Gill Goes... Trekking The Bibbulmun Track End to End... Swamp Oak Shelter

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May 18th 2016
Published: May 3rd 2017
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Day 14

Dwellingup to Swamp Oak Shelter 13.3km

A conflicted morning.

Visited both the DPAW Office AND the Visitors Centre AND then contacted the BTF about how best to go about the impending track closure between Yarragil Form and Driver Road (taking out Murray Shelter from the track). I had contingency plans to cover it still being closed but was really hopeful that it would be open by now (I actually had about 3 variations of said contingency plans). After hours and hours and hours of talking to various knowledgeable people and walkers that had recent experience of the area, I plotted out a course that would take me on a good approximation of the track- it really was troubling me that I wouldn't be "doing a proper E2E" if I got a lift around the closure.

***That's not to say that I am denigrating anyone else's walk who did get a lift around, this was purely my own self imposed rules aka "walking my own walk".***

Anyways... In between these ruminations I managed to visit the Millhouse Cafe for brunch- a big fat breakfast and coffee for $13. Highly recommended! The lady (in curlers) working there was very nice. I met AJ (another cafe worker)- also very nice, then I met the nice people at the pub (leaving a message for a fellow walker), then I met the guy in the supermarket (topping up supplies) who sent me off with a couple of free bread rolls- very nice these Dwellingup people!

So, finally at 3pm after 1 last phone call the plan was settled- a late afternoon/evening hike to Swamp Oak (SO), sleep over, then given that the word was very strong that the section would be open any day now... (I was hoping for any hour now...), I would walk to Yarragil Form. If it was still closed I could go to the fireline road and walk that and somewhere to sleep would present itself. Loaded with 2 days of water I set off. Confident that I would get into SO just after dark I did a super fast pack up back at the house and took off.

Walking down the street to the start of the track a ute comes to a screeching halt and a young guy is bundled out, followed by his backpack and his day pack. Ute screeches off.

Obstacle 1

The Accidental (French) Tourist (AFT)

AKA the woefully unprepared French tourist - very long story but for starters- not enough water. So ... we head back to the supermarket and he buys some litre water bottles. He assures me he has enough food for this section, he assures me he knows that we will be walking for a week to get to Collie. Oui- plenty of food. He assures me he's completely prepared. Oui- all good Gill, no worries.

Obstacle 2

Actually the second obstacle is still the AFT. It's now nearly 4pm, it's getting cold and a bit dark. Off we go into the night... Luckily for the AFT 3 kangaroos present themselves- he manages to take a couple of pics and a video on his phone (can you guess how much battery life he has left?). Onwards we go and it becomes more evident that we have a language gap. I speak NO french, his English is fairly limited. I do ascertain that he is a farmer in France, his Dad sells pool tables and his Mum looks after his younger siblings. He is hoping to get a job in
Collie because the guy from the ute told him there was work there and that he could walk there on a really good track! Meanwhile, I am making good pace and really enjoy navigating at night with my head torch and the luminous Waugals, BUT, we have to make a lot of stops. The AFT has a heavy pack (everything he owns for 12 months in Australia plus a laptop) and a day pack which isn't well balanced. Then it starts to get damp and slippery. After the AFT takes his third tumble I surrender one of my poles. Despite the slower progress and rising levels of consternation I do enjoy the dark, spooky pine forest. It smells superb and is very atmospheric.

Finally slip and slide (still him, not me) into Swamp Oak at 8:30!!!


We scout around for a bit of wood and light a dismal little fire in the light rain. At this point it appears that the AFT seems only to have tins of food and a packet of rice. For me it's leftovers- 2 bits of garlic bread and half a steak, and it never tasted so good! ATF chows down a tin of something and has some of my coffee/powdered milk and a muslei bar and hits the sleeping platform, snoring within about 10 minutes. I lay awake for some time wondering about how things are going to pan out for him with not enough food, cans of food, no cooking system, no maps, no idea of the route, summer weight sleeping bag, no wet weather gear, etc, etc. I feel a sense of obligation but I can't support 2 people and I can't seem to get through to him that there aren't any significant roads, cars or shops until Collie. It takes a while to fall asleep.

I end the day how I started- conflicted.

Impressions of Swamp Oak -

Not enough time to really get a feel for it in the pitch black beyond the fact that the wood supply around the hut is exhausted. Good toilet.

Body assessment- still good.

Total people seen for the day - apart from the local town population this morning, 1 older lady doing sun salutations (at dusk) at the start of the track, and one very thin English guy called Hugo who will have walked 52kms today by the time he gets to Dwellingup (he's aiming for 20 days E2E)!!!

*** Special mention- Thanks Stuart Parks- you were invaluable!

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