Albany to Denmark

According to the Bibbulmun Track Foundation, the track distance from Albany to Denmark is 85km. I had shaved off roughly 8km slackpacking from Albany to the Frenchman Bay road crossing the day before. I had taken six days to finish 100km on my last long distance hike in Hong Kong, so I expected to take maybe 3-4 days to get to Denmark.

The leafless trees at the beginning of the trail after leaving the roadside path at Frenchman Bay.

The trail conditions were very well-maintained, with a clear and mostly pleasant path on sand or boardwalk, with little challenging elevation changes. So I was walking at a steady clip, and soon found myself in front of the vivid azure coastline of sea and sky. Every time I found a wooden seat, which came intermittently, I would rest momentarily, for a few seconds to minutes at a time.

The view back from where I walked from.

I started to see people who were decidedly non-hikers who had driven out to see the Albany wind farm. A couple of locals were also partaking in the hobby of flying their model planes against the strong sea gusts. It was a good time to take a longer break and eat some pasties I had procured from the IGA supermarket near the trailhead prior to leaving Albany.

Ahead of me, the rotors of the gigantic wind turbines of the Albany wind farm were turning slowly as a strong, steady coastal wind blew from ocean. Powerful waves crashed on the shore far below. The sheer power of the sea was on full display.

The track continued under and past the turbines, eventually turning back to firm sand. I walked a bit more and reached my first Bibbulmun shelter from the south, Muttonbird. There is supposed to be an earlier one called Sandpatch, but it had not yet been reopened after burning down in a previous bushfire.

A brief respite at Muttonbird shelter as a ray of light shines on my fully-packed ULA Ohm.

I could’ve stopped here for the day, but it was just past 2pm. According to my map, the next shelter was only 12km away. I reckoned I could get there before sundown.

I continued walking, through forested isolation, along 4WD tracks, and even past a live firing range. Eventually, I found myself in front of a marvellous beach.

This lookout point had car access, so some people were around to help me take a picture. When I was ready to continue, I then realised that the path led downwards, across the whole beach! I made my way down the steps, and began my walk on the sand, trying to find the firm parts so my feet didn’t sink in. Near the end of the beach, was a sandbar with Torbay inlet on my right, and some 4WDs enjoying the dunes.

After what felt like a long time trudging on sand, I eventually found myself at the end of the beach at a spot called Cosy Corner, and some steps led up and away to Torbay shelter. I got there just after 5pm, to find another backpacker already set up. Turns out he was a guy I had seen striding on the street ahead of me in with his big backpack on Friday in Albany while I had been slackpacking, before the hail hit. He was Johannes from Germany. I found out that he had had a miserably soaked first day of hiking, and had taken a zero day here to let his stuff dry out. We chatted as I quickly set up my tent before the sun went down.

I had been in contact with a track angel in Denmark, Colin’s friend Jacko who the former had referred me to. He hosted hikers at his homestay (christened the Casa Libelula), and also offered driving services from the Eden Road junction where the Bibbulmun Track is separated by the Wilson inlet. Boat services no longer existed, so the only two routes were to cross over a seasonal sandbar, or walk/taxi along the highway. Most hikers get a taxi service, and Jacko offered to pick me up if I could get there by the end of the day. I had 33km to the Eden Road junction, passing by West Cape Howe and Nullaki shelters. I told him I’ll let him know if I can do it by the time I reached West Cape Howe.

I set off from Torbay campsite after 8am the next day, leaving behind Johannes, who was going to start later. After walking through some lovely landscapes, I reached West Cape Howe after 1:30pm. It felt really early to stop hiking, but also still a long way to Eden Road. Colin had told me that Nullaki wasn’t that nice a shelter to stop at, and it was so close to Denmark that one should keep going on. There was still 18km to the Eden Road junction, and the sun was due to set by 6pm. At more than 4km per hour, I’ll be able to get to Eden Road, hopefully by sunset. I made the decision to keep going, anticipating hot food, a hot shower, and rest in a comfy bed.

It soon became clear that I might have to do a bit of hiking in the darkness of night. I got my headlamp out, and continued walking as fast as I could. As night arrived inexorably, the sky turned into a vivid purplish hue. I tried to capture it on my phone, but reminded myself to keep moving before it got too late.

It was dark by the time I got to Nullaki. I rushed into the shelter to sign the logbook, startling two hikers who I realised were the ‘Blister Sisters’ from an entry in the previous logbook, and rushed out. I walked quickly in the darkness, hearing noises and imagining scary predators coming out to hunt this hapless hiker.

Pushing on to Eden Road, Jacko had already promised he was on the way to the rendezvous point. As I got to the end of the trail, two lights suddenly shone out as a vehicle pulled up. It was Jacko’s car! I was happy to see my pickup arrive right on time.

As we chatted on the way to his home, I learned that he was also a fan of ULA gear, and owned some of their backpacks. When we got to his home, I got my stuff laundered, cleaned myself up, and ravenously gobbled up the lion’s share of the dinner dish: chicken cooked in black bean sauce on rice, prepared by his wife Annie.

Once I had time to think about how much I had walked, I was amazed that I had completed 70+km in two days! In the clean, warm comfort of the Casa Libelula, the thick soft bed enveloped me, and I instantly fell into a deep slumber.

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