Day 2 – Carinyah Hut to Wungong Hut

We had a bit of a restless night as there were at least three heavy snorers in the cabin of ten people.  Tennis also managed to slice up his sleeping mat and as a result, spent the night sleeping rough on plywood.  Nonetheless, we woke up around 6:30am in pretty good spirits, refreshed from the brutal first day of pea gravel, climbing and goon.

We said goodbye to the Perth crew and Matt & Di, and cooked a few noodles with Ron for breakfast.  He’s a real interesting chap…a retired Civil & Geotechnical Engineer who seems to have lived all over the world, and speaks about five languages.  He only picked up cycling at the age of 65 and now he’s tackling the whole Munda Biddi.

We got away around 9:30am and knocked the first 10km off in under an hour, it was mainly downhill and the trail was nice.  I managed to get my earphones caught in my back wheel and am now down to one bud.

Given its proximity to the main road, this section sadly seems to be used as a dump by some of the local idiots. It’s a real shame to see such beautiful bushland tarnished by white goods, mattresses and burnt out cars.

The nice hard-packed, downhill trail we rode on the first 10km turned out to be a bit of a tease…as the trail quickly returned to deep, loose pea gravel. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there were also sections of beach sand thrown in to further test your patience and balance.


These ‘bunkers’ were only about 100m long, but if you didn’t pick a good line, you were walking.  It’s through these hard spots that the thoughts of “why am I doing this” start creeping in. But then you look around and remember where you are, and that you don’t have to go to work tomorrow, and your spirits start to lift.

We climbed out of the valley and onto firmer ground. On the way way up, we bumped into six blokes from Perth out for a 100km day ride in the hills.  They convinced us we were riding with too high tyre pressure, so we lowered them. This turned out to be a big mistake. A few kms down the track, whilst on a steep rutted out descent, Tennis and I both managed major blow outs.   By now the “why am I doing this” thoughts are front and centre.

We really thought these tubeless tyres were gonna be inpenetratable, but it seems like they really don’t like sideways bumps whilst carrying luggage.



We got the tyres back up to pressure but are now down to only one CO2 canister, a little unnerving given we’re six days ride from the nearest bike shop.


A little dejected by the last few kms, we stopped for lunch in a local pea gravel borrow pit, then pressed on to Wungong Camp, where Shaun, Matt & Di had already arrived.  This camp was similar to the last in layout, but was nestled on the side of a hill in a Jarrah forest….a really beautiful place.



We whipped up an afternoon snack which we called ‘Rider’s Stew’ (cup o’ soup with cous cous) and met this drifter who seemed to pop out from behind trees to lend some sage advice.  He’s been riding round these hills for the last eight years, no permanent address.  A real interesting chap – I wish I had a photo.

We spent the afternoon nattering away with our new gang, waiting for Ron to roll on which he did, just before dusk.  Here’s a shot of Tennis watching a 75 year old man push his fully laden bike up a steep hill…


We had a nice evening around the camp, climbing fallen logs and cooking pasta.


A much easier ride tomorrow into Jarrahdale.

Day 3 – Wungong Hut to Jarrahdale

We had a little rain overnight which made for a pretty nice (but cold) sleep.  We cooked a little leftover pasta and had a coffee and set off around 8:00am.

We got a few photos with the crew; here’s Matt and Di with their bikes, and Tennis and I with Ron.



The rain had seemed to bed in the pea gravel, and the first few kms were really fun weaving trails in quite narrow single track.

There’s a semi-permanent diversion on this section of trail that’s been in place for the last 18 months or so due to logging operations in the area – this takes you away from the single track and along a fire trail towards the Balmoral POW camp, which unfortunately is little more than a few ruins these days.


From Balmoral, the trail follows the old timber railway line into Jarrahdale, around 12km or so.  As you’ve probably gathered from the town name, this is Jarrah country.  It’s quite interesting to see the landscape change in the short distance we’ve gone so far.


There’s still remnants of the old rail sleepers, Jarrah no doubt.


The gentle gradients and packed down surface made this one of the best sections yet.


With rain threatening, we pressed on into Jarrahdale and caught up with Di, Matt and Shaun, who were grabbing a coffee at the general store.



As we were waiting for Ron, that drifter we met at Wungong dropped past for another chat. He must have been running a few errands in town as he seemed to appear, and disappear out of nowhere – we weren’t really sure of his name so we’ve been calling him Pop-up.

Pop-up gave us some good tips for tomorrow’s ride, and for later along the trail too.  He told us about another trail south of Collie which is apparently better than the Munda Biddi. It has its own log hut that no one really knows about; I promised him I wouldn’t tell anyone where it was, but he did tell us to “turn right at the tree that has an axe in it”.  I’m thinking the distant sound of banjo music might also give its location away.  Something tells me we haven’t see the last of Pop-up!

We asked around town and got a room at the old nurses quarters, not bad for $12.50 a night.  The shower alone made the price of entry worthwhile.


We spent the afternoon and evening at the Jarrahdale pub, a civilised way to spend a wet and windy afternoon.  I always thought I was a quick drinker, but Tennis and I both struggled to keep up with Matt – we’re gonna have keep an eye on this one!


We grabbed a few bottles of local wine for the following night, and hit the sack around 10:00pm.  It’ll be an interesting ride tomorrow on a six pint hangover.

Day 6 – Dwellingup to Lake Brockman

We woke up pretty early to try and beat the heat, 30 degrees forecast for our ride today. We managed to leave camp around 7:30am, but stopped off at one of the cafes in town for a cooked breakfast which set our departure back an hour or so.


The trail leaves town to the west and follows some unsealed roads towards the Murray River. We experienced something we haven’t had on the trail so far….traffic.

Soon enough, the trail ducks back into the forest and starts to climb….again. Tennis managed yet another flat tyre, this time on an uphill section.

We spent the next two hours climbing, and descending on both dirt roads and forest track, by which time the temperature was also climbing. This trail is relentless, as soon as you cool down on a descent, the route kicks back up with another steep climb, many of which you need to push your bike up due to the trailer pulling you back.



The trail passes Nanga Brook, a nice little campsite around a small cascading falls, then follows the North Junction Form 4WD track through Lane Poole Reserve.


The surface was magnificent, hard packed clayey sand…we sat on 15km/hr for a few kms, it felt like we were flying.

The large ruts and steep rocky faces would be tricky in a 4WD, but were easy enough to negotiate on a mountain bike. The several brook crossings were pretty cool too.

The Bidjar Ngoulin Hut is about 30km from Dwellingup and many choose to camp here. We decided to plod on to Lake Brockman Campsite, another 30km.  We stopped a few kms down the trail to check out the King Jarrah; the maps suggested this was only a few hundred metres off the trail….it didn’t really show that it was also 100m up. It was nice to see this massive Jarrah which they reckon is over 500 years old, but the hike really drained our legs – I was a little shaky when I got back on the bike.

The trail then has another diversion from its permanent alignment due to Alcoa’s mining operations. Sadly, this is a pretty garbage section of trail; it seems to have been recently constructed (I expect by one of Alcoa’s work experience kids to satisfy a condition of their mining lease) – the surface and scenery didn’t really impress me but perhaps it was all the additional unnecessary climbing that was the real source of my frustration!

We had lunch in a tunnel beneath a mining haul road which was a fair bit cooler than the ambient temperature outside, which was now over 30 degrees.

The afternoon session involved yet more climbing/pushing, pretty demoralising after a long day in the heat. The last few kms were flat and we rolled into the Lake Brockman Caravan park around 4:30pm after seven hours in the saddle.
A real tough day with another 920m of climbing to bring the total for the trip to over 4000m. To put that into perspective, the whole of the Mawson Trail was only 5000m….and we’re only six days in.

We caught up with Shaun, Matt and Di, cooked some pasta and had an early night. Exhausted.

Day 7 – Lake Brockman to Yarri Hut

We had a good night’s sleep after a tough previous day – it was also the first night we’ve had to use our tents in the last week. The ground around Lake Brockman is rock hard. I had some trouble getting my pegs to hold and had to get a little ghetto with my tie down.


We got away from the campsite at around 7:30am and tried to grab some breakfast at the park cafe. Unfortunately this didn’t open until 9:00am and we had to eat our lunch for breakfast.

The trail leaves Lake Brockman on a few unsealed haul roads and then heads off into the bush. We’re now a few hundred kms from Perth and the extensive network of single track and forest trail is quite amazing. The surface is much better than up north, although there are still localised areas of deep sand or pea gravel that can be quite frustrating.

  

The landscape is also changing, there’s still plenty of Jarrah trees around, but now we’re also seeing a few more Blackbutt trees as well.

There were a few steep climbs and a few longer grinders, but generally today was gently undulating. I think the climbs felt harder than they actually were because of the heat (another 30 degree day) and the previous week’s cycling.

There’s a number of small creeks in this area, and a number of small trail bridges to cross them. It is extraordinarily nice countryside and you have to keep reminding yourself to look around and absorb it all when you’re halfway up a hellish climb and wondering why you signed up for this in the first place!

The final stretch was mostly downhill and we covered the last 8km into camp in about half an hour. The final 2km downhill roll into Yarri Hut follows another old railway formation – I don’t think I actually had to pedal.

We arrived at the hut around lunch time which left the afternoon to potter around and do some washing. This is another free hut constructed and maintained by the Munda Biddi Trail Foundation and volunteers. The hut is nestled into the side of a hill and overlooks some pretty nice bushland. They’re a fantastic part of the trail which make touring and camping a lot more straightforward.


  

We were pretty tired from a full on first week, so we made some dinner and got to bed around 7:30pm. Apparently this area is known to have many wild pigs and they often venture past the hut. I’ve made sure I tuck the Ka-bar under the pillow tonight!

Day 9 – Collie to Nglang Boodja Hut

We’d managed to snag a room at the Crown Hotel in Collie for a pretty good price last night; it was good to have a morning shower and not have to unpack the whole trailer.
Collie’s a strange place – we grabbed some breakfast in town and noticed nearly everyone was getting around in bare feet, many also had weird haircuts. I don’t think I’ll rush back to Collie.

To get out of town on the Munda Biddi you have to backtrack towards the North-west (the trail into Collie is a spur). Much of this route is diverted at the moment due to prescribed burning, so we left town on Coalfields road, and met up with the trail about 15km west of Collie.


It was nice to knock some kms off quickly, but it was a major road with lots of traffic. The shoulder was also covered in broken glass. Thankfully we avoided a flat tyre and we covered the 15km in about an hour.

Having negotiated the glass covered road, almost as soon as we left the highway, Tennis popped his bead AGAIN. We’d stocked up on canisters in Collie so fixing it wasn’t a problem, but he’s averaging one every two days and as most flats are also associated with a fall, he’s getting pretty bruised hips.


From there, the trail heads back into the forest. After a short climb you follow the ridge of the Wellington Dam range and ride that for a few kms. The trail here must not get as much use as the northern sections which are closer to Perth. Although the surface was nice, it was covered in small logs, sticks, leaves and was also a little overgrown. Some of the overgrown sections are pretty fun to ride, kinda like riding through a green tunnel…but ducking and weaving gets a little tiring after a while, particularly when you get a mouthful of pollen or a face full of cobweb.



It descends towards the Collie River on a very hectic, switchback descent….pretty fun, but would have been better not towing a trailer.



I’m not usually one to go crazy over flowers, but the wild flowers in this area are amazing. If you’re thinking of riding the Munda Biddi, spring time is a great time to do it!

The trail then heads back into mountain goat country for another few kms but we took the touring route along the river road which was much flatter.

We stopped off at Honeymoon Pool and had some lunch, Shaun was also there chilling out under a tree.



This is a pretty cool place; a widening in the Collie River where they’ve built a deck and swimming platform. We had a swim, although the water was pretty cold so we didn’t stay in for long. With only a few km to camp and in no real rush, we hung around at the pool for a few hours until yet more of the shoeless Collie youth with awful self-administered haircuts rocked up and ruined the vibe.


  
The Nglang Boodja hut is only 4km along the trail, but it’s up a very steep climb out of the river valley. So steep in fact that the two lanes of the sealed section of road are split. If you’re riding south, take the low road…although you’ll be riding against the flow of traffic it’ll only be for a few hundred metres and you’ll avoid an unnecessary 80m climb and subsequent switchback descent.


The remaining 3km is still a challenging climb, but with gentler grades and no traffic to worry about. Tennis managed to lose his back wheel; it dropped right out of its cradle, most likely because the axle (specific to our trailers) had loosened itself on all the bumpy trail. He’s quite lucky he didn’t get his dérailleur caught in a spoke, or he may have been hitchhiking back to Collie for a drivetrain overhaul. He’s also lucky it didn’t send him over the edge of the valley.

We rolled into the hut mid afternoon; another great spot in the side of a hill, a stones throw from a flowing stream. There’s lots of birds and frogs around this hut and the animal noises are real nice.

  
We stocked up on chorizo in Collie and cooked a pretty mean Trangia paella – the only thing missing was the seafood (which doesn’t travel very well in a bike trailer).

Day 10 – Nglang Boodja Hut to Donnybrook

Our travelling cohort woke up early and hit the trail by 7:00am…we knew we were riding through two towns today and wanted to reach the first at lunch time, so we took the opportunity to lie in have a slow morning.

Here’s a few more shots of the sweet huts that are provided along the trail, free of charge.



The climb out of camp to the ridge above Hough Brook was a toughy, particularly as our legs didn’t have a chance to warm up before we hit it. It’s funny how your legs get used to this sort of day-in day-out abuse. We’re both carrying a few niggles, but generally speaking your muscles seem to stop protesting about the five hours of cycling you make them do each day and just put up with it.

The trail then leaves the Wellington National Park and heads onto minor farm roads for a few kms. It was nice to have some open views and a bit of a change of scenery for a while. There were quite a few gum trees lining the road, and lots of magpies – I got swooped three time by the little bastards.


The rolling hills were cool and the area reminded us a bit of the Clare Valley in SA.

The trail takes a steep climb up a sealed road; Tennis managed another fall, this time due to a tight pedal which wouldn’t release as he ground to a halt. His hips are looking pretty bruised.

After a few more descents and climbs including another tough one out of the Crooked Brook Forest, we arrived at Boyanup for lunch. I didn’t bother to find out too much about Boyanup, but it’s a quaint little spot with a half decent bakery, the first we’d found on the whole trail. We recouped from a solid morning’s ride with more climbing than we’d anticipated.


The destination this evening was Donnybrook and the trail between the two towns mainly follows asphalt roads with pretty flat grades which we were grateful for as the temperature was now over 30 degrees. We pumped out the 15km in around an hour.

Donnybrook seems to be nestled in the middle of a fruit growing area; we rode past several avocado and apple orchards and the outskirts of town are dotted with wholesale growers flogging their fruit direct to the public. We’ve been living on trail food for over a week now comprising mainly carbs, muesli and tuna. We took the opportunity to stock up on some nutrients…I think we bought over 3kg of fruit. It was also nice to hang in the cool room for a while, bloody hot outside.


We found the campsite in Donnybrook and unpacked our gear, the cold showers were magnificent.

Donnybrook is a nice looking town, but it’s strange place. The police have left a completely mangled car on their front lawn, I suspect to remind people to slow down. It doesn’t seem to affect the logging truck drivers through, who whiz through the Main Street at about 70km/hr.

We had a few drinks at the pub with Shaun; the publican poured himself a Black Sambuca whenever anyone ordered a drink….he must have had about eight shots by the time we left at 7:00pm (keep in mind this was a Monday night). They also had a massive Linkin Park poster on the wall.

As if things couldn’t get any weirder, we then got some food from the Modern Dragon Chinese Restaurant. This place looked like it hadn’t had a decor update since about 1985, I suspect this is also when it last had a proper clean. The owner seemed a little overwhelmed by three orders in one night and asked us to come back in half an hour.



Skeptical and nervous about what we were about to eat, we went back to the pub for another beer to line the stomachs with more salmonella killing alcohol – the publican helped himself to another Sambuca.

We ate the food in the Main Street; it was singlehandedly the worst Chinese food I’ve ever eaten…not even a day of riding could generate the kind of appetite needed to wolf that shit down. It ended up in the bin and we went back to the camp ground hangry.


  

In Donnybrook’s defence, it was a Monday night and most cafes/restaurants were shut. There’s a lesson here if you’re planning a ride through this neck of the woods.

We got to sleep around 9:00pm, half expecting the few bites of Chinese food we had to come back to haunt us in a few hours time. Thankfully that didn’t eventuate.

Day 11 – Donnybrook to Sleeper Hewer’s Hut

Day 11 marks the half way point for our trip, at least in terms of days on the bike. We’re a little behind the 8-ball in terms of kms as the northern section is the most difficult; we plan to make this up in the final week where the trail flattens off.

There was a thick fog over Donnybrook this morning which left the tents pretty damp, it kinda felt like rain was threatening – thankfully this lifted.

   

We grabbed a little breakfast at the bakery and got riding by 7:30am. We’d been anticipating this day since Pop-up told us about the trail diversion with the axe in the tree (refer earlier blog).  

We somehow managed to take a wrong turn out of town, instead of taking the flat single trail we ended up on the hilly sealed road and did about 45 min worth of unnecessary climbing.

The trail joined back up with the main road and bombed down towards the Capel River a few km later. From there it heads up a dirt road to the Harrington Pine Farms.

  
  
Tennis’ right knee started playing up and he got a bit stroppy, so I helped him lighten his load a little and we plod on through some sections of thick sand. 

 
The trail pops out of the forest at Jarrahwood – the site of an old mill during the hey day of the timber industry in WA.

  
There’s only about 10 residents and apparently they all hate each other. They are very nice to cyclists however, and from all reports they do their best to look after riders who are staying in the local hut, which is right in the middle of town.

I’ve heard that riders have been tempted to slag off the locals in the trail book; this is a big no no, apparently they read it regularly.

We cooked up a bit of lunch here, and had a quick nap on the shady lawn. Tennis also gave his knee a good lathering of voltaren.
  
The trail from Jarrahwood to Nannup follows the Sidings Rail Trail, another converted railway line with gentle grades, we sat on about 20km/hr. 

  
There’s still a lot of evidence of the old timber rail lines which covered this area, old jarrah sleepers and rail spikes still cover the track. 

 
 
There’s also a number of old rail bridges which have had a bit of a facelift to be safe for riders and walkers.

  

We found the Cambray siding, the site where they loaded all the timber trains for transportation to the Jarrahwood or Nannup mills. This was also the place Pop-up (that random drifter we met back on day 2) had told us to look for the axe in the tree as this would signify the start of the diversion we should take.  

We were picturing a secret trail that wasn’t on any maps, and only those who knew to look up for the axe in the tree could find it. To our surprise, the diversion was in fact the very well known Timberline Rail Trail, a popular and well signposted walking/cycling trail between Nannup and Jarrahwood. 

  
  
An axe was the symbol used to mark this trail, and it was nailed to several trees. It kinda felt like some of the adventure had been taken away, but then again it was also nice to know we weren’t trudging off into the bush on an unused trail based on advice we got from a homeless guy on a bike.

  

As Pop-up had told us, the trail was fantastic…old Jarrah forest, huge trees, hard packed trail, really nice riding.  

We followed Pop-up’s directions almost exactly to the tee and found the hut he was talking about. It was magnificent, a small jarrah hut with bunk beds, rainwater tank and outdoor table.  

   
   

Shaun was already there and had staked his claim on a spot outside (he prefers to camp than to share a hut with snorers). We’ve since looked it up on the internet, and the directions for the Timberline Rail Trail and Sleeper Hewer’s hut are both available online. 

  

We cooked up a nice trangia puttanesca and got an early night. Two big days of climbing ahead of us….can’t wait.