Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Bibbulmun Track: my next charity challenge

Day 45: Bibbulmun Track sign in Treetop car park
Bibbulmun Track sign in the Tree Tops Car Park
After my April 2012 trek in Tasmania, I returned to Perth, where I arranged a day trip down to the Tree Top Walkway and Valley of the Giants, in the South-West corner of the state. Whilst at the walkway, I spotted a sign to the Bibbulmun Track, which passes through the region. It reminded me of a post I put up back in July 2011, and I thought, with one goal achieved, I would share it again, with some exciting updates;

I've long been inspired by reading books and watching documentaries about expeditions crammed with acts of endurance and exploration. Now, let me get something straight, I am not considering following in the footsteps of Scott and Shackleton; I'm in no way capable of crossing the Antarctic continent, for a start, and I'm not a huge fan of snow and extreme low temperatures (or extreme high ones, come to think of it). In addition, I am fast racking up a history of back complaints in my advancing years, resulting in failed walking attempts (my 2011 foray to Tasmania a classic example). I have toyed for some time though, with the notion of tackling a long held dream, something I believe, all my problems withstanding, should be within my capabilities; a very long distance walk.

For the past few years I have owned a, rather cheesy, late nineties promotional DVD called "Getting on Track" and two guidebooks for a trail that has taken my fancy. The stumbling blocks with this trail are that it would mean taking three months off work due to it being almost one thousand kilometres long (hence the two guidebooks) and it is on the other side of the world in South-Western Australia. But here I am, seriously considering The Bibbulmun Track.

The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world's great long distance walk trails, stretching nearly 1000kms from Kalamunda, a suburb in the hills on the outskirts of Perth, to the historic town of Albany on the south coast. It passes through the heart of the scenic South West of Western Australia.

The official website proudly proclaims the track is for walkers only, which appeals to me; nothing worse than sharing a walk with mountain bikers and four wheel drive enthusiasts! It is also well maintained and signposted with distinctive yellow triangular markers symbolising the ‘Waugal’ (rainbow serpent of the aboriginal Dreaming). The route takes walkers through towering karri and tingle forests, down mist-shrouded valleys, over giant granite boulders and along breath-taking coastal heath lands. It passes through many of the most beautiful national parks of the South West forests and coastline.

donation cover photo
The Bibbulmun Track in aid of Epilepsy Action

Whereas my intentions are to become an “End to Ender”, the track has many points where you can enjoy a day’s hiking, or experience an overnighter, with forty-eight campsites, each consisting of a shelter, pit toilet, and a rainwater tank. For those attempting the whole route, it is also designed to drop in on the fringes of civilisation every week so you can resupply and enjoy the odd rest day. The track passes through the towns of Dwellingup, Collie, Balingup, Donnelly River Village, Pemberton, Northcliffe, Walpole, Peaceful Bay and Denmark.

I am not about to head off any time soon. I have decided on September 2013 for a couple of reasons; I will be hitting a half century not out that month and really want to do something significant to mark it, and setting the date over a year away will also give me time to prepare, financially more than physically.
My major headache was always going to be how I would swing it with work. I hoped I would be fortunate, but, in truth, I did not envisage my employers giving me the green light to have three months off, which would have meant a serious decision to make.

Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, and I am eternally grateful Brunel University have agreed to my extended break.

Now to my second issue; working out a budget for the trip and raising the cash to finance it, because the weak pound means Australia is no longer a budget destination for Brits as it was a decade ago.

For the walk itself, one of my favourite pastimes is the route planning. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but reading up and studying the route, ascertaining suitable points along the track to resupply, forwarding trail food parcels to those locations where it will be possible to do so; it’s all part of the journey!

Aside from the logistical side of preparation, there are obviously health and fitness considerations, both physically and psychologically. I have no doubt that staying motivated on a walk of that duration, dealing positively with those inevitable low points, and not giving up, will be a real issue; I have experienced that miserable place before on hikes lasting a number of days, I have also known it on a few of those lasting just the one!

Lots to think about; for more information on the track, please visit: http://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/