Day 16 of my 16-day/335km section hike from Northcliffe to Albany on the Bibbulmun Track.
Terrain: Mostly flat coastal ridges and bitumen.
I woke up at Muttonbird after a night that was blissfully free of millipedes, thanks to the bug netting on my tent. I ate my last breakfast of the trip, and packed up my things for the last time with a mixture of sadness and relief. I was looking forward to the achievement of walking into Albany, and completing my longest hike yet. I was looking forward to showers, hot food and a real bed, but I knew I’d miss the spectacularly uncomplicated nomadic lifestyle I’d been leading for the past couple of weeks.
I wanted to make Albany as early as possible, to give myself time to freshen up and enjoy all the wonders of civilisation before I boarded my late afternoon bus back to Perth. So the sun was barely over the horizon when I hoisted my backpack – lighter than ever – onto my back, and began the walk through the wind farm.
The terrain was much like what I’d been walking along all the way since Denmark, save for the addition of the giant, twirling wind turbines. Every now and then I’d get a spectacular view up and down the coast, before turning briefly inland and fording through more scrub. I reached the last turbine a couple of hours later, where I had a good view of how far I’d come.
Soon after I arrived at Sandpatch campsite, where I enjoyed my last lunch on the track. As it’s the last shelter before Albany, Sandpatch had a reflections register that was full of the inspiring musings of those who were about to finish or were just setting out on an end-to-end. Sadly the shelter was destroyed in a bushfire less than a couple of months after my visit. I presume the red book went up in smoke with it, so I’m glad I snapped the last of B Man’s poems, which I’d been eagerly reading at every shelter of my journey.
After departing Sandpatch, the track left the coastal ridge I’d been following since Denmark and began to descend towards King George Sound. I got my first glimpses of Albany on the way down, from all the way across the harbour. After a long descent, the track finally reached sea level. The rough, rocky path gave way to bitumen at the edge of the sound, marking the beginnings of civilisation.
I stowed my walking poles for the last time, put on some music, and enjoyed the stroll around the harbour. A sign offering free whisky tastings at the world-renowned Limeburners Distillery nearly tempted me to stop, but I didn’t think my sweat-drenched clothes and three-day-old funk would quite fit in with their tasting room’s upmarket ambience.
Buildings became bigger and more regular as I approached the centre of town, and soon I was walking past beautiful historic houses on residential streets. I crossed a couple of train tracks, passed the replica Brig Amity, rounded the Dan Murphy’s and finally arrived at the southern terminus.
I felt a wave of joy when I touched the unassuming wooden marker. I’d made it. I stood there for a few minutes, enjoying the moment.
A father and son interrupted my daydream when they turned up on a pair of mountain bikes, clearly kitted out for the Munda Biddi cycling trail, which starts at the same point. “How far are you going?” I asked the dad. “Oh, only as far as Manjimup,” he replied. “Would you mind taking my photo before you go?” I asked. He did, before they saddled up and rode off.
I walked into a Rivers clothing shop and bought a clean shirt to wear on the bus, then spent about two hours trying to find the one working public shower in Albany. After a meal at Hungry Jacks – definitely the best Whopper I’ve had in my life – I trudged down to the bus station and boarded the coach for the long ride home.