Bibbulmun: Denmark to Walpole

My walk from Denmark to Walpole is one of my favourite sections on the Bibbulmun. Maybe it was because of the gradual transition from coastline to forest within a 126-kilometre walk, that allows you to experience a variety of environments within the span of 5-7 days. Maybe it was the nice company at the shelters, and the friend I made as we walked together. Or perhaps it’s because I got to do a canoe crossing, the only one on the Bibb. In any case, it’s a section I remember with fondness.

I woke up at Jacko and Annie’s homestay, the Casa Libelula, where I had been staying the night after hiking from Albany to Denmark. Annie had prepared a nourishing Aussie brekkie for me.

After breakfast, Jacko drove me into town to get some resupplies at IGA, then dropped me off back on the track leading out of town, near the local caravan park. From Denmark, the track began calmly enough: a flat walk through the trees. However, despite constantly referring to Guthook, I found the trail hard to follow, as I kept wandering onto private property. I eventually managed to get back on track, and slowly left the suburban outskirts of Denmark.

I slowed down as I stepped gingerly up the rocky trail towards the peak of Mt. Hallowell. From the top of Mt. Hallowell (and the nearby Monkey Rock, which you also pass), I could survey the agricultural surroundings, all the way to the coast.

With a cloudless sky above me, I’m completely exposed to the sun, and drink lots of water. The scenery was beautiful though. The tremendous waves pounding the shore was always nearby.

My 18km day ended at William Bay shelter, where I arrived at just before sunset. I met another hiker, Geoff, who had been resting in his tent at the campsite a short distance away. I found out he was doing a section hike from Denmark to Walpole, and had started the day earlier than I did. After our dinner, we went back to our tents (mine was pitched on the platform), and went to sleep. At night, the view of the stars here was really beautiful.

The next day featured the longest beach walk on the Bibbulmun, a roughly 9km walk on Mazzoletti Beach. I could barely see the end of the beach when I started, but after a few hours, I was done. On the way, I saw people fishing, surfing, on 4WDs, or just lounging on the sand. But for most of it, I was by myself, trudging steadily on the sand, trying to find firm spots to walk on so my feet don’t sink in too much.

When I reached the end of the beach at Parry’s Beach campgrounds, I had caught up to Geoff, who was resting at the table. The tap water was brown and didn’t look potable, but I still filled up one of my bottles just in case. Geoff and I then left and hiked together for the rest of the day. It had only been an 18km day, but by the time I reached Boat Harbour shelter, I was dead tired.

Hiking with Geoff.

Later, three more walkers arrived at Boat Harbour shelter from the opposite direction. They told us what to expect ahead: a canoe crossing that one of them really enjoyed. I was looking forward to it. One of them had a cellphone running out of battery; my 20k mAh power bank allowed me to be generous.

The next morning, I left Boat Harbour shelter earlier than Geoff, with the intention of hiking 32km. The track started near the coast and also went down to the beach, but as I got closer to Irwin Inlet, I could’ve crossed over on the beach via the seasonal sandbar, or head inland through grassland towards the canoe crossing established for Bibbulmun walkers. I chose the latter. The open green fields were pleasant to walk through; I could see kangaroos in every direction.

On the plains, I passed by a group of hikers, who somehow were expecting to see me, apparently learning about me from Jacko. I had a short chat with them, and they told me I had almost reached the canoe crossing.

A short while later, I’d arrived at the hut housing the canoes. I decided to take a break and eat a bit. While I rested, Geoff caught up. We hauled our canoes towards the bank together, and made the crossing across the narrow channel through which the inlet drained out to the sea. As I paddled, some kayakers were nearby, and we hollered happily at each other. This was a nice change of pace from walking.

Before I knew it, I was already at the other side, Geoff just minutes behind. When he arrived on the bank, We put the canoes on the rack, then I headed onward to Peaceful Bay, while Geoff had a short rest. I was looking forward to getting some fish and chips!

A short walk through forest crowded with sawgrass, and I soon emerged into the small tourist outpost of Peaceful Bay around 1:30pm. I walked past many chalets and campervans housing tourists who have driven in. Soon, I was facing the general store/restaurant. Time for lunch!

The indoor air-conditioning was a welcome respite from the warming noontime heat. I got myself a kingfish and chips for $15, with some overpriced but — sorely needed — chilled coffee at $4.70. After a few cold soaked meals, the fish and chips was a real treat! I even got myself a kids’ fish and chips set ($10) to take away for dinner later at the next shelter.

Geoff arrived just after I finished my meal. It had already been a long day of hiking (about 22km), so he was going to end the day camping at the Peaceful Bay caravan park. There is a fee to camp there, so in the interest of saving money, I had already planned to keep moving on to Rame Head shelter, about 10km away.

The track took me past the pretty Peaceful Bay itself, where the calm turquoise water was gently lapping up onto the shore. It looked like a great beach to stop and relax, but I had a hike to walk, so I kept moving. I was still glad to be simply present, however fleeting.

Peaceful Bay.

I powered through with the energy of coffee and fried fish, and got to Rame Head with just a bit of sunlight to spare. I found another hiker there: Tom, a skinny, white-haired Irishman from Liverpool. Eating fish and chips for dinner instead of my usual cold-soaked meal was a nice treat.

Sun setting as I walked to Rame Head.

After double-hutting to Rame Head, I decided to just single-hut to the next shelter, Giants, which was a pleasantly short 18km. Early on is a walk along the beach at Conspicuous Cliff, where a nice bench on a raised platform is perfect for a meal break.

Stairs took me upward and onward through coastal heathland, on both sand tracks and boardwalk. I walked through some spooky forest that may have been burned a few seasons back, and was now regrowing.

The walk also took me past some fenced-off pasture that was really quite a sight.

After this point, the track entered the forest, the start of the towering karri and tingle trees. Just a few steps in, I saw a branch that looked like it could possibly be a snake. I stopped and stared at it, then realised that it’s definitely a big black snake and it’s staring back up at me, its head raised. I’ve seen the tails of small snakes as they wriggled away a few times so far, but this was a seriously big one right in front of me, and it wasn’t budging. I stamped my feet hard (as I’ve been told to do to get snakes to leave the track), and it slithered off.

I reached Giants campsite really early; there was no one here yet. After about an hour, Tom arrived.

According to Guthook, there was a cafe about 1.5km away ahead on the track where the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk was. The cafe would be closed at the time I pass it the next morning, so I decided to walk there (leaving behind most of my stuff at the shelter) to grab a couple of takeaway coffees for Tom and me.

When I got back, two families with their children had arrived. Geoff also came later, having hiked past Rame Head from Peaceful Bay. The atmosphere was livelier with more people around; I chatted with a couple and their rambunctious boy; the mother offered me a Tim Tam.

The next day, after a breakfast of tuna and cheddar wrap, I headed out early at just after 7am, hoping to get to the town of Walpole by today, which would require 31km of walking. In the morning, the air in the karri forest was cool. I passed by the treetop walk within the first hour, where I met the other family who had been at Giants, and chatted a bit. I could’ve visited the treetop walk, but the entry ticket was too costly for me, so I kept walking.

Funny name for a road that I passed by after Giants shelter.

I arrived at Frankland shelter at 10:40am, and had lunch. Geoff arrived while I was eating, and had a break there as well. With 18km left, we could actually get to Walpole before the end of the day.

I have been passing by a lot of tingle trees with cavernous hollowed out cores. But I encountered my largest one at a giant tingle tree in Walpole-Normalup Park. Accessible by road, there were many day visitors here as well.

I began to feel an aching pain in my ankles get worse and worse, reducing my stride to a hobble. The double-hutting of the day before must have finally got to me. Geoff and I had been walking near each other till this point, but he was still walking well, so he moved faster onward. The pain made the last 5 kilometres feel like forever.

When I finally found myself walking along the Walpole inlet, I was relieved to be almost at the end of this leg. I was ready to rest my feet.

I slowly walked through the small town to the Walpole YHA where I had planned to stay the night, relieved to arrive while it was still bright. There were some other guests with bikes; I learned they were riding the Munda Biddi Trail, a recently opened 1000-km bike trail that also stretches from Perth to Albany, and intersects the Bibbulmun a few times. I also found Geoff already at the YHA, all cleaned up. His section hike was thus finished, and he was due to return to Perth by bus the next day. We said our farewells, and promised to get in touch when I arrived in Perth.

After cleaning up, I walked out to a nearby restaurant called Flaming Hot Takeaways to grab some food. They had all kinds of unhealthy fried and grilled food — just what I needed. I bought myself a hamburger and some chips, which really hit the spot. Then I returned to the YHA, sated and ready for some much-needed rest.

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