Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bibbulman Track Notes

At almost halfway through this 1000 km walk through the south west of WA, I thought I would share a few insights.

1. The reasons people walk this track are many and varied. Reading between the lines I'd say many walk it to regain some balance and clarity in their lives. To deal with a relationship issue, work stress, or to simply dial out for a while. The added bonus being to experience nature at ground level and to rely on your own exertion and determination to achieve your goal.

2. Your goal may only be an overnight stay involving a walk in and out, or a few days, or like me, the whole distance end to end. How people approach this goal varies, from those who are driven to  walk all day and get there as fast as possible, to those who spend more effort on the journey than on the destination.

3. The walk is 50/50 physical/mental. You have to look after your body. Feed it well, keep up hydration, stay warm and dry, and not overweight your joints. Stretching at the end of the day helps too. The mental challenges are dealing with the thoughts and emotions that emerge as you walk, the atavistic fears of snakes, getting lost, bushfires and pushing your tired body through the last few kms to your campsite for the night. As one walker said: "I'm not sure which one gives me a greater sense of relief; seeing a Waugal after I haven't seen one for a long time, or seeing the hut at the end of the day".

4. There is a wonderfully welcoming Bibbulman "family" out on the track. You read about the people walking ahead of you in the green registers at each campsite. You hear about those walking behind you from the faster through walkers. Sometimes you meet up with them as your timelines cross. Everyone walks their own walk but we are all joined by our love and enjoyment of this wonderful Western Australian bush as we follow the Waugals. We share food and tips, compare notes on our track experiences, check out each other's gear, introduce each other to new birds or flowers, and other wonders of nature. We put up with the snorers and early risers, and share stories over cups of tea, or sitting around a campfire, or a pub meal in a track town. Some people you walk and share camp with for one night, others maybe for weeks. Some will become life long friends.

5. You spend a lot of time in the present. Daily life is sleep, eat, walk, eat, walk, cuppa tea, eat, sleep. The constant walking in nature forces you to concentrate on the here and now and to view the stresses of everyday life in perspective. You don't have mobile coverage most of the time anyway, so the natural world consumes your attention. This is incredibly good for your psychological wellbeing.

6. You will get fitter, stronger, and thinner. You'll also be less vain and less modest, and your personal comfort needs will be minimalist. You will be surprised how long you can go wearing the same clothes day after day without a shower and not feel particularly uncomfortable. You may, however, become a little alarmed at how badly you smell!!

7. The country towns you pass through are pretty cool. There's awesome hospitality and some of the best coffee and meals I've eaten in WA.

8. Mother Nature is amazing, and deserves our respect. Observing the cycles of bushfire destruction and regeneration, the myriad patterns created by leaves and flowers as they grow, and the birds, insects, reptiles, monotremes and marsupials that rely on this habitat to survive. We only have one planet and we need to respect and care for our environment. I am continually wanting to pat and hug big trees, and the diverse plant and animal life provides me with such joy.

Everyone should get out into nature more. It truly is grounding.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trees, pub lunches, and more trees - Collie to Balingup

There wasn't a hell of a lot happening in Collie. The mining museum was closed, but the railway rolling stock shed was open, so I had a quick gander in there at the old time railway carriages. Reminded me of some of the old rattlers we used to take around NSW in the 70s and 80s.

There's also a small modern art gallery, and lots of local iron sculptures around town, so the place isn't quite as bogan as some think. The sunset over the town was quite pleasant, as was the sumptuous Indian meal I had on my second night.

There's quite a good little camping shop in Collie, where I bought myself a dinky blowup solar lantern, a blowup pillow, and a small hand reel so I can do a little fishing as I head further south. It's a little more weight to carry, but I'm generally carrying less food between towns from now on, and a good night's sleep really helps. Talking of which, I ordered a thermal sleeping bag liner from Mountain Designs in Perth to be posted to me at Balingup, because my current setup just isn't working for me. More on that later.

I ran into Harriet again, and we spent an evening looking at flower, orchid and bird books trying to identify the flora I'd seen so far. The little orchids near Murray campsite with the bunny ears are called rabbit orchids, and the one I thought was a donkey, was actually a pansy orchid.

Day 22 - Collie to Yabberup (19.6 km)

Leaving at 7:30 it took me no time till I was out of town and back in the bush. Even though it was early it wasn't cold, so I was a bit mindful of seeing more snakes, but luckily no more were sighted. It's funny, but the spur trail into town seemed to take a lot longer at the end of the day as it did first thing in the morning!

Once through the casuarina forest the road descended to the Harris River. Unfortunately there's no footbridge, so you have to trek to the road bridge to cross it. 

Then the track follows under the electricity line for a few hundred metres before heading back into forest and to my lunch stop at Mungalup Dam. Waugals were a little far apart through this section, and some seemed to have been removed by vandals.

When I got to the turnoff to the Wellington Dam spur trail I realised it was 20 km each way. I had planned to do it, but without a day pack that was just too far to do as a return trip in one day.

Up the final steep hill I went to Yabberup campsite, which I shared with many very annoying March flies. Later, Harriet showed up so we chatted,  cooked dinner, then toasted some marshmallows on the fire before heading to bed.

Day 23 - Yabberup to Noggerup (17.7 km)

I walked most of the day with Harriet. I started off first, but she soon caught up with me as I stopped often to take photos.

We stopped at Glen Mervyn Dam for a rest, as we were in no hurry and had a lunch date. I was keen to go swimming but, being Sunday there were loads of campers and motor boats so it was hardly a serene place for a skinny dip! Harriet put her legs up!

Then we crossed the dam wall, climbed up a little and then down to the Mumbalup Tavern where we had a delicious lunch and cold beverages before continuing on.

From Mumby Pub the track follows an old rail line before heading up a steep dirt road looking out onto idyllic rural property.

Then suddenly you enter the newly listed Preston National Park and you are back in forest fairyland.

Noggerup campsite is set in amongst the trees just over a little creek from the track. Very pretty.

Day 24 - Noggerup to Grimwade (21.9 km)

Harriet and I didn't walk together today, though we kept overtaking each other when one of us would take a rest. Most people walk the track at their own pace then compare notes at the end of the day. It's easier that way, especially if you are looking for orchids or doing lots of photography.

I'm finding that 17 to 18 km in a day is a fine amount of walking but once it gets over 20km it starts to become a grind, and getting to the hut to take off your boots becomes the primary focus. Unfortunately there are quite a few 20 plus kilometre days coming up!

As for my feet, the old blisters have healed up yet new blisters form in new spots. And I am about to lose a toenail.

The walking today was pleasant, as it was mostly overcast with occasional bursts of sunlight. At times the trail followed old railway lines which make for good walking.

Saw more pansy orchids, and lots of big trees in open forest.

Grimwade campsite gets the gong for smelliest toilet, and incidentally the largest collection of loo paper on the trail so far!!

Day 25 - Grimwade to Balingup (22.4 km)

Another long day, the final few kms being a real grind as you descend to Balingup Brook and walk through pine plantations and weeds along a muddy river. Besides that bit, the rest of the day was quite pretty.

I've arrived in Balingup a day early, so rather than change all my onward accommodation bookings, I'll stay 3 nights and have a look around. I'm staying at the Post Office Backpackers which is quite cosy and centrally located, and I'm in no rush after all.

But Harriet is heading on. Safe travels my friend...