I left the YHA Perth City in the pouring rain. It had been home for four nights while I went outdoor gear shopping mad in the city. The manager said they would look after some of my gear that I did n’t need while hiking e.g. laptop, smarter clothes, shoes etc.
The usual guy was not on reception when I came to check out. This new chap said it wasn’t their policy to look after bags beyond one day. I was already cutting it fine to catch the bus and didn’t need this right now!
I stressed that the manager said it wouldn’t be an issue and eventually he caved in and took possession of my bag.
Broken bus and the skimpy
The bus was pretty full heading south towards Collie. I would have to change at Bunbury to a smaller bus. We pulled into Perth airport to pick up some passengers, and there we remained for nearly two hours.
The bus had broken down. The breaks had gone and we had to wait for a replacement. This two hour delay meant I arrived in Collie at 8pm. It was pouring with rain, freezing cold and I had no desire to camp at the holiday park.
I found a cheap room at a hotel on the main street. It was recommended to me, but in reality needed some serious investment. I popped to the pub next door and walked up to the bar. ‘Blimey’ I said aloud, as a bikini clad blonde asked what drink I wanted! It was an Alan Partridge moment and I felt a bit of an uncool twonk!
I scanned the rest of the bar and noted that many families were dining there too. It was not seedy, just a typical mining town tavern, with a ‘skimpy’ behind the bar.
I ordered a beer, plonked myself down and grabbed a menu. This menu had the most expensive bar food I’d ever seen (not helped by the dire £/$ exchange rate, thanks Brexit!). I finished my beer and ended up buying a (minimum) one day old pie from a nearby takeaway.
I had to food shop the next day which ended up taking ages. I stupidly picked up a cauliflower and a bag of carrots. I might as well picked up a three bricks and popped them in my backpack.
Trees, bees and no snakes
The people of Collie were so friendly. I waited under a shelter for a short but vicious rain storm to pass. Three different groups of people came up to me and chatted. It was getting quite late and I briefly considered staying in the town one more night, but I needed to get walking.
The track in and out of Collie is a spur and not easy to find. I had Google maps and GPS to guide me, but I wasted a valuable 30 mins just looking for the actual track!
By the time I got to the overnight hut it was almost dark. Sunset was around 6.30pm. I hadn’t seen anyone after leaving Collie but was greeted by a young Swiss couple in the shelter. They were friendly but I sensed a tinge of disappointment in their faces. I suppose they were looking forward to having the hut to themselves, but would now have to share with a man and a cauliflower.
I ate a lot of veg that night due to the very poor choices I made in the supermarket. The cauliflower probably weighed more than my tent. I think the whole cauliflower thing only happened because I was in a town called Collie.
After all the backpacking I have done, you’d think I would know better. It was an impulse buy and I paid for it with an extra heavy pack. Another lesson learned. Don’t be tempted by cut price veg!
I eagerly put up my Naturehike tent that I bought from China via Amazon. It was only $100, so quite cheap for a backpacking tent. It is roomy, which is what I wanted. I might be sleeping and living under this piece of fabric for up to five months in NZ.
The next four days and nights were pretty identical. Endless jarrah forest in the days and the warmth of the shelters in the evening. The huts are three sided and provide good shelter, but I do wonder why they didn’t make them enclosed, particularly with such lethal wildlife and annoying bugs?
I was initially worried about snakes, scorpions, spiders etc, all of which can potentially inflict hideous death on a section hiker. So it was to my surprise that two English bulldogs would be the most dangerous animals I’d encounter!
I was on the track and skirting the Mungalup reservoir when the first dog chased me off. This happened again a few minutes later. Some bogan campers yelped and ridiculed me, as their ‘pet’ charged in my direction.
Some of the nights were almost down to 0C and I would have literally froze without my tent, which apparently adds up to 5C compared to outside. I managed to put my tent on the sleeping platforms too, meaning I could just use the inner on warmer nights.
By the last day of the Collie to Balingup stretch I had decided to make for the coast. My original plan was to continue through the forests to Pembleton, but I was bored looking at trees. Had there been more people about then I might have continued.
Rain, rain and hippies
I rolled into Balingup with the stormy weather. The camping ground turned out to be a sports complex. I was thankful for the pavilion that sheltered me from the rain. Within 10 minutes of pitching my tent three knackered looking campervans rocked up and plonked themselves beside me.
The camping area was huge, so I could n’t understand why they chose to camp so near! They were young hippy Aussies, friendly but potentially noisy later on, so without hesitation I moved away from them and their large stash of booze.
Everything in Balingup closed mid afternoon, so I ended up having dinner (a lovely curry pie) very early. Supper was a bottle of red.
I had booked a bus (before the wine) and awoke in the morning with a few hours to kill in Balingup. I spent most of it in a cafe where I spent a small fortune on coffee and food. Finally the bus turned up in the pouring rain and I was on my way to Denmark.
I’d been to Denmark (village not country) some eight years previous. It’s probably my favourite small town in Australia, after Brisbane. I checked into the YHA and was looking forward to a proper bed for a couple of nights.
In my dorm was a friendly young English guy and someone else who never spoke but woke me every night when his phone would go off. A bit annoying when it happens three times between 2am and 4am. I ended up sleeping in the lounge on the last night! Such is the life of a budget traveller.
Denmark has a huge number of coffee shops for such a small place. It has a big IGA Supermarket which sells things in one person quantities. The residents are clearly happy and no doubt living an excellent quality of life.
I spent three nights in the YHA, which was one more than planned. This meant that walking to Walpole was no longer a possibility. I would do the Denmark to Albany stretch instead. The YHA had some real characters staying and I enjoyed my time there, but I had to get walking again!
The Denmark to Albany stretch is about 85km, but it would be longer for me as I was unwilling to pay $150 for a short boat trip across an inlet. The YHA manager advised me that the walk around the inlet was dull, but I actually enjoyed the nice wide path (once a railway track).
Walking around the inlet also meant a potential 6km walk down a busy highway. I have not hitched for years but decided now was the time to start again, especially as I will be hitching a bit on the Te Araroa.
The fourth car picked me up. A young guy from Margaret River gave me a short ride. It’s amazing how much you can find out about someone in 5km! I was dropped off at a junction with a minor road. This minor road was sealed and didn’t make for great walking. The 10km did drag on a bit, not helped by windy rain.
I eventually got back onto the Bibb and had a short walk to Nikula Hut, which would be my stop for the night. I’d walked over 25km and was pretty tired. There were two friendly ladies in the shelter who would become my hut chums for four nights.
There was one heck of a storm that first night. In fact there were power outages in Denmark and Albany. It was nice to be in confines of my tent and also be under the roof of the shelter. It was going to be a cold night so I put up the tent fly too.
The next day was quite horrible. A very strong gale force wind blew me all over the place. Much of the track offered awesome views out to sea, but was also very exposed to the elements. I was borderline out of my comfort zone. This was not expected on such an easy stretch of coastal path!
The track was quite overgrown in many parts which made every step a potentially hazardous one. Every twig looked like a snake, and not being able to use my best defence (my eyes) was frustrating.
The poor weather and coldest spring in living memory did mean that a snake encounter would be unlikely. I had that to thank the weather for that!
It was with some relief that I reached the shelter that evening and looked forward to being in my sleeping bag. Dinner was my usual pasta, rice or noodle packet. Not enough calories or nutrition, but I was only walking five days. No cauliflower this time.
The next day the two ladies were off walking early. I was typically a little slow to leave the confines of the shelter. I walked for an hour on track that was again overgrown and fell into the same uneasy pattern as yesterday. I looked at google maps and saw how the Bibb seemed to meander and be anything but direct.
Going off piste
The map also showed me an alternative route on old roads, which turned out to be mainly sand tracks. They were still in the National Park but would involve extra distance.
There had been a lot of rain and it was n’t long before I was wading through flooded sections. I must admit that I was starting to regret my off-piste adventure. Luckily things went from bad to good and I managed to rejoin the Bibb just a few km from the next shelter.
The next couple of days were bliss walking along the coast. The views were stunning. I still could n’t believe more people were not out enjoying the track, particularly as the weather was improving.
There was a beach section with an inlet crossing at Torbay. The inlet was usually ankle deep but with all the rain, it was now a swim! This meant another diversion and more road hitching. Again, I did n’t have to wait too long and was dropped off at a petrol station / cafe.
After a few days of camp food, I was like a kid in a candy store. I wolfed down a bacon and egg sandwich and lots more calories beyond that! The lady who worked there came and sat with me on her break, as did another expat English women. They were great company and I learned a lot about the local area.
I ended up staying far longer than I had planned and had to walk quickly to avoid a night march to the next hut (which I did with minutes to spare!).
The last day into Albany was a short one at only 12 km. Seven of these would be within site of the town itself. The two ladies were going to get a taxi for those last few km, but I was determined to walk the whole way to the southern terminus at Albany visitor centre.
This last stretch was by far the worst. The track again seemed to avoid the most direct route and it felt like a magical mystery tour. It was quite a relief to be standing by the southern terminus sign.
Albany itself is a lovely little town, with a nice YHA and everything else you need. I celebrated with a bottle of local WA wine and a burnt pizza. I also had a dorm to myself, so slept very well.
I left for Perth the next day. The six hour bus ride was not too bad and I returned to Perth YHA. I was relieved to be reunited with my valuables. The next day I was back at the airport and leaving Australia for Bali.
Post hike thoughts on the Bibbulmun track
Will I come back again and thru-hike the Bibb?
To be honest, I would not thru-hike the Bibb alone, and that probably means I won’t do it. The main issue is the lack of other people. I can imagine some sections being even more lonely than the ones I chose.
I guess there is always a chance I could find others to walk with, so never say never!
Bibbulmun Track negatives?
Well there aren’t many. I had read a few Bibb track accounts before I came to WA and a recurring issue was the track routing. It does seem at times that the people who laid out the track did everything in their power not to take the most direct route.
To be honest, if you are day or section hiking, then the meandering track would not be an issue. I think if you were to hike the whole thing then it might be annoying after a while. Often a thru-hiker just wants to get to the next resupply or point of interest, rather than being taken around the houses!
The climate means that the walking season is quite short. I think you’d be insane to walk it in the summer (Nov thru April) due to the heat, mozzies, potential wildlife encounters and bush fires. I’d imagine it would be pretty miserable in the winter with the cold and wet (yes it gets very cold, even in spring!). I am guessing that May, June and September, October would be the best months.
Honestly, I cannot think of any more negatives.
Bibbulmun Track positives?
Well the shelters are awesome and they are free. This can make a hiking trip to one of the world’s most expensive countries an affordable one.
I mentioned before about the shelters only being three sided. I am sure there is a good reason for that, and they are still comfortable inside.
The track is very well maintained and a lot of work has gone into it. I believe most of the work was one on a voluntary basis, so good on ya!
The track mainly follows main bus routes, so there are very good options for doing sections and then taking a bus.
The track is very easy to follow. I did lose it a couple of times, but soon figured out where I went wrong. The markers are frequent so there is no excuse!
Mobile / cell phone reception is very good on the sections I did. I probably had a connection more often than not.
I’d certainly recommend the Bibb. Will I be back one day? Well who knows? I certainly won’t forget my Bibbulmun experience.
Finally, here is a short video I made of the last couple of days. Apologies for the sound quality, it was windy!