Dec 2008: Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail:
Left Denmark at 7.30 am on a cool overcast day, just right for cycling. Road the Heritage trail to Limburne Rd, which was as usual, pretty good. Some sandy patches around, especially in the open farm land, and the North side of the SC Hway was all good gravel road. After Limburne Rd the trail had been improved with some extra gravel and leveling out. However there were some sandy sections, but not for too long. After that it was old train line and pretty good riding. Got to the end at Parker Rd and rode the 10 km on SC Hway. to Bow Bridge. Stopped for a snack at 11am. Rode down the Peaceful Bay Rd and rejoined the trail. It was abit overgrown as it was for bikes only not cars. It also had a lot of sticks, branches and leaf litter and was abit damp but good riding. Saw 2 tiger snakes in this section, and they were hard to spot with all the sticks. Got to Station Rd which was freshly graded. Headed to the Highway and Valley Of the Giants Rd. After the Treetop walk the road leaves the trees and heads to open farm land - not the most exciting riding. Stopped at Bow Bridge for lunch. When I got to the sandy section I was pretty hot and weary, and the last 20 km were a struggle. Got in about 4.30 pm, 128 km over 9hrs 15 mins, 7 hrs 4 mins ride time.
Nov 2008: Nannup to Jarrahdale
Perry & I recently did the "bottom" 400k of the Munda Biddi from Nannup to Jarrahdale in 6 days in December 2008 (note the Trail finished in Nannup at this time). We chose to head from South to North as we could get ourselves to Nannup and then we planned to ride home even if we did not use the Munda Biddi. We were both fairly strong riders so we planned to combine two days suggested riding into each day. We both had BOB trailers that weighed 30 kgs all up with 7 days worth of food, water, camping equipment etc, so that is a hefty load. Perry was into big km - he recently did 470 km in a day with Audax, but my planned preparation for this ride fell into a heap really!
We started by catching a coach to Donnybrook on Friday afternoon. The coaches are reasonably priced (about $30 per person) & only charge $10 to take your bike & BOB trailers. We had pre booked. However they are slow & often late. After leaving East Perth train station at 12.20 pm, we didn't arrive in Donnybrook until 4.30 (about 30 mins late) and we still had a 60 km ride to Nannup. Thank goodness for daylight savings and a booking at the Blue House B & B. Perry had planned the route on Bikely (www.bikely.com) to keep us off major roads as much as possible. There was about 15 km of dirt, but it was easy compared to the Munda Biddi!
We got to the Blue House at about 8pm. It is about 1 km out of Nannup on the Trail, so the perfect spot. Sue & Mike are great hosts - they phoned Nannup to see where we could eat. The Pub restaurant was shut, but the barmaid suggested "Grub in the Hub", a caravan that does great takeaways and she said it was OK to eat it in the pub. The food was fabulous - two huge steak burgers with the lot, plus a couple of beers fixed us up. But by the time we got back to the Blue House, showered, unpacked etc, it was a late night to bed.
Perry had a late night the night before packing, so he slept in, as breakfast wasn't till 8.30am anyway. Mike did a great breakfast of porridge, cereal, toast, bacon, eggs & sausages. They are very bike friendly, so they make the ideal overnighter before you start heading North, or a night of luxury at the end of your trip (in 2008 the MB finished in Nannup). We eventually left at about 10.30 am and opted for the more scenic Old Timberline Trail. I get the impression the Sidings Trail was straighter, easier riding, but far less scenic. We got a little lost at the start, but we were soon on track. The Old Timberline Trail was often windy, hilly single track, which was very exhilarating. We stopped at Barrabup Pool for a look (very pretty) but as I rode in I heard a spoke break. Luckily I had just purchased 2 FiberFixs - an American emergency spoke repair that you don't need any tools to use. I had the wheel fixed in about 20 mins, and although it wasn't perfectly trued it was close enough, and more importantly the damaged spoke was replaced so extra load doesn't break other spokes. I was confident it would get me to Collie. Can I suggest you don't leave home without them!!
Once we rejoined the Sidings trail, the track was more undulating, wider and easier as it was the old rail line, but a lot less scenic. We were at Jarrahwood by 1 pm for lunch. The only facilities there are the MB hut - ie hut, toilet & water - no shop or anything else. Soon after Jarrahwood the trail was obviously brand new freshly cut trail - it was rocky, twisty & in places it was very hard to see. It needs more cyclists over it please!! Also some sandy sections which seemed to drag the BOB trailers backwards. It was classed as easy, but I would disagree. It got easier later as we hit wider, more used trails. We got into Donnybrook about 6.30pm, went to the IGA to get some dinner (it closes at 7pm) and went to the Donnybrook Motel (pre booked). We did 82.3 km in exactly 6 hours riding. Again, by the time you eat, shower unload, clean bike chains etc it was 10.30 pm before we got to bed.
Donnybrook: Sunday morning saw us up at 6am and on the bikes by 8am. Instead of backtracking to rejoin the Munda Biddi trail, we rode down the South West Hway towards Boyanup and rejoined it about 3 km out of town. The next 12 km on roads were easy, then it went to gravel roads. We rode around Crooked Brook - it is paved for wheelchair access and takes only a few minutes to ride around. The next 2km of single track were great fun. We were soon on roads again & climbing. As we rode up Richards Road the French owner of Carlaminda Wines invited us in for a drink. Perry even tasted some wines. As it was now about 11 am & her restaurant was opening for Sunday lunch we ordered a lovely French lunch off her light lunches menu and ate it in the gazebo overlooking the Ferguson Valley - fantastic! You can even see the Ocean. We were lulled into a false sense of security as we thought we were over most of the climbs, but it kept going after lunch and the roads kept getting narrower & rougher. But eventually we made it to the Nglang Boodja campsite for a quick look. It looks great, but better was still to come.
We decided to stay on River Road for about 3 km as it bypasses about 5km of "Challenging" riding, and if the freshly cut "Easy" section outside of Jarrahwood was anything to go by, we couldn't push bikes & trailers that far! I am sure that saved us an hour at least and although the weather had been very kind (mid to high 20s as a maximum each day) we both know how hard, hot & tiring extreme conditions can get. The trail was now very hilly, but the type where you could get a good run up and get ¾ of the way up the next hill. The last 20 km were classed as easy & they lived up to that. We rode into Collie & went straight to the Premier Hotel. After unloading I rode to the bike shop (Crank 'n Cycles) to see when he was opened. The owner Erik was there & sounded if he was happy to fix my broken spoke then and there - 6.30 pm on a Sunday night!! But I was happy to come back Monday morning if he'd fix me up first which he did. He also fixed Perry's gear selector lever that got damaged in a small spill. What great service, and he has a huge range of bikes, spares & accessories. He is a great resource to have on the Trail. We rode 88 km, 6 hrs 47 min ride time, 11 hours on the road.
Monday was a half day, as we wanted to get back into sync with the huts. I had breakfast at the Collie Bakery - it opens at 5.30am, so no rush to get there - before the bikes were fixed. We left Collie just after 10am. Like Donnybrook, you have to backtrack along the trail a fair way to rejoin it, so we rode out of town on the black stuff & rejoined the trail at Gastaldo Road. After Zephyr Road the trail is back on the old rail line, so it is smooth, rolling type hills, but very over grown in a great fun sort of way (can I suggest you wear some sunnies to protect your eyes). At Yarri hut someone described it as long green tunnels. We completed our 40 km in 2hrs 45 mins, but 4 hours on the road. Yarri is a really lovely spot - it is on a slope overlooking a small, heavily treed valley. The hut actually takes up half the track & the balcony has seats overlooking the valley. Who was supposed to bring the beers? It was a top spot to have an extra few hours break.
Tuesday saw more of the long green tunnels before we hit a diversion around Tag Rd due to timber harvesting. This was fine, but the next diversion was due to aerial burning and was not as pleasant. The diversion covered a fair area, so we did about 5 km on the Harvey/Quindanning Rd, which is all gravel bar a small section of asphalt in the middle for some reason. It looked like the MB followed contour lines, but the gravel road just went straight up & down hills - and there were some big 'uns! To make it worse, the road was very wide, so shade was non existent, whereas on the narrow Trail you were often in shade. Climbing those hills on a 30 degree day was sweaty work. We reached Logue Brook Dam about lunch time & although the caravan park had just recently reopened, it had not restocked the shop, so there were no facilities available. We had our pre packed lunches on a caravan park bench overlooking the Dam while numerous 28's & magpies tried to share it.
After Logue Brook Dam there were some rough, steep climbs with great views of the Scarp. Once we hit King Jarrah Form the Trail was smooth, level & well shaded - perfect when you are tired. We got into Bidgar Ngoulin hut about 6pm, after 10 hours and 7 water bottles on the road. It took a fraction over 6 hrs to ride the 77 km. This hut is fantastic - a small stream runs nearby & it has a small waterfall feeding it - absolutely lovely. My only concern was the 2 wild pigs I saw walking along a ridge above the stream, but we saw no signs of them being near the hut. As always, I stayed on the top bunk with my food, as not to attract any attention from locals like them. And as for the whole trip, Perry & I had the hut to ourselves. In fact we only saw 2 multi day riders, both heading South, about 1 day apart from each other.
Wednesday night was in Dandalup Hut. It was another 10 hours on the road, but 6 ½ hours riding to cover the 76 km. The King Jarrah Form was much the same as yesterday, except with some nice views of the river. However after Nanga the only way was up and often the Trail went up & down. Perry actually stayed on the road and that did save him some time. We were in Dwellingup for lunch, so feasted like kings there before filling up water at the tourist bureau.
5 km out of Dwellingup I broke a spoke again, but fixed it again quickly with the Fibrefix spoke repair - I think my 95 kg weight, a trailer weighing 30 kg and some aggressive down hill riding contributed to the 2 broken spokes and also a bent rear axle. I cannot recommend these kevlar spokes enough - they are brilliant. Perry at 65 kg with a more cautious riding style had no such dramas. We did find heading North out of Dwellingup the MB was often poorly marked, but we presume most riders are heading North to South so this is not reported much. The ride to Dandalup was the usual mix of fun single track, gravel roads, or shocking rutted hills. And as for the hill up to the campsite - any chance of installing an escalator? (note - MB diverts around this hill now) But the hut is great - the "dining room" has views over the Scarp to the Ocean and is so well placed you can get great mobile service. Turns out I'd also bent my drop out, so Perry & I spent an hour or two stripping & reassembling that end of the bike to get the gear changes working better.
The MB beat us on Thursday. North of Gobby Rd the MB was flat but with 1~2 km of sand & deep pea gravel that spoilt our fun! We had both ridden the MB North of here at least twice before, so we knew the scenic stuff was behind us. We were also getting more tired earlier in the day from the pace we were riding at, and my lack of training was showing in a leaden feeling in my legs. So at the Jarrahdale shop over a huge hamburger we decided to quit while we were still enjoying it. We then rode down Nettleton Rd to Byford and I followed the South West Highway into Armadale. I got lazy & caught a train from Armadale to Perth and rode the last little bit home, whereas Perry rode all the way home. We ended up doing 500km in 7 days if you include our rides to & from the Trail.
So what did I learn for next time? BOB trailers are fantastic for load carrying, but they allow you to carry too much stuff. Cull, cull cull as if you only had panniers.