(77.8km, 15.13kmh av, 437m up)
The last day of the Tour de France is a celebration of 21 days of cycling effort. The television coverage shows a processional ride into Paris, punctuated with photo calls, glasses of bubbly and back-slapping congratulations all around.
With this backdrop of inspirational fervor, we woke early in Denmark ready for our final day’s ride into Albany, waiting for the drum-roll that heralded our last day. In my moments of idealism, I may have overlooked some important issues when paralleling the Munda Biddi and La Grande Boucle. Despite all the hype, the riders still have to self-propel their bikes to Paris. Similarly, we still had at least 75km of pedaling to go. Unfortunately for us, there was no- one on standby with glasses of bubbly or any other yummies, so we made do with water and sandwiches instead.
We managed an earlier than average departure, even with a quick detour to the bakery. It was then a very civilised ride along the Denmark River on concrete bike paths to the river mouth. The trail crossed a bridge over the river, where we stopped to watch a colony of shags nesting in the trees. We were perplexed by this gathering, given that our usual definition of being alone is “like a shag on a rock”. Guess we will have to redefine that concept.
We charged along the front of Wilson Inlet on a very flat sandy pathway, enjoying a view of the ocean and a huge tailwind. While this idyllic setting sounds like cycling nirvana, it was absolutely freezing. There is very little to warm the winds in this area from the moment they leave the Antarctic penguins until they reach West Australia.
Our days riding promised to be so flat that the Munda Biddi folk had doubled the vertical elevation scale on our map to allow some detail to be evident. We giggled at having completed several of the “climbs” without realising that anything had happened, and were averaging over 15kmh when we stopped for our first break at Youngs Siding. This little township has a well equipped store and Kim quickly found a bottle of Jersey milk to add to our smoko. He was thrilled to read the label which named all the cows in the herd. It felt like a great luxury to have a shop, toilets and covered shelter just at the right spot for our break.
It was still bitingly cold as we continued on, and the road then headed due south and southwest into the wind. To add to our woes, it started to rain yet again, so I donned the raingear, tucked my head down and kept pedaling. Unfortunately, we both had our heads down pedaling when we passed a critical Munda Biddi sign, and managed to add an extra few kilometres into our journey. I was horrified when we discovered our error, particularly when Kim initially thought we may have bypassed a stretch of our main “climb” of the day. Kim was even more mortified, knowing that such an error could easily result in us needing to backtrack and make-up the shortfall for the sake of completion. However, I was ultimately pacified with the knowledge that we had done extra distance and hadn’t missed any climbing or other important aspect of suffering. And we would be adequately sanctioned by having a longer day in the wet and cold. So we kept riding.
The trail crossed to the northern side of the highway and went over a few lumps that we would have called hills just weeks ago. We then descended in the rain and wind for a few kilometres before joining the Torbay Rail Trail. It was another well groomed trail, split into two sides by low growing plants to cater for both horses and bicycles. Each little creek was crossed by a neat timber bridge, and there was signage at each road crossing.
We stopped for lunch under the shelter behind Torbay Hall, which was a very welcome respite from the rain. The temperature continued to hover around seven degrees, making a lunchtime coffee an essential item. We waited out yet another rain scud, and continued on the Rail Trail and then onto the main road to the township of Elleker. Just off the road, I spotted a Munda Biddi sign in a carpark. We circled the carpark and raced off down the street. It became our second geographical embarrassment of the day. As we were unable to find any other sensible solution or reasonable justification for a diversion, we turned around and rode back to the carpark, where we quickly found signs pointing back to the main road. Seems that the carpark sign was for a toilet stop.
The trail then continued along the main road for about six kilometres. The traffic was generally cyclist-friendly but it was a culture shock to be back amongst a flock of fast-moving vehicles again after three weeks on trails. It was a great relief to be redirected down a quiet side road for our last 10km into Albany. This wonderfully flat road took us through a rural residential subdivision past fields of horses and lillies.
The Munda Biddi kept us guessing right to the end. I expected a stately entrance through the iconic landmarks of the town. Instead we were directed past a derelict looking industrial building, down the side of a railway line, through crossing gates, across the line and up sleeper-sized stairs and an embankment to the highway. Apparently this scenic detour avoided an intersection we could see a few hundred metres away. We then rode up a final leg-testing hill to get a panoramic view of Princess Royal Harbour before descending into Albany.
The southern terminus of the Munda Biddi trail is marked by a sign in front of the Information Centre at the harbour’s edge. We parked our bikes by the sign, and laughed and hugged each other, and posed for photos. Unlike the Tour de France, we were not mobbed by hoards of paparazzi. We couldn’t even attract the attention of any bystanders to take a photo for us. So we entertained ourselves with the delay function on Kim’s camera instead.
It was warm inside the Information Centre as we signed off on the trail log book, and we were excited that the centre staff showed interest in our ride. It was a few kilometres ride, uphill of course, to our motel. We talked of our feelings about finishing, finding it hard to clarify it all. There is a great sense of satisfaction and contentment, some sadness, and enthusiasm for future adventures. After 1100km of riding, 93 hours in the saddle, and 14,000 metres of climbing – thank you Munda Biddi – its been a great ride.