(44km, at least 618m up, maybe 10kmh average)
The new innovation of the sleeping mat insulation was a raging success. I was warm, and enjoyed the experience so much that I slept in until 730am. Kim was up and already busy cooking our lunch and getting excited about the blue skies he could see all around us. He was keen to walk back up the rock and take a panoramic photo against the rare sight of a clear day. I suggested that he didn’t delay this plan, as I could already see gray clouds on the horizon. We hustled quickly up the rock, loosed off a few snaps, and hustled down as the showers started.
We are incapable of moving any quicker with our morning preparations and pack-up, so it was about 1030am before we were under way. The rain was threatening, and we prepared ourselves for another day of stops for changing raingear. Kim’s first discovery of the day was that the dollops of poo he could see on the track were emu leavings. This warranted a short stop and prodding with a stick to confirm his suspicions.
The first kilometres of the day were on great single track, or former forestry roads that the plant life had decided to reclaim for the higher purpose of generating single track for mountain bikes. With the rain still hovering around, we decided to aim for an early lunch stop after 20km at Fernbrook Falls. The rain started getting heavier as we approached the rest area. Although I tried valiantly to ignore it, I needed yet another wardrobe stop a few hundred metres before the turnoff to avoid getting totally soaked. It was a relief to make it to the shelter as it bucketed down and the temperature plummeted below seven degrees. We shivered it out, and were soon joined by three other shivering tourists. They were also Queenslanders, wondering what they were doing in cold WA at this time of year.
After a leisurely lunch and coffee, we decided to brave the elements and headed out again. The road crossed the bridge at Fernhook Falls and the raging waters of Deep River below left us in no doubt that a winter high water detour was a good plan.
The track continued along single trail which grew increasingly narrow and overgrown. The surface was strewn with fallen branches, and we again had a few stops for two person lifts over big fallen trees.
As the skies darkened and the forest thickened, my Garmin decided it could no longer find satellites. We had done 36km and climbed 618metres. We estimated we were about 10km from the shelter and halfway through the most significant climb of the day. The track continued uphill through some winding and wild single track, where we were pleasantly surprised to find a few switchbacks to ease the grunt of the climbing. It continued to be overgrown and we were wet from the branches hanging across the track. My Garmin steadfastly declined to participate any further in the days events, and I realised how much I relied on it to give me a sense of where I was and how far I had to go.
The last 10km seemed to take forever and we were getting increasingly wet, cold and tired. It was hard to correlate the map with the few landmarks we were passing, so we began to get concerned that we had missed the turnoff to the shelter in the overgrown country and rainy weather.
Just as I was contemplating a total re-set of the Garmin to try and kick start the reception again, Kim spotted the turnoff sign. True to form, the track stayed muddy and slippery almost to the door of the shelter.
Kwokralup Beela is another new and tidy shelter, and we shared the evening with four ladies from Victoria who were riding the track from south to north. It was a chilly evening, with the temperature dropping below six degrees as we unpacked, sponged down and ate tea. No worries for me about sleeping cold, now that I am armed with my tent inside the shelter, new blanket and windshield insulation. (Add – sleeping fully dressed in my thermals, long pants, long sleeved shirt, polar fleece, microfibre booties and down jacket).