RideWA – 6 to 11 September 2021

Day 22: Waroona to Donnybrook, 153km

We had our usual muesli, fruit and coffee breakfast before we left the motel in Waroona, heading off around 6:30am. The first portion of today was off-piste, because Waroona was not on our route – but it was the place where we had been able to find accommodation (I have since amended the V3 route to include Waroona and the deviation we took this morning). We had 10km on South West Highway, then turned off and zig-zagged along back roads using mostly our Garmin maps and general sense of direction. We got to pass through Yarloop, which looked like a lovely town and has been significantly re-built since is was razed by fire in 2016. We also saw Cookernup, with a general store and school bus stop, on our way to Harvey. I was quite slow, and very hungry and tired.

We arrived at Harvey just before 8am, too early for cafes to be open. But Greg had to top up his snack supplies, so we went to one of the two IGAs and he got snacks while I de-layered. By this time, Cafe on Uduc was open – I had selected this one based on my usual Google Maps reviews method. It was a good choice, as it turned out to be the best breakfast we had all trip! I had crumpets with berries and yoghurt, and added bacon. I love a good cafe-made crumpet. And the coffee was delicious, worth savouring. After enjoying our breakfast, using the facilities and doing sunscreen we were ready for the rest of the day.

Just as we were about to depart on our bikes, two cyclists pulled up, and one of them said hello to Greg. I had no idea who they were. It turned out one was the father of one of Greg’s cycling buddies, and he had gone out for a ride with his buddy this morning to Waroona specifically to try to ride with us! It was super lucky that they came when they did, as they got to ride with us along the back streets and out to South West Highway before the turn up Mornington Rd, which was about 10km. Greg’s buddy Doug was very excited to have seen us, he said we had made his day. It was a really lovely surprise.

We then had the climb up Mornington Rd. It was the first long climb up the trip, heading up the scarp. It was probably about a 5km climb, the first part we had views of farmland and cattle, then we headed into the forest. Greg had been sitting behind me as usual, but I realised he wasn’t behind me after going down a little descent. This was unusual as Greg is typically faster on the descents than me. However, I thought I would keep going up the next little climb, slowly, and see if he would catch me. I reached some roadworks and stopped to wait, and chatted to the roadworks guy. After about five minutes of chatting, there was still no sign of Greg. My phone had been on flight mode for battery saving, so I took it off flight mode and tried to phone Greg. No luck. Right, I’d better go back and see where he was. I didn’t think he had crashed, because I hadn’t heard any big crash noises, but I had no idea what could be going on.

I started riding back, and got about 3km back the way I had come before I saw Greg riding towards me. It turned out he had also gone back about 3km, or maybe more, after he realised his rain jacket had fallen off his bike! Good think he went back for it, as we would need them a lot later in the trip! So, on our way again. More roadworks guys had turned up, and my friend had told them that we had cycled from Broome, so we got lots of kudos and salutes as we went past – very fun.

We continued winding our way through the forest on undulating roads. There was a short stint on Coalfields Highway, then we turned into Wellington National Park and towards Wellington Dam. We were both keen to reach the kiosk at the dam, where we planned to have lunch. However, when we got there it was closed! Darn Monday things, almost everything in this neck of the woods was closed on Mondays. At least we found some open toilets, and we had some snacks and continued onto the dam wall. The mural that has been painted on Wellington Dam is an impressive site, and very well done in tones that sit modestly in the natural environment.

There was a little climb out from Wellington Dam, then we turned right onto Lennard Dr. This was a really fun part of the route – a one-way road winding its way along Preston River. It was quite warm by this stage, in the high 20’s, so the river looked inviting but we were more motivated to get past the really big climb and get to somewhere for lunch. At Honeymoon Pool, we turned left up River Rd. This was the hardest climb of the entire trip at 16% for about 2km, but at least we knew it as we had reconned this part of the route only a few months before we left. Greg was faster than me up the climb, which was unusual – I was suffering. Turning right onto Pile Rd, we reached the downhill and knew that we were not far from Ferguson Valley.

As the forest slipped away, the farmland views opened up and we had many glorious vistas. I stopped for photos at a few spots, and Greg did his usual trick of not seeing me stop, riding straight past me, and thinking I was still in front of him. I was too tired to chase him down. Eventually he stopped at one of the wineries, which is lucky because I was planning to stop there regardless. After a quick scolding of Greg and some discussion, we decided to pop down the road to the brewery for lunch first, then we could do the 1km backtrack to the winery for a little tasting. We had scoped out a few days ago that these two places were open on Monday, thankfully!

We were almost the only customers at Bush Shack Brewery – it was after 1pm on a Monday. It was a really glorious day, sunshine and warm. We picked a spot on the verandah, ordered some food and beer, and sat back to enjoy our surroundings. My gnocchi with lamb was delicious, and the beer went down well. Then over the road to St Aidan Wines – I picked up a small bottle of Liqueur Muscat, which was the only thing I could fit in my feed bag, but also I thought would be ideal for an after-dinner drink with the New Norcia nut bread.

After some great chats with the St Aidan Wines owners and dog patting, we were on our way again. It was almost 4pm by this time and we still had 40km to go. We continued through Ferguson Valley, then the scenery changed from farmland and homesteads back to bush. We passed Gnomesville but didn’t stop, as we had checked it out on our recon ride and we were more interested in finishing for the day. Along Donnybrook-Boyup Brook Rd and then into town, just as the sun was setting. I wasn’t quite sure where the motel was, and I also wanted to get to the IGA. After such a large late lunch, I figured we didn’t need a big pub dinner, so I assembled a ploughman’s platter from supplies from the IGA. It was a terrific IGA, very large, open til 7pm every day!

And, Donnybrook Motel was just next door. We checked in – the owners were super friendly and lovely. They also have a secure bike storage shed, was they are on the Munda Biddi trail and must get lots of dirty bikes come through. We unloaded our gear, secured our bikes, and settled in. By this time it was getting chilly, so we got the reverse cycle air con going and had showers. Then I prepared our platters for dinner, which we ate on the bed while watching a funny train documentary on the TV. Followed by the Liqueur Muscat and New Norcia nut loaf. What a great day.

Day 23: Donnybrook to Bridgetown, 94km

Today was one of the shortest days, so we had a relaxed start with a sleepin until almost 8am, followed by a large breakfast at the Orchard Cafe. The coffee was very good, and breakfast was almost too big to fit on the plate! I liked that they promoted initiatives such as bringing your own bowl for salad, and they were very friendly and impressed by our trip.

Leaving Donnybrook, we set off through Upper Capel on another road that was very scenic, with rolling hillsides and farmland. There were many cows. It was quite hilly through this section. We wound our way through to Kirup, where we had toilet stops. We continued on another quiet road, this one through forest with lots of wildflowers. It was less hilly and more undulating.

We arrived at Balingup in time for an early lunch at the bakery. I didn’t want bread or a meat pie, and I wasn’t super hungry. It took a while to figure out what to order, but I was very happy with my lemon meringue pie – it was massive, served with lots of real cream, and was delicious! That should keep me going for a little while. We had nice chats with a couple who had moved to Albany from Melbourne or Sydney. They were enjoying country life, and had been up to Perth for a short trip.

A toilet stop before we left Balingup, then we headed east on another quiet road through bushland. We saw some very cute shaggy ponies on the way out of town. We circled around towards North Greenbushes then took Greenbushes – Boyup Brook Rd then Bridgetown – Boyup Brook Rd. The route today was terrific, very quiet roads, diverse scenery and terrain, with hills, undulations and some flatter sections. It was also quite protected, although the wind was mostly tail/cross. It was sunny and warm, it got to about 29 degrees on the road.

We had the big descent down into Bridgetown, then stopped at The Cidery for refreshments – we timed it well to arrive about 30min before they closed. I did some gin tasting then got a cider, and we had delicious cheese and crackers sitting in the lawn area. We talked to the proprietor about our trip, and he told us that his son did a huge bike tour overseas, which changed his life. Let’s see what happens after our trip!

We stayed at Nelson’s of Bridgetown Motel, and booked for dinner here as well on the recommendation of the owner, as all the pubs in town were closed – one because it was Tuesday night, one because they couldn’t get a chef. Crazy country town things. We popped up to the IGA for some more supplies – it is open even later than Donnybrook, until 8pm! And we scoped out the cafe over the road for breakfast, which was open from 6am to support people working at the local Greenbushes mine. The dinner menu had good variety – I opted for the salmon with mash and veg.

Day 24: Bridgetown to Margaret River, 118km

We had breakfast at Wattleseed Cafe around 6:30am – delicious muesli with local honeycomb, plus coffee (not as high as the standard set the previous two mornings). It was quite cold and even the large climb on the way out of town up Brockman Highway didn’t warm us up, I was hunting for sunshine patches. The grass looked frosty.

It didn’t warm up all day, reaching a max of around 16 degrees. It was cloudy and humid in the morning. The scenery was still beautiful, although muted by the grey clouds. There were lots of spring blossoms on fruit trees – who needs to go to Japan for cherry blossoms! We passed a few large farm properties including Maranup Vale, then descended into State Forest where we had bush and wildflowers. There were a few sections of beautiful karri trees.

After more undulations, we had the big descent down into Nannup. There were pots of tulips all along the main street for the Nannup Garden Festival, which was beautiful. We stopped at Melo Velo for lunch – I was pretty hungry and opted for a sweet tart, plus gluten free toastie and salad.

We took Mowen Road and Rosa Brook Road almost all the way to Margaret River. These are secondary roads in popular areas, so they had wide cleared areas on each side of the road, and quite a bit more traffic, which was less scenic and enjoyable. They were also very undulating. And of course the rain started – we had solid drizzle for the second half of today’s ride. It was initially on-and-off, which was quite annoying as we would kit up with full rain jacket and rain pants, then when the rain stopped we would be melting and sweating. Eventually we opted to take off the rain pants and just leave our jackets on. We stopped for a cake snack in one of the rain breaks, happy food is an important part of keeping up morale.

The last 20km or so through to Margaret River was on quieter roads, which was a relief. However, by this time the rain had become a steady stream. As a result my headphones had stopped working, so I didn’t even have an audiobook to distract me. We found some very funny goats in a paddock, and crazy fast Jack Russell dogs on the property over the road, which made us both laugh.

We got to Margaret River and I had to stop in at the servo for accommodation snack supplies, I was running low on energy. It turned out our accommodation was practically next door to the servo, which was convenient. However, it took me about 10min to find the reception to check in, as it was on the other side of the road. We finally got in out of the rain – there was a verandah where we could leave our bikes under cover outside, which was invaluable. The accommodation was quaint – meaning small and old. The only heating was a very ineffective reverse cycle air conditioner in the kitchen, so that was where all our wet kit got hung up.

I had chosen this place mainly for location – it was on the same property as the restaurant we wanted to go to, which was the main reason we had come all the way west to Margaret River. It was a relief that we didn’t have to walk very far in the rain for dinner! However, I had managed to make our dinner reservation at the wrong place – there was a pizzeria and a fancy trattoria in the same complex, and I had booked the trattoria. It was too late to cancel, I had already confirmed our reservation. So we decided to get takeaway pizza from the pizzeria, have a quick slice before dinner, and save the rest for bike snacks / lunch the next day. This worked out well, because there were few food options tomorrow.

Dinner at the trattoria was also good – some nice red wine, arancini and carpaccio entree, and gnocchi for mains. I was even too full for dessert!

Day 25: Margaret River to Manjimup, 178km

Today we had very few food options on the route, and we were expecting it to rain all day. We needed to stock up on some mood-boosting food supplies before we set off. Most of the cafes in town don’t open until 8am, but I had scoped out Egberts that opened at 6am! We had our usual breakfast including coffee in our accommodation, and stopped at the cafe only to buy food supplies. It had poured rain all night and was still raining in the morning, so the challenge was finding shelter for our bikes so that we could pack our brown-paper-bag bakery goods out of the rain. I decided we needed to eat a snack now, while we were under shelter – I scoffed a warm ham, cheese and tomato croissant, packed my other snack for later, and we were off.

We left Margaret River heading south on the main highway, but soon turned left onto Boodjidup Road, passing through an industrial area and thankfully on a quieter road. We then turned south again onto Caves Road. Although this is a popular tourist road, it was a rainy Thursday and was not school holidays, so there was not too much traffic. However, it is a narrow windy road with no shoulder and we had a few caravans and small trucks, which struggled to get past – so we would pull off the road where we could.

There is a stunning patch of trees on Caves Road, if you have been that way you will know the one, which was our only photo stop in this section. After about 25km on Caves Road, we turned right on Bushby Road heading back towards Bussell Highway. Greg had figured out that there was a general store at Karridale, at the Bussell Highway intersection so we were keen to stop there. But we got confused when we saw a roadhouse and stopped there instead. We both got pre-made breaky wraps, which were dense with calories but not great for our digestive systems with sausages in them. However, it was a chance to get out of the rain for a while.

We crossed Bussell Highway and were then on Brockman Highway. It was pretty quiet, and was nice riding as I hadn’t been down this way for ages – and never on a bike as far as I could recall. It was a long stretch to the next town, Pemberton, and we had drizzly rain pretty much all the way. We broke it up by stops for snacks (the pizza and cafe snacks from Margaret River), but the scenery was just farmland and grey skies. We did spot our only snake for the trip, which was on the road but was dead.

There was a lovely section of tall trees about 20 km west of Pemberton, extending past Karri Valley Resort (presumably karri trees). We also saw many kangaroos lounging around Karri Valley resort, and a few emus. Although we were both pretty grumpy by this point, we enjoyed the trees and much birdsong. We both stopped (separately) for pee stops and almost identical photos on different parts of the road. My pee stop was pretty tricky because there was a dropoff from the side of the road and no cover, plus with windy roads it was hard to see when a car was coming. In the end I just took a gamble and made it quick, thanks to my Velocio pull-down bib shorts I am very fast at pee stops these days.

We arrived in Pemberton around 4pm. Some of my friends were staying in town for a few days, and we had talked about trying to catch up, but it was a much longer and later day than I had expected. Plus we were wet and still had miles to go. We stopped at the public toilets – luckily these were open and they provided shelter when a heavy rain shower came through. There were lots of nice-looking cafes lining the main street of Pemberton, but not a single one was open. Good thing I had pre-checked this and had very low expectations of anything being open.

We stopped at the service station on the way out of town for a pick-me-up mini coke. It was only another 30 km to Manjimup, which is a town we have frequented a few times in the evening on our touring adventures so we were comfortable about arriving there after dark. Instead of taking Vasse Highway, we took back roads which had practically no traffic and were more exploratory with interesting farm scenery. This was the approach for most of the trip – take the scenic route. Although it was quite hilly, it was fun. We had only about 10 km on South Western Highway into Manjimup.

We arrived just as it was starting to get dark, and headed straight for the fish n chips shop – we know from past experience it is one of the best feeds in town. We ordered our food and I tried to source some cold soft drink to go with it, while Greg watched the bikes. He must have look bedraggled and cold, as a passer-by gave him $20 cash to put towards our dinner. The kindness of strangers continues. Loaded up with hot fish n chips and cold drinks, we went across the highway to our motel and checked into our quite fancy room. Manjimup Motel Inn is a high-quality country motel and they have done a great job upgrading rooms with artwork, fancy lighting and modern bedclothes. Ours was so fancy we had a code to enter into an electronic keypad to gain access, there was no key.

Dinner was accompanied by some country TV (ABC or SBS doco of some kind) and not long before we were in bed. It was a tough long day.

Day 26: Manjimup to Walpole, 123km

We had breakfast in our motel room, then second breakfast at Jabba Coffee in Minjimup – barista coffee and three cinnamon donuts. Breakfast of champions. Happily there was no rain this morning, but it was quite cool.

Our route headed out on Muir Highway, which was undulating but not too busy. We then turned onto Wheatley Coast Road towards Quinninup. Well before we reached Quinninup we found the most unlikely toilets of the trip – Warren Tennis Club. Just in the middle of nowhere. They were proper flushing toilets, except there was no water in the tanks so they didn’t actually flush. It was a delightfully funny find though!

Nothing was open at Quinninup, as we got there about 10am. We had snacks in the sun near the new tavern, as it was still quite cool. I had some cheese and crackers and a custard squeezy.

We then turned onto South Western Highway, which we would follow all the way to Walpole. There was little traffic, and the route continued to be quite undulating and through forest. We stopped at a “historic site” (a signpost explaining that stockmen used to take their stock to the south coast over summer) for a toilet stop and more snacks – I had the last two slices of pizza from Margaret River. This entire part of South Western Highway was through National Park. There were some beautiful parts of forest particularly in Mount Franklin National Park. It was a pretty long stretch without any towns for interesting stops though.

We followed South Western Highway to the east as we got down close to Walpole. We had tailwind most of the day, and it now became more cross-wind, but we were still protected by the trees. There was a long climb up to a lookout, where we stopped for a leg stretch and got to see the sea from the lookout. Then it was a big descent down to the tiny town of Walpole.

We went straight to our accommodation at the Walpole Hotel/Motel, we were too tired to be interested in looking around. And there was not much to see! We checked in, and found the rooms were quite lovely. It was obviously an old motel with some quirky aspects to the room design (like the bathroom sink outside the bathroom, overlooking the beds), but it had been renovated and was very comfortable and spacious. There was also afternoon sunshine streaming in the window onto the bed, which was very inviting.

Dinner at the pub was less delightful. The dining room wasn’t open, so it was pub seating only. And it was a Friday night with footy on, so all the locals were there having a good time. I made Greg go up and order meals and drinks, as I was sick of trying to order things at bars and getting ignored. I am a small female, whereas Greg is a tall male – it makes a big difference in country pubs. My dinner was a pot pie with a small serve of chips. I was still hungry afterwards, so had to go for dessert as well, which wasn’t even that great. I would be happy not to eat any pub meals for a long time after this trip.

Highlights: No rain, beautiful forests, coffee and donuts, quiet roads and undulating terrain.

Day 27: Walpole to Albany, 161km

The final day of RideWA! It was bittersweet. I made sure to enjoy it from the start, but as the rain showers came and went, and we were stopping to put on and take off rain gear, it became a relief to know we wouldn’t have to do it again tomorrow.

Breakfast in our motel room, then a quick tour around Walpole before heading out on North Walpole Road. It was quite undulating heading away from the coast, but we had many many cows to keep us entertained and distracted, including a quite small calf. Greg couldn’t help trying to make friends and particularly wanted to see the calf, but he was too skittish. The weather was cool with threatening clouds.

After much undulations, we reached Bow Bridge, where I knew there was a general store and I hoped we would be able to get a snack. Alas, it was closed as we were there before 9am. We stopped and snacked on our own food, and at least could use the toilets. We were now on South Coast Highway, and traffic picked up a bit but was still quite sparse. Shortly after Bow Bridge, we went past a huge field full of deer! And a quite architectural house with two donkeys in the yard, and alpacas next door! It was a good day for farm stock.

We were both suffering a bit and getting fed up with the weather. There were super threatening clouds in the direction we were heading, so we stopped to put our full rain gear on (jackets and pants). Then the sun would come out and we would be hot and have to take it off again. This went on a few times on the South Coast Highway stretch. We went past Bartholomew’s Meadery and I pulled in, as I know Greg was keen for an ice cream. I was not interested and was not very patient, although I tried to hold my tongue as I knew it was just fatigue talking.

We then turned up McLeod Road for the scenic, non-highway route into Denmark. We stopped for obligatory view photos at the top of the climb, and put on our rain jackets – good thing, as it poured rain most of the rest of the way into Denmark. I was still grumpy and knew I needed to eat, but I didn’t want to stop in the rain. So we pushed on, and stopped at Mrs Jones Cafe in Denmark. This is my favourite cafe in town, I have stopped here many times on bike training camps. I got some fritters with bacon and a juice.

We then had a little loop around town, as part of the RideWA philosophy of seeing the towns we rode through, and riding all the best bits of road. We did a 9km loop down Ocean Beach Road, past the inlet and back into town, which was also a chance to let lunch settle and see if we needed more snacks. I did! We stopped in at the Chinese Bakery, which had an awesome range. I got an apple slice, one of my favourite bakery treats, and the first one I had seen on RideWA! I saved it for later and ate a donut.

Now properly onto the last leg, we left Denmark and headed out on South Coast Highway. My Dad lives just east of Denmark, and much to my surprise he came driving past us on the highway, tooting his horn! We waved and he pulled over, but then kept going – I didn’t know what was happening. But he had realised he stopped on an uphill, so he kept going until a flat area then pulled off again and got out of the car to give us banana hand-ups. We stopped, of course, and said hello and told him our plans for the rest of the day. Dad was going to meet us in Albany to bring us back to his place for the night, so we arranged where and when to meet (giving ourselves a generous time allowance).

Onward again, after a banana and feeling good from some positive human vibes. The traffic between Walpole and Albany was the most unfriendly, in terms of driver waves – we didn’t get a single wave all day. We turned off the highway onto Lower Denmark Road, passing through Youngs Siding. I went into the General Store to find a toilet, and they directed us to the public toilets at the hall. The terrain on Lower Denmark Road was flat and quite agricultural. It was also more exposed, but thankfully it wasn’t windy, although the rain showers kept threatening on and off.

We stopped at Elleker General Store, which was well stocked. I enjoyed my apple slice and bought a juice to support the store. It was nice to have a break. We continued on past other small towns, which we had never heard of – Cuthbert for one. Then the turn onto Princess Royal Drive for the entry to Albany. This was a busy road, but was the only practical way to get into town and to the harbour. As is traditional for long overland bike trips, we wanted to finish at the ocean, as we had started at the ocean in Broome so long ago.

It took a while to figure out a good spot and a way in for photos. We eventually pulled into the marina and got some photos overlooking Princess Royal Harbour. It was perfect timing, we got there just as the sun was setting through the clouds. We had time to use the public toilets to change out of our kit and into casual clothes before meeting up with my Dad. The plan was that we would have dinner out in Albany, but I hadn’t booked anything and it was a Saturday night. The place we planned to go was full! We decided to go to a Chinese place Dad recommended, but they did takeaway only so we ordered and took it back to Denmark to eat.

Day 28: Rest day in Denmark

We took the opportunity to have a rest day in Denmark, spending some time with my Dad and his partner, and doing some cruisey tourist things. Breakfast at Mrs Jones Cafe, a delicious beef pho from the Chinese Bakery for lunch, and gelato and wine tasting at Rockcliffe Wines. We also enjoyed a homemade roast dinner.

On Monday morning, Dad drove us into Albany where we had another cafe breakfast and then boarded the 8:30am bus to Perth. It was a bit of a mission convincing the bus driver that we were not going to take our bike wheels and luggage off, but we got everything sorted to our satisfaction.

It was sad to be saying goodbye to Dad, but happy to be heading back home where we could enjoy such luxuries as sleeping in the same bed for multiple nights, having a good shower with shampoo and conditioner, decent toilet paper, proper warm shoes, and being able to prepare and eat a variety of food that is right for my belly.

Until the next adventure!

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