After several months talking about it, my pal Duncan and I decided to take the plunge and go for it, we considered various ways on how to tackle the distance and decided on the ‘beer and bed’ option i.e. somewhere each night with a bunk and within distance of a pub for a couple of beers and a hearty meal- not that we have an alcohol problem!!This did mean however, that we needed to travel as light as possible as there were days when we needed to cover in excess of 150k to make it to the accommodation, which meant only taking a small backpack with the bare essentials.
The first day was a 100k ride through familiar territory from Mudaring to Jarrahdale, we did intend to set off at 0800 but Duncan spotted a cafe just by the start of the trail and so it was 0930 before we got going.
3 punctures in the first 2 hours made us question if we had the right choice of tyres but we increased the tyre pressures and continued, in fact we didn’t have any more punctures for the remainder of the trip. As expected there was a lot of climbing on this stage but we made it to Jarrahdale in time for a couple of pints, before retiring to our beds in an old railway carriage in a field.
Day 2 was a relatively short section again with some difficult steep climbs just 75k which got us into Dwellingup by mid afternoon which was a welcome relief as the temperature had reached the mid thirties and we had need to take on extra water from natural sources using our rudimentary (a cycle buff) filter and sterilising tablets.
Day 3 was the second most difficult day, a long 150k from Dwellingup to Collie, an early 0630 start and the temperature again in the thirties but a change in scenery from traditional forest to a greener more agricultural backdrop, we also took a detour to visit Gnome Nation, a bizarre little attraction. A brief stop for lunch in Donnybrook and we pressed only to be thwarted by a trail closure due to a bushfire and a detour which added an extra 20k and meant that we finished the day riding the last few miles into Collie in the dark and more climbing than we anticipated.
Day 4 was another long one, again an early start, but a great track though to Nannup where we stayed at the Bluehouse b&b which caters for trail riders and gave us a chance to launder our very smelly clothes.
Day 5 was meant to be to be a shorter day to Manjimup but a navigation error mean that we repeated a 20k loop just outside Quinninup, I remember thinking ‘I am sure I have seen that tree before, then that pond looks familiar, I must just be tired’, then we crossed the river again and realised we had done the loop twice. It was shortly after this that we had a close encounter with a tiger snake which was snoozing on the middle of the track. Along this section we saw several Emus with chicks it was quite a sight to see them ungainly running along in front of us before disappearing into the bush. We ended up doing over 100k and again there was significant climbing involved not any really steep stuff but lots of undulating trails and some great single track descents.
Day 6 was a welcome shorter day with a ride through the huge Karri Forests in between Manjimup and Pemberton an area which will be familiar to those who have done the Karri Valley Triathlon, the weather had turned a bit cooler now and water was not too much of a problem.
Day 7, this was the big one we needed to cover 170k to get to Walpole, this was the furthest either of us had ever ridden on a MTB and our legs were feeling tired by now, we had stocked up with cereal bars in Pemberton and had a sunrise start to get some early miles in, we stopped in Northcliffe at an appropriately named cafe (spotted by Duncan) and had a hearty breakfast.
We now had to traverse the Walpole wilderness which was the most remote part of the trail in terms of isolation, after what seemed an eternity we reached a look out point and got our first glimpse of the Southern Ocean, we felt now that we had nearly made it which lifted our spirits.
Day 8, We thought we had done our hardest day but little did we know what was in store…!, The trail headed back north from Walpole along the Walpole river with some truly majestic scenery and a few unexpected steep climbs, the first 2 hours was really pleasant and then the weather turned, a cold wind blew in some heavy showers from the south and for 6 hours we were wet and cold and pretty miserable, my hands and feet were numb with the cold and I was just praying that I didn’t get a puncture as I don’t think I could have coped.. I can honestly say that it is coldest I have ever been in the Southern Hemisphere, I would have gladly swapped it with the 39 degrees we had experienced 5 days earlier. There was however a brief break in the weather and a fantastic rainbow appeared ahead of us, the picture doesn’t really capture it but it was magnificent and somehow spurred us on. We reached the farmhouse in Scottsdale where we were staying and meeting up with our families and thankfully there was a hot shower awaiting.
Day 8 – the final stretch, 100k into Albany, at last the trail had flattened out, (don’t let anyone tell you that all the hills are in the first 2 days) it was a pleasant ride in and we averaged 20kph as opposed to about 15kph on all the previous days, we almost ran over a turtle at one point but managed to capture a little video of him scampering back Into a ditch. We reached Albany in good time took a few pictures at the terminus and then ( yes you’ve guessed it) went to the pub.
The data – 1038k 13,720m climbing (equivalent to Everest plus Mont Blanc), 8 1/2 days, 65 hours riding time, average distance 115k per day, average speed 16kph, top temperature 39, lowest 8, wildlife – kangaroos (lots), wallabies, rabbits, 1 feral fox, 2 feral cats, emus (lots), 1 brown snake, 1 tiger snake, 1 bandicoot, 1 long neck turtle, lots of birds, spiders…….etc
Navigation- the course is fairly well marked especially in the remote areas, we did go wrong a few times but relied on strava and intuition to get us back on track!
Top 3 essential items, 1. Chamois cream 😱 2. Sterilising tablets 3.. Beer tokens🍻
The track, generally all rideable but with camping gear and panniers it would be difficult to get up the steep climbs so our travel light option worked out well. There were also a lot of blown down trees which bikes had to be carried over, other riders we met had had to strip panniers to get over these and most were averaging half our distance per day. We didn’t see that many people along the track only about a dozen or so, one guy with full panniers followed us up a long twisting steep climb and I swear he was either superhuman or had a miniature motor on his bike😂😂
Would I do it again? Yes probably😂😂