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The last yellow Waugal – or finishing the Bibbulmun Track

Lindy Lester, WA

23 January 2012

The feeling is surreal.

For the last three hours I have been winding my way along the high cliffs overlooking the Southern Ocean, with the most amazing views of rugged coastline in both directions. The vegetation about me still abounds with a massive array of late spring wildflowers bearing all the hues of an artist’s palette.

For the first hour after leaving the Hidden Valley shelter, I have had the twelve huge wind turbines with their whirring blades as my companions. The one constant factor over the past few weeks along the coast has been the wind, often at gale force. For the last two days, since I crossed the massive ridge of West Cape Howe, the turbines have been visible, tiny at first in the distance, and gradually as each turn in track and tiny ridge brought them into view again, becoming larger until last night turbine number twelve loomed high above the Track. Its rhythmic beating was part of my night’s sleeping.

Despite the easier walking of the last few days I decided not to “double-hut” through the Torbay campsite, in order to prolong the final moments and relish every last step and sight.

And here I am – Albany is six kilometres away.

The town is clearly visible across the bay, around which I will spend the next ninety minutes walking.

I scarcely believed that this moment would arrive. Since yesterday, Albany has been beckoning; a carrot in the distance, appearing and disappearing with each twist and turn of the Track. I see now that what appeared from kilometres back to be a blight in the forefront of the Albany landscape, when viewing the triangle of houses heading into the hill behind it, is in fact the silos and the port, an obvious and necessary part of a large city with a natural deep harbour.

I ponder the issue that if you do an “end-to-end”, but your pack doesn’t, does that disqualify you? The thought opens a can of worms. What if you were diverted because of a prescribed burn and you haven’t walked all of the Track?  How does that work? Such are the endless musings of a solo Bibbulmun Track walker.

And here I am – I am alone and I reflect I am glad it is that way.

While others will be happy for me that I have achieved a personal goal, this is my moment. I don’t want it spoilt. My emotions are close to the surface. I wonder if I will be a mess when I eventually reach the Southern Terminus of this near 1000 kilometre Track.

A fast forward of images flashes through my head; of the Track from the very start in totally random order. The shelters, the possum at Monadnocks, the quokka at Warren, the quenda at Torbay, Dog Pool with the Shannon River, the balcony and river at Frankland. The forests of the north, the many river systems, Mt. Cooke and the other hills, the wonderful variety and colours of the wildflowers, that elusive spider orchid, the magnificent karri trees (still my favourite), the isolation of the Pingerup Plains and wading through knee-deep mud. Then reaching the coast at Mandalay accompanied by gale force south-westerlies, the Giants (surely these Tingles are the trees from children’s fairytales), the rugged south coast with its continuous ups and downs (thankfully not as daunting as I was led to believe they would be) and the supporting towns along the way.

The people of the Track, not just those I met but also those I came to know through their entries in the “red book”, the English tourist who took my photo at Peaceful Bay because she was so excited to actually meet someone walking the Track, the Waugal markers on posts and trees, fortunately not missing too many of them. The images pass so quickly that I can’t catch any single one to focus on.

I send a prayer of thanks to God for providing me with the determination and fitness to complete the walk, and for His protection throughout. I praise that a combination of good luck and good management meant that I suffered no disabling injuries that might have prevented me from finishing.

My thoughts rush on to the Track itself – those who dared to dream of its possibilities, those responsible for its implementation, and those who are responsible for its upkeep. I met only one volunteer, Ron at West Cape Howe, but remain in awe of the great job that they all do. I marvel that this world-renowned track is free to walk and totally safe for a woman to walk solo.

I reflect on the help I received; from my sister and her husband in the northern section, delivering my drops along the track and in the towns, whose standard reply to my thanks would be, “you think you’re having an adventure – we’re having a ball”, and my husband in the south, who hired a camper and drove over 10,000 kilometres seeing so much of the south-west and meeting up with me at each town with all my bits and pieces.

But even as I head to the finish, I reflect that it has been as much about the journey to get here as the actual walk itself. For me the dream began on a bicycle ride from Albany to Perth in 2006. The route crossed and recrossed the Bibbulmun Track many times, and by the end of my ride, to complete this amazing walk was a goal. I trained hard and pored over the Track books and the diaries on the Bibbulmun Track website, planning my itinerary.

Over two sections, the north in 2007, and now the south a year later, the goal, at one stage seemingly so unreachable, has almost been realized. It doesn’t matter that thousands have already completed their end-to-ends, some several times; it doesn’t matter that others did it easier or faster, with heavier packs or with more gourmet meals; it doesn’t matter that others have done harder walks in this country or elsewhere in the world. What matters at the moment is that this moment is mine – a very ordinary person completing an extraordinary feat.

Lindy Lester