Saturday, November 5, 2016

Into the Karri Forests - Balingup to Pemberton

Balingup is a cute little town. Not a huge amount of things to do, especially when visiting mid week. Harriet headed on, and because I stayed two days I got to meet Richard, another End to Ender who was a day behind us. We ordered the courtesy bus from Kirup Tavern to pick us up for a pub meal, as the Balingup Pub had shut down. In fact almost every business in Balingup was up for sale....

Richard headed on whilst I enjoyed a second rest day in which I was able to get a fantastic massage, and then spent the rest of the day dozing in the sun. Bliss!!

Suitably refreshed after my mini break it was backpack on and off on the trail again:

Day 28 - Balingup to Blackwood (17.7 km)

I walked out into a misty morning and south out of town. The track passes through the Golden Valley Trees Park, which showcases trees from throughout the world, including an impressive Australian collection. Then it's back in to the Aussie bush.

The mist burnt off and the morning was warm and sunny. It was a day for more orchids.

Soon after lunch the track followed a dirt road before passing through private land shared with some prime Angus cows.

Then it was through an ugly pine plantation. I frightened a group of emus, who ran off so quickly one tumbled over in their haste. They are such stupid big chickens!

Blackwood campsite is perched on a hill looking down to the Blackwood River. In 2013 a huge bushfire came through the area and somehow the shelter survived. The trees, however, have all been felled for safety reasons so it's rather barren and quite exposed to the weather. A chance to put the tarp up again!

I was joined at the campsite by Jenny and Peter, whom I'd met the evening before in Balingup. Jenny is walking  the whole track, and Peter is joining her until Donnelly River Village so they will be my regular camp buddies for the next week.

Day 29 - Blackwood to Gregory Brook (18 km)

The tarp came in mighty handy in the morning when a huge front came through and it poured with rain. Peter and Jenny foolishly headed out in it, whilst I stayed and took my time packing, and by 8am the sun was shining and I was back on the track. 

The descent from the shelter down to Blackwood River is affectionately known as "cardiac hill". Going downhill it's a breeze.

The walk along the Blackwood skirts private property. I say Hi to a couple of gorgeous Clydesdale horses and continue on.

After crossing the river the track heads up a long road to a water catchment dam. There are weeds everywhere and it's rather depressing. Then suddenly, after turning past the dam and heading into old railway formations, the weeds disappear and the bush flowers are back. And lots of orchids.

Gregory Brook campsite is by a small stream, very snug and scenic.

Day 30 - Gregory Brook to Donnelly River Village (20.2km)

Today the track enters the Karri forests. These giant trees grow nowhere else in the world. I thought some of the old Jarrah and Marri trees were big until I am stopped short by the sheer size and magnificence of these beauties.

The Karri forest is wetter and more closed in than the more open forest further north. There are few views and it can be somewhat claustrophobic, especially as there is much tree litter across the track and you are forced to concentrate on your footing.

The track follows old railway formations (leftover from the logging days) above the Donnelly River, and by 3pm I am happily enjoying a coffee and cake in the village.

I sleep in the bunkhouse at the old school, the village now being a tourist place for family holidays, complete with flying fox and tame kangaroos and emus.

Day 31 - Donnelly River Village to Tom Road (16 km)

The track maintenance through this section is a noticeable improvement on further north. Obstacles are cleared from across the path in a timely manner and the huts are all stocked with firewood and axes. It's certainly a pleasant change.

The track follows the Donnelly River all day, within Karri forest which is quite wet. I see snail orchids and more spider orchids, and pink fairies...

Tom Road hut is in an awesome location, right on the river with its own swimming hole. The DPaW workers drove in to clean the loo and supply more toilet paper, and helped Lee, a young chap walking to Northcliffe, get some Bardis out of the Swamp Banksia. Bardis are wood grubs, big and tasty and perfect bait for trout fishing. I grab a few and have a go myself using a hand line I purchased in Collie. No luck with catching dinner, though I went for an icy swim trying to retrieve my snagged line!! Very refreshing!

After my skinny dip Lee gave me a float and new hook and I tried fishing some more. Neither of us got a strike, so it was dehydrated meals for dinner after all. Jenny showed up later, having had a leisurely breakfast back at DRV, so we are three for the night.

Day 32 - Tom Road to Boarding House (23 km)

A long day following the river. Mostly on old railway formations, sometimes through some quite deep cuttings. It got a little depressing walking through the forest, with the continual buzzing of bees and not much to see but big trees.

At One Tree Bridge the track crosses the river, and I stopped at some rapids nearby for lunch. I also took the opportunity to take my shoes off and soak my feet in the icy waters.

Mostly the track was high above the river but sometimes you could access it, like at these lovely rapids.

Just before the hut the track crosses the river again, this time on a lovely footbridge fashioned from a single log. Then it's turn right to the hut, again by the river and again I have a bracing dip.

Lee has caught trout today and cooks one on the fire for us to share. Jenny, Lee and I are joined  later by Lesley, yet another crazy "double hutter" who is on Day 14 of her End to Ender. She has walked from DRV today, a total of almost 40km.

Today we passed the halfway mark on the track. Worthy of a photo me thinks!

Day 33 - Boarding House to Beavis (20.2km)

Quite a few hills today, including the infamous "heartbreak hill". Its description in the guidebook reads "engage walking sticks and now would be the time to use any jet boosters being carried to assist with ascent". Jenny and I both have lunch at the river crossing before attacking it, and although its steep it's not too long. Perhaps a sign that my fitness is improving. And I had quite a stack of buckwheat pancakes with nut butter and apple sauce for breakfast!

We passed through a section where a huge Karri tree had fallen down into the valley, and had taken four more trees with it! These trees are huge! And the wonderful track maintenance team had worked out a way for us to get past these monstrous obstructions. Sometimes the track went round, other times they dug under!

I saw a few pretty tiger snakes as well. They slither away pretty quickly, so no photos. I am getting a lot less freaked out about them now sightings are almost daily as the weather warms up, and I am wisely wearing knee high gaiters.

Beavis campsite is also by a creek and waterhole but it's a bit stagnant so I forgo a swim. The red book reports nocturnal rat visitations so Lee helps Jenny and I hang our food out of reach.

Day 34 - Beavis to Beedelup (22 km)

No rats visited overnight and I woke to a full chorus of thousands of birds welcoming the new day. Sometimes this moment can be spoiled by early risers packing their gear for another day. Luckily, Jenny, Lee and I prefer rising around 5:30 to 6 am instead.

The walk was long with lots of ups and downs. We have left the Donnelly River behind, which means climbing up and over into other watersheds. First Carey Brook, and then Beedelup Brook. The Karri forest continues, and we cross the Brook at Beedelup Falls, an impressive cascade rather than a vertical drop.

The campsite may go down as my favourite yet. There is a gorgeous spot to sit by the brook, or go for a swim, and there are a number of picnic tables set on a terrace. Lee has moved on to find more fish, so Jenny and I share the hut, and assiduously hang our food out of reach of what sounds like some very persistent rats from the notes in the red book.

Each hut and Track town has a Red Book and a Green Book. You are expected to register each day in the green book for safety reasons ( so you tend to know who is in front of you) and the red book is there if you want to write further comments. Some people write in the red book a lot, others only occasionally, but the recent comments were very rat related. Lee had seen a big tiger snake nearby, so I'm thinking Rattus rattus probably has a limited life living around the hut and the problem will solve itself. We did get an inspection crew come in after we went to bed, but finding no food to access, they left us alone the rest of the night. Either that or Mr Tiger turned up!!

Day 35 - Beedelup to Pemberton (23.7 km)

The day starts overcast, as it has rained overnight. Perfect walking weather. It's an easy walk along river systems today, including the lush swampy Fly Brook, Big Brook Arboretum, Big Brook Dam and Lefroy Brook. 

The sun comes out in the afternoon and I am at Pemberton by a little after 3 and check in at the YHA. It's time for a shower and a beer.

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