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Stoned on the Track

Colin Broun, WA

6 December 2016

Liz, on the Track
Liz, on the Track

We had not walked any of the Bibbulmun Track since 2008, so with the promise of at least six days of autumn sunshine my wife Liz, good friend Stan and I off. We took a taxi from Collie to the Glen Mervyn Dam, planning to walk back to town, collect the car, drive to Balingup, and walk back to the dam.

The first stage to Yabberup Campsite was an easy, shaded, meandering walk through mixed forest. Walking on and through this ancient land, long the domain of the traditional land holders is always a privilege. After heating and eating precooked beef and vegetables, complemented by a full bodied shiraz, we retired to bed expecting a quiet, bush caressing sleep.

However at midnight I developed stomach and back pain, which became progressively stronger. Liz, fearing something serious, telephoned 000 and St John Ambulance Perth arranged for the Collie ambulance to meet us on Best Road, a gravel road off Mungalup Road. We packed and set off at 4.00 am along the Wellington Spur trail, to the point where it crosses Best Rd. I was unable to carry a back pack or walk very fast. Stan, a hero, carried two packs (26Kg) and led the way with a GPS, a bright hand torch, head torch and comforting, inspiring conversation

The Collie ambulance officers were in the area already, kept in contact by telephone and indicated their position by sounding the siren. However, at times we seemed to be walking away from them. After what seemed like an eternity and with many stops, we finally arrived at Best Road—no ambulance, flat mobile battery, no reception and the pain unrelenting

 The flat battery problem was quickly solved using our Go Puck charger (Ed: see www.gopuck.com) to charge our iphone, and  Liz and Stan walked up a steep gravel road to obtain telephone reception, whereupon we discovered that points at which Best Road crosses the Bibbulmun Track and where it crosses the Wellington Spur trail are some kilometres apart!  The ambos were waiting anxiously where we had told them to be, where Best Road crosses the Bibbulmun Track to the south of the Yabberup Campsite, which explained why we had felt that we were walking away from the sound of their siren.

As the warm, morning sun peeped through the forest canopy they found us and the efficient ambulance crew immediately had me receiving pain relief and reassurance. The ambulance crew were magnificent. Gentle, kind and forgiving. Collie based Parks and Wildlife Officer Tom Kenneally also met us. Tom was responding to a request for assistance from St John Ambulance State Operations Centre, after the ambulance crew had initially been unable to locate us.

 He kindly drove Stan and Liz and our back packs to Collie, while I travelled in the ambulance to the Collie Hospital Emergency Department, where I was diagnosed with renal colic. After pain relieving injections, I was able travel to Perth by car to SJOG Perth for further, excellent treatment

 Massive thanks are due to the St John Ambulance officers, to Tom Kenneally, my fellow walkers and to Dr Saharay and the emergency staff at Collie Hospital.

We have in WA a very efficient, highly trained, State wide St John Ambulance Service and also experienced Parks and Wildlife Officers. My illness was not life threatening, although in the early hours of a morning, the mind fantasises the worst possibilities.

Having strong, loving fellow walkers, reliable maps and brightly reflecting Waugal signs was very comforting. Walking along the Track at night adds another beautiful aspect. The serenity of the Australian bush is often best appreciated at night.

In the stress and urgency to pack up and leave Yabberup to meet the ambulance, despite having the Bibbulmun Track maps, we gave incorrect information to the St John Ambulance. Lesson learned