Day 23: Balingup to Grimwade 570.2km (22.7km)

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Wet, wet, wet. When was it going to end? Over a coffee with Mike and Carolyn who both stayed at the Post House, we impatiently watched the rain radar looking for a break in between the heavy showers to make a bolt to the cafe for breakfast.

An opening appeared and we made the move. Mike and I with packs, Carolyn just her umbrella, opting to sit the rainy day out and enjoy another rest day in warmth.

The big Mushroom Breakfast from the Mushroom Cafe was just the thing I was looking for. A hearty, no holds barred cooked breakfast with all the trimmings. This would keep me going all day and as it turned was needed.

Over breakfast the rain had returned. If I’m to finish this trail I can’t be a fair weather hiker and had to step outside at some stage. It didn’t matter at what time as as some stage today I was always going to get saturated. Why not just get it over with. We had bided enough time at the cafe and the rain wasn’t going away, so for my latest start yet I stepped out the door at 9:30 or so into misty rain.

Based on multiple forecast the heaviest rains were meant to clear around midday. It eventually did but for the whole morning it was pissing down.

I basically charged all day from the moment of walking out of the cafe for the full 22km. Only a small break to rest the legs, tucked up under the umbrella in an attempt to stay dry. Barely a photo taken today except one blurry, rain smudged photo of a miniature doorway and furniture someone had placed at the bottom of a tree to capture attention and your imagination.

The rain belts down all morning. Pockets of real heavy stuff and a constant stream through the day.

The trail was ok for most of the day, wide and cleared of vegetation, however there were some sections that were completely overgrown, leading in and across the track. Punching through the vegetation meant a whole lot more rain covering everything. I was wet inside and out but keeping on the move kept me warm.

Towards the end of the day I pulled out my map to see how far to the Grimwade shelter and was very pleased to see it was only 300m ahead. Typically I’ll pull out my phone to see how far I have to go and it’s always several kilometres which is never great when feet are tired. I love it when it’s such a short distance.

You meet some interesting people on the trail and as I drinking a cup of tea at the Grimwade shelter John Doyle enters my life. Looking like a drowned rat, fag hanging out of his mouth and strolling into camp in his jocks and army boots this guy is obviously completely out of his depth. I’m thinking ‘what the fuck?’. “Fuck that was hard” was the first thing out of his mouth. “Those other @&#% at the last shelter told me this was section easy.” He says of the mostly flat, well formed track between here and the next shelter north. “It’s taken me 8 hours.” It didn’t have the heart to tell him it took me less than half that to cover the same distance, in the same conditions from the opposite direction.

He is obviously completely unprepared for the conditions and I’d say hiking the Bibb at all. John makes himself at home on the opposite bunk and explodes the contents of his pack. Cotton clothing everything, whole packets of rice, old school head phones, a box of candles, two sleeping bags, a blue tarp and an old handheld flash light. He’s saturated and smoking like a chimney. He tries to get a fire going. “I guess that explains the lack of pants then hey?” “Yep, got em wet and decided to take em off to kept em a bit dry.” Me: “Well if you can get that fire going I’ll collect wood all afternoon if it means drying them out and putting them back on.” To my surprise his kit contains a whole box of fire lighters and he gets that baby fired up in no time. Excellent!

Mike soon rolls into camp, takes a look at our new friend and quietly raises his eyebrow to say WTF? At least there are two of us to witness this now.

Half hobo, heading sobo, John had surprisingly come quite a way on the Bibb from Kalamunda. Still he’s doing the track and getting it done…albeit slowly and uncomfortably, all would say unconventionally.

We chat away over dinner. Turns out John is ok, your classic redneck for sure, quirky and a bit weird, just walking the track in a different style. He is bound to give the ladies on trail the creeps if they have to share a shelter further down the line. He’s like WA’s version of the Australian alps ‘Button Man’ – google it.

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