The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s great long distance walk trails, stretching nearly 1000kms (620 miles) from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. It goes through the heart of the scenic South West and traverses some of the most beautiful bush, forests and beaches that Australia can offer.
In this guest post, Dave Tomlinson shares with us his experience of walking the Bibbulmun Track, end to end, in 2007. In doing this he became one of around 500 people who have achieved this feat.
This track is one of the epic bushwalks in Australia (and most likely) the world.
Dave commences Part One of his story with some reflections and background on the walk:
It’s difficult to know where to start in describing such an epic hike but at the beginning seems the most logical place. The Bibbulmun Track was an idea originally conceived in the 1970’s and finally became a reality in 1998. Since then, approximately 500 people have completed the entire distance and been inducted into the ‘End 2 End’ club. There’s no doubt it’s a long way to walk. Although it only covers a small corner of Australia, if it was in Europe it would stretch from Paris to Rome! So, it was with that rather daunting knowledge that I tentatively set out on a hot day in early February, 2007.
Waugal Track marker – Dave thinks there are 5000 of them
When I reflect on the entire time I spent hiking the track, I think the first few days were the toughest of all. There is nothing quite like the challenge of carrying a heavy pack over difficult terrain in 40 degree heat. Although the track goes through eight towns, the first one is ten days from Perth. So, my pack was very heavy with supplies and I was stiff and sore during those initial stages. But as I progressed, my muscles began to get attuned to what was expected, my pack gradually lightened and things became easier.
The facilities along the way are truly world class. I spent seven weeks walking and averaged about 20km per day. I wasn’t carrying a tent so had to rely on the track campsites. These are basically three-sided structures that offered hardboard platforms for sleeping and a couple of picnic tables for eating etc. Most of them are in beautiful locations that have been pleasantly landscaped with a bush toilet and flat areas for pitching tents if required. They all have a large rainwater tank so, although I was hiking in a relatively dry period, I always had plenty of water available.
Waalegh campsite from a distance
During the first four days the campsites were only about 10km apart so I ‘double-hutted’ through that section. After that, they were anywhere from 13km to 24km apart. I did a few more double hut days later in the hike where I totaled about 30km for the day. The shelters in the northern half of the track all had fireplaces but I couldn’t use them because of a total fire ban. Sadly, I did come through a couple of areas that were affected by bushfires but in all honesty the damage wasn’t as bad as I expected. I’d describe it as ‘superficial’ with blackened tree trunks and burnt leaves but still a lot of green foliage.
Initially, the scenery didn’t change greatly from day to day. It was characterised by forests of jarrah and marri trees, granite outcrops and various native bushes. February is a hot, dry month in Western Australia and most days were spent under blue skies and sun. The trees offered some protection from the sun as I walked and I always appreciated any shade I could get.
After a couple of weeks I started to follow a river for the first time. Unfortunately at this time of year the water levels were very low and barely flowing in most places. This was the same for other rivers along the track but it was pleasant hiking though the valleys anyway. There were variations in the flora around this area as one day I enjoyed the sight of paperbark trees, gum trees and swamp vegetation. A couple of days later the track climbed across private farm land and offered great pastoral views.
The scenery in this whole northern area would have been greatly enhanced if the Western Australian wildflowers were in bloom. Unfortunately, spring is the season for these displays so I missed this aspect of the hike. However, doing the track at this time means plodding (and wading at times) though water and swamp mud. It also means sharing the track with many more people and not experiencing the same tranquility I enjoyed. So, with all are pros and cons, I certainly have no regrets about my timing.
Aside from the diverse scenery, I also enjoyed seeing a range of Australian wildlife. I saw or heard kangaroos most days, with some large ones in the south. At various times I also saw emus, feral cats, pigs, quokkas, a bobtail lizard, skinks, bandicoots and of course snakes. While I was disappointed only seeing one snake in the northern half, my count quickly increased along the southern coast. There were a number of the relatively harmless dugites but also the larger and more dangerous tiger snakes. I spent a lot of my time watching for them on the track in front of me, especially if it was sunny. A venomous snake bite out in the wilderness would mean a lot of trouble so I decided that prevention was by far the best cure!
There were also many different types of birds to admire along the way. I didn’t have a book to identify many of them but I did get to see the mighty wedge-tailed eagle and the protected red-tailed black cockatoos. Some of the smaller birds such as the blue and fairy wrens were very friendly around the campsites. They would often come within a few feet of where I was sitting, especially if it happened to be lunch time. I didn’t actually see one but I often heard kookaburras calling out from the trees somewhere.
Then there was the wildlife that I didn’t enjoy or appreciate. March flies must surely be at the top of this particular list. These are large flies with a nasty bite that will even go through clothing. Fortunately though they are relatively docile and you can kill them with a reasonable success rate. The best thing after you’ve hit them is to watch the ants attacking it. It’s a fearsome struggle that can go either way but generally the ants overpower the stricken fly. I felt no compassion because they often made me feel like the only whale in a Japanese fishing contest.
A close second to the flies were the mosquitoes. They seemed to be worst along the southern coast and I had one particularly bad night where they were constantly buzzing around my head. One shelter seemed to have a problem with ticks but I quickly removed them before they could do anything. And finally…leeches. After swimming in one of the lakes I found a couple on my feet and pulled them off just in time. Nasty!
This is the end of the first part of Dave’s trip report. The second half where he continues his wonderful tale and reaches the end of this epic journey will be available on Our Hiking Blog soon.
Dave was also kind enough to write up a planning and gear sheet that will be added soon.
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The Bibbulmun Track Foundation has the best website we have ever come across that supports a multi day hiking adventure.
There is a massive amount of information regarding:
- Gear and equipment
- Friends of the Bibbulmun Track
- Track Information, conditions and closures
- Maps and resources
- And so much more we don’t have room.
Please check out their site – The Bibbulman Track
Great South West Walk – Dave at it again with a 200km (125 miles) walk over 2 weeks
Hiking Food for a multi-day walk
Hiking Gear – What are the basics to get started?
Best clothing for a multi day hike