29" soft tail, no luggage
This was a 3 day/3 night trip with a "back up team" who were going to drop me and pick me from the MB while they enjoyed the sights. So instead of the cheaper and more basic accommodation (but perfectible acceptable) at the Quinninup caravan park cabins, we opted for Clover Cottages. These 4 cottages are very nice, with a verandah over looking their 2 dams and the river. These cottages are spacious, luxurious, historic (the original house was built in 1875) and also priced accordingly. They contain jarrah logs from the property holding the roof up, polished jarrah floor boards, blackbutt kitchen cabinets, karri beams and rafters and a pine ceiling. When I am based in the same place for 3 nights with my wife, Mum and Mother in law, the extra expense was worth it to keep me in the good books. The caravan park is great, especially if I am in just for the one night passing through, but this is a lot nicer.
I had checked the MBF website and there were no deviations in place.
Day 1 was Nannup to Manjimup - see Map 5.
Day 2 started at Manjimup at 8am. The weather was forecast 22 degrees and dry. The ride out from the Visitors centre took you to a bush section surprisingly quickly - within 500 m. After that there was a short section on roads, before there was a turn off onto old form. It was a sweet section as the trail was easy riding yet straight and narrow. Most of the riding to Quinninup was old form. The best sections were the old form that followed the Warren River - it was very pretty.
When you cross the Warren River bridge, look for old rail bridge on your left - how cool is that! Access to it is just before the road bridge down some old form on the left.
I got to Quinnup about 11.30am, but the pub didn't serve lunch till 12 noon, so I chilled till then (yes there is 3G service here). I had a burger and an iced coffee and was back on the MB by 12.30. The first couple of kilometres through the Greater Dordagup National Park are on a fire break, 5 "chains" (approximately 100m) from the side of the Wheatley Coast Road. There was one section that was blocked off with no diversion indicated, but a large recently fallen tree appeared to be the reason for the sign. It was awkward to climb over, but not impossible.
Another especially nice section was East Brook, not far out of Pemberton. Perhaps it was the afternoon sun or the gurgling water, but it was very pretty. By contrast, Golf Links Rd was a bit boring, but the ride along the back of the swimming pool in to Pemberton was very nice. This route takes you passed the old steam engine on the main street - see my notes in Overview. I have tracked the route from Brown's Rd straight into Pemberton if you want to go straight in to town - see the route sheet.
I was in Pemberton by about 4 pm, after doing a total of 83 km. It was now a round about drive back to Quinninup, as I didn't want to do the short cut of Grays Rd (it is gravel and the bike would get filthy on the back rack).
Day 3 - I was dropped in to Pemberton and got away from the tourist centre just after 8am. The ride up to Gloucester Tree is an early morning heart starter but there will be a reward for that later. See more on the Gloucester Tree in the overview. I decided not to climb the tree today - I had enough cardio booked in for today.
The ride off the hill into the valley behind the Gloucester tree is spectacular - it looks fabulous with the karri trees lit by the early morning sunlight, the bush is so green and lush, and full of birds. And the ride downhill is F-U-N! There are 9 switch backs, and they get closer together and steeper as you get further down - number 7 almost caught me out. After about 5 minutes of bliss, I was down on the sealed Burma Rd turning right. If you are heading up this section, especially fully laden, you can stay on Burma Rd and it comes out near the rangers hut at the Gloucester Tree. It is still a horror climb, but it is all sealed and rideable, whereas riding up the switchbacks and cornering at very slow speeds is hard.
On the trail today and yesterday, I saw 2 sets of tyres in front of me, and my wife said she saw 2 cyclists in Pemberton. I saw the trails again today, but the only people I saw on the MB over the 3 days was some walkers heading towards the River Road Bridge. However my wife saw them in Northcliffe and had a quick chat. They were double hutting, and one of the riders was looking definitely fatigued. Unfortunatley, a storm front was forecast to come through tomorrow, so it may spoil their trip.
When I came through here this time last year, the South West had been hit by bad storms. This time, Perth had its hottest September day in nearly a century ( it was over 34 degrees!). I was 28 degrees in Manjimup, which made for warm riding. I was glad that the Sun wasn't at its highest, as most of the trails were in shadow. It kept me cooler, but spoilt the photos a bit as the contrast gets too much for the camera to handle.
The first 25 km from Pemberton to Northcliffe was all under karri and jarrah forrest, often on old form, or on good, quiet dirt roads. It was great. The old form following Spring Gully is especially nice - a stream on one side and lots of shade under the big trees. There is also lots of signs of the old railway - occasional sleepers, I even saw a rail nail, some cuttings etc. The only drama was I just missed a dugite (a poisonous snake) by a metre, so from then on the stick strewn form suddenly seemed to be full of snakes! I did see another one later lying in the middle of a trail later- I did an emergency stop about 2 metres from it, but luckily it left in the opposite direction. There were a couple of hills I walked up, mainly to stretch my legs out. I also saw a small bandicoot just after a 1080 fox baiting sign, so Western Shield must be working (see more under "What you will see").
The Warren River bridge is an old railway bridge that looks great. I think it is about 100m long. I am just sorry my photos could not do it justice.
The last 20 km into Northcliffe is even gentler, but mixed gravel roads through farm land or bush. The last 5 km has one hill after you cross Gardiner Road (after turning off Middleton Rd), but once you are at Hollowbut Picnic site (a big hollowed out karri tree) it is all pretty cruisey into Northcliffe. I was there just before noon, so it was time to have a wipe off and change of clothes before heading back to Perth.
Day 7,8 & 9 of 14 day ride:
Hard tail, Bob trailer
Awoke at 5.50pm in the Northcliffe pub. Slept pretty well. I had ordered the breakfast which was 2 slices of bread, jam & vegimite, juice and a one serve box of cereal - a bit expensive at $8.50, but I didn't think there would be many other alternatives available in town early in the morning. I used the kitchenette near the room to make it and had a couple of coffees as well, so on the road by 8am. I had to cross a few puddles right opposite the pub, so my feet were wet by 8.05am! The first 10 km took about an hour, but then the next 2 km took 30 minutes as there were lots of fallen trees. Some were pretty big, so the trailer had to be unhooked and the bike lifted up, climb on to the tree, lower the bike, then do the same with the trailer - a slow process. There were also lots of fallen branches, sticks and mud as well that slowed me down on what would have otherwise been an easy ride on good gravel roads. Most of this was on River Road. There was a huge karri down on one down hill section, but it was close to the track and the deviation around the upturned roots was passable - otherwise the trunk was 1.5 metres high and it would have been very hard climbing over it! When I crossed Burma road I stayed on the sealed road - it is a steep climb around the Gloucester Tree area, but I had heard the switch backs up the steep hill had some very hard corners that maybe too difficult with the trailer. Burma road was tough, but at least rideable. I stopped at Gloucester Tree for a break, but didn't climb it. I followed the route into town and stayed at the Gloucester Motel. This was the start of a 26 hour break - I was in the hotel at 1pm and didn't meet the guys coming down on the Transwa bus till 3pm tomorrow. A day off means shower, washing, shopping, curry and red wine - in that order. The Dockers were in their first Grand Final so lay on a bed and watched that - oh so comfortable! Today was a long weekend, so there were a few day riders out on the trail - you could tell as they only had day packs at most. It has been 24 hours without rain - amazing.
It rained overnight and in the morning again. I slept in till 7am, then had a casual breakfast in my room. I packed slowly and gave the bike a good lube. I had arranged a late checkout at 12, so went in to town for lunch - it was packed due to the long weekend. It was a cool day. The cafe was very crowded and without newspapers & I couldn't buy a newspaper after lunch (same thing happened yesterday!), so I just went to the Transwa bus stop, unrolled my sleeping mat and chilled for 90 mins till the bus turned up. Their bus was on time, and so by 3.10pm we were leaving town, heading for Quinninup. Because of our late start, we headed out on the Vasse Highway and turned right into Browns Rd and joined the MB there - it saved us a few km and some big hills. We followed the MB to Emerald Rd, turned on to Grays Rd, but instead of following it down to Home Rd we continued on Grays Rd to South Western Highway. We had 4 more trees down, a few more branches to avoid and lots of mud. There were a few big hills on Grays Rd, but all were rideable. This was lush green rolling farm land, but the worst bit was riding down a big hill and coming across a cattle crossing - cow dung was flicked up everywhere, especially at the riders behind. It was now quite overcast, dark and drizzly, and by the time we got to Quinninup it was dark. We dropped into the pub to make sure they would still be open for dinner a bit later, then charged to our pre booked chalet at the caravan park ($90 for the night, which is $30 each). It was a great 2 bedroom cabin, with shower, kitchen and verandahs to keep the bikes on - I recommend staying here. We dropped our gear, had a quick shower and went to pub for dinner. It was very warm inside, and dinner, beers and a good catch up was great. We meet a group of 6 or 7 female cyclists who were heading South from Nannup to Albany. I showed them the photos of what they had to look forward to (flooded track, more trees down) and they stressed that there was a lot of trees down near One Tree Bridge. However they had a great view that the hard parts were all part of the fun.They were from Eastern States. The ride back from pub was very cold after such warmth, but luckily we left the heater on and the chalet was warm as toast. There are no facilities except at the pub, and no mobile phone service.
I got woken up a few times during the night by a possum in the roof - it was even sticking its nose and one eye through a hole to look at us. It was till drizzling and pretty cool in the morning. After breakfast we found it very hard to load the bikes with the local emu pecking at us. The girls from the pub turned out to be staying next door. We were on the road by 7.45am, but we stayed on the Wheatley Coast Road instead of following the trail. It was a sealed road, with some big hills, but all rideable (the MB would have been easier although longer - see 2014). By 10am it had warmed up to 10 degrees, and so had we. When we crossed the Warren River we re joined the MB trail. The last 6 or 8km on North South Road was old railway line, so really good. We were in Manjimup by 11am, and went to the cafe on the Main Street. We sat outside even though it was cold, especially with a breeze, but we were a bit sweaty. We all had a huge belated breakfast - bacon, eggs, sausages, toast, tomatoes, beans etc and a couple of coffees. Even got them to make up ham, cheese & egg rolls for afternoon tea as not much else open in town on the public holiday. I phoned home before leaving town about 1pm. We followed the rail trail to nearby Deanmill. It looked like a workers club was open but no other shops as such. Now it was quite sunny. There was more train line after that, but it was very cluttered by branches and fallen trees, so it slowed us down a lot. The last few kilometres were very hilly and one of the riders was lagging behind abit, so good thing we cut the planned 65km on the Munda Biddi to 59km. Karta Burnu hut is on the side of a hill over looking a paddock, so it really looks like a Swiss Chalet! It is only a small sized hut, but plenty of room for us 3 - as usual, no-one else there.