Munda Biddi Trail Ride 2009-10

Diary of the Ride

Day 0 / Prologue: Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Capel (200km South of Perth) → Jarrahwood/Nala Mia Campsite: distance=53km

Due to a belated start from Sydney, we land in Perth late and to exacerbate it we have to wait really long for all our luggage. By the time we take a taxi (with our bikes still in the boxes) to bus terminal in the city, we are already squeezed for time to do our grocery shopping and get other essentials (like lighter fuel for our cooking stove, which we are not allowed to take on a flight) before leaving the big city. Unfortunately, we cannot split the task, since one we could not leave our luggage unattended at the bus terminal. Trudy goes off and manages to buy all required items except the most important one, namely lighter fuel.

As the bus leaves Perth just after noon, we relax a little bit and enjoy the fabulous quiche for lunch that Gernot has been able to organise meanwhile—though we remain somewhat weary as we don't know (yet!) how to resolve our fuel problem. With appropriate scheming and a little bit of luck (and Trudy distracting the driver) Gernot is able to jump off the bus in Bunbury town, dash across the road to a camping shop and pick up the lighter fuel, all in lightening speed so that we cause no further delay to the bus (which at that time is running about 40 mins late).

We eventually arrive at Capel at 17:15, reassemble our bikes and fill our water bottle and our stomachs with soft drinks at the local tavern. To our good fortune, the bar tender is a cyclist himself and can give us expert advice how to find a good way to Jarrahwood, our goal for the day.

To Gernot's annoyance he notices that he forgot to pack chain lubricant. This might be a challenge to find along the way, and without it, it'll be hard keeping the chain and derailleurs operating smoothly...

By now it is 18:00 and we finally are sitting on our bikes, pedalling into our holidays! While by now the air is cooler, a headwind has started to build up and the 53km to our camp turn into an almost 3 hour long ride (including climbing >100 m on the final third). Riding with fully-loaded MTBs in the pitch dark, but fortunately on good roads. Being well prepared, we have our (very bright) city-proof tail lights and use our camping headlights to see where we're going.

Tired but happy we arrive at the beautiful Munda Biddi campsite Nala Mia in Jarrahwood township just before 21:00. We cook dinner and drop into our sleeping bags very soon afterwards.

Day 1: Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Jarrahwood → Nannup → Jarrahwood/Nala Mia Campsite: 67km [total 120km]

Sidings1 Sidings2 We start off riding from Jarrahwood down to Nannup on the Sidings Trail, an old railway line where the tracks and most sleepers were removed. With its gentle slope this is a great way to adjust to riding on dirt with loaded panniers.

Nannup marks the southern end of the presently-open Munda Biddi trail. MB NannupStart

N coffee N burger A good place for a country-style morning tea: coffee, juice and vegi brekki / knife-high burger stack. There is an open hardware store, but no chain lubricant.

T swim2 T swim1 We take the far more interesting Old Timberline Trail for the return trip. This gives us the opportunity to practise some “bush-biking” over more challenging terrain than what you get on the Sidings track. This also the opportunity for a swim at beautiful Barrabup Pool. As we're drying off afterwards, we notice an ear-boggling banging—we eventually find out that simply innocent gum nuts falling off the gum trees and onto the corrugated-iron roof of the picnic area shelter!

Solar Gernot trials his solar charger (mostly meant to keep the mobile phones charged so we can use them in the few places which actually have coverage). The first trials aren't overly successful, it will be about halfway through the trip that he gets on top of this.

Roos2 Roos1 In the afternoon we are back at Jarrahwood camp, and this time, we get to enjoy its setting, particularly the sunset over the sloping meadows that stretch out from our camp. A mob of wallabies (about 15 all up) graze a stone throw away from us. Two of them perform a boxing bout for us.

J swag1 J swag2 Having arrived very late, the first night we slept inside the shelter to avoid being woken too early (sun rise is at 5:10). This night, we enjoy of the tranquillity of the place and spread our sleeping bags outside, among the 'roos and under the stars!

The evening is refreshingly cool and we aren't even bothered by mozzies. In fact, it turns out that overnight the temperature drops below 10°C, which together with a light breeze is cold enough for Trudy to have to completely disappear inside her sleeping bag and snuggle up to Gernot:-)

Day 2: Thursday, 24 December 2009
Jarrahwood → Donnybrook Township: 56km [total 176km]

D liz1 D liz2 D liz3 D liz4 D liz5 As expected, we wake up with sunrise shortly after 5 o'clock and go about our morning routine somewhat leisurely. Still we manage to push off around 7:00 and get almost eventless to Donnybrook—had it not been for the lizards.

D burnt Also, we encounter the first of quite a few stretches of bush-fire burnt country side.

An other good, easy warm-up day!

When we arrive in Donnybrook around 11:00, we come across a hardware store on the way into town, and do find some (motorbike-quality) chain lubricant, which solves our last outstanding gear problem.

Next on the agenda is an iced coffee, our first of a few Christmas treat—it is after all Christmas Eve! Next we indulge in a shopping trip to the local farmers market where we especially can't get around these cherries...hmmmm! The afternoon we relax on the village green in front of the old train station and wait till we treat our self to a wonderful dinner with champagne and red wine. And for the night camp we find at the edge of town the really nice Transit Park. Even though this is a caravan park, we are the only people there and thus it feels almost as if camping in the bush (only softer, due to the beautiful lawn).

Day 3: Friday, 25 December 2009
Donnybrook → Nglang Boodja Campsite: 57km [total 233km]

We leave today at 7:30, a delayed start due to a flat tire and then discovering that we had lost a drink bottle. Of course, absolutely nothing was open on Christmas Day, not even a petrol station this early in the morning (same in neighbouring Boyanup). We have enough water capacity for today, but not necessarily for the rest of the trip. Additionally, we also want to avoid going into Collie (an almost 40km detour) just for this alone, quite apart that we know from our previous trip that in Collie most things are closed on Boxing Day anyway. Fortunately, shortly after Crooked Brook Forest we discover a discarded, perfectly-sized 750ml plastic drink bottle—so we are all good again.

G bushbike1 G bushbike2 G bushbike3 Today is quite a hot day, not ideal for a late start. This section is a mix of paved roads (from Donnybrook to Boyanup and a little beyond) and beautiful, very lush and dense bush tracks. The first part taking us out from Donneybrook towards Boyanup along the tail may effectvely be a detour but certainly very much worth it. It's beautiful tracks and we come across a mob of emus (around a dozen!) running ahead of us and criss-cross the track.

T bushbike1 T bushbike2 T bushbike3 T bushbike4 T bushbike5

The difficulty ratings in the official trail map appear to us quite random—today particularly so. For example, most of the “moderate” stretches are easier than the “easy” part between Boyanup and Crooked Brook Road. It seems that these ratings are exclusively based on slope, not track condition. In reality, a steep bit (even uphill) may be much easier to ride than a gentle grade of deep pea gravel dug up by motorbikes.

We roll into Nglang Boodja Campsite just right for lunch a bit before noon, giving us ample time to enjoy the camp site, and read for a few hours (Trudy reads her book, Gernot does his paper reviewing for VEE) and generally just to relax.

Day 4: Saturday, 26 December 2009
Nglang Boodja → Yarri Campsite: 57km [total 290km]

It is going to be a very hot day today for riding:
15°C at 5:00,
35°C at 14:00 and
30°C at 18:00.

serpentine Just as well we are pressing on with our morning routine to get started as early as possible, around 5:45: fairly early on, we are meeting the “serpentine” challenge while we are still fresh. It's 180nbsp;m of steep climb over 2.5km, with the switchbacks frequently too narrow to ride them going really slow on a heavily-loaded bike.

T bushbike6 T bushbike7 T bushbike8 T bushbike9

From past experience we know that we want to skip Collie (as mentioned earlier, no point doing the nearly 40km, rather boring detour for a town that is essentially shut on Boxing Day). Arriving at Yarri campsite almost exactly three years after out first visit, it is still a lovely spot. Back then, this was our last camp on the Munda Biddi trail (going from Mundaring south to Collie, where the trail ended then). It is great to be back on the trail,and going in the opposite direction makes it all a very different experience from last time.

Things we noticed that changed in the meantime are:

Day 5: Sunday, 27 December 2009
Yarri → Bidjar Ngoulin Campsite: 81km [total 371km]

This is the day of 3(!) flat tires, including simultaneous punctures on both rear wheels, pretty unusual. Particularly since altogether we only had a single puncture on the previous four days! Still, we make it for a 10 o'clock brunch at the Lake Brockman Tourist Park...mmmmmhhhh

Woody1 Woody2 Woody3 Woody4 The bush around us changes from a more lush type on the previous days to a more woody type.
There are also encounter plenty of grass trees. Grasstree

G tree1 G tree2 G tree3 At times, the very overgrown track turns into an obstacle course, where we ride underneath a large fallen tree trunk and then over trunks lying on the ground. T tree1 T tree2

Burnt1 Burnt2 Here we come across a really recent bush fire, with some stumps still smouldering.

There are plenty of temporary re-alignments on this stage, all for prescribed burns (which by now should be months old) or actual wild fires. Thus the track is substantially different from 3 years ago, including passing Lake Brockman on the other side (today's detour is a boring, but certainly much easier and faster).

For the first time ever on the Munda Biddi Trail we meet another rider on the track itself. He is a Perth based volunteer for the Munda Biddi Trail Foundation, who looks after parts of the track (north of Dwellingup). We met him while doing a day ride south of Dwellingup.

We have been treated to yet an other beautiful, cloudless day, temperatures reaching 33°C. While all Munda Biddi campsites are fantastic, this one is the best with its cold “shower” at a little waterfall at the nearby creek—perfect after a hot day of riding!

Day 6: Monday, 28 December 2009
Bidjar Ngoulin → Oakley Dam: 49km [total 420km]

Escarp Anticipating another hot day (temperature will reach 38°C by 14:00) we make another early start around 6:00. Thus we can roll into Dwellingup around 9:00, where we first stock up on supplies and then our stomachs—a fabulous brunch at the local cafe. Before 11:00 we move on towards Oakley Dam, across undulating countryside. On the top of one of those hills we get a rare glance into the distance, a look down over the escarpment into the flat coastal area.

There are again some fairly overgrown parts of track, making the ride adventurous and at times bordering on hazardous.

We arrive at Oakley Dam early afternoon, just right for a couple of swims in the lake originally created as a water supply for steam engines, and now a recreational reserve.

A young couple is staying as well (of course, they came by car). We move into the bush to avoid spoiling their romantic camp too much. Unfortunately, the idiots not only light a fire (there's a total fire ban for good reason!) but then extinguish it so incompetently that the wind fans it up again during the night. We smell the fire and see lots of sparks flying our way, rather scary. We wake them up and get them to extinguish the fire properly.

This was the least pleasant night of the trip, and not only because of the camp fire: we slept only lightly as the weather was overcast, windy, very humid with occasional sprinkles of rain, and temperatures still at 28°C at midnight and never dropping below 25°C.

Day 7: Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Oakley Dam → Jarrahdale Township: 76km [total 496km]

We wake up to a still warm and overcast day. It was to remain overcast and humid, with a high of 33°C. Not as well rested as other mornings, we still get up early and are on our way shortly after 6:00. We are opting for a slightly longer day today with Jarrahdale as our destination, giving the tavern there a second chance after in 2006 we hit the town on Boxing Day when the tavern was closed. The longer day today will make the three remaining days fairly short and relaxing, giving us a good buffer for possible delays (we have a hard deadline with our flight back to Sydney).

Whittaker2 Whittaker1 Being a longish day is made up for in variety (interspersed with some serious difficulty). The now closed Whittakers Mill camping area makes for a pleasant park-style ride.

Soon after we are approaching the Munda Biddi Dandalup Campsite, which is possibly the best situated of all the MB camps, with a great view over the plain towards the ocean (and a loo with a view!)

Dandalup1 Dandalup2 We have a short break for our morning tea snack. This is the only official Munda Biddi campsite where we do not stay overnight.

Unfortunately the steep track either side of Dandalup Campsite is totally dug up by trail bikes. They aren't supposed to be on this track, but, unfortunately, the world has too many dickheads who don't mind enjoying themselves at the expense of others. The track is so bad that even pushing the bikes uphill is a real challenge. We later meet a guy from the WA Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) who's looking after the track, and he tells us that they are working on a permanent realignment of that part of the track.

SerpDam1 SerpDam2 SerpDam3 In reaching today's goal we are helped by a detour (due to the reconstruction of the large bridge across the Serpentine River) for the final 15km. While the detour is 5km longer, the road, Kingsbury Drive, is sealed, thus letting us fly on our bikes. The route itself is at times quite beautifully located along the banks of Serpentine Dam.

Just because we can, we are indulging in afternoon tea with iced coffee and sweets at the Serpentine Dam cafe. Shortly after (we are cruising the 9km in 15 minutes!) we roll into Jarrahdale—relieved to find the town open for business and ready to feed and water us: to be precise, a beer or three for the one of us and a steak each. J G1 J T1 J G+T2 J G+T3 J G+T1

J Iggy J G2 Iggy, the OK Labs mascot, is thirsty too ;-)

For the night we pitch our camp in one of the several parks in town—on very soft, grassy ground!

It has been quite a day of wildlife for us today: Parrot2 Parrot3 Parrot1

Also wild was Trudy's riding style today, now also known as “Trudy-falling-off-the-bike-day”. She's been losing her balance on the deep pea-gravel way too many times for her pride. But it is a challenge when you get stuck to get your foot out of the pedal cage and onto the ground before ending up underneath your bike. (Just as well there are no pics of this:-)

Day 8: Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Jarrahdale → Wungong Campsite: 32km [total 528km]

The plan from two days ago pays off: Having put in the long, hard work yesterday and getting W G track3 W G track2 W G track1 track1 decently re-fuelled at the Jarrahdale Tavern, today's ride from Jarrahdale to Wungong Campsite delivers the so far easiest and shortest riding and leaving almost all day for camping. We take it easy in the morning and leave at a leisurely time (after 7:00) and still get to the campsite by 9:30 before it gets hot, leaving nearly a whole day to enjoy the spot, read and to generally relax.

W camp1 W camp2 W camp4 W camp3

Iggy is making sure that we get that camping right!

W Iggy1 W Iggy2 W Iggy3 W Iggy4

Iggy has also time to find a playmate, little Lizzy.

When we arrived in the morning at the Wungong Campsite, contractors were in middle of clearing the track by cutting through a couple of very large fallen trees that had fallen on the track. Later in the day, Glenn from DEC is stopping by to check on W loo progress of the work and having a chat with us. We find out that over the course of the next two weeks, they will build a new loo hut—not that the current one isn't beautifully located (Sydney real estate agents could learn what these words really mean!) but rather to get better service access. He is also the guy who told us about the possible new approach to the previous shelter, Dandalup Campsite. We also learn that he is an old hand and has been in charge of building several of the Munda Biddi shelters along this first section of the trail.

Day 9: Thursday, 31 December 2009
Wungong → Carinyah Campsite: 49km [total 577km]

W view We are very well rested from a nice cool night, having had an easy day's ride the day before and having gone to sleep really early. In the morning, we wake up before sunrise, that is before 5:00, and marvel at yet an other glorious day to come, starting with the magic view we have from our (tent-less) night camp.

C track The day's riding again feels leisurely in clear, cloudless weather and very moderate temperature of maximum 28°C. The track surface doesn't pose any particular challenges to ride and, catching the early hours, the trees lining the track provide us with good shade.

Having started at 6:15, we roll up in Carinyah Campsite four hours later—again allowing us a long day of camping and relaxing. We roll out our mats and make ourselves comfortable, reading/reviewing, having an afternoon snooze. Gernot, having finished his paper reviews, feels a bit under-challenged and, thus, later in the afternoon he goes for a spin around the 11.5km purpose-built mountain-bike circuit that goes past this campsite.

cooking1 cooking1 We are very much aware of this being our last night of camping out in the bush; so we relish the high art of bush cuisine all the more.

It is New Years Eve and we can enjoy it in peace and quiet at the campsite, far away from hoons, ghetto blasters and slabs of beer. There is the noise of fireworks around 7pm, but it seems they've fired all their shots within an hour. By midnight there's a bang or two, but mostly the night stays really quite. We savour our last night out in the wilderness—although a bit saddened that it's almost over.

Day 10; Friday, 1 January 2010
Carinyah → Mundaring Township: 43km [total 620km]

M T track2 M T track1 We embrace the first day of the new year bright and early and are underway by 6:30. The riding on this stretch is relatively easy. That's not unexpected, as most people would do the ride in the opposite direction, and appreciate an easy start.

Near the Dell, we also explore some tracks of our own (not entirely voluntarily); they appear to be tracks for “normal” mountain biking and thus are much more winding and very narrow—that is when we are reminded that we do have panniers.

On New Years Day at 11:00, we arrive M terminus3 M terminus2 M terminus1 at our final destination of this year's trip, Mundaring Sculpture Park.

We have plenty of time to check out the town's culinary offerings, but we decide to go for the trusted Mundaring Hotel (they were the only ones open for drinks 3 years ago on Christmas Eve), especially also since they are the proud M celebr2 M celebr1 “2009 WA's Best Country Pub Steak Sandwich” winner—and indeed, their steak sandwich is a winner with us too! We are celebrating our successful completion of the Munda Biddi Trail trip in style: over a bottle of bubbly. We camp in the park, and have the good fortune to stay far enough away from the sprinklers not to get wet (after all, we haven't got a tent, only a biwi bag).

Day 11 / Epilogue: Saturday, 2 January 2010
Mundaring → Perth Airport: 30km   TOTAL = 650km 

The return to Sydney is fortunately(!) uneventful. The sealed road down the escarpment back to the airport lets us fly, at times clocking 70 km/h. We arrive at the airport around 8:30, box our bikes and pack up our gear and check in, to then indulge in an extensive and very thorough shower in the Qantas Club, followed by a breakfast with fresh fruit and fresh bread. It takes a few more hours till the plane leaves and more still until we land in Sydney. Loading the bikes still in their boxes into the taxi, we are home again by 21:00—two very, very happy campers!

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