The largest wildfire of them all ravaged south of Northcliffe, burning to ash 100.000 ha of karri forest and swampland. In its fury it encroached on the town of Northcliffe to a mere 3km, at which point the townspeople were evacuated and firefighters flown in from the eastern states to aid their tired colleagues in a 24hr mission to safeguard the town. Not knowing what they were returning to the residents were allowed back after 8 days of waiting, hugely relieved to find their town still standing. This is the story the man at the post shop told us on the way out.
After a good 45 minutes we reached the fire line and it was very obvious how close a call it had been. For most of the day and the next we walked through burned land. The fire seems so random at times. One tree in the middle of a black land can stand living. Gardner shelter was gone, but the wooden fence around it only slightly charcoaled. At other destroyed shelters picnic tables were found unharmed, or even toilet paper.
Though again green was sprouting up again in the forest. The karri shredded off their burned bark and almost looked as if nothing happened. We are still amazed by how well life here has adapted to fire.
In the middle of the burned land the area around Lake Maringup remained largely unaffected. It was immensely beautiful there, with a lush green forest of tall trees surrounding the shelter and the lake. Probably most of the burned areas we passed through those days were lush and beautiful, so it was somehow sad, but at least we got that glimpse.
By that beautiful campsite we cheered to exactly one month on the Bibbulmun track, and passing the 4000km mark since we left Europe. I’m sure only a handful of people believed we would ever pull the first 1000 off, and we ourselves were amongst the doubters. We set out to walk 3000km and there we were, at 4000. It’s crazy looking back at the journey we have done and its unexpected outcome.
Slowly we approached the coast, and the landscape opened. Swamplands made for a few days of wet boots, but a change of scenery was welcome again. Gradually the soil turned sandy and we entered the dunes, until after 35 days of forest we came to the sea, the roaring as always Southern Ocean. From here on, the track was much more enjoyable. It was an actual small, cute, winding track now, unlike earlier where at times you could drive a bus on it. We scrambled up and down the dunes, with regular views down the coast. It was nice out there.
But after this first coastal glimpse it was back into the forest, down to tingle country this time. Tingles are giant Eucalyptus trees, growing in an area of only 6000 ha around Walpole. A few highlights are in this small area, such as the Tree top walk over the trees. So far we had lucked out with the weather, but our luck ended just there. As we passed by the tallest and most majestic of them, rain poured down all day. We went ahead and on to the tree-top walk anyway. We were lucky to be able to dry ourselves off a bit in the gift shop, and I purchased yet another woolly item to add to the conservation of body heat.
The storm persisted over night. Rain and hail fell with an overwhelming force, the wind increased, thunder and lightning passed. Shelter or not, at a certain intensity of storming weather unpleasant thoughts will pass through the mind and so we lay pondering hail smashing through the roof, braking branches and unstable trees with shallow roots. And though we had a shelter every night carrying the tent has been more than worth every gram of it to keep the cold and moist out.