We stayed at Walpole Lodge, formerly Walpole Backpackers. For a budget lodge, it was by far the best we have come across on this trip. I would like to have added 'so far' but I really don't think it will be beaten by the time we are due to leave Australia. The standout feature was the bed. It was less than 20 years old had no roll together and had a soft topper. To me, that doesn't seem like too much to ask, after all when we book a room we are really only buying bed time. The rest is just fluff that you are not using when you are asleep. But there it was, an awesome sleep waiting to happen! The hosts of the lodge, Mel and Lee were travelers themselves and have cycled all around the world so I guess they sure know what we are looking for in accommodation. They should run seminars on running a successful lodge called 'buying the right bed' or 'how to know when your bed is worn out'
Walpole is not too much of a town, it's all on the main road and is just a supermarket, pub, gas station, cafes and of course, a real estate office. The real estate office is the busiest business in town as with most of the country towns we have been through. The lodge we stayed at is for sale at $595,000. Mel did the sales pitch on me but he had previously told me all about the fact he hadn't had a day off in 4 years! (He wants to go on another riding holiday across Russia...)
On our day off a storm and cold front came through so we didn't do any sight seeing in town which was good as it meant we stayed in our room with our feet up. Fair to say we liked Walpole and Mel and Lee.
The area around Walpole is a rain forest that receives some 1.2 meters of rain a year. That's a lot of rain for Australia. Most of it falls close to the coast and just runs straight out to sea via some large estuaries. Although they are called estuaries they're more like lakes because they mostly have sand bars over the exits and contain fresh water. In this small wet area along a stretch of the south coast, a tree variety called Tingle grows. This tree variety grows in an area of only 60,000 ha. That is only 0.0078% of the total Australian land mass and this is the only place they are found on the planet! The Tingle trees are another truly amazing tree and like the Karri trees I have mentioned before, they are a monster variety. In their somewhat short life for monster trees (around 400 years) they can reach a girth of more than 20 metres! Yes, more than 20 metres around at the base. This is because they grow in wet soft conditions and to hold their massive weight they spread out and grow large buttresses. They have also adapted to the frequent fires by allowing the wood in the middle of the tree to burn leaving the spread out sides to hold the branches and foliage high up away from the flames. They grow along with the Karri and although slightly shorter than the Karri, they are quite amazing to see. Sadly they are now more a museum exhibit as most of them have been felled for their great red colored hard wood and the track we are on will take us to most of the living large trees left standing.
The trail took us to a really great Tree Top Walk built by the conservation department in 1996 to showcase the giant Tingle and Karri trees, it really is an excellent place. Up to 1990, you could drive your car right through an old Tingle tree in the park. Of course, the tree died due to this mistreatment and they decided to build the tree top walk facility. We walked along ramps that took us up to 40 meters off the ground. Us humans in some ways live our lives in one dimension. Looking down on the trees from so far up was like seeing the forest for the first time! Oh to be able to fly and see the world from more than just the ground. We have walked countless miles through the bush but from above it is like a brand new world!
At the tree top walk they had loads of information panels about the area and the plants, animals and people living there. It was really interesting to read about the first Australians. It's well proven now that they have wandered the area for 45,000 years or more! WOW.. What got me thinking was the fact that the Australia that the first settlers came to only a few hundred years ago was not a wild inhospitable place at all, it was a carefully cultivated garden that had been growing the food and animals for the aboriginal people all that time! It had been shaped by their hand over that time and was no accident. The first explorers to the south west described the Noongar people as fat!
The trail we are walking is loosely based on the seasonal travels of the Noongar people. They went from place to place gathering food and supplies in a carefully and well planned route. We were very lucky to meet a ranger at a shelter who is of Noongar decent. He told us a lot about the trail and the way they gathered food. The 'real' trail is much longer and went to the west coast several times on the way north (or south). The trail we are walking was more the route used for the runners to pass messages from group to group. He said that boys were sent off on the trail and returned as men! I'm sure a few girls went along as well!
After we walked through the Tingle forest, we headed back to the south coast where we will stay right through to the end of the trail. Back to the sand dunes! I had mentioned in the previous post we had been lucky with the weather. Our luck ended when we headed to the coast. We have had a bit of rain during the day on this section and it's been windy too. We passed through a very small place called Peaceful Bay. It's just a caravan park and a few dozen holiday homes at a nice sheltered beach. We had the option of the caravan park or the more expensive chalets. The main problem with the chalets were we had to walk a kilometer to get to them and we really didn't want to do that. After having a quick look at the caravan park we asked the owner if we could put up our tent in the kitchen for the night... Cheeky, but he said ok and we had a dry comfortable night and I didn't have to carry a wet tent the next day!
A big storm front passed us when we were in Walpole but several smaller fronts followed that one and we have experienced them all. While this is really not such a problem, what they have done to the ocean was. The low pressure system made the tides much bigger. The caravan park owner said the low can make for bigger tides than a full moon. The southern ocean is wild at the best of times and the high tide is around midday so the beach walking has been action packed. We have had to walk the soft sand above the high tide mark for some of the beach walk sections and it makes for tough going although the very strong tail wind has been great. The longest beach walk was a day out of Denmark and was around 8.5kms. It's a nice change to walk the beaches. The south coast beaches are quite beautiful and are white sand and mostly completely deserted. We have only seen 2 people surf casting and 3 or 4 people surfing on all the beaches we have been along.
The last day into Denmark was a very nice walk. We had the biggest climb of the trip up and over Mt Hallowell. It's only around 300 meters high but we started at sea level... Really nothing for us kiwis but it's quite feared by most on the trail. The track up and over was more like a New Zealand track than any other part of the trail so far. It had rocks, tree roots and climbed up and down.. We even had to climb over a few logs! It will be the last forest we get to walk through on the trip. We have now completed 930kms with around 70 to go!
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!