We're looking forward to today after reading the Guidebook: broad swampy watercourse, massive paperbarks (which Sandi loves), a stand of virgin Jarrah, permanent billabong on the Canning River -- where we plan to have morning tea today... and a pretty short day: what more could you want in life?
Another double-hutter, this time we're planning to lunch at Mt Dale after checking out the view from the lookout on top of Mt Dale. Alec up and away early in his usual way, and we made a much more leisurely start to the day and walk after getting up earlier to catch the sunrise.
The aim today, initially, is to rinse our clothes: two days walking in warm sun is about enough! The guidebook mentions some significant sounding water courses in Chinaman Gully and Helena River, so we're fairly confident we'll find enough water in one of them to wash the sweat out of our clothes. It's a good sized walk today as we're doing two sections and "double-hutting" through Waalegh, where we'll have a lunch stop (all things going well).
A comparative sleep in this morning, well a rare morning where we didn't have to rush out of bed and into a busy day... though shocked to find I left the GPS on overnight after recording the day's statistics... but our first day of waking up, walking and going to sleep all in the Western Australian bush! It's a good distance today: ~20km as we're "double-hutting" from Hewitt's Hill through Ball Creak to camp at Helena. But we've got the morning tea stop at Mundaring Weir (which is only 5km into the day) and a lunch break at Ball Creak -- so we're getting it pretty easy today really. Our packs are just about empty too! Well, until Mundaring Weir...
And here we found ourselves on the day of our departure into the unknown. It seemed amazing that we could have devoted so much time in planning this thing and yet standing on the threshold we had no idea what would really be install for us: if the planning was up to scratch, if our gear would work out... if we were actually up for the 2-month walk!
Anyway, today's plan was pretty simple:
- Get up and breakfast
- Return rental car
- Public transport to Kalamunda (2 buses)
- Start walk
We were starting the walk tired and run-down: I had a bad cold and we both were not sleeping very well. We were too short with each other too often: I think we just had too much in our heads too much of the time! Why we were starting a 1,000km walk in that condition I'm not really sure?
After what seemed like 6 months of intense planning, purchasing and lately training, we felt extremely well prepared. I had an extensive spreadsheet that calculated everything from intended walking durations and expected arrival times to food consumption, shopping lists and food drop labels! It had been checked and re-checked and we were comfortable that we were ready to trust it.
Packing for an interstate walk was extremely scary though, knowing that if we forgot anything it was going to be a long way away! Our standard packing process worked a treat: collect everything into the sun room, ticking it off on the list, then double tick as it gets packed into the pack. This time though it was complicated by all the other, non-walking stuff, we had to take as well: like clothes for before and after the walk.
The morning went well, we got everything packed and I got my hair cut, and before we knew it we were walking to the station to catch the train to the airport, feeling very odd to be walking with a pack and a jacket... or maybe the odd feeling was coming from embarking on something so long planned? Whatever, it was odd.
It's been a hectic last couple of weeks, ever since we suffered that internal shift and we started our "training walks" the weekends have been very full (which has pushed everything else to weekday nights).
We've done some great walks though:
over, refining our Itinerary and other lists... Everything's was packed last night (Sandi's pack is 13kg, mine is 18kg; and we've got two day packs as hand luggage at 2kg and 7kg), we've done our domestic chores this morning and we're just about ready to head out the door to catch the train to the airport for the flight across to Perth. Today (in the countdown) is Week 0 Day -4.
It's at this point you stop and ask yourself "Why the hell are we taking leave without pay to spend two months walking 1,000 km in Western Australia's sun, wind and rain?" The answer is at once complex, and simple: We both enjoy getting away, into the Australian bush, by ourselves and our God. The solitude and isolation that blooms into a deep belonging and closeness feeds both us and our relationship. The simplicity of reducing your day to putting one foot in front of the other generates a buoyancy in our spirits.
Of course, putting your foot in front of the other 1.3 million times in one go is something we've not done before so it'll be interesting to see what lies in the unknown beyond our previous boundaries.
Today [Day -4] after cleaning the house, emptying the fridge & freezer and other domestic chores, we catch the 4:10 from Katoomba for the Domestic Airport for the 8PM flight to Perth; arriving just before midnight.
Tomorrow [Day -3] morning we hire a car at 8AM and do our food shopping, picking up our Dehydrated meals and gas from Mountain Designs (with a healthy discount ), and then head back to put our food drops together.
[Day -2] we'll start the day with Brunch with my Father for Fathers' Day, then drive down to Albany (it's quicker than walking ). On the way we'll drop a food parcel at the pub at Mundaring Weir and the Three Ways Roadhouse. Albany Backpackers, where we'll be staying after the walk, will also be holding some clean, non-smelly clothes for us for when we finish in a couple of months.
On Monday [Day -1] we head back to Perth, stopping at the accommodation (generally a caravan park) where we'll be camping at when the walk hits that town, and drop a food parcel:
- Denmark River Mouth Caravan Park
- Peaceful Bay Caravan Park
- Coalmine Beach Caravan Park
- Rest Point Caravan Park
- RoundTu-It Holiday Park
- Pemberton Caravan Park
- Donnelly River Village
- Balingup Transit Park
- Collie River Valley Tourist Park
- Dwellingup Caravan Park
[Day 1] we'll drop the hire car back at 8AM and catch a couple of buses out to the Northern Trackhead at Kalamunda, stopping for morning tea at a cafe in Kalamunda and hitting the track at the respectable time of 10:40AM I'm sure that Sandi will allow me at least one rendition of the I might be walking to Albany soon song .
I'll send some SPOT Messages to kick it off: so you'll see our location jumping all over the place initially; but after Tuesday it should settle down into a steady plod South. The live update map only displays the 7 most recent days, so it'll be a bit like a snake wriggling down the state.
These are then easiest methods to keep up to date with our progress for the two months we won't be contactable:
- You can find our live map at Mitupela.net
- Check our FaceBook profile
- Check our Twitter Stream
- Visit our AdventureSpot Page
How on earth did we get here? Less that a week to go and a bit to do?
This is the last weekend of our "Training Walks": over the last 4 weeks we've walked well over 100km through varying terrain. Hopefully this will help us get into the swing of the Bibbulmun sooner, with less start-up issues, when we're on the track. It's also helped us refine our requirements, and helped us 'test' our new gear:
- When we walked Katoomba to Kanangra, Sandi blistered by the time we got to the Fire Tower (just 7km into the walk). Sandi also had blister issues on the Mittagong to Katoomba. Since then we've bought her better merino socks, with merino inners. This has made a huge improvement: no blisters so far (and we've done Narrow Neck twice now!); although there seems to be the beginnings of a couple of hot spots on our second days.
- Blister Treatment. Because the hot spots are still occurring (albeit slowly), we're definitely investing in some Fixomul and a post-blister treatment (I'm definitely not taking any chances with Sandi's blisters on this walk!).
- This is the first time that either of us have bought specialist bushwalking clothing, but now we both have shirts and I also have shorts (I put a hole in my current vinnies ones). The shirts are long sleeve, which we thought gave us extra options when it was cold.
We're definitely on the final countdown now, and it feels each day has its "must do" items.
This Weekend's Walks
We've had two good walks this weekend: the first down the Megalong valley from the Cemetry to Coxs River and return.
Then we did Narrow Neck again, stopping for a cooked lunch at the lookout (with a superb view of the Warragamba). We didn't do this with a lot of weight: I was just carrying the 11kg for lunch (mainly )
We've done this walk numerous times, this time our good friend Meredith came with us and we enjoyed a lovely amble down and back with a good load in the packs (though Meredith did tend to speed up the hills a bit - Sandi was carrying 11kg and I was carrying 18kg).
The water in the Cox was rather icy as we rock hopped our way across:
Made sure we found Toad Rock to show Meredith:
...and after a glorious walk out and afternoon tea at the Megalong Tea Rooms headed out to Hargraves Lookout for an awesome sunset!
This was the second time we've done this walk in the last month, so I had to make it sweeter for Sandi by giving her a hot lunch (at the lookout) and allowing her not to take a pack. I only took 11kg, and this walk was similar to what we'll have walking into Gringer Creek after Mount Cooke - a long flatish run of about 20km with empty packs. At the end of that day is the Three Ways Roadhouse at North Bannister, where we pick up our food parcel and buy a dinner. We need to get there before they close, so I was interested how fast we'd go without weight in the packs (I think 4.8km/h, including breaks, is fast enough).
Today the view over Warragamba Dam was amazing, with a great reflection; and Sandi managed to get a great echo too!