(44km, 10.86kmh av, 650m up)
Our Pemberton stop was a whirlwind of activity. We had spread our gear into every conceivable space in the cabin, so repacking it into bags and onto the bikes took even longer than usual. With rain showers forecast for the middle of the day, we spent extra time making lunches, and decided to forego the normal lunch time cook-up and coffee. We were ready to leave around 9am, which is becoming a standard time for us after a two to three hour morning preparation routine. Pokey felt more sluggish than usual with a full resupply of food on board. I resisted the temptation to whinge that my brakes were dragging, and accepted that it was just my legs being slack.
First stop was the bakery where Kim tempted fate and bought a vanilla slice. I got an apple strudle, which was to again prove to me that the idea of pastries is usually better than the reality. After an uphill climb through town, we stopped off to post home a bag of gear we didn’t need. It was our second post-home, and has engendered some lively discussion about what gear is really necessary for a bike-packing trip.
We continued climbing out of town, and I was a bit alarmed to clock over 100 vertical metres before we hit the two kilometre mark. If this continued, we were in for a long day. We joined the pathway to the Gloucester Tree, which boasts a fire-spotting platform 53 metres above ground. Kim had climbed the steel rungs spiraling the tree during our visit in February, as well as the two fire tower trees in other parts of the karri forest. Our plan on this visit was to look, take photos and eat pastries.
We struck up conversation with other visitors, most of which began with “Are you climbing it?” Kim explained that he had done all three trees earlier in the year, and on this visit to WA was just riding 1000km on a mountain bike. “Soft”, teased one bloke. It was a bit harsh – Kim was too busy licking the remnants of his vanilla slice out its paper bag to defend himself.
We left the Gloucester Tree and rejoined the Munda Biddi for a magic downhill run. It was two kilometres of well groomed single track that wove in and out of the giant karris. We stopped at the bottom with huge grins, agreeing that we had just ridden our new favourite section of the Munda Biddi.
We were then treated to a series of mostly downhill runs on old logging rail lines, with pieces of old sleepers and rail spikes still visible in places. There must be a maze of these lines running through the forest, as we repeatedly wove our way from one run, across a road, down some new track and onto yet another old line. It made me wonder what the old fettlers would think if they saw their hard work being used in this way.
We spent most of the morning on single track or old logging lines, which often intersected with the Bibbulman walking track. We stopped for our first snack break at River Road Bridge and rode across a long sleeper-covered bridge. It spanned a wide and fast flowing river, with just two drooping strands of wire on either side. The approach towards risk in West Australia is refreshing, with signs on public facilities declaring “Your safety is our concern, but your responsibility “. I suspect that any person who can’t foresee that tap-dancing blindfolded across a rickety bridge may have negative health implications will need more than some safety fencing to help negotiate their course through life.
Soon after leaving the bridge, we met a couple heading north and stopped to exchange stories of our travels. They were on Day Six, having left from Denmark and heading for Mundaring. They were the first cyclists we had met in several days. Like us, they we having a fabulous time.
We then had a steady climb for several kilometres and spent the afternoon riding on single track and old logging lines. The rain held off for the day, apart from a few light showers that were not enough to tempt us into raingear. Towards the end of the day, we followed the track around a small hill, apparently circumnavigating a farm shed and abandoned house. The track turned sharply left at a section of white electrical fence tape and headed uphill towards the farm shed. Fortunately a farm worker came out and redirected us back down the hill, advising us to duck under the electric fence that a farmer had strung across the track to keep out the neighbour’s cattle. He assured us that the fence wasn’t live, but I sent Kim first, just in case.
With rain forecast again, we found ourselves a cabin for the night just outside of Northcliffe. Our next two nights are planned to be on the trail at shelters, so we are enjoying a little inside warmth before heading out again. Still loving the adventure !!
9 September 2016