Days 22 – 24: Balingup to Donnelly River Village

Sun 30th Dec: Palgarup

I drive down to Dad’s place, we have lunch, and then we both drive out to Donnelly River Village (about 30 minutes away). I leave the Subaru there and dad takes me back to his place. Tomorrow I will catch the coach to Balingup.

 

Mon 31st Dec (Day 22): Balingup to Blackwood River

I catch the coach at 9:22am. Palgorup to Balingup is $10, which seems pretty reasonable. The seats have a usb port so I finish charging the tablet as we go. The coach loops through Greenbushes, although I am not sure why since it doesn’t stop. I never realised how big Greenbushes was – much bigger than Balingup, with two nice old pubs even though the highway doesn’t go through. The houses are a mix of early 20th century and fairly smart modern stuff. The tin mine is still active (which makes me think of ancient Cheshire mines and tommyknockers). Also the guide says they are one of the largest producers of lithium and tantalum in the world. I don’t know what tantalum is used for but lithium is used in the batteries in all those devices we carry around.

Getting off the coach my water bladder falls off my pack and I guess I didn’t have the top locked down properly because I tip about a cup of water over the driver. Awkward.

I head down to the business formerly known as the magic mushroom cafe and buy a remarkably expensive eccles cake for my morning tea. Then back to the South end of town and head towards the Golden Valley Park. Soon I spot my first superb blue wren. No photo sorry: too small, too fast, too distant.

I enter the park. For those unfamiliar with the Golden Valley Park this is an arboretum showcasing trees from around the world.

Including, as it happens, the common mulberry. Yum.

I leave the park and head up the hill on Old Padbury Rd, with pine plantations on either side. It is hot but there is a little wind and the road is mostly shaded. I pass the reservoir which supplies water to Balingup. It isn’t particularly impressive actually, just a small dam.

At the top of the hill I turn and follow the railway line for a while, which is blessedly level. Then turn and follow a trail which is also part of the Greenbushes loop. After about 2km I reach a lookout point with views over farmland.  Someone has kindly placed a seat here so I decide to have lunch. I don’t feel inclined to eat salami and apples so I have my expensive eccles cake instead. It is actually pretty good.

More jarrah regrowth for about 3km then an unnamed dam. It is pretty impressive for a dam with no name and the guide doesn’t say anything about drinking water so I decide I would like to swim. It looks like it might be deeper further around so I keep following the trail which promptly heads uphill. Lots of red-tailed cockatoos here but very hard to photograph. After a while the Greenbushes loop veers off towards the dam wall while the Bibbulmun heads over the hill. Of course the bank is very steep at the wall and not really suitable for swimming. So I backtrack all the way back and go for a swim where I first encountered the dam.

It is amazing. Gravel base with just enough mud that it doesn’t hurt my feet. The top six inches is warm like a bath while down about 4 or 5 feet deep it is deliciously chilled. It is really deep in the middle. The water is crystal clear except when I touch the bottom and there are little fishes everywhere, probably gambusia. Note: In spite of rumours I did not go skinny-dipping with two Swedish lesbian girls. I had the whole dam to myself.

Getting out I sit on a log to put my shoes on but it promptly rolls over and drops my socks in the water. They were saturated with sweat anyway so no big deal. Since I am getting clean socks out I grab a clean shirt too and rinse out the old socks and shirt, which I hang on the back of my pack to dry. All up the swim cost me at least an hour but worth every second. I resolve that I will never miss an opportunity to swim, weather and conditions permitting, as long as I have walked at least 10km (about halfway between campsites). There is seldom any swimming close to the campsites, probably deliberately.

Back up the hill, cross Spring Gully Rd, more bush, Spring Gully Rd again, more bush and back to Spring Gully Rd again as it emerges from the bush to travel through pasture land. 2.5km and I am drenched in sweat again.

This might be the most unlikely-looking wildflower I have ever seen:

I follow SG Rd until it meets Southampton Rd, after which the track heads uphill through private property.

After passing through a grove of trees the track heads up a steepish hill with no trees, no shade and hardly any grass. It turns out to be one of those hellish hills with an ever-receding horizon and by the time I reach the top I am practically delirious.

I exit the private property and collapse in the modest shade of a young pine plantation. I have only 2km left but I am wrecked. I have to stop and rest twice more before I arrive at Blackwood campsite. Also the wind has died and I discover along the way that my water bladder is empty. Guess I should have topped it up after the coach incident.

Blackwood campsite is not on the Blackwood river but on the top of the ridge overlooking the Blackwood valley. It is pretty exposed but that isn’t such a bad thing at this time of year. I am pleased to see that there are no trees within a stone’s throw of the hut. Especially when I see smoke from the prescribed burning around Manjimup.

Beef bourguignon for dinner. This is the second half of a pack I opened about 18 months ago,  but I re-sealed it and the use-by date says Feb 2021 so it should be okay, right?  I put too much water in the casserole so I spoon most of the casserole over the potatoes and drink the rest as a soup. It is pretty good as long as you don’t expect it to taste like beef bourguignon.

 

Tue 1st Jan (Day 23): Blackwood to Gregory Brook

Happy new year!

I wake at about 5am after an okay night. I woke during the night and must have lain awake for about 2hrs but I didn’t check the time because I was afraid it might say 11pm. I breakfast on instant porridge sachets but they are way too sweet. The honey flavour isn’t too bad but the berry flavours are vile. Maybe I will try making my own instant porridge mix next time.

Made the unpleasant discovery that my water bladder has puncture holes. I must have dropped the pack on something sharp when I was collapsing with exhaustion yesterday. The holes are just above the 1.5L mark, so if I keep the pack upright and don’t squeeze the bladder then I should be okay. I have nothing to patch it with. I should put some elastoplast in the first aid kit.

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I leave camp at 6:25 and started descending cardiac hill. Certainly glad to be going down not up. There are a couple of long flights of stone stairs – someone must have put a lot of work into this stretch of track.

At the base of the hill the track leads through private property, skirting the edge of the Blackwood river. I spot the remains of the original Southampton homestead which was destroyed by bushfire in 2013. I could be wrong but it looks like the owners are living in a building cobbled together from sea containers.

I meet Dobbin1 and Dobbin2 (I can’t think of any other name for a shire horse). They are very sweet.

Still following the river I leave the Southampton homestead and enter another private property. The sky is overcast and there is no wind so it is pretty muggy but not too hot. Another couple of km of this and then I cross the river on a steel traffic bridge. I pass a car going the other way. This is the only person I will see all day.

I follow the river along the road for a couple of km then head uphill on a service road for the Millstream dam. The sky has cleared and there is a bit of a breeze. The road climbs steadily for another 2km, which is tough but not as tough as climbing cardiac hill. I reach the dam which is pretty impressive and would be a lovely place for a swim but this is the water supply for Bridgetown and nobody wants to be drinking my crotch sweat so sadly I continue on the walking trail over the hill.

The forest is jarrah which has been burnt about a year ago and has dense understorey. The wind has stopped but at least the track is shady. It occurs to me that the lack of wind is probably the reason the fire danger has been downgraded so I shouldn’t complain.

I continue through the forest which gradually becomes less shady. Maybe the fire burnt hotter here because a lot of the mature trees have died. The track mostly follows old rail formations, including some fairly impressive cuttings. I wonder what sort of men would have come out here in the middle of nowhere to do this sort of hard manual labour, and what their lives were like.

Eventually the track descends and follows a logging road briefly before veering off on a side track and crossing a stream. I am at the 14km mark and really I should have taken a break a few km back, but there hasn’t been much shade or anything to sit on that wasn’t charcoal. The stream makes a chuckling sound and I would dearly like to soak my feet but it is choking with rushes and there is no way to access the water. I sit on the bridge where I can at least hear it and eat my 11am lunch. The salami is a bit sweaty and maybe a bit zingy. Note to self: never buy salami that is wrapped in plastic, buy the dry cacciatore from the deli section instead.

Another climb, another descent, cross a couple of dry creeks and I arrive at Gregory Brook campsite right on 12:00, after walking 18km in about 5.5hrs. The water ran out about 2km before the end.

It is hot and still so I wander down to the brook to see if there is enough water to soak my feet. No luck. Instead I improvise a bucket bath. Feeling much less disgusting I doze for an hour or so and then write up my journal.

Dinner is venison stir fry with rice noodles, accompanied by a fine watered green ginger wine. It is really good. I hope the venison isn’t costing the manufacturer more than beef because I can’t tell the difference.

Damage so far:

  • No pain in the knees. Actually I haven’t had knee pain since before Collie.
  • My left shoulder is a bit sore, probably bruised. I will adjust the straps tomorrow to shift some weight to the right shoulder.
  • Hips chafed fairly badly. This in spite of loosening the waist band so that all the weight is on the shoulders. The skin will probably break tomorrow.
  • My little toes are pretty sore where they have a ridge of skin that folds under the next toe.
  • Bladder problems

 

Wed 2nd Jan (Day 24): Gregory Brook to Donnelly River Village

Awake at around 5am. Actually awake several times before that but it doesn’t count if it is still dark. Although the mozzies weren’t a problem yesterday or during the night they are ferocious this morning. I am covered in insecticide but the noise is driving me nuts so I get up. Usual *gag* porridge for breakfast. I dissect a bandaid and use it to patch the water bladder. It still leaks pretty badly but at least it isn’t spurting like a severed artery.

Somehow it is 6:50 before I break camp. Oh well.

After climbing away from the creek I follow the track through jarrah forest for about 4km before encountering my first karri trees at Karri Gully, which is a picnic spot on Brockman Hwy. The track shadows the highway for a km before crossing and a return to jarrah forest for a few km and then back to karri. A long, gradual descent on rail formations under karri trees with dense understorey – it doesn’t get much better than that.

At the 9.8km mark I reach Willow Springs. This was once a settlement but there is nothing left but a few concrete footings and a bunch of exotic trees. It is now a rather nice picnic spot and I take a break and chat with a guy who is camping overnight with his family en route to Walpole. They have a very nice camper-trailer rig.

The track follows a creek line with a mix of karri, jarrah and river banksia. At the 13km mark I pass a sign informing me that I am leaving Blackwood and entering the Donnelly region. For the next 5km I pass through jarrah forest along tracks that have been graded but don’t seem to see much vehicle traffic. I cross the Donnelly River, which is a bit disappointing  – you would think a “river” might have some actual water. The weather has been overcast all day with occasional pricks of precipitation, not enough to qualify as rain.

Arriving at Donnelly River Village my feet are pretty sore and I am hobbling a bit but my hips are no worse  – this morning I extended the shoulder straps so that the waist band runs across my hips instead of above. Pretty sad if that was all it needed all this time. For the record: that advice about carrying some portion of the pack’s weight on the hips? Does not apply if you have a Y chromosome.

DRV is an old milling town which has been converted to accommodation. The mill is still (mostly) standing and the houses are now chalets plus a general store, a free hut for hikers and a $25/night bunkhouse for those who fancy the luxury of a kitchen, shower and a real bed. The wildlife is not tame, exactly, but is mostly fearless. Apparently you have to take care to protect your food from kangaroos and emus during the day and the depredations of possums at night. It is also generally considered to be the halfway point on the track,  although the exact halfway point shifts every time it gets realigned. The original plan was to complete the walk before my 51st birthday. At this rate I will be 53 by the time I reach Albany.

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Fri Nov 16: Postscript

So I get home and am taking a much-needed shower when I discover that I have an unwelcome guest.

There is something truly obscene about the way he has face-planted himself into my belly.

Bron removes him with tweezers but the bite is still slightly itchy if I scratch it, even 6 weeks later.

Days 19-21: Mumballup to Balingup

I am about to start the Balingup to Donnelly River leg so I had best catch up these notes from November.

Fri Nov 16: Palgarup

The plan is to walk from Mumballup tavern to Balingup, stopping at Noggerup campsite (8km) on Saturday, then Grimwade (23km) on Sunday and arriving in Balingup (23km) on Monday afternoon. I drive to dad’s place in Palgarup and arrive just after 9pm without incident. Tomorrow we will do the Balingup/Mumballup car shuffle.

Sat 17 Nov (Day 19): Mumballup to Noggerup

This morning I saw my first snake since I started the Bibbulmun but it doesn’t really count because it was under dad’s veranda. Big fat tiger snake. He wasn’t moving but when I came back half an hour later only the tip of his tail was sticking out. Turns out he was stuck in the netting. He died eventually but no one is game to investigate. Certainly not me.

I drive from dad’s house in Palgorup to Balingup and dad and Catriona meet me there. We all drive to the Mumballup tavern in dad’s car. After an excellent lunch and a pint of fifty lashes I say my goodbyes and head off towards Noggerup campsite. At this point I realise I left my sausages and salami in the car in Balingup. Man that is going to be stinky by Monday afternoon.

The track follows the railway line along the donnybrook – boyup brook rd. The rail tracks are badly buckled in a couple of places and the ground is swept clear around the buckles so I suspect they happened yesterday, which was really hot. Glad I started today and not yesterday because the heat is still pretty nasty.

 

After a couple of km the track heads up Hearle rd for 2.6km of brutally hot, steep, dusty gravel rd. The flies are awful. This is the first exercise I have done since the Collie/Mumballup leg and I am badly out of condition. I am really glad I chose to do the short 7.8km walk to Noggerup the first day rather than push on to Grimwade.

Arriving at Noggerup campsite I meet Phil and Steve who are doing a north/south end-to-end. I saw them leave the tavern while I was eating lunch and they arrived about an hour ahead of me, and they had already done 12km this morning. As I said, I am way unfit. Since I don’t have any sausages I decide to eat the palak paneer tonight and shed some weight.

Sun 18 Nov (Day 20): Noggerup to Grimwade

Phil and Steve went to bed shortly after the sunset, around 7pm. So I read briefly and then crashed. Slept like a log… for about 2hrs. Then I was awake on and off all night. Shitty night.

This morning Steve and Phil are up at first light. Like 5am. So I get up too. When I fill out the register I noticed that these guys are in their mid-sixties. They make me look bad.

They are gone by 6am and I follow about half an hour later. The weather is a bit nicer today and there are no flies worth mentioning, maybe because of the weather but probably because I have left the pastures behind and am well into the forest. The first half of the leg isn’t doing much for me – the usual jarrah with light understory and not much in the way of views. I have missed the wildflower season but there are still a few nice flowers to be seen.

 

 

The 2nd half follows some pretty substantial railway formations, which makes for nice walking. I also start to see some light rain – light but persistent so I wrap the pack with the poncho. It is too warm to actually wear the poncho. The forest starts to pretty up towards the end and also comes with some fairly heavy showers.

 

 

Grimwade campsite is in a nice spot with lots of birds, including a blue wren (electric blue cap but not the chest so not the splendid blue wren) along with a harem of about a dozen less spectacular females. No chance of capturing these guys on my phone camera, sorry. Unfortunately the dunny is only about 20m from the hut and upwind so I get the odd waft. I wasn’t really hungry anyway, which is a good thing because dinner tonight is instant mashed potatoes and dried peas.

Mon 19 Nov (Day 21): Grimwade to Balingup

The guys are off again at sparrow’s fart and I head off about an hour later.

 

 

The first hour or so takes me through ligh jarrah forest before emerging at farmland overlooking the Balingup valley. Seems like a nice place for a break so I have my morning tea here. Afterwards I get about 1/2 a kilometre before realising my phone is missing. I slog back up the hill and find it next to the log I was sitting on. I head off again and miss the trail marker while looking at an interesting rammed earth house. I decide I can’t bear to back track again so I pull out the map and work out that I will cross the track in about 3km if I continue to skirt the farmland. This works well and I rejoin the track as it emerges from the forest to cross Grimwade Rd. The rain is coming down again at this point.

Soon after crossing Grimwade Rd the terrain gets steep and I descend into the valley alongside a pine plantation. When I say steep I mean I probably couldn’t have walked it without my poles.

 

 

At the bottom of the hill the track crosses a stream on a rather pretty wooden bridge. Approaching the bridge a hawk takes off from the edge of the stream and roosts in a nearby tree. She is too far away to photograph but I do get a shot of her dinner.

From here the track follows the stream, much of it along Jayes Rd, before arriving in Balingup. It is an interesting and attractive walk but there are a lot of other tracks and driveways crossing and the markers are a bit sparse so a certain amount of thrashing around was bound to happen.

First up I check on the car, which is fine. The sausages were sealed so no stink to mention. They go straight into the bin obviously. Then over the road to the magic mushroom cafe for a mushroom pie. They seem to have changed hands and changed names, and worst of all the Brian Froud inspired paintings are gone. Also they are out of mushroom pies so I buy a beef bourguignon pie instead. Then to the general store for a bottle of cleansing ale. While there I meet Phil and Steve, who were most distressed to discover that the pub is closed on the one night they get to stay in town and sleep in a proper bed.

I head off home and stop off in the park in Donnybrook to eat my pie and drink my beer. The pie is good but a bit rich for my taste. The beer is excellent. The cold water on my feet is amazing.

Days 17 and 18: Collie to Mumballup

For this trip I took my tablet so that I could write it up as I went. It sort of worked – I started writing up day 17 that night, but somehow it has been 6 months and I am only posting the blog now.

Tue May 29 (Day 17): Collie to Yabberup

So it has been a really long time since I last walked the bibbulmun. Initially this was because walking in summer is strongly discouraged, partly because of heat stroke, dehydration etc but mostly because of the fire risk. The foundation say they advise not to walk the track if the fire risk is “very high” or greater. As an aside: the fire risk last week (late may) was still “very hign” in the darling ranges and nelson (includes collie through balingup). So really the “very high” thing is probably mostly cover-your-arse.

Then, once things cooled down I just couldn’t get away for long enough.  Collie to Balingup is a 5 night trek, which is a big deal. Finally, in desperation,  I discovered that there is a transwa bus which runs from Pemberton to Perth via Mumballup and Collie. Mumbellup consists of a tavern and a handful of houses where the boyup-donnybrook and boyup-collie roads meet. And the bibbulmun runs right through. The bus only runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So my plan was to drive Sam’s Subaru out to Mumballup on Tuesday, leave the car there and catch the 9:55am bus to Collie. Then I would walk 22km to Yabberup campsite and on Wednesday morning walk 12km to Mumballup and then drive home.

It was a good plan, but the guys were coming to install the garage door on Wednesday morning and the garage was still all Steptoe and son. So Ness and I were out there shifting stuff and disposing of several cubic metres of rat shit until about 10pm when I had a (much needed) shower and started packing. At 11pm I realised that I hadn’t booked the bus. You need to book – if no one has booked (and remember this is a town with 1 tavern and a dozen houses) then the bus doesn’t stop. In the case of Mumballup it doesn’t even pass the bus stop because it will turn off early for Collie. Turns out the booking web page stops recognising a route as available after COB the day before it runs. So I had to ring the booking office in the morning. Only the booking office doesn’t open until 8:30am and it takes 2hrs and 20min to drive from Bibra Lake to Mumballup and the bus is scheduled to stop in Mumballup  at 9:55am.  So I just had to head off at 7:15 and hope it worked out. At 8:30 I was passing Australind and I pulled over and called transwa. Dee was very helpful  (for some reason transwa staff are all really nice). She said it was too late to book since the bus had already left Pemburton but she would try and call the driver and tell him to stop in Mumballup where I could pay the driver cash. She called me back to say she hadn’t been able to get through to the driver but she had sent him a text and hopefully he would stop but if not I should flag him down. Anyway,  damned if he didn’t get the text and everything went like clockwork and I was in Collie at 10:30. A fine piece of brinkmanship.

There is a little rain as I arrive in Collie which wasn’t forecast. I call in at the bottle shop. I really want green ginger wine, which I consider to be the ideal tipple for cold weather camping, but I didn’t want to carry a bottle so I ended up buying fat pixie hard ginger beer. Two cans would suffice but I buy 4 because they are on special. Then I head along the railway line back to the track. Already the pack is chafing my hips. I have my new camelback (actually black wolf brand)  water bladder and I decide that 2L is really excessive in this weather so I should discard half of it. Unfortunately a bladder is a bit more awkward to handle than a bottle and I accidentally discard 3/4. Oh well.

The first part of the track follows the same path as when I arrived in Collie in November.  At the time the area had undergone prescribed burning a few days before and was mostly ash. Now it is all green. No flowers though. And it still smells of smoke. In fact this is pretty much the pattern for the whole day – light regrowth jarrah forest, pleasant enough but not exactly breathtaking.

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After a while I emerge from the conservation park and follow the river for a few km, which is a bit more interesting.

Just before crossing Mungalup Rd I spot a wreck that has been dumped about 100m from the road. I wonder what the story was? I mean, wreckers will collect your wreck and pay you some cash, so why would you drag it out here to dump it?

I cross Mungalup Rd and have some lunch (it wouldn’t be a travel blog if it didn’t include photographs of food). Then more light forest before arriving at Yabberup campsite, which I forgot to photograph and can’t even remember really.

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Wed May 30 (Day 18): Yabberup to Mumbellup Tavern

Today I am looking at a pretty easy march of 12.4km because I finish at Mumbellup Tavern, which is about 8km short of the next campsite.

More burnt forest for about 7.5km, yadda yadda.

I skirt around Mervyn Dam, which is used for irrigation and therefore okay for swimming and water skiing. I saw one guy here with his dog but apparently this is a very popular location and is frequently packed with utes and boats and fat hairy guys drinking beer. The water looks really good but it isn’t really warm enough to swim, plus I have another 5km to go before I get to Mumbellup. The campsites never seem to be located near water, but maybe that will change as I get further South.

The terrain is pretty easy, in fact the whole track from Collie to Mumballup has pretty gentle grades, but just before arriving in Mumballup there is a steep decent down into the town. I arrive at the tavern right on 12:30, in perfect time for lunch. They do a really excellent seafood basket here but there is no beer on tap. What kind of pub doesn’t have beer on tap? They said it was coming. I asked when? They said a couple of months. I said I wasn’t waiting until then, give me a coopers. Very pleasant finish to a couple of days walk.

Heading back I stop off briefly to check out Gnomesville, which is located on Ferguson Rd about halfway between Mumballup and Picton ie in the middle of nowhere. People are very strange…

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Days 11 to 16: Dwellingup to Collie

This blog entry is being posted a month after my return so I expect it will be much abridged compared to previous entries since my memories are now pretty blurry. I am seriously thinking of taking my tablet next time so that I can write the entries daily. It is a little heavy but much more useful than my phone for accessing the web (email is almost but not quite impossible to read on my phone). The tablet takes a really good photo too. And it doubles as my reading material. Although it does use a lot more battery, obviously. So many decisions…

Thu Oct 19 (Day 11): Dwellingup to Island Pool

Dwellingup to Collie is a six-nighter, so it took some time before I was able to arrange both the time off and transport. In the end mum runs me out to Dwellingup on the Thursday afternoon, and then we have a beer at the very pleasant Dwellingup pub, so it is about 3pm by the time I get going. That gave me about 3.5hrs to sunset, which should be doable.

The track goes right past the pub, through the town, and enters the forest just after the primary school. Medium-light jarrah forest, good wildflower display. Pass a few sweet houses tucked away in the forest and get occasional glimpses of nice rolling pastures through the trees.

The track crosses a bridal path several times before I finally get my wish and descend into a pine plantation.

I know it is not politically correct to like pine plantations but they have always held a fascination for me. Very Narnia. The smell is hard to describe – slightly chemical and not at all Christmas. All I can say that it smells cold, although the weather was pretty warm. The only plant that thrives here, apart from the radiata pines, is blackberry.

Emerging from the pine forest I reach the diversion point. I knew that Swamp Oak campsite was closed for prescribed burning so I wasn’t concerned.

As with previous diversions the diversion track runs along roads, but these are through the Lane Cove National Park so it is a pretty attractive walk. It is 13.7km from Dwellingup to Swamp Oak, which should have been doable in 3.5hrs, but it seems the temporary campsite is a bit further because it is pitch dark by the time I arrive. Not really a problem because I am walking along a good road with little traffic.

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As it turns out the temporary campsite is the Island Pool picnic site, which is a very nice spot on the Murray river with a landing for canoeists. Normally you aren’t allowed to camp here. Since the picnic site already has public toilets the only addition required for bibbulmun walkers is water, which is provided in two jerry cans.

You are not supposed to light campfires here, but then again you aren’t supposed to camp here either so I assume that doesn’t apply to me since I have bought sausages for my first night and they won’t keep. I make a very small, well shielded fire in the sand next to the river. I cook my instant mash and dried peas in my cookpot over the flames, managing to melt the handle in the process. I impale the sausages on a green stick and cook them over the embers. It isn’t particularly successful and it turns out the sausages aren’t all that good anyway, but it is edible. I drink both my beers to compensate for the uninspiring meal.

Since there is no shelter at temporary campsites this will be the first time I use my bivvy bag, which is basically a waterproof bag with a bit of a tent over your head. It takes a while to work out how to fit the poles and I am glad it is not raining while I am doing this. You don’t really climb into it like a tent, what you do is assemble the tent bit, unzip the bivvy, then make up your bed in the bag and unzip the sleeping bag. Then climb into the sleeping bag, zip it up and then zip up the bivvy. Would be pretty trick in heavy rain.

I looked around for somewhere fairly level to set up and decided that a picnic table was pretty similar in size to a bed. I put the foam mattresses on the table, under the bivvy. The thermarest goes into the bivvy. It works out surprisingly well.

Fri Oct 20 (Day 12): Island Pool to Murray

I sleep reasonably well in the bivvy. No rain, so I am able to keep the vent above my face open. Otherwise it would have been unpleasantly hot and stuffy. In the morning the sleeping bag is pretty damp from condensation, but I expected that and I can hang it out to dry when I get to the Murray campsite. It could be a problem if I ever need to use the bivvy two nights in a row without anywhere to dry it out.

I wander back down to the water and take a few photos now that I have some light. It really is a very pretty spot.

I fill my spare drink bottle from the jerry cans and head off.

The diversion largely follows a rail formation so it is fairly easy going. After rejoining the main track it gets steeper. At one point I stop for a breather and I hear some rustling in the leaves just off the track. On investigation I discover a bungarra, about 1.3m long. He makes a slow getaway, cautious but not really threatened by me. Quite rightly of course – there is no way I am going to get near enough for him to get his claws into me.

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It soon got even steeper. Nice country but hard work. I stop for lunch where the track crosses a small stream on a steel bridge. This is when I discover that I have lost my drink bottle. It was nearly empty but it means that now I have only my spare 1.25L bottle. At least I still have that, and I filled it this morning at the temporary campsite. Unfortunately when I take a swig it tastes foul and I spit it straight out. They have put some sort of treatment in the water and there is no way I am going to drink it.

I remove my boots and soak my feet in the creak. Heaven…

I have another 5.2km to the Murray campsite, which doesn’t sound too bad. After climbing up out of the valley the track skirts the Murray river although it never actually descends to the river. It is a rather narrow, pretty trail through lush greenery but I am pretty dehydrated at this point and am in some distress. As you get dehydrated you get physically weak and start to get a little irrational. I really don’t want to stop because I am afraid I won’t be able to get up again. If I can just make it to the campsite I can fill up from the water tanks.

Eventually I give up, dump my pack and collapse on it. Then I drink that horrible water. After about 10min I feel a bit better and I get going again. Soon enough I arrive at Murray campsite.

Very few of the campsites are located close to water. Murray is a lovely spot looking straight down onto the river. It is suitable for swimming although the riverbed is pretty slippery. The water is cold but no way am I going to pass up the opportunity to get clean.

I hang my sleeping bag out to dry then collect my dirty cloths and wade out into the river to wash them, including the ones I am wearing. So it is a good thing I had the camp to myself. You aren’t supposed to use soap or detergent close to a water supply so I just rinse the clothing (and myself). I hang everything out to dry on the rails in front of the camp.

I really don’t feel hungry. I eat some apple, cheese and salami for dinner. Then I make a cup of tea and wander back down to the river to poke at baby marron. I promptly slip on the bank, landing on my bum in the mud and slipping my foot into the river. Now it looks like I have shat in my longjohns and my socks are wet. I put my cup down so that my hands will be free and continue along the river. Coming back I can’t find my cup.

I wash my longjohns and hang them out with the socks before retiring. My hip is pretty sore from rubbing on the pack belt.

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Sat Oct 21 (Day 13): Murray to Dookanelly

In the morning I make two passes along the river, looking for my lost cup (which is also my saucepan). No dice. I reckon the potkoorok stole it.

I depart Murray at about 9am, being sure to fill my remaining water bottle. For most of this leg of the track it follows the Murray river, usually about 50m above and never descending to the water. The track is pretty attractive, although seldom more than 10m from the Murray River Fireline road you would never know it – the track makes for good walking but is too narrow to allow vehicle access.

Soon after leaving Murray camp I encounter large areas of moss with unusually large, rusty-coloured sporophytes.

The Dookanelly and surrounds is also closed for prescribed burning, which I was expecting. The diversion starts about 16km out of Murray camp and 3.6km shy of the Dookanelly campsite. Unfortunately the temporary camp is awful – right next to the Driver road bridge, which gets a fair amount of traffic, with no separation between the road and the campsite so that any 4WDs boring down the road and night would have you right in their headlights as they approach the bridge. Check out the photo – that really is where we are supposed to camp, next to the temporary dunny. You can see the road continuing over the bridge on the left. There are two jerry cans of water next to the dunny. I have a taste and sure enough the water is foul. I don’t contaminate my water bottle, figuring I would rather drink river water. As it turns out the river water here is pretty saline, probably not safe to drink, but I didn’t know that at the time.

There is a nice enough spot just over the bridge but a couple of bogan 4WDs have moved in, with eskis and stereos etc so I don’t fancy pitching my bivvy here. Besides, it is still only 2pm – plenty of time to put some km behind me. If I am going to camp anyway I might as well knock a bit off tomorrow’s walk, especially since the diversion adds a few km to the leg.

Normally the track runs east of the river, skirting a number of plantations. Having crossed the river at Driver road the diversion follows the Captain Fawcett 4WD track along the west side of the river. I am hoping it will descend to the river at some point so I can find a nice spot to camp, but the track stays clear of the river and the bush is pretty dense on either side. I am pretty hot and wrecked by now and just about out of water so I decide to follow another vehicle track which seems to head towards the river. It does lead to a fairly nice spot although a bit steep for camping. I remove my boots and soak my feet in the river. Very cold!

While sitting here resting my feet a guy wanders down the bank with his two boys. They are doing a bit of a reconnaissance trip, looking for somewhere good to camp. They left their 4WD about 100m back and walked down. I am somewhat surprised because from the look of the track it hadn’t seen much use. We have a bit of a chat and he offers to leave me some water, for which I am most grateful. I head up the bank and pick up the water – two 600mL bottles, nicely chilled. Those 4WD guys do it tough…

I still have about 3hrs of light so I decide to push on. There was a sign shortly after the bridge which said that the 4WD track was closed to vehicles because it is unsafe, but I am passed by several 4WDs. They really chew up the track something terrible.

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I pass a couple of guys going the other way. They had planned to cross at the new footbridge and stay at Dookanelly. Not only is Dookanelly closed but the bridge was taped up because that is the other end of the diversion. They were a bit annoyed because the bibbulmun foundation has been trumpeting about the new bridge and encouraging everyone to come and check it out. I warned them about the dodgy temporary site.

It is about 5pm so I decide to take the next track that heads down to the river. It does go down to the river, but the river is a bit swampy and gloomy at this point (think “great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees”).

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There is a good level campsite about 100m from the river, however, so that will do. The forecast is for storms overnight so I try to pick a spot that won’t turn into a gully if it rains. I am just setting up when I realise I am almost on top of a sergeant ant’s nest. These guys are really stroppy – most ants are oblivious of anything my size unless I stomp around but this guy can obviously see me and stands up on his back legs, ready to take me on. For those who have never had the pleasure of interacting with a sergeant ant, they are about 20mm long and their bite feels a bit like a bee sting, maybe a little worse, although the swelling and pain usually passes after about half an hour. I decide maybe I will find another spot to pitch my bivvy.

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Since I am expecting rain I am not going to be able to leave the top vent in the bivvy open to the sky, but it is really quite hot. So I rig up a bit of a construction using my poncho as a tarpaulin and my hiking sticks as tent poles. This means I can open the vents up but will be protected from rain. It seems to work okay. I make myself dinner – ready-to-eat green chicken curry with instant rice. It looks gross but tastes pretty good really.

I get into bed and even with the vents open it is still hot and uncomfortable. I can’t open the bivvy up any more without letting the mozzies in. Imagine sleeping in a garbage bag on a hot, humid night with a tiny tent pitched over your head which leaves you with about 2 inches between your nose and the roof of the tent. Still no sign of rain. Eventually I get some sleep.

Sun Oct 22 (Day 14): Dookanelly to Possum Springs

The storm arrives at dawn. I wake to the distant sound of thunder at about 5:30am. Still no rain. The thunder gradually gets closer until it is following pretty hard on the lightning. At this point it occurs to me that I should probably have put a little thought into what I am camping under. They are young jarrah with smallish branches pointing upwards at a good angle so probably pretty safe.

The rain arrives about 6am and falls pretty hard for about half an hour. The bivvy works a treat.

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Once the rain stops I am able to make some breakfast and chai. I can’t really make coffee because I only have one pot so I have nothing to strain it into. Even so I am in pretty good spirits because of the success of the bivvy. I pack up and return to the track.

The track continues to follow the 4WD route. I have decided I hate 4WDrivers. I used to think that at least they were getting out in the bush and experiencing nature, but I hadn’t realised just how much damage they do. Every km or so there is another muddy pond where a succession of vehicles have bellied out on the mud. The undergrowth around the track tends to be fairly dense because of the extra sun, so I have the option of either bulling my way through prickle bushes or wading through the puddles. I find that the puddles are shallower in the middle and usually I can wade through without going over the top of my boot, although a couple of times I get my feet wet.

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The track meets the river several times and the river is more attractive at this point. On the other side of the river I can see the plantations being laid to waste. At this point I discover that the river water is saline. I drink the last of the water the 4WD guy gave me yesterday.

The diversion meets the original track, but continues to follow the 4WD track for a bit. The track crosses a creek on a culvert. The water looks pretty good so I decide to fill my water bottles. I descend to the creek and my boots start to sink in the mud. The water looks really clean and I fill one 600mL bottle and drink it straight off before refilling it. I decide one bottle is enough and retreat before I lose my boots completely.

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Climbing back out of the creek I meet the two hikers I met yesterday. They said got to Driver Rd and the 4WD camp was turning into a party so they weren’t going to camp there. Since the forecast was for storms they decided there was no way the prescribed burn was going to go ahead today so they stayed in the Dookanelly campsite and then returned down the West side of the river this morning. I can’t fault their logic but the idea of being caught out on the track during a burn gives me the horrors.

They are returning to their vehicle on the Harvey-Quindanning Rd to the south. I follow behind and, since they are walking somewhat faster than I am, they soon disappear.

The 4WD track terminates at what was a pine plantation but was razed in bushfires in 2015. Low vegetation is making a good comeback but not much in the way of trees. Plenty of nice wildflowers though.

I have heard the rumbling of the Worsley Conveyor all morning and now I start to catch glimpses of it in the distance. I cross the Harvey-Quindanning Rd. Just to the east of here was the old Long Gully Bridge. This impressive timber railway bridge was where the bibbulmun used to cross the Murray. It was completely destroyed in the 2015 bushfires. The crossing is now at the new pedestrian bridge (which I still haven’t seen because I diverted around it). I decide not to go and look at a bunch of blackened stumps and instead I cross the road and ascend a steep hill in the shadow of the conveyor. The noise is incredible as I suppose you would expect if you transport thousands of tons of rock on a high-speed conveyor belt. Of course it is a complete abomination to find something like this out in the bush but I can’t help being impressed by the sheer engineering bollocks of the project. I pass under the conveyor and continue to the crest of the hill.

It is another 6km to the Possum Springs campsite and I arrive about 4pm, having covered about about 25km. Possum Springs is a rammed-earth structure. I think the original timber building was lost in the 2015 fires. At any rate it is huge and I have it all to myself. I take the opportunity to have a bucket bath, using a drysac full of water as my bucket. It isn’t entirely successful but I feel much better. My hip is looking worse though.

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I also wash my clothes – stuffing them into a drysac with water and pumping them up and down to rinse them out. It is reasonably successful but there isn’t enough sun left for them to dry. I hang them up in the hut overnight but they are still damp in the morning.

Mon Oct 23 (Day 15): Possum Springs to Harris Dam

Most of the country I am walking this morning was badly affected by bushfire in 2015. This makes for good wildflowers but not a lot of shade.

Also more of our mystery fewmets. Whatever it is that is doing these dumps has been eating zamia fruit, which doesn’t seem very smart since they obviously go straight through. I remember someone telling my when I was a kid that birds will eat the zamia fruit but they are poisonous to humans. It occurs to me that the mystery creature could be an emu – they are big enough to down a zamia fruit, the dumps are about the right size, and they are stupid enough to eat just about anything. Only I haven’t seen an emu anywhere on the track since I started.

Around midday I start to cross the Harris River flats – slightly swampy, flat heath. Not the most interesting country but pretty easy walking.

Something is bothering me, and as I approach Yourdamung campsite I realise the problem – it is Monday and I am supposed to be on a Coach out of Collie on Tuesday evening. That means I am going to have to double-hut either today or tomorrow. Or I suppose I could do another half leg today and camp between huts. I am a bit wrecked and was really hanging out for a rest so the idea of pushing on is unappealing.

I arrive at Yourdamung campsite. It isn’t particularly interesting and there is an old guy there who arrived earlier. I discuss my problem and he encourages me to continue to Harris Dam campsite, which is another 15km. He says it is pretty flat and a young guy like me shouldn’t have any trouble. I suspect he just wants to camp to himself but I decide to push on.

The going is pretty easy, mostly along old railway formations. Just shy of the Harris Dam campsite I pass the remains of an old wooden railway built by timber loggers. Not just the sleepers, but the actual rails were made of wood. The guidebook doesn’t say what ran on the rails but I suspect the wagons would have been pulled by horses because I doubt the rails would have supported an engine. Apparently the rails were restored in 1999 but were damaged by vandals. There isn’t much left to see.

I arrive at Harris Dam campsite, completely wrecked, just after sunset. Today I have walked 33.6km. Already at the camp are an older couple and two younger European girls. I have another semi-shower behind the hut, this time using my water bottle instead of a bucket. Dinner is satay chicken. This is the first time I have shared a camp since Dwellingup. It makes for poor sleep.

Tue Oct 24 (Day 16): Harris Dam to Collie

The older couple are up around 5:30 so I get up too. I end up being the first out on the track at 6:30, which is a bit of a record – usually it ends up closer to 9am before I get going.

The first few km of track are a pleasant descent into the Harris River valley. Before reaching the dam I pass a rather odd phenomenon – an extended village of gnomes. Apparently there is a tradition among walkers of adding to the community. No doubt this would give the bibbulmun foundation conniptions but it is pretty funny.

A little further on I pass the wall of Harris Dam. There is a good bridge here and boardwalk. Also carpark, picnic area and short day-walks marked. It seems like a nice place for a picnic and the town of Collie obviously maintain the facilities well. The pool below the dam wall would be a nice place for a swim. I seem to think about swimming a lot, but opportunities seldom come up at the right time.

From the picnic area the track continues towards Collie, overlapping with other marked tracks, including the munda biddie. I stop for morning tea on a bridge over a nice little stream at about 9:30am.

More wildflowers…

An hour later I cross a railway line and I am back in farming country. Nice country it is too – green with plenty of water and enough slope to be interesting while making for viable pasture.

I cross a major road. When I left the Collie spur was closed for burning but obviously burning is complete and the track has been reopened. From now on I am walking through freshly burned forest. It is a little surreal.

Finally I arrive on the outskirts of Collie town. Walking along the footpath, with my backpack and poles, I feel a little out of place. A passing car gives me a honk and a wave and I feel better. Passing the local motel I hear what at first I take to be a school carnival, but then the yelling seems a bit agro. Peering over the fence I see about a dozen people facing off and yelling at each other in the reception centre carpark. I guess that wedding was a bit of a bust. A bit further along the road a police car passes me. Then another with the lights and sirens going. Welcome to Collie!

I arrive at the tourist centre at midday, with the whole afternoon to kill before my coach leaves at 5pm. The people at the centre let me leave my pack in their back room so I don’t have to haul it around the place.

Outside the centre is a display with several engines I am no trainspotter but it is a pretty interesting display, especially when I get to the story of F398:

The F class heavy freight locomotives were introduced in 1902 and later superheated to an Fs-class.

The locomotive before you will best be remembered for its part in a fatal accident at Swan View in 1942.

Number 97 goods train left Perth for Northam at 9:15pm on the 4th November 1942 with four crew on board. The train, powered by F398 (F class) and L251 (L class) locomotives, made its way via Midland and soon commenced the demanding climb towards the Swan View Tunnel. Inside the tunnel the train struck a dislodged chaff bale which had fallen off the previous train resulting in the train being stalled. The usual restart procedures were tried to no avail and within minutes the crew members were overcome with hot choking fumes from the engines of both locomotives.

One of the last acts of driver Thomas Beer was to put the train into reverse which resulted in the train gathering speed down the hill with an unconscious crew on board. The train crashed into granite boulders at the end of the dead end siding specifically built for runaway trains. The cab of engine F398 took most of the impact and that was where Thomas Beer lost his life.

The remaining crew survived. Engine F398 was rebuilt and superheated in December 1949 and renumbered Fs 452. It saw out the end of steam on the Western Australian Government Railways, finally being written off in June 1971.

I wander around town which is bigger than I expected with several pubs and both a coles and a woolworths. I have a really good pie for lunch (I recommend Forest French Hot Bread bakery) and hang out in the park. I pick up my pack from the tourist centre before they close at 4pm then buy a pizza from dominos and a beer from the bottleshop, which I consume while waiting for my coach.

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When the coach arrives it is not quite what I was expecting – it is just a coaster bus. 4 or 5 people get off and then I board and we head off since I am the only passenger. It takes about half an hour to get to Bunbury and drops me at the bus port. Half an hour later I get on a proper coach which makes good time into Perth, dropping me at Cockburn station about 8pm. Ness picks me up and makes me wind the window down. Apparently I smell bad. When I strip for my shower I find that my merino longjohns have stuck to the sore on my hip, ripping it open. Sore, but it heals cleanly.

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The theory is that you should carry all the weight of your pack on your hips, but this requires that you actually have hips. In my case I have to cinch the belt really tight to stop it sliding down and the belt then rubs on my skin. On the last day I tried taking part of the weight on my shoulders and that seems to help, especially if I adjust the straps regularly to move the load around.

[Heh, blog entry turned out pretty long after all]

Days 8-10: Albany Hwy to Inglehope Siding

Tue Oct 03 (Day 8): Albany Highway to White Horse Hills Campsite

Stuffup #1. I am packing on Monday afternoon and I realise that guidebook 1 finishes at Albany Highway and I need guidebook 2 for the next leg. I didn’t buy book 2 earlier because it was out of print since they were about to bring out a new edition. So it is 3pm and the bibbulmun foundation (above Mountain Designs in West Perth) closes at 4pm. I phone the Map and Chart Shop in Freo and Mainpeak in Cottesloe. They both carry the guidebooks but don’t have book 2. No one else carries them. I phone the foundation and ask if I can pay over the phone and have them leave it at Mountain Designs, which closes at 5pm. No dice. Then I remember I had an old guidebook which covered the whole North end of the track but I threw it out thinking I wouldn’t need it. I go ratting through the recycling and find it (rubbish goes out on Tuesdays). It was published in 2002 but it will have to do.

Stuffup #2. We are about 20km from the drop off and I realise I have left my hat behind. No worries,  I  will make a sort of bandanna. That will protect my head and neck but not my face, and I don’t have sunscreen. Oh well, turn around and drive back to Armadale for a new hat and sunscreen. So I get started at 10am instead of 8:30.

To explain my route I need a map:

North Bannister Diversion

Normally the track goes from Mt Cooke to Nerang campsite, then down to Gringer Creek campsite near North Bannister, then to White Horse Hills campsite. But the area around North Bannister is closed for prescribed burning and there is a 27km diversion from Nerang to White Horse Hills. This is why I chose to finish the last stage at Powerline Rd between Mt Cooke and Nerang. What I have decided to do this time is continue South along Powerline Rd for about 4km until I connect up with the diversion and continue to White Horse Hills campsite. I will have to do an overnight through Nerang and Gringer Creek at some point later on. I really wanted to do the whole track North to South in sequence but this diversion messed me around.

I head up/down Powerline Rd and connect with the diversion as planned. There is a lot of crap dumped along here: tyres, a tv etc. Seems a long way to go just to dump some rubbish but presumably you can get some fresh air and connect with nature at the same time so I guess that is pretty efficient. At one point a 4WD bores past me heading South. Did I mention that this area is dieback quarantined?

A track crosses Powerline Rd and there is a track marker peg but some fucker has pulled it out of the ground. At least I assume so since the bottom 200mm show signs of having been buried but the peg is lying on the ground and there is no sign of the hole it came from. Eventually I work out it must have been pointing ahead down Powerline Rd so I continue and then I notice the footprints ahead of me. Duh.

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After a while the 4WD returns so I get off the track and give them a wave. They pull over and I have a chat with two young guys. They say they have to head back for fuel but there is an old concrete water tank up ahead somewhere that is a pretty cool place to stop. I say I saw something similar near Mt Dale but it is dieback quarantined. One of the lads says that is okay because he never gets out of the car. I just look at him, and then look at the tyres. He says “oh yeah, the tyres”. I had assumed 4WDrivers in the quarantine area just didn’t give a shit but maybe they are just stupid…

The diversion trail sticks with Powerline Rd for about 5.5km and then swings SE following vehicle tracks and some gravel roads which are clearly in use though I am not sure what for. The forestry guys haven’t been particularly generous with the markers – I am used to track markers every few hundred metres but the diversion markers are mostly placed at road intersections, which can be kilometres apart.

The forest around here is mostly smallish jarrah regrowth with light understory, the soil mostly gravel. Pleasant enough but not particularly interesting and slogging along the straight gravel roads is fairly dull.

I reach the end of the diversion about 2:30 and have some lunch next to a stream running over a gravel ford.

Following the track southwards is a bit of a revelation: the forest is exactly the same but this little narrow path meanders through it, only wide enough to walk single file. The experience is entirely different. Suddenly the forest is almost magical and I notice flowers and birds that I hadn’t seen while walking along the road. Unfortunately there are signs that a couple of trailbikes have passed along the track recently.

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As I near the campsite the ground starts to rise and there are a few granite outcrops. On one granite shelf just off the track I see small animals scuttling around. At first I take them to be some sort of small marsupial but on closer inspection they turn out to be little dragons about 200mm long.

Further up the hill I traverse a large granite dome with views to the North and West.

Finally, footsore and weary after a hike of about 21km, I arrive at the White Horse Hills campsite. Two guys have arrived ahead of me and the camp fire is going so I am able to toss a tomato and a few sausages on the plate to cook while I boil some dried peas. I give the peas 3 minutes and then add the instant potato mash. This works really well: I think dried peas may actually taste better than frozen although I did buy the expensive brand because the packet said they cook in 3min while the coles brand said 10min. I crack a can of beer and dig in. I think my fellow campers are much impressed with my culinary skills. Just as the sun is setting two ladies join us – they were delayed waiting for a provision delivery on Albany Highway. We are all travelling South so it seems we will be together for a few days although Anthony is thinking of double-hutting tomorrow.

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For this section I have bought a foam mat as well as the thermarest. It is full length so my feet don’t freeze and with the extra padding I am actually fairly comfortable.  Even so I sleep poorly, lying awake for hours. Eventually I give up and read for a while.

Wed Oct 04 (Day 9): White Horse Hills Campsite to Chadoora

I am awake when dawn arrives. I don’t want to wake my camp mates so I lie in bed another hour before someone else starts to make getting up noises.

Breakfast is a flavoured porridge sachet, no milk. Pretty good actually. Also a sausage and half a tomato left over from dinner so I am well fuelled up.

Anthony is off first and I follow about half an hour later. The leg from White Horse Hills to Mt Wells campsite goes over a bit of a ridge and then down the other side, then is mostly fairly level until the approach to Mt Wells. The ridge has some pretty cool rock formations. I am tempted to give the balancing rock a shove but decide that would be unkind to the hikers behind me (visions of Indiana Jones).

From the top of the ridge you can see some great views. The large scar to the South is the Boddington gold mine.

Between White Horse Hills and Mt Wells is mostly more jarrah regrowth. I notice that a lot of trees have termite. I suspect that they are weakened by dieback and then the termite move in.

I pass the water tank that the 4WD guys mentioned. It seems like a good place to stop but as soon as I do I am mobbed by large mosquitoes. A glance in the tank shows that there is about 300mm of water in the bottom – a perfect mozzie farm.

The last couple of kilometres approaching Mt Wells are pretty hard going but the campsite is pretty interesting with 360° views. This was an old fire lookout tower and associated accommodation for the warders. Apart from bibbulmun hikers the site is now mostly used as a mobile phone tower.

Unlike other camp sites on the bibbulmun the hut predates the track. It actually has doors and windows, so although it is very cold on top of the hill the hut is well protected from the weather. It is about 1:30pm when I arrive and Anthony is still here. He is pushing on to Chadoora campsite, and after looking around I decide to follow him. There is something slightly depressing about the fibro building. Anthony heads off and I eat my lunch and depart soon after. Heading down the hill I pass a group of 17 youths plus minders who are planning to stay at Mt Wells (although they will be in tents). Good call to move on.

I have walked 16km so far and it is another 15.6km to Chadoora – a hard march but the track is pretty flat from the base of Mt Wells onwards.

At the foot of Mt Wells I cross a well-kept gravel road which leads to the Boddington gold mine. This is a huge enterprise and for the next few hours I can hear the rumbling of heavy machinery in the background.

More light jarrah regrowth, although interspersed with some larger trees. I can’t help thinking about the boards that they could yield. Still lots of dieback and termite.

A few more kilometres and I cross our old friend Powerline Rd, although it is now called Muja Northern Terminal Transmission Line. This is also the official boundary of the dieback quarantine area, although I didn’t notice any improvement in the health of the trees on the other side of the road.

For the next 4 or 5km there are the remains of old steel machinery scattered about the place, presumably from mining operations (or maybe logging?).

Funny I was thinking about milling some of the larger trees – crossing Pindalup Form Rd I encounter a sign warning of logging operations to the right of the track.

The last couple of km pass through slightly swampy country and then follow the Swamp Oak Brook although, frustratingly, the brook is never actually visible. Right on sunset I arrive at Chadoora campsite. It looks like Anthony and I will have it to ourselves tonight, which is nice.

I sleep even worse than the previous night. I wonder how many sleepless nights it would take before I finally sleep though the night.

Thu Oct 05 (Day 10): Chadoora Camp to Inglehope Siding

I have arranged with mum to be picked up at Inglehope Siding, which is an easy 8.8km from Chadoora and 11.9km shy of Dwellingup. In retrospect I should have continued to Dwellingup since it would make for a better point of departure for the next leg. I head off ahead of Anthony and arrive at 11:30am. Anthony arrives soon after and continues on to Dwellingup while I remain at Inglehope for my ride, which should be here about 2:30pm.

Inglehope Siding is a disused logging railway. The track from here to Dwellingup follows the railway. I had expected the siding to be visible from the Pinjarra-Williams Rd but it is about 100m off the road and poorly signed. The track from here to Dwellingup follows the railway.

Mum arrives early so I am sitting in the shade as I watch her drive right past and continue towards Williams. I manage to send off a text (phone coverage is very patchy) but it is about half an hour before she picks it up and comes back for me.

The drive home is a good hour and a half. I would like to work out a way of getting to the track and home afterwards without needing someone to give up over 3hrs of their time at each end but from Dwellingup to Collie is over 130km through national park so I will need a ride for at least one end of the trip.