Righto – how long is the Bibbulmun Track? That is a great question. Guthook tells me the northern terminus at Kalamunda is 947.3km from the southern terminus at Albany by trail. The inter webs tell me it’s 1,003 km. Perhaps it was 1000 km once but has shrunk over time as various sections have been impacted or rerouted due to fire or timber harvesting or changing land status. Without having recorded the length using a GPS I have no idea how long it is – long enough. In the end it does not really matter. It’s long. It extends between Kalamunda and Albany and I just finished it!!! Woohoo.
The whole day was a bit of a blur really. I slept well and was keen to finish the trail with plenty of time to make my way to Perth CBD and was away from Helena early.
Heading off in the dark I had a smile on my face knowing that this was the last day in track. This time tomorrow I would be fast a sleep in the comfort and warmth of a hotel bed.
From Helena the track followed fire trails for most of the morning with some shorter sections of easy single track following along a small creek.
The bird song was really noticeable this morning and is always a good indication of the time. Like clock work bird chorus starts to sweep through the morning air around 6:30am just as first light starts for the day, the sun not yet up over the horizon but enough light to start to see without artificial light.
A lot of the track was downhill and I practically ran in sections, moving fast. With the end in sight I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the surrounding scenery to be honest, focused on moving quickly and thoughts shifting ahead to how sweet it was going to feel about 5 hours from now as I reached the end point.
By seven o’clock I had reached the Ball Creek shelter 8.3km from Helena and was feeling great. I was half expecting a few people to be there still in bed or getting packed up for the morning and making some comment about how early I must have left Helena. As it turned out there was only one fella there, a trail runner who had made the overnight mission to Ball Creek from Kalamunda and was just about ready to launch into a run back for the morning. He advised that there was going to be quite a bit of hill work for me to reach Kalamunda. After a quick snack and drink break I continued on, now mostly on fire trail. This was going to be case pretty much all the way to Kalamunda I thought.
On well maintained tracks it only took 40 minutes or so to reach the Perth Hills Discovery Centre, a forest interpretation centre with quite a few displays and education opportunities. It’s also a popular camping area and trail head car park for people headed south on the Bibbulmun. Nothing was open so early on a Saturday and I kept moving. While still in the bush it felt like I was moving more and more away from the natural setting and closer towards ‘civilisation’ as mechanical noises slowly grew, roads appeared, infrastructure and building started to dot the surrounding areas.
Just after 8 o’clock and another 3km along I was at Mundaring, a small historic community of around 3000 nestled in the Perth Hills. I passed the Mundaring Pub, usually a great spot to knock back a beer and I would have if the bar was open, unfortunately it wasn’t, too early in the day.
The Bibb then took an interesting route moving between huge pipes servicing the Mundaring Weir, a series of steep rock steps, then onto and over the Mundaring Weir wall. I’m sure the views out over the water would be stunning on any other day but today a thick layer of fog blanketed the surrounds making for an eerie scene.
On the opposite side of the weir the Bibb moved back into the bush on well maintained fire trails bringing me towards a viewing platform looking back towards the weir. The low fog obscured all view for me.
The fire trail continued on towards the last shelter I would encounter, the first south bounders would reach, Hewetts Hill, the track network proving popular for a number of trail runners out and about on training runs.
Hewetts provided the perfect opportunity for a final break, only 10km from Kalamunda. This would be my last log in a trail hut register on the Bibbulmun. A family group came through, the teen age kids obviously unimpressed with hiking and grumbling after about 5km; Mum was trying to convince them hiking was fun and showing the kids the shelter asking of the kids “you’d come out and join us on an overnighter and stay in one of these huts.” Mum then went on to ask me where I’d come from. Explaining I was 10km from finishing the whole Bibbulmun she used that to rub salt into the kids wounds of grumbling about 5km of walking, they had about the same distance to cover towards the weir.
Fuelling up on the final snacks from my food bag, trust me there wasn’t much left, and leaving just enough water to get me through to the end, I took the first step of the final 10km of the Bibbulmun Track. Luckily it was mostly single track. I remember the Bibb skirted around the edge of the Mundaring mountain bike park, more and more bikers appearing on adjacent tracks as I inched closer towards a camel farm and parking area for the MTB park. It must have been pretty awesome riding as there would have been close to 60 cars parked up. Busy or what.
The next few kilometres were a bit of a chore. My feet starting to get sore and desperately wanting to finish I spurred myself along rocky fire trails passing two groups of scouts headed in the opposite direction towards Hewetts Hill.
The end was neigh and the anticipation of finishing immense. I could see ahead of me one final descent to be made down towards a river and the climb I’d have to make up the other side.
By now I was struggling. It’s as if my body knows I’m almost done and it’s starting to let go, no longer having to conserve some strength for days to come. My feet and legs were screaming. My shoulder too, ready to ditch the pack even though it is the lightest it’s been in the last 36 days. It was a clear sunny day, the first for days, and with the sun came the heat. The final uphills really testing me.
Inching closer towards the end the few locals who were out for morning walks knew exactly the feat I was just about to complete and either clapped my along as I passed or sang out words of encouragement – “You’re almost there”, “Come on mate. Not far now”, “Congratulations”.
Onto a short section of bitumen road and passed a few houses, the trail dived back into the bush for a final 50m.
Stepping off a gravel path and onto a paved area next to a round about, I’d made it, reaching the northern terminus having walked from Albany. Wow!!!! No big fanfare, no big celebrating it was more a case of just sitting down quietly and rejoicing internally.
I stopped to take a few pictures and video but didn’t hang around long. It was time to get cleaned up to renter society, have a well deserved beer and feed to celebrate, organise a hotel room for the evening of in Perth and work out how I was getting to the CBD. It was a fast transition. Much easier to make after only 36 days on trail rather than the 4 months like the other long trails I have hiked.
And so my friends that is that. The end result of another Mickventure (see what I did there). Thanks for your patience and hanging in there with me for this one. I’m conscious that these posts have probably been a bit lack lustre and not up to my usual form from the past. I think this was mainly due to the challenges the Bibbulmun track threw at me in terms of being a non-technical track on flat ground with not that many spectacular views or natural features. Others will have different opinions.
Don’t get me wrong, spending any time in outdoor environments is great and having the opportunity for spend 36 days doing what I love is amazing. It’s not about the length of trails for me, it’s about the opportunity to disconnect, log off and drop out from the everyday for long periods of time. To take time out for yourself. To chill out, to recharge, to reflect and to remind yourself of what is truly important in life. I love being a Dharma Bum when I can.