what a nice town Collie was! We stayed 2 nights in a cabin at the caravan park.
Had our friend Paul stay 1 night with us, really great to catch up with him again.
The weather was rainy and cold, but what a good time to be off the trail and in town!
We had a great dinner at the Crown Hotel on the main street, cheap food and excellent quality. We were able to dine with 4 other end to end hikers that were in town also. Great friendly staff too!!
Next town is a week away!
Finally we are sweet enough??
Well actually no. And sorry to say and we are not going to get any sweeter on this trip.
For us on any normal hiking trip a good part of our diet would be mars bars, moro bars and my favorite chickito bars along with plenty of snickers and if we could find them, some good old peanut slabs. It had been a good way to have a guilt free stuffing of junk that could be walked off on the next hill.
We have done plenty of 8 to 10 day hiking trips where we have slogged over tough terrain, up and down hills all day carrying big packs. We would have our normal hiking diet of snack food and dehydrated meals and wonder why all the hard work didn't result in a few less pounds on the bathroom scales when we got home.
We have always convinced ourselves that the best food for hiking was the one with the most 'energy' to keep us going. It did work mostly, and a snickers bar sure did provide enough energy to warm you up on a cold rainy day.
This trip we thought we would take a different approach! No added sugar...
In the place of chocolate we are eating nuts and dry fruit. Where we would have had sweet biscuits we are eating plain ones.
What a difference it has made!
The first thing we noticed was how much less money we had in our pockets. This made us feel so much lighter, until we put on our packs and we noticed how much heavier they were. In towns we have been doing a lot more sightseeing as we walk from shop to shop trying to find the food we need to keep up this diet up... 😀 haha. Actual its been a really good thing (apart from the few things I have mentioned above.)
We have found we have LOTS more energy and we have lost LOTS more weight and we have gained LOTS of muscle mass and strength all thanks to eating 'slow burn' energy food.
At this stage, we have not weighed in since leaving New Zealand but we feel and look different.
We will weigh in at the end of this trip, 1000kms of walking and let you know if it has been worth all the extra effort.
and the verdict? Guilty as charged.
We will have to start this post with a wee disclaimer. We are not botanists. We just observe and wonder. Sometimes we make theory's and think we know more than most. But for now, carry on reading because we think this is interesting.
We have spent the last week walking through an area of forest that has been burnt. Some of it was burnt as a 'prescribed burn' some by lighting strike and some by arsonists. The result is always the same.
Now, where I come from, fire is a pretty bad thing to have in the forest, or really anywhere actually. The great cleanser. It destroys all in its path leaving only ash and memories. Over here in Oz it was seen as a pretty bad thing also and for many years forest fires were fought by brave men and women, often in vain. Fire towers were set up on high points and some at the top of very tall trees to spot fires and attempt to put them out before they spread to far. Bush fire fighting was an industry and a career choice for many Aussie country folk.
Well, sort of makes you think what happened to the poor Aussie bush before these brave folk eh.
During the 1970s wild fires ripped through the redwood forests of California. Many firefighters lost their lives fighting them and Ronald Regain said enough! Let them burn. Not a decision he made, he was given sound advice that this was in fact part of the natural cycle of this forest and without fires the area would not re seed and continue the cycle of life. This was a turning point in fighting fires in some of the forests around the world!
We don't know if this decision was what changed the forest service stance in Australia or not, but it was around this time that they stopped fighting fires here too. They do contain the fires, and put a lot of effort in protecting property and livestock, but mostly the fire will burn. The trees wouldn't have it any other way!
Australia really is a land of contrast. Beautiful one day, burning the next. We have really been amazed by what we have seen walking through the fire effected areas. The fires in February this year were very bad. An entire town was burned to the ground. Gone, the lot. Not one building left standing. It's hard to imagine that the surrounding forest wouldn't have met the same fate. Not so! Now a few months after, the ground is covered in sprouting plants, the trees although blackened are also sprouting new growth from base to crown and its green as far as you can see. It seams each plant and tree has a mechanism to protect, or renew from fire.
Some of the trees have thick bark, 10 to 15mm thick. After a fire this layer just falls off and it looks like nothing has happened except for a load of bark at the base of the tree. Others will let the fire do its thing and even with what looks like total loss, new branches will appear from the black shell. The undergrowth, often the source of the flames will grow very quickly in the fresh ash which is full of nutrients. These plants grow, produce seeds and then quickly die off leaving dry twiggy fuel for the next fire do the process can repeat itself. Many of the trees and plants produce nuts and seed pods that will not even open until they have felt the lick of flames.
One of our favorite plants is the Tree Grass (formally known as Black Boy but not a PC name now for some reason) This plant is so flammable we use the dead parts to start camp fires and it burns like it is soaked in petrol. This plant will burn so hot, it's sap will bubble out of the trunk. After the fire, it produces a seed spear that can grow up to 3 meters high!
It it is not all good of course. Given the right conditions (or wrong) the fire can kill the trees and undergrowth completely. Sadly this is more likely to happen in areas that have been logged as the flames can easily reach the canopy of the new growth. Other areas that have had repeated burns over a short period will suffer the same fate.
Still, the fact the bush has evolved to handle this sort of treatment is totally amazing to us and we are still in awe of it and the animals that live with it all around!
well, if you are a long distance hiker, not too much. In fact, so little that you are required to get an entirely new one at the start of the trip!
We are not sure of why or where it all started, but we have had our hiker names for many years now. We were given our names in 2000 when we first hiked on the Appalachian trail in the USA. I can remember reading about the trail on chat forums and noticed that people were referring to others on the trail by nick names. Hmmm I thought... some of these folk are somewhat strange! Who would go by a name like THAT... Some were based on hiking things, 'wingfoot' 'hiking pole' and 'gaited mule' come to mind, but others were just strange like 'pooh bear' and 'wrong way', 'cupcake' and the list goes on and on. Who are these people and will we have to deal with them... Are they safe to be around?
So, we start our trip and discover that you have to have a nick name.. A trail name. Right O......
In the first weeks of us walking on the trail we met up with Dave McNany and walked with him around us for some time. He is from Tennessee and has an awesome southern accent. Daves trail name is Huckleberry. Sort of normal, especially in the south. In discovering we needed naming, Huckleberry got right on to it with suggestions every time we met. I should say at this point, Christine had named herself Dusty after a Soundgarden song by the same name. If you listen to the sone, it says life is good getting better and reflected her trip on this awesome trail well. Some say the rule is you have to be named, rather than naming yourself... OK, I think Huckleberry might have made that one up but I followed along anyway.
So, my names were coming in thick and fast. Some ok, some not so. I had a condition on it being a good one or I would ignore it.. I got some that were to be expected, kiwi was a common one, to be honest I don't remember the options I had to deal with because the final one was soooo good..
Most came after I had been asked again about New Zealand and what was popular. Farming, sheep (you can guess some that came after that) and cows.
"what about COWPIE?" (In southern accent) Cowpie? What's that? It's a cow shit... oh
Well, something in me liked that name and it 'stuck' haha
So from then on, we have been Cowpie & Dusty. I always had fun drawing little flys around a Cowpie in the trail books and as it spread along the track a lot of people wanted to meet this kiwi that was named after a cow poop. It was fun!
Heading into the trail days festival on the trail I happend to discover a field with cows... and cow poop, or cowpie (as they say in the US) so of course, I selected a nice compact one, lacquered it up and wore it at trail days.. It was great! I had a line of strangers getting photos with me, of course it was 'oh, you must be Cowpie I have heard about you, can I buy you a drink' and it went on.
So, we are now on the Bibbulmun trail and this time, we see a lot of folk using trail names so we have decided that we are now back to being Cowpie & Dusty!
Fun times again!
After a request for some more details on how we are 'living' on the trail, here is some of our routine and the gear we have for these hiking trips.
Except for food which we buy along the way, we have everything we will need for the next 7 weeks in our packs.
We have to allow for all weather conditions and the possibility that the shelter is full or has been burned down so we carry a tent as well.
The shelters are open front (3 sided) and although they can be dusty and drafty, we still prefer them to the tent. They have sleeping platforms and a table and chairs for cooking and socializing around. We have the shelters to ourselves more than half the time (which is the way we like it!)
We sleep on inflatable mattresses with inflatable pillows. It's all pretty high tech nowadays and far more comfortable than the 'old days' of roll up foam. Our entire sleeping kit including the sleeping bag is under 1.5kgs.
We carry 2 sets of clothing. 1 set we wear hiking, 1 set for at camp. No dryer out here so if we get wet and it's not warm enough to dry out clothing over night, we start out with wet gear the next day! We are able to pass through a town around every 4 to 7 days where we can shower, wash clothing and re supply in town. Washing clothing can be fun sometimes and I have sat in a laundry wearing only my rain coat and rain paints while all my gear is getting washed!
On this first trip, the first leg was 12 days! So that was 12 breakfasts, 12 lunches and 12 dinners on our backs along with everything else. We have found it tough going. The heaviest item beside water is food, and of that, snacks and breakfast make up the bulk of the weight. Wherever possible we try to buy Backcountry dehydrated meals for dinners. They are easy to prepare, just add boiling water, stir and wait. The price for these range from 11 to 14NZD for a 2 serve pack. Not too bad. (As I actually write this this minute, I have just been given 2 extra meals from hikers we stayed with last night.. Thanks Neil you're a star!)
Lunch this trip is crackers with tuna or peanut butter or honey. Take your pick! The tuna is nice, but the cans are heavy and we have to carry the empty ones a long way. Breakfast is muesli with extras. Extras being dried fruit, milk powder and strawberry mousse powder... Yes the last bit adds just the right amount of flavor. We eat off collapsable silicone type bowls with titanium clutlery. All nice and light and can be packed easley. We can normally buy all of the above except the breakfast anywhere. If we can not find an item we want... it's a compromise and sometimes not a good one, but so far we have survived.
The remainder of what we carry is toiletries, first aid (very little in the kit, plasters and panodal) radio, mobile and gps. Christine will carry her kindle and I might carry a few magazines, but that's about it. Oh... I always carry coffee, of course.
Perhaps the most important items we take along is our sense of adventure, determination to finish and our love for each other that sees us overcome the hills and weight on our backs.
setting up camp. A daily task. Now for a nap!
Q. How long will it take?
A. About 55 days plus or minus 5 days
Q. How long is the trail?
A. At last count 1003kms (+\- 25kms)
Q. Where do you sleep?
A. Shelters are all the way along the trail spaced at a good days walk apart, ranging from 12kms to 25kms.
Q. What about showers and toilets?
A. No showers but long drop toilets at each shelters.
Q. Is it in the Australian desert?
A. No the trail is in the woods. It is dry but the Aussie bush has adapted to this and it's very green all the way along.
Q. Are the trees big?
A. Yes! A section of the trail runs through old growth forrest with absolutely giant trees that compete with the Redwood trees in the USA and the New Zealand Kauri as the largest trees growing anywhere in the world.
Q. What about water?
A. Each shelter has a rain water tank. This has proven to be a sufficient supply for hikers year round.
Q. How do you re supply your food?
A. The trail runs through small towns every 5 to 7 days where we can buy food. We will stay in town to rest shower and wash our clothes.
Q. How heavy is your pack?
A. Between 12 to 15 kgs depending on how much food and water we are carrying.
Q. Is it dangerous?
A. No, not really. The only danger might be snakes and they are very scared of people and stay well clear of us.
Q. Are many other people are around?
A. The trail is very popular with 100s of people hiking on the trail at any one time. Maybe up to 200 people complete an end to end hike each year. (The number is growing all the time)
Q. Is the trail very old?
A. Parts of the trail loosely follow old Aboriginal trails used for seasonal travels.
Q. Will you have phone coverage on the trail
A. I do today! 😊
Well, we are here in country one, Australia.
Nothing too interesting about the sunburnt country. They are our neighbours after all and we should know all about our neighbours. What's more, its just a quick flight over, right? OK, Perth is a little further away. Its called a long haul flight. Not sure why they call it that. I am 'hauling' nothing other than my trolley through the airport. Maybe it should be renamed 'long drag' flights. This time we flew on Qantas who have a slogan 'Fly Generous' even though I had to pay for everything I got and did not consider the offering to be especially generous! We would normally fly Air New Zealand and it used to be that they were the only airline to do a direct flight to Perth, but no longer. The generous airline is on the same route spilling out the goods all the way to the most isolated major city on the planet. That is except for the in flight entertainment... Christine would normally watch 2 or 3 movies on the way to Perth but with only old B grade movies, she couldn't even finish 1. Never mind, we could sleep OK.... well, no on that as well. The seats we had were haunted by some ghost and were absolutely FREEZING. While everyone around us was in tee shirts and shorts, we were wrapped in blankets and for me, it was too cold to sleep. We did arrive safe and sound however, and that was all we really wanted, so mission accomplished.
We were greeted at Perth International by Christine's parents, John and Gael in their awesome as camper van. They were able to take us to our Airbnb accommodation in Fremantle. We have a self contained unit under the main house with our own separate entrance and a kitchen so we can cook our own food and relax like we are at home.
So, as per normal the first thing you do when you get 'home' is to plug in and charge up your devices... hang on.. where is the bag with the charger, all our clothing, etc etc... I'll tell you where. It's still going round and round on the conveyor belt at the airport, that's where! SHIT. Call a taxi, call Qantas.. a quick trip back to the airport and we had the bag. Somewhat embarrassed but I don't mind as we had the bag (and the contents). Lesson one... MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL YOUR STUFF
I blame the 'long drag' flight and I am sure daylight saving has something to do with it also.
We are really looking forward to catching up with some friends while we are in Perth. We did live here for a few years and it was an enjoyable time with good memories. So much has changed here though. The economy is looking a bit shaky with the mining industry contracting and most people we have spoken to already are crying doom and gloom. The taxi driver that took us to rescue our bag said house prices are dropping every week. He thinks it will get much worse. Like things you see on the internet, things you hear from a taxi driver must all be true. Could be a good place to send some Aucklanders with bags stuffed full of cash from selling overpriced Auckland properties. Maybe the Aussies will have to let in a few more foreigners to get things moving again, maybe not though... It will not have any impact on out hiking trip though as the trees are worth just the same as they were before, priceless!
We are off to a great start. Everything is in order and all we have to do is enjoy and hike (and remember our bags)
we are really going on this awesome trip... I should say this epic trip!
Its been a very intense few months. In just planning this we have gone well out of our comfort range and been tested on a few things a few times. But here we are, flying over South Australia's Kangaroo Island on the way to Perth to start hiking the Bibbulmun Trail. I really hope it is warmer in Perth than it is on plane right now. If it's not, we are in for problems and will need more warm gear. The flight path map shows it is minus 60 outside. It's not quite that cold inside, but still outside of my comfort zone...again!
I guess the discomforts we have had to deal with is why we are not on a plane full of people going off to do long distance hiking trips and Africa safaris. When we have been telling people of the trip we often get the same response... Why? It's a good question. Right now, it still seams like a good question. Especially now. I am still sad after leaving behind our 2 loving cats who don't understand why and our many friends and family. Our parents wonder why we couldn't just watch some National Geographic show about the entire thing and we both have met people that think we are completely nuts. But here we are traveling at 770kph towards this craziness, and we couldn't be happier. The more it sinks in, the more at ease we feel with the entire thing. We will never have the opportunity to stand on the top of a mountain and be the first to plant a flag or land on a beach and claim it for 'king and country' but we can feel like we are doing that every time we do something new or discover a new place (to us).
Maybe, just maybe we can inspire someone or one of our friends to move away from the comforts of home and the familiar day to day and experience the excitement of effort and reward and the thrill of risk and discovery?
Soon on we will be flying over the south coast of Western Australia. It will take us about 20 minutes flying to cover the distance we will take 7 weeks for us to walk. It is interesting to look out the little window and see the places we will walk. More interesting to walk it though.
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!