We woke up after our first of many nights in the tent to a crisp morning. We had a coffee and some noodles before packing up the gear to set off. Having studied the map the night before we knew we were in for a full day of climbing.
The first part of the day drops down to the Helena River and follows the pipeline track. The pipes along this section run from the Mudaring Weir to Kalgoorlie, as Millsy was very excited to tell us about the night before.
As we started climbing out of the river bed the tubeless tyres decided to have another crack at halting the trip. Tennis took the rookie line up a rock garden and popped the tyre straight off the rim. Luckily we’d stopped in at a bike shop in Midland and topped up the CO2 canister supply and after cleaning the rim out we were back up to pressure and on the trail.
The flat tyre was a real turning point in the morning’s ride as the trail turned from pleasant, flowy single track to steep uphill gravel track. We’d read about this pea gravel, but had no idea how challenging it would be to ride on. There are sections where the pea gravel becomes so loose and thick (apparently due to the motorcyclists who use the trail illegally) that it’s impossible to ride. It was also an incredibly hot and muggy morning which made for real slow going…we only covered 7km in the first hour and 45 mins!
Thankfully, about half way up the hill a turnoff appeared for the touring route to bypass the really tough stuff. We decided to take it; these trailers really hold you back on the steep climbs. The trail kept climbing but it was a bit smoother and constant.
We must have missed a sign about half way along the touring route and ended up doing an extra few kms than we needed…I guess we were a bit too absorbed in the scenery which is lovely at this time of year, the wild flowers add a lick of colour to already stunning bushland.
After a quick check of the map we realised we could met back up with the trail by taking a short stint on the asphalt. This was probably a good thing as the legs needed a bit of a reprieve from the climbing. Unfortunately the asphalt soon turned into another dense forest trail with heavy pea gravel and sand. This stuff is seriously like riding uphill on thick driveway gravel.
We met back up with the trail near a town called Pickering Brook. We’d done a bit of research on the place before the trip as we thought we’d be cruising through here at Grand Final time. From what I can gather, Pickering Brook is a small town built around many large Apple orchards, it actually reminded me a lot of Lenswood in SA.
We’d heard about a place called Core Cider House which seemed to be a good option for the footy. Unfortunately the place was a bit too ritzy to have TVs…instead they had a violin loop musician entertaining the 100 odd guests in the terraced cider garden….yes, we stood out like dog’s balls in cycling gear.
That 10km took us another hour and a half, as conditions quickly returned to steep, loose pea gravel. The short sections of descent were fun but still a lot of work due to the relentless, tortuous pea gravel.
We rolled into the Carinyah campsite around 4:00pm and met Shaun, a kiwi bloke doing the same thing as us. Shortly after that, a couple from Sydney called Di and Matt rolled in, they’re also tackling the whole trail….a good group of people who I expect we’ll spend a lot of time with over the next few weeks.
As night fell, another group of riders rode into camp, this time five workmates from Perth out for a weekend spin. They mentioned they passed Ron, the 75 year old fella we heard about at the airport yesterday, who was also destined for camp.
Ron rocked up about 7:00 having pushed the last few kms in the dark – pretty tough old bloke. We cooked him some dinner as he looked knackered.
Having anticipated a quiet night, it was a pleasant surprise to hang with such a nice group of people, Todd and Andrew from Perth even remembered to pack goon, which they were happy to share.
The facilities at the campsite were great, plenty of room for everyone to roll a mat out on, long drop, two rainwater tanks…not bad for free! Got to sleep around 9:00pm.