Four “track sisters” take on a portion of the 1000km Bibbulmun Walking Track in southwest WA. By Fiona Harper
Good news, everyone: the extensive Bibbulmun Track can be done the civilised way, with a spa, fresh linen, chilled Margaret River wine and a driver waiting at the end of each day’s walk.
There are many reasons for taking a long walk down the Bibbulmun Track. Some tackle the entire 1000km trail that stretches from just north of Perth all the way to Albany on the south coast simply to authenticate their “Friends of the Bibbulmun” T-shirts. Some do it as a form of fitness, others to keep the heart young and the soul inspired. Then there are the serious gourmands like our four “track sisters” – long-time pals Robyn, Kate, Jenny and Gabby, all WA locals – who recently took on a small part of the trail with the intention of sampling what delights are on offer along the way.
By day they wandered through the luxuriant forests and ferocious beaches of the Walpole region, deep in WA’s southwest. But by night the real purpose of their walking was revealed as they delighted in the comforts of their riverside chalet, quietly nestled on the banks of the Frankland River. After discarding the walking boots and easing into the spa to wash away the aches of the day, it was time to indulge in the gourmet pleasures this region is world famous for – some of the best wine, cheese, beef and chocolate this country has to offer. What better reward is there after a hard day of hiking?
Walpolelies in the midst of tall timber country. It’s here that you’ll encounter the indigenous red flowering ficifolia gum tree, as well as enormous, gnarled karri and tingle trees, many over 400 years old. Some of their gigantic hollow bases are large enough to accommodate a dozen hikers, and you can ascend 40m up into the forest canopy to take in the Treetop Walk – stark contrast indeed to the coastal heath and wetlands tucked in behind the wild, windswept ocean cliffs.
Over three days of solid walking, the Bibbulmun saw our track sisters meander through a diverse landscape. And after being dropped by their driver early each morning, they were free to enjoy the day of walking at their leisure; that amount of hiking becomes far more manageable knowing that your driver is waiting at day’s end to whisk you back to that warm spa and chilled wine. All four sisters concurred: it’s an essential part of the experience to be supported so expertly each day.
From Peaceful Bay, 35km east of Walpole, the track hugs the coastline and spans the sand and granite tors of the wild Southern Ocean beaches. Atop the spectacular Conspicuous Cliffs, the ocean vista stretches uninterrupted all the way to Antarctica. From here the track diverts inland among coastal wildflower gardens and through dense forests to end beneath the cool, lofty canopy of the famous Valley of the Giants 3km east of Nornalup.
Friends of the Bibbulmun is a good starting point for organising your track experience. And for those that choose not to rough it each night on the track, Debbie and Taffy’s Nornalup Riverside Chalets offer a comfortable retreat. (There’s nothing like resting the weary body between fresh, clean sheets.) They can recommend the best parts of the track, as well as arrange a driver for pickups. There’s no need to carry heavy backpacks and overnight provisions – a daypack is all that’s required.
When I asked each track sister to nominate their favourite kind of Margaret River produce, it was no surprise to discover the local wines dominated. The Sauvignon Blanc from the Bare Rooted boutique winery was a firm favourite, and the neighbouring Pemberton and Denmark vineyards have benefited from the explosion in popularity of Margaret River goodies.
Gabby summed it up best: “The primary reason is about friendship, laughs and fun. The walk is a good way to do it with a sense of adventure – and to firm up the behind – but the wine at the end of the day is pure bliss.”
DETAILS: Bibbulmun Track
WHERE: From the hills of Kalamunda north of Perth to Albany on the south coast, a total of 963km.
BEST MONTHS TO GO: January to March is warm but humid, and the wildflowers explode from September through December.
BEST VALUE ENCOUNTERED: Nornalup Riverside Chalets, four-night cost pp inc daily driver $276.50 quad share. PHONE: (08) 9840 1107 WEBSITE: www.walpole.org.au
CONTACT: Friends of the Bibbulmun
PHONE: (08) 9481 0551 or (08) 9321 0649 EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org WEBSITE: www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au