South Coast Wilderness Walks 2021 Volume 2

This continues our series of photoessays on days spent hiking in largely unspoilt National Park and Nature Reserve areas on the South Coast of Western Australia – the places which escaped the bulldozers of the white settlers and are still clothed in the original Australian ecosystems that go all the way back to Gondwana. The South Coast is a biodiversity hotspot and has truly amazing flora and fauna. Walking in these areas teaches us about who we really are – one species among many, in an intricate and complex web of life we destroy at our own peril.

I use the term “wilderness” with caution here. My own definition of that word was always about places that had not been spoilt by humans, where nature was present in fullness and abundance. Australian Aboriginal people call this “country” and before European colonisation, they actively managed these ecosystems for over 30,000 years, in ways that allowed them to live in harmony with nature rather than in battle against it. They say, “If you look after country it looks after you.” Permaculture folk think similarly, working on better ways to grow food in bulldozed places than broadacre monocultures run with agricultural chemicals and fossil fuels.

This episode continues with a day in May with some impressive rough seas, a regular occurrence in the Southern Ocean.

May 2, 2021


Today the rain moderated for long enough to be able to get out and do a section of the Bibbulmun we’ve not done before, near Muttonbird Island. It was a walk through woods and dunes to the coast, a descent down to Muttonbird Island, some rock-hopping to get around the point to Muttonbird Beach, and then returning along the dune-woodland trail again. Seas were phenomenal today – we get the full benefit of the Roaring Forties here on the South Coast…

The dog nearly got swept off the rocks as we crossed the rocky point at Muttonbird Island to the next beach along. We’d always been conscious of such a possibility but nearly got caught out as the dog is fast and less ocean-aware than us. Rock fishermen regularly drown off our coast when unexpected king waves sweep them off, but even just an ordinary bigger wave in a tight spot can be dangerous. I grabbed the dog by the ruff of the neck and swiftly assisted her in returning onto the rocks when her rear end was off the ledge and under the water. That’s the kind of thing that can sear itself into your amygdala and hopefully increase the level of caution in these situations further.

These photos were taken with the iPod camera again as I wasn’t using the good one in the drizzle, so the resolution isn’t great.

If anyone wants to see all 36 photos as a slide show, just click here and then use the right arrow to go forward.

May 6, 2021


I’m happy to report that we set a personal best for the longest distance hiked in one day today – we did 25km on the Bibbulmun track from Parry Beach to Boat Harbour and back – a beautiful, wild, remote coastline, and the track wasn’t exactly flat either – it’s a really strenuous walk and even the one flat part, a beach before Boat Harbour, was hard work because it was “aerosand” – you sink in like in soft snow…

We’ve done around 20km several times before, mostly with a mad colleague of mine who was getting fit for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, but that was 12 years ago – in recent years, our longest walk was 18km.

The ocean was insane with waves again today – typical winter pattern for us with the Roaring Forties etc. Have a look at these waves… and there wasn’t much wind at all today, by the way, this is just what blows in from where there is lots of wind between us and Antarctica…

We did have some complications, like being caught in a 45-minute downpour near the start that was literally like standing at home under the shower – Australian weather can be pretty wild. So we got soaked to the skin even through our water-resistant thermals and soft shell (which thankfully still keep you quite warm when wet, sort of like a wetsuit) – and our boots were full of water, so we had to stop several times to wring out socks and insoles… and we still had hours of walking to go at that point…

One of the most beautiful walks I’ve ever done…

Boat Harbour is the natural little harbour between the two headlands at the end of the peach-coloured beach in the photo above. Below we are sitting on one of the headlands, drying out our damp clothes that had remained damp after being rained on heavily in the first hour of the walk. The down side to this was a large resident mosquito population which began to assault us about five minutes after we sat down to eat. We did have changes of clothes so got into them instead and thus reduced the level of being lunch while having lunch.

One day we’d like to explore Boat Harbour itself properly, via the direct dirt road access track from the South Coast Highway. We couldn’t hang around to do that this time because we had 12.5km of difficult terrain to traverse to get back to the car before sunset – and actually we got back in the dark!

Neeearly at Parry Beach!

We took so many photos – if anyone wants to see all of today’s as a slide show, just click here and then use the right arrow to go forward. The coast here is so spectacular…  

May 23, 2021


Sunday morning there was a break between cold fronts with a little sun, so we managed to sneak out for a 90 minute coastal sanity walk – a bit of the Bibbulmun, followed by a stroll on Muttonbird Beach.

Brett has pandemic hair that’s standing up dramatically in the wind:

There was this surfer out on the ocean we swore was motorised because he kept zooming from one end of the beach to the other:

Jess was chasing waves as usual.

Here’s a film of her doing that on an inland lake a few years back. The bigger the surf, the more she runs, so this is a mild case of wave-chasing for her!

More walks in the next instalment!

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