An unbiased review of what it’s like walking the Cape to Cape and Bibbulmun Tracks
This is the unbiased diary of a walker walking the Cape to Cape and Bibbulmun Tracks. Greg Simmonds walked both tracks on a fully supported, self guided holiday with his wife Mary last year. He shared his diary with us shortly after completing both holidays. We absolutely loved his narrative and wanted to share it with anyone who is considering walking the Cape to Cape and Bibbulmun Tracks.
It is a completely candid and unbiased account of their experience.
We must stress that we haven’t made any edits to the entries below.
I kept a diary while walking the Cape to Cape and Bibbulmun Tracks which was emailed to friends/family.
Here is a copy of it.
1. Departing Adelaide airport, no queues, on time, on a half full plane. Dream run, transport wise, in Perth as well.
2. Accommodation in central Perth. Gold rush vintage hotel.
Only drawback is that Mary packs a compass and a cut lunch for her journey to the shared ladies toilet.
3. Well rested and fed, we escaped the crowded retail precinct (worse than a Rundle Mall Sunday crowd) and headed for King’s park.
40 years ago, we visited this inner city bushland. They have now developed it and done an excellent job.
The mining companies have acted as good corporate citizens by sponsoring this work.
Playgrounds for kids, cafes to feed the coffee addiction and wildflower profusion for the flora fanatics.
The 100 metre car-park rule still applies.
All of Perth was at the park to enjoy the Spring display.
To escape the crowds, the park planners provided bush tracks for the solitary set.
Once the car parks are out of sight, the jostling dissipates.
4. We noticed when visiting the Top End that the Litchfield National park (an hours drive from Darwin) was a miniature Kakadu.
A similar strategy applies here.
The gardens within Kings Park, walks you through the botanics of WA.
Both the coastal and desert flora are on display.
They have concentrated in one area, a vast sampling of all the wildflowers that populate the state’s south west corner.
To gain a more muted appreciation, there are also kilometres of tracks, where the plants nestle into their indigenous setting.
1. All the buses leaving from the train station have different route numbers but only 2 destinations.
Searched the map of the suburbs of Perth but there was no mention of GoEagles or GoDockers.
2. Regional train travel is such a relaxing way to reach a destination.
From Perth to Bunbury, the carriage was full of people of our vintage, on a day out. Past vacation tales swapped.
A fellow tourist, home from Hong Kong, conversed about the burgeoning democratic movement.
Obviously a businessman, these people were rabble rousers, creating uncertainty for commerce.
When the catering staff appeared, a frisson of excitement. Ah, simple pleasures.
3. Changed to a bus for the journey to Walpole. Not as much leg room, bumpier ride, travellers kept to themselves.
Countryside changed from verdant, rolling farm plains to bitumen snaking through eucalypt timber country.
4. We walked through a wooded park during a half hour stop at Manjimup.
Recognised the ‘Christmas tree’, the only free standing mistletoe in the world.
It is a parasite and normally depends on the host tree for its structure.
This local variant have suckers that latch on to the roots of neighbouring plants.
There are odd nodules on its branches – a really weird life form, similar to that other well-known parasite: the teenager.
5. Then a stand of Karri loomed into view. Wow, these guys are tall. They go straight up.
Best viewed, laying on the ground and looking vertically, saves bending your neck at right angles, searching for the canopy.
Their leaves tickle the clouds.
1. The Walpole township nestles into a picturesque inlet, which is a marine park.
Nearby, the Frankland river meanders through shady glens of eucalypt forest.
There is both good fishing and surf beaches within casting distance. Only a population of 500 and very reasonable house prices.
What’s the problem. I checked with the locals about typhoid in the water supply, a spate of serial killings, prevalence of Collingwood supporters.
No to all the above. Our accommodation only serves instant coffee – it is the town’s sole blemish.
Walpole – Australia’s best kept real estate secret.
2. We carry this booklet. Pictures of the local plants, descriptions of distinctive features, botanical names etc.
I gave it to Mary – big mistake. Our walking is now glacial. However, we do know our karri from our kangaroo.
3. The path follows the Frankland upstream. A climb rewards with occasional glimpses of the Southern ocean.
Around every bend, a florist arrangement of bloom.
Temperature in the mid 20s, no clouds or wind, the canopy shields the solar. The morning walk has been a trekker’s dream.
Come afternoon, gradually, the forest hue alters to an orange. Glimpses of the sun, show a baleful red ball.
A smell of smoke, ashes float blossom-like on eddies of warm air. Our bush-walking heaven about to turn into a Hades.
We discover later, that it is a prescribed burn, 5km north. Perhaps this is the reason for realty doldrums?
1. The Tingles are goliaths, looming over the landscape.
Due to a shallow root system, to carry their enormous height, their ground girth spreads over metres.
With bush fires, these buttresses are hollowed out. There are pictures of cars being parked within them.
Presently, we are revising our home carport structures. I wonder if the council will allow a tingle tree to garage our cars?
2. We hike through the ‘Valley of the Giants’, an apt name. The feeling of ants scurrying in-between the lumbering Tingles.
There is an elevated walkway that allows us to stroll at canopy height (up 60 metres). It sways with the breezes – vertigo territory.
The Karri and Jarrah are slim and svelte – models on the cat-walk. Where as a Tingle has obesity issues.
Down on terra-firma, there is a fallen Tingle – diameter over twice our height – a beached whale. Even when spread out horizontally, it looms.
24 to 26 September – Walpole to Denmark
1. First 2 days of walking centred around Walpole and the titans of the forest.
We have now moved East towards Denmark and the coastal areas.
The soil is sandy and the trees have less egos. The florist arrangements are more pronounced.
In some places, the shower of variety and colours is mesmerising.
If the track is along a valley floor and there is a corridor of low shrubs, the colours ascending to the ridge are profuse.
Mary and I do most of our trekking in the Adelaide hills or the Grampians where the brown and greens of the eucalypt are prominent.
There, any show of flowers is subtle. Here, the artist has gone peculiar with pigments.
2. Our days, vary between 6 to 8 hours of walking. Allowing for rests and meal breaks, we can be communing with nature for 10 hours.
When we weary of woodlands – there is the beauty of beaches.
The shores are secluded with variations of rock pools and pristine sand with the surf providing percussion.
The downside is the soft sand which is treacle to trek through.
Sometimes the bouquet of blossoms is replaced by stench of rotting seaweed. With the reek, come the flies.
A mouthful of insects with lunch – a protein supplement.
3. Sustenance stops have become the priority plan for each morning. When and where, do we stop? It is a major logistical consideration.
We used to think we were indecisive, but now we’re not so sure.
27 to 28 September – Denmark to Albany
1. This weekend, we are walking in some remote areas. Will the accommodation provide the essentials?
Mary asks about laundry and kitchen facilities – the trivial.
It is preliminary final weekend – is there a TV sports signal!
One B&B owner is an Englishman, who views all sport through an economic perspective.
36 players and 1 ball – clearly a scarcity problem. Provide Sherrins to all and everyone’s happy.
2. We are walking the Bibbulmun track. An aboriginal snake symbol is used to mark the path.
Initially, when we saw it, we hoped it was not prophetic.
I was leading when a 2 metre tiger slithered across the track.
I informed my lady, that in times of emergency, women and children, traditionally go first.
A firm NO was her response. So our places remain fixed, with Mary, safely in the rear.
However, soon, she is prancing on my hat brim – an amazing vertical leap and such eloquent vocabulary!
Unknowingly, I have disturbed its slumber and a second snake has glided over Mary’s boots.
And then another one. Three snakes, three minutes.
The Garden of Eden has become a valley of serpents. We contemplate helicopter rescue.
From then on, we glue our eyes to the ground, straight ahead.
On our flanks, the Chelsea flower shoe may have been on display. It would have gone un-noticed.
Two snakes were crawling along when one snake asked the other, “Are we poisonous snakes?”
The other replied, “You’re darn right we’re poisonous! We’re tiger snakes. Why do you ask?”
To which the first replied, “Because I just bit my tongue.”
3. Q: Why do giraffes have long necks? A: Because they have smelly feet.
Well, my feet are both ripe and raw.
Rarely, do blisters materialise but I have them on both feet, both heel and toes, with some growing on the top of others.
The loose sand has meant some slippage in the boots and therefore friction. And with long treks each day, the problem has magnified.
I have a pain thresh-hold of a firm handshake, thus a painful procession as we finish the Bibbulmun at Albany.
4. Q: What’s brown and sticky? A: A twig.
I have spent over a week, in one of the world’s botanic hot-spots and that is all I have learnt – perhaps my lower digits deserve to suppurate.
Mary’s feet have fared better and thus she has been far more appreciative of nature’s bounty.
Tomorrow, we bus west to Augusta to commence the Cape to Cape walk. A days break and a rest for weary pegs.
29 September to 2 October – Augusta to Margaret River
1. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.
Augusta, a sleepy, fishing village on the South West corner of Australia.
It has a pharmacy, which now has NO blister pads, band-aids or any other adhesive device that can stick to skin.
I have them all – the ancient art of foot binding has been revived.
2. Q: What did the Southern Ocean say to the Indian Ocean? A: Nothing, it just waved.
Our son, Benn has surfed this nexus of 2 oceans and reports that the seas rarely wave, it is more of a huge surge.
Cape Leeuwin lighthouse clings to the headland, buffeted by the Westerlies.
This is where we start our walk and it’s not only the lighthouse that gets pommelled.
3. First Law of Living: As soon as you start doing what you always wanted to be doing, you’ll want to be doing something else.
Less beach, more beech
Less sea, more cedar
Less sand, more sandlewood
Do you notice a theme here?
We enjoyed our stroll along the shore but it soon degenerated into a struggle in the sand.
We now only desire, frolics in the forest.
4. Dante’s inferno lists fire and brimstone as some of the ingredients of hell.
Soft sand that swallows hiking boots and gale-force head-winds should be part of that inventory. Rating even higher than pitch-forks, sulphur and politicians.
Just as Dante pined for Beatrice. Oh, how we yearn for that ever elusive path in the far distance, that leads us from the never ending coast.
The track to Paradise – the one that winds through shady, secluded, verdant, still Jarrah forests, just East of these wretched sand storms.
3 October – North of Margaret River
1. AFL grand final day and I will be slogging in the sand-dunes and weathering the wind.
Instead, I could be slandering the umpires and crying in my beer as my favoured team cops a shellacking.
Perhaps the Cape to Cape has its advantages.
2. I am known as an oracle when picking the premiership victor.
Casting my eye into the entrails of my burst blisters … an image is forming .., one of flight and attack, a bird of prey!
3. Since, I am not watching the event, I will share with you a favourite sport story:
It’s the AFL Grand Final and a man makes his way to his seat right behind the goal square. He sits down, noticing that the seat next to him is empty.
He leans over and asks his neighbour if someone will be sitting there.
“No,” says the neighbour. “The seat is empty”
“This is incredible”, said the man. “Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the Grand final and not use it?”
The neighbour says “Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away.
This is the first Grand Final we haven’t been to together since we got married in 1966”
“Oh … I’m sorry to hear that. That’s terrible. But couldn’t you find someone else, a friend or relative, or even a neighbour to take the seat?”
The man shakes his head “No, they’re all at the funeral.”
4 to 6 October – Margaret River to Yallingup
1. Q: What do you call a polar bear on the Nullabour? A: Lost.
Yep, it happens to the best of us.
The tide is in, pushing us from the shore, up into the beach cliffs.
The trail would be a challenge for anorexic, mountain goats – it is a thin slither.
The fall – impaled on craggy, sharp limestone fissures.
The trail directions are either under the ocean, blown away or covered by the mobile sand dunes.
Despair – we may be late for dinner!
2. Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.
The cordiality of our accommodation is outstanding.
The hosts are excellent ambassadors for their region – knowledgeable, friendly and the most amazing cooks.
Whatever harrowing experiences we have had on the trail, all is forgiven as we partake of our evening culinary treats.
Their breakfasts, set us up for trials ahead.
The packed lunches, we gleefully open with the excited expectation of children and Christmas presents.
3. Q: Why are dolphins cleverer than humans?
A: Because within 3 hours they can train a human to stand at the side of a pool and feed them fish
The beach is all a buzz. Clean sets of waves are heading this way and the local surfers are in attendance.
Our path is along the coastal cliffs.
A perfect view of wet suits flanked by a pod of dolphins – all catching the swells.
The word amongst fellow trekkers is of the schools of juvenile whales breaching and spouting, just off-shore – Not yet seen by us.
4. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is our last day of walking when we finish at Cape Naturaliste.
Internet coverage may be suspect there, so this is my last journal entry.
Well, we have completed the course. Congratulations if you are still with us.
Perhaps I have exaggerated the travails.
But the story would have been boring if I just waxed lyrically about hectares of flowers, giant arbours and coastal panoramas.
In summary, the bush walking here is excellent – some of the best country we have ever covered.
Upon this firm foundation, Stroll has value added with excellent notes and accommodation.
One for the bucket list.
Please contact our friendly team if you have any questions about walking the Cape to Cape and Bibbulmun Tracks.