April 13, 2023
AQUATIC WALKING NEAR PEACEFUL BAY
Today’s outing was meant to be a reward for a week’s hard toil, still on the fence repair/upgrade job that’s occupied much of my outdoors time these past six weeks, since there are over 2km of fence to attend and I’d never wire fenced before I started on that daunting task. All our internal fencing additions over the past 12 years had been done in turbo-braid not wire. I wasn’t fond of metalwork at school owing to my tendency to hit myself with a hammer and cut myself on sharp edges. The hammer issue improved greatly during our owner build, and we did work with wire and gripples for compressing our strawbale walls, but I was daunted by the idea of using a chain-and-jaws fence strainer because of horrific injuries that can happen to the uninitiated. Also I thought my chances of using a spinning jenny without making a huge tangle out of a coil of wire were remote.
Alas, I am becoming reasonably adept at all these things, and this week my husband and I even cut our first wooden semi-strainer post from a fallen tree with a bow saw, dug its requisite deep hole through a sedimentary rock layer using a traditional crow bar, and tamped the post in nice and solid. I am currently mounting our future main electric wire on all the repaired and upgraded fencing sections – how lovely it will be to have a permanent wire replacing polybraid that degrades and causes frequent fence faults/underperformance…
So this map has the track section we had planned to do on it. We had planned to walk from the outskirts of Peaceful Bay along the Bibbulmun track (yellow path), NE around the coastline to the Irwin Inlet crossing point, where there is the option of crossing over with canoes. This is a Bibbulmun section we’ve never done before – and I love exploring new areas.
The weather forecast last night had been for a cold front due to arrive mid-afternoon/evening. Fronts rarely come in before forecast; if anything they come in a bit later and I think our meteorologists tend to be conservative about arrival times to avoid people getting caught out. Therefore, I made a mental note to get an early start in so we could be done by 2pm, and went on a cooking spree last night after coming in from the outdoors work, so we’d have breakfast and our hiking supplies ready to go.
This morning we commenced our journey in brilliant sunshine – but as we crested a hill west of Denmark, the sky looked ominous – like a front and not a forerunner. How could the Bureau of Meteorology have been out by half a day? We got caught in a serious downpour, which after a while faded to drizzle, but the sky was now uniformly grey and the whole thing felt like it was setting in. Our hearts sank; should we turn around and go home more than 70km out, and the whole trip for nothing, and no hike at all?
“Not for nothing,” said my husband. “You got some fencing gear in Denmark, and we’ll go to the IGA on the way home.” But we decided to stop at Bow Bridge to change into the thermals and waterproofs we had brought just in case. On the road out to Peaceful Bay, the rain fell steadily again and we decided it was pointless to even attempt the start of the longer hike we had slated for today, as it would only lead to disappointment. Instead we would do a small loop that would take about an hour, also never done before, and marked in green on the above map.
The first three photos I took speak volumes:
We did think back to a 3-hour walk we’d done in the same gear east of Muttonbird a while back, but that had only been intermittent showers, not blasts of frontal rain moderating to unending drizzle. Our mood was philosophical.
The season did break over Easter, and definite beneficiaries of all this moisture are fungi, now sending out fruiting bodies all over the landscape. These were tiny…
As in last week’s hike, the Beaufortias were out in force.
I couldn’t choose between these three photos. It should be pretty easy to see why I adore this guy, 16 years on. He lights up my life. ♥
Apart from the incessant rain, this was actually a nice walk. Botanically there was a lot of diversity. Here’s some Agonis juniperina/peppermint woodland.
Back to heathland and Beaufortias:
I said this last week: These flowers glow…
We see various deformities on plants which are caused by various factors including insects which secrete certain chemicals that change plant growth. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the affected plants are mostly healthy – because this sure looks like fine habitat, and not only for the causative organism. Here the host is a Casuarina, sporting two ball-like bundles made from foliage distorted in development.
The orb-weavers had been busy recently; the trail was remarkably decorated with their webs,
This eucalypt seemed to have caught a particularly hot spot in the last fire in this landscape – it was carved by it, and sporting much epicormic growth (making new branches from under the bark, when prior branches were killed entirely by excessive heat).
And hello – is that a tree frog sitting on the main trunk?
This animal seemed to be having a grand time in the rainy weather. We weren’t – we got brushed by so many wet branches that our thermals were wet and water was even running down our arms after wicking through the waterproofs the way it does through a tent. Even my boots were beginning to squelch. Interesting tree though. As was the next one…
Its midsection served as a flowerpot…
More epicormic growth. You could see this tree as disfigured, or as a beautiful survivor – with a beauty like kintsugi, which is a Japanese tradition of repairing broken pottery with seams of gold.
Then the dog froze in front of me. Can you see why?
We’ve seen a lot of things on the Bibbulmun track, but this was a first. It clucked. This rooster was far from home; had probably gone walkabout from a townsite backyard. It will find its way home, or become dinner out here.
Jess seriously couldn’t believe it. This is the first time she has seen a chicken in years.
When we came upon the road that heralded the final stretch back to the car, I began to sing 99 Bottles Of Beer because road-walking is a mind-numbing foot-killer. We couldn’t wait to get back to the car, the weather was totally sodden and we were wetter than you’d think.
Unfortunately we had become very confused about directions. This always happens to me in Peaceful Bay, which has a loop road in. So we accidentally ended up walking the track away from town instead of towards town – doing it the other way around to intended – without noticing, and therefore walked in the wrong direction once we hit the blacktop. We didn’t notice until we were nearly at Ficifolia Road, and it was Brett who noticed; I was still singing 99 Bottles Of Beer and had just arrived at 80 bottles, noticing how the zeroes and the sevens always broke the meter of this song.
Aaargh! Although on a positive note, this gave us some more exercise. Still, we were so happy to eventually arrive back at the car. My last handful of pictures show how aquatic the landscape was becoming.
The rain was now dripping off my fringe because my face got wet every time I had to set down my umbrella to take photos on this hike. Well, so much for the planned long hike to the Irwin Inlet crossing today. The Germans have a very apt idiom when plans of any description fail. They say, “It fell into the water.” Indeed.
Needless to say, neither of us were keen on ice-cream after all of that, so we settled for hot chocolate and some hot food at the Bow Bridge roadhouse – after changing back into our prior, dry, clothes. We also fortuitously had changes of shoes, so the only thing that remained sodden was our hair. All in all though, still a good outing – exercise, fresh air, amazing plant and animal life, time with each other, a few town chores done as well. We plan to do the Irwin Inlet hike in better weather soon.
April 16, 2023
PEACEFUL BAY TO IRWIN INLET CROSSING
Three days later, we were back at Peaceful Bay, determined to get to the Irwin Inlet crossing in better weather conditions. Since we did the short Bibbulmun section from Peaceful Bay to the main road crossing on Thursday, we simply parked at that crossing to continue from there.
And weren’t conditions vastly different to Thursday!
The first half of the track to the Irwin Inlet crossing was relatively boring and uneventful, following a vehicle track through coastal scrub running parallel to the unsympathetically named Foul Bay (which conjures an explorer in a foul mood who happened to have naming privileges – rather than commenting adequately on the nature of this handsome bay; and as always we can remark that a critique often tells you more about its author than its subject matter).
I called this stretch relatively boring because it was similar all the way along and mostly had no view of the surrounding landscape. We walked landlocked between two tall walls of coastal heathland, commenting on the ease with which nature makes highly effective windbreaks which with all our planting efforts at our place over the last 12 years we have not equalled. The track undulated, which we prefer to flat walking. The fresh air and biota all around, having each other’s company and an afternoon at leisure were of course lovely in their own right.
The very worst thing about the early stages of the walk for us was that we had 10 minutes previously finished a substantial lunch at the Bow Bridge roadhouse, which had not had time to digest let alone settle. This is not recommended. They tell you never to swim just after a big meal; we can exhort you not to hike either. Imagine a stitch spread out into a sheet of pain from your sternum down to your umbilicus combined with an uneasy feeling that you might lose part of your lunch if you continue walking at speed – that’s what the first 45 minutes of walking felt like to me.
Stopping for a proper lunch on the road and walking in the afternoon seemed like a good idea at the time. We had opted for a later getaway and this saved having to pack lunch, as well as supporting a local small business that is blessedly unfranchised and non-corporate. We have on occasions stopped there to get a morning tea like a BLT or home-made sausage roll (theirs are actually very good) on the way through to Walpole, and for my birthday outing had sat down to their “Famous Bow Bridge Burger With Everything” – which we agreed merited repetition. Just don’t do it immediately before strenuous exercise!
It is worth recording some of the conversation we had over their home-made burgers. Hamburgers come in different categories. At the very bottom is the corporate muck peddled by the franchises, which is not good nutrition and also promotes poor social, environmental and animal welfare standards. At the very top is what you make yourself at a smallholder’s home from the beef you’ve organically grown on your own pasture, the vegies from your own patch, an egg from a colleague’s pastured chickens which you bartered for your honey, and slices of sourdough bread you’ve baked at home from the stoneground offerings of a local biodynamic farm. There you know the welfare and environmental standards of production, the minimal use of packaging and transportation, and the people who grew the ingredients and worked to bring them to the table.
And in-between all of that is buying a burger from a small family-owned outlet. The people at Bow Bridge do a good job; lots of fresh salad, beetroot, egg and bacon of unknown origin, probably West Australian beef – and a better version of the affliction known as a hamburger bun, which is a spongy compressible thing offering negligible nutrition or taste. Apart from that bun, we actually got the feeling that the meal provided our bodies with useful building blocks and energy, and enjoyed our lunch.
I mentioned to my husband at this point the food-shaming I’ve seen militant vegans engage in online, where they invoke greed and piggishness over people making meal choices that don’t align with their own (frequently quite misguided) ideology, and apparently on anyone who actually enjoys an omnivorous meal. That kind of food-shaming is very similar to the fat-shaming other characters like to engage in to “better” their fellow citizens – both are forms of bullying done from the back of a moral high horse and allegedly for the good of the person being trolled and of the wider world. But it’s also interesting to consider the intersection of veganism with anorexia. There is the same preoccupation with shame, control, greed, and curtailing of enjoyment; the same equating nourishment with greed. And there is similar deprivation of necessary building blocks for good health, as quite a few vegans are finding out after a decade or two of plant-only foods.
As a child I grew up eating with people on the Alpine terraces in Italy. They had smallholdings with olives, their own vegetables, poultry, rabbits, goats, the odd calf. I knew a beekeeper, and a couple who had a very small dairy herd of heritage mountain cattle which they hand-milked. There was a communal olive press and a communal cheesemaking facility. This way of life went back thousands of years. The food was fresh and omnivorous. Fruit and vegetables, some pasta and bread from wheat grown on the fertile Po plain, yoghurt and cheese from the goats and cows, trout from the lake, meat from home-raised poultry, rabbits, goats, calves, olive oil from their own fruit squeezed at the communal press.
Only now do I realise how lucky I was to have had a decade’s childhood immersion experience of a traditional food community like this, where people and the land went hand in hand, families grew much of their own needs, and everyone sat down at a meal in a spirit of enjoyment of both food and company. The idea of guilting or disparaging each other over fresh, local, nourishing food prepared with love would have been anathema to these people.
And I am of these people, and like many from a Mediterranean food culture, facepalming over the modern divorce of food from the land and the people. Which is why I try to grow my own food and obtain what I can’t grow from other locals – though it’s not lost on me that the Australian tradition is mostly hunter-gathering, and that modern agriculture doesn’t belong on this continent, just as it shouldn’t replace traditional practices on those Alpine terraces in Italy.
So I do make scenic detours about food even in a hiking article, but will now return to the scheduled programme!
Towards the end of first section, we ended up high enough in the landscape to get some views of the surrounding landscape. We could see the ocean to the southeast, and the inland hills around Bow Bridge to the northwest.
Also we could see the dunes around the mouth of the Irwin Inlet and distant headlands along the coastline straight ahead.
Then we arrived at the track turning which would take us parallel to the outflow channel of the Irwin Inlet, towards the narrow neck where Bibbulmun hikers cross over with canoes. You can glance the Inlet through the trees here.
Here, the Bibbulmun became the classic narrow hiking track as it dropped into a woodland in a swale below. We entered through a green tunnel.
Soon we were engaged in rollercoaster-like dune walking; steep uphills followed by steep downhills, occasionally interrupted by a bit of ridge walking, or green tunnel walking in the low-lying sections.
I usually spend more time capturing some minutiae on a walk, but my cramping stomach didn’t start letting up until partway into this section. Here I spied an interesting lichen-covered tree.
There were also patches of Agonis juniperina woodland.
The views of the inland waterways were stunning from the first ridge. As is often the case with local Inlets, there are seasonal sandbars across their mouths, through which little stream channels flow, more heavily in wetter seasons.
It is such a pleasure to see this near-pristine landscape with its original vegetation intact.
The narrowing of the channel beyond the isoland in the middle of the next photograph was our destination point for the afternoon’s walk.
Such a breathtaking landscape.
From the ridge we soon dropped back down into a green tunnel and continued the rollercoaster.
The diversity and sheer magnificence of the flora is so extraordinary in these last pockets of relatively unspoilt native Australian ecosystems.
As we came down from the highest section of the dune, we encountered swales filled with an abundance of grass-trees (Xanthorrhoea spp), some of them, like the one below, hundreds of years old. When this one was a seedling, Europeans had not yet colonised Australia.
Above we have an ant-hill, seen top-down. Next we have the remains of a grass-tree stump covered in moss. There was so much moss in this swale.
I was feeling well enough at this point to do some hiking staff antics. We like to practice some of the defence moves Brett knows from Kendo.
We enjoy seeing Macrozamia palms on the coast towards Walpole. They are very common in the Darling Range on the West Coast.
This baby grass-tree was covered in moss.
Now entering the densest stand of Xanthorrhoeas we have ever seen…
If it takes 50 years for a Xanthorrhoea to even grow a stem and that stem then grows at the rate of about a centrimetre a year, you can work out for yourself that this plant is centuries old – this giant is somewhere between 300 and 400.
We notice that while the iPod camera is great for taking general hiking photos, like any device-carried camera, it tends to distort around the edges and we particularly notice that with pictures of people. We then cycle back to using a proper camera after a few hikes so this doesn’t happen, but my camera tends to burn out detail and needs to be carried in the backpack, so after a while convenience wins again…
Just along the track from that was our hiking destination – the Inlet crossing point. You can see the boathouse on the opposite shore.
We sat on the steps by the boathouse on the western side of the crossing, eating fruit, drinking water and conversing. Jess likes to sample the fruit.
I haven’t canoed in decades and would feel more comfortable in a dinghy, with which I have far more experience. However, this walk is very repeatable, including in summer, so on a warm day in spring we might come back and try out the canoes – and if successful, we might do a bit of hiking on the opposite shore afterwards.
A loooooong way from the Inlet crossing is Parry Beach, via Boat Harbour, which is only accessible by 4WD and has no facilities besides the standard Bibbulmun track camping hut. We’ve walked Parry Beach to Boat Harbour return – our record distance hike, at 25km. Peaceful Bay to Boat Harbour is even further – you’d want to take a swag and stay in the hut overnight, or walk with friends so you can have a car at each end and only walk one way.
For now we enjoyed the lovely waterside at the Irwin Inlet, before making our way home again.
We took few photos on the way back – just a handful of the seashore descending back to the comparatively boring vehicle track. Again, look at the amazing vegetation in the foreground too…
Boat Harbour is over 12km as the crow flies along this coast. The last landscape photo takes in the shore near Peaceful Bay.
I have a few bonus photos of the dog at our last drink stop before getting back to the car. Jess is 11, and I’m trying to get more interaction photos with her because I am so aware that canines have short lives and one day there will only be memories. I love this dog – just the best dog. ♥
Jess is a “leany” dog, and these photos show how she gradually leans her face across my leg as we hang out together.♥
An end-to-ender we met on the track that day said she had one very like Jess at home, 15 years old and therefore too old for long strenuous walks these days. She and Jess exchanged very warm greetings. Jess does not bestow that on every stranger, and if she does, it means she thinks that person is OK. I ought to make more use of her people radar – people she hasn’t liked have frequently ended up causing trouble, or at the very least being rather unpleasant.
This concludes this instalment of our regular hiking reports. Volume 4 should follow later this month!