The walk of madness (all so known in some circles as the trek of stupidity) began pleasantly enough at the Northern Terminus of the Bibbulmun track in Kalamunda with Shan having a good old power yack. And welcome to this post's first pro-tip.
Pro-tip 1: Don't consume copious amounts of roset the night before a 24 hour hike.
The three of us set off at 12:30pm, after delaying a few hours to allow the weather to ease (and for a sleep in, I had a couple glasses myself). The third member of our party of ineptitude was Dylan, who had been in a couple of 24 hour rogaines, but never managed to stay out for the whole time. The first section was very nice; through the abandoned golf course, up and down a nice little (read big) gully. Thats when the rain started. Of course, after some amount of time we reached the first hut, but only after navigating up the treacherous Bibbulmun river.
Pro-tip 2: Even in the best of conditions, everything is further than you think.
The first hut, Hewitts hut, was appropriately populated with many little kids when we arrived, and further to be populated by scouts at sometime in the near future. That was enough motivation to kick on through Mundaring Weir and up to Ball Creek hut.
I must admit, we stopped at the Mundaring Pub for a pint of coke on the way through. We were met by a group of quizzical mountain bikers when we arrived. When asked how far we had to go today, we replied and an in-depth psychoanalysis of our sanity began. Off we trotted, in the rain of course, up out of the Helena valley and toward Ball Creek.
About halfway on this leg, the sun went down. Now this didn't come as much surprise to any of us, but it did begin to instill a bit of worry and perhaps a smidgen of fear in me. That said, it could have been the caffeine from the coke finally reaching my brain. Upon finding that our little wagul friend was extremo-reflective, a collective sigh of relief was sighed and onward we forged.
We arrived at Ball creek well into the dark. Times will follow later as I can't remember them now. There was a group of girl scouts and their two leaders there (what is it with scouts and hiking? I'll never work that one out). This was our designated dinner stop so into the salmon and dry bikkies we chowed. With our legs thoroughly (haha) rested, we set off for the next hut, Helena, which was one of the prettiest views on the whole track. Pity it was dark AND overcast.
Remember the rain I mentioned? Yeah? Well it kept going all the way to Helena. It started to get a little.. hmm, whats the word, miserable. Group moral dropped significantly during this stretch (we'd been pretty bloody chirpy for slightly hung-over mad people). Physically I was fine, but I started to tire mentally, there was nothing to look at, nothing to hear except the rain (although we did here some funky sounding frogs at one point, that was the highlight). It was almost sensory deprivation at its finest.
Pro-tip 3 - Bring a bigger torch so I can look at stuff. Or an mp3 player. Or a not-overcast (undercast?) sky!
Arriving at Helena at 11pm-ish, we found that the hut was occupied by a single lady, that we probably scared the crap out of her (sorry Mrs Lady!). We ate, we laid down, mostly in silence. And we headed out again.
The next section was to Waaleigh hut. Again, another spectacular view with no view. This section has a nice little up and down hill section which is completely avoidable except for the fact that the track goes up and down it. So up and down we went. The rain managed to stop (I think by stop I mean light drizzle) for a little while, so it was pleasant. It gave my brain something to do. Across the river (creek? The watercourse??) and up another hill into some lovely Wandoo forrest. Wandoo is quite specky at night time, it stands out from everything else in the torch light. As we were nearing the hut, we came out onto the valley edge and watched the moon set. Ooo that was pretty. We got to Waaleigh and discovered it was populated by hikers. So again, we sat and ate our next main meal (brinner? deckfast?) in the rain in silence. We really wanted to have a decent 20 minute lie down in this hut, but we didn't want to disturb the other hikers.
Pro-tip 4: If you really need a decent 20 minute lie down, do it, even if you disturb other hikers.
The next section was to Beraking hut. It was supposed to be flat, and short, at around 8km. He headed out after our non-rest and all was going well. A couple of kilometers in (see pro-tip 2) my brain 'hit the wall'. It wasn't too bad at the start, but I started slipping into a weird state of delirium. I couldn't walk straight, I might have been seeing things (I'm not sure, I don't really remember this bit well). Moral became non-existant, or negative if thats possible. We started taking more and more breaks. I think Shan was getting sore, so while she rested, I would semi-nod off. After a little while we were all convinced we should have been at the hut by now, but I extrapolated pro-tip 2 to the worse case scenario. Think of how far you've gone, then halve it. So we kept plodding on. Shan (I think it was her, it could have been in my head) was insistent we'd missed the hut, which by this stage started sounding quite logical. Invoke pro-tip 2, keep plodding. Finally we got to the hut, invoked pro-tip 4 to the max and squished in amongst the plethora of other hikers.
We slept for I dont know how long, 20 minutes perhaps? The only reason we didn't stay longer is that we all were frightfully cold and walking was the only way to warm up. It was a good incentive to keep going.
Pro-tip 5: Bring some warm clothes. Already packed them? Good. Now put some more in. Yeah and that one too.
I actually felt quite good after our little nap and a bit of food munching. Our next hut was a hilly, long slog (about 12km) to Mt Dale hut. Moral lifted when the first glimpses of sunlight started to show. It was amazing. We reached the bottom of the valley before the Mt Dale climb, and tiredness, both physical and mental, started setting in again. We decided that we wouldn't have enough time to reach our goal of Brookton Hwy so we decided to bring in the back up plan. To finish at the car park just before the Mt Dale hut. Somehow we reached there. It was nice to sit down. Dylan and Shan fell asleep almost instantly. I ran into some nice day-hikers who let us borrow their mobile to ring our lift (my delightful partner Louise, thanks Lou!) to let her know we'd finished and if she could come early to meet us. The two phones we had bought had now stopped as they'd become water logged during the night.
We waited a couple of hours and Lou arrived. We all slept the whole way back. That night I slept for 14 hours. It was wonderful.
In the end we managed 57km of the 70km target in about 21 hours. We maybe... maybe could have made it, but it would have been very touch and go, so we decided not to.
I did want to make a little movie about this trip using the camera on my phone, but it died somewhere between Ball Creek and Helena. I'll put that footage up once I've edited it.
Highlights: We walked 57km and didn't die.
Lowlights: This is a tough one, so many contenders. The rain, the cold and the tiredness I'd say win.
Final pro-tip: Bring more caffeine!