The Swan Walking Challenge uses WA’s own Bibbulmun Track, from now to be referenced as’ the Track’, as the basis for walking milestones. I have been lucky enough to have actually explored this amazing stretch of Western Australia and thought I could add further insights into the Track. If you haven’t already, you can follow my Ramblings from the beginning:
Dwellingup – Collie – Balingup
Dwellingup thru to Balingup is roughly a 200km stretch with a number of features of note
The Yarragl Form; triggers visions of steep trails meandering up and down through relatively dense forest among rather large, old jarrah & black butt trees. The realisation of just how big they are occurs when you try to hug one!
While on the Track I have witnessed and walked through some extreme variations in weather:
- Walking along what seems like endless stretches of soft, sandy beaches under a fierce sun
- Gusty winds along the coast, testing your balance, winds, buffering you and your pack as you walk across exposed coastal peaks
- Powerful winds while in heavily forested areas, listening to cracking branches and sometimes falling trees. Fallen trees across the track can sometimes pose a challenge to pass and may only offer a single option from the list of under, over or around
- Thunderstorms in the middle of the night, waking you with a rather loud clap and causing your heart to beat like mad & feel like it is trying to jump out of your chest! This happened to me at Grimwade
- Torrential rain while trying to keep your footing climbing up and down slopes that under normal conditions are tough going
- No hail storms…………….. yet!
Weather can result in a profound and often rapid change in track conditions.
Stepping stones, boardwalks, steps and varying sized bridges are fun in the dry but take on whole new functionality in the wet
This particular stretch has some rather large water systems running through it. There is lots of low lying ground, with the ability to transform from rather pleasant dry tracks to sludging through an ankle deep (can get much higher) boggy experience. If you are really lucky it may also be raining!
The Murray Campsite overlooks a permanent pool of water from the Murray River that many Trekkers enjoy swimming in
On one occasion, the area experienced 160mm of rain in a 24 hr period. A group of walkers arrived at the hut, the sun was shining, the water down below inviting, a fun afternoon was spent in the water. Tents were pitched on the nominated tent sites between the Murray camp hut and the Murray River. Overnight the water level in the river rose significantly, campers woke to find the water close to the tents. There had been a rise of approximately 12m bringing it to the top of the first viewing platform.
The bridge in the photo below no longer exists; it was decimated in devastating bush fire that swept through this region in 2015
Long Gully Bridge was a 128m, wooden, trestle bridge that was originally constructed in 1949 as part of the southwest timber industry railway system. Its loss was a huge blow for the Track as it was the sole crossing point of the Murray River for Trekkers
In 2017, along with track realignment a new bridge named by traditional owners, Bily Djena Bidi which when translated means swinging river footbridge was opened. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore this new feature, and while it sounds amazing this form of bridge is not my strong point- the joys of motion sickness!
A Low Rumble
You hear a low rumbling while walking, which gradually gets louder until you walk beneath a conveyor belt that transports the bauxite mined at the Mt Saddleback site to the Worsley Alumina refinery
Harris Dam is a major WA drinking water catchment; you pass it not far from Collie
This area shows evidence of wild pigs, you frequently pass evidence of their diggings and scat. I haven’t encountered any on the Track but have seen one with its young on a trail closer to home.
Possums can be found the length of the Track, they are opportunists and have been known to get into food stores at night. It is encouraged to hang your food or store it in a plastic tub located at each hut. We carry our food in pillowcases that are easy to hang above where we sleep
Some of the huts along the Track have really interesting names a few of my favourites can be found in this section :
The volunteers who look after this hut have had a bit of fun, added a few features including a power point- that is not connected to anything but it still a cause for a laugh as people are caught out as they try to recharge their phones!
The Mumballup Tavern is a popular drop in point for passing walkers; nothing better than an icy cold coke or ………..
The trail on either side of the Grimwade hut has a wealth of trees; on the northern side you pass through a stand of virgin jarrah forest. The campsite itself has a view that overlooks stands of marri, jarrah & black butt. As you head towards Balingup there is a stand of rare to the area, wandoo
Balingup a Town with Character
Balingup doesn’t have a lot of convenient accommodation options. It is the one town along the Track that we splash out and treat ourselves to a self-contained cabin with a few extras such as the pot belly and its own outdoor spa.
Last time we walked into Balingup it was a really wet day. The worst downpour occurred in the last kilometre of the day; we walked into our accommodation absolutely waterlogged. Our hosts took pity on us and not even an hour later treated us to a delivery of warm, home baked brownies!
You may notice a pattern throughout these Rambles- I have a sweet tooth, I totally admit it; the local café has the best Lemon Meringue pie!
Although most of my time in this area has included rain and on occasion very heavy rain that has penetrated all my layers and helped me understand the definitions ‘soaked to the skin’ and ‘chilled to the bone’ I still view all my time out there fondly. It doesn’t always seem like it at the time and occasionally the reality is that the Track wins and you need to abort, however at the end of the day it is about giving it a go, getting away from it all and are having fun!
The link below will take you to photos of the fire that took out the Long Gully Bridge
It’s not too late to join us for our Swan Walking Challenge
Trekking Name- Blue Eyed Babe