27 Feb

Bibbulmun – S2 – Dwellingup


24 February – 27 February 2019 | Days 7 – 10

Kilometres 198.1 – 318.2 >>> 120.1 (74.6 mi)

I did have a surprisingly good night, despite some noisier campers around me. I packed up early in the morning and wandered back to town in search for a cup of coffee.

From the caravan park down Del Park Road towards town.

I found one at the Blue Wren Cafe on McLarty Street. I took a takeaway and sat on a bench (on the street rather than inside the cafe) to catch a few rays of morning sun.

Later I walked across the road to the IGA for resupply. The ladies behind the counter were super friendly and clearly aware of hikers. They’d even just ordered in freeze dried backpacker meals and gas canisters to be prepared for future demand when the season begins again. I was mightily impressed and was sorely tempted to get some hot food for the road. Alas, their gas canisters were the massive 450 gram kind that’re probably great for car camping, but murder for a gram-counting ultra-light hiker.

I do carry a BRS 3000T stove that weighs only 25 grams. My 750 mL titanium mug takes up a 100 gram canister on the inside plus some of my other cooking utensils and thus gas doesn’t take up too much space. A small 100 gram canisters lasts me more than a week as well, so I really don’t need a bigger one. I guess, I’ll skip the warm meals.

Although … having gas would enable me to have hot coffee in the morning too … hmmmmmm …

Oh well, clearly not desperate enough yet.

So I left temptation behind and made it on to the trail by around 8:30 am. I was soon swallowed by the bush and it was good being outside again.

Crossing Nanga Road.

After I’d crossed Nanga Road, bizarrely, I entered a pine forest plantation. It was sort of weird and felt a bit out of place in Australia, but the smell made me homesick for the Pacific Crest Trail.

Did I take a wrong turn? Am I in Oregon? Or Europe perhaps?

There were also Raspberries growing. I wasn’t sure if, when, and what kind of chemicals they’d been spraying in the plantation though, so I didn’t pick any. Raspberries also reminded me of the PCT and I reminisced for a while.

Delicious looking.

After this excursion down memory lane, I soon entered proper Aussie bush again and the grass trees were a welcome sight.

Grass trees everywhere.

Every now and then I even got glimpses across the valleys beyond.

The occasional view through the foliage.

I arrived at the Swamp Oak shelter at around 11:20 am and enjoyed a brief break and replenished my water supplies. Less than half an hour later I was already back on the trail. I was feeling good and the weather was great for hiking.

The Swamp Oak shelter.

The trail was easy and I made good progress. The trees provided good shelter from the sun and it was a beautiful day.

Nice alley.

I arrived at the Murray shelter at 4:30 pm and decided to have an early stop. Dookanelly shelter was 17.4 km (10.8 mi) ahead and I would’ve ended up arriving there in the dark. What’s the point. So I relaxed and enjoyed the sounds of the bush until it was bedtime for me. As usual, I had the site to myself.

Dinner at Murray shelter.

I hit the trail at 7:20 am the next morning and was keen to get a few kilometres in. The trail wasn’t very nice to walk on though. It was quite densely overgrown in large sections and my legs got scratched and shredded by thorny plants. Not pleasant.

Overgrown path.

I arrived at the Murray River bridge at around one o’clock and was quite pleased to see that it was actually a pretty one. The new one had been finished in late 2017. It replaces the historic Long Gully bridge that was destroyed during the Lower Hotham bushfire in 2015.

The last train, the “Black Butte”, crossing the Long Gully Bridge in 1961. (Photo: Rail Heritage WA)
The bridge just before it burned down in 2015. (Photo: Leigh Sage – Parks and Wildlife)
The new Bilya Djena Bidi bridge (meaning “swinging river foot-bridge” in Noongar) across the Murray River.
The Murray River.

After following the meandering Murray river for most of the afternoon, I crossed the Harvey-Quindanning Road at around four.

Shortly after I walked under the Worsley Alumina conveyor that’s transporting bauxite from the Mount Saddleback mine to the refinery. It’s making an awful racket and you can hear it for miles before you even see it.

The Worsley Alumina conveyor.

It took some hiking before I was surrounded by nothing but the peace and quiet of the bush again.

I made it to the Possum Springs shelter by about 5:30 pm, had dinner, and went to bed soon after dark. Still haven’t met a single person on the entire trail.

Beautiful bush.

The next day was pretty uneventful and I just put in the miles. I made it to the Harris Dam shelter and stayed the night. The next morning I was reasonably excited to get into town. The last couple of days hadn’t been overly pleasant hiking and I was a bit tired of the densely overgrown bush.

The Harris Dam north of Collie.

I made it to the trail intersection that leads into Collie at noon. It’s almost three kilomtres (1.8 mi) to town from here.

Turn off the Bib towards Collie.

My first stop, after reaching civilisation, was the Caltex service station on the Coalfields highway for some cold drinks. While I was enjoying my refreshments, I did some research on my phone and decided to stay at the Collie River Valley Tourist Park. It’s not exactly central, but cheaper than other options. So I walked over there and organised myself a cabin for a couple of nights. I felt like having a zero.

Later I walked into town, did some grocery shopping, grabbed a six pack from the bottle-o, and then retired into my little cabin. It was nice having a shower – and a cold beer.

23 Feb

Bibbulmun – S1 – Darling Range

18 February – 23 February 2019 | Days 1 – 6

Kilometres 0 – 198.1 >>> 198.1 (123.1 mi)

I had left Townsville the night before, on a cheap flight with a lay over in Melbourne. I’d booked it on purpose, so that I could spend the night at Melbourne airport, rather than fork out for a hotel. What I hadn’t counted on, was the fact that MEL is actually closed at night. So there was no food to be had, no drink, and nowhere nice to sit to spend the hours waiting for my connecting flight. I wandered around for a while, but eventually ended up taking a nap on the floor in a corner somewhere. Not the most comfortable I’ve ever been, but it was okay. Eventually I got the first flight out and arrived in Perth at 7:25 am.

An hour later I had an Uber that took me to Kalamunda. My driver was originally from Ethiopia and we had a wonderful chat about his home country I had the privilege of visiting in 2015. It was a great start.

I got dropped off on Mead Street, which is leading straight towards the northern terminus of the Bibbulmun trail. There’s a Coles supermarket just across the road so that I didn’t even have to worry about lugging food supplies half way through Perth. I just went shopping across the road. Plus there’s a cafe with coffee and muffin supplies, so: breakfast!

In the end it wasn’t until 10:30 am that I actually hit the trail.

Yep, it’s happening.

It’s pretty amazing how quickly the trail disappears into wilderness. You think you’re in the middle of a big town and just a few steps down the trail you’re nowhere. Yes, you’re crossing a lot of dirt roads and occasionally you can spot properties lying in the valleys, but the overall impression is pretty amazing.

Not even a kilometre in.

The Bibbulmun has copious amounts of trail markers and it feels like it would be impossible to get lost here. So guess what I did within the first couple of hours? Yep, switched off my brain and followed the wrong trail for about ten minutes. Then I suddenly got the sense that I was walking in the wrong direction and checked my map. Haha. A bit of bush bashing and I was back on track.

The Wagyl marker.

Lesson learned. Don’t switch off your brain, even if the trail markers are plentiful.

As it turned out later, they are placed a bit randomly anyway. Sometimes you get multiple markers in a row on a straight stretch of trail, but then no marker at the next junction.

Overall though, it’s pretty difficult to get lost, if you’ve got some basic sense of direction, and maps or a GPS with you.

Looking towards Helena River.

The morning was going nicely and it felt good to be treading dirt again. For lunch, I stopped at the Mundaring Weir viewing platform and had my first break. A sip of water and a couple of muesli bars were consumed and then I had a relaxed lie down in the shade, until I moved on after an hour.

Mundaring Weir viewing platform.

Half an hour later I came across the Mundaring Weir hotel, and just couldn’t resist having a nice cold beer on the outside seating area. I may have had a second one, but I won’t admit to anything.

During my stay, I had a kangaroo, a few birds, and a snake join me, and it was rather nice to be surrounded by so much wildlife already.

Mundaring Weir Hotel.

Then it was time to move on though and I got back on the road.

I still remember the times when the Australian stage of the World Rally Championship was held near Perth and the rally drivers talked about the “marbles” (the small round pebbles) that cover the tracks, and how it was just like driving on ice. Well, I can confirm that it sometimes feels like walking on ice too, and I had to rely on my agility not to fall more than once, especially going downhill. But it’s good fun.

Just marble-ous.

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking through a burnt area, which made for some great viewing opportunities into the valleys. Towards evening I made it to the burnt down campsite Helena at around seven. I found a beautiful spot below the construction site, where they are working on re-building the camp, and set up my tent. I enjoyed dinner and watched the sun set, while lying on the still warm rocks. The moon was out as well, and I felt rather good.

Camp Helena.

The next morning, I enjoyed breakfast on the rocks and with a view and took my time to pack up. I was back on the trail by 7:25 am.

Near Allen Road, a little east of Camp Helena.

The trail led through an older burn area that was coming back to life.

Crossing Helena River.

Things were getting nice and green again and I stopped for water at Waalegh shelter.

Waalegh shelter.

The day was pretty hot and I had little shade, but the views were nice. I stopped for a second water break at Beraking campsite, before tackling the afternoon.

On the little hill, south-east of the intersection of Dale Road and Darkin Ridge Road.

In the end I arrived at Mount Dale campsite around five o’clock, had dinner, and then an early night.

Despite my early night, I didn’t get back on trail until after 7:30 am. What a slacker.

Walking towards Plunket Road.

The trail meandered through some beautiful bush, until I got close to the Brookton highway and I was distracted by traffic noise.

Crossing Brookton highway 40.

It was only a short blip of civilisation though and soon I was back in the bush.

Beautiful colours.

The remainder of the day was spent in beautiful bush. The only water source I came across was Canning River, but I didn’t take any. The shelters are close enough to each other and their water tanks were consistently full.

The Canning River.

I arrived at the Monadnocks campsite at five o’clock and was quite happy to have the whole place to myself.

Happy at Monadnocks.

The next day I got up around seven and was greeted by a gloomy and leaden sky. I had breakfast, packed up and was on trail a half hour later.

A little north of Mount Cuthbert.

The first “climb” (a relative term in the flatness of south Western Australia) of the day was up to Mount Cuthbert. Despite the murky fogginess, it offered gorgeous views over the countryside. The next up was to the top of Mount Vincent shortly after and the views were similarly gorgeous.

Looking east from Mount Vincent.

Things became rather flat again after that.

Just south of Cooke Road.

Towards the evening I reached the Threeways Tavern and Service Station on Albany Highway 30 near North Bannister. I got cold drinks from the service station. Amazingly, the attendant had never heard of the Bibbulmun (he was probably new to the area) and was rather astonished to hear that I’d walked hear all the way from Perth. He was polite enough, but I had a sense that he thought I was rather mad.

The Threeway Tavern.

The Ginger Creek shelter is only a few hundred metres from the Tavern and that’s where I stayed. Again, I had the entire place to myself.

The next morning I was a little late and wasn’t on trail until a quarter to eight.

View from Boomerang Hill.

I had a nice water and lunch stop at the White Horse Hills shelter.

The White Horse Hills shelter.

Soon after the sky finally cleared up and the sun came out. It was hot basically immediately.

View from Kimberling Hill.

Shortly after I came across somebody else who was happy that it was getting sunny.

A Western Bearded Dragon sunbathing.

By about three I came across the fire tower of Mount Wells.

The Mount Wells fire tower …
… with a nice view.

The old fire watcher’s hut is acting as a shelter for Bib’ hikers these days, but it was too early for me to stop, so I moved on.

Near Pindalup Road.

I made it to the Chadoora shelter by 6:30 pm and enjoyed a quiet evening by myself.

The next morning I was up early and hit the trail at twenty past seven. Today was town day. Dwellingup was only 12.3 km (7.6 mi) away and I was keen to get a cold beer.

Near Etmilyn.

I made it to Dwellingup by 11:30 am and my first port of call was the Dwellingup Hotel for an ice cold beer (for the uninitiated among you, due to tax laws that were only lifted in the 1980s, pubs were forced to offer accommodation when serving alcohol, and were thus called “hotels”).

Ice. Cold. Beer. Ahh.

Apparently there was a motorcycle ride for men’s depression in town and soon I was surrounded by hundreds of awesome bikes and bikers. I had some nice chats, but was soon tired and walked over to the The Dwellingup Chalet and Caravan Park, where I got a tent site, and spent the rest of the day in the kitchen block to recharge my electronics.

View from the kitchen on to my tent site (which I hadn’t set up yet).

I went to bed early though and was basically asleep the moment the sun had set.