Day three of my 335km hike from Northcliffe to Albany.
Terrain: Flat and easy.
Bonny and I awoke early on day three, as we were pretty eager to get an early start on the first “long” day of the hike (in Bibb terms). After my hearty breakfast of oats with a generous topping of sugar (way better than yesterday’s revolting eggs) we set off on the 4WD track that loosely winds its way around Lake Maringup.
The track took us through some spectacularly thick karri forest where you’ve really got no option but to follow the waugyls. The morning sun streamed through the canopy, making for a real Fern Gully vibe on the forest floor. Every now and then we’d walk along elevated duckboards over low-lying sections of the track that are inundated in winter. It’s not necessary to walk along them in the dry months, but way more fun than walking along the dirty ground like a plebe. (I called Bonny a plebe while she did so – she took it in good humour)
After a handful of kilometres the track emerges into more open plains, where thick groupings of bushes replace the towering karri trees of the forest. We stopped for morning tea at one of the many “significant footbridge”s described in the guidebook, so named to distinguish them from the many insignificant footbridges (read: planks) you cross pretty regularly in this section.
The trail followed more sandy tracks for much of the day, crossing a couple of gravel roads on its path through the open plains. These plains are a recurring feature nearly all the way to Mandalay Beach, and they make up for their lack of soaring greenery with spectacular 360-degree vistas. The unimpeded views make you much more aware of how quickly you’re travelling, as the hills that dot the horizon move in and out of view with surprising speed.
The open, flat terrain got me in the zone for hiking, so I went ahead of Bonny and zipped through the section until the track returned to the forest. I took a break on a convenient fallen log, which was improved immeasurably by my foam sit pad. True ultralight hikers might consider it a luxury, but being able to put something soft and dry between you and whatever you’re sitting on is essential in my books. The $25 Thermarest Z-Seat is the gold standard of sit pads, but $2 knock offs are available on eBay that do the job almost as well, and weigh virtually nothing. I’ve got the latter.
Bonny arrived soon after, and we walked another short section of forest together before the track reached Dog Road. This wide, well maintained gravel road made for an easy if uninspiring final 5km for the day, on the way into Dog Pool campsite.
Another rammed earth shelter, Dog Pool sits next to a bend in the river that can apparently turn into a torrent in winter. When we visited, it was little more than a couple of ponds of stagnant black water. Never one to turn down the prospect of a swim, Bonny dived in while I gave myself a prison shower in knee-deep water.
At the shelter we met Carla, a solo hiker from Tasmania who’d made it from Albany despite being tormented by blisters. She told us one had become infected, and she was considering dropping out in Northcliffe. I found out later that she did so, but returned to the track not long after to turn her E2E into a sectional. I love the perseverance of people on the track! It’s really inspiring to see it in action, even if things didn’t go as they were originally planned.
Not long after we’d arrived, we were treated to a brief rain shower. Good thing we didn’t leave Lake Maringup half an hour later or we’d be sodden!
The rain persuaded me to sleep inside the shelter – something I hardly ever do given how much I love my tent. Thankfully, no snorers!