This Munda Biddi trip was shared with my girlfriend Annie, another friend Ang who is experienced at lightweight hiking but hasn’t done bike packing previously, and Greg who has done overnight bike trips but staying in motels, this was his first proper bike camping trip.
Day 1 – 30 March 2018 (Good Friday)
We left Perth at 5.30am, and after a cafe stop on the way down at Balingup, we got to Pemberton at 10.15am and parked at the Forest Lodge Resort (where we would be staying after our Munda Biddi adventures). It took us 1:15 to set up all the gear on the bikes, which I was pretty happy with. We then rode 5km on the Munda Biddi trail to get into town.
We enjoyed a delicious relaxing lunch of salads and smoked meat platters at the Holy Smoke Cafe in Pemberton before heading off.
This place was a great find, a really lovely garden setting and we were enjoying it so much that we didn’t leave until 1:30pm!
The first section from Pemberton went uphill to the Gloucester Tree, then on singletrack switchbacks down. This was one of the nicest sections of mountain bike trail I’ve ridden, technical but achievable. Although it wouldn’t have been so nice if we were going the other direction, uphill. The next 25km to River Road Bridge were undulating on fire trail and more really lovely singletrack. The tall trees in this part of WA really are spectacular and the glorious afternoon sunshine made for warm riding conditions.
After a quick stop for photos and a snack at River Road bridge, we continued on. The bridge was dilapidated but held us ok!
After crossing the river there was a long steady climb up, with a fair bit of uphill for the next 10-15km. However, the last 10km into Northcliffe were mostly downhill and we got to enjoy the scenery. The second half of the trail for today (after the bridge) was mostly fire trail but still lovely scenery. About 2km out of Northcliffe we found a picnic site that would have been perfect to use for a camp. Right on the trail, with toilets, tables and chairs and BBQs. But we had booked camp sites at the caravan park in Northcliffe, so we continued on. We arrived at the caravan park at 5:15pm, having left Pemberton at 1:30pm. We rode for 4 hours at an average speed of 12.7kph, for 52km.
Dinner was fresh salmon quiche with fresh vegetables, fried. It was lovely to have fresh food on the first day, and the benefits of using a camp kitchen.
Day 2 – 31 March
Today we finally set off at 9:40am, after most of us were up before 7am, as we still have to fine tune our morning breakfast and camp pack up routine. The trail today was almost all gravel roads and fire trail, so not the most interesting trails. However, it did help our average speed.
We stopped just before halfway, around 24km (with an extra 2km from the caravan park back into town), for lunch at 11:30am. Lunch stop was 1hr 10min including a toilet stop, so that was quite good considering we had cooked lunch and cup of tea. Although our lunch stop wasn’t that scenic, just a log and a bit of space beside a gravel road, with a few cars passing in the time we were there.
After lunch we crossed Shannon River then we were faced with steeper and longer hills for pretty much the rest of the route for the day. Still on gravel roads and fire trail. The most interesting part of the trail was the last 500m up to the hut, which was on overgrown twisty singletrack.
Today we rode 52km all up (including from the caravan park 2km back to town) in 3:50, at an average of 13.6kph. Our average speed was more like 14.5kph, but we slowed down with all the climbing after Shannon River.
Tonight we stayed at Yirra Kartta Hut, so nice to be out in the bush! This was the busiest day we’ve had at a hut, with a couple who were doing the same trip as us (Pemberton to Walpole, they must’ve been about 30-60min in front of us all day) and a group of lads from Germany who were heading in the opposite direction doing the full end to end.
Dinner was homemade dehydrated cinnamon-spiced roast lamb and vegetables served on a bed of rice.
Day 3 – 1 April (Easter Sunday)
The Yirra Kartta hut was right near a large granite outcrop, which is a sacred Aboriginal site. Annie and I went to explore the outcrop in the morning with my mobile breakfast (muesli bar and coffee) and it was really lovely. If you stay at this hut, definitely go check it out!
After getting up pre-7am, we left at 10am, thanks to more faffing around with packing! The culprit shall remain nameless, but you know who you are!
The trail today was quite lovely. A lot more singletrack today than yesterday, and bush, so it was more interesting. There were a few tough hills but they weren’t too bad. There was an uphill section with switchbacks that was the toughest section technically and aerobically but it was also fun.
Our average speed was quite a bit lower today, at 11.4kph. We also took a wrong turn that took us 1.5km down corrugated gravel road before I realized, then 1.5km back (thanks to the arrow at Beardmore Rd pointing the wrong way – we used Greg’s handy permanent marker to draw an arrow over the top pointing the right way). But it was still only 48km today in 4:15. I think the lower speed was due to more photo stops as well as this being our third day so we well into endurance riding mode.
Lunch was at Preston Falls picnic area, which was 20km into the day, so a bit under halfway. It was an ideal lunch stop with picnic tables and toilets, plus a lovely river pool to check out.
The hut was near a river so we did a walk down there, which was longer than expected but a fun excursion.
Dinner was homemade dehydrated bolognaise sauce with rice.
Day 4 – 2 April
This morning we left at the record early time of 9am, although I must admit I did a bit of faffing this morning and was probably last one ready. It is typically two hours for us to have breakfast, pack up camp and pack the bikes, so this was pretty much on track.
We headed back onto the main trail from the hut, and had some fire trail/ gravel roads to start the day. The roads were only single lane and with bush surroundings it was lovely. It had been a cold night and a chilly morning (with down jackets and beanies on in camp) but once we set off it warmed up quick. I was feeling amazing. After the first hill we stopped to take off jackets. We also had a few photo stops for a burning tree and scenery.
The trail continued mostly on undulating fire trail with a few connecting bits of singletrack. Then after less than 9km we got onto a bitumen section, downhill, and our average speed started to increase from 10kph. However, before too long the bitumen road went up – a tough 1km climb mostly at 15-17% gradient. We got a little bit of undulating recovery after the climb, then turned off to Swarbrick Art Loop, which happened to be excellent timing for morning tea, at around 12km into our 30km ride. We had a morning tea snack, then rolled slowly through the art loop. This was an interesting and very reflective diversion, well worth checking out. We then continued on the trail via a short section of singletrack.
The signs in the next part of the track were a bit ambiguous in places, but we managed to figure out which way the arrows were pointing with a bit of guesswork and Garmin assistance. It was mostly fire trail, quite a bit of downhill for the next 8km or so, which required concentration. Then relatively flat for the last run towards Walpole. However, we did start to encounter some sandy and even rutted sections, which kept us all on our toes. Then a nasty short section on the South West Highway just north of Walpole, before turning to a smaller road and touring through the streets and walking tracks to get to Walpole main street.
Upon arriving in Walpole, we found a large visitor information board, but we had to engage the services of Google to find the local pub, Walpole Hotel and Motel. We enjoyed a much anticipated beer and pub meal at the hotel, very good meals I might add.
Today’s effort was 31km, arriving at the pub right on time at 12 noon. Average speed was 12.7kph, total riding time was 2:30.
We had pre-arranged with Pemberton Discovery Tours to collect us from Walpole and take us and our bikes back to Pemberton. They phoned just as we were sitting down with a beer at the pub, and arrived right on time to collect us.
In summary, we had ideal weather, great trails and easy-going company which made for an enjoyable trip. In the bus on the way back to Pemberton we were already discussing logistics for the next trip 🙂
My favourite part was Day 1; I would happily ride this section again as a weekend trip, staying at the bush camp just north of Northcliffe.
Part 2 will discuss our luggage, and Part 3 will review some of the new gear I got to use.