Muttonbird to Sandpatch
25th September 2019
The Hike - The final day of the Bibbulmun was upon me and it was a morning of two starts. As promised, Gandalf and Pixie were up and about to leave at 4:30am so I briefly woke up then before falling right back to sleep. It would have been nice to wish them good luck on their final day but I'd see them again that afternoon. Rising again as first light was breaking, I thought the most appropriate way to see in my final day was to head to the coastal cliffs for what ended up being a stunning sunrise. Still in my thermal bottoms, thongs and jacket, I raced off down the 4x4 track and was soon in awe of the scene in front of me. With the sun rising behind the wind turbines to the east and some fluffy clouds hanging over the ocean, it was pretty magical sight that the perfect way to start the day.
Moments like these are why I get up early on the trail and take every opportunity to maximise the opportunity to see these special things. The humidity from yesterday had stuck around so it was a peaceful experience to sit on the limestone rocks and take in the gentle sounds of the ocean while watching the beautiful sunrise unfold. Really hoping a whale or two would swim on by to top off the experience, I was not that lucky but still had the lovely sunrise to watch so everything was fantastic in my world. My final day was a double hut into Albany, covering 25km of mostly flat terrain along the coast before heading inland towards Princess Royal Harbour and the walk into town. Hoping to get there by mid afternoon so I could check-in to the guesthouse I was staying at and have a hot shower. Returning to camp, I started the process of packing up my gear, noticing the infamous Muttonbird millipedes that I had read about from various sources. Happy that I had setup my tent inner the night before, I made sure my gear was millipede free before packing it away. Deciding to have breakfast on the trail, I brewed my last coffee for the trip and enjoyed that while stuffing everything into my pack in the correct order. Leaving just after 7am, the legs were feeling great and I was in a very happy mood, keen to explore the coastline and take in the much talked about Albany Wind Farm.
The morning light was providing some excellent scenes as the trail climbs out of the little ravine and up onto the ridge running parallel with the coastline. The wildflowers were out in force with a pink, purple and yellow theme to the early stretch thanks to some Rose Coneflowers, Native Geranium, Coastal Banjine and Wattle. Some low lying Banksia cones were in flower as you looked out towards the ocean and their beautiful structures and colours were a real treat in the morning light. The wind turbines disappeared in the first part of the day and it was nice to see the hills in their bare form given how much of the morning would be spent admiring the towering sources of renewable energy. The perfect weather looked to continue today with calm seas and non-threatening clouds providing a nice vista to photograph. There was a stillness to the air that was lovely to walk in and caused me to slow down a little and enjoy my walking a bit more. I came across a small seat overlooking the ocean and even though I was only a couple of kilometres into the day, I stopped to see if I could see any whales.
Given this was my last day, I was determined to see a whale so sat on the wooden plank overlooking the ocean and really concentrated on the vast blue laid out in front of me. I had my eyes focused and could spot every white cap that appeared but there were no whales for me. I'm guessing as soon as I turned my back they all surfaced and had a good laugh at being so good at hide and seek. With the fluffy white clouds sticking around this morning, the ocean was looking a treat as I continued along the coastal path that I was happy decided to stick with the ocean views rather than head inland. With the wind turbines getting closer and closer, it was exciting that the track takes you right up to a pretty close distance. With 18 turbines in total along the coast, it provides about 30% of Albany's power supply and is a tourist destination in it's own right. They are very photogenic, especially at sunrise and sunset, and there has been a bit of infrastructure around Sandpatch to allow visitors to walk along the coast and admire them. I'm all for green energy and I'm surprised there aren't more projects like this all along the south coast as WA isn't exactly known for being a state with gentle breezes.
While I said that the track doesn't take you inland along here, it does occasionally head through some thick sections of Peppermint trees but this just serves to provide a bit of well needed shade. It's also a good opportunity to spot some wildflowers and orchids because in spring they can be really hard to spot. Getting closer to the first three wind turbines, it was nice to hear the gentle swoop as the giant blades rotated. In sections where the sun was behind the blades, the shadows would swoop in and out of your view as you walked along. Together with the excellent wildflowers and orchids, there were many Banksias that were flowering including some really bright cones of red and orange. With different Banksia trees in various stages of the flowering process, there was a great variety on display and it was really cool to see the whole life cycle as you passed different trees. With the wind turbines continuing to be a feature, it was easy to track your progress throughout the morning and the best was yet to come as the path once again returned closer to the ocean.