Freezing Forests and Kangaroos: Kalamunda to Dwellingup

 
The excitement to start our second long-distance walk grew so large that we both couldn’t sleep the night before departure. I had been coming down with a flu which was half healed, half not, but going out into the peace of the bush seemed like a better cure than hanging out in hostels in Perth. We took an easy start: only 10km to the first campsite that day. After the obligatory pictures by the northern terminus sign we were on our way down the Bibbulmun Track at noon. 

Admittedly that first day I suffered some snake-spider-scorpion paranoia in the country “where everything wants to kill you”. After seeing some Aussies happily running around in the bush collecting firewood that night and arrive long after dark the nerves subsided. Everyone kept saying that we’d be lucky if we even saw a snake during winter, they’re all sleepy and drowsy from the cold.  

 

I almost forgot how nice and quiet it is to be out. As we sat in our first shelter – a sort of 3 walled open hut – and the evening sun lit the woods around the world already seemed a million miles away. We couldn’t have picked a walk to contrast our last one more: this semi-arid environment with its spacious, open forests and rusty red soil is something completely new to us. 

From our fellow travellers we have been learning about the different plants and trees. Lots of colourful birds and several types of parrots have flown over, happily squawking to each other. On the first day I fell and injured my knee watching a rare and beautiful red-tailed cockatoo. Almost every day some kangaroos hopped by, always a sight that makes us smile. Southwestern Australia is one of the globe’s biodiversity hotspots so there is so much we haven’t seen yet and lots to discover.  

 

Besides of the wildlife the geology of the area is amazing. This is one of the few places on the planet where a large craton – a piece of stable continental crust that hasn’t been modified for over 500 million years – exists. The rock outcrops we walk on and by are up to 3 or even 4 billion years old. As a geonerd I find their appearance and composition very fascinating. But even for anyone,trying to imagine such a timescale or looking at remnants of Precambrian, young Earth is pretty cool. 

It took a few days before we were fully in the zone again. For the transition we had the lucky company of a group of older walkers, ranging from 50 to 68. Around the campfire they shared their cheese, wine and dampers (a sort of sweet bread roasted over the fire) with us and we happily offered our chocolate in return. Good on them for being out there. I hope that when I reach their age, I will be too. 

  
On day 5 we experienced that it can and does actually rain here. After 4 hours of continuous downpour we pulled out halfway our goal for the day at 16km, soaked to the bone. But the biggest surprise has been the cold. Those biting cold winds straight from the Antarctic make their way here too, raging through the forests and every layer of clothing like freight trains. 

The nights became increasingly cold as the wind turned south. More and more we slept uncomfortable and couldn’t get warm. On our sixth night out we woke up after a few hours and didn’t sleep again. As we tossed and turned through the night we layed pondering about why we couldn’t cope with it. Why weren’t we comfortable here with exactly the same gear we used in New Zealand? 

  
The morning explained a thing or two. Our water bottles had not a bit but an actual few centimeters of ice in them. Pj’s hat that we had left on a pole to dry was frozen solid as a rock. We learned later that a new cold record had been set: -2 in downtown Perth, so we estimated that it must have been -5 or below where we were. Originally we had planned to bypass North Bannister and go straight to Dwellingup but the idea of a warm meal and a warm bed were too appealing. 

After leaving the Darling Range the remainders of the trail offered easy walking. Yet as the cold persisted everything became harsher. Starting out early in the morning was difficult after a poor night’s sleep. Freezing hands made packing slow and even made me having to take breaks to warm up as they hurt too much. It’s been tough on our spirits too. Putting our tent up under the shelters to create a warm air bubble helps, but it is still on the edge. 

  
We didn’t anticipate this at all and it’s been the biggest influence on our progress not being as steady as we wanted it to be. So we keep moving from Dwellingup, powered up after a couple of good meals. Onwards and southwards, to Collie. 

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9 thoughts on “Freezing Forests and Kangaroos: Kalamunda to Dwellingup

    1. We had to (well, if we wanted to cut off 7km return to the nearest campsite), it’s part of a diversion in place after last summer’s wildfires. Have some new anti cold measures from here in Collie now. All was good, except for the salt water in the river! Hope you’re keeping warm there. Big hugs.

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  1. Hi Eef and PJ,
    We’re just back home from 3 weeks of holliday. Great to have your new adventure recital en greater surprise ‘ the Bluff’ picture with your frendly personal note in the post😄😄. Many thanks!!
    So you both are on the way again and again not alone. Amazing all these unexpected new contacts. It seems to be a total different and a little bit more difficult hicking? Still enjoy😄
    Aha, chapeau opnieuw he, al die natuur elementen opnieuw je doen en laten laten bepalen, er op anticiperen…, fameuze opgaves ! Maar Eef en PJ kennende, zij trotseren dat allemaal met brio!
    Na voor ons 3 weken speelbal te zijn geweest van getij, golven en wind kan ik me je verhaal meer dan lijfelijk voorstellen, de kou, het natte, de vermoeidheid, de frustraties en tegelijk de wil om door te zetten…. Hoop van harte dat je je griep volledig kwijt bent en je knie je val heeft getrotseert. Ik kan me je lachen al voorstellen als je die springende kangoeroetjes zal gezien hebben, je zal ze hebben nageaapt, niet? Wens jullie een fijne verder zetting vol nieuwe ervaringen! Tot de volgende , take care and big big hughs!
    Nicky
    PS, ik stuur je via mail een verslagje van onze zeiltrip op de Noordzee, eens iets anders he…

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  2. Warm hugs from Rattys Landing where it has frozen down in the garden, even the tap down there is iced up. keep up those positive spirits and remember we are all sending you energy.
    Aroha nui Melva and Hilton

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  3. I just stumbled upon your blog… I love it! I cant believe you were out in the bibbulmun in the coldest night if the year so far! It was freezing enough here in Fremantle, let aline out in the bush! I hope to do end to end one day, but for now day hikes will do! Best wishes!

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