Day 17: Geraldton to Morawa, 174km
Before leaving Geraldton the morning after our rest day, we rode up to see the HMAS Sydney memorial. It was actually on the route we should have followed into town, but we got distracted aiming to get to the bike shop and trying to avoid the rain, and detoured. It is a beautiful and moving memorial, although there was a pretty steep climb to get up there. Then we had a big cafe breakfast in town.
After we got out of the city centre, our route took us through the industrial part of town so the road were not as busy. My legs were pretty dead this morning after no riding yesterday. We had a nice tailwind heading east, but also threatening clouds. About 30km out from Geraldton we passed Walkaway, which we ducked in to look at and find some toilets, just as it started raining. It is a town I’ve always seen signs for but never visited – I hadn’t missed much! The rain was just a short shower, thankfully.
We had views of eagles and rolling hillsides with crops the rest of the morning, and the terrain was gently undulating with long climbs and descents. We arrived at Mingenew for lunch – there was an excellent and very popular bakery! It was wildflower season and was a bumper year after big winter rains – today we were heading into the Wheatbelt and we would share the road and towns with many caravans and wildflower watchers for a few days.
After a pie and cake and juice at Mingenew we were on our way again. It started raining before we left, and the rain continued on and off in showers the rest of the afternoon. The temperature was mild, around low 20’s, but it got windier and colder as the afternoon progressed. By the time we got to Morawa we were pretty tired, wet and hungry, although it was only about 4:30pm.
I had not been able to book any accommodation in Morawa, so it was a bit of exploring to see what we could find for possibly bivvy camping. We stopped at the rec centre, which had nice large verandahs for shelter from the wind and rain, but no public toilets. We also really wanted somewhere to attempt to dry out gear. I even phoned up Perenjori pub, which was another 40km further down the road, but they had no accommodation after Cyclone Seroja destroyed their roof. After a bit of a rest here, we continued on into town and just started riding random streets. I spotted another Monsignor John Hawes building, a tiny priests’ lodge, which I stopped to look at. Upon exploring, I found the door was open so I went inside to see if it would be suitable as a shelter. It was relatively clean and semi-large enough for two people to sleep, but our bikes would have to be outside. And it also felt a bit weird, like sleeping in a cemetery. Greg wasn’t too keen. Then I explored the church next door and found that was also open! It was way bigger, and warmer, and had carpet on the floor. I thought this was a great option. But first, dinner at the pub – although Greg was also unsure about the church, it seemed our best option at this point.
We headed to the pub and after some time figured out where the entrance was. Then Greg disappeared inside, leaving me standing outside protecting the bikes, cold and confused about if I was supposed to follow or wait. After some minutes, which I spent watching the locals wandering in and out the pub, Greg came back out looking triumphant. He had somehow secured us accommodation for the night in the new rooms at the back of the pub – something to do with asking if they had a room and then paying cash 🙂 Admittedly I hadn’t spoken to anyone at the pub about accommodation, but this was because their phone message said they were booked out until the end of September. It was our lucky day!
We found the new motel room (donga) was a delight – it was dry, out of the wind, and had air conditioning (heating) that worked! We quickly stripped off our wet gear and had hot showers. Dinner was at the pub. It seemed to be run by a small number of locals, who were overwhelmed by the number of people in town for wildflower. The pub was pretty small and basic, but we had a good feed and were very happy to be warm and dry.
Highlights: finding accommodation, Mingenew bakery, HMAS Sydney memorial
Day 18: Morawa to Dalwallinu, 146km
As we left Morawa in the morning it was very chilly and the sun was just rising – happily we had brilliant blue skies! We passed a few salt lakes and some giant powerlines on our way to Perenjori. We stopped at the roadhouse on the way into Perenjori for morning tea supplies, picking up iced coffee to go with breaky wraps that we had carried from Geraldton the day before. We continued into town to find a park or somewhere similar to eat, but instead found Wheatbean Cafe! So of course we popped into the cafe for a real coffee and donut and to say hello to the friendly locals. It always makes us feel good to support regional businesses, particularly when we realised that not only did the pub have no roof, but the grocery store was completed ruined by Cyclone Seroja. In spite of our morning tea I was still hungry, so we found a park and ate our breaky wraps as well!
Perenjori was the start of the roadside wildflowers, and there were many wildflower photo stops today. Thankfully the weather was good at least for the first half of the day. There was an amazing community wildflower garden and oddments display at the locality of Latham (halfway to Wubin). Shortly after this stop the weather deteriorated and we had heavy showers with strong crosswind on and off for the afternoon. In a break from the rain, I was very happy to spy a roadside copse of donkey orchids, as I had been on the lookout for orchids all day.
We were pretty stuffed by the time we reached Wubin, which is also where we got back on Highway 95. We stopped at a roadhouse for late afternoon recharge. The food options were limited, and the best I could do was a ham and cheese croissant, snickers bar and a juice. It was enough to get me to Dalwallinu.
We had accommodation booked at Dalwallinu – unfortunately not at the Wheatland Motel where we had stayed previously, as it was booked out. We were in another donga at a pub, but this one was terrible – possibly the worst accommodation of the trip. It was very tiny, and the carpet in the entire donga was so wet you had to wear shoes inside and couldn’t put anything on the floor. The air-con was evaporative only, but at least there was an oil heater to dispel the cold and damp.
The pub started serving dinner at 6pm – we got there pretty much on the dot, and already the dining room was mostly full with retirees out looking at wildflowers. It took at least 30min before our meal orders were taken (table service only) and I was getting very grumpy. But my grumpiness evaporated when our meal arrived only 5min after we ordered, and well before many other people’s! My lamb shanks came with real vegetables, including pumpkin which I hadn’t had all trip! We had also ordered dessert – the apple pie went down very quickly.
Highlights: roadside wildflower, friendly chats with Wheatbean cafe staff who were very interested in our trip.
Day 19: Dalwallinu to Bindoon, 201km
Today was our last 200+km day, and it was also our coldest start – around minus 2 degrees when we set off into the sunrise, wearing our down jackets, rain pants, rain gloves, rain socks and fleecy buff for warmth. We were on Highway 95 only for about 20km before turning south to Ballidu. We passed a few salt lakes and admired the bicycle sculptures at Ballidu, then continued through to Wongan Hills. It was 75km all up to Wongan Hills, and I made sure we stopped at about 25km intervals along the way to break up the ride.
Arriving at Wongan Hills, we decided to try the bakery for a change, having been to Cafe of Note on our previous trips. The bakery selection was enormous and I had a hard time deciding! I got a wrap made up to take with us for lunch later, and bought an open pie to eat now for morning tea. Greg had many friendly chats with people, while I was searching for more supplies at the IGA. After Wongan Hills we turned east past Lake Ninan towards Yerecoin, passing into the Shire of Victoria Plains. We were in proper agricultural country here, and it was mostly very open and gradually undulating. Thankfully there was not much wind, but it also hadn’t warmed up much.
At Yerecoin we enjoyed our bakery wraps / rolls and shared a can of coke at the public toilets / camp ground. There is some very impressive wall art on the public toilet block here! And we spotted lots of beautiful flowers as we left Yerecoin heading further east. Traffic on these roads had been very quiet all day, but as we started to get back towards Highway 95 it picked up a bit. We turned south on the highway and continued for 5km and then took the bypass to New Norcia. We got lots of friendly waves and friendly truck honks on the highway. Lots of lovely architecture at New Norcia, and we stopped at the roadhouse to get some New Norcia bread and nut cake to enjoy later.
Back on the highway for another 4km, then we turned onto another back road to Mogumber, and then south towards our destination of Bindoon. There were lots of cows and sheep, and Greg had to stop and help an escaped lamb. We had been making good progress. Then about 30 or 40km out from Bindoon, Greg got a flat rear tyre. It was our first flat all trip, and it was a good one – part of the tyre had failed or been pierced, so it had to go. Greg set to work, and I helped as much as I could (which was not very much). He removed the old tyre, trying not to get sealant everywhere, and I scavenged a plastic bag from my luggage to put it in. He then cleaned the wheel and put on a tube and our spare tyre. The clouds had been massing while he was working, but thankfully we didn’t get any rain.
We set off again, and Greg’s repairs held. Although we were running about an hour later than planned, we were still on time to reach the Bindoon Pub well before last orders. It got hillier the closer we got to Bindoon, and the traffic got busier. The last hour or so was in the dark, so we missed out on some of the valley views and had to watch out for cars coming in both directions. We were very happy to reach the pub. There was not much on the menu that I could eat, but I found something suitable to order and we enjoyed the open fires inside. We also met up with our AirBNB hosts, who had come down for evening drinks. They gave us detailed instructions on how to reach their place, and followed a little while after us to meet us there. We finally retired sometime after 8pm, after a very ordinary shower.
Highlights: It was a mentally refreshing day, with good weather and scenery. Although it was long, we were mentally prepared for that and our regular stops helped break up the day.
Day 20: Bindoon to Perth, 101km
Another cold morning, we passed through fog as we left our accommodation and rolled down the hill to Bindoon Bakery. Bakeries are not great options when you are trying to avoid bread and pies, but I enjoyed my breakfast of a ham and cheese croissant and cheesecake! We had about 10km on the highway after Bindoon, then turned down to Chittering Valley. This is a route I have done a few times, and it is super scenic although quite undulating in parts.
We knew that Hoffy and MJ were heading out to meet us today, but I had expected them to be in a car – I was surprised and pleased when I saw them riding towards us. It was the first cyclists we had ridden with all trip, and it was great to have new company and to talk all about our adventures.
We stopped in at The Orchard for freshly squeezed local orange juice, at Hoffy’s recommendation. Yum! The gentle climb and fast descent to Bullsbrook went by in a flash with lots of conversation. Hoffy and MJ had driven to Bullsbrook, and brought an extravagantly generous picnic for us to share. We had cake, fresh strawberries, salt and vinegar chips, lollies, nuts, and more delights than I could eat. This ended up being lunch, so it worked out very well. Hoffy decided to continue on with us for a while longer, and arranged for MJ to collect him at one of the Muchea-Bayswater PSP exits.
We set off to the PSP, and again the kilometres seemed to fly by with conversation, a mild tailwind, and glorious mid-20’s sunshiny day. We said goodbye to Hoffy and continued the remaining distance into Perth. Next stop was Elite Cycles, where we stopped for a few hours to get a new tyre on my rear wheel, and both our gears adjusted. Finally I would have re-tuned gears that didn’t skip every time I tried to change!
After several hours at Elite, which I had put to good use booking the next block of accommodation, we had our last leg for the day – a short way into the CBD where we had a fancy hotel booked. We had decided not to got home, as it would break up the holiday and we knew we would be tempted to take a few things out of our luggage and pick up a few other things, which would spoil the self-contained nature of the trip.
We bathed and got washing done, then I dashed to the CBD Woolworths for supplies about 10min before closing time. Dinner was at Alfred’s pizza bar, which had been on my list to check out for ages. You enter through a phone book at street level, walk down stairs, and enjoy cocktails and gourmet pizza in a basement bar. There were only about half a dozen other people there, which was a delightful change compared to the rooftop bar at our hotel that we had checked out and quickly bypassed.
Highlights: A glorious day to be out on the bike, with quiet roads and pretty scenery. Conversation with friends and a generous picnic made it an exceptionally good day.
Day 21: Perth to Waroona, 167km
We had (first) breakfast in our hotel room, a typical muesli, blueberries and hot coffee bag coffee. We were a little late getting to Kings Park for the sunrise, but no one was waiting there to meet us so it didn’t matter. After a few photos, we followed a typical river loop from Kings Park, around the back of UWA, through Claremont, out to Cottesloe and down to Freo. At Freo, we hopped on the bike path to the Round House, where we met MJ and Hoffy for second breakfast (at Chalky’s Espresso Bar).
Greg and I had both been hungry – re-fuelled, we set off with our friends again who were joining us for the route to Mandurah. This is a route that Greg and I have done a few times – we have almost fine-tuned the best way down the coast, avoiding major highways as much as possible and making great use of bike paths and connecting footpaths and lanes. Some of the interesting parts include Coogee, Henderson and Kwinana industrial areas, Rockingham, Warnbro and Secret Harbour. We went within one block of Greg’s parents place so we had a quick stop in there to say hello and top up water bottles – it was also Father’s Day so it worked out very well to have a family visit.
We stopped at a suburban bakery for MJ and Hoffy to get supplies before they veered off to take the train back to Freo. Hopefully they enjoyed the crazy twisty adventurous route 🙂 After saying goodbye once again, we continued along the coast and quickly reached Mandurah proper. The foreshore park was PACKED but there were plenty of tables at the adjacent cafe. We inhaled iced coffees and some lunch – I got granola, as my second breakfast had been massive and savoury and I didn’t want anything too large.
Leaving Mandurah, we had to cross the estuary bridge. There was an excellent pedestrian / bike bridge, but unfortunately it was not clear how to get there except to go around a ramp to the bottom, and then up a giant flight of stairs – Greg was on bike carrying duty again! We had a few sections of highway but got onto the PSP as soon as we can – Greg’s local knowledge was very useful. We went along Estuary Rd through lower Dawesville then back onto Old Coast Rd for a stretch. There were both pretty narrow and windy, with lots of vegetation. Thankfully by this point traffic had thinned out, and the vehicles we did see were exceedingly patient. We must have gone far enough from the city!
We eventually reached Lake Clifton Rd where we headed east, then crossed Forrest Highway – this was pretty awkward because of all the traffic, but there were not any other great options. At least we turned left then right, so we only had to worry about traffic coming from one direction at a time. Now we had reached proper farmland again, with many cows, horses and sheep. There were also many calves and a few lambs. We had expected to have a headwind when we turned east, but we had one of those lucky days where the tailwind followed us all day – firstly as an easterly, then northerly, and finally westerly.
We turned eastwards again along Coronation Rd for the last stretch to Waroona, where we had accommodation booked at Drakesbrook Motel. This was the first “proper country motel” that was just reliably good with a comfy bed and space. They don’t do meals on Sunday nights, so we had expected to have to go back into Waroona Pub for dinner, which was too far to walk but we didn’t want to ride. However, it really was our lucky day – because it was Father’s Day, the Drakesbrook was open for meals! We showered and returned back to the bar and ordered an assortment of food. I was quite keen to mix up the sides, but they wouldn’t make any amendments to the menu meal (e.g. substituting rice for chips) so I compromised by adding a side of steamed rice to my ribs, chips and salad. It was the only rice I had all trip, and it was very delicious and refreshing for my palate. As we ate, we watched a couple of older folks betting a whole heap of money on what looked like races. Sad to see people reach that point.
Highlights: company for the Freo to Mandurah suburban parts of the ride, glorious weather all day, and nice cafe and pub meals.
Not many photos from today as we had done quite a lot of it before, plus we had company and forgot to stop and take snaps!