The Bibbulmun track (‘The Bib’ to aficionados) is just over 1000 kilometres long, and arguably Australia’s finest long-distance hiking trail.
With its northern terminus just 45-minute drive from our very own Walyalup (‘Freo’ to residents), with no borders to cross, no threat of infection in crowded planes, we decided that a Bib retreat was perfect in a time of pandemic.
And so did many other Fremantlers, as we ran into at least 20 of them during our slow crawl along the track through the winter months of 2020.
The path runs from Kalamunda to Albany, through Pinjarup, Kaniyang, Bibbulmun and Minang country. In between, it sweeps up the Darling ranges, criss-crosses river valleys, and meanders for some 300 kilometres through Western Australia’s unique woodlands of the majestic Jarrah, Marri and later the massive Tingle. You walk through swathes of Karri forests, from just past Balingup to Denmark gasping at the beauty of these tall, straight, smooth-skinned supermodels of the mega-flora.
You have been waxing lyrical (even if you have never written a line of poetry) at these elegant giants for days, when the track curls past Pemberton’s Gloucester tree. A stately old Karri, named after a white man, stands isolated, fenced in, bound in bits of steel cable holding up steps, so that puny creatures like me can prove their worth by climbing all over it! Reduced to a colonial specimen, it still somehow manages to live on, head held high. Like many other tourists to Pemberton, I had climbed the tree on my first visit here many years ago. Now I am almost embarrassed by the mindless ways in which we keep cheering for bits of colonial apparatus.
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The path quickly draws me back into the forest. I think of the highest mountain in the world, once known to the locals as the ‘Goddess of the Valley’ (Chomolungma in Tibetan), or ‘Heaven’s Peak’ (Sagarmatha in Nepalese). I guess the Mountain is too great to mind being renamed ‘Everest’, after some surveyor guy from a very small and distant island.
By the time we get to the Pingerup plains, late July, it is inundated. We skip through to Walpole, where the track turns eastward following the Southern Ocean coast line. White sandy beaches stretch out for miles, picture post-card pretty, interspersed with roller-coaster sand dunes going up and down, up and down, up…up…up and down and up once more…and again… WA might look flat as a pan-cake when you are flying or driving over it. But when you walk, every pimple on the earth’s face, every pile of dust, is another slippery or rocky or muddy hill to climb.
The modern day custodians of the track, the Bibbulmun Track Foundation keep the path well marked with the iconic Waugul, the dream-time serpent, who can be trusted to protect the spatially-challenged (eg., me) from geographical dislocation. Nor is age a barrier on The Bib. The Bush telegraph resounds with tales of octogenarians on their way. In spring the path is a rainbow of wild flowers at your feet. Autumn teases you with fairytale toadstools.
Long distance hiking is no walk in the park. It is so so much more!
This article was written by Hurry Krishna and the photographs are hers too.
* Hurry Krishna is Indian by birth and traveller by choice. She has published under several names, including a whole lot of academic stuff as Krishna Sen. She has hiked in Australia, Asia and Europe. You can read her walking blogs here.