.
We continued on for 2 days across the Pingjup Plains. Over 700kms walked now. This was a nice change as the track was getting a bit boring. I could see ahead as the vegetation was lower with the track nicely cut through it. The puddles came regularly and I just sloshed on through them. The last day was quite hot 25° so the big puddles were quite refreshing.
At Mount Chance hut we had a full house as we were joined by young Aaron, Steve and a couple of young women. The table was busy.
Mt Chance is just a big granite rock behind the hut. I headed up to have a look at the view but got freaked out half way up and just sat down and read my book there. I felt rather silly as I have climbed much higher and more difficult mountains many times before. Maybe I am getting more sensible in my old age.
Wool Bales Hut is apparently named because of the rocks that look like woolbales. I haven’t seen any yet so they must be South of the campsite. 8 of us here tonight including one Northbound man from Tasmania. Tomorrow we hit the Southern Ocean. I am not sure whether I am looking forward to walking on the Sandhills.
I had a curry dinner at the pub and a good sleep in a bed with sheets and no snorers or mattress rustlers.
Eggs Benedict and a large cappuccino at the local Cafe before heading out behind Peter to Gardner Campsite. It was only 16km away and provided my first taste of the sand to come. It was a change underfoot, but not necessarily a good one.
I played tracker all day guessing the footprints I saw. Kangaroos, horses, pigs, snakes and humans were all users of this section of the Bibbulmun Track. One very large kangaroo hopped along the track in front of me for about 50 metres before jumping into the river and disappearing into the bush on the other side. I went across the bridge.
There were a few little creeks today with bridges. The water is flowing but is brown from the tannins in the plant life. It just doesn’t look attractive to me at all but the locals insist it is good fresh water. No wonder people come to New Zealand and are so impressed by our beautiful clear rivers.
Only Peter and I here at Gardner hut tonight as the rest of our crew were having a rest day in Northcliffe. The drizzle had stopped by noon when I arrived.
Just as I finished that last paragraph man hobbled into the camp. It was 79 year old Wayne from New Zealand. I had seen his name in the book a few days ahead of me and he had heard about me from Darcy and others. He had a bad knee so had decided to turn back to Northcliffe rather go any further into the 8 day stretch to Wardpole.
Wayne is on his 3rd Bibbulmun track and agreed with me that it is one that can be walked by anyone at any age who is up to a damn long walk. He also told me he had walked Te Araroa over three seasons so, like me, he has another long trail for comparison.
The next day was another short one. The hut book had lots of snake sightings so I was kind of hopeful that today would be my day to meet a real live snake. The sun was out and I was on the sand most of the day.
My eyes were darting all over the place; up ahead as far as I could focus, (not far) then a sideways sweep followed by down at my feet. Repeat, repeat. It is quite hard work especially with sticks that look like snakes all over the ground. But no snakes for me that day. Peter came in after me and he had seen one.
The day was an easy one because we are now on the Pinjerup Plains which means it is quite flat. When there has been a lot of rain thd track becomes flooded as there is no where for the water to go. Stories abound of hikers walking for kilometers in waist deep water but I have timed it right.
The usual hut routine om arrival.
Take off pack
Take out food bag and place on table marking my spot.
Pump up air mattress and lay out on sleeping platform marking my spot.
Put sleeping quilt and liner and on mattress. Obviously my spot.
Fill pot with water from tank and find a private spot to have a wash and change into hut clothes
Hang walking clothes and shoes out to air
Make lunch of soup and crackers salami and cheese
Find a spot in the sun to read or use phone.
Maybe have a nana nap.
4pm eat a handful of chippies as Peter lights the fire.
5.30pm prepare dinner. One pot pasta, rice or instant mashed potatoes with some flavour and protein.
7 pm Hikers midnight so off to bed.
The Maringup hut is on the banks of the Maringup lake and we are now only about 3km (as the crow flies) from the coast. The sky is changing, as is the vegetation. No really big trees any more, lots of cutty grass and sand underfoot.
Alas there was only 4 puddles that I sloshed through like a good Kiwi does. Peter scrambled through the bush or took his boots off and went bare feet rather than get wet feet. Funny because they are happy to stand in the shower and get wet feet!
About 3pm Scott and Jess arrived having double hutted from Northcliffe.
All night I could hear something gnawing away. I shone my torch around but couldn’t see any of the “lovely little native marsupials”. Frogs croaked all night and the birds were singing at 4.30am. So I didn’t get much sleep at all because my earplugs were not sealing. They are very dirty and I will get a new set out tonight.
A 26km day, very flat and quite a few large puddles to wet my feet. I could see how this whole area would be under water in the rainy season. sometimes there was boardwalk and sometimes boardwalk that was not quite long enough.
The sun came out on and off but I still didn’t see a snake. I lost my hat again but Peter found it again. The last 3 km along a dirt road seemed to go on forever but I arrived 6hrs 30 minutes after leaving. Not too bad.
Jess and Scott were already there chatting with Alan(UK) who is on his second Bibbulmun, this time going North.
Dog Pool hut is another of the new ones, replaced after the old one was burnt. The river with its brown foam would be very inviting if it was hot enough. But being only about 20° I guess it a miss.
By 5pm we had a full hut with 19 year old Aaron from Perth and 2 women in their 20s meant the average age dropped by about 75%. This meant that the conversations changed from where we had walked or traveled in the past, our families and retirement plans to tree hugging, sustainability, dislike of plastics and mining and self improvement stuff.
Peter made the last fire for the track as no fires are allowed going South. I will miss sitting around the fire, especially as it gets quite cold in thd evenings. I am surprised about this as I rarely needed to wear my puffer jacket on Te Araroa but have worn it every day here. I had though Australia would be all heat and flies.
Having no daylight savings means it is dark by about 6pm and light at 5.30am. So we are early to bed and early to rise.
It was raining when I woke after a rest day in Pemberton. So I watched a Netflix movie then had breakfast at the Crossing Bakery across the road. The Breakfast pie sounded good but wasn’t. The coffee was good. So I left about 9 am with 22km and a 2pm arrival time scheduled for myself.
Sharon had headed back to Perth so left me a bright yellow rain poncho whuch I wore all day. There was showers on and off but I was dry and comfortable.
The others all left before me but I caught up with 79 year old Neville. He hadnt done any hiking for 25 years but was determined to compkete the Bibbulmun Track before he turned 80. He had suffered with a very sore and swollen knee for a few days but was determined to carry on. Even having his wife come to meet him didn’t convince him to go to the doctor as he knew he would be told to take long rest. So he bought a knee brace from the pharmacy and plodded on slowly up the hills and even slower down the hills arriving 2 hours after me in amazingly good spirits. He puts his tent up every night too. These old guys sure know how to “harden up and handle it”.
The local tourist attraction is the Gloucester Tree which can be climbed. Sadly it was closed so I didn’t have to do it.
As soon as I opened my food bag I realised that I had left my bag of food containing salami, cheese, a carrit and 3 boiled eggs in the fridge. Thankfully we only have 3 days before the next town and Peter graciously shared his cheese and salami with me.
Most of the crew were in bed by 6.45 but a couple of us stayed up sitting around the fire for another hour or so.
There was a big plastic bin to put our food in so I didn’t need to test out my rat proof system. I was into bed with my eye mask on and sealed my silicon ear plugs well so I didn’t hear any creatures at all. Hear no evil, see no evil = know no evil.
The next day, to Shaefer Campsite was overcast with numerous short ascents and decents so 22km in less than 5 hours. I just toddled on listening to some podcasts. I was getting a bit cold and slightly miserable by the time I arrived. So I was quick to get my pot of soup on then I climbed into my sleeping bag and cuddled up with a movie.
Peter soon arrived and got the fire going so I spent the evening hudled around it talking with 2 French Canadian sisters who were on their first night out of 5, going the opposite way to me. One had a mattress that went down very quickly so I helped them find the hole the next morning before I left for Northcliffe.
Thursday 13th October was a flat 12km walk into the small town of Northcliffe (population 412). Not much to say about these 4 days of walking really. Some changing from green bush to farmland then parts that were sandy.
The Visitors Centre had a good range of hikers supplies and the General Store had everything from lotto tickets to S-bends.
Peter and I had booked rooms at the pub ($65) but no check in until 2pm . So we conned our way into the dining room at 10am to get out of our dirty clothes so we could take them to the little laundrette. I washed everything except my rain pants and puffer jacket as we had an 8 day stretch ahead of us. At least I can start with clean clothes. They won’t stay like that for long. I have a set for walking in and another set for at camp. That is it.
I sat in the bar by the fireplace waiting for my room to be ready and made a couple of phone calls. As I spoke I was feeling a bit warm so undid my jacket, forgetting that I was naked underneath. The poor guys at the bar nearly fell off their chairs!!
The next 5 days have all blurred in together as nothing too exciting happened so a quick post to let you know that I am still here. I have passed the 500km mark so half way to Albany.
Thursday was 24 km with rain on and off all day on the way to TomRoad campsite. The flaura is changing today and there was moss on the fallen logs and even ferns growing. We walked alongside the Donnelly River for most of the day through some muddy puddles and over fallen trees. I began to feel like I was at home.
There are 8 of us in my Tramily now. Peter ( the firemaker) who has been with me for about 12 nights, Sharon, whi is walking this section but usually does 100 mike events, Mary the 79 year old from Brisbane, her two mates, Michael and Bill (60s or 70s) Neville 79 and his son in law.
We had a couple of days with rain which made a good change. Sharon usually arrived first me second and then the others trapsed in like drowned wombats over the next hour. We all ate, made a hot drink then climbed into our sleeping bags for a Nana nap, to read a book or just get warmed up.
Most were in bed by 6.30 but I stayed up and read my book until about 8pm, otherwise I just toss and turn listening to the chorus of snoring. This group all gave nice rhythmical snores, no sleep apnea.
Friday was just another day really but the track gave me a couple of pleasant moments. Mud, a few metres of steep gnarly rocks, the first ladder, slightly off centre and some puddles and lots of overhanging branches (wet from rain yesterday) Very pretty day.
Flies and mossies at the hut so some put their tents up on the sleeping platform. I topped and tailed with Sharon.
Passed half way mark. At the last couple of huts we had rats eating into some food bags. Usually I climb into my sleeping bag and put on my eye mask and ear plugs and become oblivious to anything that happens diluri g the night. But at Beavis Hut I was aware that Mary was fighting off rodents. I left her to it.
At the next hut I was kast to go to bed and the rats started their high junks before I had a chance to get settled. So I ended up poking at the damn rats with my walking pole as they skuttled around the rafters jumping onto the food bags that were hanging up.
I don’t mind mice and got quite used to them on Te Araroa but rats are another kevel altogether. Everyone else slept through but I didn’t get much sleep at all. Some food bags were raided.
Sunday we walked into Pemberton where I am having a rest day today. I have made a (hopefully) rat proof hanger for my food bag. The Aussies tell me that I can’t be too down on rats because they are native animals and have more right to be here than me. Well I don’t care. They are not having my food.
Today I was introduced to the Snotty Gobble. It is the common name of this tree, named because of the fruits. I don’t think I will try them.
Sharon had stopped on the track to make a coffee so I sat and had one too. We walked the rest of the 22km together and she pointed out the Snotty Gobble to me.
Into Donnelly River village today. It was a mill town but the mill closed in 1977. Some locals pitched in and bought the 35 mill houses and went about marketing the place as a good stopover for those on the Bibbulmun and the Murambingi cycle track and as a family holiday destination.
The emus and kangaroos roam freely around and are very friendly. Being school holidays the houses were all booked out with families. Dozens kids were riding their bikes around, in and out of the trees and buildings barefooted, no helmets just as I did as a kid.
The little general store was busy with kids spending their daily allowance on bags of mixed lollies and chippies, cyclists and walkers scoffing down bacon and egg rolls and parents drinking lattes. No pub but Peter managed to find someone to “sell” him a couple of beers.
This long walking asks a lot of your body and if we aren’t careful it can wreck the only body you have. One day you will wake up with creaky knees, sore hips and feet that resemble bags of mince meat. But this track has been well designed to reduce the chances of this occurring. There are campsites an easy 4 to 6 hours apart. (15 to 24km) This sometimes seems not far enough to walk in a day especially with the track being mostly flat and not technical at all.
But to double hut would put unnecessary strain on your body. Just sit and enjoy the rest of the day and have time to process the mornings walk. There is no need to go onto the point of breaking. Some do as they have time constrains. “I only have 30 days leave” they say as they plough on as I sit and eat a leisurely lunch.
Then a few days down the track I may see that their name is no longer in the hut book. They have pulled out, way before their 30 days leave is up, with broken bits. They can sit with their feet up, recuperating, for the remainder of their holiday and go back to work saying they didn’t make it to the end. Better to have made more realistic goals; do half this year and the remainder another year.
But in saying that some do make the 1000km in much less time than I plan. 60 days is my goal, basically one hut a day and a rest day in each town. I tell them that my end date is my date of death. I can keep walking until I die, if I want to. I am pretty sure that is not going to be how it plays out. I will need to work to top up the bank account at some stage.
I sat with my new friend at the Visitors Centre drinking coffee while I updated my website before leaving town at about 8:15.
Today I walked through a Tree Reserve which had many trees from all over the world. The grass was green and there was a couple of ponds and wee creeks. I could smell cattle and sheep poops so felt a little more at home.
This was followed by the Greenbush walk which was green. After that was an old tin mining area and another dam.
Then later the trail went through a farm with cows with their calves playing close by to talk to. I walked the well worn path up the hill thinking about steaks. Pine forests abound and with a 200 metre altitude gain there was a nice view from Blackwood Campsite. A day of changes to keep me occupied.
I sat with Scott and a section walker, Sharon, and ate my lunch while waiting for Peter to arrive. We were going on another couple of kilometers to his friends farm where we had booked dongas to sleep in.
It was a bit cooler today, only about 16 ° and overcast so I was feeling comfortable. I am definitely feeling fitter and stronger. Now I can easily squat down to use the taps which are usually at the bottom of the tanks. When I started I was moan and groan and creak doing so.
Peter turned up about an hour later giving me time yo enjoy my cheese and crackers and soup. Then it was the steepest and longest downhill on the trail to Peters friends dongas.
They have pasture fed chickens which are kept safe from foxes and wild cats at night by Maremma dogs. Beautiful big wooly creatures that must struggle with the heat in the summer.
There was hot showers snd beers in the fridge so I sat in the sun watching the Number 28 birds and crows whilst reading my book.
We had dinner with the farmers who were to be up early the next day to harvest some chickens for market. Bush fires had decimated their farm, house and buildings 2 years ago so they were still living in a shed and rebuilding.