Labour Weekend on the Bibbulmun
Labour Weekend, 19th October 2012
Where to go for Labour Weekend? Nursing broken ribs of 6 weeks earlier, we didn’t want anything too strenuous, perhaps somewhere more exotic – we had some expiring Qantas air points.
The Wednesday before Labour Weekend saw us flying to Perth and after getting food and fuel supplies we travelled by train and bus south to Bunbury and Walpole. We stayed at the Tingle All Over Youth Hostel in Walpole. Peggy, the manager, would transport us back from Peaceful Bay at the end of the walk 4 days later.
We left about 8am, skirting Coalmine Beach on the Walpole Inlet with half a dozen pelicans sunning themselves, a couple of kangaroos grazing, grey cockatiels in the trees above and our first dugite (snake) slithering across the track in front of us. A 1080 notice tells us it is being used on foxes and feral cats. Soon we were passing the Walpole Nornalup National Park leaving the coastal heath for some of Australia’s finest tall timber - the red and yellow tingles with burnt out crowns, and the waving branches of the taller grey trunked Karri. We climbed to about 200m and came to the Giant Tingle Tree. The tingle trees belong to the eucalypt family, but these do not have a deep rooting system but depend on their wide buttresses to support the tree. Often the centres are hollowed out by fire and fungus. After lunch we continued walking, admiring the towering trees. At 14:30hr we reached the Franklin River Hut. The huts have half of two sides open with an L-shaped platform bunk and a BBQ table in the open area. There were 9 of us: a Canadian fellow, 3 retired fellows from Melbourne and a couple with their 20 year old son from north of Sydney. We would be with them over the next 2 nights. While the others stayed in the hut, we pitched our tent on slightly sloping ground above the hut and then time for a quick wash in the river. For the evening meal, everyone was eating different varieties of Back Country Cuisine, which supports the Bibbulmun as well as SAR and Humpridge Track in NZ. The sun sets at 6:30pm and rises at 5am, so we were in bed by 7pm and up with the birds just after 5am.
After clearing camp and breakfast, we were away before 7am. It was another great day of walking through the forest giants. Leaving the hut, we climbed a little before descending to cross the Franklin River at Sapper’s Bridge. Burrows through the cutty grass beside the track showed evidence of bandicoots. Another dugite crossed our path. Wild flowers adorned the track edges. We again climbed up to just over 200m through Jarrah forests, then a bit of a boggy section before reaching the Tree Top walk at 11am. There was a tour leaving at 11:30am, but, feeling hungry, we first had lunch. It was a very informative talk about the trees in the area. Afterwards we visited the aerial walkway, 600m long and rising to 40m above the ground, so you are really up close to these giants. After looking at the interpretative displays we treated ourselves to an ice block to quench our thirst in the 28C heat. We left about 2:40pm and were at the Giant’s Hut in half an hour. Three extra people coming the other way were at the hut. Looking through the log book, we saw the Popplewells’ name, but we know of other TTC’s who have done this trip, many end-to-enders who have completed the 1000kms of track. In the evening there was a cacophony of bird calls from cockatiels, parakeets and crows. Again another good sleep in our tent although it rained quite a bit overnight and brought the temperature down.
Many fine forests this morning as the track climbed a little before descending to cross the state highway. We were now leaving the forest behind, entering scrubby sandy coastal country. The path was more prolific with colour from the abundance of spring wild flowers: the hooded lily, the white southern cross, the swamp bottlebrush, the wild peas and lime green of the Baxter’s banksia just to mention a few. A passing shower came so time to put our parkas on. The flower heads shooting up from the grass trees looked like marker poles on the track ahead. We were heading towards the coast and Conspicious Beach for an 11:30am lunch. Leaving before 7am each day, we were starving before midday. The Bibbulmun Track is marked by the black waugal, a rainbow serpent according to Noongar Aboriginal legend, on a yellow background. Seeing these frequently along the track is a good reminder that snakes lurk on the track. Normally the vibration of feet on the track scares the snakes into the vegetation on the side, before you walk onto them. This morning a tiger snake slithers across less than 2 metres in front of us. We are told that no one has died from a snake bite on the Bibbulmun, which is welcome news but vigilance is still required. There was a whale watch viewing platform, but no right backs or hump backs were passing that day. We passed a headland with great views both east and west and the limestone Rame Head unfolded before us. Then along the beach to the cliffs and Rame Head Hut just after 1pm. The hut with its open sides was fairly exposed to the strong winds and intermittent rain, with temperatures dropping to below 15C, a bit cooler than the previous day. There were well sheltered campsites, just below the bush height, in sandy soil. Another wet night, but we were snug in our tents though those in the hut thought we would have drowned. Evidently the rain on the open hut was quite noisy.
The last morning’s walk was a coastal one to the Gap and Castle Rock and then a walk through several delightful sandy bays with cuttlefish and undersized paua shells. We reached Peaceful Bay by 11:30am. Time for lunch and an ice block before Peggy arrived to transport us back to Walpole. So, a delightful easy 4 days walking, 63kms, through some spectacular forests and a colourful array of spring flowers.
PS. We did spend another two weeks exploring more National Parks in Australia’s SW region
- Party members
- Trish Gardiner-Smith & Peter Smith (scribe).