BT Day 30: Swamp Oak to Chardora 768.9km (32km)

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It was a lively night last night with all the long weekenders out, drinking and chatting by the fire. The largest group of people I’ve stayed with on trail so far. It made for a restless nights sleep. More people equals more snorers guaranteed.

I was out in the dark of morning aiming to get into Dwellingup around 9am for a cooked breakfast in a local cafe, resupply with food and head straight back out of town.

In the dark I bumped into a south bound hiker about an hour out from Swamp Oak. Now I thought I was an early riser. This guy must have left Dwellingup close to 04:30am to meet me on the track at this point. The novelty of bumping into each other by head torch got us chatting for a couple of minutes before continuing on our respective paths.

I’m getting pretty precise on how long different sections will take me now based purely on the expected terrain and estimating pace – I was in town by 9am as planned.

Dwellingup was a great little town. A small area of shops along the Main Street, neat little country houses and gardens and a thriving cycling scene. Quite a few road riders sipping on lattes at local cafes and a bunch of kids messing around on bmx’s at a sweet looking pump track in the Central Park area of town.

The Blue Wren cafe seemed to be all the rage and I headed straight there to consume a massive ‘big breakfast’ and coffee; that would be keep me going all day and was one less lunch to worry about carrying.

Next it was across to the small IGA supermarket to resupply on food. This would be my last resupply so whatever I bought now would have to see me through to Kalamunda. As expected it was slim pickings. Food options available were certainly enough to get by on but I’m glad I carried some extra stuff out from Collie.  I threw in a couple of apples for good measure.

Walking out of the IGA I saw the Curtis brothers arriving in town and we walked down to the information centre together to sign the trail register and the boys to pick up their resupply box. This is when I learned that all visitors centres along the track accept food drops, packages etc… that hikers can send ahead to themselves. I did this sort of thing on Te Araroa with a bounce box and some food resupplies on the South Island and it was necessary to send some food ahead on the PCT in Washington but I’m happy with my decision to not do this along the Bibbulmun and just accept whatever choices I had available in each of the trail towns. Less planning involved, one less job to do when in towns and the unknown adds to thru-hiking experience.

I was walking out of town by 10am to finish out the remaining 20km for the day to the Chardora shelter. It was mostly the on rail lines and flat all day. I’m pretty sure the rail line still functions for the Hotham Valley tourist train. It certainly does south of Dwellingup up and I think it runs north to Etmilyn Train Siding where I was headed.

The Bibb followed next to the railway but was overgrown with vegetation so as the rain started to come down I jumped across onto the rail to avoid constantly brushing against wet scrub. I’d just have to listen for any trains.

Nearing Chadora I bumped into a couple of day walkers who told me that they had lunch with four hikers who were staying at the shelter. I would make five and knowing that the Curtis Brothers and Young Song Lee were also headed to Chardora that would mean a total of eight, plus any weekend warriors. It was shaping up to be another busy night. I pushed the pace to try to secure a place in the shelter and avoid having to pitch my tent in the rain. All the shelters are first come, first serve.

Then 3 km out from the hut I saw a group of three hikers headed towards me with packs. We stopped to chat. The three Irish were at the shelter but decided to press on and camp in the bush as they got the creeps from the other person at the shelter. They warned me about the vibe they got off this guy, his constant talking and possible drug use. I thought I’d suss it out for myself before making my own call to press on or not, plus I knew there were three other north bound hikers about an hour behind me who were headed here.

Arriving at the shelter I was greeted by Mitchell, a local from Dwellingup who was out for an overnighter. He was young, early twenties and was certainly pretty lively. He couldn’t sit still and talked constantly, asking lots of questions about my gear and offering up too much information about himself and his life. He was alright and I didn’t get the vibe that the Irish three had. I decided to stay.

I think Mitchell was just a young aspiring hiker who would have liked to own a lot of the expensive and light gear other hikers had but didn’t have the means to afford it. He knew a lot of stuff about different gear, brand names, model types, what was suited for what and asked loads of questions about my gear set up. But he also told a lot of tall stories that judging by the gear he had with him and with a few well placed probing questions soon fell apart. The vibe I got was that he probably had ADHA and was living hiking vicariously by being around experienced hikers, feeding off their stories and gaining details to embellish his own.

As expected the other three behind me turned up about an hour later. They had obviously bumped into the Irish group and got the same warning about the young fella. The look they gave me as they came in said so anyway. They were straight into talking to him to suss out the situation for themselves before opening up packs and getting sorted for the evening. This was the first time that I’ve actually met Young (pronosed Jung) Song Lee. He doesn’t speak a lot of english but his first words to me were “I know you. I’ve seen you on YouTube. I watch your videos.”

Later, walkers just kept appearing. A group of two ladies out for an overnighted and another group of three blokes out for the weekend. With the bunk space in the shelter full they all opted to set up tents.

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