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End-to-End plus a bit extra!

Michael and Veronika Schulze, Germany

16 April 2014

In Germany in the late 1990s we read about the Bibbulmun Track in the Australian Geographic. We forgot about it for a while, then in 2010 Michael decided he wanted to walk the Larapinta Trail and thought a section of the Bibbulmun Track would be good training, so in mid-March 2010 we walked from Walpole to Denmark.

Afterwards we walked the Larapinta, which was wonderful experience, and returned to Germany, where at the end of 2012 Michael stopped working for his old company, with a possible new job in sight for mid-2013.

So what to do in between? Without thinking I said: “Mid-March would be the perfect time to start the Bibbulmun Track in Albany, doing it end-to-end.” Michael jumped at the idea, so I quit my job and on March 13 we took a flight to Perth. After a few days on the beach at Bunbury we travelled to Albany and started our walk on March 21st, on a cool and drizzly morning. However during the first month on the Track we had little rain.  Only on the last section, from Dwellingup to Kalamunda, were there four consecutive days with downpours. Even then we were lucky; when it came to scrambling up and down the granite surfaces of Mt. Cooke, Mt. Vincent and Mt. Cuthbert it was dry.

We particularly appreciated the short distances between Albany, Sandpatch, Muttonbird and Torbay campsites, which enabled our bodies to adjust gradually to daily walking and the weight of our backpacks. We didn’t plan any double-hutting, except during the last few days, when the shelters would be close together. We had plenty of time and we wanted to enjoy the walk. It was nice to arrive early at the shelter, sit back with a cuppa and take in the nature.

Between Albany and Denmark we enjoyed the company of Jean, a 23 year old Frenchman who also planned to walk to Kalamunda. Between Denmark and Walpole the Track was very busy, over the Easter weekend, and we were glad that we had our tent. We often used it inside the shelters, when there was sufficient space, as protection against the mozzies and to give additional warmth on cold nights. We would never walk the Bibbulmun Track without a tent, but next time it will be a very lightweight emergency tent. On this trip Michael carried our 3.5 kg four-season tent which had been perfect on other tracks, but not necessary on the Bibbulmun Track. Better to carry extra food and a tent half the weight!

After the long Easter weekend the Track became very quiet. At Mt. Clare we were lucky to meet Wrong Way Jim and shared the shelters on the way to Northcliffe with him. Listening in the evening to his stories about the Track and his work as a BTF volunteer was very interesting and amusing.

Having negotiated the diversion we arrived in Balingup, and finally we were convinced that we would make it to Kalamunda, although we were worried about the section between Dwellingup and Kalamunda, where we would need to carry food for twelve days.Other walkers had told us that the food supplies in Dwellingup were basic, so we sent a large food parcel from Collie to Dwellingup. On the way to Collie we had met walkers iPack and iPlod who confirmed that the caravan park in Dwellingup would hold food parcels. IPack and iPlod were doing a double end-to-end from Kalamunda to Albany and back. It was their example that formed an idea in our heads; once we reached Kalamunda we would turn around and do another section of the Track from north to south, until the time came for our flight back to Germany.

After Dwellingup we had some very wet days and cold nights but on our last day we had glorious sunshine. It was a Sunday and we met many day-walkers on the Track, nearly all of whom asked us, “Did you do the Track end-to-end?” We felt like celebrities shaking all the hands and hearing all the congratulations!

After the quietness and beauty on the Track we spent three days in Kalamunda at the beautiful Kalamunda Carriages B&B – and all we did was eat! Then we took the bus to Bridgetown, spent a night there, hitchhiked to Donnelly River Village—and here we were again, back on the Bibbulmun Track! It felt so good…I wore a big grin on my face all the way to Tom Road Campsite.

We were amazed how the landscape changed as we walked in the opposite direction than previously and of course, the season had changed as well. The days were very short and now we found out what it really meant to get wet. At Schafer Campsite, with the rain pelting down on us, the dam in front of the shelter seemed be boiling— but Northcliffe was only three hours ahead.
The Gardner River was flowing, but fortunately the plains between Northcliffe and the ocean were still relatively dry. I had seen pictures of walkers wading thigh-deep through the water on the Track there, with their backpacks on their heads. It didn’t appeal to me, although everyone told us it is great fun…

We made it to Walpole and his time we welcomed the end of our trek. The days were getting shorter and colder and after 1,270km we were both tired. We spent four days in a cosy little cabin on Coalmine Beach, two days in Perth and returned to Germany in mid-June.

When we visited the BTF office in Perth before starting out, we met Colin Gee. He told us: “You will love every day on the Track.” At the time I doubted it, but he was right. We’ll be back, maybe next time doing an end-to-end-to-end like iPack and iPlod? It’s true— the Bibbulmun Track is addictive!

Michael and Veronika  (Germany September 2013)