Bibbulmun Track Diary (Day 01-10) - North to South - Steve Parish - September 3rd 2007 to October 23rd 2007
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|Thursday 6th September 2007|
It's Thursday 6th and the first end of day that I have had the time and energy to write in my diary! I never told myself it would be daily, just key points of the journey that started 4 days ago with Robert dropping me at Kalamunda with a few parting photos on both our cameras. The lift was really appreciated and I will buy him a couple of bottles of red wine on my return in late October.
Set off at 8.20am Monday 3rd which happened to be a warm 27C spring day, (the warmest day of the whole trip) as I waded off down the signed Track with my 28 kilo backpack (I had only ever trained with 18 kilos for the last 4/5 months), as I never dreamt I would carry more than 20 kilos. I stopped to talk to a woman with her Great Dane and second dog, doing their early morning exercise. I felt I had to start getting out of the city rush mentality and it was fun to say when asked, that I was heading for "Albany" for the next 55 days. Walking virtually 1,000kms is quite hard for the mind to get around!
After the first 5km I met up with an Irish carpenter called Garry, who had taken 4 days off work to experience the Bib. We walked together after I had joined his "rest period". He only planned to go to "Hewett's Hill" campsite, although he was very fit, so decided he would keep going to "Ball Creek" campsite where I was heading. During the afternoon my upper front left leg muscle (quad) really started cramping and Garry had to slow down for me, as we came down the hill to the "Mundaring Weir Hotel", just making it before 2pm when lunch can sometimes finish. We quickly sank a pint of quality draft Guinness, then went back for a second to wash down a good salmon pizza. I took a "Gatorade" tablet before the hotel and hoped the Guinness would also help the cramps, but found going uphill afterwards was very painful. I hobbled on with Garry walking slowly, pasted the "Hills Forest Centre", eventually arriving at the Ball Creek campsite at around 4.30pm, lugging my 28kg pack with 12 days of food. This consisted of around 10kg of dehydrated food alone, plus 3kg of water - 2 to 2.6 litres loaded daily at each hut. The food would take me right through to "Dwellingup" -11 days + 1 day spare).
In the hut already was a 73 years young woman and her companion, plus a couple in their 20's.. During the first day Garry and myself met two women going north; after they had spent the previous night in a shelter, they were now on their way back to "Kalamunda". Also met two men - one leaving "Hewitt's" campsite with a two day journey ahead, plus another guy without a pack or water bottle (half-day hiker) heading up to "Hewitt's" - it all seemed TOO busy!!
From "Ball Creek" to "Waalegh" (by-passing or double hutting Helena) was another climb up and down the rocky path, with my legs only aching, but not cramping today. The previous evening I had taken a full wash minus the hair, with 2 litres of creek water; not to know that it would be many days until "Canning" campsite that my B.O. would eventually be washed away (including a hair wash) after 3 days of pouring perspiration, going up steep inclines, while picking my way over rocks, boulders and rain washed gully's. You try to have one foot on either side of the gully, while keeping your downward balance with your extended walking stick or pole. I had to be talked into even having one pole, although many carry two to make the journey easier and faster. I highly recommend at least one as it serves so many uses.
I am writing these notes by a head lamp beside the camp fire at "Canning" - it is 8pm and the other 3 walkers in the hut tonight, are the same ones that were at "Waalegh", as they are also heading for "Albany", although I always go to bed later and get up earlier than them. This is one of the hardest things to adjust to for a person who sleeps 6 hours normally, waking in the city without an alarm clock, where as out here hikers go to bed when it gets dark around 7pm and get up around 6am next day. I cannot sleep for 11 hours even though I am exhausted. I just lie there and listen to the sounds of the bush for hours on end. You don't want to burn too much battery power reading and there is only one other option - watching the embers in the camp fire until they go out - that burns a couple of hours away!
King , Andrew and Heath go to bed at 7 to 7.15pm and get up around the same time too, although Andrew their leader is usually up half an hour earlier. They all work and live around Perth. I have walked solo since day 2 when Garry and I parted company, as he thought I would be walking slowly like yesterday afternoon when I had cramps. After a couple of hours walking he suggested that I walk ahead while he took some photos. I said OK and never saw him again. I knew he would only have continued to "Helena" campsite, as I was scheduled to stop at "Waalegh" another .5k down the Track. At the previous"Ball Creek" campsite we had all seen three guys walk through just before dusk - finding out later they had camped in the bush, when I saw them again as they came into "Waalegh". I had overtaken them by accident while they went down the hill to sign the register at "Helena" campsite. I wondered who owned the three backpacks left beside the Track - the start of trusting other travellers. It had been a showery day - just enough rain to make me cover the backpack with it's waterproof cover and put on my waterproof jacket with hood - then the weather cleared. This was the first hut that was empty when I arrived (for 30 minutes) and then at "Mt. Dale" (after double hutting passed "Bereking"), I was the first to arrive (by 95 minutes), until the same three guys turned up. Today I had 2 hours to myself at "Canning" campsite (after double hutting passed Brookton), before the three caught up with me again.
"Waalegh" had the view across the valley, "Mt. Dale" hut is under the Mt. itself, but 100's of metres down and a kilometre or two away, so purely a bush setting. Nearly at the top of "Mt. Dale" I walked within two metres of half metre long snake lying in the sand across the track, in a bent shape just like many sticks seen before. It had rectangular black sections in twos down it's back and was quite skinny. I backed away slowly expecting it to move, but no such luck, so I stupidly got my walking stick with both hands and played golf shots with small stones in it's direction. Some stones stopped short and eventually some went over the top of the snake but still it refused to get off the track - we had a Mexican stand-off. I then took option two which was to wade through thick or dense knee high bush in a semi-circle around it, as we both watched each other carefully. On rejoining the Track I left it still lying there waiting for the next hiker.
Snake number two was so thick and two metres long that it made me gasp involuntarily. I was walking in a meditative state as you do, when suddenly just before "Brookton Highway" this snake was seen less than 3 metres in front across the Track. It was silver grey on top and far too close for comfort as I instantly walked five steps back without turning around. As I took the 5th step back it shot off into the bush I could hear by the sound that it had travelled 10 metres, so I quickly walked past with my heart still racing. I nearly missed seeing it altogether! I looked it up in my Bib book and could not find a match, but then many same species of snakes have different colours.
It's getting very cold and damp now and the campfire which has been going for 5 hours is ready to go out. Time to hit the sack. I find it really strange going to bed at 8.30pm or in this case 9pm., and then sleeping for 8 or 9 hours, when I sleep for 6 hours at home. I keep telling myself I need the rest after having walked 78.3kms in 4ays over hilly country (today was much flatter in comparison), but it is mainly because it is dark and cold and I have just burnt valuable battery life writing these 6 pages in my spiral diary pad. I am happy and well, still a bit stiff all over the body, but only two small toe blisters that don't hurt. Goodnight World!!
P.S. Just eaten salmon from a silver foil pack on Indian bread for a late lunch with a cup of beef and vegetable soup first. Dinner tonight was salmon mornay with rice and my first cup of coffee - tea every morning with Swiss Mueslie has been my breakfast. Cooking oil has leaked and I left my no-peg washing line at the last hut (belongs to my daughter Renya - I will buy another on-route as it is useful), and I dropped my Thermo cup, but it still works even with a chip missing. Last of all I have broken the draw clip of one of the stuff sacks - must have been too forceful with it - otherwise all the gear is working well and I am using 95% of it too.
Friday 7th September 8pm and I am in my sleeping bag as it has dropped to 2 degrees (a reasonably accurate temperature guage forms part of my watch) with small hail stones - just before I got to "Monadnocks" campsite.at 1.20pm. Set off from "Canning" campsite at 8.45am. as I could not get to sleep - hips sore on either side from the backpack, but slowly they like my left shoulder/neck muscle are getting used to the pack - plus the pack is reducing in weight every day through ravenous eating. Must eat more of my trail mix though as I walk. If I take it from the two big bags in the pack and daily re-pack two small plastics zip lock bags for my trouser pocket, it should be more accessible. Because I slept in and there were steep hills to get here in the heavy showers, to took 4.5 hours to go 15.6kms - just over 3kms an hour including many stops. I have never achieved my training speed of 4.5kms to 5kms on the flat, but then the training hills were nothing like these, where you have to pick your way over boulders, rock faces, rocks, big pebbles, logs, creeks, trees that have fallen and many tree roots. The hail stones are hitting the roof of the shelter, while the wind is almost blowing out the candle - too late it has so I am back to battery forehead lamp, tilted down on the page on the lowest of three lamp settings as the paper is so close. This light was a worthwhile investment with it's six different lighting options.
About 4pm after a salmon foil pack late lunch (like yesterday), I started shivering with cold. I had changed my shirt which was sweaty and damp, and taken off my trouser legs (detachable) to shorts, to try and dry these leg sections in the wind (that did not work), while my thermal tee-shirt and woolen waistcoat jacket were not warm enough. The usual three guys mentioned yesterday were surprised to see me climb up into my bunk and get into my super warm sleeping bag (handles -5 degrees) fully clothed! I slowly warmed up and slept for 1.5 hours. On getting up we all agreed it was near freezing with the cold wind chill factor. Around 6pm I found even my waterproof jacket on top of another long sleeve shirt I had put on was no better. My whole body was shaking as I went into hypothermia. Finally I ripped open my space blanket (silver on one side and gold on the other) for emergencies, wrapping it between my two shirts from my chest down to the ground, with the front join allowing me to walk and not trip over the ends. With the silver on the inside I warmed up quite quickly. Another good $7 investment, as I could have suffered for much longer as my trouser tops and my jocks were still slight damp from walking in the rain. Next time I will get into my spare dry clothes sooner, rather than thinking the wet ones will dry on me - my washed and half-dried shirt dried when I was walking two days ago, but then I got hot and it was sunny early in the morning. Washed clothes drying in the shelter are a non-event in this cold weather, so I have taken to holding them near the fire coals and the radiated heat from the concrete fire circle pit makes them steam dry. If you drop them through burning your hands then the item is instantly history!
When I arrived late afternoon on Saturday the 8th September at Mt. Cooke campsite, there were seven Mums and eight kids setting up their shared two person tents in the designated camping areas. When it came time to eat they all invaded the shelter table, becoming a bit noisy and crowded. Then a guy turned up from a weekend walk with three boys and settled into the hut. During the night one of his sons was talking in his sleep, while thrashing around in the top bunk - fortunately they are not easy to fall out of. Lots of snoring to, but not by me I was told.
Earlier in the day I had not only seen the views from the top of Mt Cooke and Mt Cuthbert, but also marvelled at the rock ponds on the top of these outcrops - they were teaming with life in miniature.
Spent some time talking to Linda Daniels - one of the Mums - who is the "Executive Director" of the Bibbulmun Track Foundation - spending time with her daughter Polly on this weekend organised trip, so she could acquire further knowledge and experience for her part-time three days a week job, she has been doing for the last four years. Linda does the marketing I would like to meet her again and possibly offer some Google click advertising services, to place a fund raising advertisement to piggy-back of their extensive Web site. Also Linda said that she is just starting another six hours per week position with the All Terrain organisation to promote canoeing, rafting, cycling (Munda Biddi trail), motorcycle trail riding and other forms of off road travel.
How do I feel on this damp cool evening sitting at a wooden bench table at this campsite. No major blisters, muscles a less stiff in the legs, although my left neck shoulder muscle caused me some pain today. I twisted my neck into the pain and left it there until the pain disappeared. It then came back when I looked down on the left, so I did the same solution again. Going into pain rather than avoiding it seems to help. Other than that I have a splinter in my finger from gathering firewood, but I have yet to dig it out in the last two days. All very minor considering I have walked around 153kms in the last 8 days.- averaging 19kms per day is nothing spectacular, but I am happy with my progress having walked more in the dry than the wet, although the next 6 days are forecasted as rain. One of the days I will be resting at Dwellingup, where my clothes might get a proper wash and tumble dry. Goodnight all.
Arrived at Gringer Creek campsite Sunday 9th after double hutting passed Nerang campsite, a 26.8km hiking day. When you arrive around midday at a campsite, there is always the feeling of wasting time sitting around until sun-up next day, before you continue your travels. With only 10.3kms from Mt. Cook to Nerang of hilly and rocky country, I was glad I kept going as I felt I had achieved that much more.
It is Monday evening 7.15 and I am writing this diary by candle light - date 10/9/07 at White Horse campsite after walking from Gringer Creek - only 18.3kms today. Diane is in the hut on the opposite lower bunk and is reading in bed by head lamp. She is also completing an End to End, going north to south. Otherwise Andrew, that should have been here decided to do another double hut - we independently both did double huts yesterdays from Mt. Cooke campsite to Gringer Creek. Andrew's second partner dropped out yesterday as the double hut distance made his heels and toes too sore with blisters - relatively new boots that had not been worn in did not help. His third partner dropped out the day before with a painful upper leg joint - he had not been training and it caused his downfall - being fit is essential.
Today I climbed Boonering Hill - about 520m first thing in the morning and then just before lunch climbed up Kimberling Hill another 500m. The Boomering Springs in the valley between them is fortunately 300m above sea level, so it was only a steep 200m rise each time in 25C, but my pack is lighter with less food and I am getting fitter each day. Only drank 750mls of water instead of 1.5 to 2 litres which surprised me. I am one day ahead of schedule.
Amazed by the extra fat tadpoles in the small creeks and keep looking for the start of the frog legs coming out of their sides, but no they are just GIANT taddies! Saw my first flock of twelve red tailed black cockatoos today and there are countless other small birds darting around in the lower bush. Heading for bed soon as the wallabies and roos hop around the perimeter of the campsite. Their eyes glow in the dark when you turn your headlight on where the crashing stopped.
One reason for double hutting yesterday was that I was told that the Gringer Creek campsite was less than 1km from the North Bannister Roadhouse, where you could pay $5 for a hot shower, including soap and a towel. Also they had good steaks and beer although only Guinness in cans, so I made a dash for the longer distance and scored the lot. Three cans and a huge rump steak with chips, cheese and fresh salad. FANTASTIC!! Plus the first full hot shower in ONE week. I had a full bush body wash my first night, then several days later a half-body wash, because even I could smell my own BO.
Tuesday 11th September - made it from White Horse campsite to Mt. Wells after setting off at 8am and arriving at midday. Climbed several steep hills, especially Mt. Wells itself - 540 metres approx. Diane arrived just before 1pm and by then I had washed all over in the bush (standing totally naked in a secluded spot), with a face cloth and a small collapsible wash bowl and liquid bio-degradable soap. I used about one inch of water in the bowl as it is in very short supply, with notices saying don't wash with it as it is only meant for drinking and cooking. My body was so sweaty after the walk yesterday and today, it became a necessity to wash! I didn't wash my shirt, pants, jocks or socks, as I plan to do that in two days time at Dwellingup, when they will all be four days high. My spare set has been worn for six days and are very dirty. Between showers I managed to air dry on a home made line - I left my daughters borrowed peg less line in one of the huts, so I have made up another one, with some spare cord I have twisted to give the same effect. Not been to the outside dunny or toilet here yet, but most of them have rolls of paper, even though I carry my own spare roll. The toilets look like a normally one with a seat and lid, but have no flushing ability as they are a hole in the ground underneath. Around you is an enclosed wooden room with a concrete base and wooden door. You must drop the seat lid after use, to stop the flies and you must close the door with the outside bolt or catch - you usually have an inside one too. Only once so far have I needed to go while walking in the bush. That's when you access your paper roll and very strong plastic trowel, digging a hole in between trees, rocks, etc, as deep as you can, and cover well afterwards. - usually with a rock too. You have to be well away from creeks or other water sources, so you don't pollute them.
Just wondered how another solo hiker called "Robin" was going travelling to Beraking campsite. When I came across Robin she was heading slowly north downhill (sometimes going backwards to reduce the boot pressure) with broken toe nails from her two days walking. Her boots were too soft and more one-day hiking boots.than three day ones. She was going from Sullivan to Kalamunda, via Mt. Dale. Hope her kids picked her up at Mundaring Hotel. Her face was showing the pain she was suffering, even though she had two sticks for support.
Wednesday night 12th September. It just got dark at 6pm and it has been a very wet and cold afternoon. Today I walked from "Mt. Wells" campsite to "Chandora" campsite 14.8kms(only) setting off at the earliest so far 7.45am, and reached here at around 11.35am. My starting times are usually between 8am and 8.30am, the latest being 8.45am. It is amazing how most mornings I wake up minutes after 5am. - just before daylight at 5.30am, but it takes so long to get on the road. After releasing myself from my cocooned sleeping bag through two cords - one is a baffle that is around the upper chest to keep the hot air in when I roll over in the bag, the second cord is around the top of the bag and the head surround - it is a mummy type bag with the only gap left when you are also zipped up (half length zip only to reduce weight), is for your nose and mouth. That and the silk inner lining sleeping bag protector (borrowed from my daughter), is all I need to keep me toasty warm, as I slept totally naked to reduce extra clothes use. This silk liner is lightweight and easy to wash, plus fast to dry. It keeps the inside of the bag like new too. Wondering whether this -5 degree bag is too warm as I rarely do up the zip - wish it was a full length zip too!
Coming back as to why it takes so long to get going, is that you have to extract yourself from your cocoon, quickly put on a thermal marino tee-shirt, then long sleeve shirt, then waistcoat jacket and then waterproof jacket for additional warmth. Then you can start coming out of your bag to put on your jocks, trousers and last of all thick woolen socks. Then you have to let down your self-inflating air bed and role it up very tightly. (You soon learn to roll over within it's 22 inch width when you are sleeping on this mattress - it was full length or 6ft long - my height). After this is bagged you then have to stuff the silk bag liner into another tiny bag and tie that off. The same goes for the waterproof sleeping bag that is very fluffy with air between the down feathers. After forcing this handful by handful into a bag, you then put a nylon material cap over both ends of the bag, and pull the compression straps between the two end caps, to force more air out - there are five compression straps which reduce the size of the 800gm bag to a mini-cylinder, which is then packed into another extra waterproof bag. All that little exercise takes around 45 minutes, before you can get off your bunk bed, putting on a warm beane hat and light the stove. Your freezing cold fingers battling with the knobs to make a hot cup of tea. Some people even had gloves to keep their hands warm!
Swiss museli is poured from a sealed snap locked Glad bag with it's pre-mixed powered milk and all you add is ice cold water from the hut's rain water tank. This you leave it for 5 minutes for most of the milk to be soaked up before eating. Then it's a matter of a quick dish wash up, then washing your face and hands only after visiting the toilet and dismantling your gas stove, packing the backpack with all the bedding material and food, filling the 3 litre water bladder (best done the night before) with more ice cold rainwater from the tank, putting on your two (thin and thick) socks, after packing your extra thick morning/evening socks, and packing your "Crocs" (plastic-thick but lightweight enclosed shoes) and lacing up your boots. Not forgetting putting on your snake bite protecting thick gaiters, going from the top of your boots to just under your knee caps. They also reduce stones, sticks and rain getting into the top of your boots too.
After checking and then double checking you have left nothing behind, (nick-named the paranoya check) you then attempt to harness yourself into your backpack, grabbing your stick or extended walking pole and finally the travelling day starts. THE END! Town of Dwellingup tomorrow - hurray!!
36:Just Cruising - I don't cruise any more, I run and I sprint to complete my life's destiny - on time, under budget and loaded with high quality. Steve Parish Original Affirmation v4
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