Day 13: A long climb

Jarrahwood – Donnelly Mill

65km

I kept waking constantly throughout the night. It was so so cold – I hadn’t worn my thermals to bed and my legs burned at 3am. I woke up early because it was just too cold to stick around. I guess it’s a combination of travelling further south and the days rolling into autumn – but the cold took me by surprise and, with a broken night’s sleep, today felt like and was the longest day for me on the trail so far.

The day began with riding on the Sidings Rail Trail to Nannup. This took exactly two hours and I was able to maintain a good speed. It was great fun!

I arrived starving hungry in Nannup and ate a massive breakfast of burger and coffee! So good. Here I met Paul, a mountain biker from Margaret River. He’d left his mate with a flat 12km off the trail… but decided to stop and have some cake before the rescue. Ahaha –a very funny guy. As I headed out of town I bumped into another two cyclists. They’d started Munda Biddi in Albany but had pulled out north of Walpole because it got too hard. Something to look forward to? They had a different style of packing though – their bikes were heavily laden with panniers.

From there I rode up a 30km hill on a quiet road. My legs were burning. I passed a whole lot of cows and bulls in paddocks with fences that didn’t look like they would hold them in if they made up their mind to leave, so I just kept my head down. It was hard. About 3 hours in I was so tired I just walked a section. The map had made it all look flat but it was a steady climb. My plus tyres don’t help on roads. Then back in the bush to the worst kept single track. Spent the whole time getting hit in the face and arms, and dodging branches. I was so tired. This must have been the first downhill single track I haven’t enjoyed… ever.

Then a diversion in the forest led me up some steep climbing fire track. My body hurt all over. Everything ached. I kept thinking, “What if Donnelly Mill doesn’t even have accommodation?! I’m just gonna throw my bike in the bush! And sleep where it falls.” I was so tired. I stopped caring where I was and just kept heading south thinking, “You will hit something eventually.”

Then the trees opened up and there it was – the cutest village you have ever seen. With kangaroos and emus so tame they didn’t even look up when I rode past saying hello. I found the office and they told me there’s a free shelter for Munda Biddi riders and Bibbulmun Track walkers – $5 for a towel and access to a bathroom and kitchen facilities. Could not go wrong! I walked back outside to the kangaroos and parrots huddling around the bike, enjoying eating seed someone had put out for them. “50 years of taming,” the man at the counter had said.

I’d been here before – about three times when I was much younger. I came down here with my cousins during the school holidays, which was also around the time of my birthday. When he knew where I was, my Dad sent me a text saying it brought back memories of a pink bike with white wheels and streamers on the handle grips! Evidently I got my first bike on my birthday here and this is where I first learned to ride. My memory wasn’t so good remembering this but when I rode past a sign that said “Movie Night Mondays” I had a weird deja vu feeling.

As I was riding to the hut I passed a man walking along the road and he smiled. I stopped to talk and found out he was also riding the Munda Biddi! He introduced himself as Nicholas (heading from south to north – and doing it in 14 days!) When I told him my name he said, “Oh! You ride with your dog!” Such a small world – he had seen my posts online and pics riding with my dog, Tesla.

That night Nicholas and I had dinner together and – having met halfway and coming from opposite ends of the trail – we pulled out maps and pored over each other’s logistics and notes from what we had seen to where we had stayed so far. We bonded over how terrible the corrugations on the roads were and joked about trying to find a good flat part to ride on. How they ruined what could be a good run. At the same time we were disappointed that we were bonding over this, because it meant there were more difficult corrugations for us both to contend with on the next stage of our journey.

I stayed up until midnight – enjoying the company, sharing stories and learning useful information of what lies ahead.

Day 14: The kindness of strangers

Donnelly River to Deanmill

10:30 – 4:30 36km

After such a long day and late night yesterday, I gave myself the luxury of a sleep in this morning. Even so it was another very cold night, proving that I needed a strategy to keep warmer. My feet felt it the most. Maybe they fell off the mat and touched the ground during the night? Gotta get solutions. Two pairs of socks maybe?

I woke up sore and had a slow morning – watching the kids playing on their bikes in the middle of crowds of kangaroos and emus who seemed to want to be included in the fun.

A highlight amongst my aches and pains was that I had woken up to a text message from a friend saying another friend (someone I haven’t met) has offered a room for me to stay in that night, on a farm, in Manjimup! YESSSS!

Just the nicest people at Donnelly River General Store – and the best coffee I’ve had in WA! Somewhat rejuvenated and feeling a bit more motivated by all the good people I met, I finally started on my way.

Today I cycled up some crazy steep switchbacks that just felt like they kept going. Again I met some wonderful and interesting people along my journey – and felt famous today meeting another person who I’d not met before but already knew who I was, Helen (check her out on Instagram @uncoolcyclingclub) and I also met Lars, a day rider who usually just road bikes at the hut where I stopped for a lunch break.

I felt the forest change again as the track brought me closer to Manjimup. Then I saw the biggest tree… and, distracted while looking at it, crashed my bike into a smaller tree.

The farmhouse I’d been invited to stay in was next to the track in Deanmill. There I met my wonderful hosts Lynette, Kian, Owen and Quinn – and Molly the dog, Emma the calf, three horses (oops – forgotten their names), a chicken, and Whiskers who is a Ragdoll cat.

I enjoyed an amazing home-cooked meal and a comfy bed. I have been feeling quite fatigued the last couple of days but I think this break did the trick!

Day 15: So social!

Deanmill – Quinninup

9:30 – 4:30 55km

A great start to wake up, after a much warmer and more restful night, to a big breakfast and a coffee. The kids helped me prepare my bike, lube the chain, check my tyres and fill up my water bottles. And putting on machine washed and dried clothes felt almost luxurious!

Although they had never even ridden as far as Manjimup before, intrigued by my adventure the kids asked if they could come along. So I was escorted by the locals for the first 10km of today’s ride (the little one only made it as far as the bus stop). Even though we had lots of fun riding and walking up hills, Owen did say about 8km in, “How do you do this every day?!”

It was good to meet Dave Glass on the trail today, who also has an ECR and was riding north from Albany. I knew him from Instagram and it was totally cool meeting in person. Later that day I received a message from him saying a stick got caught in his rear tyre and he lost 7 spokes which resulted in him having to walk the last 16km. Ouch!

The ride today was fun. I was able to enjoy a completely empty mind – great meditation – for a time. Then, near Quinninup, there was a 2.5km diversion (I hate diversions!) onto this horrible, hilly, unrideable track. Sweating and swearing I finally made it out of there and into town. Despite this diversion experience, the ride on this side of Wellington Dam feels so different. I seem to be spending more time rolling in the saddle, less mountain biking–ey.

As I headed toward the caravan park it started to rain – completely unexpected. The woman at the counter convinced me that a cabin was a better option than a camping spot and, despite the Easter long weekend crowds, they had one available at a special Munda Biddi riders’ price ($50 on an Easter weekend with all the amenities?! So good!) They also gave me some hot cross buns and, feeling the love, I made my way to my cozy cabin.

If that wasn’t enough Easter goodness, the generosity of others continued when my next-door neighbour offered me some of their homemade lasagna! Delicious. And so my day ends – feeling pleasantly full, warm and dry.