Australia Moorland Walker

The Bibbulmun Track – Northcliffe to Walpole

Continuing my journey along the Bibbulmun Track with an 8 day section, from Northcliffe across the Pingurup Plains and the coast to Walpole.

Friday, 1st November 2013: Day 36

A very late start for us, leaving the Bibbulmun Break Motel and rejoining the track, under threat of drizzle, along the disused tramway and then onto the Wheatley Coast Road for a short section. We passed a German S2N E2E who told us the Pingarup Plains were still wet, and knee deep in places, which would pose a problem for Mikey’s foot.

The terrain was noticeably flatter than other days, and the ground was sandy, indicating we were getting closer to the coast, despite being 3 days away from reaching it.

Plenty of water along the Wheatley Coast Road
Gardner River crossing
Another crossing of the Gardner
Gardner River

I noticed that Mikey was slower today, and by midday, and with 6 km to go, he told me he’d see me at the camp, and so I went ahead.

I was into Gardner Shelter by 1:45 pm, and there were two Aussies; Ken and Daniel setting up. They had come seven days from Walpole and, when Mikey had arrived, gave clearer details on where we should expect to get our feet wet. It all seemed achievable and put my mind at rest.

Gardner Shelter
Drying boots

Saturday, 2nd November 2013: Day 37

It had been a hot topic of conversation along the track since Kalamunda, and now the time to tackle the Pingarup Plains had arrived. When I started all those weeks back, there was a diversion from Gardner to Dog Pool due to heavy flooding and that had been lifted only a couple of weeks ago, so it was expected that we may have to do some wading.

Half an hour out of the camp, I encountered a tiger snake sat in the middle of the track. Two more steps and I may have been hitting the SOS button on my SPOT Tracker! The snake was definitely dozy, and obliged us with a perfect photo opportunity, motionless to the point where we thought he was dead.

Tiger Snake!!!

We skirted round him, and threw a twig to coax him off the path, and nothing until I stepped forward from behind him and he made his way into the undergrowth. A highlight of the trip!

The track was mostly sand, and I found that difficult going; in my thoughts were the long distances of beach and dune walking to be done and that was a little depressing. Nothing for it but to snap out of it, and I cleared my head by upping my pace to prove I could deal with it.

Track starts to become a slog in the sand

We finally arrived at some waterlogged sections and each one we managed to bushwack around, albeit with some nimble footwork.

Track still waterlogged
Another soggy section to bushwhack around

By the time we reached the edge of an old growth Karri forest, we realised we had got through to Lake Maringup campsite without getting our feet wet. A good achievement.

Lake Road
Lake Road near Lake Maringup
Lake Maringup
Large fallen Karri

We were in camp by 11:15 am, a short day but tomorrow would be a long one. Lake Maringup is the largest freshwater lake in the south west and a chill breeze was blowing into the shelter, nestled on its shores. If it didn’t abate, it was going to make for a cold night. On the plus side, it would keep the mozzies away!

Maringup Shelter

The evening was cold, and I managed to set my tent up in the shelter for an extra layer, although little protection if one of the Karri’s decided to fall. I don’t know when the wind died down, I had drifted off long before then.

Sunday, 3rd November 2013: Day 38

Sunrise over Lake Maringup
Sunrise over Lake Maringup
Maringup Shelter

5am up to see the sunrise over Lake Maringup, and we were away by 6:25 am. We easily negotiated our way through the massive fallen Karri just outside camp, and soon came to the first of many water hazards. This was the biggest obstacle Ken had told us about. Mikey, the exuberence of youth, managed to bushwhack a way round it, whereas I was never that agile, and donned my sandals and waded the fifty metres through cold, but very refreshing water.

After this, we had no such problems with the other pools. Duckboards helped, but others just took some plain old footwork around the edges.

Through the Karri
More wet patches to wade or avoid
Some had walkways
Some called for bushwhacking
Walkways are welcome

This section took us through some old burnt Karri forest where the ground was littered with fallen branches, and even concealed the odd Tiger Snake, but this one was far less confident than the one yesterday.

By 9:45 am, we were at Chesapeake Road, and 9km done, with the sun blazing, so took a short break. Next up was a long 7.9 km to Deeside Coast Road, along an old overgrown track that was beginning to dry. We came out of forest and up and over a plain where the tallest trees were the blackbutts.

After Deeside Coast Road, it was a muddy traipse over boggy ground that had started to see the first wildflowers as the water receded.

Mikey sheltering from the sun
Crossing Maringup Creek floodplain

We eventually reached Dog Road, and it was a tired 55 minute slog along the sandy track to Dog Pool Campsite, arriving just before 1pm. A lovely shady spot with the Shannon River next to it, and a perfect place to cool off my sore feet and have a refreshing wash. This is also the last place on the track where we can have a camp fire.

Dog Pool Shelter
Dog Pool

I think Mikey is keen to get further along the track, with some beach camping in mind, but he liked the hut and decided to stay. I was pleased because I’d like to be with him through the remaining wet sections just to make sure his healing blister is okay; afterwards, he can race ahead.

The afternoon and evening was dogged by flies, including the big March Flies that love to bite! I had to forget using the toilet and dinner was spent in my tent.

That night, we had some spots of rain, but far off there was a fair old storm going. It wasn’t until the thunder and lightning got closer, about 3 am, that I abandoned my tent for the relative safety of the hut. To cap my restless night, some rodent had managed to get into my food again, despite it being hung up!

Monday, 4th November 2013: Day 39

We naturally woke up about 5:30 am, and set about breaking camp. Today was humid, and my tiredness didn’t help. Each step in the heat, on the sandy Marion Road, then Pingarup Road, was a real effort! Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, the flies arrive!

Leaving Dog Pool
Following Marron Road
Marron Road, Pingerup Plains
Endless plain on a hot humid day

This section was interpersed with a couple of promising showers, but not the deluge that we hoped for to both cool us and get rid of the damn flies!


Across the plains we went, I gathered speed to get through this section without shade.

Mount Chance getting close

Finally reached Mount Chance Shelter at 11:45 am. I wandered down to look at the camp sites and immediately disturbed a Tiger Snake, so chose to set up my tent next to the shelter again. Nestled below a granite dome, we sat back in the shade of the hut and tried our best to fend off the flies for the afternoon.

Mount Chance views
Hazy sunshine but thunder in the distance
Mount Chance Shelter

I need this section over with. I’m tired and ready for a rest, but Walpole is still 4 days away. I am finding walking on sand tough, and the prospect of the coast to come is daunting; will the legs hold out? The best we can hope for is a change in the weather, and a nice sea breeze would be ideal.

Tuesday, 5th November 2013: Day 40

Morning arrived and the temperature had dropped significantly. So much that halfway through the morning I was considering double hutting to get to the ocean.

Mount Pingerup, but we gave it a miss
Still crossing the plains
Broke Inlet Road
Woolbales Shelter for lunch

The journey across the Pingarup was muddy but uneventful, and we were at Woolbales Shelter by gone midday. A quick cook up of a meal and then we were on our way again at 1pm. The path was saturated and muddy, but, as the sun came out and changed the day, we had pockets of forest for shade and there were interesting granite outcrops to see, including Melon Rock.

Melon Rock
Granite outcrop
Broke Inlet
View from one of the granite outcrops

Then the way became sandier, and we were into the dunes. I spotted a Dugite and a couple of emus as we approached the coast. Every now and then we were offered glimpses of Chatham Island, but no real view of the ocean behind the expansive dunes.

The ocean is close

Then the track diverts to the scenic lookout and we get a spectacular vista of Mandalay Beach and the much awaited Southern Ocean!

The Southern Ocean

We made our way down to the car park and then the path to the beach. Here, I said good bye to Mikey, as he was keen to camp here, whilst I wanted to continue to Long Point, 6 km away. It was 3:45 pm, and I reckoned that was more than enough time to get there.

Mandalay Beach sign
Mandalay Beach
Mandalay Beach
Me on Mandalay

The beach was difficult to walk on, the extra weight sending your feet deeper into the sand. I past a fisherman who took my photo for me and said there were a few others at the hut, if the tracks heading up into the dunes were anything to go by.

And so, up onto the dunes. A tough first hour getting up onto the top, frustrating two steps forward, one step back, but eventually some steps simplified the ordeal. Thankfully, the temperature was dropping as the sun started to set, and the task seemed almost complete.

Off the beach and tackling the dunes
Long Point
Along the cliff tops
Waugal near Long Point

I spotted countless roos in the bushes on the walk into the shelter, and arrival before 6 pm justified my decision to double hut. I’d now be in Walpole a day earlier.

Early evening, the roos are waking
Another roo investigates
Another roo on the track

In the hut were Boots and Noddy, and their friend Jessie. Boots and Noddy have been End to Ending since the 19th September and I have seen their entries in the log books since Dwellingup; finally I had caught up with them!

A half hour later, Mikey rocked in. He’d changed his mind, and wisely too because it would have been a horrible night on the beach, as the evening clouded over and the rain came in.

Wednesday, 6th November 2013: Day 41

A mere 12 km today, so no hurry, especially as it was raining still with no sign of a let up. Jessie, Boots and Noddy set off about 7 am, and just as we were about too leave the rain got harder so we sat back down, to wait it out a little longer.

Long Point Shelter in the rain

Half hour later, we left. The dunes were arduous, but the rain had hardened the sand and made it a little easier. The short shrubs and bushes soaked the legs, though, and the boots were inundated.

An overgrown and wet trail this morning
Watching out for snakes

Mikey came across a Dugite and when I caught him up we took photos and had to decide how to get round it. Mikey banged his Gandalf stick and it reared up, before eventually sloping off, but it confirmed that future snake stand offs were going to prove tricky!

Seriously stroppy Dugite

Once we joined the Nuyts Wilderness Trail, we wrung out our socks, then the going was easier. We came into a forest with the first Tingle trees.

Crystal Brook

Across the Deep River via a suspension bridge, then up to Mount Clare, a steep 180 metre climb through more magical Tingle and Karri trees, we arrived at the shelter at a quarter past twelve.

Mikey on Deep River Suspension Bridge
Fine examples of Karri

No double hutting today. Changed into dry clothes, the sun was not going to appear so very little chance of getting any of the walking gear dry by tomorrow; no matter, an easy 10 km into Walpole and should be in time for breakfast!

About half two, David, a S2N E2E’r arrived from Walpole. He’d come from Albany in 7 days! I won’t be attempting that but good to know I am almost at the finish line!

Thursday, 7th November 2013: Day 42

Mount Clare Shelter

We were all up at 5 am, and very keen to get going, despite the rain. By the time we started off, it had stopped and the walk was a simple and quick 10 km into Walpole, arriving in town by 8:30 am.

Tingle Tree
Boots and Noddy in front
Bibbulmun sign
Walpole River
Paperbarks on the edge of Walpole Inlet

First stop was the Dine-in Cafe for Bacon and Eggs, then we all parted ways for our respective accommodation; Me at the Walpole Lodge, Mikey with a mate of a mate, Boots and Noddy at the YHA, whilst Jessie’s adventure on the Bibb was at an end. No doubt, those of us still End to Ending would meet up again further down the track.

To be continued..