The Bibbulmun Track is an achieveable goal for most people wanting to embark on a through-hiking adventure. If you are looking for a more back-country version of the Camino, without losing too much comfort, this is the perfect track for you. If you are out to roam across wild lands, there are probably better alternatives out there. Here are some pieces of advice we thought might be useful to others who are aiming to complete this trail. It is a fairly self-explanatory undertaking, as there are regular towns, good maps, and a well-benched track. Also check out gear tips and gear reviews (still in progress, but really, we’re working on it) if you’re keen on cutting weight out of your pack!
When to Go and What to Expect
Every season on the Bibbulmun comes with its pros and cons, and it’s up to you where you want to compromise. We hiked it in winter, which ment cold nights, cold days, and if you’re unlucky lots of rain. We were saved from the wet, but did get the cold, and this caught us by surprise. Be prepared for sub-zero temperatures and frosty mornings that will make you hide in your sleeping bag a bit longer. On the bright side, winter is a great season to make long distance days and a great time to be in the bush if you are not a fan of Australia’s poisonous animals or bugs. There are very few mosquitos and flies around, the snakes are too busy keeping themselves warm and too drowsy to be a bother, and there are fewer spiders too. Plus there are whales along the south coast!
Spring is another great time as the wildflowers burst into bloom and Western Australia turns into a carpet of colours. It will be a lot warmer during the days already, though the nights remain cold. And, unfortunately together with the flowers the bugs come out too, together with the snakes. If you are walking this period, you’d definitely want a pair of gaiters to protect your lower legs.
In my opinion, summer is way too warm, especially the northern section. Temperatures can reach 50°C during the summer, and there is a considerable danger for wildfires. The southern section is cooler and has more swimming holes to cool down in. You’d have to carry plenty of water to stay hydrated. I don’t know a lot about autumn, though I suppose it is somewhat like spring without the wildflowers.
Expect a wide track, and with wide I mean a bus can drive on it at times wide. It is generally well-marked but for the odd corner. The track becomes narrower once you reach the southern coast, where it is more of a spur through the dunes. There is virtually no water available along the route: most creeks only flow briefly after rainfall, and many rivers are salty whether because of deforestation or because of tidal reach. ALWAYS take enough water with you between each shelter.
Shelters are comfortable distances apart and more than one shelter a day can be tackled if you have good fitness. They are all well maintained and very comfortable stopovers. If you walk in winter it is good to take a tent with you: we put up our tent under the shelter almost every night, just for that extra bit of insulation. And from what we’ve read they’re good against the mosquitos in other seasons, too. There are no major river crossings and wet boots wouldn’t be a problem, save for a few days in the flatlands after Northcliffe.
The Bibbulmun Track Foundation has lots of information on the track, both on their website and in the guidebooks you can buy. The guidebooks are not necessary to walk the track, though useful if you would like a description of exactly where you will be walking and some background information. You could consider them very extensive trail notes. For people living in Perth or who are in the are at a convenient time, they hold end-to-end workshops as well, where previous end-to-enders share their experiences and best pieces of advice. It’s very useful to read through the end-to-enders gallery on the foundation website: there are many testimonies, food tips and gear tips from many hikers listed together there.
The new maps should combine both maps and trail notes, though we have not seen them yet, it sounds like a great feature.
Because the track is so wide, well-benched and well-marked, navigation is very straight-forward. You will not be needing compass skills to get from one end to the other. We simply used the maps. Beware that the maps increasingly become incorrect as you progress southwards, especially the height graphs and distance tables, and there might be a few unpleasant surprises in your day planning.
The only confusing moments are a few turnoffs, especially when you are walking on a road it can be easy to miss the sign redirecting you to the bush again. Though, as with any track, if you haven’t seen a waugal in a while, the best thing is to look for a bit and if there are none in sight to go back and see if you missed a turn.
Many people use food parcels and send them ahead to the town. If I would have friends around the area who I could have visited to drop my boxes off, I probably would have done the same, just to lighten the food load and make walking more comfortable. Though it is not necessary. We have not sent out any food parcels, and the cost of sending them would probably rule out any savings you make on buying food in larger supermarkets. On average, we carried about a week’s worth of food, which is a very reasonable load.
If you are not a very picky person, and in the end you’re just hungry so you’ll eat about anything at the end of the day, even the smallest towns provide enough to get around for a few days. The smallest resupply points are probably Donnelly River Village and Northcliffe, which can still make do. We used the same food system we did on Te Araroa – outlined here – with a few improvements: we discovered miso soups, coconut milk powder and sesame bars. We still did not use any dehydrated foods for the same reasons we did not use them before: their cost is far too high for the energy value you get out of them, and they are not filling. The decision is up to everyone seperately of course, but we get around very well without them (and have more money for a well-deserved beer in the pub at the end of the day).
We resupplied at the following towns,always taking a spare day of supplies:
- Perth to Dwellingup, 11 days
- Dwellingup to Collie: 6 days
- Collie to Donnelly River Village: 5 days
- Donnelly River Village to Pemberton: 4 days
- Pemberton to Walpole: 7 days
- Walpole to Albany: 10 days
Though the Bibbulmun is an easy and safe long-distance walk, it is always smart to have good insurance and a PLB in case something goes wrong. If you end up getting bitten by a snake you can be airlifted out of there in a matter of hours, rather than having to wait for a long time before help arrives (which will obviously not improve your situation). There is not cell-phone coverage everywhere and few people out on the track depending on the area and the season you are in. Make sure you have yourself covered.