Bibbulmun Track - Denmark to Nullaki
Start - Pelican Point Jetty
Finish - Nullaki Campsite
Campsite - Nornalup
Distance - 10.1km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 107m
Time - 2-4 hours
Date Hiked - 23rd September 2019
Directions - Leaving Denmark can be done three ways, the first is to head south towards Ocean Beach and walk across the sandbar if the Wilson Inlet is closed, the diversion that takes you along the highway or to be dropped off at the Eden Rd Gates by one of the service providers in the area.
The Hike - After finishing a day and a half between Parry Beach and Denmark, it was time to embark on the completion of my sectional end to end. I had deliberately chosen to finish with the Denmark to Albany section because I wanted it to feel like if I was completing a thru-hike end to end, plus I wanted to ring the bell at the Visitor Centre to mark the occasion. After a lovely sleep at the Blue Wren YHA, I saw Riley and Mon heading out to breakfast and asked if I could join. My plan was to head to Ravens again for some Truffle Mushrooms but they only opened at 8am so we headed to the aptly named Bibbulmun Cafe because how can you walk through Denmark and not eat there. This was the only lengthy period of time I spent with Riley and Mon so we had a chat about hiking, their thoughts on the Bibb and the usual get to know you kind of things. What they didn't let slip was that Riley had proposed to Mon at the Blackwood Campsite, which I thought was a pretty special spot to have that moment happen.
Despite saying to myself while planning my end to end that I would be slowing down and enjoying the journey, a combination of factors led me to schedule in this last section into three days. That meant I would be doubling each day and covering the most kilometres per day of my entire end to end (still a very manageable 25-29km per day). Riley and Mon, finishing their thru-hike of the Bibb were powering through and doing it in two days so they wouldn't be staying at West Cape Howe with me tonight. I had a lift organised around the Peninsula to the Eden Rd Gates so Riley and Mon joined me at around 8am and we left to navigate around the awkward start to this section. Officially the Bibbulmun has you take the ferry from the Denmark River mouth to a point on the Nullaki Peninsula called Pelican Point Jetty but the cost ($160 if you're the only one) and irregular running means it's not really feasible for most hikers. The alternatives add a lot of kilometres to the day, either walking south across the inlet if the sandbar is formed or east along the highway that is horribly boring so the preferred method is to be dropped off by car. Jacko from Case Libelula offers this service or Mark from the Blue Wren YHA is another option.
With big kilometres to cover over the next two days, Riley and Mon were dropped off at the end of Rock Cliff Circle. which is only about a kilometre from the Nullaki Campsite. I was hoping to do as much of the Nullaki Peninsula as I could and in the end was dropped off right at the Pelican Point Jetty, the spot where you would disembark if you took the ferry option. Happy with this, I then realised it added another 4km to my day compared to if I was dropped at the Eden Road Gates and it was already getting late in the morning. Wandering to the end of the jetty, I simulated being dropped off and starting my final section. The inlet here is very pretty with calm waters and views across to the hilly country near Denmark. The Nullaki Peninsula deserves a bit of an explanation here as it is an interesting bit of land. Called the Nullaki Estate, the whole peninsula has been divided up and sold off for people to build houses on. There are rules about what you can and cannot do and what makes it different is that there are no boundary fences between properties so the wildlife is free to move around. I don't quite agree with a wilderness area being treated like this but at least it isn't divided up into smaller chunks with fences everywhere.
Finally getting going, the walking is very pretty as you make your way along the edge of the inlet but somewhat of a stressful experience. It was quite a warm day already and being September on the south coast, the presence of danger noodles aka nope ropes aka snakes should always be in the back of your mind. The issue along here is that the track is essentially grass that is slightly shorter than the surrounding grass so where you are stepping can hide some surprises. Far from being a carefree hiking experience, I was really careful to make sure to step deliberately and loudly to give prior warning to any locals hiding in the grass. While I didn't see any snakes through this section, there was definite movement in the grasses ahead of me on quite a few occasions. Taking photos was a case of checking my surroundings first rather than my usual method of thinking about a shot while I'm still walking. Apart from the extra precaution though, this was a really nice section to walk through with plenty of small jetties dotted along the inlet from the private residence that provided a gap in the Paperbarks to experience the full width of the huge inlet.
Another pleasant aspect to the walking were the large Karri trees that popped up every now and then. Far from being a swampy section full of Paperbarks and reeds, the forest on your right is quite mature and full of amazing wildflowers. While the undergrowth and grass is still quite thick right up to the Eden Road gate, you can still admire the splashes of colour from the safety of the track. As you walk further on, the orchids start to appear and this location is one of the best I've seen just for the pure volume of orchids around. After heading up onto the road and passing through the Eden Rd gate (there is a pedestrian door in the middle of the gate) you quickly rejoin the track as it heads along the inlet. Here I witnessed a crazy amount of Donkey Orchids in one spot with roughly 50-70 within a couple of metres, ludicrous considering on most of the forest sections of the Bibbulmun I am happy to see a couple during a full day. I estimated that the number of Donkey and Cowslip Orchids I saw over this first day would run easily into the thousands. Instead of becoming rare objects I really enjoyed seeing, they were like a weed (not really though) but that didn't stop me taking a million photos of them.
Heading along the water a little bit more, there are a couple of small foot bridges used to get over small streams that flow into the inlet that provide cool photo opportunities. Hopping back up onto Eden Rd, you leave the calm waters of the inlet and start heading inland towards the Nullaki Campsite. Rather than feeling disappointed to be heading away from the nice views, the forest inland was looking very nice and I knew it meant more opportunities for spotting different types of wildflowers and orchids. The advantage of having a formed path not covered in grass was also enjoyable so spotting snakes would be much easier. After crossing Eden Rd, there were a few Donkey Orchids right next to the path so I knew that the joy would continue along here. A bit further on I spotted two separate types of the more intricate orchids, one being a variety of Spider Orchid and the other one I don't think was fully formed so was hard to identify. Very pleased with my findings, I really thought that this would be the beginning of just non-stop rare orchids where maybe I would discover a few new varieties (spoiler: it was not).
Apart from the wildflowers and orchids along here, the Jarrah and Peppermint trees are really nice to walk through. Providing a good amount of shade, something that will be in short supply for the rest of the walk into Albany, it was nice to be protected from the harsh sun for the time being. While the trail may not be thrilling, being right next to the road and essentially an off road walkway taking you past people's mailboxes, it was still fun to hike because unless a car drove past, it was easy to ignore the road. Reaching Rock Cliff Circle, the track scoots along the western side of the road before crossing the tarmac and following a path on the eastern side. This is the start of the exposed walking that will be the norm in this coastal section. I reached the spot where Riley and Mon were dropped off and I checked my GPS, seeing that I had added an extra 9km to my day. With an easier schedule this wasn't a big issue and I wanted to see what the snake infested Nullaki Peninsula fuss was all about. The tarmac surface of Rock Cliff Circle just ends here turns into a 4x4 track made of very soft sand. Luckily the track doesn't follow the 4x4 track but instead heads into the heath land that is populated by a few medium sized eucalyptus trees.
While sandy in a few places, it is much better than an exposed and wide 4x4 track and there are different types of wildflowers through here that were great to see. Replacing the soft sand was a much harder path through the Peppermint trees. As I've mentioned before, the Peppermint tree is one of my favourite parts of the South West so I always enjoy a good thicket of them to walk through, especially in the late afternoon when they fill the air with a lovely scent. Entering more of what you'd expect for the coastal dunes, the trail snakes its way up and down small hills with a mix of Peppermint trees, Banksias and wildflowers lining the edge of the sandy trail. You soon reach the fence line of private property and the track scoots alongside the tall fence for a short distance. The private property is linked to a mine on the Nullaki Peninsula that operates in the summer months so if you're hiking through there then, you might see some activity. While walking along a fence is never a nice experience, especially one as big as this, it does provide some interesting photos as you peer into the distance as the road/fence disappears up and over the hill.
Thankfully you don't spend too long here and there are plenty of wildflowers on your left to look at if fences aren't your cup of tea. Heading back into the dune system, it's more undulating terrain as you approach the Nullaki Campsite. I was treated to some nice clouds in the sky that certainly brightened up the photos and softened up the lighting whenever one floated across the path of the sun. After passing the helicopter landing area that is used for evacuations in the area (bushfires strike quickly here in the grassy dunes and road access isn't always an option) I was reminded of my time on the Three Capes where this is a much more common sight. I spotted the sign for the campsite and had reached the first milestone for the day. Walking into camp, I was slightly happy with my decision to double hut in this section as the flies and mozzies were buzzing about in good numbers. Nullaki has a reputation as mosquito heaven so I decided that West Cape Howe would be the better campsite today. I checked out the lookout up the hill from the shelter and disturbed a mob of kangaroos that were grazing near the bench. From here you can see north to Mount Lindesay in the distance, a view that would become familiar over the next few days as the track tries to provide some variety in the scenery. With another 17km to do today I signed the log books, had a snack and then moved on.
Final Thoughts - With the logistical issue of heading towards Albany from Denmark, the start of this day feels very disjointed.
Breaking up what is a thru-hike from Kalamunda to Denmark, if you choose to take the drop-off option on the Nullaki Peninsula then it feels a little weird.
Being a short 10km from the Pelican Point Jetty and much shorter from the Eden Rd Gate, the campsite is often overlooked as an overnight destination for thru or sectional hikers.
It's still a very lovely walk along the inlet with some nice views of the water and wildflowers but it feels very much like the introduction to something much better.
Nullaki was a brief visit but it's set nicely in the Peppermint trees and if it wasn't for the mosquitoes and lack of time, I think I would have enjoyed a stay here.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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