The Coastal Plain Walk could be a world class short trek a stone’s throw from Perth city – but it wasn’t.
THE BAD NEWS: Parts of track torn up by trail bikes; Track poorly marked in places; Huts vandalised.
THE GOOD NEWS: Worth the effort anyway. The best part of this trail is that no one's on it.
THE UPSHOT: The Coastal Plains Walk Trail is not for everyone, but it's great fun for those who like a real adventure, embrace a challenge, can handle a bit of discomfort & uncertainty, and who want to go trailside for a 3 day adventure in near isolation an hour or so from Perth. If you're feeling precious then just drive to Yanchep National Park and buy a Fanta along with everyone else - it's easier.
Here we have a 3-day moderate grade 4 trek over beautiful undulating coastal scrub, quiet and isolated for the most part, less than 1 hr from Perth CBD. On paper this is fantastic!! By all accounts this should make for a hugely popular weekender-plus-one for bored office workers everywhere, and others wishing to experience the more exciting side of Perth (i.e. the bush).
Walking it you will encounter coastal scrub & low bushland all of which are groovy in their subtle ecological variants, pleasant pine plantations (whispering trees), a boring road & a shooting range, a clearfelled area looking like a Hiroshima memorial, more lowland, tuart stands on tertiary dune systems, a very nice wetland system, a burnt out car, and finally your hot meal & cold beer at Yanchep Inn. You may also see a kangaroo or three, as in BIG kangaroos, as in Kangasaurus Rex.
As a seasoned solo walker I am used to all sorts of terrain. I readily appreciate barren deserts. I can easily deal with flies and snakes and heat and the West Australian Bush, every aspect of which is deliberately designed to kill, maim, stab, cut, scrape, trip, bite or poison you. This is Good Fun.
But YOU carry 20kg over 60km and 3 days, slugging it through soft sand which has been ripped up by trail bikes, nervous about what is going to tear around the corner and knock you off your feet at 70kmh, and see how YOU feel. I for one felt a bit threatened, anxious, disempowered and annoyed. Which is not what I wanted to feel after 3 days in nature.
Whatever. That aside, the Coastal Track actually still a pretty cool walk, either solo or with a BC (Brave Companion). In fact if I had a BC to distract me from fantasies of assaulting bogan bike riders then it's likely I would have enjoyed the walk even more.
Day 2 is undoubtedly the best day of any 3-day trip. Day 2 is MY day - a spiritual sanctuary: No phone calls, no vehicles (except for a short roadside stint), no follow-up emails, no management reviews, no friend requests from old high school classmates I was secretly hoping had died in a tragic automobile accident unfairly robbing them of their burgeoning adulthood...just a blissful day to keep one's own company, to consult with the Gods, to walk, breathe, walk, one foot after the other, meditate, have fun feeling superior, win shouting matches with people that aren't there etc... Ah the serenity.LOGISTICS
DEC suggests walking from W-E, but this is a terrible idea: Firstly, and most importantly, this makes no philosophical sense. Walk to the West, follow the sun, look to Ra (or Jah, if you smoke dope and wear colourful beanies), and march in triumphant after a not-insubstantial 3 day excursion with a hero's welcome and a lakeside stroll into the oasis of Yanchep NP with it's hot showers, very respectable restaurant, relaxed heritage pub, ice cold beer, sponno hotel & budget accommodation, good-looking backpackers etc. and you will feel like King Arthur being carried into Avalon by a boatload of Faeries. Or do it the other way around and end up in a deserted back street outside Bullsbrook staring at a dumped TV set, skid marks and broken beer bottles. Your choice. Kinkade's Paradise or Dante's Inferno. Whatever blows your hair back, really.
The second big reason the walk works from E-W is that your friend-with-a-car
can easily be persuaded to drop you off on, say, Friday morning, and willingly pick you up from Yanchep NP on Sunday Afternoon, if tempted by the offer of a scrumptious meal and drinks at the Yanchep Inn Sunday session, lolling about on the lawn with live music. Well, you could even get a bit squiffy and stay the night at the Inn
And the third reason - if you are in a group - is that potentially you could park all your cars at Yanchep NP and persuade the Inn publican to ferry the whole group to the Bullsbrook start point 60km away in the Hotel's courtesy Bus. Get your best negotiator to negotiate a meal & shower deal at the end of the track ($15 bought me a shower and a cold beer courtesy of the house
) . This also neatly avoids leaving cars in a deserted back road of Bullsbrook, which is not a good idea if you like your car more than you like the Bullsbrook locals.NAVIGATION
Start at the Bullsbrook end. As a sign of things to come, the trail head is non-existent and you will have to work it out. The "map" has you starting in the middle of a back road somewhere, and this is about as good as it gets. Quite unceremonious really. Keep walking in the direction you think you should be walking and you'll come to a transmission line trail where you'll see (if you look hard) an actual marker. Continue this guessing game until the track is complete
The one and only map of the Coastal Walk Trail http://www.bushlandperth.org.au/images/ ... hep_np.pdf
(a cute A4 brochure from Yanchep NP visitors centre, Map Stores etc) is an exercise in laughter. If you're used to maps that are accurate and reliable then prepare to embrace uncertainty and mature a little as a bushwalker on this trek. This is a Good Thing, because hey, it's the urban hinterland, and how lost can you really get?
Having said that, track markings are quite often burnt to a cinder, overgrown, upside down, meaningless or more often simply not there. This also goes for the track itself.
You will reach your destination via a combination of intuition, deduction, bravery, persistence, reading the landscape, and sitting down on a log and having a good hard think about what the hell this stupid track might be doing. My best advice on this trail is to keep a mental note of your distance and marry it against the direction the map indicates you should be travelling.
I do NOT leap to a compass, a GPS or even to a map every time I'm lost. I can stand about an hour of stomach butterflies before I consult a map. Some people wait until they vomit in fear. Most of my friends are so soft they vomit if they lose their phone, or walk further than the shop. To me there's real satisfaction in being lost and working it out, so persist and you'll emerge a better person TRACK NOTES
- this is a 3 day walk / approx 60km total / 20+20+20 / walk SE-NW / day1 Bullsbrook-Moitch /day2 Moitch-Ridges / day3 Ridges-Yanchep / forget anyone's recommendation to stay at Prickly Bark hut - this hut makes no sense from a walking perspective and DEC themselves are considering deleting it.
- this is a hutted track with open huts a-la Chateau Bibbulmun / there was nobody in any of the huts in winter 2013 when I walked, and there weren't a lot of entries in the log book (maybe 1 per month, almost all daywalkers) / I did not read any E2End log entries.
- there are water tanks to each hut / Moitch Hut had a vanadlised water tank so no water and a short panic / one call to Yanchep NP rangers on 93037759
and I had a case of 24x600mm springwater delivered within an hour with compliments - YAY!!!! (and thanks, and phew!) Note you will need about 3/4 case of water for each person if the tank is cactus.
- DEC have a sign-in walkers register for the Coastal Plains Walk Trail E2E walkers. Register your details at McNess Visitors Centre in Yanchep National park. I sent them an email (because I started in Bullsbrook not Yanchep). Amazingly, and to DEC's credit, they called me
on day 4 to make sure I made it out in one piece.
- full coverage. So turn it off. Keep in mind the phone will be handy to call DEC if the huts have no water, or to check your position on GPS if you get lost.
6. TRACK SPEED
- moderately fit walkers will maintain 3.5-4.5 km/h actual track speed with walking poles. Rate this down 25% without poles. Allow 1hr for lunch etc which will increase your overall speed.
- this walk was done mid-winter / nil mozzies / nil flies / nil snakes (only an old track under one of the huts - check under huts before you settle in) / lots of ticks. This in itself is never a problem so don't get freaked. The ticks did not seem very aggressive but were everywhere in the bush due to the local kangaroo & livestock population. No ticks at huts. If you sit down for lunch then check your legs & waist every 15 minutes. Carry some toothpaste to suffocate the tick off your skin if one decides it likes you.
8. BOGAN LOTTO
- If your luck runs out and you see people trail-biking on the walk trail or staying at the huts with vehicles etc. call Yanchep rangers and they'll sort it out. The rangers are typically never more than an hour or so away.ESSENTIAL KIT FOR THE COASTAL TRAIL
1. The Usual
- of note:
1. Water - allow 1L per 4km, or 5-6L per day / see track notes above
2. Earplugs - You will sleep. You might love the bush but your body doesn't know that.
3. Candles - tea lights / always good for hutting / light to carry / good for reading and nice to look at
4. Medicals - most important items are crepe strapping for snakebite, anti-chafe balm (sandy walks can get hot), and heel strapping to prevent/treat blisters. I also use Skins sport shorts and Icebreaker sock liners to mitigate blisters & heat rash.
5. Fly net - for your head/hat / in spring & summer months / flies can ruin a walk / also keep in mind that if you plaster yourself with repellent then you will deprive yourself of the olfactory pleasures of bushwalking because you'll smell like a DEET factory
2. Long Pants or Ankle Gaiters
- This is a sandy and scrubby track and you will be constantly emptying your boots and picking nasty spikey things out of your socks if you are without ankle gaiters. Even in winter I prefer gaiters to pants because it makes for cooler walking. Gaiters will also help save your feet blistering from sand friction inside your boot.
3. Head Wear
- the Coastal Plains Walk has low mallee scrub most of the way. Not much shade. Wear a hat. In cooler weather I prefer a visor which I swing around to the sunward side because I find it cooler, although the top of my head is exposed.
4. Walking Poles
- The only valid excuse to attempt this track without poles is if you don't have arms. Walking poles are essential for the following reasons:
1. Propulsion - Poles will increase your track speed, typically by about 25%. The correct way to use poles is to walk like a quadruped: plant the spike of the L POLE level with your R HEEL. Plant the pole any further forward than this and you are pushing against yourself, cancelling your own inertia. Then PUSH BACK on the pole so as to propel yourself forward. They're not just there to hold you up - USE your shoulders and your upper torso. This is of course vice-versa for R pole/L heel. Always use 2x poles - using one pole is like riding a bike with one pedal.
2. Load Sharing - Poles split the load between your upper and lower body muscle groups. The benefit of load sharing is that you can feel your legs, walk around like a normal human being and say hello to your friends without screaming "LEGS!!!! MY LEGS!!!" after 3 days of soft sand walking. As well, your body as a whole gets a better workout.
3. Fending Off - Poles come into their own when you are working dense scrub, or even light scrub. As you walk, you plant the pole directly behind the foliage you are about to leave your skin on. The pole fends off the plant and the top of the pole follows your hip as you breeze by without a scratch.
4. Spare Eyes - I admit this is the reason I love poles the most. I would regularly come home from an expedition having seen little except the ground a couple of meters hence. This pissed me off for years without knowing it, until finally I bought a set of poles for the Overland, and then a miracle happened... "I CAN SEEEE!!!!" Now I walk like Stevie Wonder, looking sideways at an awesome vista (Ok well not quite like Stevie Wonder) whilst listening tearily to Phillip Glass etudes pretending it's the score for my first blockbuster movie (etc, etc)
5. Stability - This goes for any terrain from easy Class 1 to technical Class 5 tracks. The Pleasure Principle is a highly individual thing, derived from an equilibrium between track speed and sight-seeing. Each is a different type of meditation. Some like it fast & punchy; some love it slow & drifty. In either case, you are walking at your preferred limit and the last thing you want to concentrate on is tripping over. Fatigue also increases trip risk. Poles assist with stability no matter what the terrain or where your head is at. They've saved my skin many times. So you can concentrate on going fast; or going slow; or directing your next imaginary blockbuster; or figuring out what type of poison would work in the coffee machine when you return to work on Monday; or what to reply to your Boss when he asks you why everyone in your organisation aside from you is so useless; or how to fend off the sex-starved model that will be hopelessly infatuated by your witty repartee at the next hut. (Hmmm... did I mention I did three days solo in direct sun?)
All that said, it was good fun. I recommend the Coastal Plains Walk Trail for anyone who embraces a challenge, can handle a bit of discomfort & uncertainty, and who wants to go trailside for a 3 day adventure in near isolation an hour or so from Perth.
And as always, if you don't do it, you won't do it. So do it.
Cheers, Damon 0408225333