Northcliffe to Northam via Q Towns – Easter 2021

Day 1

We took the bus from East Perth station at 9am, changed at Bunbury and arrived at Northcliffe at 3:45pm (45 min late). Thankfully we had bus snacks as the first stop for food was at 2:15pm at Manjimup at a little cafe with only cake and drinks. It was quite surreal to realise we would be back in Manjimup that night after cycling from Northcliffe.
Arriving in Northcliffe we found the public toilets, got changed and finalised our luggage arrangements on our bikes then headed off. We started at 4:30 pm.

The first part of the route was quite hilly through the southern forests region. We passed through the first Q town, Quinninup, at 29 km. The Tavern has been rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire some years ago, and looked lovely and modern. But it was too early for a dinner stop and we had a long way still to go.

We arrived in Manjimup at 7:30 pm, ordered fish and chips (best fish n chips around!) and took it to the Heritage park precinct to dine. Fully lit at night with a few families and kids using the skate park, open public toilets, and a filleted water fountain. We filled at our water bottles here (some had been carried empty from the start) as there were few water stops for the next 200 km.

We left Manjimup at 8:30 on with bellies full of fish and chips and headed out on Perup Rd. We had travelled parts of this road twice before and knew it would be relatively quite. In fact, we saw only two cars for the remainder of the night. And it was a long night. We had 90 km still to go to reach the next town, Franklin River, where we planned to bivy in the park where there would be public toilets.
I had been worried about the night riding, as my normal bedtime is 8 pm and I need my sleep. I’d had mixed experience with night riding in the past. But it turned out to be a super lovely night. I think it helped that I’d slept our dozed most of the bus ride down. I did feel nauseous for a large part of the evening, probably due to riding in the aerobars with a huge belly full of fish and chips.
Other than that, the night riding was idyllic. No cars, a rising moon that was a few days past full, no wind and a mild temperature of 20 degrees decreasing to 13 degrees by the time we stopped.
It was a long night though. We didn’t finish until 1:30 am. The last hour I was getting a bit tired but I was still quite alert and able to concentrate. We pulled up in Franklin River at the public toilets and found a nearby information bay with shelter and a concrete floor to set up the bivvies (the other options were sandy and uneven). By the time we set up and changed out of kit it was 2:15 pm – with alarms set for 5 am, it was a short night’s sleep. It was a relief to finally stretch out horizontally.

Animals spotted: lots of frogs hopping across the road (I squished one, sad frog), bats, a few kangaroos and bunnies hopping across the road, a feral cat, and two owls right next to the road. Night wildlife is fun!
Food and drink consumed: a muesli bar, a few peanut m&ms and a huge feed of fish n chips. A can of lemon squash and approx 2 x 750 mL water.
Average moving speed: 21.2 kph Total elapsed time: 9 hours Stopped time: 1.75 hours Distance: 154 km Elevation gain: 1650 m

Day 2

Up at 5 am, we packed up, changed and had breakfast (cold brew coffee, muesli and UHT choc milk). We departed 6:30 am, continuing in an easterly direction. After a short time we headed north, and picked up the mild south easterly tailwind, which remained with us all of the day.
I was feeling quite light headed for the first few hours. The night before, I’d been so full from fish n chips and a but nauseous so I’d eaten only about 6 peanut m&ms for the last 90 km. Upon reflection, it was obvious that I’d used up all my glycogen stores and not replaced them, so my brain was running low on sugar. I snacked on killer pythons and peanut m&ms and started to feel better. I was realising the value of high sugar foods on an endurance trip – I wasn’t actually hungry very often but needed to snack on small sugary things regularly.

We headed generally north and west by a variety of sealed back roads and hamlet towns (just a handful of houses and no stores). One of these was the next Q town, Qualeup. It consisted of only two houses and a weighbridge. Good thing there were people working in the garden at one house so we could ask to use their toilet, it had been a long time between facilities.

The next section included about 7 km of gravel road. Thankfully it was relatively good condition so it didn’t slow us down much. I hadn’t been able to find any way from Qualeup to the north that didn’t include gravel. I will do a modified version of the route that bypasses Qualeup and the gravel, as it wasn’t much of a town!

The rest of the day was a pretty long drag. It was mildly warm (max 28 degrees) but that touch of heat plus no real towns plus a really long day made for monotony. We both listened to audiobooks / podcasts for much of the day. Food included ham and cheese toasties (brought from home) and a Mary Street bakery passionfruit curd donut. It held up on to two days in a bag and was devoured in mere seconds. A welcome energy boost.
We eventually reached Darkan with hopes there may be an open roadhouse for a sweet treat or cold drink. No such luck – but it was Good Friday at 4pm, so it wasn’t surprising. There were public toilets with a water fountain and tap, which was great – we both filled up and used the water and it was delicious.

We turned onto Pinjarra- Williams Rd as it was getting dark. All our flashing rear lights on (Garmin radar, klite Dynamo powered light and third flashing light) plus of course front lights (klite Dynamo front light plus Exposure helmet mounted light). I also had a reflective hi vis vest. Greg took off on the downhills and continued riding away from me. I was riding steady but not enjoying myself. Possibly I needed more food. It was also the busiest road of the trip and with lots of undulations and reflective road signs, there was a lot going on.
Nevertheless, we averaged 30 kph for the last hour and reached Quindanning Hotel at 8 pm, 30 min before food orders closed. The staff were lovely, we checked into our small room (single storey = ground floor), had a quick shower in the shared facilities, grabbed a drink and a table just as our meal was ready. I had a pint of lemon squash and a solid pub meal of steak, mash and veg. We were so tired, straight into bed after dinner, by which time it was 9:30 pm.

Animals spotted: kangaroos, lots of birds (mostly 28s, and some black cockatoos), sheep, and a single ostrich in a field (very random).

Food and drink consumed: 300 mL cold brew coffee (coffee bag in water overnight, highly recommend), paleo muesli with 100 mL choc milk, 1.5 toasted ham and cheese sandwich, 1 muesli bar, 0.5 donut, 2/3 packet killer pythons, 1/2 packet peanut m&ms, steak mash and veg, a pint of lemon squash, approx 5 x 750 mL water
Average moving speed: 21.5 kph Total elapsed time: 13:25 Stopped time: 2 hours Distance: 247 km Elevation gain: 2073 m

Day 3

Alarm set for 5:30 am, we got up, had breakfast, got dressed, packed the bikes and pumped up the tyres. Somehow this took 1.5 hours, I am unsure how. We set off at 7:15 am, already 45 min behind schedule.
We rode broadly northerly to Boddington. It was a lovely scenic route through rolling hillsides, but more undulating than we had expected.

Reaching Boddington, we stocked up supplies at the IGA. I grabbed a few fruit squeeze packs and croissants and a fancy lemonade, and ate a yoghurt straightaway. Boddington was a lovely town with a very impressive collection of metal sculptures in a couple of parks and other random places.

Our route then turned east, which meant we basically had a cross / headwind for the next 100 km. The wind was not crazy strong and thanks to aerobars we were able to keep a reasonable speed of around 20 kph.
We passed through the hamlet of Pumphreys Bridge (nice riverside camp spot but apparently full of mosquitoes) and reached Popanyinning at 1:59 pm. This was excellent timing as the general store closed at 2 pm – I actually hadn’t been able to find the opening hours in advance and assumed it would be closed, so it was a great surprise and treat. Ice creams and a $3 bag of mixed lollies, it was the perfect pick-me-up. For future reference, normal opening hours are even later.

Next town was Pingelly, a proper town with an IGA and, also surprising, an open cafe. I had been craving some real savoury food – by this time it was 3 pm. I got a breakfast wrap, but it was so substantial I could eat only a third of it or I thought I’d get that nauseous feeling again. I stowed the rest for a later time.
Leaving Pingelly, we finally got some tailwind and it was a little cooler and a little more interesting scenery. I was also getting closer to other areas that I’d ridden. We had one last slog section into strong headwind on Brookton-Corrigin Rd, then the rest of the evening (50 km) was tailwind baby!

We bypassed a gravel section into the headwind (route to be adjusted here too) and arrived in Quairading at 7:30 pm.
I hadn’t phoned ahead as I knew we were on track to arrive by 7:30 pm and the kitchen was open til 8 pm. We arrived and there was one guy sitting in the pub – he was the co-owner. Turns out they had been massively impacted by COVID and had to let their kitchen staff go, and haven’t found replacements. So now the kitchen isn’t staffed unless there are dinner bookings. They could make us pizza though, so we didn’t go hungry, and after they warmed to us they were very hospitable. We had to carry the bikes upstairs to the rooms, but had an ensuite which was nice. We also had the place to ourselves and it was a quirky pub with lots of old sports memorabilia. It was 10 pm by the time we got to bed after a relaxed dinner.

Animals spotted: lots of sheep and birds.
Food and drink consumed: cold brew coffee, muesli with milk, 2 cups of juice, 1/2 packet of peanut m&ms, 1/3 packet killer pythons, handful of mixed lollies, ice cream sandwich, chocolate custard squeeze pack, 2 fruit mush squeeze packs, 2 plain croissants, 1/2 muesli bar, 1 pizza, 1 beer, approx 3 x 750 mL water, 500 mL lemonade, tiramisu yoghurt.
Average moving speed: 21.6 kph Total elapsed time: 12:15 Stopped time: 2.5 hours Distance: 211 km Elevation gain: 1370 m

Day 4

We got up at 6 am and I was determined to get ready faster than yesterday. The self-serve pub continental breakfast was not to my liking (only basic cereal, white bread and milk available, most of which don’t agree with my digestive system). Good thing I still had 2/3 of a breakfast wrap left – I ate most of that and made a coffee with the coffee bags. We were ready by 7 am – then had to carry the bikes downstairs and pump up the tyres. By 7:30 am we were ready to leave – at which point Greg realised he had left his phone upstairs. In the now-locked accommodation. We tried calling the pub but of course it just rang out, as no one was there. Today’s ride was half a day, to Northam, where my car was parked and waiting. So we resolved the best (only) option was to ride off to Northam then drive back in the afternoon to collect the phone. It was a lucky thing we even had that option available!
So, onwards we went. We were heading west then north all day which meant TAILWIND. The road was mostly flat and mildly undulating, and we knew it was the last day and a short day, so we were in good spirits. It was Easter Sunday and there was quite a bit of traffic heading in our direction from Quairading, but they mostly gave us good space.

We reached York about 11 am. The cafe we wanted to visit was closed for renovations but there was an Easter market next door. We got a coffee (which was terrible) and AMAZING gluten free, vegan fresh hot donuts. This was first lunch, which was not really that substantial, but it was delicious and we had only 37 km to go!

Onwards to Northam, we arrived about 1:15 pm and headed straight to find second lunch. Almost everything in the main street was closed, but we found an open pub. Except their kitchen was closed for renovations. They directed us to the Riversedge cafe, which was lovely. We got burgers and chips and drinks then checked into our posh accommodation at the Farmer’s Home Hotel. Let the relaxing begin!

Animals spotted: sheep, ponies and a field full of alpacas!

Food and drink consumed: 1/2 an enormous breakfast wrap, coffee x 2, half a bag of mixed lollies, Easter eggs, 2 donuts, cheeseburger and chips for late lunch, mixed juice, 0.5 x 750 mL water.
Average moving speed: 25.5 kph Total elapsed time: 5:30 Stopped time: 1.25 hours Distance: 107 km Elevation gain: 523 m

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