“The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s great long distance walk trails, stretching 1,000km from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills, to Albany on the south coast, winding through the heart of the scenic South West of Western Australia.” https://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au
In the company of our two new Australian friends, Brett and Clive, we set out to explore roughly 70km of the Bibbulmun Track over four days in the first week of June 2015, walking north from the Brookton Highway access point, to the northern terminus in the shire of Kalamunda. The entire track is marked with triangular yellow metal “woggles” with the Bibbulmun signature emblem – a patterned snake (obviously, what else would be appropriate? :)). The woggles are attached to trees, posts, and metal struts and except for those instances where the marker has melted due to bush fires, grown into a tree over time, or simply fallen off, they are very easy to spot and follow! As one hiker commented, where there’s a woggle, there’s a way!
We had a grand adventure along a reasonably easy and well maintained section of the track, and lived to tell the tale, despite our fears of certain death by the fangs, claws, pincers, and teeth of the almost exclusively venomous, and deadly, creatures that call Australia home! An account of our excursion is detailed below with a packing list included at the end.
Day 1: Brookton Highway to Beraking (26 kms)
Our trek started with an early morning pick up by Brett, Clive, and Brett’s kind father-in-law, Ken, who would drop us off and drive back into Perth at a fairly unreasonable hour! With the sun just rising and our packs snuggly on our backs, we started our first day’s walk. There was a track diversion due to controlled bush burning, so we headed along an alternate route along the power line track for the first two hours, eventually cutting back onto the main Bibbulmun Track and stopping at the Mt Dale campsite for a cup of tea and cookies. Along the way we saw evidence of the bush fire that had swept through the region a few years ago. Stark and beautiful at the same time.
The remainder of our first day was mostly along non-technical graded forest service roads, with a few nice climbs and beautiful views. We spent the first night at the Beraking campsite, nestled in the bush overlooking the hills. The campsites are very well structured with a three-sided shelter with built-in sleeping platforms, picnic tables, an outhouse, and fire pit. There is also fresh water at each campsite. It is recommended to either chemically treat or boil the water, which we dutifully did. We reached Beraking around 3pm and set about making lunch, a delicious lentil dahl courtesy of Brett, cooked on his very efficient methylated spirits camp stove. After our late lunch we had time to get our sleeping arrangements organized and watch the very beautiful sunset. The quiet night and crisp air were so lovely to enjoy around the warm campfire that evening!
Day 2: Beraking to Helena (19 kms)
After a night that didn’t quite provide the quality, or quantity, of sleep we would’ve liked, we began day two at a very leisurely pace, only getting ourselves back on the trail by about 9:45am. The day saw us taking the trail from Beraking through to Helena campsite after a lunch stop at the Waalegh campsite, at roughly the halfway point. The weather, which had looked suspicious on the forecasts the week prior, turned less than ideal overnight and we spent a bit of time walking in light rain before reaching Waalegh at about noon.
When our hiking party was all accounted for, Brett once again provided us with a simply delicious dahl and rice meal, nicely customized with the addition of some extra curry spices. While we were enjoying lunch the weather went through several drastic changes, at times offering blue skies and brilliant sunshine, then changing into sudden and wild downpours with gusting winds, at a moment’s notice. This left us slightly concerned about the remaining 11km of walking before reaching our camp for the night. We decided not to take any chances and broke out our Machu Picchu ponchos – can’t have our sleeping bags getting wet, even it makes us look a little silly!
The section of track between Waalegh and Helena turned out to be one of our favorites. Mostly single track, lots of greenery, and no rain! This would have been an excellent stretch to run – our feet were itching to get going! We did encounter a fair bit of climbing with some slippery granite outcroppings and boulders to navigate. There were also a few areas where the trail was damaged due to erosion, so we had to keep our eyes open for the woggle and our feet firmly on the ground!
We arrived at Helena at about 4pm, happy to be dry, and totally satisfied with our day in the bush. Our camp for the night was hard earned with a few big ups and downs on the trail, but well worth the effort. The shelter at Helena is perched overlooking a valley and aside from the slog up the hill to the toilet, it was a perfect spot to spend a few hours to relax before bedtime. We made pasta and beans for dinner, followed by a few delicious squares of dark chocolate for dessert. It was early to bed for everyone, after an exhausting day!
Day 3: Helena to Ball Creek (9 kms)
We had a much better night’s rest and woke feeling well rested and ready for another day on the trail. This was to be our shortest distance day, leaving us with lots of time for a leisurely breakfast and easy walk to our next stop for the night at Ball Creek campsite. We climbed the hill from Helena and made our way back onto the track. From Helena the trail continued to wind its way through jarrah forrest against the backdrop of the Darling Range. In addition to the beautiful shapes and colours of the jarrah trees, we also loved the strange and crooked grass trees, brightly coloured wildflowers, and harsh but pretty banksia varietals. It almost seems that everything in Australia has developed the ability to defend itself in the most aggressive way imaginable!
We arrived at Ball Creek campsite just before noon and before settling into our bunk, conducted a full search for more mouse spiders and other creepy crawlies. Fortunately we did not encounter anything to be concerned about, and prepped our sleeping quarters for the night. We had a very lazy afternoon, forced inside the shelter at times by rain showers. It was another very enjoyable day with great conversation, many laughs, and excellent camp food, including freshly brewed espresso thanks to Brett and Clive.
Day 4: Ball Creek to Kalamunda (21 kms)
Our final day on the track would take us from Ball Creek to the track’s northern terminus in Kalamunda. This would be another long day taking us away from the bush and into civilization once again. We got an early start from Ball Creek and quickly covered the first few kilometres before entering an interpretive trail close to the Perth Hills Discovery Centre. We wound our way through more lush forrest with views of the Mundaring Weir and reservoir. We also encountered a few furry friends along the way, including a fairly distressed joey who had become separated from its mother. Who knew kangaroos hissed and barked? Fortunately there was a happy ending with the baby reunited with its mother, and we did not have to endure a punch in the neck from a protective maternal marsupial.
After a very pleasant and refreshing coffee break at the Mundaring Weir Hotel (and used their very clean bathrooms to wash our hands and faces for the first time in three days!), we crossed the weir and continued with the track onto the south bank section. This part of the track had a fair bit of climbing with stone steps to boot – plus there were multiple other tracks criss-crossing over the Bibbulmun, requiring us to keep our eye on the woggle at all times! It was obvious that we had entered a more heavily trafficked part of the track! At the 10km mark we arrived at our lunch stop at Hewett’s Hill campsite. We had a very pleasant rest in the sunshine and enjoyed some of our last bits of provisions along with a cup of tea. We were well rested and ready for the final 11km push home – and the cold beer that would be waiting for us!
The final part of our day’s hike was incredibly beautiful and varied. After following a fairly flat, wide and firm section of the track for a few kilometres alongside smallholdings and a camel farm, we walked down into a river valley at Piesse Brook and back up again, surrounded by boulders and bush, with lovely views along the way. Our packs had become gradually lighter as each day passed and our food rations were consumed. We enjoyed having a little less weight for the final stretch as our legs started to feel a little tired after the previous days’ effort.
Once we reached the entrance to Kalamunda National Park we knew that we were close to the northern terminus of the Bibbulmun Track. A few kilometres on, through parkland and along paved roadways, we arrived at the end of the track around 4pm. Feeling elated by such a good time in the beautiful bush but sad that our adventure was over, we set down our packs and enjoyed a well earned cold beer and potato chips! A short while later we welcome Brett and Clive as they arrived from the track, and all set off to enjoy a celebratory dinner before hailing a cab to take us back into Perth, where our warm showers and comfy beds waited for us!
Packing list for three-night/four-day hike
Backpack (Richard – 38L / Bev – 34L)
Sleeping bag and liner
Large garbage back for waterproofing sleeping bag and clothing
Compact thermarest sleeping mat
First aid kit
Water purification tablets and water bottles
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Plastic bag for garbage collection (hikers must carry all garbage off the track)
Clothing: two technical fabric shirts, one pair shorts, warm layer for evenings and sleeping (track pants, base layer and fleece), toque, buffs, gloves, socks, underwear, and warm outer jacket
Rain poncho and rain jacket
Spork (spoon and fork combo)
Meals – breakfast: granola, bananas, soy milk (250ml tetra pack containers)
Meals – lunch: dahl and rice (provided and carried by Brett and Clive – thank you!), pita bread, peanut butter, and jam
Meals – dinner: cous cous, packaged beans (3 kinds), pasta, nutritional yeast sprinkles
Snacks: Clif Bars, trail mix, cookies, rice crackers, fruit (apples, plums, grapes), and dark chocolate
Drinks: water, tea, and coffee (provided and carried by Brett and Clive – thank you again!)
Note: we would typically also carry a portable stove, fuel and pot, but our friend Brett provided these items for our group for this hike