We woke up to the sound of rolling waves – very cool to be back near the beach, which was only a stones throw away from our campsite.
I didn’t realise before the trip, but this area is recognised as one of 25 worldwide ‘hot-spots’ for environmental biodiversity.
Here’s a free history lesson…. when Australia started moving north after breaking apart from Antartica (our last Gondwanan connection, around 45 million years ago), most of the trees, plants and animals either died out or evolved to adapt to a drier climate.
Although the rest of the continent experienced major climate change, the area around the south-west of Western Australia stayed relatively constant and still receives over 1200mm of rain a year. Subsequently, many plant and animal species that would have been more widespread were able to survive here. There are spiders and snails knocking about on the forest floor which have been around since the Jurassic period.
The thing that most tourists come here to see are the Tingle trees. Tingles are giant eucalypts which grow to over 75m tall, and 400 years old. The Red Tingles have a distinctive buttressed trunk which often gets hollowed out by fungal attacks, insects or bushfire. Despite this, the trees are still alive.
They only grow in a 6,000ha area between Deep River and Bow River, within about 10km of the coastline. They grow nowhere else in the world.
Tingles aren’t as tall as Karris, but they have a strange, primordial appearance which makes them more fascinating, almost like you’ve walked into some sort of prehistoric, botanical time warp.
We were fortunate enough to ride through the Tingle forests for most of today and it’s probably been my favourite ride of the trip so far.
The trail leaves Walpole to the east and climbs a steep hill for 1km or so. We detoured off the trail and kept climbing as we wanted to see the Giant Tingle Tree.
This Red Tingle is over 400 years old and is the ‘grand daddy’ of them all, with a base circumference of 24m. Tourists used to get photographed with their cars inside it’s hollowed out trunk; this isn’t allowed anymore as it damages the tree’s roots….but mountain bikes and trailers, no problems.
We hung around the park for a while and checked out a few more trees, then pressed on. The trail bombs down to the Frankland River and crosses it at the Sappers Bridge, then climbs back up the other side of the valley towards Valley of the Giants Road. This is a tough climb; after a few hundred metres of ascending already this morning and nearly three weeks of constant riding, the legs really felt it.
The Munda Biddi goes right past the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, a big tourist attraction which showcases the Tingles from a different perspective. They’ve built a 400m long walkway through the canopy over terrain that falls deep into the valley beneath. At its highest point the walkway is 40m above the forest floor. The views are amazing and you can literally reach out and touch the Tingles.
The lightweight steel structure was designed to deflect under load; you definitely notice the movement when you’re on one of the 60m spans. I’d highly recommend stopping for a walk if you’re riding past.
There’s a very steep and long descent from the top of this range down towards Bow River, you cover it in about 10 minutes. Buggered from a solid day of climbing, we stopped off for a few beers at the Bow Bridge Roadhouse. The bloke there is nice with a real dry wit – ask him to tell you his Tarzan joke.
Perhaps it was the beers doing, but we took a wrong turn out of town and had to turn around…the next thing you know, we were back in Bow River again.
We stayed about 7km down the road at the Ayr Sailean campsite, which isn’t on the Munda Biddi; much of the trail between here and Denmark has been diverted for prescribed burning, so make sure you check the local tourist centres and maps for accommodation options off the trail, there’s stacks.
This was a tough day of riding, but a rewarding one too. The Tingle trees are magnificent – just another reason to tackle this great trail.