Bibbulmun Day 25: Sunday April 29, 2018

Km 787.3 – 820.7 (33.4 km)

Rame Head – Boat Harbour Campsite

Strong gusting wind woke me through the night. Big Agnes tent was tested, it bent and swayed with the wind but stayed strong. I fretted over each strong gust that swayed the poles – will this be the one that breaks the poles? Tested by what is probably not a very string wind near the Southern Ocean and survived. I was regretting not setting the tent up under the shelter. It was a restless night. A lesson for the next few nights. I finally gave up trying to sleep at around 3.30am and got up to have coffee. It was not a relaxed start to the day.

It was a full moon shining bright overhead which made it look like daylight outside. I packed and pulled down the tent. Once the tent was packed I realised that the wind was not all that strong. So instead of disturbing the others in the shelter I played around with the limits of my point and shoot camera and the night sky. It was an incredible sky. I could see the milky way and took quite a few photos which only got a fraction of it in each frame.

The exposures lit by the moon look like daytime photos. It was a lot of fun. I decided to start hiking just before 5am and stopped quite a few times to take photos of the sky using the track marking poles for a tripod. The moon setting was glowing bright red as it dipped below the horizon. And soon the first rays of dawn light began to appear. I was in night photography heaven, if only I had a better camera. There was a bright star/planet in the southwest sky, it was the last one to be extinguished by the rising sun.

Most of the way to Peaceful Bay was over undulation vegetated dunes and walking across several beaches on the way. Looking at the ocean I was not even tempted to go in for a swim. Apart for the wild rolling surf the colour of the water was an icy cold blue.

Once I turned east and headed into the sun, following a wild and rugged coastline, I was definitely in my happy place. The sun was shining and no clouds in the sky. I could have walked forever. Before reaching Peaceful Bay I stopped for breakfast at a picnic table – in the middle of nowhere. It was a spectacular spot. I could see ahead of me the long stretch of curved coastline which I’ll be walking on at some stage later today.

Peaceful Bay sure looks like a slice of heaven. It’s really just a general store, a caravan park and 3 short street of small shacks. I got a coffee and enjoyed the peacefulness of an easy Sunday morning. I asked the lady in the store about any more recent weather forecasts. It was predicted to get to 29°C today and 27 tomorrow. No rain on the horizon. My day just got even better.

Peaceful Bay reminded me of what so many coastal communities on the eastern seaboard would have looked like in the 1950’s – small fibro fishing shacks by the sea.

I had a most perfect morning since leaving camp.

After leaving Peaceful Bay the trail heads back towards the coast through a tussocky grassed area cleared through the back dunes. It was really warming up now and to me this area looked so snakey. I was on scanning watch for any sticks that moved. The trail is littered with timber branches that look just like a snake except they don’t move. Within half an hour of leaving town, I saw two tiger snakes about a metre long, shiny black and distictive yellow belly. My heart was racing each time. I really wanted to get out of there quick.

Turning to follow Irwing Inlet the trail goes over several steep climbs and descents. My third tiger snake sighting was on one of these ascents. I was at eye level with its tail as it slithered away. This really got the adrenalin going. It was a changed hike from Peaceful Bay. I was a little bit calmed by seeing a large patch if the georgeous delicate white orchids.

To get across Irwing Inlet requires a crossing in a canoe. Thinking about having to do this added more adrenaline to the mix. The canoe crossing is over what appears to be a shallow channel. Today it was windy and the wind was picking up little whitecaps on the water.

While I’m confident in the water and in a canoe – this was an anxious crossing. Made it to the other side OK and luckily did not have to bring another canoe back over. There was one left behind on the Peaceful Bay side of the inlet.

From the Inlet the trail follows a series of wide open vegetated dunes with lots of steep climbs and descents. The sun was really out now and I was enjoying the walking. The adrenaline of the past few hours was leaving my body. There wasn’t too much vegetation surrounding the trail so I relaxed a bit. And here I came across another tiger snake sunning itself. Fortunately just like the other three it moved away from me.

After that I just couldn’t relax at all. And to add to the anxiety as the trail turned to head back towards the coast I could see a plume of smoke in the direction I was heading. A spotter plane was flying over the smoke and circled over me a few times. As I got closer to the where the smoke was coming from I could see flames. And the trail passed right through. Memories of recent accidents involving bushfire were running through my head. I wasn’t sure what to do. So I kept walking towards it thinking the trail may still skirt upwind of the fire. But it didn’t. I was almost at the beach walk section of the hike. I was brought to a stop when I saw a couple of four wheel drive cars ahead. They were Parks and Wildlife staff doing a prescribed burn. I couldn’t believe it…there were no notices about this at all. Janine, one of the Rangers generously offered to drive me back onto a four wheel drive road which detours around the burn. I was so grateful that there were professional people around the fire and that they helped me to get out of harms way.

So another beach section cancelled on my hike, both sides of Walpole were being burned. I was just happy to be away from the smoke and the flames. And the alternative route had some really impressive sand dunes that were not vegetated.

Once I rejoined the track I could see huge plumes of smoke rising from where I’d just come from. I could also see the beaches I would have walked over. Not really disappointed but rather relieved to be out of the fire zone, there were still quite a few sandy beach walks before I reached Boat Harbour camp.

I shared the Boat Harbour camp with two other hikers, Mark and Andrew whom I passed on the way to camp. They were finishing their hike here and were being picked up from the nearby Boat Harbour Rd by a friend. They only had four days and picked what they thought was the best section. I have to admit to feeling a little envious of them finishing here. It is a beautiful spot, the weather was fantastic and even the water looked a bit more inviting for a swim.