Monday, December 22, 2008

Bibbulmun Track: The big deluge

I seem to attract weird weather wherever I go... This weekend I was happily hiking the Bibb Track. There had been no storm warning and the locals had not told me anything either. On Saturday I woke up to an overcast sky. I did not think much about it and started hiking. At 11 am it started thundering and raining. I still did not think much about it - it had rained before and a thunderstorm here is usually over in 10 minutes. At noon I was on top of a hill and shit scared. It was thundering, lightning and bucketing down. On top of all that there was a horrible wind. I was afraid of being hit by a tree branch. I almost started running, but the next hut was still 1 hour away. I made it to the hut at 1 pm soaking wet. At that point I was still expecting that the weather would clear up in a matter of minutes - of course, once I was safely at the hut.

Damaged water tank
It was only then that the storm really started. I have never ever seen anything like that. Bucketing is an understatement. The water came down so hard that I was hiding under my sleeping bag - expecting the roof to come down any minute. The thunder was so loud that the hut was shaking - and I am not exaggerating here. I was half expecting to be flooded in the damn hut. I have seen really heavy storms in the US - but they were always over in 1 hour. This one lasted 6 hours - of which I luckily spent 4 in the hut. I just saw in the news that it had rained 57 mm in a couple of hours. The storm had actually been the remnants of a cyclone further north....

Unfortunately, I had to keep moving. I was almost completely out of food and I had to get into town the next day. When the storm was over I left the hut and started walking at 6 pm. The first hour was ok but it was then that the devastation started. The wind had been so strong that huge trees had been blown down. And I mean huge... I had to crawl over blow downs a lot on the CDT but this was different. On the CDT the trees had been lying there for months and were all stripped of leaves. Here on the Bibb the trees had just fallen and there were tree branches and leaves everywhere. And on top of that the understorey here is really dense, so walking around the blow downs is a very difficult option, too. And of course, after 5 minutes of crawling through brush I was soaking wet. Usually here I am hiking 4 km/hour - after the storm I slowed down to 2 km/hour. I camped at night carefully choosing a site with no big trees around me. At night I could still hear trees and tree branches falling in the distance...The next day I decided to road walk...

Wet,but happy that it is over
I am in Pemberton right now and have no clue what conditions ahead will be like. Pemberton was without electricity for many hours and some nearby towns have been flooded. I am afraid that the storm damage will continue for many more km. I packed extra food, put on long pants to avoid scratches and will see how it goes. Cross your fingers for me!

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