The morning of day four of our adventure I was in struggle town a bit. It was taking me ages to get going, I was super sleepy and my diesel engine just wouldn’t warm up. Poor Seb was doing well to keep his cool while I plodded along half-asleep, even taking some of my gear in an effort to speed things up. I hadn’t slept again, three nights in a row now, due to crazy heavy smoke from nearby burning off and a nightmare about being caught at the hut in the middle of a bushfire. I need to get myself some sleeping tablets I think! We cruised along through beautiful forest with more oranges, blacks, greens and reds. The grass trees were magnificent, I wish we could grow them like that back home! Seb tried to make friends with some too.
The rest of the morning was very pleasant with wide rolling fire trail and some pretty bush sections including a rickety, long old bridge. Kilometers ticked over nice and easy to Pemberton. There is a section of pretty wicked switchbacks up to the famous Gloucester tree. Seb raced ahead to see if he could get the strava segment while I hung back and took some photos of the mind-bogglingly huge trees. I got a bit wrapped up in the serenity of the trees and bell birds and by the time I found Seb he was considering making an ascent of the Gloucester tree in his cleats but I talked him out of it with the promise of a cafe lunch in Pemberton. The Gloucester tree is a giant karri tree which is 72 m tall and was used as a fire-lookout tree. It had metal rods driven in all the way to the top platform and a measly cage which wouldn’t stop you from really hurting yourself. Not a chance I was going up there thanks!
Later that afternoon it was pouring with rain and I was feeling the effects of having so little sleep. We pulled into a caravan park in Quinninup and got a cheap little cabin ($25) with a non operational shower and ancient single beds. We ordered take-away fish and chips, had a beer and that night I had the best sleep ever!!!!
Day 4 stats: 126km, 1827m vert. (Strava Day 4)
Day 5 for us was a bit shorter than the rest. It was easy to keep thinking ‘more-of-the-same’ but then you had to pinch yourself and remember that you were riding through these spectacular and unique old growth forests. Occasionally we stopped for a bit of tree hugging and to fill up the food bag with goodies. But that afternoon when we reached the Karta Burnu campsite at 68km, there was nobody else around and the views from the hut were glorious. So what the hell, we stopped at about 3pm! We enjoyed the afternoon eating chocolate, going for a walk, playing cards and drying out wet clothes from the day before. It was a welcome break.
One thing we hadn’t really though of in our planning was that the sun was rising just before 7am and setting before 6pm. That means nearly 12 hours of darkness which we didn’t really factor in. Usually when we are bikepacking we would put in much longer days and collapse into bed but unfortunately on this trip we only had 2 x 6hr batteries between us.
Day 5 stats: 68km, 1029m vert. (Strava Day 5)
Eager to make a move after being idle for so many hours, we headed out in the rain on Day 6. The ground was pretty sodden and there was a section of fresh red-dirt track that had just been cut or cleared. It was very hard going and not many words were spoken. We emerged from the red goop only to find a long detour rerouted around a forestry bridge which had been removed years before, so we hoped for a nice coffee spot when we got into the township of Donnelly River. Instead we found shoeless children chasing emus and kangaroos around with a bit of a sketchy ‘forgotten forestry community’ feeling. We were pleasantly surprised to get a fantastic fresh cup of coffee and gluten-free chocolate cake at the (only) local store. We relaxed on the veranda and spent some quality time with the emus and roos.
The next section took us on some nice forestry roads to Nannup. We stopped at the Blackwood Cafe (opposite the supermarket on the main road) for AMAZING burgers. Go there, you won’t regret it, then headed out of town on the rail trial to Jarrahwood. The rail trail was fantastic! We zoomed along at what felt like warp speed compared to earlier that day. There is a Munda Biddi hut at Jarrahwood and the plan was to stay there that night. However, if you blink you miss Jarrahwood and the population of about 100 people. The place was a dust bowl and the hut was set up kind of between two backyards. Broken down cars and barking dogs gave the place a really bad feel and it wasn’t more than 10 minutes before we were back on our bikes and riding on to find our own camping. It was a totally random spot considering there was forest less than 100m away and compared to the spectacular huts of previous camps which were not accessible by car. Far different from the “picturesque, historic town” that the maps and website describe.
Day 6 stats: 103km, 1326m vert. (Strava Day 6)
We had already decided that it would take at least two really big, hard days to get back to Perth to pick up our hire car on time and so instead we opted to ride off the trail out to Bunbury and catch the train back to Perth. It could have gone either way but I guess labeling it as a honeymoon ride, and the simple fact that I wasn’t riding as well as Seb, made it an easy choice. The road to Donneybrook was not great and there was one section of corrugations that rattled me inside out. I knew Seb was up the road thinking ‘oh Beth won’t be liking this’ and it made me grin and keep at it. We didn’t even take any photos except some of my blurry stream of attempts to capture black cockatoos (of which I seem to be obsessed with).
The road was quite up and down and the gravel was getting a bit more hardcore now. Pea gravel, ball-bearing gravel. Whatever you want to call it, it all rides the same: sketchy as! Just about every downhill I’d be literally gliding across these balls thinking, uoh, it’s crash time. We made it to Donneybrook, the apple capital of the south west, to find we had missed the apple festival by one day and so grabbed a coffee and continued on. We said goodbye to our last Munda Biddi trail marker at Boyanup and headed towards Bunbury on a terribly busy and dangerous road congested with Easter holiday traffic. Hanging out at the Bunbury train station was not the best end to our adventure, but that is what it was, so we embraced it and celebrated with lunch at Maccy D’s. Now it was time for some R&R, wine and cheese in Margaret River. I love WA!
Day 7 stats: 74km, 497m vert. (Strava Day 7)
Touring the route from start to end is a solid ride for anyone. We set a reasonable pace considering the terrain although we had planned for some much longer days. I wasn’t expecting the riding to be as physical as it was and were slowed considerably by sand, leaf litter and debris covered old trails and then gravel. I would not recommend doing this ride on anything except a mountain bike (we had rigid forks which were fine). I am dubious about the ‘family friendly’ promotion of the trail, some bits were really tough going! I can’t talk for the northern part as we didn’t ride it, but the southern part was spectacular, magical and something I will never forget. Exploring this region by bike is something that you must do, so get that bucket list ready for another adventure!