Twynam Cunningham, WA
16 January 2020
I had wanted to walk the Bibbulmun Track for years however the vastitudes of farming life meant I’d always been too busy to contemplate even a week away. This all changed when our son Theo arrived home to the farm hell bent on changing everything and taking over. I gladly took a step back.
So it came to be I set off in the half dark in June from my mother Rosie’s place at Middleton Beach to walk around the boardwalk to the Bibbulmun Track’s southern terminus at the old Albany Railway Station. I met up with an old mate Mike Batchelor who had agreed to walk five days with me.
It turns out in hindsight my pack was a bit on the heavy side. The trouble was my wife Elizabeth had loaded me up with things I might just need, then my mother added a bit more, then for good measure I thought a bottle of whiskey might help keep the cold at bay.
We staggered out of Albany going about 200m before losing the Track completely, an omen of things to come. We walked along the railway line for a bit until we spotted a Waugal which brought us back on track. I grew to be very grateful for the sight of Waugals along the way.
First night was spent eating everything and drinking everything to lighten the load, then trying to get comfortable in the dark on a 2cm mattress on a wooden floor…another portent of things to come. Having done absolutely no pre-training I was surprised how easy the walking became. Walking 20km a day was a breeze, it was only when the ante was raised and a few double huts were done that the pressure came on.
Double hutting from Giants Campsite onto Walpole was possibly not such a clever move. I arrived with a set of blisters the size of dinner plates on my feet. The pain and shame of it all; fortunately I was introduced to a product called Fixomull so I was able to hobble on.
Some may call it Beginners Luck but in my opinion June is the perfect time to walk the Bibb. All the inlets running into the sea were barely flowing, the creek crossings were easy, I didn’t see a single snake and there were more fine days than wet. However when it rained, it rained, particularly along the coast. I was a bit disappointed my wife wasn’t keen to end-to-end with me but when I was trudging along in horizontal rain punctuated by rapid fire hail I thanked my lucky stars she wasn’t with me, I would never have heard the end of it! Another lesson learned, umbrellas are great, best used in the forests, but not so great in the open on the coast; my first umbrella blew itself to bits.
But what a joy the walk was, I usually met someone walking south each day, we were all kindred spirits, pretty much all solo walkers.…all determined, and very much into the spirit of the Bibbulmun Track. Towns were great, nice to sleep in a proper bed, a large steak a welcome change to noodles and pasta. And I can’t tell you how appreciated a long hot shower was, not to mention washing some fairly smelly items of clothing. I always felt the people in the Track Towns viewed me with some reserve for being a Bibbulmun walker but they were always generous and I was able to restock with most things to be able to continue on to the next town.
Every day was of great interest from the sea to the karris to the Darling Scarp. I found myself constantly puzzling as to the foresight of the planners of the early Track. And the shelters, so basic but always so clean and welcome after a day of walking and situated in the most picturesque spots. I was particularly grateful on occasions walking out of pouring rain into instant dryness and protection of a shelter.
So after 47 days I arrived at Kalamunda. I wasted far too much time in the Mundaring Weir Hotel soaking in the ambience of the place along with a couple of beers so that I arrived in Kalamunda in the half dark in solid rain. A delightful lady called Gail of Villa du Lac B&B gave a wet, bedraggled walker a warm bed.
Next morning I woke up to brilliant sunshine and walked down along a creek in full flood through the Kalamunda Park which gave the most spectacular view over Perth city. It was at this stage the realisation of the enormity of the walk was starting to sink in. Walking down to Perth was easy, up over the Causeway, down St Georges Terrace to the Bibbulmun Track Foundation office in Wellington Street then across to the Parmelia Hotel where my wife had booked a room. Just accommodation in another Track Town really, a long hot shower, a big steak followed by a comfortable bed!
Next day up early, a bit sad it was all ending, up St Georges Terrace, marched through Kings Park, a bit like the Bibb…. drizzling rain, umbrella up and out onto Stirling Hwy and down onto Cottesloe Beach. A few beers at the OBH and onto my sister Annie’s place, the journeys end. It had taken me 49 days but I had walked from my mother’s place in Albany to my sister’s in Cottesloe!
But what a fabulous walk; I take my hat off to the people who had the vision to plan and instigate the Track through the beautiful unspoiled wilderness of our south west. And thank you to all the people who work so tirelessly to maintain the Track and shelters along the way. While walking I turned 60 so I had quite some time to reflect a bit on the fortunes of life. I have loved every minute of the Track, I’ve had a ball and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.