Collie – Balingup: A Tentative Tent Convert?
What a stretch. I cannot belieeeeve I’m already at over 400km!! If all the stretches were like this, the track would be a walk in the park. The stats are good: three nights in the bush, two-ish swims, and a pub feed every second day (at least). The height of luxury, in my book!
For this little stretch, I shared the huts each night with a lovely group: Chris, John, Zoe, and her mum Caroline.
STOP PROMISING ME FLAT DAYS IF THEY’RE ACTUALLY STEEP!!
Collie – Yabberup, 19.6km
My morning out of Collie started wonderfully, with my Nan and aunt visiting me for breakfast, before driving me around the town so I could do last minute jobs (shopping, voting, and a trip to the camping store) before hitting the trail. I started late, around 11am, but the day passed quickly and easily. I caught up with Zoe and Caroline at a dam, where we chatted and had a lunch break, and then met Chris at the hut.
After much umming and aaahing, this was actually the first ever night on trail that I decided to set up and sleep in my tent. Here’s the thing: everybody has their one thing on trail that really bugs them. For one of my friends on trail, it’s their stinky feet. For another, it’s the monotony of theur diet (which, considering they are exclusively eating corn chips, peanut butter, and dried edamame beans, is not surprising). For me, it’s having to deal with gear that’s wet and sticky and dirty – in other words, a condensation-covered tent.
However, when it comes to sleeping arrangements I’m a total crowd follower, so when everyone else set up their tents I did the same.
You know what? I loved it! I had a tiny bit of a tanty the first morning, but quickly realised condensation is inevitable – and tbh, you just leave it out to dry at some point in the day and it’ll eventually be fine. I was really happy to have finally had the tent-on-trail experience!
Yabberup – Noggerup, 20.2km
This day was long, but filled with delights basically every 5km!!!
The first treat was a beauuutiful swim in a dam, about 2 hours out of camp. After braving the freezing water, we sat in the sun, warming up and stuffing our faces with snacks.
After a few more hours of lovely walking, we arrived at the second treat: the Mumby Pub!! This place was an oasis of cold drinks and huge burgers in the actual middle of nowhere, and with shade to sit in, country music to dance to, and a pub feed, we were all in total heaven.
The one downside to all this was the long and very steep hill we had to face coming out of the pub. It was very hot, and the stitch I got was impressively grim, but I wouldn’t have changed my decisions for a second. Mmmmmmm, beer and burger.
In the final 8kms, I had enough service to ring my parents (in London!) as well as my mate anni, which was a really lovely way to end a genuinely awesome day!
Noggerup – Grimwade, 23km
After a second night of sleeping cozily in my tent, I packed up as early as I could to try and avoid the intense heat I knew was on the way, and set off on what I was expecting to be a flat day.
I was incredibly wrong. This day was hardcore.
The first section was stunning: blackened trees covered in blazingly green regrowth, a bright moss covered forest floor, and SO MANY EMUS. Before starting the Bibb, I had never seen an emu in the wild, but at this point I’d seen quite a few (much to Zoe’s chagrin, who was yet to see one). On this day, I saw about 3, and at one point even walked parallel to a dad emu and his four babies, which was adorable!! If you’ve never seen an emu baby before, google it – they’re SO funny. I found out later that the reason for all the emus is because they eat seeds off the zamia palm, a plant native to the south west of Western Australia that is most commonly found in jarrah forest.
After the first few hours, the day began to drag. It was hot and steep and long, and despite having the company of Bill Bryson’s audiobook, A Brief History of Everything, I was really keen for this walk to be over. The final hour or two were particularly brutal, and reaching the hut – despite it being swarmed by flying termites – was a massive relief. Chris also treated us to a delicacy of his: a corn chip laden with peanut butter with a dollop of Nutella on top. We lost our minds.
That night, I slept with my tent completely open, and looked out on the stars as I fell asleep. It might sound silly to a lot of you, but for me that’s quite a brave thing to do. I felt amazing waking up the next morning with the dawn light peeking through the trees, knowing I’d ticked another thing that scares me off my list. Woohoo!
Grimwade – Balingup, 22.9km
Another town day, another struggle. As I mentioned last time, town days are kind of the worst (the hiking part of them, that is), and here’s why. Instead of having the mindset of enjoying the hike, just going from spot in the bush to spot in the bush, you suddenly have a goal. The promise of a coffee and hot meal shifts your mind around entirely, and suddenly you’re faced with a day to conquer, to crush, to smash out as quickly as you can in order to reach comfort. You totally forget that the walking is the good bit, and the day becomes a total slog. Another funny thing about town days is that because your body knows a rest is coming up, it seems to totally bail on you. It DEMANDS a bed and hot shower and relief from your pack, and won’t listen when you remind it you in fact have 23km’s to walk before any of these luxuries eventuate.
By 9:30am, I was halfway through the day, which was another scooorcher. It was too hot, overwhelmingly hot, with no shade or breeze, and was once again was NOT flat, despite me being promised an easy day!!
However, with about 4kms to go I ran into Chris testing at a little stream, and my day totally turned around. I paddled in the water for a bit, cooled off, and chatted with Chris and then Zoe and Caroline when they rocked up a while later. It was really sweet, and I finished the last kms into town boiling hot and very tired but in a much better mood.
Balingup itself is SUCH a sweet town, and is incredibly hiker-friendly. I plopped myself down in a lovely cafe, and spent hours eating and reading and drinking deliiiiicious coffee, before joining up with the others. We said our goodbyes to Chris and John, who weren’t having a rest day in Balingup but instead hiking out the next morning, and then I got picked up by the man running the bnb I stayed in.
My rest day was soooooo good – I stayed in bed half the day (writing these blogs!), and then walked around town doing odd jobs and enjoying pack-free bliss! The brekkie’s they served at the bnb were also a massive highlight – toast, poached eggs, and mushrooms for course one, and muesli and greek yoghurt with Rhubarb purée, pear purée, and poached pears. Actually heavenly.
(You can tell how food obsessed I am becoming; I can promise you, that’s going to be a running trend of my updates!!)
That concludes section three, Collie – Balingup! It’s been so nice to be with the same people for a little while, and it’s such a funny full circle moment to be with Zoe and her mum.
Bear with me, I’m about to get sincere!
I’ve been thinking a lot about what this trail means to me, and how it feels a bit like as I walk I’m moving into a new chapter of my adulthood; one in which I am learning to trust myself, be on my own, and be a whole person in and of myself instead of relying on friends, family and partners to define myself. Those connections are of course still incredibly integral to who I am, but perhaps not the most important.
Having these feelings about growing up and adulthood while walking with a person who was a real presence in my childhood feels very symbolic!
Anyway, blah blah blah.
Long story short, I’m having an amazing time. Bring on the next section!!!
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