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.