The rain itself is not such a problem. Rain tends to be warmer than a cold clear winter’s day, or morning at least. The problem with rain is that when riding along a meandering goat-track through forest is there is nowhere to get out of the rain. If I have 60 km of riding to do and is likely to take 5 or 6 hours then I’m going to be out in the rain, wet, for 5 to 6 hours. Nowhere to stop, get out of the rain and eat lunch for example.
I deeply sympathise with the Angus heifers who watch me with great curiosity should the trail run along their fence line. They too are out there in the rain, wet, chewing cud. They, the kangaroos, and I all share the same basic fate. It we are wet, it is raining. If we are dry, it is sunny. If our hair whips across our faces, it is windy.
I, we, are not One with they who travel around in their large automobiles, most often 4WDs, with the windows resolutely UP! against the cold, the heat, the wind, the rain. Wipers clearing the windscreen for visibility. They smile and wave as they pass. Not sure if they are being deeply sympathetic or deeply empathetic or straight out impressed and amazed. I return their salute nonetheless. I have to admit that every-now-and-then I wish for one to materialise next to me with a small crane on a tray-back Landcruiser and hoist Dreamer Ziflex and Ortliebs onto its tray-back and transport me in sublime luxury up the dastardly incline whilst the rain hurtles down …
We are all allowed our little dreams and phataziezzzz …
The storm in Nannup was far more rain than wind. That said … it doesn’t seem to take much wind to snap off branches in abundance and flatten the odd tree, as I found as I made my way towards Karta Burnu campsite, Manjimup and ultimately Pemberton. ‘Widow-makers’ I’ve had them described to me. And sure enough, there were plenty of big trees lying across not only the track but also roads. I resolve to think twice before riding deep in the forest on a goat-track in high winds.
The rain stopped late in the night and an eye-wateringly starry sky appeared. Went down to 3C in the caravan. Got up early, 0530 and was moving by 0715. It was a cold start. Winter gloves, down vest, two pair of socks, neoprene over-shoes, thermal undies + shorts + trousers. Took a while to warm up.
My mojo had really deserted me in departing Nannup, which really made me susceptible to the cold. I was not looking forward to the Munda Biddi and its charms and challenges. It’s one thing to take on the Munda Biddi when the track is dry and coherent. Another thing altogether when it is wet and really slippery. The inclines are challenging enough when I actually have traction and infuriatingly frustrating when I don’t. Even going downhill is dangerous with Dreamer and I slip-sliding all over the place on the uneven surface.
I realised I needed something more sublime, manageable on a fully loaded Santos towing a lightly loaded Ziflex. Am just tired of trying real hard but going nowhere.
Fortunately the Munda Biddi follows at first asphalt then a good condition gravel road for nearly 30 km south of Nannup. For sure it’s also a gentle but remorseless gradient uphill for most of that 30.
Then came The Moment. Back on the Munda Biddi goat track.
Then I met Gregory. As in Mr Road, Gregory. And Gregory and I had a great day. A wonderful forest track which paralleled the Munda Biddi for nearly 20 km. In total I did like 50 km on decent tracks before I returned to the Munda Biddi.
And Boy! was that return something.
For my sins I got like 10 – 12 km of truly challenging Munda Biddi trail. Wet and slick from the rain, leafs covered and slippery, low overhanging branches, recently fallen logs for which to get over I had to dismantle Dreamer unhitch Ziflex and carry them over, short intense descents and ascents but all the while constantly going uphill, the front wheel barely gripping in the corners and the rear wheel spinning uselessly as much as propelling me forward.
The last 9 km though were The Killer … a steep zig-zag slimy track all the way to the Karta Burnu campsite. I paused frequently, mostly before the switch-backs to collect my breath and my resolve. The slippery conditions meant I could not go fast into the corner as I would simply slide off into the forest and have to grunt, haul and heave myself and Dreamer back onto the track.
Gear down and leg-power. Humid, light rain, I was sweating profusely. Some helpful soul had put the remaining kilometres/meters on the trail markers so I could keep track of my snail’s pace as I crawled towards sanctuary. It took like a hour to do the last 3 kms.
The very last 200 m was hilarious. I could see the hut but I simply did not have traction. Couldn’t move the damned bike forward! Eventually I had to ride half on and half off the trail using the grass and vegetation to gain traction.
Finally, and just before a big rainfall, I made it to the hut.
Lovely spot. Lovely dinner. Early to bed.
It pissed down all night. A solid barely interrupted rainfall.
If my mojo had deserted me upon departing Nannup I have no idea how to describe my underwhelming enthusiasm for a day riding in the rain towards Manjimup and eventually Quinninup. The very first 400m drove home to me the blindingly gormless stupidity of the whole Munda Biddi trail thing and my role in riding it! The trail leaves the hut, goes down the steep slippery hill which gave me such trouble night before then goes up a steep hill with all the wet slimy slippery non-traction that that entails. And then … 400 m later I come across the fenceline. The very same fenceline which is just behind the hut. All I needed to do, all the Munda Biddi trail-blazers needed to do is to route the southern part of the trail from the hut along the perfectly rideable track next to the fenceline and Wha La … no dip-down struggle-up as an intro for the day’s ride.
It was clear to me that this was not going to be an easy day. Rain squalls continuously assailing me. Sometimes beautiful blue sky making me sweat like crazy in my Gore-tex jacket. Then rain. And wind. The trees were bending and moving alarmingly. The track was wet and very slippery and riddled with puddles straddling the track. The puddles are a true challenge. Bitter experience has taught me that the best place to cross is smack through the middle for vehicle traffic often gouges out the track where their wheels run leaving a deep rut hidden in the murky water. Either way it is almost inevitable that the track is like ice, meaninglessly slippery and many times the front wheel simply slips sideways plunging me axle deep into the water all while I am peddling like crazy to keep going and avoid falling off in the middle of a huge muddy puddle. Not pleasant.
Then came the classic no-trail marker at a junction. I chose left and found myself on a good quality track. I knew then that I was not on the Munda Biddi. Sure enough, the Garmin Montana 650 with detailed topographic maps showed me I had gone the wrong way. As in the ‘wrong’ way … hmmm …
I could work out a path back onto the Munda Biddi. Or I could not.
I chose not to. I did a short stint on the Great Southern Highway before rejoining the Munda Biddi ten or so kilometres towards Manjimup where it follows an old railway line.
In Manjimup I restocked my provisions, ate a lunch of a quarter-roast chicken and a bun sitting on the pavement outside Coles Supermarket and wondered whether I should follow the Munda Biddi towards Quinninup. Or follow the roads and head direct towards Pemberton, basically cutting off a day and half of the Munda Biddi. When the sun came out I was inclined towards Quinninup. Then it’d rain and remind me that the trail would be a major challenge and that perhaps I should cut my loses and make a dash for Pemberton.
I chose to make a run towards Pemberton.
Ten minutes along the road it began to rain. Heavily. And it continued to rain, heavily, for a good half an hour, and then intermittently for the 35 km it took to get to Pemberton.
Regardless I still felt a bit guilty about cutting out Quinninup. Until today when I checked the Munda Biddi Trail website and found out that huge chunks of the Manjimup-Quinninup section has been closed and re-routed due to forestry activities. It seems that I made a very wise choice.
I arrived in Pemberton very wet, at least my legs and lower abdomen. The Gore-tex keeps my upper body quite dry, considering am sweating like crazy too. I pull into the tourist-centre and give up waiting to get some service since a bunch of Gray-Ghost travellors have all the time in the world, are lovely and dry and warm and want to ‘chat’ with the personnel about the time they were on a motorbike someplace …
I find a brochure about a motel, phone up the dude who laughs and says “Why do I get the idea you want a cheap price? And, I’ll give you a good price, but why is it all cyclists and hikers want a cheap price? I mean you should have more money because you don’t pay for vehicle costs and fuel?”
I agreed though we figured it’s a time value for money thing … a car can travel a 1000 km in a day whilst I barely manage 50. That means 20 night’s accommodation, 20 day’s worth of food and supplies per one day for they in a vehicle. The shear length of time to go anywhere kinda means most cyclists and hikers are shoe-string travellers. The money has to last a long, long time.
Vehicle travellers laugh and tell me that they expect to cross the Nullarbor in a month’s time. And that they may well meet me there, cycling away …
The wet gray whether has continued as I’ve wandered around Pemberton. It’s likely to be like this for another week. Am beginning to look forward to some warm sunny spring weather … only problem is that, because I’ve asked for such weather, am likely to get it … spring and summer in Australia and can looong hot affairs. I wonder which is worse: cool, occasionally wet winters. Or ferociously hot summers …
Pemberton, 11 Aug, 2015