Wrong Way Jim, WA
23 January 2012
Gwen finally let me out of the office for a stroll on the Track in September. It was hard to get permission, despite the fact I’d only been away for eight weeks holiday in the UK during June and July. It’s a tough life, being a vollie…
My wife Sylvia dropped me off on the Albany Highway, at Pike Road, and I walked back to Kalamunda.
Over just five days, I met thirteen people setting out on end-to-end walks. I know this is a popular time of year for walkers, but isn’t this an indication of just how much interest there is in walking on the Track?
I had a great walk, despite picking the wettest and stormiest day of the month to go over Mount Cooke. The bush was especially beautiful, with the highlight being the fantastic display of wildflowers on Mt. Dale. As ever, the red books in the campsites provided a lot of entertainment. Here’s a selection of entries that caught my eye:
“We had stake for tea.” (With wood chips on the side maybe?)
“My legs were saw after all the hills.” ( Exhibitionist?)
“The bear at the pub was very welcome.” (Serving exotic meat on the menu?)
“We saw an old birdge up a tree.” (This has me beat—any suggestions?)
And this, clearly by a little one:
“My Dady lit a fiya and we tosted meshmillows.”
Incidentally, I counted eight different spellings of “marshmallows” in various registers!
The next entry is interesting. I won’t give away the author’s name and I hope it was written tongue in cheek…
“To Alan and Di, who started three days ahead of us at Kalamunda. We’re only just behind you now, so if you read this, we’ll catch you soon.”
Think about it…
One final one, which has me puzzled:
“Today was hot, and I sweated as I walked on my back.”
To all the end-to-enders I met, good luck and good walking. Most of them were well prepared and well equipped.
I met one with no wet weather gear, in a rainstorm half-way up Mount Cooke.
I found one lady carrying marine distress flares. Fortunately she was being met for a food drop the next day, and promised me she would get rid of them. Obviously this was an extreme case, but please take care with anything you carry that is inflammable. And never carry anything as potentially dangerous as flares! Fire is the worst enemy of the bush.
I met one person who thought Gringer Creek was a town.
The lesson? If you are intending to do a long walk on the Track, check out your facts first. Get your guidebooks and maps and study them. Talk to our experienced staff.. We’re here to help and advise, and for Foundation members, we offer comprehensive trip planning advice sessions.
But back to my short trek.
Pride of place on this particular expedition goes to Travis, who I met after I walked from Mt. Cooke to Canning campsite.
Travis is a very nice guy, and a person who clearly loves the bush.
He is also the only person I have ever met who carries his didgeridoo wherever he goes.
Picture the scene in the tranquillity of Canning campsite. Dinner is over and we have a small campfire, burned down to its glowing embers. There are four of us, we’ve all walked a long way and we are contentedly tired.
Travis has played his didgeridoo with some expertise, and bed beckons. Travis raises his head.
“I’ll just play a moose call. It’s what the moose hunters in the States do. The moose always come.”
“Travis, if a moose appears, I’ll give you a thousand dollars.”
He played a long, deep note on the didgeridoo, and the echoes faded slowly away.
“Something always comes,” he said.
And off we all went to our sleeping bags.
You’ve been there. You’ve crawled about, pulled off garments and pulled on your thermals, got your sleeping bag zip stuck, banged your head, lost your beanie, wondered if you should have made a last trip to the dunny, dropped your torch—but finally you’re in your sleeping bag, stretched out, warm and enjoying the inky black silence of the bush. You’ve stretched those aching muscles and you’re hoping for a good nights sleep.
All was quiet, but then, somewhere on the edge of my consciousness, I heard chanting. I sat up and concentrated hard. Had the didgeridoo disturbed the spirits of the bush? The noise grew, and spectral lights danced on the treetops a hundred meters away.
“Something always comes”, Travis had said.
The chanting became louder and the concept of the spirits faded away, as I realised that “Ten green bottles, standing on a wall” is not a traditional Aboriginal tune.
The spectral lights resolved themselves into about a dozen LED headlamps, bobbing up and down, slowly moving closer together, until they closed in upon us.
It was like Star Trek. Aliens, peering at the humanoids in their shelter. A wash of brilliant white light covered us, and we had no ray guns with which to retaliate. Beam me up, Scotty!
A Scout troop had invaded us. I won’t embarrass them by giving away their name, but they had got lost between the Brookton Highway and Canning camp site. That’s fairly difficult to do, but given my reputation, who am I to criticise?
They were good kids, and they settled down very quickly. However the light of day showed up a few things that I think are worth mentioning.
Almost all of them had expensive LED headlamps.
Most of them were carrying backpacks that were far and away too big and heavy, given that they were out for only three days. In general, their footwear was unsuitable, and they were intending to go over Mt Vincent and Mt Cuthbert on the walk. And in the morning, some were complaining about being cold overnight.
Here’s a message to parents, which applies equally to all walkers.
LED headlamps are excellent, but more important are proper footwear, warm clothes of the correct material and an adequate sleeping bag. And work on the adage “take only what you need, not what it would be nice to have”. It’s surprising how much the weight in your backpack can be reduced, if you put your mind to it.
Remember the object of being “out there” is enjoyment, which is difficult to realise if you are cold, wet and your shoulders are aching.
And Travis, if we ever camp together in the future, leave out the moose call, mate!