White Horse to Gringer

It was a cold morning again at the White Horse shelter.  I sleep in my silk lining and am pretty warm at night unless I get up to pee… Fortunately that is only once or twice per night. Marilyn manages most nights without a pit stop, not sure how she does ír. Must be the twelve hot drinks  I have at night, green ginger teas and soups.  Phil was there as expected, but we were also joined by two young women, hiking South. Sheridan and Sarah I believe they were. Sarah was very well traveled and had hiked and camped in Africa and Asia, with stories to match. Sheridan has chronic fatigue and hyperchromalgia, and deals with chronic pain. She is a brave woman for whom I have a great deal of respect. Most in her situation would be sore and suffering at home, but she is out here living life!  She set up a tent in the shelter (with veneer backrests against wall too) as a trial, but had a lot of condensation overnight which made her sleeping bag wet. It did not dampen her mood, and the two women left shortly before us at 830am. Phil was long gone, he gets up early and listens to the weather forecast on his radio, gets ready and goes :)Today we hike over a mountain along the Bibbulmun to Gringer Campsite and go a kilometer and a half further along a spur trail to the Threeway roadhouse to the caravan! Phil took off before us and we expected to see him in the hut.Along the way we went up to a Mountain which had a spur trail to the top. We decided against the extra hike as the high rock ahead looked like a fair extra effort.We crossed the Albany highway and found Gringer hut, but no Phil. The log book mentioned mice and we were glad to go the the Roadhouse.Back at the caravan we restocked, did laundry, had a beer and potato wedges. Caught up on internet and  had fish and chips for dinner. We stayed in the backpackers quarter in proper beds with clean bedding! Radio interview in the morning! Was great to get some publicity! Sharon had tipped us off, a friend who is coming soon to join us for a few days!   We were worried about Phil not having arrived at Gringer’s before us but assumed he’d gone up Boonara Hill, the mountain along the way. When we saw his entry in the hut book in the morning  as we passed it on the way to Nerang campsite. Our walk to Nerang was nice and flat and fairly uneventful. We saw the black cockatoos with the white tails today, mostly we have seen the red ones. Apparently the red ones are endangered, even though they are the ones shouting at us along the track for weeks now. Kookaburras have also been laughing at us morning and night, they are very vocal and very abundant!At Nerang hut we found Phil. He had indeed climbed the mountain, albeit unknowingly. The spur trail is almost more trodden then the regular track and he had accidentally taken it. Once on top you were meant to go back the same way, but Phil thought he was on trail but couldn’t find the continuing track on top. He had also hit his head along the way which didn’t help the situation. An hour later he retraced his steps and 300m back found the junction and realized his mistake. To add to Phil’s demise he ended up at Gringer hut where at 8pm a dozen or more (19?) scouts woke him up with torches. They stacked his carefully collected and chopped jarrah firewood onto the fire (Phil is planning to walk back and was hoping the wood would be there in two days time still). He got up and socialized. In the morning he found a couple of young ones trying to light the fire and they asked if he could do it. He showed them how and once it was going they promptly left. No entry in the log book either!It was a short flat walk for us past Gringer hut to get to Nerang hut where we found Phil, chopping wood. Soon we were joined  by 5 mates who have an annual Bib hike. They provided good value for the night showing off awesome gear (ExPed mattresses etc) and cooking skills supplemented with Port.The toilet here is sponsored by life member John Forster, I wonder if he is our Tasmanian wood chopper!


Blackbird Fly

This is how things work here.Oliver´s been at our house for a week or so, helping out with pilgrims and housework, as well as helping out  at Bruno´s  albergue. Ollie´s a camino hospitalero of long experience. The dogs love him, he´s tried and true. I was finishing a manuscript, he was free, and we have a room where he can sleep.Everyone is happy.Work started on our remodeling/rebuilding project. Dust everywhere, but pilgrims coming out of the woodwork. Ollie and Paddy dealt with pilgs, I finished the book.We went to San Anton de Castrojeriz to check on things. Ollie is going to be host there in the months to come. Fred came along. He donated many bucketloads of donkey doo for the garden, from his projects in Carrion de los Condes. He brings along Tess, a California pilgrim who makes beautiful portraits from trash washed up on beaches. I commission a portrait of me, a Queen of Camino Trash, out of pure vanity, because I really cannot afford portraits these days…My friend Marta in Madrid wants to help furnish the new apartamento at the Peaceable. She has a huge and wonderful historic house in the middle of Madrid, full of beautiful things. Me and Oliver drove dwn on Thursday. Tess the artists needs to get home to California, so she comes along. We stay at Marta´s house.I realize I have left my handbag, ID, telephone, and cash at Peaceable. (what an idiot!)I use Tess´s telephone to call Paddy and Fred. Fred goes to Peaceable, gets the handbag, drives to Madrid (where he was going on Friday anyway)Leaves messages with Marta that he´s arrived, very late…Meantime, Ollie and Tess spend a long afternoon in Madrid, seeing the sights. I have no money to go to the big Van der Weyden show at the Prado, so I fall asleep and snooze for hours. Marta deals with realtors, corporate coachees, and emails.. I dunno. I was asleep!I wake up and chat with two very flash ladies who want to put Marta´s wonderful house in a magazine of Euro Executive Listings. I am reminded of how lucky I am to know Marta!And then two ladies and a little boy from the neighborhood, here to visit Monty the Dog. We give them beer, wine, Sunny Deelite or dog biscuits, depending on specie. Finally they go, and me and Marta open the Rueda. Tess arrives. Then Oliver, with a Madrilena peregrina he met a month or so ago… she showed him over the city all afternoon! We all sit on the terrace, and dear Marta feeds everyone on pinchos of hummus, crackers, apricots, corn chips, salsa, sliced turkey breast, tapanade… way beyond the call of duty.  She makes up beds for all of us strangers, she fields phone calls.Fred calls. He´s in town, he has my bag, he´s a couple of blocks away in a bar. It´s late.Me and Marta clear off a bed for Tess, put on sheets and eiderdown, hope it´s enough. The wind is up.Me and Ollie walk up to Las Portazgos en Nino Jesus, to meet Fred and Carmen. (Carmen lives right across the street.) Fred´s got my bag, God bless him… he´s saved the weekend! We have a vino on the terraza, he shows me the latest guitar, made for a maestro in Holland. The shallac is not quite set, but the instument glows from within as I touch the grain, smell the wood… and from the next table rises a young man.A student of classical guitar, from Caceres, in Extremadura. He asks if he might. He sits down and touches the guitar. He tunes it. He clutches and strokes and caresses… Por favor?I tell him, after my long day of foolishness and Lambrusco: I do not want to hear this guitar. I want to hear you, Carlos. I want to hear your heart in this guitar.And that is what happens there, in the patio on Nino Jesus. He puts his heart in there, and people go quiet, and he sings, and the guitar… it is only a baby, but it more than sings.It is beautiful, and it is midnight. And after a bit of Falla and a bit of Montoya, he sings a song that´s been speaking to me since the birds of passage returned to Moratinos this year, since I started going into my own back yard after midnight to look up into the stars, hearing birds sing in the dark…Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these broken wings and learn to flyAll your lifeYou were only waiting for this moment to arrive. Anodyne, yes. But beautiful. At least 50 people stopped to hear and enjoy.Real life is made of this.People find these things on the camino, and marvel at them. But they are here all round the bigger, greater world, too.We just have to open our hearts, and our homes, and our minds.Even in days that start out so stressful..We are only waiting for these moments to arrive.


The challenge of being

Today I am blessed with a quiet morning. Our back garden has awakened with birdsong and a scrub jay energetically splashing in a hollowed out rock (our bird bath). Not much else, just the stillness. This moment of quietude has brought me back to one of my favorite books, Thomas Merton’s, No Man is an Island. This small book is packed with with great wisdom for the seeker. It never fails to reorient my wayward spirit. Today as I leafed lazily through the pages something caught my eye.He states, “It is useless to try and make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything that we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity….We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting an immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition. It is only when we are detached from ourselves that we can be at peace with ourselves.”We seem to strive too hard to be special, to be unique as if being ordinary is a curse to be avoided, even a failure. Yet, it is in our ordinariness that grace is found. Just imagine what stress we create when we can only define ourselves, and our reason for being, through our accomplishments and our experiences. We create an insatiable hunger, a need for ever grander adventures, ever more distant pursuits. This spawns a restlessness that in the end steals our peace instead of granting it. I have to be careful here because walking various camino paths could also be construed as far flung grand adventures. However, in my mind, it is the intention that defines the journey. If I were to surrender to a need for recognition as a driving force behind going on pilgrimage, then I guess it would not be much of a pilgrimage. It would simply be an experience, an event, something to be checked off on a never ending to do list. But, that is not what brings Robin and I back to the Camino time and time again. It is the faith journey and all that it entails that allows us to accept, even desire, the challenges of the pilgrim road. As we move along these paths we are discovering ever more the joy of the journey Home. No one is so blessed that faith simply cleaves to their souls, like a barnacle to a rock. It requires uncharacteristic humility, and a willingness to let go of what we have been conditioned to pursue, that finally creates the smallest fissures through which God’s light can finally shine.Merton continues, “It takes more than an occasional act of faith to have such pure intentions. It takes a whole life of faith, a total consecration to hidden values. It takes sustained moral courage and heroic confidence in the help of divine grace. But above all it takes the humility and spiritual poverty to travel in darkness and uncertainty, where so often we have no light and see no sign at all.”No, it is not an easy path, but it is an incredible journey. Peace be with you.


Dwellingup to Chadora and Mount Wells

Whilst in Dwellingup we had casually looked for trail markers but never saw any, and I wasn’t about to ask anyone of course as we have a GPS! We got some extra supplies and repacked the bags on our day of rest and then I decoded to drive the caravan to our next resupply point. No more rest days as distances are getting shorter for us now!It was almost an hour and a half to drive to North Bannister on the Albany hwy where there is the Three ways Roadhouse. They will look after the vehicle for five days till we get there. Though we can’t stay in the caravan there we will stay in their accommodation! I hitched back in the late afternoon.Hitching back requires waiting alongside roads, and sometimes it gets cold or it rains, things I was not prepared for. Fortunately I got a lift with a friendly couple to Boddington and after almost an hour waiting there I got Eric from the local gold mine to drive me straight to our caravan park!  Got back at 530pm before sark and not cold and wet despite threatening weather. We already knew it can rain in Dwellingup, place of water apparently…Tuesday morning we headed into town to pick up the trail. GPS indicated it went along the rail and confidently I led Marilyn to the little station and followed the rail… After 200m my GPS showed me heading off the trail yet I was walking along the railways line. After a few confused minutes I said we need to head a few hundred meters north for some reason. We crossed an oval and got to another railway line :) we were finally on trail, but Marilyn was already getting prepared to use her compass!It was a fast flat walk to the first hut, Chadora, where we found Phil. Phil is a veteran Bib walker and volunteer who just thought he’d take a few days out of life to hike to Nerang. Nothing really do report on the walk except the cute spider we saw for lunch. Also, keep on forgetting to mention, the little pretty fairy wrens that do their mating twirlies in front of us to divert us away from their nests. They fly up and down and do aerial gymnastics, land, twirl their fancy tails at us, fly around… At times they’ve done this for close to 100m, but 20-30m is common. Lovely to see. Due to early arrival we had a leisurely time at the hut before worrying about dinner. Marilyn had dinner and breakfast covered, and we went to bed late (about 7pm) because Phil got out his cask of wine. As he is hiking for a long time without resupplies we were respectful with our consumption. Anyways, good thing we had some alcohol as it was a particularly cold night.In the morning Phil left before us. First time we are actually hiking ‘with’ someone, as our next two huts also coincide! Good thing Phil is a nice man :) He’s even done the Kakoda Trail and a few other interesting things. Walk to Mount Wells, our next hut was also straight forward, just over 16kms with a longish climb after our 11am lunch. We arrived on the summit of Mount Wells to meet Phil. The hut is a four walled hut with stove and fire tower behind it. Phil will be in charge of the fire as I need to try stay out of the smoke.  Marilyn has her own room here! First time is month she doesn’t need to share! Phil and I can have farting competitions all night!I’m in charge of dinner and breakfast here as my pack needs lightening :).


Drivers Road to Dwellingup

On Friday morning Marilyn and I had a leisurely morning waiting for Chris who was due to pick us up around 1030am. Chris and wife Shanomi arrived and we all drove to Drivers Road, a long way away along many little dirt roads.Half past noon we headed on our merry way along the Bibbulmun and despite the forecast stayed dry for the 16 or so kilometers along the Murray River to Murray’s shelter.  We were afraid we might get there after dark, but comfortably made it. At the hut we found the BBQ ring did not have a grill plate on it, which we wanted because Chris had brought along three steaks! As he lit the fire Marilyn discovered two bottles of wine in the shelters box! We’ve found titbits in it before ranging from gas canisters to candles, but never wine! Bonus :)Marilyn sharpened some sticks and soaked them to act as skewers for steak. Steaks were turned into pieces and we barbecued them successfully on Chris’s fire. Dinner was supplemented by rehydrated chorizo and beans from Ree.Off cuts of meat were tied to Marilyn’s shoestring and dunked in the Murray river in the hope of attracting some marrons (WA crayfish) which she had never seen before. No luck there, but she was lucky to find her laces back in the river.Next morning, as through  the night, it rained all morning so I got my umbrella out (which I had brought due to the terrible forecast of 50+mls rain/day) to go over my torn up raincoat (it has known better days but just recently started falling apart). We stopped for snacks in a hollow tree but the rain fortunately stopped in time for lunch. Chris had a brand spanking new picnic rug which we christened. Sitting amongst the mushrooms growing on the firetrail. Marilyn pulled out salami, tomatoes and sourdough bread fir the occasion.Straight after lunch as we headed up the steep hill we found several log benches to sit on, complete with distance info from huts. We had not seen seats since we left the coast! One was next to a hollowed out tree called the Yarrabi Hilton.Reasonably on schedule, 330pm, we walked into Swamp Oak campsite to find Annie’s birthday party; a group of 7 lovely women celebrating Annie’s 50th. Also there was Ashley and Elaine, a friendly couple out for an overnighter. Never had we seen such a crowd, and given the forecast and the log books it was an amazing coincidence to have us all get there the same night. We all worked as a team and managed to fit in.Though Ashley and Elaine had a tent, there was a space arranged for them in the hut as the forecast was miserable. It rained heavily most of the night but they were comfy and warm in their tent :)Did I mention Chris cooked again? He’d brought 500gms of mince and made a concoction for us… This was very unfair as Marilyn and I were left carrying our dehydrated extra food (we had also catered for chris just in case :)Come breakfast time the rain did not stop the 7 women from leaving as they had husbands waiting for them in the Dwelingup pup which stopped serving lunch at 2pm!The three of us left quite a bit later and walked through heavy rain along the track and missed one turn off. Instead of back tracking I used the GPS to guide us to a firetrail intersection where we found the women having a pee break. We joined them. We might have cut a little off with our mistake.We beat them into the pup as the rain pretty much made us run. I tried to get Chris and Marilyn to stop for lunch on the Bibbulmun 10minutes from town but they were hell bent on pup food. And yes, the rain was still pouring down on us…Drenched we made the pup and told the nervous men and children their women were on their way. We had a lovely pizza lunch which I woofed down with a few pints of Guinness. When Amber and boyfriend arrived many hours later to take Chris away we were almost completely dry again.I lost my new hanky already.. Nice to be back in the caravan! We will relax tomorrow and plan the next stage.


Collie River Valley Tourist Park

The last day’s walk before a track town is a little like a horse running towards its own  stable; there’s no stopping it. And that is essentially how we hiked into Collie.Left the Yabberup shelter which we really liked at about 815am and ran towards Collie at about 5kmphr. Actually whilst on the subject, we really liked the hut as it wasn’t terribly dusty and the boards you slept on were made from treated pine boards which has a smooth surface of which one could sweep the dust effectively! It also had plenty of hooks to hang things up on and had small side boards on which I could put my candle and rest my back whilst seated (on the boards). I know it still sounds spartan to most of you, but compared to Changi and the Bangkok Hilton it really seemed comfy.The (tea) candle is handy as I wake up when it flickers near its end which is generally about 1am and that is the time I go for a leak, have a bit of an energy bar and a mouth full of nuts and fruits and take an antibiotic pill (plus my usual enzymes). It saves me having to use a bright torch as well.The 20km walk to Collie was mostly down hill. We had a bit of a hard time following the trail in places , but thanks to Marilyn’s keen eye and my GPS it wasn’t too hard.At one point we emerged at power poles where the wiring was being repaved, but all we saw was electric wire hanging off the electricity poles. The track took us virtually past Collie before turning east and then south into town. We were keen to take earlier dirt roads into town but in the end religiously followed the Bibbulmun trail as lightning may strike us down if we  took short cuts.By the time we reached the Collie River Valley Tourist Park it was only 2pm or thereabouts. Chris and Shanomi had dropped the caravan there 5 days ago and it stood there faithfully waiting for us.Management was incredibly kind and generous and treated us like royalty, even painting  curbs near the caravan white with a fresh coat of paint and refused to charge us for our stay! Many thanks!We walked into town for an Indian Banquet at night and the following day visited the tourist office, the super markets, parks and wildlife and drove the caravan to Dwellingup which skips a lot of closed trail again.. As we drove North I received an email that Bob, a kind and thoughtful hiker, had brought my beloved thongs to the Collie tourist information center where we’d been earlier. Unfortunately we are now far away again. Still working on logistics to get them back!Chris is picking us up tomorrow to drive us back south to Drivers Road to pick up the trail where we are legally allowed to recommence our Bibbulmun track! Chris will hike with us for the three days through predicted foul wet and windy weather back to Dwellingup where we are leaving the caravan thanks to the kind people at the caravan park there.And so we slowly make our way North. Watch this space!Also a big thank you to all those who  kindly donated to Cystic Fibrosis through our Every day hero page! CF Tasmania really appreciated the donations. I don’t think week reach our target but hey, nice to be optimistic! Special thanks to my mum and the Burnie NW hospital for their generosity :).


Balingup to Grimwade

Chris and Shanomi drove over from Perth to spend a day with us on our restday this Saturday in Balingup. Balingup is a quaint little tourist town where they had an arts and crafts market happening. I bought some local honey which I paid for but forgot to take from the stall :( We tried to have lunch in one of the cafes but after a ten minute wait for the table it turned out they had run out of food in any case! Ended up in the nice tavern down the road where we were enchanted by the chili burgers!!Chris and Shanomi were kind enough to take our caravan to Collie on their way home, our next destination, and the Post house Backpackers at the Balingup post office (surprise!) offered us a very kind rate to stay in a room there. Shanomi saw or back packs and suddenly realized we weren’t just on an afternoon hike. She had conveniently forgotten about having to lug 23kg backpacks with us… Renewed respect :)Eight on Sunday morning, mother’s day,  we were heading up the hills on the Bib again! A quick photo at Walter street on the way out :) Not named after me incidentally.Trail was good, with a few challenges both vertical and signposting wise, met one young hiker coming the other way just after lunch, I lost my thongs of my backpack, and we arrived 4pm after almost 25kms of ups and downs at Grimwade hut. And grim it is. Signs of recent bushfires, tons of dust everywhere… and I miss my thongs :(Interestingly we saw several signs indicating aerial back burning! No dates posted, but we kept a cautious eye on the sky just in case fire bombing was happening. Despite no accrual fire bans in force the fire ring at the hut has an undated notice to say No Fires and Fire Ban, but we don’t normally light them anyways.. In the other huts we found down South we never had dust problems as they had wood chips on the floor. What a massive difference that makes!Anyways, another big day again tomorrow… Geez I’ll miss my thongs till we get to Collie on Wednesday afternoon :)


Grimwade and Noggerup

We left our dusty Grimwade hut nice and early and walked North… Well, we were meant to be heading north, bit the track decided differently. Though the first we were walking through appeared innocent enough (no steep gullies etc) it wound around in mysterious ways even avoiding convenient connecting dirt roads. If anyone knows why the track sometimes seems to go out if its way for no apparent reason we would love to be enlightened. When I showed the map to Marilyn she said she’d take the map next time and make sure we don’t miss shortcuts like some of these obvious ones as her feet are sore and tired! The forest all looks a bit the same these days! Today I lost my hanky, second one so far this hike.We are still seeing lots of emu poos, and they are firming up… Also we are finding these big undigested nuts in there which we cannot pinpoint to any tree. I busted one open and found white pasty stuff inside which didn’t have much taste, though looked edible… If you don’t mind eating emu poo nuts that is.We got to Noggerup shelter and found three people there. Gadget NZ man Muz and nurse Ann now both from Perth. Muz sported a Garmin GPS watch and some other nifty gear. He had an Ortlieb backpack for instance, something I’d never seen before, and one of those incredibly wonderful plastic solar light pillow Lumen gadgets. Of course he cooked with an MSR whisperlite stove and anodised steel pots for which he had backpacker dehydrated meals.  I would’ve gladly traded some equipment! They were just on a short overnight hike – how nice would it be to be home now…And then on the other side of the scale we had Dutchman Martin van der Aarde, dutch for Martin from this Earth. He was indeed a Dutchman on vacation, and despite initial looks is from this earth. He also tried tasting the emu nuts incidentally. Must be a dutch thing… His intention had been to find a job as a cook on a remote station, a good change after working in mental health in Holland. But since that didn’t work out he thought he’d hike a bit on the Bibbulmun!Now humanist Martin likes to keep things simple, so that meant minimalistic. His sleeping bag was a woolen blanket for instance and his preferred hiking shoes, wearing a little thin already, the Crocs. He cooked on campfires and made damper on site, boiled rice and noodles and mostly stuck to a vegetarian menu. Well educated and fluent in English he kept us all entertained with his minimalist travel adventures which included skirting the Russian border in the arctic and being kicked out of Poland.After everyone went to bed I stayed up yacking away in Dutch with him. In the morning he showed me his dutch Annie Schmidt book, full of amazing children nursery rhymes – which may seem odd to you, but that just means you don’t know Annie Schmidt and probably don’t speak Dutch!  Hope our paths criss again some time. So in the morning we took a group photo as we enjoyed each other’s company so much and headed off our separate ways.Marilyn and I bee lined to the Mumbalup tavern 7kms away. There was an undocumented diversion here of one kilometer as one hiker had a run in with a landowner who now no longer allows the Bibbulmun to cross his land! A kind road worker along the detour donated $20 to Cystic Fibrosis as we passed and Marilyn dug out a few railway nails from the old disused railway that we walked along. The nails had her son’s initial on them J. I waited at the closed tavern where I boiled a billy for us.It was shortly after 230pm when we pulled into camp Noggerup, only ones there. Lovey hut with shiny veneer boards. Though no tanbark on the ground it is nowhere near as dusty as Grimwade!We are figuring out caravan logistics for the next week or two, but after that it is going to be very tricky wrt finding a place to meet our caravan. It is going to be a bit of a juggle after Gringer creek… Anyways as we get closer we tend to find solutions!Good chance that mate Chris is going to hike with us on the weekend! Yeah!Collie tomorrow!