10th-30th October 2012 – 840km
Perth is located on a narrow coastal plain, about 30km wide. To the West, the vast Indian Ocean stretches out as far as the eye can see and to the East the Darling escarpment, known to Perthites as the Perth hills. The Munda Biddi trail starts up in the Perth hills and follows the escarpment down deep into the South West. Now these are not mountains by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re the biggest hills around (for a long, long way) and can make for some pretty challenging cycling. Especially if your starting at sea level and riding a fully loaded bike and trailer!
We joined the trail at a small village called Pickering Brook, (actually I think it’s classed as a suburb), so as to avoid the first 15km from Mundaring. This first section of the trail see’s the heaviest use due to it’s accessability from the city and was apparently in quite a damaged state. The trail from PB on the other hand was in good condition; a nice, easy going track winding its way through beautiful old Jarrah forest. The surface was pretty soft and sandy in places so progress wasnt very quick but we were able to make reasonably good time. The first hut was only 15km along the trail and we arrivied just as the light was beginning to fade. There’s a real magical feeling about riding through the forest in the early evening, with the sun just breaking through the trees in places, creating beautiful beams of light. I love the sound of our tyres on the dirt – especially after riding through the city.
Our first week on the trail was all about adjusting. It was great to be out there in the forest, riding everyday with no cars and few people, but it was hard work and the reason it was so hard was because we were too heavy. The amount of times I wanted to stop and throw my bags away, off the top of a cliff if possible, were many! The fact is we haden’t prepared well for this part of the trip. In hindsight I can say this. It’s difficult to pack for any bike trip. You have to be strict, allowing few luxuries. Riding a mountain bike trail though, albeit a fairly easy going one, you have to be severe in your packing and that we had not been. We were still carrying our lap-top, all of our electrical equipment, our tent (which although nice to have as it gave us more options we could have done without!) and lots of other things that over a long bike trip make sense and are nice to have but now felt cumbersome and useless.
This mental challenge of not being able to ride at the pace we wanted took a while to get through. There were definitly times when we thought about quitting and taking the road. But we didn’t quit. We kept plugging away and finally reached a point, some 2-300km down the trail that we really started enjoying ourselves. We never managed to get much lighter but our attitudes and goals changed. 30km became a good day where as before it felt not enough. By the time we reached Nannup we had been riding for 10 days straight and had covered over 400km. We were in giant Karri tree country and the trail had become very beautiful in places, especially as the wild flowers were in full bloom!
After a well-earned rest day in Nannup we took the trail over the hills to Donnelly Mill, a lovely but strange sort of resort village where roo’s and emu’s roam around, and camped in the village school yard. From here we rode to Manjimup via the newest and definitely most beautiful ‘Karta Burnu’ trail hut. Perched on top of a hill clad in Karri trees, with great views down the valley, it doesn’t get much better than this. Especially when you have it completely to yourself and it’s free!
Manjimup marked the end of the trail for us until the last section along the coast from Denmark to Albany, about 300km south by road. The trail linking these two sections is due to be completed sometime in April ’13. We headed down to Pemberton, about 50km, on dirt roads and camped at the town campground. We had two reasons for visiting Pemberton. One was that a couple who had given us a lift across the croc infested Pentecost river up North lived there and we had promised to pop in for a cup of tea and two, Pemberton is home to a famous Karri tree called the Gloucester tree that we wanted to visit. This monster of a tree is almost 80m tall and was/is useful for spotting forest fires; that is if you climb up to its very top you can see above the forest for miles and miles!
So after catching up with Wayne, Natalie and there little baby we headed over to see what the fuss was all about and see if we had the guts to climb up the biggest tree in WA! Commonly referred to as ‘the nanny state’ for its controlling ‘we’ll decide what’s best’ government attitude, WA is not the kind of place you would expect to find an attraction like the Gloucester tree. Metal pins stuck into its giant trunk spiral up into the forest canopy above with no safety net or bar to prevent you falling to your death! A small sign at the bottom stating ‘climb at your own risk’ is the only warning of danger. No papers to sign, no harnesses or ropes. Just off you go and try not to slip!
So off I went, bold and courageous – a fire watchman at heart! Unfortunately, at about the 12th pin I made the mistake of looking down and came to a sudden halt. My palms began to sweat and as I looked back up I realized I still had a very long way to go. Tentatively, I climbed back down. ‘What’s wrong?’ Tami asked. ‘I need a chalk bag’ I replied. Tutting, she pushed me out of the way and proceeded to climb up. Right to the top! I couldn’t believe it, in fact I couldn’t watch.
As I was standing at the bottom, hoping that her return to ground level wouldn’t be with a crashing thud, an older couple came over and stood next to me. ‘Been up?’ they asked. ‘No, not yet’ I lied, trying to avoid eye contact and hoping that they would go away before Tami came back. They didn’t. The woman spotted her. ‘Look!’ she exclaimed. ‘Someone’s up there! Did you see someone climb up?’ she asked. ‘Err, yes. Yes that’s my girlfriend’. I said sheepishly. ‘ooh, she’s brave isn’t she’ the woman said, giving me a look that said’ lucky you’ve got such a brave girlfriend you big wimp!’ We all waited for her return in baited silence. As she descended the last few steps they burst into applause and I followed suit, my sweaty hands now positively clammy! A young family came over and joined us. ‘Have you been up?’ the father asked me. ‘No’, I replied sharply. ‘She has!’, the older woman piped up pointing at Tami who was beaming from ear to ear. I triedto muster a smile. ‘Didn’t fancy it yourself eh?’ he said, laughing.
Tami said the view from the top was amazing and well worth the terrifying climb down. Unfortunately in her rush to climb up she forgot to take the camera. That was still in my back pocket… Despite my pride I was/ am very proud of her. She is also very proud of herself and often reminds me of it!
From Pemberton we took the road South to Denmark, via North Cliff. This was actually a really nice ride, through ‘tingle tree’ forests and along some beautiful coast. In Denmark we met with Carl, a friend from Perth, who had driven to Albany and then rode his bike to Demark to meet us. We camped the night at a lovely campground down by the river and set off together the following day to ride the last section of the Munda Biddi trail, to Albany. The trail here was quite different to what we had already ridden. The trees were much smaller and we got some fantastic views of the coast, mountains in the distance and the farmland all around. It was fairly flat and easy going and we could have ridden it all (about 75km) in one day, but it was so nice that we really didn’t feel the need to. Instead we wild camped at a beautiful beach some 30km short of Albany, and rode into the town the following morning.
Albany feels like a bustling little port town. It’s WA’s oldest settlement and somehow feels it. Compared to Perth and even Fremantle it feels much older. It has a nice harbor, lots of steep and pretty little streets and some good pubs, one of which we spent the evening at. We would have happily spent a few more days there exploring, but our plan was to return to Perth with Carl, from where we planned to pick up another relocation car and drive out east. Our Munda Biddi experience was over, as was our riding in Western Australia.