Munda Biddi Trail Ride 2006

Diary of the Ride

Day 0: Sunday, 24 December 2006
Perth Airport → Mundaring Township: distance=30km

After arriving at Perth airport (PER) around lunch time and stocking fuel for our camp stove, we rode against a fairly dry and hot Easterly out to Mundaring. Riding at the hottest time of a hot day (34°C at PER) on an open road was certainly exhausting, so we decided to camp there, get refreshed and start the next day early in the morning. We would also have to carry less water that way.

An interesting feature is that the term “caravan park” is Sculpture Park taken literally around here: the one in the middle of town is simply a free area with very solid ground and no facilities, and the one at the town fringe has facilities, but they only want people with caravans. The recommendation was to “go into the bush”—we instead opted to stay in the sculpture park where the Munda Biddy officially starts, right behind the pub (where we could get a beautiful wheat beer, but no food on Xmas Eve). So we ended up cooking our fist dinner there.

Day 1: Monday, 25 December 2006
Mundaring → Carinyah Campsite: 48km [total 78km]

So, we started on the trail proper on Christmas Day, a leisurely 8am start, on a very easy, smooth downhill track. This ignored our own advise to get going around sunrise (which was at around 6:10), and we were to suffer for it later in the day. Generally, this day was a lot about gaining (or re-acquiring) experience:

Exhausted from the heat (35°C at PER) and the unaccustomed exercise, we were really glad when later in the afternoon we were greeted by the purpose-built Carinyah shelter, where we called it a day. After the long day, we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful and peaceful setting of the campsite—and all of this all to ourselves. In fact, as it turned out, we never encountered any other Munda-Biddi riders at all on the whole trip, not at any of the campsites, at any of the towns or anywhere along the way. Even where the trail occasionally ran on regular (unsealed) roads, we hardly saw anyone. We never expected to be left alone to such a degree, but the registration books at the camp sites showed that this is no accident, there seem to be in average less than ten parties a month on the trail.

Day 2: Tuesday, 26 December 2006
Carinyah → Jarrahdale Township: 71km [total 149km]

Having learnt the lessons from the day before, we got to a fairly early start and indeed enjoyed the riding immensely in those early hours: bushes. Track1 26Dec Track2 26Dec Track3 26Dec Track4 26Dec Track5 26Dec fresh cool air, beautiful morning light (inviting to taking photographs) and plenty of shadow from the surrounding trees. Each morning we would see plenty of kangaroos, sometimes four or six at a time. We also saw emus twice, once a single one, later four at a time.

We reached Wungong Campsite, our nominal goal for the day, well before mid-day, and decided it was way too early to stop. After refreshing with beautiful (and still somewhat cool) water from the tanks there, we continued. Right there we came across the first of several temporary realignments. Judging by the map, it was about the same length and similar elevation profile as the original track, which seemed to hold for most of them. We never considered not following the recommended route, but appreciated that the realignment didn't seem to alter the trail experience significantly.

We reached Jarrahdale at around 1:30, by which time we felt really hot, although nowhere near as exhausted as on the previous day, even though the ride was much longer and the day hotter (37°C at PER). Fortunately we didn't have much expectations for the town, which was only good, as everything was closed on Boxing Day, including the store and the pub. Thus, instead of a cool beer we had do with the local tap water (which is not to sneer upon when your are cycling and thirsty :-) and enjoyed a restful siesta under some shady grevilleas.

Camp 26Dec At around 5pm we filled up with plenty of water and pushed off half way up a longish uphill section of the ensuing trail. There, a bushcamp under the stars (with no tent needed) was again one of the special treats we felt we deserved after more than 70km of riding.

Day 3: Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Jarrahdale → Oakley Dam: 61km [total 210km]

From here on we were back in our early morning routine and generally managed to be on the bike by 6:30 or even earlier. That morning in particular, we were glad we had a good head start, having climbed half of the hill the night before, and thus able to do the other while we were fresh and the air was still quite cool.

Still, we felt the uphills of the last few days (amplified by excess weight) in our legs, and were also a bit weary of what was still to come. Hence we “cheated” in one place, taking the flatter “touring route” between Gobby Rd and Rowley Rd. In hindsight, this was probably not necessary, as we were by now handling the trail quite well. What was probably the most challenging day felt much easier than the first day (which in hindsight was one of the easier ones).

Even though the going wasn't so hard, the day was again hot (40°C PER, 37°C Dwellingup) North Dandalup Reservoir so we were looking forward to a swim at the picnic area at the bottom of North Dandalup Reservoir (shockingly empty at an estimated 25% capacity), which we reached at around 10:30. However, it had a no-swimming sign for health reasons (supposedly nasty bugs when the water gets warm). Would have been nice if they warned us about that at the top, which would have saved us getting down and back up for nothing.

We went on to the Dandalup Campsite, but continued after a short stop on to Whittakers Mill. There we had a bit of a bad surprise. The camp ground (closed except for Munda Biddi riders) has no water, except a hole with extremely dodgy water for fire-fighting. Being fairly low, we filled our bottles anyway, using plenty of purification pills. Fortunately we didn't have to use it, as we found good water at Little Dandalup Creek, where we had lunch.

Conveyor Belt Once it had cooled down, we continued through lovely scenery and a diverse track. A highlight was the ALCOA conveyor belts transporting ore from the mines in the area towards the sea. While being an eyesore in the landscape (and an “earsore“ that could be heard kilometres away), the cut in the forest allowed for a view out over the plains.

Oakly Dam That night, we cooked our camp dinner at a magnificent spot, Oakly Dam. Apart from plentiful fresh, cool water, the view down the valley was simply glorious!

Day 4: Thursday, 28 December 2006
Oakley Dam → Bidjar Ngoulin Campsite: 47km [total 257km]

Gernot1 28Dec Gernot2 28Dec Gernot3 28Dec The day started with a fairly challenging uphill section that got us warmed up in no time, but soon turned into yet another peaceful morning ride through beautiful bush, chasing up the odd kangaroo. One feature was a fairly long, steep and very broken-up piece of fire trail which fortunately was downhill for us. A sign told us to dismount, but it was definitely ridable, and would have been a real slog to walk with the bikes. Pushing them up there would have been no fun at all!

Track 29Dec Trudy 28Dec After that, the terrain became much easier, and we reached Marrinup Camping area at around 8:00. Fortunately we had not planned to stay here: While the camping area is huge and was certainly not crowded in any real sense, there were one or two dozen parties camping, the busiest place we encountered besides Nanga. There also didn't seem to be water, although there might have been a running stream, we didn't investigate. It was still quiet, the first people starting to get up for a stroll or walking their dogs, no-one seemed to have made it to breakfast yet.

We continued on to a special treat: Morning Tea “with the lot”! After a very leisurely ride we reached Dwellingup at about 8:45. Unlike Mundaring or Jarrahdale, the town was alive, as it was a regular work day. The small supermarket was very well stocked with the sort of food and other supplies we buy for such a trip, so we didn't have to make the usual small-town compromises to our shopping list. And the café across the road served a nice cyclist-size country breakfast with real coffee. Highly recommended as a re-fuelling stop!

The rest of the day was a breeze. The stretch between just outside Dwellingup and Murray River Bridge is rated “challenging” in the trail map, but is really not difficult or hard, and we reached Nanga before mid-day. This place, like Marrinup, is huge and certainly a nice place for car camping, but not what we were after. There were maybe a hundred people there (which didn't make it feel crowded in any way). There is a creek with apparently good water, but we were still well stocked, having not used much since Dwellingup.

Bidjar Ngoulin Camp1 Cooking dinner at Bidjar Ngoulin Bidjar Ngoulin Camp2 So we continued after a short lunch break. The track from there is all roads, and pretty flat and mostly in good shape, very easy riding. We passed a car or two on the first few km, but then the track turns off into a road that is closed because of a partially-collapsed bridge, which is safely passable by walkers or cyclist, but definitely not cars. At around 1pm we reached Bidjar Ngoulin, yet another beautiful example of purpose-built Munda-Biddi camp sites.

Bidjar Ngoulin Camp3 The day's heat had been moderate (31°C at Dwellingup) and we still felt reasonably fresh and could have easily gone on for a few more hours (after the mandatory mid-day break), but decided that it was ok to call it an early day at this nice spot. Setting up the sleeping site Like at all the other Munda-Biddi camp sites, the two large water tanks were almost full, and the water beautiful and refreshing. Again, there was not a soul in sight. We slept again out in the open without a tent, and this time would probably not have needed sleeping bags, as the night was mild (16°C at Dwellingup).

Day 5: Friday, 29 December 2006
Bidjar Ngoulin Campsite → Yarri Campsite: 83km [total 340km]

Track5 29Dec Another early start (6:20), and more riding in glorious early-morning conditions on a variety of tracks, some roads, some narrow tracks. Lots of kangaroos again, including one that almost ran into Gernot, crossing less than 3m in front of his bike. Some 20km of the trail were actually on the Bibbulmun Track, the walking equivalent of the Munda Biddi, which covers roughly the same area as the Munda Biddi will (once the latter is completed). The riding was again on the easy side, but definitely highly enjoyable!

Gernot Breakie At Lake Brockman we detoured (slightly) to the tourist park for yet another opportunity for a hearty second breakfast. Slightly downmarket from Dwellingup, but still very nice. We did skip the opportunity for a dip in the lake, as it was an overcast and coolish day (26°C Dwellingup, 28°C Collie) and we didn't feel like a swim that early in the day. For the same reason we had a relatively short lunch break of around 90 minutes some time later.

There were two temporary realignments that day. The first seemed, again, quite equivalent to the original route in length and profile. The second was a fair bit longer, but we actually missed that one, the only time we lost the track other than on Day One. At some stage we realised that we've been going in one direction far too long, and a GPS check revealed that we had indeed missed a turn a couple of km ago. No sweat, we were near a junction to a road that should take us back to the track in essentially a straight line. However, just before reaching the track we passed signs warning of tree-felling operations and requiring hard hats and safety boots :-( Fortunately, there was clearly no work being done during the Christmas break, so we continued on the original Munda Biddi Trail. This, however, now required careful navigation with map and GPS, as all trail markers had been removed, and a number of new roads cut into the bush. We can only repeat that temporary realignments aren't optional, and the signposted track should definitely be used!

Goanna Soon after rejoining the official track we were treated to a beautiful goanna of about 80cm length (not counting the tongue ;-).

Yarri camp Yarri campsite Our last night on the trail we again enjoyed one of those beautiful Munda-Biddy campsites, Yarri. Here we learned from the registration book that another party going North had camped here the night before, so should have passed us. We wondered why we didn't see them. They either must have been very early, passing us while we took the Lake Brockman detour, or very late, passing us while we had missed the re-alignment, or lost the trail themselves at some point (or intentionally didn't take the earlier realignment). In any case, we ended up not seeing any other Munda-Biddy riders.

Day 6: Saturday, 30 December 2006
Yarri → Collie: 50km [total 390km]

Track1 30Dec Track2 30Dec With somewhat saddened hearts, we had a last early start. After a somewhat challenging uphill stretch, it was an easy to very easy day. There were still really beautiful stretches, but also really boring ones, like Mornington Road. Anyone who does Collie-Yarri-Collie as a day trip or overnight return will underestimate the beauty of the Munda Biddi, although it still beats most other tracks we have ridden. And the organisers clearly did their best in finding more interesting alternatives to regular roads.

Collie After a grand total of 360km of mountain bike tracks and having experienced no major dramas but lots of spectacular bush, we arrived very happily in Collie at about 10:15, well before it got hot.

Epilogue: Saturday noon, 30 December 2006
Collie → Bunbury: 60km   TOTAL = 450km 

Having finished several days ahead of schedule (which would have us celebrate New Year at Yarri) we had to make plans for the rest of our stay in WA until our planned return flight on the 3rd. We decided against Margaret River and in favour of Perth. That meant that, unless we wanted to wait another day, swift action was required. With the help of a very nice lady at the Collie Visitor Centre, we booked accommodation in Perth and train tickets from Bunbury.

By the time this was all settled and we had an (extremely quick) bite, it was just over three hours from the 14:45 train departure. While three hours for 60km of good, sealed road sounds easy, it was again quite warm (31°C at Collie) and, contrary to the Munda Biddi, the roads had virtually no shade. Furthermore, the first half was quite hilly, with a net climb from Collie of about 100m, followed by about 30km totally exposed to very strong headwinds. We battled on full throttle with only two very short breaks (less than 10 minutes in total) and arrived totally exhausted at Bunbury station with about 20 minutes to spare, enough to get some ice cream before boarding the train. Fortunately the friendly railway staff were very forgiving of two grotty looking and smelly cyclists, who hadn't washed in days!

Gourmet lunch in Perth The cold beer had to wait until Perth, and the real return to civilisation was the gourmet lunch at the pier in Perth the next day. We then joined the (relatively low-key) New Years celebrations in Perth's Northbridge district, took the ferry for a day with bicycles to Rottnest Island, another slow day in Perth (the only day we actually had some rain), before heading back to the airport.

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© Gernot Heiser 2019.