A hike along the Bibbulmun Track delivers spectacular tall forests and a healthy dose of Zen.
There are big trees, and then there are really big trees. So big that you can stand inside them and invite a couple of mates to stand there with you. Meet the tingle tree, a Western Australian native that can grow up to 75 metres high, with a base trunk circumference of up to 24 metres.
“The tingle forest is always a massive surprise for our guests,” says Simon Mendelawitz, the owner of WA adventure travel company Inspiration Outdoors.
“They don’t know trees can look like that, like something you’d see in The Lord of the Rings. It’s amazing to stand next to them, to walk inside them – even to look at them from above, as we do when we take the treetop walk.”
Mendelawitz regularly takes guests through the tingle forests in WA’s southwest on his Bibbulmun Track itineraries. The Bibbulmun is Australia’s longest walking trail and stretches 1000km from Kalamunda in the Perth hills all the way down to the historic town of Albany in the far south. It passes through huge swathes of forest before emerging onto the coast.
For those who don’t have a spare six to eight weeks to tackle the trail in its glorious entirety, Inspiration Outdoors runs a range of guided week-long tours covering different stretches of the trail. These trips are designed for hikers who love a challenge but don’t feel the need to go full-Burke-and-Wills. If you prefer bunking down in hotels rather than camping, and carrying a day pack instead of a heavy load, this is the trip for you.
While each section has its attractions, the stretch between 125km Walpole and Denmark section is particularly scenic. It starts in the tall-tree forests of the southwest, home not just to tingle trees but other remarkable species dating back to the days of the Gondwanaland super-continent, including vertiginous karri trees that soar so high that their branches block out the sun. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of walking through these ancient forests, your footfalls muffled by the leaf litter and rich loamy, leafy forest aromas in your nostrils.
The coastal section of the track has a very different feel.
“We walk along beautiful beaches and cliffs – the Conspicuous Cliff and Green Pool are simply stunning – and we often see whales along the way,” Mendelawitz says. “When the wildflowers are out, as they are right now, it’s dazzling. Coastal camellias, wild orchids, even wattles with their gold blossoms against the blue water – it’s really special.”
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the walk is how uncrowded it is. That goes not just for the track, but for the whole region.
“You will have the area pretty much to yourself,” Mendelawitz says. “Over a seven-day walk, it’s rare for us to see anybody along the trail.”
With walkers covering about 20km a day, the pace is anything but punishing. This isn’t about breaking land speed records, but about the many pleasures of slow travel.
“When you’re travelling on foot, you slow down enough to take in the environment around you,” Mendelawitz says. “You have time to notice the micro – a particular bird, or flower, or bug. And then there’s the social experience. A lot of research has been done about the types of conversations people have when they’re walking. They are much more open and honest. You have amazing conversations when you are walking for hours.”
First-time hikers are often surprised at how relaxed they are by the end of the trip. Mendelawitz says that comes from dialling down the distractions. “You have time to finish your thoughts with no distractions,” he says.
“First you might work through your kitchen renovations, then you might complete your Christmas list – and once you have gone through that superficial stuff, you have time to really delve deep into all the things you’ve been ignoring.”
Not to mention the fact that the walk itself is a stress-free zone. Unlike a city break, where you are constantly having to make decisions – which café, which museum, take the bus or take a taxi? – on this trip, everything is taken care of.
“It tips you out of decision-making mode, which is taxing for a lot of people,” Mendelawitz says. “There are no decisions – all you have to do is just keep walking.”
The writer travelled as a guest of Inspiration Outdoors on the eight-day Walpole to Denmark itinerary, starting and finishing in Perth.
Images: Tourism WA
Get there: Inspiration Outdoors’ Bibbulman Track walking tours start and finish in Perth. Tour operators will drive you from Perth to your chosen starting point on the Track, and will transport you back at the end.
Walk it: Bibbulman Track tours range in length from four to nine days and cost from $1445 for a 4-day, 58km challenge. See the options at inspirationoutdoors.com.au