Day 0 – Adelaide to Mundaring Weir

After months of planning and (slightly nervous) anticipation, our Munda Biddi adventure has finally begun.  Both Tim (Tennis) and I live in Adelaide and we had to fly to Perth with all of our luggage and bikes. We’ve called this blog Day 0 as most of it was actually spent getting to the start of the trail.

We arrived at the Adelaide airport around 5:15am and checked the bikes and trailers in. I’m not sure why, but I was expecting this to be a more difficult process than it ended up being.  I guess being AFL Grand Final eve most people were heading east, not west.

Once we arrived in Perth it was time to put the machines together. We found a nice vacant spot next to the oversized baggage pick-up area and decided to set up shop.


We discovered our first hurdle once we opened up the boxes…two flat tires on Tennis’ bike before we’d even clipped in.  This doesn’t sound too serious, but with tubeless tyres, pancake flats are kinda tricky to deal with, they need the rapid inflation of compressed air to make them take the bead.  We used our only two CO2 canisters and luckily got them back up to pressure.



After an hour or two putting everything back together, we set off for Mundaring in the Perth hills.  We were lucky enough to meet a couple called Bruce and Gwenda who gave us some directions for ‘the scenic route’ which largely avoided main roads….they even drew us a map.  They also told us about an old fella named Ron for whom they’d drawn a similar map the day before.


Bruce’s map took us up the heritage rail trail from Midland to Mundaring, which is a pretty steady 16km climb on the pea gravel that this area is known for.  The terrain, surface and hot and muggy conditions made for a tougher day than we’d expected…we haven’t even reached the Munda Biddi yet!


We stocked up on groceries and a few beers in Mundaring which is the official starting point (northern terminus) of the Munda Biddi Trail.  The trail starts at Sculpture Park on the southern side of town.


Eager to get a few kms under our belt, we left Mundaring around 4:00pm and and set off for Mundaring Weir…only about 7km down the trail.  The first part of the trail is very fun…flowy single track that weaves either side of the main road.  The pea gravel I mentioned earlier made cornering a little interesting, imagine riding over thousands of ball bearings, Tennis even came unstuck for his first stack of the trip.

 

We soon found our rhythm and made it to the Mundaring Weir pub as the sun was going down, quite a long day.

The pub at Mundaring Weir is a great place, at first we thought we’d stumbled across a strange motorcycle Narnia, with rows of Harley Davidsons and road bikes lined up out front…not what you expect to see at a quaint little pub tucked away in the middle of the Forrest.  Although we were the only ones there who weren’t wearing leather, we had a great night sharing a few beers and a meal with a bloke called Millsy and his wife Sharon.

They were lovely people who were riding to Bussleton the following morning.  Apparently that ride will take them 3 hours by Harley….it’s gonna take us a week by 29er!


We camped in the pub car park and were asleep by 8:30pm, it was a very long day.

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Day 1 – Mudaring Weir to Carinyah Hut

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!


We had to get off a couple times to push the bikes up the particularly tough bits.



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.


 It was actually a really nice place and I’d love to head back there. We had a few ciders and some lunch, then set off for the campsite which was only another 10km along the trail.

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.

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 4 – Jarrahdale to Dandalup Hut

Those beers last night left me with a bit of a cottonmouth this morning, but it was nice waking up in a bed after a few chilli nights camping.

We left the nurses quarters around 7:30am and stocked up on supplies at the general store, which is also where Matt & Di and Ron had stayed the night before.  Having looked a little exhausted the night before, Ron had convinced one of the locals to drop him at the next campsite by car, which was a wise move as we knew the trail included a fair bit of climbing today.

The trail leaves from the southern side of town and quickly returns to pea gravel.  Those riders we met back near Wungong had told us the pea gravel extends about 15km south of Jarrahdale; we’ll be quite happy to see the end of it.

I should point out now (as I don’t think I have already) that the Munda Biddi is very well signposted.  There’s a marker post at nearly all junctions (of which there must be thousands) and the odd reminder plaque on a tree.

The trail descends quickly out of Jarrahdale on loose and rutted out trails into the Serpentine Valley and then climbs back up to a ridge on the opposite side.


The first part of the climb is on an unsealed road which isn’t too bad, but the grade steepens towards the top of the road, then branches off onto trail.  The loose and rocky surface made it impossible to ride with a touring load.  We met Matt & Di on the climb who were also pushing; the grade topped out at 23%, though I only snapped a photo of the Garmin at 21%.  This was a real testing climb.




The trail levels out at the top of the scarp and undulates for a few kms.  The wild flowers in this area are very colourful; WA has over 12,000 species of wild flower and from what I gather, this is the best time of year to see them.



The trail ducks and weaves through tight single track for the next 7km or so, really nice trail, but very slow going compared to open roads.  10km/hr is a decent pace.  They also require a little more concentration to avoid wiping out, particularly due to the constantly changing surface.

About 18km into the days ride, my front dérailleur stopped shifting down into the lower chainring.  At first I thought a stick has pulled my cable and loosened it, but tightening that didn’t seem to do anything.  On closer inspection I found a piece of pea gravel wedged in behind the spring….this stuff gets you in more ways than one.



We rode on for another few kms until we came across this river which ran alongside the trail.


We checked the maps only to realise that we weren’t supposed to be riding alongside any rivers today. We kept riding for another few kms until we popped out at the Serpentine Dam car park, about 7km off course, and in the bottom of the valley again…I guess we weren’t paying enough attention to those signs.

We asked a few people for directions back, and ended up climbing back out of the valley by the asphalt access road.  It wasn’t all bad I guess, at least we got to see the Sepertine Dam.


We made it back to the trail after an hour or so, and made some lunch in a shady spot. The afternoon session included more climbing, my legs were really feeling it by mid afternoon.  We meandered past the North Dandalup Dam, which was much bigger than the Serpentine.


The trail left the asphalt for the final 2km of the day, which zig-zags up the scarp….yep, more climbing.  The trail and bushland was stunning, and the 500m descent into the Dandalup hut was amazing.


These huts are provided for free to all riders who pass through. They’re all very similar in construction, but the Dandalup is perched on the side of a hill, with spectacular views extending all the way to the ocean.  They could really charge for these.



A considerably harder day than we were expecting due to the detour.  Over 6 hours 15 min to cover 42km, with over 1000m of vertical gain, ouch.



We whipped up a delicious sausage curry for dinner and knocked off those four bottles of red we bought last night in Jarrahdale with Matt & Di.  It was a great night at camp; we got real lucky with our new MTB gang.  We realised we hade five age decades represented, from Tennis in his 20s to Ron in his 70s.  The Munda Biddi attracts them all!


After such a strenuous day, the wine went right to my head, especially as we finished our supply before sunset!

Ron closed out proceedings with a harmonica session….brilliant.

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.