Thursday, October 13, 2016

Following the Waugals - Kalamunda to Dwellingup

Day 1 - Kalamunda to Hewitts Hill (10.3km)

It was cold wet and windy, but I was determined to start regardless. Once on the track I would have to deal with whatever the weather threw at me, so at a little after 10, after our 2016 funny face photos, I walked away from the northern terminus at Kalamunda.

The flowers were stunning. It's been a particularly wet winter so the West Australian flora has put on a spectacular show this year.

The rain came and went, the wind blew, but I marched on, up and down, past a stunning waterfall then later a camel farm, and after 10.3 km made it in to Hewitts Hill campsite just ahead of a group of 8 ladies walking in from the other direction. There was one chap already there ahead of me. And as the day went on, more and more people arrived. Who would have thought on a cold wet Saturday, that also happens to be the AFL grand final day, so many people would go camping in the Perth Hills! We had 17 in the shelter, and 2 in tents that night!!

The people you meet on the track are a real highlight of the experience. All sorts of people walk the track for all different reasons. They might just walk small sections, or walk in to a hut and back out the next day, walk the whole length as fast as possible, or walk it as slow as possible. There are complete nutters that will walk well over 30km each day, spending 12 or more hours walking, and then there are those of us just taking our time...

That first night I met two other End to Enders: Luc and Bill. Only I'd met Bill before. 10 years ago I'd gone on a diving trip to the Rowley Shoals off Broome, and Bill and his family and friends had been on the boat. And I still haven't completed the dive video I promised them all....

Day 2 - Hewitts Hill to Helena (19.6km)

Bill, Luc and I decided to walk together. We left around 7:15, making our way down to Mundaring Weir. The walk across the spillway required hats off to stop them being blown away by the vicious wind! Then it was up the hill on the other side, following the pipelines past the pub and back into the bush again. A rest at the Perth Hills Centre then back into it. We stopped at Ball Creek hut for lunch, but we were double hutting today to arrive at Helena Campsite, a total of 19.6 km for the day.

We passed some lovely countryside. A beautiful stream with flowers everywhere, Jarrah forests, many many grass trees, orchids, granite outcrops, all so close to Perth. We met quite a few day walkers as well. The final climb to Helena was brutal. My legs are in fairly good shape after three months of skiing, but nothing prepares you for bushwalking with a heavy pack on your back but actually doing it. So I was pretty sore and exhausted by the time we got there.

Helena looks out over the scarp, so it's a glorious location. We shared the hut with Pam and Neil who were heading north, and Harriet also End to Ending going south. A lovely evening was spent chatting over the campfire.

Day 3 - Helena to Waaleigh (9.5km)

The others all left before me today, so I did the walk alone. Although it's great to have company on the track it's also good to spend some time with your own thoughts alone in the bush. I knew the boys would walk faster than me so I left them to it. 

The distance wasn't much but the terrain was challenging. Steep ascents and descents, but majestic stands of Wandoo made up for the pain, as did the flowering shrubs and orchids. I passed Harriet having an early lunch and reached the campsite at 12:30, 4 hours after I'd left Helena. 

Waaleigh campsite is also perched on the scarp, on the other side of the valley  from Helena, but the glorious view comes with the disadvantage of being open to the wind and rain. So I put my tarp up over the open side of the shelter and we were much more comfortable.

Harriet joined us again that evening, as did a young Estonian lad who went off to sleep in his own tent in the rain, then left early the next morning.

Day 4 - Waaleigh to Mt Dale (20km)

Another day of double hutting and the splintering of our little group. Luc woke with a sore hip and was contemplating giving up. He also wasn't well prepared, walking with very little food, no stove, and a backpack so small he couldn't fit his sleeping bag into it so he carried it in a plastic shopping bag. I don't know what he had in that backpack now I think about it.

The walk to Beraking was an easy one. I wasn't far behind the boys, and although we all passed Harriet, she arrived as we were having lunch. Harriet was staying there the night, whereas we were moving on to the next hut. Luc, however, rang a friend and walked out to Dale Rd to go home. It was a sad goodbye to new friends, so Bill and I were now just two.

The walk to Mt Dale involved a few climbs, and the final few kms were a struggle, even though the terrain was flat or downhill. The sight of our hut was a welcome relief. That night we had no other walkers join us. But Bill had a ukulele, albeit broken, to play.

Day 5  - Mt Dale to Canning (19.4km)

The walking day started with convincing Bill to turn left rather than head back the way we had come, a result of being tired at the end of the day yesterday. The walk was an easy one through to the new rammed earth hut at Brookton, before crossing the Brookton Highway and heading uphill to Abysinnia Rock. This was a gorgeous granite outcrop with pools full of water, tiny mosses and many wild flowers. Lying on the rock in the sun it felt almost criminal to get up and move on. 

It was only another 4km to Canning campsite, through swampy paperbarks and then through post bushfire regeneration. The grass trees all put out flower spikes after a fire, some had some pretty weird curls in them.

That night we were joined by a father and son walking through to Albany Highway over 4 days, and another sectional walker heading to Dwellingup at a considerably faster rate than us. He'd walked the Appalachian Trail and part because f the Pacific Crest Trail so was a pretty interesting chap to talk to. 

Day 6 - Canning to Monadnocks (15.6km)

We are getting fitter. Although there were a few ascents and descents today it wasn't too difficult. Highlights were walking through a virgin Jarrah forest, and arriving at a river deep enough to strip down and have a swim. It was a very short dip in the bracingly cold water, just enough to rinse the sweat and dust off then sit on the warm rocks to dry. Wearing the same clothes day after day, and not showering, you start to get just a bit pongy. And your clothes get rather stiff from the sweat they could almost walk away by themselves!

Monadnocks was in a beautiful location, nestled in the forest with an outlook to the two hills we'd be climbing the next day. We shared the camp with a father and son who'd walked here from Sullivan's Rock. It's been so good to see so many family groups out walking and camping, it still being school holidays.

Day 7 - Monadnocks to Nerang (25.3km)

A long day involving 3 summits, two huts, and some long slogs in between. But stunning, simply stunning.

At Nerang we met Dong Hyuen, a Korean lad who left Kalamunda 5 days before us. He's surviving on noodles and food donated by other walkers, has no sleeping mat, and is walking with the most inappropriate footwear and no socks. He's stubborn, I would have given up long before....

Day 8 - Nerang to Gringer Creek (16.6km)

It rained all night and was quite cold, but there was no wind so we walked along without raincoats through mostly drizzle. It was an easy day and we arrived at the campsite before 1 pm, made a pot of tea, then took the 1km diversion behind the hut to the roadhouse on Albany Highway. I picked up my food package and we indulged in a cold beer and a burger with the works. Stocked up with marshmallows and chocolate we headed back to camp.

Dong Hyuen turned up, and we were also joined by a couple of ladies and their nephew who were out to trial their camping gear. From every person you meet you learn something new. A camping or walking tip, an interesting fact, some useful advice, the name of a bird or flower....

Day 9 - Gringer Creek to White Horse Hills (17.6km)

Another cold night, not helped by a snorer in the shelter. After a cooked breakfast we were off across the Albany highway and heading up the climb to Boonerring Hill. The flowers through here were spectacular, but the weather was cold and blustery, so we didn't bother with climbing to the rock summit.

The weather was much warmer down in the valley, where there were numerous springs. We missed a turnoff through some bushfire affected forest and had to backtrack a km or so, but it was otherwise an easy run over a couple more hills to our hut for the night.

The track is well marked with Waugals, but they can be spaced a fair way apart, such that you can start to doubt whether you are still on the right track. The maps are helpful, as are the reference trees, for working out where you are.

Day 10 - White Horse Hills to Mt Wells (14.5km)

Another cold night, but we are warm once we get walking again. A hill early in the day gives us expansive views, including the huge tailings dam at Boddington gold mine.

The climb up to Mt Wells is steep, but the hut at the top is an old fire tower keeper's hut and has 4 walls and an old wood combustion stove. We will be warm tonight!

We are joined again by Dong Hyuen, who busies himself with the fire, and then Ian, from near Canberra, shows up. He too is End to Ending, but started a few days after us.

Day 11 - Mt Wells to Chadoora (14.9km)

It's a windy night but we are out of the weather and quite cosy. The walk to Chadoora is a breeze, the final bit along a stream with avenues of banksia and stands of jarrah and casuarina. The hut is in a lovely forest setting, and the sunset is red.

Day 12 - Chadoora to Dwellingup (19.4km)

Today the temperature hits 30 degrees, a considerable change from the colder temps of the last week or so. The walk follows the Hotham Valley Railway, past the cute siding at Etmilyn and on into town. It's a hot walk and I am exhausted and extremely grateful for the hot shower at the caravan park. The meal and red wine at the pub goes down a treat too.

After 12 days and 200km my feet are sore with a few blisters, but the body is holding out pretty well. My dehydrated food has all worked out well, as has my groovy little stove. And our daily pot of tea when arriving in camp has been great thanks to Fred.

It's a day of rest and blogging in Dwellingup, and then tomorrow I head south to Collie. I've picked up another food drop, restocked with metho and chocolate, and there'll be another pub meal tonight.

Onwards to Albany

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