Monday, 9 October 2017

Albany - and Finished!

Done. Finished.

After leaving Denmark, I stayed overnight at Nullaki Campsite, intending to skip the next shelter and go to the Torbay Campsite.  One of the concerns for the walk was the inlet crossings. Either a short walk across the inlet, or a long road diversion.  Torbay Inlet was the last remaining inlet to cross. I'd met a northbound hiker just before entering Denmark. He told me that Torbay Inlet was flowing too fast, and he took the 20km road diversion. But he got lucky and got a lift.  The Torbay Campsite is 8km before the inlet. My plan was to walk to the inlet and cross it.  Well, hopefully cross it, if not, that left the rest of the day for the diversion walk, and the additional kilometers after the diversion to the next shelter.  It would be a big day.

The next day was wet, cold, and windy.  I felt like I was in a demented washing machine walking along the coastal trail. Wind gusting strong enough to push me about the track, or trash me with the bushes.  I arrived early enough at West Cape Howe shelter to continue to the Torbay shelter, but it just didn't happen. Besides the weather, I come up with the plan that the water flowing out of the inlet would be slower at high tide - which would be at about 12:20.  If I walked the 16.5km to Torbay shelter the next day and then continued to the inlet, I'd get there close to high tide, and then of course I'd cross. That was the big hope. Failing to cross, I'd either have to return to the Torbay shelter, or start the unappealing 20km road diversion.

Sunday, off I set for Torbay. All was going to plan. As I walked along the beach, I met a local and asked him about the inlet. The news wasn't good. He said it was too deep and too fast to cross. He'd watched two guys crossing with packs held over their heads a couple days ago and it was chest high then. More rain would have make it higher and faster. This was bad. But he suggested going there as since it was Sunday maybe some boat people were about on the bay and I could get a lift across. As I looked at the wind and showers gusting in, the white caps on the waves and foam on the beach, I doubted anyone would be out. But to get the road diversion I had to go to the inlet anyway. I'd decided that I wouldn't return along the beach to the campsite. It was onwards no matter what.  He also warned me about the creek outflow that had to be crossed.

The creek was deep. I walked along the side for a bit before finding a spot to cross - stepping across deep channels onto islands. When I did have to wade, it was knee high. Not promising for the inlet if this was the creek.

On I walked, thinking about how long it was going to take to walk around the diversion.  I wasn't entirely sure where I was along the beach section, just kept going. 

The inlet when I came to it was tiny. I wasn't even sure it was the inlet till later in the walk when the track left the beach. It was ankle deep, but crossing it a wave splashed me and my knees got wet.  Never believe what people tell you - make up your own mind. 

I made the day a 40km day, and would have gone higher, but the last 12km into Albany would have run out of daylight.  The next day, in a break with the recent weather was fine and sunny.  Was nice doing a slow walk around the bay into Albany. Then sitting in the sun eating lunch.

I can now say I've walked the Bibbulmun Track.

Friday, 6 October 2017


In a superb case of timing, I arrived in Denmark to just miss the YHA office closed for lunch. Off I go to do the food shopping for the next section and then sitting outside eating lunch I get a generous offer of a lift around the bay. Couldn't turn that down. So I'll skip staying in town and just keep walking. Albany in three or four days. Some doubt about an inlet crossing. That might require a 20km diversion, and as a day. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017


Water water everywhere and no boats in sight. Rain, and wading through water has been the highlights of the past section. Feet have not been dry for over a week. Each day is put on wet socks and wet shoes. Some of the water has been hip high. But long sections of ankle or shin high wading. 
But the bright spot is that the weather might be fine this next week. Okay, the occasional shower is forecast, but I'm hopeful.
Made some gaters today from a pair of tights, cardboard milk cartons and some duck tape. Also bought some tradie sock savers to go with my gaters to help keep sand out of my Vibram Five Fingers.  The arrival at the coast has been accompanied by walking through small scratchy bushes. My legs are getting scratched raw in places. I've been walking in knee high bicycle shorts since Collie after my pants became too loose.  I'm hopeful that the milk cartons are also snake bite proof as well. Though the plan is to not test that out. 
I cut the tights in half from the crotch through to the waist band, and sewed up each half into a long tube. I pull one half onto my leg, wrap the two milk cartons joined with duck tape around my calf. They stay overlapping, and then I roll the top of the tights down over them to hold them in place. The sock saver at the bottom holds the bottom together. Bike shorts at the top help hold it up. Short walk testing today seemed promising. Time will tell. I'll have duck tape with me to make any repairs needed in case.  But I'm sure no more scratched legs and hopefully less sand in my shoes and really hopefully snake protection.  Not seen any snakes since Donnley River, but keep hearing about them. 
Only about 200km to go. Suddenly the end is in sight. 

Friday, 22 September 2017


Changed the cancer causing sunshine for the benign liquid type. So the last three days have been cool and damp. Very damp actually. This is going to continue through to Wednesday. After weeks of fine weather walking, it's a bit of a shock. Arrived in Pemberton this morning in heavy falls. Only staying overnight. It's a long weekend, and the start of school holidays, so all accommodation is booked out. Somehow walking in the rain seems like it will be easier.
Body is holding up well. Gear mostly ok. Doing more sewing repairs to my pack. With almost 600km done, it'll hold up for the rest. 
Mostly the same people at each shelter at night. Unless someone takes a rest day or double huts. Town's swap it about a bit. People staying longer, or leaving early. You hope for the non snorers. Had the early risers lately. Up at 4:30 to pack and have breakfast and start walking at first light to arrive at the next shelter before lunch. Then they'd have a nap. Why couldn't the sleep in till first light? 

With the rain, maybe not so many weekend hikers will be out this weekend...

Thursday, 14 September 2017


Town's are nice enough; food, gear, water and washing. I'm even having hot showers as a change from cold.  But staying in doors especially with accommodation with central air conditioning if not for me. Not being able to open the window here in Collie is a real issue for me. The air con doesn't go lower than 17C ever.  Add in that I don't sleep in the beds, I'm paying a lot for that hot shower.  
Decided to hold onto the fleece till Balingup. And after a 2C night without needing it, it was abandoned today. 
Balingup is camp only unless you pre book the backpackers. Though it's hard to find that information out. 
Meet some of the local walkers this section. Surprisingly they rose at 4:30am to breakfast and pack and then walk in the dark. Not slow walkers either, arriving at the next shelter before lunch.  Lots of interesting stories though about the track and characters on it. The foundation should capture their stores and publish a book.
Onwards towards Donnelly River Village in the morning. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017


Another week down and just over 330km finished. While the first weeks were go hard and "do it", the last week had been more moderate. Taking it easy and pacing for the distance still to come.  Small aches and pains have crept in, and with the realisation of the  almost 700km to go, there's no wish to test the limits just yet and risk not finishing. Huts have been about 20km apart, also dampening the double hut enthusiasm.

More fire trail walking with some single track. The fire trails varied from unexciting hard packed clay to interesting, rambling old paths. It's a bit of a chore on the unexciting roads as the mind wanders into day dreams. Suddenly wrenched back with gut clenching anxiety when you realise you haven't seen or looked for a trail marker in a while. Then the fear of "have you missed a turn off!", followed by profound relief when one is finally spotted. There follows a commitment to pay attention, but you keep drifting off.  The mind also wanders off on the single track, but less likely to miss a marker there.

The markers are not always as frequent as you'd like. The rule is keep going in the same direction as the last marker. That works, except when it doesn't. Everyone backtracks sometimes to check the last marker. Sometimes you need a very eagle eye to spot them. Looking backwards for the northbound markers can help, as looking for old markers. Sometimes you go forward with hope that another will appear. If it doesn't, your lost. Go back!

I had a fall on one slippery clay section of track. The Vibram Five Fingers grip like a gecko on rock, but on clay it's like walking on ice. Both feet and hands into the muddy wheel ruts. More unhappily, the hip belt on my pack tore. I completed the next four hours with it leaning drunkenly to one side, leaving a sizeable bruise on one side. My pack is a Mountain Mule. An external frame pack which I'm told by more knowledgeable older walkers is at least 30 years old. 

I was gifted it one night, about midnight. It was pouring rain. A slight fog.  I was walking a suburban street when a beam of light broke through the gloom, striking the pack buried deep in a rubbish heap on the kerb. It called to me. And after some digging, I liberated it and it's accompanied me ever since. 

It's an external frame pack, with two sections. The bottom section is closed by a zipper. The top by a flap of fabric that ties shut. Neither seem large enough.  Apart from some adjustments to the straps, and replacing a missing pin with a bolt, if not done anything else to it. The fall tore the stitching on the hip belt. But a couple hours sewing and it's better than it was. As good as new I declared the next day. During the repairs I removed the belt and on restoring it, tried a different attachment pattern that is a bit more comfortable. 

My sleeping system problems have been solved by the addition of a small polyester lap blanket. Bought at Dwellingup for $7. It's small 1.27m x 1.35m, but big enough to cover most of me if I scrunch up. I lie down, drap the blanket over, then put the sleeping bag over like a quilt. I think the blanket stops the cold air getting in, while allowing warm moist air to leave. 

I'm still using two foam mats. The K-Mart mats compress with time and lose insulation ability. Starting at about 1cm thick when new, one is now 3mm think. The limit of its compression. The other newer mat is a more robust 5mm thick. I'm unable to part with the thinner mat as testing has shown that both needed.

One particular morning was very brisk. I set out walking along a path bordered with frost. But since then the temperatures have shot up with about 9C nights and some 25C days. It's so much warmer sleeping and with the weather that I'm contemplating leaving behind my fleece jumper in Collie. A sizeable space saving. I'll also leave my pants behind. With weight loss they are too loose, and chaff on my legs. Back to lycra bicycle pants, unpadded courtesy of the local Target store.

The next section is 12 days to the next large town, but with two small shopping options before then. Much thought expended on how much food to take. Enough for 12 days, or enough to get to the small shops. With my no cook meal plan, I'm wary of limited choices, so am taking food for seven days with a parcel sent ahead for the last five days. Still on minimal rations, but increase the amount slightly. I arrived in Collie with no food left having finished everything the day earlier. I was lucky to get another block of chocolate and bag of peanuts before leaving Dwellingup, and had some fruit cake kindly left at one of the huts. Without that, it would have been a very hungry arrival in Collie. 

Friday, 1 September 2017


Made it to the first town. Two weeks and 211km. Less than 800km to go! Walked a couple of 30km days. The last had the 20km walk into town following it. 
At the start of the day all is good, then get to the first hut and it's early and feeling good. Before lunch early. Enough time for another hut: double hutting. Eat up, shoes on, pack on and head off. After the first couple of km, thinking it was a mistake. Could have been resting back at the hut, but committed now, not turning back. The hours pass with lots of rests, stretching and more thoughts is why didn't I just stay at the last hut. Next time I will, I tell myself. Finally the hut is spotted and everything is better. Not better as in wake-up better, but relief that you've made it. 
Feeling it with tender feet after the 30km days. One small blister with the new Vibram Five Fingers. A seam at the end of a toe just touches. Will have tape that toe. Not sure what else I can do about that seam. Otherwise the Five Fingers are working well for me.
The trail is easy walking, (if not double hutting). A lot of it is fire trails. Some parts are recovering from bush fires of the past, showing the different stages of recovery. Some good views from the mountain tops. Pleasant days with only the last couple threatening and delivering on showers. Sitting out two nights in town to miss further showers, winds, and a 2c overnight. A bit of a drop from the usual overnights. And of course washing, hot showers and food. Did I mention the caravan park huts are heated?
The trail huts are wonderful. Not heated, but water tanks, seating and shelter. Can be busy though and I've slept out a couple of times under my tarp when they have been full. With fine weather a lot of people are out walking.
My pack weight is about 11kg before food and water. At the moment I've about 500-600 grams of food a day at the moment. Water, at most 2 liters so far.  I'll leave Dwellingup with food for five days for the seven day walk. I'll eat before I leave town and have a small snack that night, last day not eat till I'm in Collie. Not a ultralight pack, but not super heavy. Not everyone's idea of comfort either. Just weighed it again. I'll leave with 15kg all up, including one liter of water.
A small annoyance is my sleeping system. No matter what I've tried, I wake up sweating and chilled. In the bag, using it as a quilt, thermals on/off, light cloths, naked. Early morning I'll wake sweating and chilly. It's been 5-12c nights. Lately had some success wearing all my cloths, sleeping without the bag till I get cool, then use the bag as a quilt with vent gaps around the edge. Not sure what the problem is.  One thought is the bag isn't breathing enough, trapping moisture, hence the venting helping. I'll try using a small throw blanket to see if that helps on the next six nights. I'm getting enough sleep each night, sleeping from sun down to midnight or later before waking the first time, then every couple of hours till first light. 12 hours nights at the moment. It would be nice to not wake sweating and chilled. If I can sort that out I'll cut down a bit more on clothing carried. But till then I get to mix and match at night. 
In town, lots of eating. The cafe and pub serve large delicious meals. Then there is restocking the larder for the next leg. The local IGA has a good range of food for me. Breakfasts are oats, cashews, sultanas soaked over night. Chocolate, and trail mix, peanut butter, flat bread and some condensed milk make up the rest of the food.  Apart from breakfast, food is varied each day to make up  lunch/dinner. Best to save some to eat just before bed.  I'm not cooking, so less weight: no stove or fuel and only a peanut butter jar for soaking food. I'm calorie deficient on the meals, so am losing weight. Depending how much I lose, I'll have to increase the meals in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

In the great out doors

Walking with a pack is going fine. Body is holding up and in making good time for the sections. Not been really lost once yet. Getting the hang of the map, terrain and my walking speed. Cold nights though. No pushups yet, just wake with the chill.  So all good on day three.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Shakedown hike

Finally the body is all working and I'm able to get out and do a shakedown hike. Weather is also smiling on me - only a few showers forecast, but its mostly going to be fine.  Been lots of packing/unpacking, pondering - is this really needed, can I leave it out.  Pack weight keeps dropping. 

And now I'm out on the trail.

Monday, 31 July 2017


Arrived in Perth busting to get walking and within the first week come a gutser. After months of not being able to walk far, I rushed about to get gear ready and quickly ended up with sore knees. The next couple weeks, waiting for knees to heal, injured my feet. I had been sitting cross legged on a hardwood floor and the irritated the bone joint points on the outside edges of the feet that pressed into the floor. I stopped soon as it was sore, but the damage was done by that time.  Lesson: sit on soft things. Frustratingly, it seemed like all the fine days were drifted past as I waited for healing.  Eventually, went to see a podiatrist to check if there was anything I could do to heal faster as the feet were the worst problem.

First podiatrist was really bad.  With just a glance they could tell me that I needed an over $400 worth of X-ray and ultrasounds tests, that I definitely needed orthotics and a custom shoe fit.  All this was because in their words, my shoes were injuring my feet by rubbing on the sore spots. I had told them I hadn't been wearing shoes, and was always in sandals - that didn't touch the sore spots and hadn't walked in weeks because of sore knees.  Unhappy with that podiatrist and their diagnosis,  I went for a second opinion. Second podiatrist was much better. Video assessment of walking/running and the good news was all was good - no orthotics needed. The soreness, nothing to do but wait for that to calm down.  And obviously, don't do that again.

To round out the doctors visits - I also saw a physio about the knees and a shoulder.  Got some exercises to do. But the big take away from the appointment was - get active. But gently!  Don't over do it.  Listen to your body and give it recovery time. So started back into walking training.

Footwear is still a problem for me. Why are shoes made with narrow pointed toes, when feet are broad and boxy shaped? Why can't you buy sandals in winter? Why is it so hard to get a good fit?

I tried on so many shoe styles: running, hiking, walking , cross fit, gym, racing, and many more that I've forgotten. A big discovery was that I needed to move up a size or sometimes two depending on the brand.  Not so new discovery was that shoes are very narrow and made for uniform feet. I have very wide non uniform feet.

Left DIY soled. Right Merrell Siltwater Strap.
My DIY soled sandals worked, but the 2mm sole was wearing out. The low height also let a lot of debris under the foot when the track was anything but packed dirt.

I tried the pair of Merrell sandals I had, but it seemed like they were irritating the sore points. The edge of the straps pressed right across the swollen spots. Wearing them was to uncomfortable for anything more than a short walk. I didn't like to wear them at all.

After a time, I decided to stick to just wearing with a pair Vibram Five Fingers I had. They were good - well worn in and stretched.  Only problem was they were almost worn out. I added a shoe glue to the sole to extend their life a bit longer.  I wasn't going to replace them when they wore out, but in the end, failing to find another pair of sandals or shoes, and just wanting to stick to what was working, I ordered a new pair - exactly the same.

Seemed all sorted.

Old Vibram Five Fingers with Altra Instinct 3.5
Then Murphy's law strikes. Checking them for the first time - just before a shakedown hike they broke.  Lace strap stitching come apart. It looks like the tabs missed the sewing machine. Back to the seller with them. I would have replaced them then, but they are now out of stock. I had the last pair.

Tired of trying on shoes, and needing something asap, I went and bought the best option I found locally; pair of Altra Instinct 3.5.  Altra is known for shoes with a human foot shaped toe box.  Downside is finding a pair can be tricky.

With the old Vibrams, I was able to walk 12km days without a pack and feel good - foot wise - at the end of it.  First couple days in the new shoes and my feet were complaining bitterly. Not around the toes, but further back.  Its improving as they (shoes or feet?)  'break in', but I do miss sandals. Just put them on and adjust to comfortable. Adjust the velcro when needed - tight or loose.

A shakedown hike is coming up to test out my gear, and my body. I've been paring my gear down to just the essentials.  Helpfully its the wet season, so plenty of water about.  I won't have to carry a solar panel for the phone charging either with all the clouds and rain.

Looking forward to it.

Australian Slang:
gutser : a bad mistake or have an accident

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A brief catchup in time (part 2)

As part of the clean up of gear, I sold my stove.  The MSR Whisperlite International is a fine stove, but it was heavier than I wanted to be carrying.  My only practical alternative was an alcohol stove.  Gas I ruled out as its only possible to get the canisters in the cities. Wood fires attract too much attention.
I used this Evernew Titanium stove with pot stand for a while, but eventually I had enough of it.  The pot stand was a bit too small for my pot, and the pot slide on it easily, meaning you held the pot a lot or risked it falling off.  When the stove was warmed up, the flames would bulge downwards and almost scorch the ground around it. It needing a flame proof base.  Even with the fuel measurements stamps on the inside, it was hard to measure a small amount into it. There is fibreglass wool between the two walls, and this soaks up the fuel. Pour a small amount in, and it all vanished into the wool - how much is there? So you add more, till there is fuel visible in the bottom. The stove has to burn out - it isn't possible to blow or snuff it out. And it always kept the smell of fuel in it.  It did cook my lunch fast though.

My new stove would solve all these problems, make my lunch and clean up too.  I started making stoves againZen stoves  has a wealth of stove types and build information,  but google found other interesting stove designs.

After a several builds of stoves like the fancy feast (see flaws of this stove), and some other variations I decided I wanted something simpler.  Stoves that needed certain sized holes punched or drilled, precision cuts, carefull press fits or gluing ended up being too fiddly. When assembled correctly, they worked well, but I wanted simple and quick to make.  I also tried home build models with fibreglass wool wicks, stainless steel mesh tops like the starlyte stoves.  These decided that I didn't like not being able to see how much fuel was in the pot, nor the left over smell of fuel after using.  This might have been better if I had found a lid I could seal the stove with like the Starlyte offers.  Lots of hunting about shops for metal tins with fitted lids. Note: the website doesn't ship internationally.

In the testing, tea candle stoves seemed promising, but never held enough fuel to fully boil 2 cups (500ml) of water. It got close, but just not enough. Eventually I hit on the red bull can stove.  Find a red bull can. Cut the bottom off 25mm (1 inch) from the bottom. Done. Stove finished.

The stove would hold enough fuel to boil 2 cups water for a few minutes. Was easy to make, easy to fill. Able to see how much fuel was left. Didn't need to be filled to the brim. Is very light. Lighter than the titanium stove!  If a red bull can can't be found, a coke can will do, but I found the red bull was easier to gauge the fuel amount when filling.  After it burns out, it cools quickly, so can be refilled for a second burn if needed.  (Two burns are needed for dry baking.)

Simmering is accomplished by a piece of aluminium foil bent over the top. Adjust as needed for the flame size.  This can also be used to snuff the flame out.

A coat hanger bent into shape is my pot stand. Easy to make, robust and non slip.

By the time I arrived at this point in my stove testing, I was over stove testing.  So even though it didn't cook lunch nor clean up, I stopped experiments.

For the record, I did try using tea candles to dry bake with, but didn't succeed. I suspect it was because I was using (claimed) 9 hour tea candles. The heat was never enough for the number of candles I could get under the pot.  All that happened was the pot was blackened with a waxy residue  and after about an hour I would end the test with raw dough.  Two burns of the red bull stove with the simmer cover is enough to bake one bread bun.

Other items that went in the gear clean up was my kitchen knife; 160 grams was too much knife. 500 grams of Useful string. You never know when you need to tie something up, or lots of somethings. But I decided I didn't need to carry quite that much weight in string.  Tent pegs were culled from 30 down to a more sensible number, though probably still to many. Battery packs from three to one. Stuff sacks had previously been breeding like rabbits - down to just a couple. Clothing - less of it, no more spares of spares.  Dropped the two snake bandages that I've carried since I started travelling.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A brief catch up in time (part 1)

More time has passed than I had thought. After the last post, 2016 can be summed up as 'lots of injuries and illnesses.'

I flew back to Sydney, with bits of my cart and stayed at a friends. Spent a lot of time waiting in doctors surgeries, taking tables, applying creams and ointments and hoping for a cure. I had a couple of skin infections from the tropics, but had three cases of bites (tick, leech, spider?)  that became swollen and infected also.  Besides losing some finger and toe nails, all turned out okay in the end.

I wasn't happy with the three wheeled pram, so had a period of building carts:

Two wheeler loaded for a trip to the op-shop.

One wheeler with practice weight

Another one wheeler.

There were many more. Some didn't get finished before it became clear the design would not work.  Most where one and two wheels.  A solitary four wheel idea never made it off paper.

Also was footwear experiments. Two of the wearable attempts:

The footwear kept me busy the longest.  Walking started out simple, but then became more complicated. What could be so hard - put shoes on and walk. Most of us have this sorted by year one.  For me, years of bicycle riding (without stretching), with a lot of pushing a heavy bicycle on cambered road edges, in sandals that were too narrow for my feet had left me with more than a few problems. 

Besides pain from my toes pressing together, my feet faced different directions - great for pushing loaded bike uphill, not so great for long distance walking. 

I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.  Loved them at first. Then they fell out of favour because they don't dry out as well as sandals. Gradually, they returned, though I change to sandals in the rain or on wet paths.  Back to being very fond of them.  Love the way your toes can spread out. I credit them for solving the toe press problems.  Standing barefeet, all my toes have a gap between them. Some smaller than others, but coming from needing to put foam spacers between some toes to sleep at night, this is a huge improvement. 

I walk barefoot more and more. I'd like to be barefoot full time, but roadside edges are not friendly places for bare feet: glass, thorns and metal fragments. I'm not willing to risk lack of mobility from injury.  Stepping on a rusty tin can, hidden in the grass is not a bare foot feeling I want to experience.

The home made footwear making started as a search for an alternative to the Vibrams, that allowed my toes to spread out more. I found it hard to find sandals that don't cramp the toes.  Making your own footwear is interesting. There is more involved in it than it appears. The experimenting  continues - my current sandal is a combination of a commercial sandal that I cut apart with a different sole I glued on.