Day 14 of my 16-day/335km section hike from Northcliffe to Albany on the Bibbulmun Track.
Terrain: Firm coastal dunes with moderate inclines.
I woke up at Casa Libelula in one of the comfiest beds I’d ever slept in, with a view of the beautifully green farm land that surrounds the house. I felt refreshed after my stay at the B&B, although my legs were still very stiff after 13 days of walking. In the scheme of things though, I was in great shape. I had no blisters or sores, no infections, no pulled muscles, no rolled ankles, no inflamed tendons, and happiest of all, no knee pain. I credited that to my rigorous stretching routine, which I’d made a habit of doing every day when I arrived at camp, supplemented by half an hour on host Jacko Vanderbijl’s foam roller at the Casa.
The smell of frying bacon eventually lured me out of bed and into the kitchen, where the ever-hospitable Annie was cooking up a hearty breakfast to see me through a long day on the track. By the book, I had 31.2km ahead of me, but this is somewhat controversial because it includes 4.2km of water between the Denmark river mouth and the Nullaki peninsula boat ramp, on the other side of the Wilson Inlet. The ferry service that used to take walkers across has long since stopped running, so walkers have to make other arrangements. I’d arranged for Jacko to give me a lift to the drop-off point, included in the price of his hiker-friendly accommodation.
After devouring my delicious cooked breakfast I unpacked a supply package I’d mailed to Jacko in anticipation of my arrival, and sorted out my food for the last three days to Albany. Out of toilet paper and gas, Jacko kindly offered me both. One of the few annoyances of long-distance hiking is that so many items simply can’t be purchased in quantities that hikers need. Buying a single roll of TP is pretty much impossible, so you’ve either got to beg, borrow or steal a roll, or buy a whole pack and throw out all but one. But I digress.
We rolled up to the drop-off point around 9:30, and after a quick gear check I said my goodbyes to Jacko and headed once more into the wilderness. I’d left civilisation behind again, and wouldn’t see another hot shower until Albany (more on that debacle later). My aim was to get there in three days, but I had two days to spare in my schedule if I really needed them.
The walk to Nullaki campsite was a pretty standard stroll through low coastal scrub without a whole lot to look at, before the track rose to offer views back towards Denmark. I pushed on through more of the same, seeing surprisingly little of the ocean despite being quite close to it. I was sad to leave the majestic karri forests behind me, as both the Vanderbijls and the guidebook had warned me there would be no more tall trees between here and the finish line. Still, I was glad that the weather was holding up and I was managing to stay cool and dry.
After a few more hours of walking through a more-or-less similar landscape, I made it to a road crossing near Lowlands Beach. The pristine beach was marred by tragedy just days before my arrival, when a local fisherman died after being swept off the rocks. Needing a break, I decided to walk the extra 250 metres to the beach to take in the view.
In the car park, I met an American backpacker and her French boyfriend in an old Subaru who were preparing to walk the same section I had ahead of me, from the beach to West Cape Howe campsite. The couple turned out to be great company, and we chatted about everything from hiking to American football on the walk to the campsite.
I wasn’t even that tired when we arrived, and spent a decent amount of time checking out the lookouts around the shelter. West Cape Howe’s exterior picnic table has probably the best view of any on the Bibbulmun Track, while a secondary lookout up a hill behind the shelter was a perfect spot to take in the sunset.
The beautiful views made me sad that my days on the Bibbulmun were coming to a close, but I knew the achievement of reaching Albany would sweeten the end of the adventure.