Day 13 of my 16-day/335km section hike from Northcliffe to Albany on the Bibbulmun Track.
Terrain: Steep climbs and descents.
Even though it had only been two days since I enjoyed the comforts of the Peaceful Bay Caravan Park, I was looking forward to returning to civilisation again. I’d booked a room at Casa Libelula, a B&B on a rural property about 20 minutes outside of Denmark, run by experienced hiker and Bibbulmun Track identity Jacko Vanderbijl and his wife Annie. Jacko has not only end-to-ended the Bibbulmun Track, but also thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. The 2,200-mile AT is one of the USA’s “big three” along with the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, the latter of which is on my bucket list.
Since the demise of the Wilson Inlet ferry service, Jacko offers one of the few reliable means for getting around the inlet to continue the track where it picks up on the other side. He included this service, along with dinner, breakfast and access to his laundry, for the extremely reasonable price of $120 for the night. I’ve heard some good things about other accommodation providers in Denmark, but unless I was on some seriously stingy budget I’d stay at the Casa again.
Having only 20 kilometres to walk to the Denmark trailhead, where Jacko had arranged to meet me, I got an early start in anticipation of making it to town for lunch at one of the bakeries. With visions of meat pies, sweet pastries and chocolate milkshakes filling my head, I set off from the campsite and continued along the coast to Lights Beach, another wild and treacherous stretch of sand popular among locals for the many walking trails that branch out from it.
Within minutes of leaving camp I nearly stumbled over an enormous tiger snake, who either didn’t seem too fazed by me or was deliberately playing it cool. Eventually, the snake slithered off into the grass in front of me.
I made the 5.3km to Lights Beach in good time, where the rocky and uneven surface I’d been travelling on for most of my time on the track was replaced with a paved path. It was nice not to have to constantly watch my feet, so I could take in more of the untamed landscape.
Just as I was getting used to walking like a normal person again, the trail reverted to its usual form before leading me on to one of the farms that surround Denmark. I climbed over a stile to enter a pasture, where I walked past a herd of cattle on the way to the base of Mount Hallowell.
While it only reaches 284m above sea level, the climb up Mount Hallowell took a surprisingly long time and the descent took even longer. Or maybe the anticipation of those meat pies just made it feel longer. About halfway up the “mountain” is Monkey Rock, a spectacular natural lookout that I initially mistook for the summit. I realised, when I turned away from the view to see the hill still looming up in front of me, that I was wrong.
Another kilometre or so of wheezing and straining my quadriceps put me at the real summit, which offered a magnificent 360-degree vista of green valleys, pristine forests and wild coastline, along with Denmark itself and the Wilson Inlet.
I ambled down the hill for at least twice as long as I’d spent climbing it – it’s one of those lopsided hills with a steep face on one side and a gradual slope on the other. At the bottom, the track spat me out into Denmark’s outer suburbs, where a scattering of houses hugs the edge of the inlet.
I was running a little early for my pre-arranged pickup by Jacko, so I took a 15-minute break on a little bench with a scenic view which must have been installed with weary hikers in mind.
From there, the track took me on a flat, easy walk through the outskirts of civilisation, alternating between dirt paths and residential streets. I ran into Jacko just short of the river mouth, and walked back with him to his car.
We stopped at the bakery on the way back to Casa Libelula and I bought a meat pie, an apple slice and a carton of choc milk. I never stop craving baked goods and dairy when I’m out on the trail. I devoured my long-awaited lunch at the Casa’s kitchen counter, before dumping all of my clothes into washing machine and enjoying what is still my best shower of 2018. Any shower would have felt good after three days in the wilderness, but using a proper shower with decent pressure and nothing but pure rainwater was pure bliss.