Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Australia: Bibbulmun Track Section 1 - Kalamunda to Dwellingup

Day 2: Me at Helena Shelter
Me at Helena Shelter
Greetings from Western Australia! It has taken a while coming, but here is the first posting of my Bibbulmun Track attempt; Section One - Kalamunda to Dwellingup. Get a cup of tea and a comfortable seat, because this post is a long one!

27/09/2013: Friday Day 1

I was up and out early; no fanfare, no send off. Kevin, Sue and James were at work, and Cameron was sound asleep in his pit; it all seemed a little anti-climatic.

After my train and bus ride, I arrived in Kalamunda and wandered to the Perth Hills Visitor Centre to sign the log book for the walk. The staff there were extremely supportive and I even got my photograph taken for the next Bibbulmun Track Foundation newsletter. They asked that I come back at the end of it all and tell them my thoughts on the trail.

So, a lonely self-portrait taken at the start and I set off at 11:15 am. It was to be a short day to acclimatise to walking with a heavy pack but I was soon feeling it in the midday heat.

Day 1: Descending to Piesse Brook
Descending to Piesse Brook
I figured it would take a while to get away from built up suburban areas, but was pleased to see this was not the case. From the terminal, it was through a small section of scrub to Spring Road, where you veer right, descending passed an old golf course and down a creek towards Piesse Brook.

I was delighted to see, contrary to what I had been told by some bloke at the airport, the wildflowers were out, and it eased the mind having something beautiful to focus on, making the labour more bearable. Add to that, the streams were running nicely, and that was a comfort.

Day 1: Piesse Brook no.1
Piesse Brook
When I climbed up from Piesse Brook, I took my first break half way. This was bloody hard yakka!

The struggle eased when I the track levelled out a little, a gentler incline through the Jarrah and Marri Forests of the Kalamunda National Park. Good paths, though, and the regular waugals and signage kept me from straying.

I crossed a dirt track named Fern Road, the first access point for day walkers and an escape route for those wishing to bail on their Bibbulmun thru hike. 

Back into woodland, I managed to bump into some tourists taking a camel ride. I was nearing Paul's Camel Farm, on Pauls Valley Road, where I was intending to take a break. The farm has a cafe, and I couldn't turn down the opportunity of a cup of tea, a slice of cake, and the use of a proper flushing toilet, especially as this was to be my last for a week or so.

Fed and watered, I continued on, through a shady patch of Banksia, across Asher Road, and then a descent to my home for the night. 45 minutes from the camel farm, and I was at Hewitts Hill Hut.

Day 1: Jarrah Plantation
Jarrah Plantation
Now, before I embarked on this adventure, I envisaged that one of my biggest challenges was going to be spending nights alone on the track. To my utter amazement I had spent four of my five nights alone on the Overland Track, and I had not slept all that well. For my first night on the Bibbulmun, however, I had no such worries, and when I arrived I found I had the company of Diane and Erica, two Aussie bushwalkers on an overnight from Mundaring Weir.

I took the lower bunk in the shelter, and began an orderly routine that, all being well, I would be undertaking every night for the next two months; unpack, set up my sleeping arrangements, wash and change into camp clothes, collect water, cook, eat, chill out and then sleep.
Day 1: Hewitt's Hill Shelter
Hewitt's Hill
First impressions of the campsites and the three sided shelter systems were favourable. Sure, it meant the the local wildlife could wander in, on this occasion a cocky magpie who had taken an interest in my cooking. I was also impressed by the drop toilets. I was soon to find that quite a few of them were kept supplied with toilet paper, by the track volunteers, although I wouldn't depend on it!

Day 1: Cheeky Magpie no.1
Magpie
The nights, at this time of year, close in quickly, and I was soon in bed around 7pm, with my Kindle. There was just time for two more arrivals, though, a father and son, who took the bunk above.

28/09/2013: Saturday Day 2

I slept little, it would take a few days to get used to a routine, and was out on the trail at 7.15am. There was a touch of mist early on, as I made my way to Mundaring Weir.

Day 2: Morning mist no.2
Morning mist
Day 2: Mundaring Weir from the Lookout
Mundaring Weir
Day 2: Selfie at Mundaring Weir Lookout
Selfie at Mundaring Weir Lookout

As I approached the weir, my SPOT batteries ran out. They were rechargeables, and not up to the job, obviously, so I had to think of a way to get off the trail and get some new ones! Luckily, Diane and Erica  caught up with me at the weir and I asked them to give me a lift to a town with a supermarket. Mundaring did the trick; a rush into Coles supermarket, and then the two ladies kindly dropped me back at the track. I will always be grateful for their help!

Day 2: Crossing Mundaring Weir
Crossing Mundaring Weir
Day 2: Lake O'Connor
Lake O'Connor
Onwards, I met a group of four, Paul and his son Nathan, and Tony and his son, Mitch. For the rest of the day, were were to bump into each other.


Day 2: Rush Hour - Bibbulmun Style
Rush hour - Bibbulmun Style
Day 2: Mann's Gully no.1
Mann's Gully

I lunched at Ball Creek Shelter, and then onto Helena. As we neared the end, we passed a group of thirteen, and mindful of the shelter space, we stepped up the pace to beat them to the hut.

Day 2: Wildflowers no.1
Wildflowers
Day 2: View from Helena Shelter
View from Helena Shelter
Day 2: Helena Shelter
Helena Shelter
It was great to have company once again, with Tony, Paul etc. but the thirteen turned out to be a bible group and their religious rants and singing weren't appreciated.

Once again, when the light disappeared, about 6:30pm, those in the hut were tucked up in bed, whilst the bible group carried on around the camp fire, holding a little prayer session and sing song. Not really appropriate given they were in mixed company.

29/09/2013: Sunday Day 3

Set off at 7am. Chinamans Gully was a tough climb out; up to 300m before descending to the Helena River. Then came a gradual ascent that was more to my liking.

Day 3: Leaving Helena
Leaving Helena
Day 3: Approaching Chinaman Gully
Approaching Chinaman Gully
Day 3: Crossing Chinaman Gully
Crossing Chinaman Gully
Day 3: Wildflowers no.1
Wildflowers
Day 3: Allen Road and Helena River crossing
Allen Road and Helena River crossing

Got to Waalegh about 11:15am where I had some lunch. The rest of today was fairly flat. Two blisters were beginning to form on each little toe, but they hardly hampered my pace, and I had the beautiful wildflowers to distract me.

Day 3: Ascent from Allen Road
Ascent from Allen Road
Day 3: Helena National Park
Helena National Park
Day 3: Wildflowers no.4
Wildflowers
Day 3: Storm debris
Storm debris
Day 3: Wildflowers no.7
Bee on a wildflower
Day 3: Wildflowers no.8
Wildflowers
Day 3: Wildflowers no.10
Kangaroo Paw
Day 3: Wildflowers no.11
Kangaroo Paw
Day 3: Wildflowers no.12
Raindrops on wildflower
Day 3: Grass Trees
Grass Trees
I arrived at Beraking at 2.15pm. Cold and breezy, I spent the afternoon eating. The bible club turned up and because of the weather, it was very crowded come dinner time.

30/09/2013: Monday Day 4

7:15am, on my way after saying goodbye to Tony, Paul, Nathan and Mitch; good company for two days.

Day 4: Beraking Shelter
Beraking Shelter
Day 4: Great Company
Great Company
On my way out, I spotted my first kangaroo; always a special moment, but sadly, no photo. No matter, I was thoroughly enjoying the riot of yellow that was lining my way on this section!

Day 4: Leaving Beraking
Leaving Beraking
Day 4: Wildflowers no.2
Yellow everywhere!
Day 4: Vehicle Track near Beraking
Vehicle Track near Beraking
Day 4: Wildflowers no.4
Wildflowers

By about 10:20am, I was surprised to be passed by Tony and Mitch, going at quite a pace to Dale Road, where they would be picked up. Despite it's name, Mount Dale isn't such a climb, and it was pretty easy.

Day 4: Mount Dale Shelter for lunch.
Mount Dale Shelter for lunch
Day 4: Good track all the way to Brookton Shelter
Good track all the way to Brookton Shelter

I lunched at Mt. Dale Campsite and the remainder of the day was flat and no dramas, but hot in the afternoon sun. I arrived at Brookton Campsite at 1:45pm. With the bank hoilday finished, this was to be my first night alone. I was in bed by 6:30pm, as the sun set, and read for a while.

I was awoken around ten by a barking noise; not that of a dog, but of some bush animal having a bit of a territory dispute.

01/10/2013: Tuesday Day 5

Day 5: Early morning at Brookton Shelter #2
Early morning at Brookton Shelter
The usual departure at 7:15am. A long day ahead today, of 27km. To help, I set myself targets, or tick lists, along the route. The formation of note was Abyssinia Rock; an impressive granite outcrop.

Day 5: Brookton Highway
Brookton Highway
Day 5: Abyssinia Rock
Abyssinia Rock
Day 5: track passing Abyssinia Rock
Track passing Abyssinia Rock
Day 5: back in the Jarrah
Back in the Jarrah
Day 5: A break at Canning Shelter
A break at Canning Hut

Reached Canning Hut at 10:15am, quick break and then 15km to the next hut. It was a hot descent down to the Canning River. I had hoped for a shady retreat for lunch, but I had to steal 5 minutes under a shady tree. The track was made easier by a bed of pine needles cushioning my footfall.

Day 5: Canning River crossing
Canning River Crossing
Day 5: Canning River
Canning River
Day 5: Wildflowers no.3
Wildflowers
Day 5: Herold Road
Herold Road

Once I had exhausted my tickoffs, I was at Monadnocks Campsite, and more company. A guy called Ross, with his son Lachlan, and a couple called Ian and Bernadette. Ross and Lachlan were new to the bushwalking lark, but were getting keener and eager to pick up tips on lightening their loads. Ian and Bernadette were regulars, having also walked the Overland Track in Tasmania.

Day 6: Monadnocks Shelter
Monadnocks Shelter
We had a good chat around the camp fire; looks like Ian and Bernardette would be joining me the next day at  Mount Cooke.

02/10/2013: Wednesday Day 6

Day 6: Waking up at Monadnocks
Waking up at Monadnocks
A later start as the distance was short today; 8:15am. Up and over Mount Cuthbert was easy in the cool morning.

Day 6: Selfie on Mt. Cuthbert
Selfie on Mt. Cuthbert
Day 6: Cairns on Mt. Cuthbert no.1
Cairns on Mt. Cuthbert
Day 6: Cairns on Mt. Cuthbert no.2
View from Mt. Cuthbert
Day 6: View from Mt. Cuthbert
View from Mt. Cuthbert
Day 6: Cairns on Mt. Cuthbert no.3
Rock pool on Mt. Cuthbert
Day 6: View to Mt. Vincent
View to Mt. Vincent

Mount Vincent was rockier and more of a challenge.

Day 6: Descending Mt. Cuthbert
Descending Mt. Cuthbert
Day 6: Sap
Tree sap
Day 6: Mt. Vincent summit
Mt. Vincent Summit
Day 6: View of Mt. Cuthbert
View of Mt. Cuthbert

On my way down I met a bushwalker going north, called "Pedestrian Pete". He gave me plenty of advice about snakes, although I am still to see any.

Day 6: a break on Mt. Vincent
A break on Mt. Vincent
Day 6: nearing Sullivans Rock Spur
Nearing Sullivans Rock Spur
Day 6: near the end of the leg
Nearing the end of the leg
From Sullivan's Rock Spur, it was steady walking in low scrub and then shady forest. I arrived at Mount Cooke hut just after midday, and made myself comfortable for the afternoon. Ian and Bernadette arrived a couple of hours later.

Day 6: Mount Cooke Shelter
Mount Cooke Shelter
Day 6: Ian and Bernadette
Ian and Bernadette
We also had a new visitor; A 29 year old called "Dropbear" arrived at 3pm. He was doing an End to End in forty days, and would turn out to be my companion all the way to Dwellingup!

03/10/2013 Thursday Day 7

Dropbear and I were up at 5am and on the trail forty-five minutes later. We took advantage of the cool conditions and refreshing breeze to climb Mount Cooke, where the visibility was perfect!

Day 7: Climbing Mt. Cooke
Climbing Mount Cooke
Day 7: Ascending Mt. Cooke
Ascending Mount Cooke
Day 7: Summit of Mt. Cooke
Summit of Mount Cooke
Day 7: Dropbear on Mt. Cooke
Dropbear on Mount Cooke
Day 7: Sun on Mt. Cooke
Sun rising on Mount Cooke
Day 7: walking the ridge of Mt. Cooke
Walking the ridge of Mount Cooke
Day 7: Me on Mt. Cooke
Me on Mount Cooke
Day 7: Dropbear descending Mt. Cooke
Dropbear descending Mount Cooke
Today was a long haul in thirty degrees so we wanted to get the bulk done with before the worst of the sun. An early start means we saw a few kangaroos, and I even got a picture!

Day 7: Roos on Powerline Road
Roos on Powerline Road
We reached Nerang campsite at ten, and stopped for twenty minutes. We met our first South to North End to Ender, named "Bird". I envied that he was just five days to the end of his journey, especially in this heat.

Day 7: Break at Nerang Shelter
Break at Nerang Shelter
The 16 kilometres to Gringer Creek had to be the worst; flies bugged the hell out of me, and I choked on one. I even had the first tick on me, although it hadn't buried its head to feed on my blood yet; Dropbear wasn't so lucky!

Day 7: Damn Flies
Damn Flies!
We made it to Gringer Creek by half two; a great effort. After a freshen up I wandered to the North Bannister Roadhouse on a spur trail, to pick up the first of my food drops. Had a cup of tea, and a thirst quenching iced tea.

Day 7: Gringer Creek Shelter
Gringer Creek
In the evening, Dropbear lit a fire and we had a clear night for some great star gazing.

Day 7: Firestarter
Firestarter

04/10/2013: Friday Day 8

Up at 6am, I found myself cornered by a spider in my bed. A quick fumble for my head torch, I made sure it wasn't a redback before snapping one of the strands of web, and seeing the rest hurtle up to the ceiling, with the spider!

Day 8: Albany Highway
Albany Highway
Off at 7am, saw three more roos, doubling my count to six.

We crossed the Albany Highway; strange to think that a car journey of a few hours would see us at the Southern Terminal, as opposed to fifty or so days.

Day 8: Dropbear on Albany HIghway
Dropbear on the Albany Highway
Day 8: leaving the Albany Highway
Leaving the Albany Highway
It was an easy unsealed vehicle track to the foot of Boonerring Hill, with an abundance of opportunities to snap some wildflowers. We also say our first Wedge-tailed Eagles, being harassed by some crows.

Day 8: Wildflowers no.1
Wildflowers
Day 8: Wildflowers no.2
Wildflowers
Day 8: Enjoying the stroll
Enjoying the stroll
Day 8: Wildflowers no.3
Wildflowers
Day 8: Wildflowers no.4
Wildflowers
The climb up the hill was exerting, but I had my legs in now and each ascent is getting easier. The summit is reached by a spur trail, and we dumped our packs to visit the top. I'm sure the views are great, but we only got to see some wet stuff heading our way, so we made a hasty retreat to our bags and the rest of the walk.

Day 8: Starting up Boonerring Hill
Starting up Boonerring Hill
Day 8: Boonerring Hill
Boonerring Hill
Day 8: Wildflowers no.7
Wildflowers
Day 8: Boonerring Hill Summit
Boonerring Hill summit
Day 8: View from Boonerring Hill
View from Boonerring Hill
We descended a rocky and unkempt part of the track, and made our way to the next lump in our way;  Kimberling Hill. At the end of a day, this seemed a never ending ascent, but finally it dropped to White Horse Hills campsite. Just as we arrived, at 12:45pm, the rain began.

Day 8: White Horse Hills Shelter
White Horse Hills Shelter
Day 8: lonesome loo
Lonesome Loo
There was one other camper; Ritchie. He was walking from Dwellingup to Kalamunda. He was a colourful character; he had already walked the track, had many tales of his jobs catching reptiles and snakes in the Pilbara, digging test holes for a mining company, driving across Australia for the hell of it..

We spent the afternoon chatting, reading, eating, drinking coffee. In the evening, Ritchie expertly lit a fire and tended to it constantly, whilst he spun his yarns on relationships and life.

Day 8: Ritchie
Ritchie

05/10/2013: Saturday Day 9

A double hut day and 30km to tame. Up at 5:20 am and away in the mizzle nearly an hour later.

Turns out Kimberling Hill wasn't finished with us yet, and had a second lower summit. Had the weather been good, it would have afforded a great photo opportunity, but my camera stayed safe and dry in my rucksack.

All day, rain came and went, but the trail was good, using old vehicle tracks.

We were up at Mount Wells shelter at 10:15am. This is the only shelter on the entire track that is fully enclosed. It was former accommodation for those who attended to the fire watchtower that sat beside it. It wasn't very welcoming, though, and I was glad I had decided to skip it. We stopped for an hour, for lunch.

Day 9: Mt. Wells Fire Watchtower
Mount Wells Fire Watchtower
Day 9: Mt. Wells Shelter for lunch
Mount Wells Shelter for lunch
Day 9: Aerial view of Mt. Wells Shelter
Aerial view of Mount Wells Shelter
With 15km left to go, as we descended, we were both beginning to feel niggling pains. Dropbear's was more worrying, as he suspected it might be shin splints. We slowed our pace and enjoyed the scenery, which was far better (apart from the scar of the Boddington Gold Mine) than our last double hutter to Gringer Creek.

Day 9: Boddington Gold Mine on the horizon
Boddington Gold Mine on the horizon
Day 9: Dropbear on track
Dropbear on track
Day 9: A long day
A long day
Day 9: path narrowing
Path narrowing
Day 9: half hour to camp
Half hour to camp
We arrived at Chadoora close to four in the afternoon; by far our longest day.

Already there and with a fire going, was Graham, a 61 year old out for a ramble from North Bannister to Dwellingup. He was pleased to see us because he had someone to take a look at a tick he had on his back. It was a big bugger, but there was actually six! Dropbear had a go at removing them, and was partially successful, before having to attend to one of his own! So far, I have escaped this joy; maybe they don't like my pommie blood!

Day 9:  Chadoora Shelter
Chadoora Shelter
As the evening went on, the weather brightened and we had our thoughts on the walk into Dwellingup tomorrow.

06/10/2013 Sunday Day 10

Off at 6:15am, a misty morning with plenty of wallaby sightings. By the time we had reached an old railway line, the sun had appeared and it promised to be a pleasant stroll into town.

Day 10:  Early morning out of Chadoora
Early morning out of Chadoora
Day 10: Wallaby
Wallaby
Day 10: Discontinued Railway Track
Discontinued railway track
Day 10: veering off the railway track
veering off the railway
Day 10: Wildflowers no.2
Wildflowers
However, after we took a break at Etmilyn Siding; a station platform, the trail took a turn for the worse.

Day 10: Etmilyn Siding
Etmilyn Siding
Between here and the old township of Hollyoake, the path was the most overgrown we had encountered and our march through the bush was made all the more frustrating by the flat railway line that stayed between 3 and 30 metres away. But the purist in us kept us on the right path and when we got through the worst, we took off our shirts and did a quick tick check; thankfully all clean!

At Hollyoake, things were more sedate.

Day 10: Stop - look for trains
Stop - look for trains
Day 10: Wildflowers no.6
Wildflowers
Day 10: Wildflowers no.8
Daisies on track
We strolled into Dwellingup just before midday. Dropbear said goodbye as he made for a telephone, whilst I went to the Visitor Centre to sign the log book. I thought I might see him again, but our paths didn't cross, and hopefully he'll find me on Facebook and we can go for a beer in Perth at the end of all this, as I really enjoyed our few days together. I know he'll be in the log books, so I hope he leaves a way to get in touch; stupid of me not to get a contact number.

The rest of my day I settled into the Dwellingup Chalet and Camping Park, went to the Blue Wren Cafe for a steak burger and chips, and got my washing and food ready for the next leg in a couple of days time.

07/10/2013 Monday Day 11

Wow!, getting up late, well, 8:30am anyway, had left me with the feel of a hangover! I was missing the track and eager to be on my way.

The idea of an extra rest day had lost its appeal; well at least if I was to spend it in Dwellingup. No disrespect to the town, but it is sleepy and I was restless here.

I had a number of tasks today; Send a few items, back to Perth, that weren't used on the first 202 kilometres so would not be needed for the rest. Go shopping for new socks and some other items that need replenishing such as food, and also ring Collie to bring my booking forward one night. All done without a hitch, I considered going about midday, but in reality, there were still a couple of items to do; charge camera batteries, headtorch and my Kindle.

Late in the morning, I wandered to the Visitor Centre to use their internet, but found it was shut on Monday and Tuesdays. I was definitely out of here tomorrow!

Late afternoon, a cyclist arrived at the park; Sean was 61 and doing the Mundabiddi Trail, a 1000km cycle route from Mundaring to Albany. We got talking and ended up down the Community Hotel for a couple of cold ones and dinner at the Blue Wren.

to be continued...