Back on track and a night hike – Balingup to Pembleton, Day 18

I had a lovely break at the Bunbury Dolphin Retreat YHA but it was time to get walking again. The buses back to Collie were not daily so it reconfirmed my decison to start again from Balingup. Balingup is where I finished last year before heading to the South coast.

I caught the TransWA from the Bunbury bus centre which annoyingly is 4km away from town. As it was a Sunday there were no buses running direct to the station so I caught one to a nearby shopping mall and walked 1km from there.

I really don’t understand why they decided to put the transport interchange in the middle of nowhere. Apparently it was a former mayor who came up with the less than bright idea!

The TransWA caoch only took 50 minutes to Balingup and I immediately found a cafe for one last decent hot meal and coffee before walking again. I had one of the nicest pies ever at the cafe, it was a cider and pork special!

The walk from Balingup to Blackwood camp was around 17km and I had a good four hours plus of the afternoon to get there. It was a very hot afternoon and an exhausting climb to the hut in the hut through newly planted pine forest.

I approached the hut and could see a couple of hiking poles poking out. To my shock the couple were there! They had also taken lots of days off and we somehow ended up at the same hut for the night! I sat down and considered my options. It was still very good weather and I had two hours of day light left to walk on.

Before I knew otherwise, I was refilling my water bottles and saying ‘adios’ to the couple. The next camp was 18 kms away so I was not going to make it there before dark, but I was planning on finding somewhere to camp along the way. I had enough water until the morning and didn’t really need to cook, so could pretty much camp anywhere.

Of course finding somewhere to camp proved to be much more challenging than I’d expected. The walk went through some farms and then followed the Blackwood river. I was then road walking for a while before taking a private road (part of the Bibbulmun track though) up towards a water processing plant.

By this time it was 6.30 pm and light was fading fast. The track then leaves the private road near a resevoir and continued through thick forest. It was now dark enough that I had to use my head torch. Having a flash light on my phone as a backup was good as the batteries were quite old.

There was still no place to camp and the darkness made it even harder to find a spot. By now I was only 10 kms from the Gregory Brook camp and I was getting use to walking by flashlight.

I decided that I had to get camp and that I could get there by 9pm. My only concern was either waking up or spooking the current occupants of Gregory Brook. Having someone turn up so late is pretty uncommon. Most of the time Bibb hikers will cook their dinner around 6pm and be tucked up in their sleeping bags by 7pm.

I pressed on and luckily the track was super smooth and free of debris meaning I could keep up the quick pace. I arrived at Gregory Creek just after 9pm to find the shelter full with four hikers so I quietly put up my tent away from the shelter.  I had walked 36 km (22 miles) in quite a bit of heat so was very tired. I slid inside my new sleeping bag and was asleep almost instantly.