WALPOLE HIKING DAY
Since we worked on Thursday, we hiked this fine Saturday instead, heading over to Walpole to attempt the Woolbales Walk Track. It’s a 90-minute drive to Walpole, so when you’re going there, you start early and try to get a full day in. Accordingly, when it was just warm enough to take the horse rugs off, we left around 9am. For once we didn’t stop in Denmark, but broke our drive at Bow Bridge, where they have relatively decent food. I had a sausage roll, which is neither sausage nor roll, in case this food item doesn’t feature in your regional cuisine – it’s a mixture of sausage meat and grated vegetables (or sawdust and pig fat, according to an old colleague) encased in flaky pastry, and looks in cross-section exactly like your blood vessels will if you consume these regularly for 20 years or so. The Bow Bridge people make really nice versions of these staple English things, and also do a range of toasted Turkish breads, from which Brett chose the BLT version.
Thus fortified, we enjoyed the scenic drive to Walpole, through farmland, forests and heathland, with rugged coastline, brimful rivers and serene inlets regularly in view. The weather was cool and mild. We were heading for the Woolbales Walk Track west of Walpole, which I’ve had my eye on for over a year – unusual geology, forest, heathland, and we’ve never done this trail before.
1. WOOLBALES WALK TRACK
The first problem was finding the thing, as it was unmarked. We eventually used our map skills to determine which unmarked track it was, and set out cheerfully into a beautiful day, with the sun making an appearance and birds singing from the trees, and keen to get 3-4 hours of hiking in this magnificent place we had not yet explored.
And just look at this magnificent tree. It’s so big you can’t really get all of it into frame.
We were imagining that the cluster of monadnocks marked on the map would be a bit like Hanging Rock but on another order of magnitude – and very much looking forward to exploring this area. There’s nothing else like it on the South Coast map.
We got barely over a kilometre down this lovely track, when there was a creek crossing without a bridge, flooding out the track for about 30 metres. This has happened before, like when we didn’t get to Boat Harbour last year (and I realise we’ve now left it too late to go this year) – but this crossing didn’t look nearly as deep or muddy, and the water was calm and clear.
So I took off my hiking boots, rolled up my pants and waded in. The water was icy, but after ten seconds or so my brain adjusted and things didn’t feel shocking anymore. In fact, I was enjoying the nice clean sandy footing as I crossed over, barely up to my knees in the deepest parts. I was happy with myself on the other side and starting to put my boots back on. But alas, my husband’s nervous system is wired up differently to mine, plus he hates wading – never takes his footwear off at the beach, not even in mid-summer – while I splash barefoot in the surf summer or winter alike.
I’ll give him credit that he had a go. I encouraged him to channel the little boy he had been when he used to fish for gilgies in his local creek, but he told me he’d always done that in gumboots! He tells me now they only ever swam in the ocean or a swimming pool – never in freshwater, whereas I grew up swimming in freshwater – most notably Lago di Garda in Italy, but also many many other lakes, streams and natural outdoor pools in Italy and Germany – with jelly sandals for dodgy underwater footing. In Australia, where I arrived at age 11, I still literally jumped into anything freshwater, including reservoirs, farm dams and the leech-infested Harvey River, and later, places like Lillian’s Glen in the Blue Mountains.
So he didn’t get beyond the phase of making shocked noises when wading into the water. If that sounds funny to some of you, he has ASD-1 traits, and is cusp ASD-1 – and that includes sensory hypersensitivities, which actually both of us have, in different ways – but my DNA includes a good dash of Viking, plus I grew up in snow and thoroughly soaked in water, and this is not the case for him. But both of us can’t stand clothing labels, little stones in our shoes, grass seeds in our socks, scratchy fabrics, a single toast crumb that accidentally got in the bed sheets, etc. He’s highly photosensitive on waking and you’d think he has vampire genes when you see how he responds to sunlight in the early morning. I’m ultra-sensitive to noise, and can’t bear normal alarm clocks – everything is turned up about 10-fold when I wake up and I literally get instant nausea if I hear a loud noise (including what others would think is a normal alarm volume) before I am properly awake. So I’ve got some ASD-1 traits too, but not enough of them to fit comfortably into ASD-1 – I think I’ve got my very own non-NT-ness (I am who I am), and have never comfortably fitted into any kind of category. You know those quizzes – introvert or extrovert? Well, part-time each. Personality type? Science or arts? No, it’s always bits of everything, not one or the other – and actually I think that those boxes are artificial and tell you more about the people who invent them than about reality.
Anyhoo. So we didn’t persist with the Woolbales Walk Track, but Brett put it in his digital reminder system for next April along with Boat Harbour and a whole other bunch of things down on the boggy bits of coastal plain.
But there were other things to do, like a long-overdue return visit to Mandalay Beach, where we’d not been since our first visit there in 2008. We hardly ever go this far over on the coast…
2. MANDALAY BEACH
We always vowed to return here, because on our first visit 14 years ago it was freezing and a gale was blowing, so that we got sandblasted when we arrived on the actual beach, and had to get off the sand again. I don’t think many words are needed for this part, I will let the photos do the talking…
…and now for two kind-of trick shots…
This is a beach with such strong currents and waves that the sand drops off rapidly towards the surf, and with the right angle you can get a fun shot as a result. Also – this is not a beach where people should swim – the rip out there is super strong and fast, not to mention the surf will completely pound you.
But it’s a spectacular and beautiful place. I can’t tell you how powerful a place that is – everything larger than life and turned up, with the waves churning like the end of the world. We love spending time in places like this.
The dog thinks it’s pretty all right too. She lives for our hiking days. I tell her the night before that we’re going “broom broom and BIG walkies tomorrow” and she turns her head on an angle and looks at me, then rolls around making joyous noises, paddling her feet in the air and waiting for me to come over and rough-house with her. In the morning she will look expectant and start shepherding us towards the car. It’s hilarious. I should film it sometime.
…and the staircase back up…
On the way back to Walpole, near Crystal Springs, we passed the property of some erstwhile farmstay guests who had relocated their Tiny House from NSW to our South Coast. Their gate was padlocked and nobody was home, so we couldn’t say hello as we’d promised to if ever in the area – maybe next time – but you might all enjoy the videos he made of his constructions, and a documentary which featured his place…we’d be doing the same if we were in his generation and trying to get our own place from scratch. Far, far better than renting – not nearly as financially crippling, and actually a really good way to live in terms of ecological footprint, time spent cleaning, setting yourself up financially, having a life not focused on “stuff”…
Emmet works in Town Planning in Denmark, hoping to make this an option not choked by red tape – and good on him. Fabulous Tiny House he made! Love the special windows and the feel of the place and would far rather live in something like that, than a standard soulless industrial Legoland house.
3. HOT TEA AND PLAN B
Next, we descended on the picnic area in Walpole for a snack break and to work out our Plan B. Initially that had been the Nuyts Wilderness Track, but the map showed ominous bridgeless creeks there too…and I didn’t want to get stuck again! Besides, I was entering an early-afternoon energy dip, so we revived ourselves with our lovely hot thermoses of tea – hot sweet lemon tea for me, plain for Brett. We had a packet of potato chips for salt, the blurb on which declared they were “double crunchy” – by means of being more corrugated. You know that trick – give someone a sheet of paper, a fork and two tins, and ask them to place the paper between the tins so that it supports the fork? Those who don’t head-scratch fold the paper into a concertina, which they place between the tins with the folds running lengthways and there you go, fork supported. So by that principle, extra-corrugated chips also take more force to chew, and that’s how it worked out. It was an interesting experiment, but we decided we like chips most for their flavour; crunch is a lower-rating factor for both of us and “ordinary” crunch is fine.
4. WALPOLE TO JOHN RATE LOOKOUT
Plan B was my call, so I opted to walk from where we were to John Rate Lookout along the Bibbulmun Track – a return journey of exactly 12.4 kilometres (7.7 miles). Yellow with black dots on the map!
This was also a hike we had never done before, and turned out a very enjoyable route, even if I did start off in a state where, had there been a bed anywhere, I’d have curled up for an hour’s nap before continuing. Gradually, I walked myself into a quasi-awake state, and by the time we hit some hills I was good again.
The first third of the walk was sandwiched between the Walpole Inlet and the fringe of Walpole “suburbia” – which is little dwellings of above-average character and below-average pretentiousness, sitting up on a parkland-cleared ridge above the Inlet. To the left of us was dense riparian vegetation, which obscured the inlet. This is a Paperbark community:
Anything that was not commercially exploitable for timber or agriculture and that’s not yet been carved up into real estate has had half a chance of staying natural so far in Western Australia – but sadly this means over 80% of the Southwest was wiped out ecologically in just over 200 years of white colonialism. I wrote about that here if you’re interested – our feelings about that underpin why we’re on Red Moon Sanctuary doing what we do. We treasure what is left of ancient Gondwana and do what we can to protect it – and we love nothing better than to get out into the as yet unspoilt areas, although it pains us to have to commute out to do it.
The next section involved hills, as you can see from the fringe of Walpole here.
That section was entered over an elegantly curved footbridge.
The rivers are all running very high again this year, but so far we don’t have any sign of a repeat of last year’s flooding and havoc in our region.
Brett approved of the boardwalks. This prevented having to come up with a Plan C.
Can you work this one out?
It’s taken helicopter view straight down off the bridge and catches tree reflections in the still water. You can spot my hands and the camera in the reflection too!
The first bit of sustained uphill began traversing bits of the town’s golf course, where we soon entered a Casuarina grove.
I understand some prefer to do this stuff on horseback, but my husband and I need the exercise more than the horses, so that we can stay in the kind of condition required to take care of them and the whole 62 hectares, and so we don’t fall apart more than we have to as we get older. Apart from a bit of arthritis in the hands (which I’m managing OK), things seem to be relatively good in terms of still being able to move freely and efficiently with a combined century between us.
However: Someone (or perhaps more than one person) out there has a voodoo doll of me, I swear, and they sometimes get it out and repeatedly stab random bits of me with a sewing needle, in a systematic and frenzied fashion. Two nights ago they were stabbing my left foot viciously when I was reading in bed. The night before they focused on my right foot and then gave me three prods at knee level before letting up. 😵 Sometimes they dislocate one of my toes and pop it back in again. All of this is especially noticeable in the last decade or so, although they must have begun early, with the tip of my left ring finger repeatedly under attack since I was a teenager. 😬
All righty. As I mentioned before, I woke up by the time we hit the hills, and there was rewarded with wonderful biodiversity, as it usual in the heathland ecosystems between the forested ridges, since they couldn’t be exploited for timber or woodchips. Just look at those tall Kingias too – ancient grass trees, hundreds of years old…
Their stems grow 0.5 – 2cm a year, so that tall one standing sentry in the next photo is at least 400.
I’m afraid my feet started to hurt and I put the camera away and increased my speed until we got to the lookout. So no regrowth Karri forest photos today, other than this, even though that’s what the last half hour was:
You can just glimpse the coastline through the gap in the trees. Here’s a telephoto shot through the gap:
And then there’s us, with a time-delay shot I set up from that railing – tucking into apple crumble I’d made the night before from our plentiful summer harvest.
Even the dog got to tuck in. I made cauldrons of spiced apple pie filling in the summer, and froze it in batches for ready use. The crumble topping is a mix of butter, flour, cinnamon, brown sugar and porridge oats. No sugar in the fruit filling and half the recipe’s suggestion (but four times the cinnamon) in the topping. Tastes out-of-this-world, even cold.
You can see Brett had a foot-bothering too – he says one sock had folded funny. 🤪
On the way back the sun made a late-afternoon reappearance and bathed us in the kind of golden sunlight you can eat…
Ah, intact ecosystems – how do I love thee. This is the world as it was before we destroyed it for excessive gain. This is the place that teaches me the truth about the dysfunctional system that eats the world for profit and to have more than our fair share in the catalogue of living things. This is the cathedral in which I understand the smallness of myself, the unthinkingness and sacrileges of our civilisation, and the cancer we “modern people” have become collectively. This is where I understand the wisdom of the Indigenous Australians who lived here for over 60,000 years without destroying the fabric of country, stewarding and treading lightly, limiting their own numbers and not taking more than they needed.
This hiking report was brought to you from Noongar boodja – Noongar country, where the Minang roamed freely for over 30,000 years and from whom and whose country we try to learn stewardship of the earth.