A four-day, 100km hike to test all my brand new gear (and me!) seemed like a good idea, especially since I haven’t ever done any hiking coupled with wild camping (other than the aborted attempt earlier in the year) and I’m about to leave for 5 weeks of mostly hiking, mostly wild camping on the other side of the world. With my departure date fast approaching, I picked a fairly ambitious distance and a couple of possible weekends. I thought my hiking partner from the last trip, Steve, would flatly refuse when I mumbled something about a 31km day, but luckily he thought it through, decided he was up for the challenge (with several contingency plans if not!) and agreed to join me.
Day 1 – Sullivan Rock to Canning (23km)
We met at a place called Sullivan Rock, about 70km SE of Perth along Albany Highway, with the plan to walk 101km along the Bibbulmun Track back to Kalamunda, where we could catch the bus home. After final repacking and general messing around, we walked out of the parking lot at 10:40am. Across the highway, into the bush and straight onto an almost vertical wall of granite! I thought this was a fairly rough start to the walk and was surprised that our first ‘mountain’ was so early. Still, we climbed it very easily. Sadly, this was not the first mountain, just a little foothill for it!
Getting up the actual mountain (Mount Vincent) was not too difficult either and rewarded us with some lovely views. It also started drizzling at this point, but I soon scared that away by putting my pack cover on. We passed a large walking party (Bushwalkers of WA) and arrived at the first hut for our lunch break. There was already another large group of Bushwalkers here, and the group we had passed arrived shortly afterwards so we quickly finished up and headed out again (table space was in short supply!).
It turned into a beautiful day and we had a long but reasonably uneventful walk into Canning campsite where we were staying the night. We arrived at about 5pm which left us just enough time to set up camp before it got dark. This left us eating in the dark and there was a lot of laughter over some terrible failures with new food strategies, including a pot of noodles which simply refused to soften! Green ginger wine made the situation better though, even when drunk out of a bowl, as I don’t carry a cup!
Some sore feet, but no other problems. Still, not looking forward to tomorrow’s 31km if today was only 23!
Day 2 – Canning to Beraking (31.1km)
It was a clear and very cold night for most of it, with a light drizzle developing towards morning. My sleeping bag was excellent – nice and cosy when tucked in around me, but cooled off easily if I opened it out a little. My sleeping mat is also excellent for warmth but sadly very slippery on the silnylon tent floor – I think I spent half the night chasing it around! The tent was good in most respects – easy to pitch, roomy enough inside (though I wouldn’t want to have 2 people in it!) but I had a lot of condensation on the inner during the night.
There was no rain in the morning, but it was very damp, with a fine mist settling on everything. I had the fun of packing up a wet tent, which just got more water on it when I left it to dry in the mist over breakfast!
This was going to be a long day, so I resolved to tackle it 10km at a time. Steve left at about 8am, with me about 10 minutes behind due to mucking around repacking gear (I’m probably actually quite good for an amateur, but am already comparing my performance to a seasoned traveller!). Walking completely by myself was a new experience, but one which I quickly adjusted to . . . and then caught up with Steve anyway!
We kept amused with some impressive rock scenery (Abyssinia Rock), dieback boot wash bays and speculation about the giant who had walked the opposite way to us (boot prints that must’ve been at least a size 20!). However we didn’t actually see a single soul for the entire day. The weather was beautifully sunny so I hung one of my solar chargers off my pack shoulder strap and it seemed to be charging well.
We reached the first hut, had a bit of a break, donned our waterproof jackets and pack cover (the weather was looking a little ominous) and headed out again. More walking and we reached our second hut for our lunch break, still going OK. Waterproof pants went on shortly after this as a light drizzle started up. We went well for another 6 or 7 km (25km in total so far) then it all went downhill (figuratively. Literally it was mostly uphill!). We hit horrible terrain with incredibly steep uphills and downhills (both as bad as each other), slippery, rough ground and some devastating wrong “distance remaining” calls by me. Eventually we staggered into Beraking Campsite. Beraking is situated on the edge of the hill with a stunning view towards the coast. Frankly, I would’ve preferred to miss the views and have the campsite 2km back down the track!
Still, it was only 4:30pm, a lovely campsite, and we had made it. A great achievement. Now all we had to do was get through the night and still be able to move in the morning! We watched the sun set for several hours (then decided that it must actually be the lights of Perth or Rockingham we could see) and had dinner (more successfully than yesterday) while watching an impressive display of lightning off the coast. Luckily it was far enough away that we couldn’t even hear the thunder and it was heading south, not east towards us.
On a side note, I actually had to bash my tent pegs in today (yesterday they just slid in easily). The Vs definitely went in better than the carbon stakes, but both worked well, and having the composite set is nice.
Day 3 – Beraking to Ball Creek (26km)
It rained for most of the night. It didn’t seem to be leaking through although it was still quite damp on the inside due to condensation. Probably better than yesterday, but condensation is a whole nother issue that I’ll talk about later. Even though it had stopped raining by morning I practiced a full “pack up and get dressed” inside the tent (successfully) then tried a reverse pack up of the tent (take the inner out first, then the fly). My new system for this was also successful but leads to VERY cold fingers! Some waterproof gloves are looking more and more important!
We departed again at 8am (together this time) with everything going smoothly for some relatively easy walking. We had some great views and interesting theological/metaphysical discussions to keep us occupied up to our first hut at Waalegh, perched on the edge of a cliff. Amazing views but a bit exposed for my liking.
My “track name” for today has become ForKay . . . becomes it seems that most times I announce a distance it is always “only 4km away”.
We got our first view of Mundaring Weir, which we would reach tomorrow, then were onto the middle, tricky (steep) section of today’s walk. We passed a large group of what looked like uni students going the other way. Then through Chinaman creek/gully, which was one of my favourite spots, . . but no photos sorry. They wouldn’t have captured its beauty anyway. We continued through the steep terrain, with some nice open country dominated by Summit Gums (our name . . we couldn’t remember what they were called) allowing for sweeping panoramic views. Then all the way up the hill to Helena campsite for lunch. We allowed ourselves a fairly long break and were just about to leave when another guy showed up. As we walked out, we passed his mate (who he’d left behind) a few hundred metres down the track. He was in worse condition than we were and no wonder with the size of the packs they were both carrying!
After this tricky section we had a fairly easy walk to Ball Creek. After a lot of doubt over whether we’d make the full distance today we actually did it easily, getting into camp at 3:30pm. I set the fly up to dry (again using my new “no-inner” mods) and sat down for some nibbling and reading. We had some decent rain today but, happily, all our waterproof gear held up to it.
Day 4 – Ball Creek to Kalamunda (21km)
We again managed to leave camp at about 8am (although again, Steve left without me as he was getting cold). I was a bit miserable with incredibly cold fingers from packing up the wet tent, but the beautiful misty morning and lots of photos soon cured me of this. The photos also meant I didn’t catch up to Steve but luckily he waited for me at the Forrest Centre because the signage was terrible and I almost wandered off down the wrong track.
It was strange suddenly being back in civilisation, with the Forest Centre, then Mundaring Weir. There were lots of wallabies and kangaroos, clearly accustomed to seeing people around as they weren’t scared of us at all. We were considering stopping at the Mundaring Weir Hotel but decided to push on. The dam wall was scheduled to be closed for maintenance work which would mean we’d have to walk down the steps all the way to the bottom of the dam and back up again. Luckily for us, it was still open so it was a nice, flat (and scenic) walk across the top.
We had some relatively easy walking for a bit, passed a school group (with a harried teacher chasing up behind them) then arrived at our only hut for today (Hewitt). We had a nice chat to a lady there who was training for a two stage full Bib Track hike later in the year (Kala – Balingup, then Balingup –Albany). She got by with a very light pack and it was interesting to hear her strategies for food over such a long distance and time.
Onwards we went . . . 12ish km to go. We had some VERY steep terrain (“The Barriers” – it has a name, you know it must be significant!) to drop down into Piesse Brook. The views weren’t amazing but the rocky landscape was. Sadly it was too steep to carry the camera in my hand and too much effort to get it out for photos. I’ll have to sort that problem out before Scotland! Then back up the other side away from Piesse Brook. Not as steep but still very long. We saw 3 Dobermans in about half an hour (all separate owners) which was unusual enough, but seemed a little surreal when the owners were all stunned to hear that there were other Dobermans living nearby (Owner: “wow, you don’t see many other Dobermans around here” Me: “What do you mean, this is the third one I’ve seen in half an hour?!”).
After this it was a surprisingly short walk into Kalamunda townsite. A short stretch of bitumen, back into bush for 5 minutes then to the Terminus point for our victory photos! Then, more importantly, across the road to the Kalamunda pub for an amazing lunch (and beer!). Then it was a simple matter of walking around the corner and catching a bus heading back to Perth. We arrived in Kalamunda at about 2:15, and got home by 4:30 for showers and rest.
In the end, a very successful trip and quite enjoyable. It was tough at times and the trail is a completely different world to civilisation. It is very simple – you walk, you eat to make sure you can keep walking and you lay down so you can walk again the next day (I hesitate to say sleep, because I haven’t mastered that part of it yet!). The pace is so much slower that you really appreciate the world around you. Time is also measured differently. You walk for an entire day, essentially not “achieving” anything except moving 20-30km. It is quite wonderful and I think my biggest problem will be adapting back to “the real world” when I return.
I’m going to try to follow up with a more technical report with some distances, times and weights for those who are interested.