I got woken up at about 5:00am by the sound of wildlife rooting around in our groceries bag. WA doesn’t bother with daylight savings, so it was already getting light; this is kinda nice when you’re bike touring as you can set off early and arrive at your destination around lunch time.
We said goodbye to Matthieu, Mathilde and Nick and left town around 7:30. Big day of hills today, we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to knock them off.
The trail returns to single track just south of town, then follows some nice forest roads for 10km or so. We got a bit of rain last night which helped to pack down the surface and made for nice riding.
We’re riding into Karri territory. Karri trees are eucalypts native to the wetter regions of south-western Western Australia. They’re big buggers that grow to over 80m tall; we’ve only passed a few small ones so far, but it’s cool to see the treescape changing from Jarrahs to Karris.
The trail then heads into the Donnelly River Conservation Park, the first few kms of which are fast and flowy single track…really fast riding down into the Donnelly River valley.
After that the trail becomes much more challenging; short steep climbs and fast turning descents. Tennis rode through the apex of a bend and ended up impaling his shoulder on a branch…there was blood, and swearing that could be heard throughout the forest.
The next 5km were also really demoralising. It seemed as though around every corner was an obstacle sent to mess with your mind. Be it a fallen log you can’t ride over, a branch you can’t ride under or steep climb, you have to dismount and push your bike every hundred metres or so. By now both of us were swearing at the forest.
We finally got through and made it to One Tree Bridge. One Tree Bridge was a bridge made from a single Karri tree, felled by the pioneers Hugo and Walter Gibblet in 1904 to span the 25m wide Donnelly river. The bridge was used to service the nearby graphite mine until 1943, but now lies in ruin alongside the much more boring steel and concrete bridge.
The climb out of the Donnelly River towards the Karta Burna Hut is real tough. It climbs 300m over a few kms with countless switchbacks and narrow, dense single track. Based on what we’ve seen so far, this climb is the Alpe d’Huez of the Munda Biddi, although without the crowds cheering you along.
After about an hour of climbing, we reached the Karta Burna Hut where we stopped for an extended lunch break. This is a great hut; it overlooks the forest we’d just ridden through. Sadly this was only a pit stop, and after a good ploughman’s lunch we made tracks for Manjimup.
The afternoon session was much flatter; we continued on the ride along the boundary between the old graphite mining region (now farmland) and the state forest. At one point the trail pops out alongside a massive avocado farm. I nearly missed the next turn pondering how much guacamole all those avos would make (a swimming pool full I reckon).
The trail passes through Deanmill, a small town on the outskirts of Manjimup. This was once the location of the largest and most technologically advanced sawmill in Australia, owned by the State Saw Mill Company and churning out millions of rail sleepers for the Trans-Australia rail line. The mill is now defunct but apparently they have a pretty good footy team.
The final 7 km into Manjimup follows the Deanmill Heritage Rail Trail; a cruisy, flat roll into town.
Manjimup is a cool town, everything you need in two main streets. We stayed at the pub where we grabbed some dinner with Shaun. Apparently Thursday’s are ‘skimpy’ nights at the Manjimup hotel, the bartender was getting round in her bra and knickers and the locals didn’t seem to even notice.
Sadly our gang is breaking up tomorrow; Di, Matt and Shaun have all decided to take it easy and cruise into Quinninup whereas we plan to plod onto Pemberton. It’s been a real pleasure travelling with these guys who we only met two weeks ago….the trip won’t be the same without them. We have managed to convince them all to ride the Mawson Trail next year, so I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.