Giants to Rame Head
Start - Giants Campsite
Finish - Rame Head Campsite
Campsite - Nornalup
Distance - 17.6km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 440m
Time - 4-8 hours
Date Hiked - 19th August 2019
The Hike - After such an excellent day in the forest yesterday I was pumped for the remainder of the week long trip. On the cards today was a great deal of variety as I left the comfort of the Tingle forest and headed through mixed terrain towards the coast.
With another easy day distance wise I wasn't in any hurry so listened to the melodic tunes of the nearby cows. Not totally unexpected, I was alone for another night so had the whole place to myself in the morning. While I went about my business the same as I would have anyway, there is something very enjoyable about having the whole campsite to yourself. Enjoying a coffee, I had another wander around the tent sites to listen to the birds fluttering in the cool morning air. It would be nice to have something like this every morning at home and maybe one day I'll move to the country and enjoy this lifestyle (the lorikeets in my palm tree at home don't count).
I kind of didn't want to leave the forest so was dawdling quite a bit as I packed my stuff away. With only a few short kilometres left of Tingle forest for the entire Bibbulmun as you head downhill towards South Coast Highway, it was definitely going to be a case of savouring the moment. With everything ready I departed a bit after 9am and slowly made my way out of camp. The forest leaving the campsite continued to be fantastic and I spotted an unusual occurrence with two trees growing right next to each other (almost the same tree) but one was burnt all the way up the trunk and the other completely fine. Whatever caused this is anyone's guess but was really striking as I walked past. The unusual features continued as I passed a very large burl that wrapped around the entire tree. Unsure how many Tingles I would see on the walk out of the forest, I was very happy to see many thick examples as I meandered along the path.
One hefty tree right next to the trail was hollowed out thanks to a previous fire, and as I was checking it out from the inside, my camera decided to take a photo of me all on its own. If anything, this was some of the best Tingle forest of the past three days as there was plenty of bell bottomed goodness to admire everywhere. Blessed with excellent photographic conditions, I was taking way too many photos but...when in Rome. It wasn't all thick boi Tingles as there was a lovely stretch of Karri She-Oak that provided some nice variety to the morning walking. One thing that I was on the lookout for was what Steve Sertis from the Bibbulmun Track Foundation has dubbed the "Pleated Princess". A massive Tingle tree that has escaped fire and other ravages to become a feature of this part of the track. I say I was on the lookout because on the podcast Steve said it is very easy to miss if you're heading in a N-S direction.
As I approached a 4x4 track, I was busy photographing the other side where the waugyl points you off down the path. Luckily I did a bit of a 360 to take in my surroundings as the Pleated Princess was right behind me and to the left. It really is a magnificent spectacle to behold in person as it twists up into the canopy with a cyclonic style. While the likes of the Giant Tingle on day one was impressive, the intact Tingles I think are the best as their bulk seems to hit you a bit more. Standing next to the princess, it's hard to really get it in one shot so I took a couple of steps back and ended up stitching together about a dozen portrait photos so I could get the upper reaches of the tree in the end photo. It worked quite well despite shooting into the sun for it and the true scale of these giants is probably about as good as I could get it. With the sun now out I had to be specific about which direction I was shooting but as the trail was now heading downhill towards the coast, it wasn't such an issue. This downhill section was a bit bittersweet as it meant I would soon arrive at South Coast Highway and it would be the end of the Tingle/Karri forest. I made sure to enjoy it while it lasted and as I descended, the Tingles slowly disappeared and the Karri trees started to dominate the slopes.
Taking me back to first day out of Walpole, the views of the flat land towards the coast was broken up by a sea of tree trunks that was really cool to take in. It all came to end very soon and I was at the highway crossing ready to begin the next chapter of the journey. Taking one last look back at the forest, I crossed the road and entered the much smaller forest that is found along the old railway siding that has since become a dual purpose trail. The change is very abrupt but a pleasant one as you walk along the wide trail admiring the new scenery. Being an old railway line, the terrain was very flat so it was a good place to get a rhythm going while still stopping to enjoy the details along the way. As you head along the path you see wildflowers dotting the fringes and I kept finding myself straying to the edge and taking photos. One thing that I really enjoyed was the tunnel that appeared out of nowhere. I originally thought it was a man made tunnel and certainly from the pictures you could be mistaken for thinking so but it was a natural tunnel created as the trees start to reclaim the open space left by the disused railway line.
It was even cooler to walk through as to the left of the track is a low lying area that was inundated in parts and quite thick with vegetation. Impressed with the variety of wildflowers along here, I was not experiencing any sadness about having left the Tingle forest. Excited to see what was up ahead and how long the rail trail would last, I popped out of the Peppermint Tree Tunnel and was greeted with some taller eucalyptus forest on either side of the track. It was a really nice section of walking all the way down to the end of the rail trail and the Bibbulmun Track sign pointing you off on the next chapter of the journey. Following the edge of a fence line, it is well marked so you don't take the wrong side but slightly unfriendly for the first section as you are walking next to the razor wire fence. Like with most other sections on the Bibbulmun, the fence walking is kept to a minimum and you soon wiggle your way into the forested section, finally heading in the direction of the coast. Unfortunately this area was burnt in 2018 and although there was plenty of new growth, you will be able to see the after effects of the burn for some time to come. Heading up a small hill, the next wow moment of the day comes very soon as you reach the area near Nut Lookout.
There is a communication tower at the top of the hill so you have a good yard stick for judging how far you are away from the amazing views and it's a really cool moment when you pop out and see this part of the coast for the first time. I didn't actually make it to the proper Nut Lookout, I took a sandy path to the left and sat on the edge of the green farmland just in awe of the scene in front of me. The funny thing about this view is looking straight ahead is Peaceful Bay, a destination you won't reach until the next day if you are single hutting but seems like a short skip and a jump. This is because the track actually heads south for a few kilometres and then pretty much due west all the day to Conspicuous Cliffs. The headland in the distance is just after Little Quarram Beach, a destination you'll reach in two days time, so it's quite interesting being able to see you next couple of days from this very spot. The farm here was looking pretty good in the clear skies and this whole scene was so lovely that I dropped my pack and had a bit of a rest, finding some dehydrated strawberry that I forgot I had packed.
After a bit of a chill overlooking the coast, I dusted myself off and continued along my way, happy to find a Swamp Bottlebrush that I had come to enjoy so much on the Northcliffe to Walpole section of the track. I found the official Nut Lookout and stopped once again to take many more photos. From this perspective you get to see the Kingia's in the foreground and the coastline in the background, making for some lovely shots. The burnt forest continues and if I'm not mistaken, this was part of the out of control fires from that horrible autumn week in 2018 that had the Stirling Range, Torndirrup, Peaceful Bay and around this location burning all at the same time. The area is recovering but the trees are blackened and wearing their green jumpers, meaning any chance of a canopy of probably a decade off happening. Luckily I had other things to distract me with the views looking down the hill continuing to impress and I had some good fortune while photographing a Southern Cross wildflower with a small Flower Spider appearing in shot. I really enjoy seeing the Southern Cross as it can have so many striking forms depending on the stage it is at.
Sometimes it looks like a lot of alien heads poking out or the petals take on a black vein angel wing look like the ones I was photographing. At the bottom of the hill you cross Kwokalup Creek, which translated means place of the wallaby /quokka /pademelon but unfortunately I didn't see any on my visit. With the trail now flattening out, the ocean wasn't visible so my attention naturally shifted towards spotting interesting things either side of the trail. I found myself some droseras, in both the larger sundew variety and the vine style that is really hard to photograph due to its delicate form. The burnt scenes weren't looking too bad in the sunshine with the white sandy trail providing a feature for your eyes to follow into the distance. While it wasn't exactly super hilly, the terrain was pleasantly undulating as you make your way to Ficafolia Road. As I headed along the track the trees disappear and you get some sweeping views looking towards the coast but it is just a small sliver in the distance. There is a small rocky flat to the left of the track and here I spotted my first hiker of the trip but she looked to be only out on a day hike.
Reaching Ficafolia Rd, a very wide gravel road, this will be your home for just under a kilometre and an opportunity to really appreciate the vastness of this part of the landscape. The name Ficafolia comes from the name of the pretty flowering gum (Corymbia Ficifolia) found in this area that has made a name for itself for its lovely flowers. Only found in this tiny area, it has been exported all over Australia but given I was out of season (they flower in summer) and a burn had been through here, I didn't get the bright red display. What I was enjoying was the cloud display contrasting against the bright blue sky and orange of the gravel road. While sunny conditions in the forest aren't ideal, they are perfect for the open sections like this. Combine this with very open landscape and you felt very small. I spotted a brown lagoon on the right that didn't look very inviting for a swim but looked pretty cool for a photograph.
Spotting the unusual track sign pointing you back onto the single path in the coastal heath, I'm not sure if there is another sign with Bibbulmun Track written vertically. Leaving Ficafolia Rd, ahead of me was some thicker and unburnt Peppermint Tree heath that was very welcome in the heat of the day. The transition is fairly quick and the increase in shade was a delight, as were the increase in wildflowers. The elevation through here was deceptively hard with a lot of ups and downs in the soft sand and I decided to take my lunch break here on a fallen branch. Recharging my energy, the usual Clif bar was consumed and while I was sitting on the branch I had a good look around at the variety of life around me. Plenty of yellow and orange peas were brightening up the undergrowth and on the underside of my branch were some coral like fungi growing out of the bark. As I was getting up to leave I noticed a small spider just off the track that decided to play nice and pose for the photo.
With the batteries recharged I was coping better with the undulation but was still frequently stopping to look at the different wildflowers and interesting features along the track. The occasional grass tree I did spot had some really funky moss painted all over the trunk and on one example there were plenty of orange fungi dotted everywhere. The first of a couple of sets of stairs appears and make for an easier ascent than the two steps up, one step back approach when climbing on sand, not to mention it's better for track erosion. While the track is a bit hilly, the overall slope takes you downhill towards a lovely thicket of Peppermint trees. Occasional breaks in the trees provides views up towards some of the higher dunes to the south and gives you a good indication of some of the climbing you'll be doing later. Arriving at some of the best Peppermint forest of the entire day, this was a really fun section to walk through with plenty of wildflowers to see and a lovely smell to the air.
Climbing up the last of the stairs, you reach the ridge line of the dune system leading all the way down to Conspicuous Beach. After the closed in walking since Ficafolia Rd, it was fun to be out in the open and even better to know the coast is just a short distance away. Before you get there, the views looking down the ridge line and off to the south are pretty amazing. As the ocean views get better and better, the sense of excitement rises. If you're coming from a N-S direction, this will be the first time getting up close and personal with the sandy beaches of the south coast since a brief dalliance on Mandalay Beach a couple of days before coming into Walpole. With the track running parallel to Conspicuous Beach Rd, you are reminded that it's a popular tourist beach but during my walk I didn't see a single car. It's a really fun section to walk along as there is so much to see, from the limestone cliffs to the south to the crashing waves along the coast to the hardy Banksia's along the track.
Soon enough you reach the stairs leading down to the gazebo but right before that is the side trail to the famous lookout. For some silly reason that I can't remember now, probably in my haste to get down to the beach, I didn't visit the lookout. Luckily there are some excellent views later on in the day and after a bit of descending on the wooden stairs, I was on the boardwalk leading to the beach. I don't think I could have picked a better day for my visit with sunny skies and light fluffy clouds, I reached the end of the boardwalk and was just amazed at how pretty everything looked. The stream running next to the boardwalk provided a cool feature and the dunes on the other side framed this little chute perfectly. Dropping my bag at the surfboard shaped bench, I had the whole place to myself so took full advantage, getting into weird positions to photograph the Conspicuous Cliff sign that is really well done with the cut out letters. I spent a fair amount of time here just enjoying the spot and taking a lot of photos looking up and down the beach and trying to capture the sign in a lot of different ways.
After a short rest I was ready to go and with the bottom of the stairs leading directly into the stream, I decided that shoes off was the better option along here. I was going to do it anyway as I love the feeling of ditching the hiking shoes and feeling the sand between my toes. It was a very refreshing feeling walking along with bare feet, getting them wet at every opportunity and with the entire beach to myself on this glorious day, I was having a blast. The imposing height of Conspicuous Cliffs in front was both awe-inspiring and a reminder to the calves that there was some work to be done to reach the top. While conditions were sunny and with fairly light winds, the waves were still crashing in the distance and given I was on my own, I decided it was best not to go for a swim. Even in really calm conditions like I had, swimming is not advised due to the currents, strong swell and rips, which is a shame because it looks so pretty. The beach walking is very brief and the exit is very easy to spot with a faded Bibbulmun post containing a couple of yellow markers. After missing the beach exit at Mandalay, I was extra careful to look out for it here but that wasn't really necessary.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to the climb up to the top of Conspicuous Cliffs if it was anything like the slog after Mandalay Beach. To begin with it was really pleasant as you walk past another stream that is surrounded by a lovely green shroud of vegetation. Hoping to see some kangaroos here given it would be a popular drinking spot, I didn't see any but that changed a bit further up the track. I was very happy to find a nice solid trail as the track started to climb up the dunes here so there would be no tough slogging today. The calves were actually feeling really good and I was almost powering up the incline, stopping occasionally to photograph the flowers or say hello to my kangaroo friends that popped their heads up from their afternoon grazing. Instead of just taking you straight up the side of the dune, you head in an easterly direction first, providing some muted views of where you'll be hiking the following day before turning south and taking you up via some switchbacks. It's not easy going but if you stop to rest every now and then, very easy to do with all the different wildflowers around, it's a manageable climb.
Spotting a "Cliff Risk" sign and catching sight of where I had been not so long ago, I had almost reached the top. Thinking this was the famous Conspicuous Cliffs I started taking a lot of photos but it didn't seem like the scenes I remember from photos I'd seen. With the trail still heading uphill I continued on and eventually found the side trail to the really great views. Confronted with the jagged limestone formations at the end of the side trail, I had a big smile on my face as the epic views sprawled out in front of me. It was amazing to think that not so long ago I was walking along the beach below and wondering how hard it would be to get up here. If you do decide to take this trial, just be careful on the edge of the cliff as there are some big drop-offs and limestone is not known to be the most stable of rock, especially on the edges of these weathered formations. From this perspective it was really fun to sit and enjoy watching the waves roll in and crash against the round headland below. Shooting into the sun wasn't ideal but most of what I wanted to photograph was below me so in the end it wasn't really an issue. With plenty of shots in the bag, I seriously considered coming back up here for sunset but would decide after finishing the rest of the track all the way to Rame Head.
Moving on, it was all downhill from here to the campsite and the introduction of some different views. In the afternoon light it was a really enjoyable descent as Rame Head came into view and you could see further into the distance at what used to be where the track used to go. The campsite came into view and the end of what had been a spectacular day was near. There are a couple of ways into camp thanks to the location of the tent sites and I ended up coming in the back way. I was once again on my own but I didn't mind as I got to explore the shelter and setup where I wanted. Rame Head is unique with a little alcove attached to the side of the Nornalup style shelter to provide an area for hikers to dry their clothes out of the wind and rain. Alternatively as Steve pointed out on the podcast, it's also a place to banish snoring hikers if they get too loud. Another cool feature is the wooden animals placed all around the shelter with Blue Wren, Owl and Lizard being some of the artwork. With no wind and the warming afternoon sun, I unpacked everything and enjoyed a relaxing time writing in the log book and my own journal. As I was doing this I had a couple of visitors come into camp for a feed.
At first I saw a mumma kangaroo in the small clearing in front of the shelter having a graze and she was quite comfortable with me getting within a metre or two without feeling the need to jump off. Thinking how nice it would be if she had a joey, her youngling popped out behind her and started feeding too. Far from a fleeting visit, they stuck around camp for the whole afternoon, not really moving that much so I got plenty of photos. This did distract me quite a lot so in the end I didn't have time or inclination to rush the 1km up the hill for the sunset (although I probably should have). The lighting form down here wasn't too bad, which is why I was happy to stay here while I made dinner. It was really cool watching the changing light, both to the east and back towards the hills to the west. With darkness setting in I retired to my sleeping bag and started the final Lord of the Rings movie. With clear skies I got up a few times to try and capture the Milky Way but with it's position early on in the night being pretty much above me, it took some creative placement of props to get the camera pointing in the right direction (no tripod for this trip). In the end I got the core of the Milky Way on the edge of one shot and the tail on the horizon in another. Happy with that I went back to the shelter and enjoyed the rest of my night.
Final Thoughts - If the previous day was one of the best on the track, this was if anything, a better day. The variety today was outstanding with the track starting out in Tingle Forest before heading through Peppermint trees, coastal heath, some beach walking and finally limestone cliffs.
When people rate this as one of the best town to town sections, this is one of the days that you can point to and say why.
Part of the reason why I enjoyed this day so much was partly because of the weather but the south coast is so wild that even if you get some unfavourable weather, the coastline will give you a great show.
I've taken plenty of photos and written a fair amount so it's safe to say I found this a really great experience. So...
Get out there and experience it!!!
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