Lost on Cooke – Kal to N.Ban, Day 7

I had a fantastic night’s sleep in Mt Cooke group camp. It helped being in a group of just one! My planned destination for the day was the distant Ginger Creek campsite, but I was not going to make it.

The plan was to have lunch at Nerang camp and then hike the 17 km to Ginger Creek camp for the night. In the morning it would be a simple 5 km walk to the bus stop at North Bannister for the 1.30 pm Perth bus.

The climb up Mt Cooke was short and sharp. WA’s Mt Cooke is a few thousand metres lower than NZ’s Mt Cook, but it was a taxing climb all the same. Luckily I had left early so the temperatures were still relatively cool.

Coming down off Mt Cooke and in high spirits

Once I had climbed over a number of small peaks I was to descend the mountain back into the forest. I somehow managed to follow a track that wasn’t the Bibbulmun. The photo above is the last time I would see the familiar marker for quite a while!

The track I was on seemed much rougher than usual and it soon petered out to nothing. I was lost!

On my cellphone I have GPS and a map. I fired it up and was amazed that I was some 300 metres from the track. By this time I was back in thick forest. I tried walking in a straight line but when I check my position I was no nearer to the track.

It took me over half an hour to get back onto the  track. I also slipped over at some point and landed heavily on my knee. I only grazed it, but it was quite sore and I was feeling a bit of an idiot for getting lost on what should be an easy track to follow!

I arrived at Nerang camp for lunch and cleaned up my wounded knee. My attention was then diverted to a map on the wall of the shelter. The map showed the next section of track and informed me that it was all closed for the season due to planned controlled fires! At that moment I could actually smell the burning.

Some of the controlled forest fires

How could I have missed this?! No one else on the track had mentioned it despite it being on the Bibbulmun track website. Pretty much all the other groups I’d met en route had planned to walk to Ginger Creek and were oblivious like me. So Ginger Creek camp was closed and I had to come up with another plan.

I left Nerang in the slight hope that the sign on the wall was out of date and maybe the fires were over, but after just 1 km my progress was halted. The re-routed track skirted the fires and headed up to the main Albany highway. Because Ginger Creek camp was closed, the next campsite was a very distant 27 km away and even if I could make it today, I’d not be able to get back to North Bannister for the bus.

The new plan was to catch the 4.30 pm bus back to Perth from North Bannister. I’d have hitch 16 km to the bus stop, but it made sense to cut my losses and head back to Perth a day early.

Walking back to Nerang and not terribly impressed.

After an hour walking I hit the Albany highway and got cell coverage back again. I called the bus company to book a ticket only to be informed that there was no 4.30 pm bus today! I’d have to wait until 1.30 pm the next day to get back to Perth by public transport.

For over one hour I tried to hitch the 65 km back to Perth, but I had no sign and the traffic was going way too fast to stop as I was situated at the end of an overtaking section.

I conceded defeat and had to trudge an hour back to Nerang camp and try again the next day.