18 & 19 July 2015. Jarrahdale, the Environmental Centre.
Environmental Centre is a bit of a misnomer considering it looks for all the world like something Alcoa Australia has sponsored given that their posters are all over the place: wildflowers of the Jarrah Forest, Reptiles, Mammals; a generic bauxite mining through to mine site rehabilitation (successful of course) poster. Alcoa’s application to mine bauxite in the Canning River and Reservoir catchment area was my very first active participation in mine planning opposition waaay back in the late 70s.
Providing evidence that the presence of the mine increased salt runoff into the Reservoir which is an important source of drinking water for one of the world’s driest cities, which seemed to be quite a bad idea. Alcoa’s proposed mine site rehabilitation, presented as a success in the Environmental Centre, was also questionable considering all that remains post-mining is a hard clay layer on top of granite bedrock. All the ripping by bulldozers in the world will not allow a tall Jarrah tree’s roots to establish themselves deep in solid granite. The original soil the Jarrah forest grows so successfully on is the very bauxite ore Alcoa seeks. Consequently the trees’ roots spread wide but not deep. They tend to eventually blow over in high winds. Hardly successful rehabilitation.
Today the Canning Reservoir catchment, as with the Mundaring Weir and the Serpentine River Reservoir are all prohibited areas. Wonder how bauxite strip-mining fits in with the ‘protect at all costs’ Perth’s water catchments?
The Environmental Centre is an old hospital. Whilst hardly massive since I am the only one here with dozens of beds available, large kitchen, showers, toilet, large activity room it is certainly sumptuous.
I am here, Day 3, in a desperate bid to recalibrate my efforts; to consider options and to devise a new strategy. For it has to be said that the strategy I employed as I ventured forth from Baz & Roz’s house in Glen Forrest is woefully wrong for the Munda Biddi track. Too heavy, too hard. And I did not set out to ride the Munda Biddi. My goal is the Nullarbor and the Tanami. Munda Biddi is but a side-track, a super-training run. For one thing south West Australia is actually my backyard. The bulk of the biology I studied at uni concerned the Marri, Jarrah and Karri forests as one heads south, and the Wandoo as one heads east towards the wheatbelt. Along with the Western Gneiss Terrain and the geology of Western Australia. Thoroughly have I traversed these lands. It is not new to me. It is still immensely beautiful, inspiring and wonderful. It’s just not new. I’ve even done bike touring through here: by mountain bike along the Bibbulum Track (now closed to bikes!), as well as by road tourer.
As I struggled, swearing and sweating, hammering along tracks ill-suited to the way I’ve loaded Dreamer, including a wrong turn which saw me ride several kilometres along a tight twisting savage MTB &/or hiking track. Fortunately downhill since there would be no way I could get up that track loaded as I was. I returned again and again as to why exactly am I here doing this.
Sturgess with his acerbic comment on Facebook about “ditch half the stuff” happens to be right.
So day two, yesterday, it became clear I had to re-think my whole approach.
Thus do I shelter in the Environmental Centre. The activity room must be all of 10 – 12 meters long and I spread all my crap all along it aiming to ditch 20 kg. Perhaps I didn’t make 20 kg but it’ll be close. There are some more things that I can’t ditch yet: the impressive Arbus security chain for instance. First I’ll need to source a lighter replacement. I doubt Dutch bike security standard is required here. Then there’s what little cold-climate clothes I retain: a down-vest, thermals, some gloves, thick socks. None used. Yet. I’ll keep them as I am heading south towards colder climes but once that changes I won’t need them anymore. Then there’s the food … waaay tooo many days’ worth. Each day it will decrease by 500 grams at least. I won’t re-stock with quite so many days’ worth.
I turned off the Munda Biddi to take in Mundaring Weir. Fond memories hiking, camping, poaching marron. Now all forbidden. Rather than back-track I continue along the Mundaring Weir Road aiming to pick up the Munda Biddi further on. 260 m ascent later my legs fail to serve me and I push Dreamer and its load up gravel Lockwood Road. It was a salient lesson.
Day 1 in a word? Hard.
The Munda Biddi in these areas is pebble gravel: sphericular lateritic soil. Aluminum-Iron rich marbles to you and I. In places soft soft sand. Again … it comes down to load. Clear I was too heavy. At least for the Munda Biddi. For cushy asphalt, even the gravel roads, maybe am OK. But not for the Munda Biddi.
Hence the Environmental Centre and going through my crap.
Yesterday, Day 2, as if to drive the point home, the soft soft sand got the better of me and Dreamer suddenly lurched onto its side. Going all of 5 or less km/hour I was not hurt but the left side front Ortlieb got torn off its frame shearing the fasteners in the process. Currently Bush Doctored with the ubiquitous twine (“Nothing Tougher” it says on the label) to keep the pannier on the frame am going to have to order replacements. Easy said than done when I’m a moving target and free (or any) WiFi seems to be as common as hen’s teeth in these parts.
The 2015 Inspirational Calendar hung up in the activity room has the following insight for July:
Life is about the Journey
Not the Destination
Easy to see the ‘signs’ if you want to look for them.
So I draw comfort. Re-plan, re-strategise, re-think & above all re-pack.
It’s the evening of the 19th. It’s raining. I plan to leave early tomorrow. No particular need. Even at my current overall average of 8 km/hour, which includes stops, Jarrahdale to Dandalup at 31 km should take but four hours. If I’m up for it, perhaps I’ll keep going to Marrinup which, at 70 km will take a good deal longer, like near nine hours. If I get out of here by 0700 nine hours is a 1600 arrive. And there’s always the possibility that my average both moving and therefore overall shall increase due to my re-packing efforts.
I enjoy the ride. The effort. Feeling my body rise to the challenge to move me and my load. There are those moments where I surprise myself. Where the track has been washed out and resembles a creek bed with gullies and rock-protrusions, mostly as I attempt the ascent after crossing a bridge or (dry) creek bed. I can’t imagine actually successfully cycling up the steep broken track. I crunch down into some ridiculously low gear and hammer away. And up I go! It’s an amazing experience. Dreamer and its load faithfully responds to my sweating and pumping of legs and goes up the slope bouncing over the rocks and the gullies.
It’s pure anaerobic burn. The problem starts when the ascent continues steeply for tens or hundreds of meters. I run out of the ability to turn oxygen into effort. Then I get off and push until I catch my breath and then go for it again until I run out of breath or muscle or both and my heart is racing.
I love it. Makes me feel good. It’s nice to feel my body working.
Hopefully tomorrow with legs well rested and a bit more toned and a load appreciably lighter I can get higher and further, faster and longer. Will see.
Jarrahdale, 3 days in.