Start - Roland Smith Bus Stop (#12)
Finish - Little Parakeet Bay Bus Stop (#18)
Length - 5.9km (One Way)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Beach, Paved Path
Vertical Climb - 99m
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Green Markers
Date Hiked - 7th March 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Landing at the main settlement jetty you need to take the bus service out to bus stop #12 (Roland Smith). The trail starts off the road that runs parallel with Digby Drive.
The Hike - With a successful morning hiking the new Ngank Wen Bidi, we were at Narrow Neck in the blazing sunshine enjoying some lunch before embarking on the final hike of my Wadjemup Bidi collection, the Karlinyah Bidi. This hike I had actually planned for February 2017 but as with all these trails, they are best enjoyed if you take your time and we ran out of time on that particular visit. I was back however and with the Ngank Wen Bidi only being 8km, there was plenty of time left in the day for the shortest of all the Wadjemup Bidi hikes at a mere 5.9km one way.
The sun was out in force now after a very cloudy but humid morning and after we had finished lunch we found the green Wadjemup Bidi markers pointing us back onto the beaches of Rocky Bay and the first of quite a few beach walks. Having already done a few beach sections on the Ngank Wen Bidi, the novelty had worn off slightly but it was still a great spectacle seeing all the boats lined up in the bay on very calm water. Minus the boats it reminded me a little of the beach walking on the Cape to Cape with very soft sand as you got further away from the well used portion of the beach. Rounding the end of Rocky Bay, the beach walking continues as you round the head and the open shores of Stark Bay (winter was definitely not coming to this stretch of Rottnest).
I hadn't noticed how bright it was until this point as I had recently passed over my sunglasses to my travelling partner who had not brought hers. With a solution of squinting quite heavily I soon realised that one eye shut and the other eye looking through the camera lens seemed to work just fine and so we continued along the beach with me looking like a bit of a numpty. We passed an older couple that was taking their smaller vessel back to their much bigger vessel although the wife was quite content in having a swim instead of helping out her husband on the beach. It was at this stage that Caris was not enjoying the walking as much, having been feeling not well in the weeks leading up to this trip so after we climbed over some rocks blocking our final 100m at Stark Bay and made our way up the path to the bus stop, it was decided that she would not continue on.
The good thing about the Karlinyah Bidi is that while you get to experience parts of the island away from the usual touristy locations, you are never too far away from a bus ride back to the settlement. This was discussed at lunch so we waited for the bus to arrive and when it did arrive (on island time), we said our goodbyes and I continued on my way. The next stretch involves some inland walking but you soon return to the coastline for the briefest of bays before climbing up over the rocks to a sheltered inland section. Breaking up the beach walking, although it naturally has to occur due to cliffs and impassable sections, is a great way of making sure the trudging on soft sand doesn't feel like a chore. Even with the spectacular scenery around you, there are only so many pictures you can take of white sandy beaches and sweeping bays (isn't that a great issue to have in retrospect).
The ups and the downs of the coastal scrubland is a short detour and you come across yet another perfect beach entrance, this one was a little more popular than the others. A few families and tourists had set up on the southern edge of Ricey Beach and I could see why. The slight curl of the bay provided a good sheltered space to relax and being right along the bus route, it was an easy spot to access. I had a chuckle as I made my way down to the waters edge with a family having a good old time burying one of their members in the sand with only the head exposed. Innocent moments like that are what make holidays fun and hopefully they have a lot of good memories to take home with them. I left the holiday makers to their relaxation and continued on another long section of beach walking (sorry if this is sounding same same). Up in the distance I could see a break in the beach and what looked like the rugged beauty that is described in the brochure.
The soft sand gives way to a limestone platform, like so many I have seen from the cliffs around the island, but this one isn't underwater and the hard surface is a welcome relief. With only seasonal access throughout the year due to tides, wild weather and waves that could sweep you out to sea, I was blessed to be here on such a calm day. The trail looked like it went along the upper platform but I was lucky to be able to explore the lower platform and search for evidence of life in the rock pools. Unfortunately I wasn't that lucky but wasn't too fussed as I had a great opportunity at the end of the trail (more on that later). The limestone features around this stretch were very interesting to look at and took me back to year 11 and 12 geography classes with Mr Hanrohan discussing the various ways that the coastline is shaped over the ages. Every little nook and cranny has been exposed to the forces of wind, rain, salt and grinding and the shapes it has produced is spectacular. Another short beach section links this area to the City of York Bay and even more spectacular shapes.
The City of York name comes from the shipwreck located just offshore when in 1899 a cargo ship sailing from San Francisco ran into rough seas around Rottnest Island. Miscommunication between the captain and the Wadjemup Lighthouse caused the ship to run into the reef where it eventually sank, causing the loss of eleven lives. As a result, the Bathurst Lighthouse found on the Gabbi Karniny Bidi was built but that wasn't the last wreck to have occurred around these troublesome reefs. Climbing over the rocks and along the last little beach section of the City of York Bay, the trail takes you inland where there is a shelter and toilets before a short climb up the road to Bovell Way and views of the lovely Catherine Bay. Perched above the beach, there is a path you can take to a better location from the road but it was a little crowded so I continued on and sure enough you eventually reach the beach to appreciate things from a sandier perspective. I found more people enjoying the fantastic weather conditions at the end of the beach as I climbed up the stairs and back onto the road. I didn't mind the short road walk as down below was the location I had been most looking forward to, Little Armstrong Bay.
Attached to my pack were my snorkelling fins and with the warm weather and light winds continuing I was happy to be able to use them. There is a long staircase down to the small beach and there was a decent crowd enjoying the sheltered bay. Billed as one of the best snorkelling spots on the island I was keen to get out there so changed into my board shorts and headed down into the water. I had just put my mask on and launched off into the water when I realised I was forgetting something, my underwater camera. With an awkward trip back to my bag I was finally ready to start exploring the reefs and sea grasses of Little Armstrong Bay. The water temperature was very mixed as the warm surface water mixed with the colder stuff down below but the fish didn't seem to mind and even in the shallows I was surrounded by life. Having Port Beach as my local beach spot since my early 20s I don't expect much sea life to appear on a swim at the beach but Rottnest is very different and the reefs provide a great home to all kinds of fish species.
I soon realised as I explored the reef that I was being followed. Every time I turned around I was face to face with a school of cheeky Western Buffalo Bream. They had adopted me so I was one of them and they were my friends down here. I couldn't go anywhere on the reef without having them near me so I became an honorary Western Buffalo Bream for the afternoon. I saw plenty of other fish species but most of the more exotic ones sped off into cracks in the reef before I could get a good photo of them. I followed a larger fish with bright blue and yellow markings on its back (possibly a moon wrasse) further out to sea but as the water got much deeper I reminded myself that I was without a diving buddy and headed back to the shallows. I was out on the water for about 45 minutes and with much of the reef explored I said goodbye to my Bream squad and headed back to dry land. Thanks to a post on an old website that no longer exists on the fish around Rottnest Island I can tell you some of the names, otherwise I would have described them as big grey fish with yellow and stripy looking medium fish.
The change back into hiking clothes was a less sandy affair than I was expecting and with one last look out to the water I headed back up the stairs for the final march on the Karlinyah Bidi. Having come across the end of this trail on my Gabbi Karniny Bidi walk in 2016 I knew roughly what to expect but the combination of time and weather made for a very special experience. With the golden hues of mid-afternoon creeping over the landscape and that fresh feeling of just having swam in the ocean, the rolling grasslands took on a very calming feel. The soft yellow textures of the hills mixed with the deep blue of the sky made for an excellent finish and the views over Lake Baghdad was the cherry on top of a very enjoyable day. The trail ends at an information board just off Bovell Way as the Gabbi Karniny Bidi and Karlinyah Bidi meet. All that was left now was to walk the 4km back to the main settlement and meet up with Caris again. I took a combination of the roads and Gabbi Karniny Bidi and by the end I certainly didn't have that fresh ocean swim feeling but was still riding a high from the days walking.