When my work friend Craig said he had been walking the Bibbulmun track, I got excited. I had heard a lot about the track, my Mum had even walked some of it, but I hadn’t been able to drag Tyrhone along to explore it.
The Bibbulmun meanders from Kalamunda, an outer suburb of Perth, all the way to Albany in the south-west of Western Australia, almost 1000km in length.
Whilst I wasn’t planning on seeing it all, I did want to check it out, and since I had cancelled my gym membership to save money for our ‘Indefinite Travel Adventure’, I needed the exercise.
So I invited myself along.
Craig seemed happy to have someone interested; he couldn’t get his partner motivated either.
We started with a gentle day walk. Craig’s partner Phil had agreed to come along, and Craig thought a nice gentle walk would be good to start us off. We took two cars, dropping the boy’s car off at the finishing point, and mine at the starting point. Craig came in my car to direct me.
As it was my first time on the track, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was quite surprised how far out of town we had driven to start the walk. Obviously Phil thought the same thing.
“There aren’t any walks, half an hour from Perth Craig?! We had to drive an hour and a bloody half to get here!”
You see, Craig had already completed part of the track near Perth, and was marking off his completed trails on his map. He didn’t want to re-do walks he had already done. I got that, and was happy to be out in the bush, doing something different.
I don’t think poor Phil knew what he was in for, and in fairness, Craig had probably kept him in the dark so as not to scare him off.
Snake Sighting On The Track
So for all of you that have heard of the scary Aussie bush, and all of the terrible things that can kill you, well, it’s all true.
Within minutes of beginning our walk, I heard a rustle in some low-lying scrub, and doubled back to check it out. Even for me, having been born and bred in Australia, wild animals are still a novelty (the kangaroos that deliver the post are just so urbanised these days).
I froze and whispered to the boys, “I think I saw a snake!”
Craig bounced over, inspecting the bush.
“Yep, it’s a snake alright.” (I have just become aware of the innuendo here, and because I know Craig would love it, I’m leaving it in)
The tail was too long and skinny to be a goanna or a lizard, which was about all we could make out. Maybe because I didn’t see the head or its venomous fangs, I didn’t freak out.
I was quite surprised really.
I’m afraid of quite a few things, heights (a flight attendant, I know, I know), roller coasters, well amusement parks in general, crickets (well they jump!) and people who are always happy (they smile, like, all the time and that makes me uncomfortable, especially when I have to talk to them or look them in the eye, and then I have to look away), but for some reason the snake didn’t scare me at all.
I mean, I wasn’t running up to it and poking it with a stick; I kept a sensible distance with a clear escape route out of there (and a plan to throw Craig in front of it should the need arise).
I was quite happy with a snake sighting under my belt.
“That’s going straight to the blog!” I thought to myself, channeling Darryl Kerrigan of The Castle*.
“The Americans will love it!” I mused, before realizing that perhaps they also have snakes in America. Oh well, I would just have to come up with something more impressive…
So we had a walk; two gays and a gal in the Aussie bush, taking photos of wild flowers with our iphones… Aah, the serenity… (Come on, The Castle is a great movie, and if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour)
Craig was leading our small pack (what do you call a trio of flight attendants, a gaggle?) very excited to be imparting his knowledge of the track; the different flora and fauna, the interesting characters he had met along the way…
We stopped briefly at a clearing. Craig had been banging on about a big rock he had seen on another walk (a better walk, not this measly beginner one), and had spotted a small replica (not as good). He wanted to show us the unique plants growing from it. Phil and I tried to be interested, but really we were happy to stop walking for a while.
“Oh yes, I see, aha…aha…cool…really? Wow!”
“Oh and they say,” instructed Craig (they referring to the ‘Bib’ regulars), “that if you stop for a break, always stop on a rock, and if you’re going to sit down, never sit on a log.”
“Why?” Phil asked, doing a great job at pretending to be interested.
“Ticks,” Craig replied, “they come out of the plants, or from the kangaroos.”
“Ticks?!” I recoiled. Now, those babies freaked me right the F out. Bugs that bury their heads under your skin feasting on your blood?
“EAAAUUUGH.” I let out an audible shudder, as shivers ran down my body. I imagined those little parasites digging into my skin.
“Yes apparently this particular area is the worst for them,” Craig said matter-of-factly.
“Oh look, you’ve got one on your pants!” Craig said to me, pointing.
I looked down and saw the tiny little bugger, crawling over my trousers, looking for flesh. Needless to say, I screamed.
“Get off! Get off you little shit!” I ordered it, not sure whether to hit it or squeeze it. I had heard that ticks were impossible to kill. Then I saw another one, and another one, all crawling over my trousers. Thank God I hadn’t worn shorts.
“Take that!” (squeeze)
“And THAT!” (flick)
I turned around on myself like a dog chasing its tail, searching for more. The boys were laughing, untill they discovered they had some blood sucking parasites of their own to contend with. We gave each other a thorough going over (another one for you, Craig), before dousing ourselves in insect repellent.
It was bizarre that at the exact moment Craig brought up the ticks, we were covered in them! It was so weird, but we were all glad that we got them before they burrowed into our skin.
Bibbulmun track tip number one: If you get a tick, cover it in vaseline (petroleum jelly) because ticks breathe through their bums, and the vaseline suffocates them.
I felt safe in the knowledge that someone like Craig would always carry a supply of Vaseline (I’m sorry, I’ve started and I can’t stop now!)…
Another reason Craig chose that particular walk, was that there was a little tavern at the end, and he knew he could lure Phil on a bush-walk by the prospect of cold beer at the other end. Also, there was a little campsite towards the end of the walk, that we could stop for a snack.
I had brought muesli bars, nuts and licorice, thinking I’d get something more substantial to eat at the tavern. I didn’t realize that Phil was carrying a gourmet hamper in that little backpack of his!
Bibbulmun track tip number two: Always go walking with a gay man, especially one that can cook.
We arrived at the small campsite, where hikers sleep during multi-day walks. It was a three-sided cabin, with bunks for sleeping and a table in the middle.
Phil brought out his spread. Tuna pasta salad, Emmental cheese, kalamata olives, boiled eggs and bread, presented on stylish square white plastic plates with silver plastic cutlery. He had kept it in a cool bag, with an ice pack, so it was still lovely and fresh, despite having journeyed in a hot backpack for three hours.
It was delicious!
We perused the visitors books, making fun of all the entries, as you do. There was one guy (Vincent from France, if my memory serves me correctly) that did a two-week walk, eating nothing but raw food. He germinated sprouts in his back pack while he walked, ready for eating in the evening. Phil laughed, but I think he was secretly jealous of Vincent’s ingenuity…
Craig told us about a guy he met on the track, who just walks up and down, constantly. That’s all he does. Phil and I tried to understand. Perhaps he was a bit loopy? Mentally ill? Was dealing with a traumatic past?
“Nah, he just likes it,” Craig replied, seeming to understand this man’s motives more than he should. I imagined Craig doing the same thing, walking up and down the track constantly, imparting his tick wisdom. His map in tatters from constant use, and Phil dropping off bundles of gourmet catering along the way from the comfort of his air-conditioned four-wheeled drive…
My daydream was interrupted by the first signs of excitement from Phil.
“The Tavern! we made it!” cried Phil, happy to recognize some semblance of civilization. His excitement didn’t last long though. As we drew closer, Phil’s eyes grew suspicious.
“Is this it?” he asked Craig, obviously expecting a historic country pub rather than the depressing looking roadhouse/service station we were walking towards.
“Yep, this is it!” Craig replied, oblivious to Phil’s disappointment, or maybe ignoring it.
Once inside, though, we were greeted with good country hospitality, and cold drinks.
They even had lemon for Phil’s corona, which I think softened the blow that we were still an hour and a half’s drive away from the comforts of Perth…
Note: Phil didn’t join us for our walk the following week, instead he sent along his new 4G phone with which to take photos…
Extra note: I missed his catering…
LINKS AND TID-BITS
Find out more about the Bibbulmun track, named after a group of Western Australia’s indigenous people:
* The film, The Castle should be used as a reliable reference point when researching modern Australian culture, or lack thereof.