- Start date: 6 May 2013
- Age When Completed: 51
- Direction Walked: South to North
Well, this was a walk far beyond anything I had ever done before. I described myself before commencing the Bibbulmun Track as a walker rather than a hiker, and I continued stating that along the track. I wasn’t sure I would be up to completing the track given my overall level of fitness. My feet and legs were fine through pretty much of the walk but being unused to carrying a large pack and then carrying it over uneven terrain was an unknown at the outset.
I decided early on not to use fancy and expensive hiking food and relied on off the shelf savoury rice, pasta and noddle packs. For breakfast I simply used porridge and muesli. During the day I ate on the move, having previously made my own track mix, the portions based on dried fruit from cake mix reminded me of Christmas. Also I stuffed my pockets with trail bars. Sometimes I would have a sit down lunch of Ryvita or pitta bread or tortillas with cheese or cheese triangles or peanut butter, lots of the latter.
On arrival in a town I would ensure I took on board as much high energy food as possible, usually in the form of a steak dinner, pepper sauce of course, and several beers, for medicinal purposes. I was fortunate that some supplies were dropped in a few of the towns for me, others were posted ahead and on occasion I rendezvoused with my wife and son, and they would replenish my dwindling stores. In Northcliffe I was very kindly resupplied by my friends Rick and Yvonne. In the final stages I came to rely on the two minute noodles as they required the least cooking and required nearly no cooking judgement whatsoever.
I have two favourite sections. The first I call the Stretch, from Walpole to Northcliffe. I approached it with some trepidation after being battered by storms, struggling with my fitness and inexperienced stupidity on the south coast. The guide and the maps displayed areas with the appellation ‘track seasonally inundated’. It was with quite a bit of trepidation that I set out from Walpole, I’d been drenched on the way in, but the sun shone and I enjoyed the double hut to Long Point but not the 800 metre spur track. That set the scene for the next few days; I would rise early, head out into bright dry days along clearly defined paths, often across level landscapes unlike any I’d encountered in Australia. It was these days that instilled in me the first conscious feelings that I really could complete the track. I enjoyed listening to the distant sound of the ocean at Maringup Campsite which lulled me to sleep ready for the double hut out to Northcliffe and to call my wife and son.
The second is the closing section of the track as it nears Kalamunda; I’d been putting in big walks to finish on the 22nd June, a Saturday, as my wife couldn’t get the Sunday off work. By this late stage my fitness was at its peak, I could tackle any terrain and I felt in harmony with the track. I had come to terms with the climbs and descents, and the views they offered, but for the first time I met large numbers of people on the track.
There were so many highlights that it is difficult to choose them. Some of the coastal vistas were shrouded in mist and rain. I liked Greens Pool. Walking Mazzoletti and Quarram Beaches, I grew up in a coastal area and if the conditions are right it’s some of the easiest walking but also beautiful. Also dawn at Rame Head, wondering how Mandalay Beach got its name, finding out it is named after a ship, and sitting there and watching the breakers crashing into the beach. Wading Torbay Inlet. Sitting on top of Mt Chance and calling home. Sunset at Lake Maringup. The warm welcome I received at the Northcliffe Hotel. Daunting forested hills. Finding sanctuary from the rain in Pemberton and not climbing the Gloucester Tree. Taking the diversion into Balingup, camping at Wright’s Bridge with controlled burn taking place on the other side of the valley, sitting watching the fires silently burn, and waking to find the valley filled with smoke. Reaching the halfway point. Donnelly River Village with its Kangaroo, Emus and Kookaburras. Being surprised at just how much I liked Collie. Staggering into Possum Springs at 9PM after a 6AM start. Standing on the various Mounts looking at the seas of mist filling the valleys. Coming across the 50km conveyor and a gold mine. Crossing the Long Gully Bridge, may its timbers never fail. Dwellingup was nice, it felt a bit like a village built around a model train set. Following the rain lines out of Dwellingup. Views across Lake C.Y. O’Connor. Meeting my wife and son at the end of the walk. All the people I met and talked to, sharing our experiences, along the track. Just so many things.
This walk was by far the most difficult thing I have ever undertaken. Although I am an experienced walker I was not much of a hiker. I’ve walked about eleven thousand kilometres since moving to Perth five and half years ago but I wasn’t really prepared for the arduousness of the venture but my legs and feet were good and if I’d been able to send them off on their own they would’ve come skipping back thirty or so days later. I did, however, find myself becoming increasingly enthused by the walking as the fitness improved. I ended on such a high I felt like superman, running, with pack on, to greet my wife and son at the Northern Terminus. Even a week later I’m still ‘revved up’ about it, as one fellow in the pub said to me. Also one of the most effecting things was the impression that others on the track had on me; Andrew and Andy, who I met at Boat Harbour, were on day 37 of a 42 day end to end. The CMS Sisters from NSW, The Boulder Boys, who I met at Mt Chance, they’d had lamb shanks on their first night on the track, luckily I missed that, NEC and the Chef, young lads on a 60 day E2E. I wish I had room to list them all here. Oh yes, I should mention the Persevering Plodder. On my way between Mt Chance and Dog Pool I saw a figure coming down a sandy track, a little cautiously. Concerned I went over to ask if she was OK. I received the reply, ‘Oh yes, dear. This is my normal gait. If you look in the log books I call myself the Persevering Plodder.’ She was 73, from Canberra. We exchanged real names, talked about the track and our motivation to do it and we parted. Her final words to me were, “I want to finish it, before…well, you know.’ Quite an inspiration.
This is a quiet time of the year by all accounts. There were lots of snakes along the coastline, mainly Tigers, the last appearing after Dog Pool, a Dugite in that instance. One encounter with a feral cat that didn’t look in the best of health but there lots of paw prints along the sandy paths and one alarming meeting with a wild boar just out of Dog Pool, it was big enough to break the branches it stood on. I did stumble upon many startled kangaroos along the way but our encounters only last a few seconds. Of course there were lots of wrens in the forest. But that was all really.
Your Best Equipment
By far my Merrell Phaser boots. Whether they were saturated, drying out or being run in they always came through for me. I think they were set to stun. They kept going even when I wore through the sole on the outer right heel.
Your Worst Equipment
Tricky, I struggled with my pack for a long time, I just couldn’t get the shoulders right. But in the end it came good and only became a problem again when I lost so much weight it ran out of adjustment. But I think I feel most let down by my Garmin eTrex10 which never failed to measure long. I would always get my hopes up that I was nearing a campsite only to find it was another kilometre or two further along the track.
Advice for Others
Don’t do it the way I did. Do proper planning and preparation so that each half is balanced, so that you don’t have to rush at the end. After several hiking faux pas in the early stages I settled into a conservative walking strategy to train myself up. Once I had got to grips with the unfamiliar kit, new terrain and my own inexperience I was able to build myself up to go for longer distances without difficulty. So take your time, plan, prepare and then do the walk.