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 8 – Yarri Hut to Collie

After a cold night in the hut, we got up early and left camp by 7:30am.  We’re getting a lot quicker and packing in a hurry, although Tennis is still much quicker than me as my morning routine generally involves a kind of ritualistic strapping of my knees.


The rail trail we rode in on last night continued for a few kms, then kicked up into a steep climb for a few more.  Our legs were quite stiff and not entirely warmed up, I stopped a few times along the way.

From the top of that scarp, the trail gently descends for another 8km or so on hard packed forest track.  This was a really nice section of track; the air was still cool although there was a hint of smoke around.   The sun just coming up and the tall trees cast some pretty rad shadows over the trail.


The trail passes a few farms which reminds you you’re not all that far from civilisation. The stench from a few of the cattle farms rivalled that of the long drop back at camp.

As we got closer to Collie, the smoke got thicker, apparently due to some controlled burning in the area.  I think a few of the back burns might have got a bit out of control, as a couple of CFS trucks whizzed past us at incredible speed

We met up with Matt and Di on one of the asphalt link sections, and ended up riding with them for the rest of the day.  The trail is temporarily diverted because of the controlled burning – this takes you out of the forest, along a power line track, and down an asphalt road for about 5km towards Collie.


  

It was so nice to ride on asphalt for a while although it does remind you how much extra rolling resistance you have off-road.

The diversion ended and the trail ducked back into the forest where we followed an old rail formation into town; a great section of downhill flowy track if you’re heading south, not so fun if you’re heading north.

The trail into Collie is actually a spur to the Munda Biddi, you have to ride out the way you came in for about 12km.  This creates some pretty confusing signage, and we actually got lost by one of the floodplain crossings.



We ended up riding out on the Bibbulmun Trail (WA’s equivalent to the Heysen Trail) which took us back to the main road which we followed until it met back up with the Munda Biddi.

It would have been nice to avoid the spur completely, but we needed supplies and it fit the schedule nicely.  Collie is a big town with major supermarkets, six pubs, camping and hardware stores.  It also has the last big bike shop for travellers heading south (there may be a smaller shop in Pemberton).  We took the opportunity to stock up on CO2, I also had my brake pads replaced as they were nearly down to bare metal.

We arrived on a Saturday around lunch time – most of the shops in Collie shut early afternoon on a Saturday and are shut on Sunday.  Make sure you factor that in if you’re riding through here and need provisions.

We ran our errands and spent the afternoon in the Crown Pub (best in Collie).  There’s not much else to do in Collie – it’s a bit of a shit hole.

 

The pub dog, Oscar roams around like he owns the joint and licks everything he wants. He took quite the liking to Tennis’ leg.

Shaun, Matt and Di joined us for dinner and we ended up drinking into the evening.  Our plan was to roll down to the camp ground, but Mark the Publican and George the Barman looked after us with a room at a great rate.  Mark even helped us roll our bikes into the beer garden.  Good people.

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.

Day 12 – Sleeper Hewer’s Hut to Donnelly River

We got some pretty heavy rain last night which sounded cool on the tin roof of the hut. Poor Shaun got drenched outside in his lightweight tent and had to resort to his emergency thermal blanket for extra protection.

We took the morning to clean and service the bikes, they’re looking pretty spiffy and riding quite well.

  

We left the hut around 8:30am and finished the last of the Timberline Trail – I highly recommend this as a detour, it’s a few extra kms but the trail is easy to ride and the hut provides another option between the Nala Mia and Karta Burna campsites. The only downside was the extra couple hundred metres of climbing we needed to do to get back to Nannup.

   

 
Got into Nannup around 10:00am and met Matthieu and Mathilde, a French couple who’ve been riding around the world for the last two and a half years….kinda makes our three week tour seem a bit pathetic. They’re riding the Munda Biddi as their last adventure before heading back to France. We’d been seeing their entries in the hut log books so it was finally good to put a face to the names.  We told them we were headed for Donnelly River and they changed their plans to do the same.

We posted some gear home and stocked up on provisions in Nannup, then set off for an afternoon of hills.

The trail leaves Nannup to the south and stays on sealed and unsealed roads for about 20km. Most of this is uphill if you’re heading south, but the grades are gentle and if you find a comfy gear and grind away, you’ll be fine.

   
 
It’s kinda nice to sit on roads and knock some kms off quickly as a break from single track where you’re always on your toes. They’re very quiet roads, we only saw a couple of cars.

The ride into Donnelly River is quite nice single track and passes through some sections of Karri forest, the first we’ve seen on the trip so far. 

  

Donnelly River is another old timber mill town, established in 1951 and employing many itinerant post-war workers. It was established by the Bunnings brothers, who owned a lot of land in this area. They later went on to establish a chain of successful hardware stores.

   
 The town churned out 50 truck loads of milled timber every day for 27 years, until a freak hurricane destroyed much of the Karri forest in 1978.

These days it only has four permanent residents, although I’m told this number swells to 250 odd in school holidays with tourists seeking an unsophisticated bush hoiday. Donnelly River is also the halfway point of the Munda Biddi.

  

We stayed at the old primary school which has been converted to bunk dorms. They must feed the local wildlife pretty regularly, as the roos, emus and lorikeets were all pretty tame and comfortable around people….although the emu didn’t much like the kiwi!

  

Matthieu and Mathilde rolled in about an hour after us. We also met a fella called Nick who was walking part of the Bibbulmun track – after a few wines and an hour or so of conversation, Nick casually mentioned that he used to be the bass player in Tame Impala and that he’s the frontman in Pond. Rad.

   
 
We carried on for a while longer; Matt and Di had stocked up on wine and scotch and Matthieu had carried in a bottle too. The animals became increasingly more comfortable around us and by the end of the night we had them eating out the palms of our hands. Tennis looked a bit like a bearded Ace Ventura. Good day.

   
   

As we’ve now passed the half way point I thought I’d share a few stats that might peak your interest:

  • Distance ridden – 615km
  • Total riding time – 63 hours
  • Total ascent – 8,340m
  • Total wheel revolutions – 219,650
  • Total pedal revolutions – 525,000
  • Total calories burnt – 64,000

Day 13 – Donnelly River to Manjimup

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.