Day eight of my 16-day/335km section hike from Northcliffe to Albany on the Bibbulmun Track.
Terrain: Steep climb followed by easy, gradual descent.
Its funny how bad days are often followed by great days on long-distance hikes.
After my worrying encounter with hyponatremia at Long Point and a long walk through the dark to make it into Walpole on schedule, I was looking forward to a pair of short days heading out of town.
I woke up on day 8 at around 7AM after more than 12 hours of uninterrupted, dreamless sleep. I guess my body needed the rest after the abuse I’d put it through over the past week – or it just didn’t want to leave the first real bed I’d seen in that time.
I was in no rush to leave town with only 18km to the next campsite, so I walked down to one of the cafes for a calorific cooked breakfast and bought some last-minute supplies on the way back to the hostel.
Finally at around 9AM with supplies restocked, batteries charged and legs stretched, I started walking again.
The sun was out but it was still comfortably cool, and I enjoyed the unhurried stroll through the streets of Walpole and around the inlet to Coalmine Beach.
It was barely more than 24 hours ago that I was worried I might have knocked myself out of this hike, but now I felt confident again. I stopped several times to take in beautiful inlet views from various spots, and to snap some tame kangaroos at the Coalmine Beach caravan park.
A misleading waugyl marker caused me to go wandering down a 4WD track just short of the day’s only big hill, only to find myself at the edge of the inlet with nowhere to go.
After doubling back I managed to find the track again, and headed off in the right direction. The climb up the hill was steep but manageable, through more beautiful Tingle forest on firm, mostly-even ground.
Most of the way up I arrived at Hilltop Lookout, which enjoys a great view of the ocean and the mouth of the Nornalup Inlet. I took my pack off and stopped for a stretch.
A couple of friendly grey nomads turned up in an enormous 4WD and peppered me with the usual assortment of questions. (What do you do for water? Do you sleep in the huts? Isn’t all that food heavy?)
Answers dispensed, we parted ways and I headed for my lunch stop destination for the day: the Giant Tingle Tree.
This massive tree is so big there’s a boardwalk running through its hollowed base. It’s the centrepiece of a pretty spectacular walk trail you can access by car.
I assembled and ate my wrap at a picnic table (what a luxury!) before continuing on through the forest. It wasn’t until I left the area around the Giant Tingle that I felt I’d truly left civilisation again.
From thereon the track gradually eased its way down to the level of the Frankland River, following 4WD tracks for a long, scenic section with great views down onto heavily-wooded valleys below.
For the first time on this trip I put in my earphones and listened to some music while I hiked, and for the first time I wasn’t counting kilometres to the campsite.
I arrived at Frankland River earlier than I really wanted to, but it’s almost impossible to walk past such a beautiful shelter.
It’s right on the bank of the Frankland River, and is the only shelter built on stilts on the entire Bibbulmun Track. It’s also the only shelter with a wooden deck.
It’s also infested with rats, so I opted as usual to set up my tent in one of the adjoining tent sites.
House built for the night, I slipped down to the river for a cheeky skinny dip.
When I got back I met two young German guys and a girl who were overnight hiking for the first time, while on working holiday visas.
They’d scrounged together their gear from garage sales and op shops, and weren’t loving lugging it up and down the big hills. But they were in good spirits, and looking forward to continuing their four-day adventure from Walpole to Peaceful Bay.
I had dinner with them and another local hiker named Leo, before turning in for another early night just after sunset.
I couldn’t help but feel good about my hike after a great first day out of Walpole, and I was looking forward to what else the track had in store.