Jarrahdale to Dwellingup was the hardest bit I have done. There’s no prolonged period of easy cruising along smooth bush tracks. If I am not huffing and puffing, peddling like mad or pushing like a slo-mo open- sclerophyll -forest-gorilla up impossible inclines I am gingerly picking my way down washed-out-pebble gravel-rock strewn declines barely faster than if I were making my uphill.
Then came the Serpentine River. Signs warned me as I approach: “Steep Descent” in big friendly letters.
The power of the wash-out has to be beautifully illustrated by the thick layer of soft sediment and puddles on the bridge. I then began the ascent.
Over 3000 m of near continuous incline with the gradient easily in places between 10 and 15% and then with all the washed out pebble gravel rock strewn impossibility of it all. It took me a good hour and half to get up that incline.
Ironically the “terrain profiles” as presented on the official Munda Biddi track for this part of it (Map 2a) blithely asserts that over 80% of the track is “easy” and the rest “intermediate” with no “difficult” sections. Truly I believe that the Munda Biddi Foundation should not use 21 year old hard core extreme off-road MTB’ers to assign their ‘terrain profiles’.
Interestingly the introductory text to map 2 has this to say: “ … this picturesque section of the track offers some steep and challenging sections”. I agree.
I’m working out a technique to deal with all this.
It’s not actually the incline that’s the real problem. It’s track condition. And that I simply do not have the Beats Per Minute in my heart anymore to pull it off.
When I have traction I start in gear 3, get going then gear down to 1 all the while peddling like mad until my heart is redlining. Then I stop, catch my breath monitor my recovery level and start again.
Suck in a couple of good breaths. Set in gear 3. Start off. Gear down to 1. Peddle like mad. Redline. Stop. Catch breath. Repeat until incline is planar.
Perhaps 300m until I redline. Perhaps 100m. Perhaps only 30m. But bit by bit I do get up the hill. Occasionally the soft marbles of the pebble gravel strip away my traction and I spin to a heart-rendering-muscle-screaming stop not matter the incline.
I have thought of reducing the air in the mighty Marathons to 3 bar instead of the usual 4. Am sure it would make a marginal difference but am not sure it would be enough to justify the additional drag and the general fucking around with pumping them back up to 4 for harder sections before letting them down again at the softer sections. I take it as one of them trail things and my current burden of existence to slog it out up and down the harder sections of the Munda Biddi.
I accept the pain in other words. Only I do want to avoid a full on heart attack during this, the first part of my Epic! I would be most pissed off.
It took me a good 6 ½ hours to do the 35 km that day. My overall average: includes all them stops for catching of breaths and so on, was down to 5.5 km per hour. My expectation prior to embarking on the Munda Biddi was around 10 to 12 km per hour overall with an average moving speed of around 15 to 18. Quite a reality check.
Now I know what I am up against. Jarrahdale allowed me to redefine my expectations. It’s going to be a slog. I know that now. I accept this.
Dreamer is well packed now. Still a tad on the heavy side, principally to do with the electronica: battery pack, photovoltaics, tablet, assorted cables and other thingies. If am going to keep a blog and some kind of aspirations to write something I need to bear all of this. Besides I have to keep the basics like the headlamp, camera, phone and GPS charged up too.
I crawled into Dwellingup, damp, tired, aching in the legs. I went to the Information Centre. Closed on Monday and Tuesday a sign helpfully told me. I noted some numbers of accommodation from a list on a notice board and retired to The Blue Wren Café to warm up, eat something and make a few phone calls.
The espresso was colder than it should be but as strong as it should be. The hamburger was massive, substantially stuffed with salad and complimented by not too many chips. I enjoyed it very much. I went out to Dreamer standing on the pavement to get something when a group of men emerged from the café. An elderly gentleman on crutches comments on Dreamer, which with its bright orange livery contrasting nicely the black of the trailer and other fittings with the green of the hubs adding a nice accent tends to attract attention.
He’s impressed when I confirm I’m riding the Munda Biddi and even more so when I tell him it’s just the beginning. I laugh and role my eyes a bit when he says “That’s quite a journey” and reply “Yeah, tell me about it, it’s been pretty tough so far”.
He then asks me where I intend to stay and I remark “I’m trying to sort that out but looks like the caravan park” and comes out with (something like):
“How would you like to come and stay at one of my chalets, free, for a night?”
Completely atakenaback I stare at him not quite sure if I heard him correctly.
Another of the group behind the gentleman, perhaps seeing my confusion, says “You ought to take him up on that they’re nice places”
“A block whose gonna do what you are doing needs some support” he responds with a smile when I express my gratitude.
I’m told where to go and almost as an afterthought he goes “I’m Jeff, what’s your name?” We shake after and I tell him I’ll see him in an hour or so.
An hour or so later I make my way 1.6 km down Banksiadale Road, turn right at the large yellow flag and make my way to Banksia Springs.
There are a number of splendid Olde Australian style country houses overlooking a small paddock and surrounded by enormous forest.
I find Jeff who tells me to “take the far chalet over there. Keys are in the door. Make yourself at home” and I settle into the Kookaburra Chalet and can scarcely believe my blessings.
It’s not only huge, it has two bedrooms with large double beds, a large kitchen, a fireplace and great veranda under which I can comfortably park Dreamer. It’s got plenty of wood everywhere. Jarrah funnily enough, since that’s the tree of the area.
I clean up Dreamer and wash all the mud off it. Jeff turns up on a small quad to inspect some work on a new heater, confirms I should make myself at home and with a twinkle in his eyes asks if I’ve got the beers after I suggest we take a few later. He confirms he has some and to make my way over later.
After a long hot shower I realise I should supply some beers and get some food so I ride back into town. Wildest ride I’ve done in a while since with no load Dreamer had a life of its own and I couldn’t keep the damned front wheel pointed in a straight line.
A massive steak later, a beer I lounge next to the fire and promptly fall asleep. Sometime later I crawl into the large bed and sleep soundly.
Next day I make my way over to where Jeff said he lived, meet him outside another chalet and apologised for not keeping the appointment. Doesn’t faze Jeff. In gentle rain Jeff tells me of the place and asks me my plans. I tell him I intend to stay another night to rest and he immediately offers the chalet again and although I offer to pay something he doesn’t accept.
Later Jeff claims you can make the mark of a man (a person) within a couple of seconds. Those couple of seconds outside the Blue Wren twerked something in him and he made his offer. By now I am equally curious about him because whilst such offers do happen they are not common place. “Western Australian hospitality” he told me. “The world can learn a lot from such hospitality” I respond.
Pushing 80, afflicted by polio since his late teens he has a good few stories to tell. Although now on crutches I’d still call him a sprightly gent who’s followed his passions and his dreams and built them to a state where he is now simply cruising, enjoying the life.
If I wanted an inspiration, I could little better than to pick Jeff.
For sure our politics may differ (slightly) but there was enormous common ground and we had a good few conversations.
I am honoured to have met him, enjoy his hospitality and give what little I could in return under the circumstances. Lovely guy.
Finally in the Blue Wren Café in Dwellingup I managed to find the ever elusive free WiFi and so I reconnected after a good week or so.
This was a necessity given that whilst the Ortliebs had suffered not a catastrophic failure but at least a very inconvenient one, I needed a solution. I am a moving target along a bush track, there’s basically no WiFi free or otherwise and I have no address at which to receive anything, so it can’t be too hard. Can it? The following message got me a call within 10 minutes (imagine that!) from Diggari, Ortlieb’s wholesale distributers in Australia via their ‘contact us’ form on their website:
“Message: EMERGENCY … repeat three times!!!
I have a full set (front & rear) of Ortlieb Bike-Packer Classics and are riding down the Munda Biddi trail in Western Australia.
Rather alarmingly I have sheared off the QL1 bar and hooks which secure one front and one rear panniers to their respective frames. I need to secure the panniers using twine.
I need some replacements since it is a major pain not have them hooks.
Please, how to do this?
I have very sporadic internet and telephone connection. You may try on 0476 79 45 85
Or in about 4 days I hope to have internet again.
Thanks … Max”
And in four’s days replacement parts should be awaiting me in Collie. At the post office, poste restante being alive and well. Thank God.
Dwellingup is a delightful sleepy village surrounded by vast Jarrah forest with the link to a history of forestry imbedded in its genes.
I enjoyed my two nights there, and would gladly recommend a visit.
Now … time to ride.
Dwellingup, 21 July 2015