Exactly 5 years after we ventured a couple of hundred Kms down the Bibbulmun track from Perth, we have returned.
The plan is to drive coast to coast in a vintage Mazda van, a journey of 5000km over two weeks, hopefully having time out of the driving seat to do some hiking along the way.
In between searching for a van and recovering from jet lag we had a trip out to the John Forrest National Park just 25km east of the city.
This 2700 hectare park, named after a famous Australian explorer is in the northern Jarrah forest on the crest of the Darling Scarp, the mountain ridge where we started our Bibbulman trek.
Being so accessible from the city it’s a popular destination for daytrippers with a number of trails of different lengths,picnic and barbecue areas and even a pub and tea rooms. So civilised.
After registering at the Rangers office and a quick look at the Walkers Log we headed off on the longest route, the 15km Eagles View Walk.
We passed under one of the three wooden trestle railway bridges in the park that carried the rails of the Eastern Railway, the line built at the end of the 19th century to open up the vast forests for exploitation. Built with hard labour, picks , shovels and horsepower vast amounts of rubble was moved to create embankments which are now used as a trail.
Western Australia’s first tunnel was also blasted and bored here, through unstable granite that kept collapsing, leading to it eventually having to be lined with brick. The 350m tunnel was still not a success though, as the poor ventilation and noxious fumed meant the drivers and firemen were often overcome by the fumes and when one died of carbon monoxide poisoning, an alternative route was opened up.
Those days are long gone however and the hot and sultry air was full of a scent that transported us back 5 years to our days hiking through these gum forests.
It seems an environment particular to Australia especially under a cobalt blue sky in the shimmering heat of summer. It was a little too hot for us folk fresh off the plane from Ireland and we remembered why we would start our Bibbulmun days in the cool of daybreak around 5am.
The track makes a circuit through the parks more remote northern half, through a mix of heathland, open wandoo woodlands and forests of jarrah, marri and lord know what.
We recognised the big seed heads of Banksia and the familiar grass trees.
We didn’t see any wildlife apart from a bunch of Roos hanging around the bar ( literally) and various birds with exotic song. No snakes or spiders, nothing to prevent us falling into a false sense of security. It’s all out there somewhere.
But this was just a gentle little warm up for the great outback journey starting tomorrow, and passing earth art on the granite outcrops