Chadoora to Dwellingup
Start - Chadoora Campsite
Finish - Dwellingup
Campsite - Track Town
Distance - 21km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 268m
Time - 5-8 hours
Date Hiked - 15th September 2019
The Hike - The final day of my four day jaunt on the Bibbulmun Track between North Bannister and Dwellingup and it was a very early start. Mita, Jess and Monika wanted to be in Dwellingup before lunchtime so had planned a very early start (4:30am from memory).
They had told us the night before so it wasn't a shock when there was a bit of movement before the sun had risen and they did a great job at imitating mice (without the chewing through your pack). I'm a bit of a heavy sleeper so fell back asleep after the initial kerfuffle but Stephen was up and about with them. As first light approached I was out of sleeping bag and packing away my possessions for the last time on this trip. I had arranged to meet Caris at 2pm and with 21km to cover, it was decided an early start was best. As we were doing some initial packing we discovered that the girls had left behind a couple of phones so made some predictions about how long it would be until they realised. It didn't take long before Mita appeared on the road leading into camp and so Stephen retrieved the phones from his pack for Mita to rush back with.
There was a bit of a golden glow to the sunrise this morning but they are always hard to photograph when you're buried deep in the forest. After a coffee it was a quick and easy packing session so just after 7:30am we were ready to depart. Given the crsipy ending to the day yesterday and the burnt facade around the campsite, it was no surprise to see this continue as we headed west towards Dwellingup. As we walked past the blackened trunks, orange leaf litter and burnt out root systems, it was hard to not to shake your head at the unnecessarily destructive approach they take. I said my bit in the last post so I won't go on about it but suffice to say, it wasn't the nicest walking to start the day. One positive was an intact Snottygobble had survived the reckoning so while Stephen noted down something in his notepad, I admired the greenery and checked for any fruit. There were a few to be found so I had a little taste of one to see how it compared to with the one from the Mt Wells Campsite.
After a couple of kilometres of black and orange it was a sight for sore eyes to finally reach a road crossing and see nothing but green on the other side. It was such a relief and really brightened my mood to just stand under a canopy of green and be surrounded by a bevy of undergrowth. The Jarrah forest around Dwellingup receives over a metre of rain each year and so feels more like Karri forest with regards to the lushness of the under-storey. Stephen caught up and agreed that this was more like it, despite pointing out the purple flower that did not look like it was a native (it isn't). I think this is also the location of the first of a few timber stepping stones (stepping logs?) that are more common around Collie but provide an alternative option in case the trail is seasonally flooded and you don't like getting your boots wet. As it was dry on our visit I took a couple of photos and we hiked on past.
A calming sense of relief washed over me as we trekked away from the burnt nightmare of the first 2km and into a paradise of wildflowers, greenery and grey trunks. Not even the discovery of yet another tick on my arm (tally for the trip finished at five) could take away from the enjoyment of the forest walking. A brief section of 4x4 track past some giant Jarrah trees was very enjoyable and I had a laugh when I stopped at the entry to the single track and watched Stephen walk straight by (I had fun doing this as he told me he added a couple of kilometres after Boonering Hill not paying attention to the waugyls). Entering a patch of thick regrowth forest, there is a good mix of thinner trees and much more mature varieties. Thankfully the mature trees have survived (or were left here) as they form a home and feeding ground for the Red Tailed Black Cockatoos that were in abundance during our visit.
Hearing them well before actually seeing them, my ears perked up as I love seeing these magnificent birds in the wild. The plumage of their tails as the sun catches it is always a fun challenge to photograph and they have a cheeky character about them. Slowing down to basically a crawl, both Stephen and I were trying to get close enough to them without spooking them too much. After much careful treading we were right under a group of them as they had a morning feed. Unfortunately with the grey skies it was hard to distinguish them from the forest canopy until they flew off so I patiently waited until they decided to move on before clicking like crazy with my camera. I managed to get a couple of shots that with the help of the digital zoom, showed the tail feathers all spread out and looking resplendent. These kinds of moments are a joy on the track when you have the time to stop and enjoy the simplicity of cockatoos going about their daily business.
Having allowed just over six hours to complete the 21km, we certainly weren't setting any speed records through this section as there was so much to enjoy. If it wasn't the cockatoos it was the wildflowers or the mass of Jarrah trees in every direction. ONe fun thing I started noticing were little white fluff pieces attached to random places. The first one I saw was a bit surreal as it was stuck in the spikes of a Grass Tree and I thought it was a weird place for someone to have a pillow fight but when I saw the second one on a large log it dawned on me that it was spring and they must be the malting feathers of the fledglings. Another fantastic reason to be hiking in spring with new life getting it's start in the forest and hopefully continuing on a long and prosperous journey. Our long and prosperous journey took us deeper into the forest, through gaps carved into fallen trees and finally out onto another 4x4 track, I suspect the same one we'd left a kilometre or so ago.
Popping back out onto Inglehope Rd, there was a bevy of wildflowers to photograph at the junction so I enjoyed doing that while Stephen jotted down the time in his notepad. On the wide road we spread out a little and walked past a weird patch of forest that looked very unnatural. It looked like regular Jarrah forest but planted in lines like a timber plantation. Not sure if someone is experimenting with a Jarrah plantation or if a rehab group accidentally planted the trees in lines but my guess would be the former. It's amazing how attune you get out in the forest that the same tree type planted in a different manner really makes you notice. Moving on this strange disturbance in the force, we left Inglehope Rd and continued straight along another 4x4 track. Walking past another reference tree, I was up ahead so managed to get a photo of Stephen next to one of his beloved reference trees (he really liked seeing them).
With a bit of open walking ahead of us we took the opportunity to pick up the pace and get ahead of schedule. Of course this didn't mean stop altogether and at the bottom of the hill I spent a bit of time photographing some very mossy trees that were poking out among the Grass Trees. I was intrigued by the sheer amount of moss covering the trunks and given we were near an ephemeral stream, it made sense that the moss would like it here. Stephen pointed out another tree close to the track that had been eaten out by termites or white ants but still had a cool mossy base. The forest through here continued to be excellent as we navigated an S Bend that had a tree that looked to have recently cut down for some unknown reason (the bulk of it was left there so not illegal firewood clearing). This led us to an open area and the start of an area I was quite looking forward on on this day.
The old Pinjarra-Narrogin Railway Line forms a pretty cool feature of the track and signals that you are on the right line to steam into Dwellingup. While the line between Pinjarra and Etmilyn is still in use for touristy activities, this section from the Inglehope Rd crossing all the way to Etmilyn is no longer in use and that means the Bibbulmun Track can take advantage of the route. While you do spend a bit of time on sections of railway formations further south from Dwellingup, this is the longest section where the railway track is still in place so is a cool novelty. I really enjoy walking along the Jarrahdale Railway Heritage Trail as it's a fun feature to photograph as the track gently turns or guides your field of view off into the distance. This was very much the same but a lot better to start as the trees around here are much taller and there is less of the unnatural plant life, although this will become an issue later on. Stephen had caught up to me (I rushed off once I saw the railway track from afar) and he was delighted to see what we would be walking along. The conversation turned to all things railway like the different gauges of each state and territory back in the early days of colonial Australia and what would have been carried along this line.
I was having fun spotting all the little details along the side of the track including Couch Honeypots, old rusty railway relics and more fledgling fluff. I let Stephen walk on ahead as I wanted some shots of him on the track and he did a great job standing in for Aron who was off traipsing around Europe so couldn't be on this particular adventure. I thought we would be on the railway track for the entire walk through to Etmilyn but after a short distance there was a waugyl pointing us to the left. The reason for this became clear as a washed away section of the railway track came into view that only had the iron track connecting the gravel formation. From here the Bibbulmun did take a turn away from the railway track and you headed into a section of non-native white gum plantation. I don't quite get this alignment as the trees look out of place and very messy as the barren undergrowth is affected by the mass of leaf litter. If ever they were going to do a prescribed burn it would be here but I have my suspicions that this grouping of trees is here for a purpose and they wouldn't take kindly to burning it in the name of safety. One of the trees had begun consuming a waugyl in protest and it was weird seeing one being eaten by a smooth barked tree.
Thankfully it didn't last very long and we were soon back in more natural looking forest if not slightly overgrown along the 4x4 track. Wondering when we would be reunited with the railway track, a side trail revealed a short drop down to the Etmilyn Station. Now serving as the end of the line for the tourist train, this delightful little spot is a mess of intertwining tracks and a long platform raised off the ground. A former watering point for the steam engines that operated in the early day, it has since been converted to a tourist platform with a 1km loop walk taking you into the forest once you arrive. As it was roughly halfway into our day it was a good point to stop for lunch so we both set down our packs and went about exploring the area. I spotted some carriages further down the line and decided to investigate. Some of the old working carriages have been left in the open as an attraction and they were fascinating to have a look around. In there is an old BP tanker, a Hotham Valley branded carriage and some old open top transports.
There is something very romantic about old railways and the Hotham Valley line allows Perthians to enjoy an old timey experience in the forest. Stephen and I both settled on one of the benches there and what a lovely spot for a break it is. Being buried in the forest with no car park around and a very Lord of the Rings sounding name (it's Welsh for small Animal), I really enjoy the feel of Etmilyn and I wish we had more places like it in Western Australia. After my final Clif Bar for the trip (still not sick of them after four years) we decided to get a move on and tackle the last 10km into Dwellingup. With about 2.5 hours to hike the last section, I was keen to get a head start just in case there was plenty to photograph on the way into town. That definitely turned out to be the case as a little way up the road was a mossy granite slope leading up the hill that was quite expansive. While I was photographing that, I heard in the distance something that got me very excited and had me literally running down the trail. The "toot toot" of a tourist tram sounded once again so I ran off to a bridge we had recently passed to get a good shot of the tram. I had remarked at lunch how nice it would be if the train turned up as we were there and given it was a Sunday, this was a real possibility.
Turns out we were just a little off with our timing but I made it to the bridge in time and waved at the tourists as they gave me strange looks. Must have been odd seeing a weirdo with a big backpack pointing a camera at you but I'm sure the driver explained it was just another silly hiker and don't make any sudden movements around it. As I'd rushed back along the track, Stephen was a little ahead of me so I carried on to catch him back up. Once again walking in excellent Jarrah forest, it doesn't take long for the track to be reunited with the railway. Giving walkers a better opportunity to connect with the history of the area (and spot a tourist tram), I think the alignment all the way to Dwellingup is very enjoyable. Given the tram that passed us earlier would have to head back to Dwellingup we debated whether to stop at one spot where the walk trail was right next to the railway track but decided that we would risk it for the biscuit and take our chances further on. We were rewarded on our decision as the trail meanders up and down the hill with the railway line pretty much visible for a long stretch despite the option of a 4x4 track that it could have taken.
We heard the toot of the tram again and found a good spot on a bend in the railway line to park ourselves for some photos. It was a fun spectacle as this part of the track was much more photogenic than my previous spot and we received enthusiastic waves from the passengers when they zoomed past. It was turning out to be a very enjoyable walk into town and it only got better with some of the best Jarrah forest of the day appearing in the next few kilometres. With a slope to your left and the railway to your right, it feels like you're walking through a secluded sliver of perfection (just ignore the occasional bit of traffic from Pinjarra Williams Rd). An added bonus was the squawking of more Red Tail Black Cockatoos and so we stopped to admire them and of course take more photos. It felt like we had spent most of the day with our heads looking skyward trying to spot where the cockatoos were but I wasn't complaining, I love seeing them around.
The minor ups and downs that the trail took were really fun and not an inconvenience despite being right at the end of the day. Seeing the railway line from different perspectives and exploring more of the forest other than what was right next to the railway was fantastic. The variety of scenery from this stretch of walking was really rewarding, taking in Grass Tree groves to patches of wildflowers and some really mature habitat trees. My love for the Jarrah forest only got bigger after this stretch so it was a shame to be put back on a 4x4 track as we reached the area near Holyoake. There was still some decent forest around but it didn't feel like you were in the thick of it. As you approach the old town site of Holyoake, you start to notice more non-natives creep into the undergrowth and it feels like a getting into town part of the track. Leafy ground cover and more cottage style flowers appear, along with a random bench seat. It has the English country lane vibe and I imagine on a wet day it would feel much better.
As we reached the turnoff for the Holyoake town site and former railway station, Stephen spotted a Western Rosella in the bushes so I slowly moved in for a better photo. I got a couple of average one and then as it flew off I snapped a blurry one of it in full flight that didn't turn out too bad in the edit. As we approached Holyoake I stopped to take a photo of a Red Breasted Robin and a couple of ladies arrived in the car park. We got chatting to them and the mum of the group grew up in Holyoake and loved coming back for a visit so the daughter obliged. The old town was closed as the saw mill shut down and only a sign remains to inform you of this. We continued on past houses, the remnants of another old railway platform and an olive farm along a 4x4 track leading into town. With a 2pm finish in mind and fairly flat walking all the way to Dwellingup, I was walking a little faster than our pace of the previous two days. I didn't want to leave Stephen as it would be nice to complete the section together but I got the feeling I was pushing him a little harder than he would have liked (pace was a tick under 5kmph for the last 3km). If you're reading this Stephen, I'm sorry.
As we reached the outskirts of town we spotted the first of many makeshift waugyls that have been placed there by the local primary school while the track is diverted around the building of a new trails centre. I felt back because my initial thought was that someone had placed knock-off waugyls along the track before remembering the diversion notice from the website stating that kids had done the work (I really am a terrible person). In terms of getting into town, it's a really painless affair compared to some of the other towns. A bit of road walking and you are at the main sports oval that was overrun with activity when we arrived. There was an obstacle course for horses on the oval, the usual Sunday markets (held every third Sunday) and the 2019 Anniversary Festival. All this meant there was a big crowd to greet us as we walked into town and it was all very festive. Stephen's wife Kirsty was waiting for us near the oval and it was nice to finally meet her after hearing so much about her from Stephen.
Given the amount of people, the construction work on the new trail centre and the markets, we eventually found a way through the crowds and off to the Visitor Centre to sign the book and officially end our walk for this section. The Dwellingup Visitor Centre is a lovely place to be and is well catered for trail users but I was meant to be meeting Caris at the Blue Wren Cafe and it was nearing 2pm. I thanked Stephen for his company over the past three days and wished him all the best for the completion of his end to end before making my way past the pub and off to the Blue Wren. Caris had just turned up so I treated her to some lunch as thanks for driving all the way out to collect me. I always enjoy my time in Dwellingup and this was a fantastic way to end a great four day adventure on the Bibbulmun Track. From here I only had Parry Beach to Albany to cover off and my sectional end to end would be done.
Final Thoughts - Town days are usually a bit of a bittersweet affair with the joy of getting into town for a nice meal and hot shower (or lift home for a hot shower) but also knowing that you won't be on the track the next day (if you are doing town to town sections like me).
This day felt different to other town days, mainly because I was with someone and also because it was such an enjoyable experience that I never felt like pushing just to cover the kilometres.
Apart from the first two kilometres, the Jarrah forest was amazing to walk through and the novelty of the railway provided a nice distraction to the finishing half of the day.
Another lovely section of the Bibbulmun Track ticked off and I'm happy that the multiple delays to me completing this trip occurred as I got to experience a great wildflower show in perfect weather.
Thank you to Stephen for being my hiking companion for three of the four days, it was great to get to know you and share this experience with.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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