Day 21: Donnelly River Village to Blackwood 530.7km (38.1km)

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It was meant to be bucketing down all day and I was fully prepared with wet weather gear handy to be deployed at a moments notice. It never came and I’m always thankful when I beat it.

Late in the day, around 35km in and somewhere along the Blackwood River the track entered a section of various private properties. I was exhausted and looking forward to finishing the day out knowing just ahead I had Cardiac Hill to content with. So there was nothing better than finding a picnic table, chairs and box of fresh fruit next to the river with a sign from one of the property owners saying “For weary walkers”. Fantastic. I took the opportunity for a quick break and smashed down a banana, just the thing for tired muscles and to pep me up for the hill.

Cardiac Hill is rightly named. It has to be the steepest section of the Bibbulmun Track thus far. Although only a kilometre climbing it went straight up. To make it worse lots of short sections were on red slippery clay waiting to catch you out and push you back down hill. It was a slog for sure but I got there in the end, catching a fresh breeze, to cold me down and dry my shirt.

There was a reward for this effort. For once walkers are presented with a view from a high point overlooking a couple of valleys of farmland and plantation. The climb and the view reminded me of Te Araroa. To top it off I found cell service and was able to call ahead to arrange accomodation in Balingup for the following night.

Arriving at the Blackwood shelter in the late afternoon I was greeted by Jane, a shearer in her early 50’s. We hit it off straight away. She had many stories to tell from a rugged life and plenty of laughs to share.

The view from the shelter was impressive. One of the best yet. Situated high on a hill the shelter is expose to winds but overlooks farming valleys and hillside pine plantations.

I was only at the shelter for 30mins or so, enough to make a cup of tea, and could see the weather starting to come in. I had beaten it and was dry. Black clouds gathered over the hills across the valley and showers could be seen off to one side. The odd flash of lightning and clap of thunder started to roll in.

Making dinner in the fading light I was eating by head torch by the time it was ready. Jane already I bed, inside her tent pitched inside the shelter to keep mice at bay. The Blackwood shelter was mouse city.

I’d heard the rumours about the mouse situation here and prepared for it. They appeared just on dusk, sneaking out from the floor boards and scurrying about the place. Climbing the walls and seeking out food smells from packs hanging off the walls. While cooking dinner I felt a couple could scamper across my feet – yuck. It was time to string up the fishing line from the rafters to hang my pack. With line so thin they have no chance of climbing into my pack. Most shelters have a plastic tub to store food in overnight to keep the pests down and I threw my food bag and cook pot into it. I’ve often thought I should add a mouse trap to my kit for use in the shelters like this. A small weight penalty that could be spared to knock a few over.

Just before jumping in bed time myself the heavens opened up. Bucket loads of rain. Lying in bed the views out were awesome. A bed with a view tonight, facing out over farmland and plantation. Lightening cracking in the distance hills I was watching the storm fronts move across in the light of the near full moon. There is nothing quite like being tucked up warm in bed listening to the pattering of rain on a tin roof.

Moon light flooded into the shelter casting deep shadows. With an eye open on the lookout for mice I could see their silhouette movements across the tables and floors backlight by the moon. With no tent set up I was half expecting them to be crawling across my face during the night. As it was there were only a couple that scampered across my feet through the night. Enough to put a lot of people off but there really wasn’t a lot of choice other than to put up with their presence. There would be no point in pitching my tarp inside the shelter as it’s open anyway and I wasn’t about to shift outside when it’s pissing down.

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