Leaving New Zealand was something we had both been dreading for a while. Even as the weather was getting colder, wetter and increasingly miserable, it had grown on us as a home far away from home. A million things I still want to do in the country are on a list that kept growing until the day we left the country. And in many ways, because there always was so much time, it felt very strange that time was up. Suddenly we were at the airport, not ready to leave. As we flew over the Cook Strait and the northern south island I tried to get all the glimpses I could before New Zealand went out of sight. Only until we get back, though.
We got a first impression of the vastness of Australia as our flight from Sydney to Perth took two hours longer than our flight from Wellington to Sydney. For almost all of the time it was utterly black and empty below us, until finally the red gloom of Perth started lighting up the horizon. And so we came to one of the most isolated cities in the world, the starting point of our next adventure.
In many ways New Zealand and Australia are very similar, and in many ways they are absolutely not. After having spent nine months in cute little New Zealand, everything in Australia seems very big and flash. Perth is a wealthy city, thriving on the mining boom that set in a few years ago, and this is noticeable in everything from fancy shopping malls, exquisite restaurants and generally high prices. And of course again, the vastness. Any other major city is literally thousands of kilometers away, the sightseeing attractions ‘around Perth’ are a good half a day of driving.
In spite of the flash and the big, Perth is a nice city with a relaxed feel. King’s Park is amazing, with a tree-top boardwalk, a glass bridge and a fantastic view over the city. While in there we came across a few cockatoo and wonderfully colourful parrots. We could look out over Perth hills and Kalamunda, where the Bibbulmun’s northern terminus lies.
This trail won’t be anything like the last one, and we try to approach it with a fresh and open mind. It was somewhat of an impulsive plan, in part because large parts of the route were destroyed by bushfires this summer. An end to end only became possible again a good week ago. It is however a plan sounding better and better as we learn more about it. Passing by some of the most sweepingly beautiful places of southwestern Australia, I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises for us to enjoy along the way.
Completing the Bibbulmun trail does not feel remotely as challenging as Te Araroa did, which I would attribute to the following reasons. The first one is that we are still in trail mode, we still know the drill and how to tackle the kilometers lying ahead of us. The second reason would be the level: neither the terrain nor the weather nor the state of the actual trail are as hard and unpredictable as what we dealt with before. The third reason is that our preparations are much more focused: we know what we need to know in advance and what we’ll figure out on the way. And the last one would again come down to the size of Australia. Because if you look at it on a map, walking these 1000 kilometers really just brings us nowhere.
The only things that do worry us are animals and water. We are still in the country where everything wants to kill you, from poisonous snakes, spiders, jellyfish, octopus to sharks and crocodiles and even the kangaroos when they are having a moody day. There is no reliable water sources, and if there is water in a creek, most of it has giardhia in it so needs to be treated. However, the Bibbulmun Track Foundation provides water at the campgrounds, we’ll just have to remember carrying it from campsite to campsite. Luckily, we have the season on our side: temperatures will be lower and all the scary animals are going through their winter drowzyness so they won’t be around. At least, that’s what the locals have been telling us.
We are waiting for a few new gear items to come in and off we go, hopefully we’ll be on the trail by Thursday. Can’t wait to be surrounded by the silence of nothingness again.