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The Bibbulmun is This and More

Eric Bow , California, USA

6 December 2016

Many tourists travel to Western Australia to enjoy the pristine beaches around Perth, take a ferry over to Rottnest Island or explore the outback in a jeep.  I didn’t.  I came to hike the Bibbulmun Track.  I’m a thru-hiker, a triple crowner, which means I’ve completed end-to-end hikes on America’s three grandest trails—The Pacific Crest, The Continental Divide and The Appalachian— a total of 12,000 kilometers.  Throw in The Arizona and Florida Trails and I’m pushing 16,000.  At this point thru-hiking is in my blood.  It’s become a passion—an obsession.  There are a few trails in the States I still have my eye on, but in 2014 I decided to go international.  Before arriving in Oz, I’d logged another 2,200 kilometers on New Zealand’s long path, Te Araroa. Since completing the Bibbulmun Track, I’ve done the  thru-hike of the Pyrenees Haute Route from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

It’s hard to compare tramping through the black swamp of Bradwell Bay to crossing snowbound passes in the northern Cascades, treading across the desert southwest where water and shade trees are scarce, to trekking through the green tunnel of the forests in Appalachia, spending weeks above 3,000 meters among the peaks and plateaus of the Rockies to walking along the white sand beaches of Australia’s southern coast.  It’s like comparing apples and oranges.  To a fruit lover, they’re both sweet, but with completely different tastes.  I suppose what I’m trying to say is that each trail has its own unique  features that make it special.

After settling in at Sandpatch on the penultimate day of my journey along the Bibbulmun Track, I put pen to paper and wrote the following verses about my experience.

Once upon a rain day dreary
While I rested feet so weary
From the soft sand walking I had done upon the coastal shore.
As I sit I start reflecting
On my trek my thoughts collecting
The many miles, the days, the nights and everything that’s gone before.
The Bibbulmun—So what’s in store?

From the treetops comes a squawking
It’s the cockatoos, they’re talking
All while feeding on the tasty seeds the Eucalyptus bore.
My Oh My!  These messy eaters
Shriekers, squawkers, high-toned tweeters
Down from the canopy a rain of twigs and leaves doth pour.
The Bibbulmun is this and more.

Three kangaroos disturbed, now jumping
Set my beating heart a-thumping
A fourth more tranquil stays and looks upon me as if I’m a bore.
Lowers head, continues chewing
Choice green grass, the rain renewing
Wondering why the others fled and what they were so frightened for.
The Bibbulmun is this and more.

What is this curled in the track,
Rows of spiky spines on back?
Echidna!  Cuddly creature.  We’re so lucky!  You I do adore.
Emerging from its sphere a-quaking
Every limb its nerves are shaking
Unsure whether I’m a friend or some blood-lusting carnivore.
The Bibbulmun is this and more.

At Grimwade lives a wee, sly possum.
Two more arrive.  That’s three.  How awesome!
The party’s on!  Is there another?  Who is going to make it four?
Under shine of headlamps snuffling
Off to yonder forest shuffling
Three is plenty.  Three is company.  No need for a possum war!
The Bibbulmun is this and more.

Not too far from Frankland River
A myriad of delights deliver
Awestruck children walking spans high above the forest floor.
There the towering karris mingle
With the giant red gum tingle
A relic from Gondwanaland back to the age of dinosaur.
The Bibbulmun is this and more.

The starry sky revealed at night
Sends my scattered thoughts to flight
Above the coastal headlands and landscapes out of dreamtime lore.
O’er granite domes and sand dunes high
O’er river pools ‘neath darkened sky
To mix with endless crashing waves amidst the Southern Ocean’s roar.
Oh Bibbulmun!  Oh Mi Amor!

A few months have passed since I completed my southbound thru-hike.  However, I still remember rising early to greet the breaking dawn, marvelling at the beauty of the sun’s morning rays slanting through the karri forest, keeping a daily count of the kangaroos  encountered, searching for the perfect spot to photograph sunset, and being lulled to sleep by the sound of rain on shelter roofs.   I’m sure others who have section hiked or done an end-to-end share similar memories and, in that respect, it makes us all a part of the Bibbulmun Family.  

Eric on the way to Dwellingup.
Eric on the way to Dwellingup.