Gabbi Karniny Bidi
Start - Main Settlement, Rottnest Island
Length - 9.50km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Path, Beach, Pavement
Vertical Climb - 131m
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Yellow Markers
Date Hiked - 29th August 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
The Hike - With a day trip booked to Rottnest to explore the island, there were a couple of walks on the Wadjemup Bidi that I wanted to tackle before heading back to Fremantle on the late ferry.
With the 9.5km Ngank Yira Bidi completed before lunch it was time to explore the Gabbi Karniny Bidi that takes you on a 9.5km loop from the main settlement out towards the island's lake system and then along the famous northern coastline of Rottnest. With a lamb and rosemary pie from the bakery providing some energy we headed out of the settlement on Digby Drive and towards the first turn-off at the island's cemetery. The trail markers you will be following on the Gabbi Karniny Bidi are the same as the Ngank Yira Bidi, only they now have a yellow outline instead of blue. When you have found the easy to spot cemetery entrance you can have a look at some of the gravestones in the cemetery or continue up the steps and to the first landmark of the trail, the Vlamingh Lookout.
The short climb is well worth it as you get to experience panoramic views across the island and you catch a glimpse of the stunning lake system that dots the interior of the island. The lookout is a solid looking limestone piece that frames little scenes depending on where you stand. The Vlamingh name is one that pops up quite a bit in Western Australia and there is a Vlamingh Memorial on the coast in Cottesloe that I'm sure many of you have passed and not realised. The history behind the name refers to Willem Hesselsz de Vlamingh, the Dutch sea captain who explored and mapped a lot of the west coast of Australia before the British settled here.
It was his expedition to Rottnest and his subsequent exploration that the island was named Rottnest as he thought the quokkas were large rats so named the island rats nest (Rattennest in Dutch). The traditional name for the island is Wadjemup and of course we now know that quokkas are so much better than just large rats. The short trip down from the lookout takes you to a little causeway between Garden Lake and Herschel Lake. This is where we encountered what passes for a traffic jam on Rottnest with three cars and several bikes present at one intersection. It all got sorted quickly and we were free to admire the beautiful views across Lake Herschel and the causeway on the southern side.
One of the benefits of taking the bus back from the end of the Ngank Yira Bidi was the excellent commentary from the bus driver. When we passed this section he provided a brief history on each location and we learned about how the causeway was constructed. In one of many sad chapters in the states history, Rottnest was an aboriginal penal colony for nearly 100 years and the prisoners were used to construct several buildings and roads around the island. The causeway was one of these projects and thankfully the prisons were closed in the 1900s (although prisoners were still used for construction until the 1930s). Having crossed the smaller causeway, the trail deviates off the road and up a slight hill where you will get views of the golf course or the much better lake system. This was the point where we saw our second "wild" quokka (i.e one not happy to stay around the settlement and pose for photos).
This one was a bit more timid than the smiling cuties back at the bakery and hopped off into the bushes after a few photos taken from a distance. It is on this section that you get really close to the big wind turbine that provides 30% of the island's power and the desalination plant that reduces the reliance on rain water. With plans for solar power to be installed at the airport, it is great to see Rottnest investing in sustainability for the future. The wind turbine is not a blight on the landscape as some people call them and actually serves as a great reminder about how self sufficient the island must be even though it is 20km from the mainland. As you turn your back on the wind turbine you come across the salty scenes of Lake Baghdad. With my travels having not taken me to Iraq, I can't comment on the differences so instead let me just talk about the Baghdad on Rottnest.
With plenty of rain recently the lake was filled to the brim and we walked along the limestone path admiring all the birds fluttering in the golden shallows. Lake Baghdad is recognised as a Wetland of National Importance and with the wildlife we observed I can see why. The trail takes you further along Lake Baghdad until a limestone barrier appears and you transfer over to the northern shores of Herschel Lake. The foam on the edge of the lake is very prevalent here and with even the slightest wind it flies across the path and settles in the nearest bit of vegetation. From here the trail enters a section of grassy dunes where you catch glimpses of the surrounding lakes. It isn't long before you reach a lookout over Lake Vincent and get sight on the feature boardwalk that allows you to walk out onto the water’s edge. When you arrive the spectacle is worth the walk and you can picture yourself floating on the cloudy mirror-like finish of the lake's surface.
While providing a closer look at the shallows of Lake Vincent, the boardwalk also protects the fragile ecosystem of the lake. I couldn't stop photographing this section but after a few dozen photos of varying angles it was time to move on. After walking next to lakes in the sunshine for quite a while you are transported up some limestone steps and thankfully are pointed into some thick bushland. The shade was welcome and although brief, it serves well to mix up the trail. It doesn't last long as you get deposited onto a path, which serves as the next leg of your journey. At the picnic area we spotted a Japanese couple having some fun with a selfie stick and a friendly quokka. We left them to it and moved on along the path and past another postcard perfect lake. With Wadjemup Lighthouse in the distance, it made for yet another great photo opportunity so the camera was working overtime. The path snakes through more lovely scenes and you are reunited with Lake Baghdad.
Leaving the bitumen path, the trail takes you along the tree lined grassy paths on the northern edge of Lake Baghdad. Soon you reach the main road that loops around the island and a stone’s throw away from the breathtaking northern beaches. We chose this point to have a rest at the Parakeet Bay bus stop and it has to have one of the best views from a bus stop in WA as it looks out over Lake Baghdad. Refuelled and refreshed, we started the final leg of the journey, the spectacular northern beaches. First on the list was a slight detour from the trail (100m) and to what we were told was a popular wedding destination, Parakeet Bay. The popularity is well deserved as this little slice of perfection is what makes this island so great. If it was on the southern coast of France then you wouldn't be able to move without bumping into someone but on Rottnest, it is one of many little coves and beaches to explore with very little interference.
This was the enticing entree to the rest of what was in store for the remainder of the day so we found the trail and headed above the waters until the next postcard came into sight, Geordie Bay. Having only visited the main settlement and Pinky Beach before, I thought the accommodation on the island was limited to family holiday units that were the equivalent of upgraded army barracks. Geordie Bay or as I dubbed it, the Rottnest Riviera, looked stunning in the winter sun. The yellow holiday units all lined up perfectly on the edge of the beach make for an excellent photo from the cliff tops. Being winter there wasn't a sole in sight and the bay was completely empty of boats. There are many spots to take photos as the trail gets closer to the beach so I took advantage of the great weather conditions and emptiness of the scene.
The trail thankfully takes you down to the main beach where the only company we had was a flock of seagulls as we strolled along white sands that any Caribbean beach would be jealous of. It would be nice to have it this empty in the summer and have some snorkelling gear with me but I don't think it is this quiet during the warmer months. Not wanting to move on, we had an explore of the jetty and then said goodbye to the stunning views. Up the path we went and on to the little alcove of shops that supply the nearby holiday units (more yellow holiday homes line the streets). Unfortunately they were closed for a week so a coffee was out of the question and headed to the next section of beach at Longreach Bay.
You certainly are spoilt for choice when Longreach Bay becomes yet another piece of white sandy beach but that is no bad thing. With no one around we started beach combing again but the sheltered bay didn't hold the same bounty that the southern coast on the Ngank Yira did. At the end of the bay we came across a couple of Pied Oystercatchers on the rocks as we followed the well placed trail markers up to The Basin. This short section of beach is one of the more popular swimming spots on the island but being a bit chilly and without a towel we didn't partake in a dip. Instead we admired from a distance and moved on to a familiar part of the island, Pinky Beach.
I remembered it being a lot bigger but my last visit was a few years ago and I'm getting old now. That doesn't stop it being a great little beach and with Bathurst Lighthouse towering over proceedings it is a lovely spot to spend a few hours. Being a short walk from the main settlement this is one of the most popular spots on the island and a great location for catching the sunset. With the clouds starting to pick up I wanted to get some good shots of the lighthouse in before it became too grey. We climbed the steps to the top and had a look around before an impromptu photo shoot of Caris having a rest on the lighthouse stairs.
Looking out across the ocean to the mainland, we could see the CBD as a small speck and I waved to my co-workers in Central Park who I'm sure were enjoying their Monday without me. In the end the best shot of the lighthouse ended up being in front of the clouds that were rolling in. We finished the last section of the walk in quick time so we could do a few things before the last ferry departed. With another great 9.5km walk in the bag we had an ice-cream, said hello to some more quokkas and headed to the jetty, ready to head home after a rewarding day of exploring. I can't comment on the ferry ride home as I feel into a peaceful slumber.