We are on a relatively short leg this morning , just three days of walking and two nights on the trail . We have a bunch of good food and some treats , so we are feeling fine as we walk the length of Pemberton and head out to the edge of the forest . Its a long and boring road walk to the woods , but I’m excited , because when we get there I will be able to climb the Gloucestershire Tree . A 60meter tree that has a viewing platform on top , that was once used as a bushfire lookout .
Its not long till we arrive , and with only a twisting spiral staircase made from poles of rebar to guide the assent , I begin to climb . Its slow and steady climbing , and I love the feeling of being surrounded by the elements . The forest is alive to the senses , as I make my way up and ultimately out of the swaying trees and birdsong . I break through the top of the canopy layer , and am treated to a fine spectacle. The eye can see forever up here , and I wave down to Melanie as the tree top perch sways ever so gently in the breeze . We have some more walking to do today , and so I don’t dawdle about up here , but find my way down by the same circuitous route that delivered me above .
Melanie has gone over to a display board that explains the eighty year history of this tree , and the woman who’s job it was to act as a lookout each day . The display also explains that thousands of other climbers have made the journey that I have just made , and I catch myself saying ‘Gid bless Australia!’ Only over here would this kind of lark be allowed , no red tape and rubber playground here .. nahhhh ! Here you can shin up a 60 meter tree any day of the week without a harness and a helmet .. and honestly, I love it !!
We are walking steadily to tonight’s hut . Its about 18km of forest tramping today . We are amongst the giant Karri trees once more , and the piles of bark that are strewn across the track are a pleasure to walk on. We almost bounce along , and now that Melanie has a new pair of shoes , she seems to be enjoying the track a great deal more . Poor footwear can cripple a hiker .. no word of a lie !
The pathway is often arched above , and we find ourselves in an otherworldly twilight kind of place , clouds darken the path and all we hear is the echo’s of birdsong.
We stop for lunch in a clearing and enjoy some brightness , just as the old mill train comes through the bush , carrying a cart load of tourists from Pemberton to Northcliffe . Its a little strange seeing this train rattle through the dense forest , and I let my mind wander back in time to how this place must have seen some amazing changes through the past two centuries.
We join the Waren river , and follow its banks for half a dozen kilometeres , are day is becoming long , and we are starting to flag when we round a corner and cone out at the Waren Campsite . A fella called Doug is already there , and he greats us with a pleasant and relaxed smile . We talk easily about the track and he reveals that he’s and end to ender who is making great progress down the Bibbulmun. A friendly and comical character from the outset , we spend the early evening on the front table eating and talking and watching the local bird larcenist trying to nick our peanuts.
Spambo bounces into the hut at sundown.
We pack out quietly , and leave Spambo to his deep tonsil reverberations . He stirs not one jot , as we hitch up our packs and step onto the trail .
We have learned so much together on this trail , so much about hiking , so much about one another , so much about ourselves and also so much about the Australian bush . Today is such a gift , we head out onto the pathway as the sun starts to break through and we are immediately greeted by young swifts playing amongst the trees , darting above our heads and around us . A wonderful way to be awoken .
We cross over log bridges and walk through tunnels of green for a few kilometeres . The river follows our path and the purple blooms hang over green mossy stumps . The golden carpet of moss sometimes catches the sunlight and truly dazzles .
The play of light and shadow here is a constant companion .
We are counting down the kilometeres into Schafer Hut , its not been the longest of days , but we are both aware that the heat has steadily built over the last few days , and now it’s once again becoming unpleasant as we enter the midday point of the day .
I’m telling Melanie about the bar of soap that I forgot to pack at the YHA , and I’m joking with her that I will “turn around,right now,and go and get it.” When I hear a rustle in the bush . About three feet in front of me , and gratefully moving quickly in the opposite direction is my first tiger snake sighting . I leave the ground momentarily and Melanie’s face freezes , and as I manage to draw a halt to the oozing flow of non-organic expletives that are flowing from my mouth , I manage a smile . I can tell by the way my heart beat is thumping in the back of my throat that I’m still alive …
Minutes later we wander into the Schafer Hut , a lovely place near the waters edge , where it’s possible to have a dunk and wash off the crusty hikerness of the day . We laugh far far too much with Doug and Spambo and enjoy sharing the largest snake spotting story’s . We settle down to a nice green curry and watch the sun setting of another lovely day on the trails.
The moon was full last night , and it continues to be one of my lasting pleasures .. to wake in a hut or a tent late at night and have to get up for a stretch and be greeted by a dazzling bright moon. Last night it cut sharp black silhouettes from the tree tops and lit up the little camp hut . Everything seemed so still and peaceful and it gave me a calm to know that others are sharing this journey with us .
Melanie and I were the first out of the hut this morning , we want to make town by lunchtime as we have to pick up our food box and the tent that we sent on ahead . The pathway today is short and pretty much completely flat . It has long straight sections that run parallel to farm fields , and we find ourselves watching the birds and flowers in between snacks .
The last few kilometeres meander down through forests fringed with gentle delicate white flowers , and I keep the idea of snakes away by singing as loudly as I can without shouting .
We are in the last couple of kilometeres when I hear Melanie’s shout ,and though its in French, I’m very sure that it is peppered with some ,quite frankly ,rude words . She is not laughing in the slightest , and I quickly realise that she has had her first interaction with the patron totem of the track .. the serpent.
Im a little surprised , as I’ve been walking ahead of her so as to act as an official decoy , or ‘ snake dummy’ . But much to Melanie’s credit , we didn’t miss a step , and infact I’d say that our pace for the last two kilometeres was probably the best so far if the whole walk .
We find Northcliffe post office , and then it’s cafe , and finally its campsite , where we are treated to hot showers , kangaroos and plenty of rest .
Today was one of my favourite days so far , not for the scenery or the stunning trails , not for the wildlife and the magical nature of the journey , and not for trail angels or fellow hikers .. no, today was one of my favourites for the way Melanie and I navigated our day ,and ourselves .Today we were truly thoughtful and kind to one another , and I found that this was one of life’s true riches .
At lunchtime , we sat at a picnic spot by the Northcliffe information centre and talked about our journey onwards . To cut a long conversation short , we decided that it would be wise to skip the next section . Its a long and challenging section , the sun is getting hotter and the bodies are getting tired . It may sound like a bit of a ‘no-brainer’ , but it turned out that we had to negotiate some very tricky moments , far harder than any of the terrain that we have encountered on the Bibbulmun.
You see, we had to navigate one anothers hearts , neither of us wanted to let each other down , and neither of us wanted to feel like we were ‘giving up’ , and so it was a tender dialogue that led us to our final joy. We decided that it would be best for ‘us’ not just for Melanie , not just for me , but ‘us’ , if we are good to ourselves and also to each other .
So there you go . We found our way along the pathway of one anothers hearts today , and I’d like to be quite clear . There is no better pathway to walk . May I bless you with the lightness and gratitude of such a journey .
We will pick up again from Walpole tomorrow and walk to Denmark ,where we hope to catch up with friends for a little break before finishing the last section .
Of course , this means that we will not be eligible for the highly desirable and wonderfully acclaimed Official End to Ender Bibbulmun track badges .. but hey, sometimes we are not in this life to get a badge .
More from Walpole soon .
Much love ,
Melanie and Ian