It's probably pretty obvious that the same 'Rag-and-bone-itis' that strikes me when touring by bicycle is still evident when I'm hiking. I so hope my elder brother (disciple of all things compact, lightweight and expensive) overlooks this post. I'll just say 17kg through gritted teeth and let you all chuckle, eh?
What is wonderful about 'The Bib' is that you hardly ever come into contact with civilisation. With the track meandering through bush, well away from bitumen roads, you have the unique opportunity to enjoy surrondings that you can't get to by car. Yes, there are access points and towns along the track, but, you can hike a section for days and days without hitting a town or seeing a vehicle.
Every 20kms or so, there is a little, 3-sided shelter, rainwater-tank and pit-toilet. These are a welcome sight and mean that you don't have to bother with pitching a tent. (In case you assume that I have suddenly overcome my snakey phobia, can I just add that the wooden sleeping pallets are as tall as I am, requiring a scramble up a ladder). The first night there were eleven of us at camp and I had to use my tent. This was more than made up for by the open fire and the smashing company. The following 2 nights I had the shelters to myself, which was great because, deep in the bush, I could wander around in a flannel shirt, stripey long-johns and knitted beanie without being an object of ridicule at brekky.
The few glimpses of farmland are quite delightful when you've spent the lion's share of the day plodding up and down bush-clad hillsides.
I came across several pitiful dams. A quick glance shows how dry things have been. Hopefully, with the start of winter, we'll get some much needed rain. I actually ate lunch sitting 'in' Mungalup Dam.
At the start, just outside of Collie, I was a little nervous about not sticking to the track, as I had ignored a diversion and headed through an area struck by bushfire in late 2010. It proved not to be a problem as the markers are made of metal and, instead of looking for the yellow triangles, I just had to keep my eyes peeled for the burnt silver ones. (I did double check with a map and compass for a short while just to be sure).
After a steep descent on pea-gravel, that I wouldn't have managed without trekking poles, the last 5kms of the 80km hike were beautiful. Balingup and it's surronds seemed almost garden-like after several days in the bush.
Disclaimer: I would just like to state catergorically that my high opinion of Balingup has nothing to do with finding 3 other hikers at the local pub and spending an evening in good company quaffing back Kilkenny and munching on fish and chips. Nothing at all to do with it!
Transport: TransWA provides transport to both towns. I caught the Australind train from Perth Station to Brunswick Juction and then the connecting coach to Collie. From Balingup I caught a coach direct to East Perth Terminal which is 100m from the East Perth Station on the suburban train line. Even if living a car-laden life, I think public transport may prove simpler in this situation as you don't have to shuttle cars between destinations or worry about vehicle security whilst you are hiking.