Bibbulmun Day 28: Wednesday May 2, 2018

Km 905.4 – 943.1 (37.7 km)

West Cape Howe – Sandpatch Campsite

Winter arrived announced late afternoon yesterday. Temperature dropped to single digits and all through the night heavy rain fell with occassional thunder and lightening. Warm and dry in my sleeping bag, in my tent under the roof of the shelter I have never felt so grateful for these shelters as I was feeling last night. West Camp Howe camp really provided shelter from the storm.

Now just have to wait for the worst of it to pass before heading back out there. It was a cold, wild and wet night, will todays hike have more of the same?

I had such a great day yesterday hiking with Jessica and Nadia, I was a bit sad to be leaving them behind. Maybe feeling a little bit protective but I knew they would be fine. Their parents must be so proud to have raised such strong and independent young women.

I waited till it was almost light before leaving camp. The rain had stopped but there was a strong onshore wind. I wore my wet weather gear, beanie and gloves. For the first hour I dreaded the worst but it turned out to be not so bad. I was protected from much of the wind by high growing heath vegetation. And as it got light the clouds seem to part a little giving glimpses of blue sky.

I soon lost the protection of the vegetation and was exposed to wind coming straight off the ocean, and it felt like it was coming directly from Antarctica. When the trail headed towards the ocean, the wind was so strong it felt like it was peeling layers of skin off my face. The exfoliation part of a facial without any pampering to follow.

Its hard to describe how quickly the sky changed from blue patches of sky to dark clouds swirling all around and rain. I also realise that the photos cannot capture the ferocity and strength of the wind.

I reached Torbay camp and did not stop for long as I was keen to get the last of the long beach walk sections done. The beach section started about 2km from camp. The start of the beach hike was protected by the curve of the headland. I had images of the beautiful walk along Parrys Beach a few days ago. But that image was soon shattered as I lost the protection from the wind. It was a long and lonely 6km, exposed to scouring wind that picked up sand drifts and blasted the back of my legs. And when a rain squal hit it was like being pelted by little rocks from behind.

The wind was so strong it was knocking me around. The one blessing was that the wind was behind me. It would be brutal to be walking in the other direction.

The beach is broken up by a rocky headland which was a bit of a rock scramble to get around. My shoes had filled up with sand and my feet felt like they were dragging little anchors around. I couldn’t wait to get off the beach and out of the wind. Nearly two hours later and it was over. I took shelter behind a toilet block near a lookout at the top of the beach. Unbelievably relieved to get that done. I emptied kilos of sand from my shoes and had some lunch. Feeling recharged I was ready to head back out into the wind. I had a quick stop at the lookout before leaving to look back over the beach. I tried to take a photo but the wind was so strong it knocked me backwards.

It was about an hour from the lookout to the Mutton Bird camp. The low growing heath offered little protection from the wind. The rain, which came in strong gusts, was again broken up by patches of blue sky. So when I look at the photos these brief breaks in the cloud make it look like a fine suny day.

I reached Mutton Bird camp just after 1pm. It was very tempting to stay knowing I would have 23 km to Albany the next day. But it was still so early, I was already uncomfortable so a little bit more discomfort would get me that much closer to the end.

So I left Mutton Bird camp just as Michael whom I hutted with last night arrived. Sandpatch Camp was only 11km away, leaving me only 12km to walk tomorrow.

What a brutal 11km stretch this turned out to be today. As it passes the wind farm I had expected that it would be windy but today the wind was insane. Almost the whole 11km was exposed to the strong wind and as I got closer to and then hiking along the wind farm the strength of the wind intensified. When the rain squalls hit it was like being hit by razor blades across my face.

Passing by a whale watching lookout almost near the end of the wind farm, gusts of wind became so strong I was being blown off my feet. It was a little bit unerving but at least I was being pushed back onto land rather then towards the coast. Another blast of rain came and this time I was sure it was ice slicing across my face. The campsite could not come quick enough. Finally I walked past the last of the turbines and knew that it was only another 3km to camp.

I couldn’t workout how a campsite could be located on such an exposed headland. What a huge relief it was to get to Sandpatch camp just a bit after 4pm. Michael came in just behind me and within 15 minutes a huge hailstorm hit. I couldn’t believe my luck. As wild as todays weather had been, the weather gods or trail gods or just fluke of luck spared me the worst of todays conditions. The thundering of the hail was amplified by the tin roof of the shelter. Another day of deep gratitude for the trail custodians, donors and volunteers for providing everything along this trail but particularly the shelters.

Another hiker Mick, was already in camp. He was finishing a 57-day e2e hike. He retired to his tent soon after we arrived so I didn’t get to talk to him much. He was keen to get to town tomorrow as his wife will be there to meet him.

The wild Southern Ocean showed a little of its fury today and there is something special about being present to that. While a lot of today was head down, bum up hiking because of the conditions there were moments of exquisite beauty. Finding little carnivorous plants in a small patch alongside the trail. To see a soft leaved plant in such a harsh environment was a surprise. Especially to see that it was in bloom with the flower hidden in its soft foliage. And there was so much more.