Thursday, 7 November 2013

Bibbulmun Track Section 5: Pemberton to Walpole

Eventually, you get to a stage where you just don't care what you look like!! :-)
Continuing my journey along the Bibbulmun Track with an 11 day section;

28/10/2013: Monday Day 32

Mikey and I saw Andrew off at the bus stop, and then went for breakfast; he would be missed.

The day was relaxed; posted back some clothes and saved 900 grams, collected my food and shopped for extras, did some washing. Mikey had to go to the hospital after his blister began to leak, and they patched him up well, he needs to get the dressing changed when we get to Northcliffe in 3 days time.

29/10/2013: Tuesday Day 33

Away at 6am, we were taking it easy to ensure Mikey didn't aggravate his popped blister. Despite this we made good time.

First stop was The Gloucester Tree, just outside Pemberton. This is a fire watchtower you can climb, I didn't as it looked too much a task for someone with a fear of heights. Besides, we had somewhere to be.

We took a side trip to The Cascades, a series of rocky falls on the Warren River.

The remainder was a succession of small climbs, along the river. Mikey was spooked by a  couple of snakes, including one very big Dugite. He also spotted an impressive moth dead on the track.

We were at Warren Campsite at just gone midday. We joined Ann, a 64 year old Australian from Perth who was also End to Ending, and had arrived in Pemberton the day before.

A lazy afternoon spent, with the luxury of a bit of a siesta, it's not all hard work on the Bibb!

30/10/2013: Wednesday Day 34

Slept very soundly in my tent, once I had got used to the kangaroos moving around nearby, and woke at 4:30am to a sunrise that just told you it was going to be a hot one today. We were on our way by just past six, and it proved to be a tougher day than expected.

Once over Road Bridge, it was a series of hills in dense foliage along the Warren River. I have to say the river sections are not my favourite; you rarely see the river, or get a view worthy of a photograph, and I always wish they were done with. Today, the first 11km was just this!

I left Mikey at McAlpine Road, he was out of sorts and wanted a power nap. This gave me the opportunity to speed up. We were away from the river now and the forest opened up. There were still the countless fallen trees to negotiate, but rather that than a vista of nothing.

At Wheatley Coast Road, the track meanders around some private property, and some open paddocks, always a delight to see!

Eventually, the track reaches a small private reservoir, and the Schafer Campsite is situated on its banks. I arrived just after midday.

I met Ann there, just finishing her lunch and about to tackle the next 14km into Northcliffe. Not for me, though, the 33 degree heat was too much to walk in.The beauty of this campsite is there is a roped off area for swimming in the reservoir. I took the opportunity to cool off.

Mikey arrived an hour or so later, and the rest of the day was quiet as we escaped the heat. Late afternoon, the temperatures triggered an explosion of flying termites. They were everywhere, even covered the surface of the lake and, coupled with the flies, made for an irritating evening meal. Eventually, all I could do was retire to my tent to escape the worst of it.

31/10/2013: Thursday Day 35

Up at 5am, the termite onslaught had abated; it must have been one of those 24 hour things. We saw the remains of them all the way to Northcliffe, 15km away.

Today was the easiest day of the whole journey, so far. Following the Karri Hill Road, and then passing through Jane National Park.

We then came to some open farmland as the track skirts a few properties, and we had an encounter with some cattle, which took me back to walking in the UK.

The final section was through Northcliffe Forest Park, where there was some evidence of controlled burning.

On the edge of town, we reached a sign that said 335km to Albany; almost a third of the way left to go now.

We booked into the Bibbulmun Break Motel. The owners, Alan and Glenda, are two of the nicest people you could hope to run accommodation; if you are ever this way, stay here!

We got Mikey's foot redressed at the local nurse point, checked conditions for the track to Walpole, and then a small matter of finding room in my rucksack for eight days worth of food!

01/11/2013: Friday Day 36

A very late start for us, leaving the Bibbulmun Break Motel and rejoining the track, under threat of drizzle, along the disused tramway and then onto the Wheatley Coast Road for a short section. We passed a German S2N E2E who told us the Pingarup Plains were still wet, and knee deep in places, which would pose a problem for Mikey's foot.

The terrain was noticeably flatter than other days, and the ground was sandy, indicating we were getting closer to the coast, despite being 3 days away from reaching it.

I noticed that Mikey was slower today, and by midday, and with 6km to go, he told me he'd see me at the camp, and so I went ahead.

I was into Gardner Shelter by 1:45pm, and there were two Aussies; Ken and Daniel setting up. They had come seven days from Walpole and, when Mikey had arrived, gave clearer details on where we should expect to get our feet wet. It all seemed acheivable and put my mind at rest.

02/11/2013: Saturday Day 37

It had been a hot topic of conversation along the track since Kalamunda, and now the time to tackle the Pingarup Plains had arrived. When I started all those weeks back, there was a diversion from Gardner to Dog Pool due to heavy flooding and that had been lifted only a couple of weeks ago, so it was expected that we may have to do some wading.

Half an hour out of the camp, I encountered a tiger snake sat in the middle of the track. Two more steps and I may have been hitting the SOS button on my SPOT Tracker! The snake was definitely dozy, and obliged us with a perfect photo opportunity, motionless to the point where we thought he was dead.

We skirted round him, and threw a twig to coax him off the path, and nothing until I stepped forward from behind him and he made is way into the undergrowth. A highlight of the trip!

The track was mostly sand, and I found that difficult going; in my thoughts were the long distances of beach and dune walking to be done and that was a little depressing. Nothing for it but to snap out of it, and I cleared my head by upping my pace to prove I could deal with it.

We finally arrived at some waterlogged sections and each one we managed to bushwack around, albeit with some nimble footwork.

By the time we reached the edge of an old growth Karri forest, we realised we had got through to Lake Maringup campsite without getting our feet wet. A good achievement.

We were in camp by 11:15am, a short day but tomorrow would be a long one. Lake Maringup is the largest freshwater lake in the south west and a chill breeze was blowing into the shelter, nestled on its shores. If it didn't abate, it was going to make for a cold night. On the plus side, it would keep the mozzies away!

The evening was cold, and I managed to set my tent up in the shelter for an extra layer, although little protection if one of the Karri's decided to fall. I don't know when the wind died down, I had drifted off long before then.

03/11/2013: Sunday Day 38

5am up to see the sunrise over Lake Maringup, and we were away by 6:25am. We easily negotiated our way through the massive fallen Karri just outside camp, and soon came to the first of many water hazards. This was the biggest obstacle Ken had told us about. Mikey, the exuberence of youth, managed to bushwhack a way round it, whereas I was never that agile, and donned my sandals and waded the fifty metres through cold, but very refreshing water.

After this, we had no such problems with the other pools. Duckboards helped, but others just took some plain old footwork around the edges.

This section took us through some old burnt Karri forest where the ground was littered with fallen branches, and even concealed the odd Tiger Snake, but this one was far less confident than the one yesterday.

By 9:45am, we were at Chesapeake Road, and 9km done, with the sun blazing, so took a short break. Next up was a long 7.9km to Deeside Coast Road, along an old overgrown track that was beginning to dry. We came out of forest and up and over a plain where the tallest trees were the blackbutts.

After Deeside Coast Road, it was a muddy traipse over boggy ground that had started to see the first wildflowers as the water receded.

We eventually reached Dog Road, and it was a tired 55 minute slog along the sandy track to Dog Pool Campsite, arriving just before 1pm. A lovely shady spot with the Shannon River next to it, and a perfect place to cool off my sore feet and have a refreshing wash. This is also the last place on the track where we can have a camp fire.

I think Mikey is keen to get further along the track, with some beach camping in mind, but he liked the hut and decided to stay. I was pleased because I'd like to be with him through the remaining wet sections just to make sure his healing blister is okay; afterwards, he can race ahead.

The afternoon and evening was dogged by flies, including the big March Flies that love to bite! I had to forget using the toilet and dinner was spent in my tent.

That night, we had some spots of rain, but far off there was a fair old storm going. It wasn't until the thunder and lightning got closer, about 3am, that I abandoned my tent for the relative safety of the hut. To cap my restless night, some rodent had managed to get into my food again, despite it being hung up!

04/11/2013: Monday Day 39

We naturally woke up about 5:30am, and set about breaking camp. Today was humid, and my tiredness didn't help. Each step in the heat, on the sandy Marion Road, then Pingarup Road, was a real effort! Just when you think it couldn't get worse, the flies arrive!

This section was interpersed with a couple of promising showers, but not the deluge that we hoped for to both cool us and get rid of the damn flies!

Across the plains we went, I gathered speed to get through this section without shade.

Finally reached Mount Chance Shelter at 11:45am. I wandered down to look at the camp sites and immediately disturbed a Tiger Snake, so chose to set up my tent next to the shelter again. Nestled below a granite dome, we sat back in the shade of the hut and tried our best to fend off the flies for the afternoon.

I need this section over with. I'm tired and ready for a rest, but Walpole is still 4 days away. I am finding walking on sand tough, and the prospect of the coast to come is daunting; will the legs hold out? The best we can hope for is a change in the weather, and a nice sea breeze would be ideal.

05/11/2013: Tuesday Day 40

Morning arrived and the temperature had dropped significantly. So much that halfway through the morning I was considering double hutting to get to the ocean.

The journey across the Pingarup was muddy but uneventful, and we were at Woolbales Shelter by gone midday. A quick cook up of a meal and then we were on our way again at 1pm. The path was saturated and muddy, but, as the sun came out and changed the day, we had pockets of forest for shade and there were interesting granite outcrops to see, including Watermelon Rock.

Then the way became sandier, and we were into the dunes. I spotted a Dugite and a couple of emus as we approached the coast. Every now and then we were offered glimpses of Chatham Island, but no real view of the ocean behind the expansive dunes.

Then the track diverts to the scenic lookout and we get a spectacular vista of Mandalay Beach and the much awaited Southern Ocean!

We made our way down to the car park and then the path to the beach. Here, I said good bye to Mikey, as he was keen to camp here, whilst I wanted to continue to Long Point, 6km away. It was 3:45pm, and I reckoned that was more than enough time to get there.

The beach was difficult to walk on, the extra weight sending your feet deeper into the sand. I past a fisherman who took my photo for me and said there were a few others at the hut, if the tracks heading up into the dunes were anything to go by.

And so, up onto the dunes. A tough first hour getting up onto the top, frustrating two steps forward, one step back, but eventually some steps simplified the ordeal. Thankfully, the temperature was dropping as the sun started to set, and the task seemed almost complete.

I spotted countless roos in the bushes on the walk into the shelter, and arrival before 6pm justified my decision to double hut. I'd now be in Walpole a day earlier.

In the hut were Boots and Noddy, and their friend Jessie. Boots and Noddy have been End to Ending since the 19th September and I have seen their entries in the log books since Dwellingup; finally I had caught up with them!

A half hour later, Mikey rocked in. He'd changed his mind, and wisely too because it would have been a horrible night on the beach, as the evening clouded over and the rain came in.

06/11/2013: Wednesday Day 41

A mere 12km today, so no hurry, especially as it was raining still with no sign of a let up. Jessie, Boots and Noddy set off about 7am, and just as we were about too leave the rain got harder so we sat back down, to wait it out a little longer.

Half hour later, we left. The dunes were arduous, but the rain had hardened the sand and made it a little easier. The short shrubs and bushes soaked the legs, though, and the boots were inundated.

Mikey came across a Dugite and when I caught him up we took photos and had to decide how to get round it. Mikey banged his Gandalf stick and it reared up, before eventually sloping off, but it confirmed that future snake stand offs were going to prove tricky!

Once we joined the Nuyts Wilderness Trail, we wrung out our socks, then the going was easier. We came into a forest with the first Tingle trees.

Across the Deep River via a suspension bridge, then up to Mount Clare, a steep 180 metre climb through more magical Tingle and Karri trees, we arrived at the shelter at a quarter past twelve.

No double hutting today. Changed into dry clothes, the sun was not going to appear so very little chance of getting any of the walking gear dry by tomorrow; no matter, an easy 10km into Walpole and should be in time for breakfast!

About half two, David, a S2N E2E'r arrived from Walpole. He'd come from Albany in 7 days! I won't be attempting that but good to know I am almost at the finish line!

07/11/2013: Thursday Day 42

We were all up at 5am, and very keen to get going, despite the rain. By the time we started off, it had stopped and the walk was a simple and quick 10km into Walpole, arriving in town by 8:30am.

First stop was the Dine-in Cafe for Bacon and Eggs, then we all parted ways for our respective accommodation; Me at the Walpole Lodge, Mikey with a mate of a mate, Boots and Noddy at the YHA, whilst Jessie's adventure on the Bibb was at an end. No doubt, those of us still End to Ending would meet up again further down the track.

To be continued..

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