Thursday 13th September - I arrived just after midday and headed straight for the "Dwellingup Hotel" for lunch. Two "Tooheys Old" stubbies of beer washed down the roast beef and vegetables, followed by a passion fruit cheese cake with cream to finish. Big helpings, well priced and very tasty. Then I carted my backpack into my $40 hotel room - very basic - and had a lovely hot shower, while my clothes were going through the hotel washing machine and then the dryer. Washed even the clothes I was wearing, after doing a quick change. While I was waiting for the washing to finish I had another beer - sure tasted good. Then went and bought a paper "The Australian" at the local shop, plus a dark Jamaican rum and raisin chocolate bar, another peg less clothes line to replace the one of Ren's that I left at a hut, three mandarin oranges as I needed some fruit, rather than just taking multi vitamin tablets, and some spray on olive oil in a can, so that I can cook my dehydrated eggs as scrambled, or make damper. I diced (threw away) my leaking plastic bottle of rice oil.
Friday 14th September. Started late - 9.45am because I remembered that I needed to sign in the Track register at the "Tourist Office". I had picked up my 8kg re-supply food box and gave Dianne $10 for holding it - said she could put the funds towards a bottle of wine for Friday night drinks, or give the money to a local charity of her choice.
I left town as the dark clouds started to dump heavy showers. Another reason for not leaving earlier, was that I had heard the weather forecast predict early heavy morning showers, but they came late! Also another reason was that the next hut "Swamp Oak" was only 13kms away. With my 26kg backpack cutting into my shoulders again (like on my first day), I could not wait to stop and eat some food to lighten the load.
On the 12km mark there was a sudden flash of lightening overhead, with an equally instant crash of thunder, the wind bent the tree tops, while a huge deluge of rain came down. Was I glad to make it to the hut only half drowned, as it continued for another 4 hours! At the end of that time "Dave" from "Albany" and his partner "Maria" - she started from "Balingup" - turned up heading north, absolutely drowned. They both hailed from Rockingham and we talked for many hours. They went to bed fairly early to keep warm, as it started getting cold just after the rain stopped. They liked to lie in bed until 10am, watching the bird life that invades the hut, after all the walkers have left. Apparently quite a few birds come and clean up any food scraps around 9.30am, staying around for only 15 minutes at each hut. That way you get to see all the local birds, rather than trying to spot them as you walk. I left at 7.30am Saturday 15th September, heading for the "Murray" campsite.
The pack felt lighter (in my imagination), or it sat better in drier weather. Eventually started walking down into the valley with the "Murray River" 100 metres below the Track. I was happily surprised to find the Murray campsite only 20 metres away from the river bank, with a few ducks and frogs letting their presence be known. The river looked very muddy and was fast flowing, so as I still felt clean after "Dwellingup" I decided against a swim. The wind between the showers dried my clothes.
I thought after being there for nearly 4 hours and making a fire, that this was going to be my first night alone. Instead "David" (70) and "Cathy" (67) joined me, and we made dinner. They had double hutted from "Dwellingup", so they were fairly tired, although seasoned bush walkers from "Canberra" on the east coast. They said that they had been reading my comments in previous "Hut Journals", and were interested in catching up so they could meet me.
Sunday 16th September and 14 days out from "Kalamunda". I managed to exit "Murray" at 6.45am, which was my best time so far. I made the 17.7km in 5 hours or 3.5kms per hour as it was not over hilly. Had a full wash including my hair - in the bush with a tiny bowl of water - and was eating lunch by the time "Dave" and "Cath" came into camp. Some day walkers also arrived at the "Dookanelly" campsite: an older man with "Parkinson's" disease and his son and wife who were accompanying him. He had now completed the whole Track in stages over several years, which was a tremendous achievement. And I thought I had it tough!!
Lit a smoky fire after they left and had lunch. Enjoyed eating "Safcol Gourmet on the go Premium Red Salmon with lemon and dill spring water" - skinless and boneless and packed in a foil lightweight pouch, on Indian "Chappati" bread (like Lebanese, but lasts for longer). After that had some dried bananas and a coffee with two sugars (don't normally have sugar, but decided I needed it for this walk only). Then for dinner made scrambled eggs with my dehydrated egg yolks and whites, much to the amazement of the other two walkers! It was then 4.30pm and the billy needed a good wash out afterwards within minimal water.
"Dookanelly" campsite is almost like a home with bookshelves, thermometer, clock, and mirror. I did not carry a mirror, other than the one that came with the EPERB (Electronic Positioning Emergency Radio Beacon), for signaling. It came as a shock to see my face with my rough beard, hiding my gaunt or thin face. I lost around 10kgs on the total journey.
Monday 17th September I left "Possum Springs" at 6.06am, after waking up and getting up at 4am in the dark! "David" and "Cathy" got up at 4.30am and we, or should I say they, had to double hut to meet their friends in Collie on time, so I thought I would also miss staying at Youdamung (no camp fires permitted at this site), and walk the 32kms straight through to "Harris Dam campsite". When I arrived at 3.30pm after lots of hills walking by myself, this is where I first met "Frank Coning".
DAY 16 - 17
I am in Collie (19th September) at the laundromat just around the corner from the "Banksia Motel", where I plan to stay for two nights, or one full day for recuperation, after walking 325kms from "Kalamunda", via "Dwellingup" to "Collie", on the walk of my life - every day is so different.
I will have to back track for the last 3 days to bring myself up to date, but I feel relaxed as I sit here at this laundromat table and bench seat, watching the kids come out of "Collie Senior High School ", while a young woman helped me out with change from her car, so that I had 3 x $1 coins for the washer, to add to a couple I had acquired from the motel receptionist Lee. She gave me a room for $55 including a continental breakfast - at a reduced rate as I was as she put it a "working man" walking the Track. I told her I was a third of the way to my destination.
My body smells, my hair is dirty (I have a beanie hat on to hide the mess), my hands and nails are filthy - engrained dirt that will come out when I shower I hope. There is no point showering until I have clean clothes to put on.
My first stop in "Collie" was at the last hotel on the opposite side of town to where I came in - The" Federation Hotel" that served me lunch and two stubbies - they don't have "Guinness" on tap or even in cans. Also they don't have "Tooheys Old" and the lunch was below average for a hotel meal. Looked at one of their rooms for the night to get a starting comparison for something better back down the street. I only ended up here because I got talking to a "Silver Chain" nurse in the street, and she had heard that the rooms were being renovated, so I thought I would check them out. She recommended the "Arcadia Motel" opposite the police station. This was the way I wanted to find accommodation by intuition and gut feel, rather than pre-booking something I knew nothing about.
I have a waistcoat jacket and no shirt on underneath, as I wait for the machine to finish washing, so I can then dry my shirt and instantly wear it. Fortunately it does not need ironing. I would have washed the other dirty pair of pants (trousers), but then I would probably have got arrested sitting in my jocks! Anyway I am happy with my room, so once I have had a first shower in six days, changed into my clean looking, clean smelling, dry clothes, I will feel part of civilization again. To me that means I won't stand a long way away from anyone I meet!
Going back to Tuesday 18th, I woke up at the "Harris Dam" campsite, 21.4kms away from "Collie". It was 6.16am and "David Strong and his walking partner "Cathy" had got up at 4.30am, as they wanted to get to Collie early to shop, meet some friends that were joining them for the next walking stage, and make phone calls back to "David's" wife and "Cath's" husband in the "ACT". Neither of those two were into walking, so that is how their partnership formed. They both had a very tight schedule, meaning they had no time to spend an extra day at "Collie" - it was all go, go, go for them. I had been told that rest days were very important to let the body battery re-charge, and I am very happy that I took 4 days off, out of the 51 days on the Track. On meeting them both around town, they told me that their food parcel had not arrived or had gone astray, so they were having to shop again for all their requirements. This is never easy as the quantities sold are often too large to pack, causing much wastage. Also many items are not available at all in country towns, or are the wrong brand with not such good ingredients.
I said goodbye to them both wishing them success. They had been with me for three huts, so for the rest of my journey I read their comments, finding out that they made it to "Albany" on schedule, to catch their plane back home. In the meantime I had been reading comments made by a 76 year young "Mechanical Engineer" called "Frank", who was constantly one day in front of me, until I double hutted by waking from "Possum Springs", via "Yourdamung" campsite(18.7kms) and then (13.7kms) to "Harris Dam". "Frank" was a really interesting worldly travelled guy, having taken his two daughters, two sons and wife, in a Jeep from "Australia" to the "UK". An amazing adventure, plus he had backpacked in" New Zealand" and "Katmandu". We both walked and talked the whole morning while covering the 21.4kms into "Collie".
What I learnt is that everyone walks different speeds and different rest points. "Frank" takes small steps up hills, but never rests except on very steep ones he said. I bound up hills, but rest for a minute or two now and again - when the sweat drips off my face, after running down the full length of it. "Frank" walked the whole 21.4kms with no stops, going 5kms per hour on the flat and even downhill. I go around 3.5 to 4kms walking speed most of the time (depending whether I have a 20kg or 28kg backpack), which is officially too heavy I am told, but then I have luxuries that other backpackers would dream about!
Probably my only shortfall is not having a second thermal shirt with long sleeves, as all I have is a "Merino" thermal tee-shirt. I have had to break open my emergency silver/gold space blanket to stop hypothermia, when the temperature went down to 2 degrees C with hailstones included, at "Monadnocks" campsite at 5pm. All my clothes including my only spares were wet, so initially I got into my sleeping bag to warm myself. This only stopped my uncontrollable shivering, until I had to get out an hour and a half later and cook a meal. As my body started to violently shiver again, I wrapped a full body length space blanket with the silver side inwards, between several layers of damp clothes to successfully warm myself. Now that was a good emergency only $7 item that I continued to use at other cold campsites, as my makeshift extra thermal layer.
"Monadnocks" campsite was the only night that my sleeping bag only just kept me warm enough, although it was rated at minus 7C with 700 Down, had baffles to keep the heat in as I rolled over, an essential hood and a half length zip that I would like to have seen as a full length, as the nights warmed up. I also has had a full length self-inflating, lightweight mattress that was very comfortable, once you learnt how to rotate you body on the 22 inch wide surface, during the night.
Must now go and tell the "Banksia Motel" receptionist that I will not be taking the second night option up, as I have decided to move into a smaller single room at the "Crown Hotel" which is more central and "Frank" was pre-booked there and recommends it. He said they have a FREE washing machine and dryer - including powder - so I can wash and dry my last pair of dirty trousers (pants), ready to leave on Friday am. early. Also it is $30 rather than $55 for a single room and I save $5 on the washing too. Virtually half price. The steak meals or roast dinners are low priced and very good, as I experienced last night before moving in.
Friday 21st SeptemberI left "Collie" at 6.35am, taking a reflective photo of myself in a shop window, and arrived at "Yabberup" campsite an hour earlier than "Frank", who took a wrong turn (it happens to the best I am told). On arrival at midday I started by having a tea and then packet soup, cooking in the Billy on the fire. All my clothes dried in the sun and wind, as they were wet from sweat! Now to cook dinner which will be "Jenny's" last bolognese(dried) and pasta.that she made me before I left. "Jenny" is a very long standing friend who really helped me in preparing much of my dehydrated food (she owned the dehydrator). My meals were considerably more interesting and varied than the packet variety, even though some of "Frank's" instant packet meals tasted Ok. I carried a large range of herbs and spices , recommended to me by "Steve Sertis" when I attended his "Food in Fuel Stove" class at the "Bibbulmun Track Foundation".. I tend to eat out in "Perth" and do very little cooking, so learning how to cook with limited facilities and dehydrated food was a worth while evening - highly recommended. His receipt book turned into my list of foods to buy, and having tasted most of them on the course, I knew what I wanted to cook.
The Track today had several minor flooded sections that I had to walk around plus a few obstacles to duck under, after spotting the yellow triangle direction marker. Then there were the fallen trees to climb over too.
I posted an anniversary card to "Ren" and "Luke" (6yrs together) yesterday, plus sent heaps of emails and talked to my daughter "Ren" on their home phone. Sent her a CD of my pictures so far. It was really good to hear her voice for the first time in virtually three weeks. I had missed her before when I called, and I did not carry a mobile through choice. "Ren" had spilt soft drink on her mobile, so she was getting a new one this weekend. The idea was to get away from the known world and focus more on my current unknown world - the "NOW".
Yabberup to Noggerup I took the advantage of a refreshing swim in the Glen Morgan irrigation dam.
The Forrest Tavern that turned up next, is not to be missed as it's a cool watering hole!
Noggerup campsite were I stuck up a sticker on the notice board, that I had purchased a the "Forrest Tavern" at "Mumballup". The sticker read "Where is "Mumballup" - half way between "Yabberup" and "Noggerup" - which it was, but it really told you nothing, because most people have not heard of the settlements either side, let alone "Mumballup". "Frank" and I had read in the previous "Hut's Journal" that we were approaching a mini-tavern in the middle of nowhere, that kept very strange hours - different each week, let alone each day. Several hikers said that it had been closed when they got there in the middle of the day, but "Frank" arrived shortly after I got there, and it opened 10 minutes later at midday on a Saturday. The Tavern was soon to celebrate being there for 100 years!! When you have been walking up and down hills all morning, the thought of a cold beer really gets you motivated!
Frank and I sat at the outside bar in the sun and a biker with his Harley Davidson bike joined us. Behind us was an outdoor stage (country style) and a Great Dane that kept looking over the wall for more customers.
Sunday 23rd "Grimwade Hut" - Arrived 2pm - Day 21 since Monday 3rd September start. This is the fourth day with "Frank Coning" sharing a hut - last three huts we have had no other visitors. We always walk individually by starting at different times, sometimes coming across each other during the day, but knowing that we are both heading for the same hut the next night. Looking at the "Hut Register", this hut was full with eleven hikers last night - an encouragement not to double hut and get into a crowd. Still waiting to have a hut to myself, but I have plenty of days left, having now walked 383.6kms and covered 26 sections of the 30 sections in the Northern half.
Last night Frank and I stayed up talking around the campfire until 9.15pm. Then we were visited by three "Possums" who ran down the trees at high speed - head first, then ran across the ground only two/three metres away from us and then climbed the next tree. I tried taking photos which was very difficult in the dark, with only one shot out of six, that had the full "Possum" in it. They only stayed around for five minutes, checking us out before they continued their night journey. We could hear them coming and managed to "spot" them using our head lamps.
It was the third day of no rain, although overcast, threatening rain and windy/cool 13 -14C. We have the camp fire going well - "Frank" got here half and hour before me (the opposite of last night), but we always work well on gathering firewood, with "Frank" prefering to get the larger "Jarrah" pieces, while I find the driest kindling wood, using my "Bic" lighter to get it going - usually with the first lighting. It is getting cool and dark, as the sun vanished at 5.45pm behind the small westerly hill.
36:Just Cruising - I don't cruise any more, I run and I sprint to complete my life's destiny - on time, under budget and loaded with high quality. Steve Parish Original Affirmation v4
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