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The Laughing Ladies who did it!

Narelle Goodall and Deb Badger, aka Laughing Ladies, WA

23 January 2012

Finally an end-to-ender!

by Deb Badger (Laughing Lady #3)

It may have taken me six years to walk the entire length of the Bibbulmun Track, but what a journey, both emotionally and physically. 

I had never done any walking or hiking in my life, but the Bibbulmun Track sign at North Bannister intrigued me – “ I would love to do that one day”.  When the opportunity finally came up, I jumped at the chance. I had two weeks to learn how to make my pack lighter, how to dehydrate food and how to pack correctly.

A little bit of training took place, although the countryside where I live in Pingrup is not exactly abundant in hills, and so does not provide good training for the calf muscles.  Three of us set off and used the Track name “The Three Cockies’ Wives”, as we were all married to farmers.  What fun we had – although I have never been so cold in my life (a new sleeping bag has now been purchased). I had also never laughed so much either.
We walked from the Brookton Highway to Mundaring Weir – and I was hooked.  I learnt a valuable lesson in pre-hike training as every muscle ached when I woke up and my calf muscles took on a life of their own. Somehow with every hike, I never manage to do quite as much training as I promise myself.

Our group of three has now risen to nine, although we have never managed to all hike together (heaven help the other walkers if we did!) and have now become known as “The Laughing Ladies”.  This name came about when we were walking into Walpole and came across a lady who was on her own.  She said, “I wondered when I would come across you lot” and went on to explain that she had heard laughter for a long time and was envious of the fun we were having.  So we became known as the “Laughing Ladies”.

On our walk from Walpole to Denmark we raised over $6000 for a local single mum who had cancer. It was such a remarkable trip.  Some of the sand-dunes were pretty testing on our bodies and inner-strength but when I thought about my friend with cancer, my own issues and aches paled into insignificance.

Our group varies in age from 40 to 69 but once on the Track, we all become the same age.  The special bond we share will stay with us for our lifetimes.  We don’t live close to each other, so having the opportunity twice a year to get out and enjoy the Track – and each other – is a magical time for us all.  My life has changed through knowing everyone of these inspirational ladies. What gets said on the Track stays on the Track. We have opened our hearts to each other and through that, much love fills the space between us.

I have met many amazing people and now keep in touch with hikers all over the world.  I come home refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to plan the next walk. I have been found guilty of being part of the group that has accosted ‘The Handbag Hiker’ in the middle of a forest (Ed: see Newsletter #52) and I have taken a few hikers home with me to show them our lives off the Track on the farm.  I have been blessed by meeting one hiker, Kate, who after we shared our meal with her, brought us chocolate and fruit on the Track the next day and I come off the Track each time having made more friends.

What have I learnt on the Track?  How to use a squirty water bottle for a shower; how to ask fellow hikers 20 questions in less than a minute about how much their pack weighs, what gadgets they have, where they are going, where they are from and much more.

What an opportunity – to think that this facility is on our doorstep and is free.  Without the volunteers of the Bibbulmun Track Foundation this would not be possible – so I applaud and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So here’s to the magnificence of the tingle trees, the spectacular scenery of the coastal regions, the cute bandicoots, the snakes that I seem to avoid but which my friends see regularly, the karri, the jarrah, the hills, the granite boulders, the bush pigs, the Waugals and so much more!
Deb Badger

“It doesn’t weigh much!”

by Narelle Goodall (Laughing Lady #1)                                                     

That was my catch phrase when someone asked me why I was carrying some particular item in my pack. However, lots of little ‘it doesn’t weigh much’ things can add up to quite a lot of weight.

I started hiking in October 2000 after continually saying I was one day going to “do” the Bibbulmun Track. We leased our farm for a year and I decided that if I didn’t do it then, it was never going to happen. Contact was made with the Bibbulmun Track Foundation and next thing I knew, my husband Alan and I were booked with a group of hikers doing the Northcliffe to Pemberton section over a long weekend.

To say we were novices would be an understatement. We were able to borrow gear and I found myself with my sister’s old backpack that was as uncomfortable as it could be – none of the adjustable harness business of modern packs. Alan looked like an overloaded camel with all that we packed in and on the outside of his pack. It must be noted that he enjoys walking, but sees no reason why anyone would enjoy sleeping in a tent or shelter on a hard floor. The weekend experienced failed to endear him to hiking – I was on my own!

December saw me joining a group walking from Walpole to Denmark and I am glad that I did this section early in my initiation – it’s tough but the scenery more than makes up for it. The following year, another group, another hike… it’s a good way to meet people, make new friends, learn more about hiking and especially about what not to take and how to pack a backpack. I was slowly picking up tips along the way.

Then a friend rang me to see if we could hike together with her two teenage kids.  We planned carefully, headed to Pemberton and off we went. The forecast was for temperatures in the thirties, so we were aware of the necessity of carrying enough water…or so we thought. On the day we reached the Beavis campsite the temperature was 41 degrees and we crawled in with about 50ml of water left between the four of us.  We ended up staying in camp an extra day to rehydrate properly. It was an important lesson for me in being flexible and realising that there should always be a “plan B”.

From then until now I have walked the rest of the Track and become part of a fantastic group of women called the “Laughing Ladies”. The fun we’ve had has made the pain of walking well worth it. The support we receive and give to each other is something many people envy, and it doesn’t stop once we are off the Track. We occasionally get together for coffee or lunch or for birthdays but our catch-ups are never long enough. We need to get back on the Track to have a really good chin wag!

I have always received a lot of ribbing from the girls about the weight of my pack. When I started walking I was carrying 22kgs, but on our last walk I managed to get it down to 17.5kgs. Such an achievement, although I admit to ‘borrowing’ tea-bags and milk when I ran out. On one hike I allowed the ladies to go through my pack completely to see where the extra weight was hiding. They managed to reduce the weight by about 2kgs….but took my family bar of chocolate which I had been going to share with them . Chocolate? It doesn’t weigh much!

The Bibbulmun Track has given me far more than I ever dreamed. The realisation that anyone can give it a go….you just never know what’s possible until you try. The gift of friendships filled with laughter and love, memories to look back on and the fun of planning (and training) for more hikes in the future.  Trust me, we have as much fun in the planning as we do in the actual hike! Chief organiser, LL #3 is amazing in her organisational skills and who without whom I doubt I would have become an end-to-ender. (Thanks Deb.) We also have our training guru, LL #2 who spurs us on beforehand with step-ups and lunges, to make the hike less painful and more enjoyable. It really works …when we do it! (on ya, Rosie.)

I’ve learnt to slow down and “smell the roses”…well the bush anyway. I’ve learnt to appreciate the small things in nature as well as the big – the spiders, flowers, fungi on a tree, along with the karri and jarrah forests, the ocean, the sunsets and even climbing Mt Cooke in time to see the sunrise.

We have such a special and unique opportunity through the Bibbulmun Track, and I know it would not be what it is today without the huge effort of the Bibbulmun Track Foundation, whose volunteers continue to do so much to make it what it is. Thankyou!

And to those hikers who may come across the Laughing Ladies on some future hike….we’re really not that scary at all…just a friendly bunch of women out to enjoy what the Track has to offer.

See you out there!
Narelle Goodall