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Published: October 27th 2016
Starting with the easy stuff
It is the night before (it actually isn't but I am now writing this all in retrospect) and I am so very excited.
After some months now of planning and preparing the walk is almost upon me. I have done many day walks, 2 overnight walks and one 4 day/3 night walk on the Bibb. I have had a vague idea of "end to ending" for a couple of years but hadn't really seriously contemplated it until late 2015 when two friends told me that they were planning to do it and asked if I was interested. After a lengthy deliberation- maybe 10 seconds, I said "yep- I'm in". We looked at dates in 2016 and came up with April-May'ish, I duly told everyone I knew and a lot of random strangers, very confidently, that I was going to be walking the iconic 1004km Bibbulmun Track (this is a tool I use on myself to push myself out of my comfort zone- if I tell people (the more the better) then I have to do it, even if I feel doubtful about it- I am a classic 'fear of failure' person so it would have to take a major catastrophe
for me to pull out). Many responded with, "never heard of it" or "why?????". After a quick summary about the "wheres" and and "why nots"? they'd either get enthusiastic for me or just shake their heads. As it transpired my two friends were unable to commit to the whole track in the end for various reasons but having made the commitment to myself I progressed the planning. Solo trek- no problem. At this point I got maniacally enthusiastic and did lots of reading (the Bibb Track website was invaluable https://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/
), went to a planning workshop, talked to track veterans and bought a dehydrator...
My main areas of preparation were; coming up with an itinerary (gotta love the spreadsheet), working out and producing food for 57 days (the spreadsheet got bigger), deciding what to pack (yes, I added another page into the spreadsheet for that too), and training. Itinerary
I had decided that 8 weeks would be my preferred option for the walk in order to really appreciate it and that I would like to have another week off work after it to allow for any issues that might arise i.e. illness, accident, inclement weather, general mayhem, etc
and also to be able to reintegrate back to my "usual life" after 8 weeks of wonderfully simplistic trek routine and significant amounts of solitude. I also decided that a north to south journey would work for me- the beach walking, that is characteristic of the southern section, would be best left to the end was I was invincibly super fit. My start date was ultimately dictated by my manager at work- I had to be back for the school holidays and yes, she'd give me the entire 9 weeks off using a novel arrangement of annual leave, purchased leave, accrued days off, half pay, etc. So, Thursday May 5 would become the earliest start date.
I then looked at the distances between huts and decided where to 'single hut' and where I could 'double hut', and where to take a couple of days off and put those things into the trusty spreadsheet. Another thing that was instrumental in choosing my start date was that there was a group hike scheduled around that weekend and I was desperate to avoid large numbers of people, particularly at the outset (the BTF website has a 'notice of intent' for groups). I
then met with a track veteran, "Wrong Way Jim" (eeeeekkk) at the Bibbulmun Track Foundation (BTF) to hone it further. It was a useful meeting in that he gave some good key advice on certain sections and we spoke at length about the inlet crossings to be factored in. There were also the added complications of a section of the track being closed (but strong rumours that it might be open by the time I reached that spot) and other sections with diversions in place. I went home with some good input and lots more things to factor into my spreadsheet (and slightly rising levels of panic).
After some tweaking, the table to the left is what I ended up with- this one assumed no closures and didn't detail any of the diversions. I also had a table that assumed the closure at Murray Hut which I would start with and hopefully ditch as miraculously the trail to Murray Hut would open up exactly in time just for me. Ultimately I switched this one up too but you have to keep reading- oh, yes you do!, to see what happened and how it changed.
a couple of social media platforms, namely Facebook and Instagram. One of note was the Bibbulmun Track (public group) https://www.facebook.com/groups/110523759908/
. It was great to "meet" some fellow hikers, particularly a few that were leaving around the time that I was. As it turned out they were all ahead of me and were great sources of info and encouragement. Big, big HI to Jodie, Sue-Ellen, Liz and Didier!! The BTF website became a daily visit to gauge updates, I also got very phone and email familiar with some of the staff there (they probably were sick to death of me by the time I left, but thank you Gwen!!), the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) staff also became my new best friends and were quite happy to field phone calls. I also utilised the DPAW website (https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/parks/alerts-and-updates/bibbulmun-track
) for information about prescribed burning schedules and installed their app on my phone. Not nearly content enough with this degree of electronic info I also got active with a couple of other Facebook sites; Australia and NZ Long Distance Hikes (closed group) https://www.facebook.com/groups/686416941461928/
and Perth Hiking Gear Talk (closed group) https://www.facebook.com/groups/287872881418425/
which were beneficial. Food Prep and Resupply Boxes
the commercially dehydrated and prepared meals in a foil bag I knew that I wasn't going to go down that path. Being local to WA and having time on my hands I was in the fortunate position to be able to prepare all of my meals ahead of time. I worked out how many breakfasts (48), lunches (45), dinners (45), snacks (about 135) and drinks (tea, coffee, milo, powdered milk in grams) that I would need and created yet another spreadsheet (this time with colour coding!). I also factored in arriving and departing the track towns where I would buy some meals/snacks and not eat my own supplies. Dehydrated spag bol versus steak and salad in a track town- a no brainer!
Being the proud owner of a brand new dehydrator I once again hit the internet for resources (actually I researched buying the dehydrator on the internet too). I ended up buying a Sunbeam Food Lab DT6000 https://www.sunbeam.com.au/Food-Lab-Electronic-Dehydrator-1.aspx
from Harvey Norman. The decision was largely due to the great price (Myer had a super special of $140 and they price matched). I used the Backpacking Chef http://www.backpackingchef.com/
site extensively as well as a few others- Doomsday Preppers actually
have some decent info!! Really! Backpacking Chef was really clear with lots of pictures and hints on packaging, storage, etc. Some sites were pretty technical and looked at kilojoule, protein, carb amounts required but I didn't go down that path- I went on the cross your fingers and hope it works out path. Breakfasts
were my easiest. I love oats. I made up lots of little zip lock bags of oats and added milk powder and dried things to them. I ended up with a few varieties:
banana, dates, cinnamon, nutmeg
blueberry, seeds, cinnamon
cranberry, nuts, cinnamon
I also had Sultana Bran, a superfood cereal and granola all mixed with powdered milk. Lunches
included cup of soups, tuna in foil packets, homemade dehydrated hummus, crackers (ryvita, vitawheats, rice crackers and rosemary cheese flavoured crackers), wraps and those cheese triangles in foil. Dinners
were a rotation of:
Thai green chicken curry
For the beef dishes I made a large pot of spag bol sauce and a large pot of beef mince chilli and dehydrated them then measured them
into plastic ziplock bags. With the chicken I cooked a quantity of chicken mince. I separately dehydrated an assortment of veges- onions, capsicum, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, peas, corn, tomatoes, pumpkin and parsnip. I then added assorted veges and flavour sachets to the chicken mince to give them their individual tastes/textures. For the carb component of the dinners I cooked and dehydrated various types of rice and pastas and added them to the bags. It seems counterintuitive to precook the rice, etc but it actually made sense in that that it greatly reduced cooking times at the campsites- the plan was that I'd just add boiling water to them and let them rehydrate rather than having to actually cook anything. Snacks
were plentiful- I counted on 3/day and amassed a variety of biscuits, fruit cake, trail mixes (made about 5 individual varieties), mini chocolate bars (fun size snickers, mars, etc). Storage
- I stored all of the meat dishes in the freezer bringing them out a couple of days before packing the food into my resupply boxes. The dry goods I stored in a cupboard- keeping it all together gave me a good sense of what I had. I removed
all of the cardboard or superfluous packaging to reduce weight. Packing resupply boxes
- Using the coloured spreadsheets I divided the meals and snacks into daily bundles and vacuum sealed them (tip from Backpacking Chef). It really reduced the volume for packing them into, firstly, my resupply boxes and then into my food bag for each section. Into my resupply boxes I then added things like new gas canisters, the section map/guidebook, tissues, hand sanitiser, paperback books, mosquito coils, my daily contact lenses, Paracetemol, etc. It was a giant production line when it came to creating the boxes and was pretty time consuming but it meant that I was very, very organised! Two weekends before the start of my End to End I took a road trip south and delivered each of the resupply boxes to the visitor's centres in each track town. The boxes were clearly labelled with my name, contact number, husband's contact number and expected collection date. This is such an advantage of living close to the track and having some spare time. Lots of people also mail out their boxes to hostels, post offices and visitors centres (good option because they are open 7 days a
Sorry about photo quality- note there is overlap of items on the next photo
My aim was to have my pack absolutely
under 20kg and preferably well under the 15kg mark for the shorter sections. I weighed in at around 17.5kg including water and 6 days supply of food as I set of for my first section (Kalamunda to Sullivan Rock where I would receive my first resupply box brought in mid morning by #1 son). See the photos of my packing list with the weights of everything (at the end of the trip blog I'll comment on the workability of the gear list and what I would do differently next time). I spent a long time putting the list together and thought I had gotten close to what would work and what I would need. I had most of the stuff but purchased a few new things for the trek. The back pack was a pretty new acquisition and I tested it out on some hikes fully loaded first. My previous pack was a Berghaus 50L which I liked but didn't think would be big enough. The Osprey was great from the get go- really comfortable, definitely big enough. I packed and repacked it about 4 times subtly altering
the packing technique ultimately going back to the first version. I loved this pack.
My aim was to be very fit and train with a full pack. All best laid plans... and all that. I never really did get around to hard core training. I generally walk about 8km 4-5 mornings a week but on the flat. Swapped out 2 flat walks for 2 mornings a week on the Kokoda steps at Kings Park- did about 30 mins of going up and down the steps before walking on to Zamia Cafe for coffee! I also bush walked with a day pack fairly regularly and tried to not to think about how I would actually go with a full pack over many days.
I guess at this point I should mention that for a few years now I have had ongoing issues with piriformis syndrome and sciatic irritation, so I thought a preventative visit to the physio would be a good plan. When it flares I do various stretches, get some TENS and dry needling, etc. I had a combo of these treatments leading up to the walk... and tried to not to think about how
My Food Stash
The hallway cupboard became mine, all mine!
I would actually go with a full pack over many days.
I also went to see my GP to get a new prescription of anti inflammatories for general osteoarthritis type aches and stiffness (at the time of starting the walk I was taking Celebrex 100mg daily), it really sucks this aging business, better than the alternative though... To reinforce my general feeling of decrepitude I thought a visit to the podiatrist might be smart too (aarrrgggghh- I have bunions and my 2nd toe gets sore from the "clawing" grip that often occurs with bunions). This was a very smart move. Instead of selling me orthotics the podiatrist fashioned some felt supports that she stuck on my boots inner soles- miracle hack!! The second toe issue disappeared. As in completely. From a foot perspective I could think about how I would actually go with a full pack over many days.
Having conjured up an image of a broken down middle aged lady who prefers to cross her fingers and hope for the best I did feel ready.
Really, I did.
I was excited (and trying not to think about how I would actually go with a full
Bags and bags of stuff
pack over many days).
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