Myself, Stuart, Perry and Mike undertook a road based bicycle tour from Esperance back to Perth via Salmon Gums, Peak Charles, Norseman, Hyden, Kondinin, Corrigin and Brookton. The ride took eight days on the bike, plus a day travelling to Esperance. Myself, Mike and Stuart flew to Esperance on Skywest Airlines Perry took the Transwa bus. It also outlines an alternative route for riders coming in from the eastern states or heading east for the section from Norseman to Perth. In my view this is a much more interesting option than stressing out on the Great Eastern Highway.
The ride itself turned out to be 1,024 km in distance, when really it should have been around 978 kilometres. The extra came about because we attempted to take a short cut to Peak Charles National Park based on what turned out to be an old and inaccurate map. I completed the ride on my Surly Long Haul Trucker which I fitted with racks and used my Deuter and Ortleib panniers.
The ride involves riding on bitumen roads of various widths along with over 357 km of dirt roads particularly on the road from Norseman to Hyden (The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail) and out to Peak Charles and return.
Accommodation in the towns was the local caravan park, whereas we camped out at Peak Charles, McDermid Rock and Forrestania Plots. Water needs to be carried for Peak Charles National Park, McDermid Rock and Forrestania Plots (we worked on four litres for each day riding and two litres for the overnight stay). It really depends on the temperature. We found we could easily consume three litres riding on some days.
Some thoughts on the approach taken:
Bike Boxes: A fully built up touring Surly Long Haul Trucker with front and rear racks, mudguards and kick stand does not fit into a Giant brand of bike box, well one that was used to ship out a medium-sized mountain bike. I found I had to remove the wheels, handlebars, seat post and rear derailleur as expected. What was not expected was the need to loosen off the front rack so I could fold it back, the need to remove the Hebie kick stand and the need to remove the rear mudguard. Once I had this all done, I was able to get the bike in along with my two front Ortlieb classic panniers, my tent, cycling shoes and a couple of water bottles and other small odds and ends and still close the box up so it did not look like it was bursting at the seams, well too much anyway.
Flying versus the bus: The actual flight was one hour 40 minutes, but we really needed to be out at the airport about an hour before, probably a bit early, then there was the packing time, the unpacking and re-assembly time (took a good two to three hours) and the taxi fare in from the airport to Esperance which cost $64 for the two of us. So was it worth it? I really don’t think so. I would be inclined to make it simple and go via the bus next time.
Maps: I threw out the map I used so cannot give specific the details but it was published Quality Publishing Australia (QPA). Frankly I would suggest staying clear of their maps if the one I had is anything to go by. It was not dated, it was inaccurate and printed on paper which didn’t handle life on the road for more than a day or two. I would suggest making use of StreetSmart Touring Map series. The one relevant to this ride is the Goldfields-Esperance map. Also for The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail there is a mud-map and information brochure available for download. West of Hyden the Hema map, Mid West Western Australia should be sufficient.
Public Holidays/Sundays: As we travelled over the Easter weekend accommodation was very limited in Esperance (we had to book our tent site in advance) and the shops were closed on the public holidays. I also noticed that in towns such as Norseman the shops were closed on the public holidays and generally the local IGA (grocery store) or similar did not open Sundays. Something to keep in mind with respect to re-supply.
Gear List: I have published a list of the gear I carry on my bicycle tours here.
Bike and Tyres: As indicated I rode my Surly Long Haul Trucker for this ride, fitted with front and rear panniers. I went with panniers as I was flying down to Esperance and really didn’t want a hassle with trying to pack my BOB Ibex trailer. Upon reflection I would have preferred to tour with the trailer over the panniers. I think it would have helped on the gravel sections (improve handling) and also into the winds. There was quite a bit of head and cross wind riding.
Other than the rear derailleur not selecting a key gear when used in index mode and loosing my cadence monitor magnet I had no bike maintenance issues. I did re-lube the chain at Norseman in preparation for the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail.
My tyre choice was Schwalbe Marathon Cross HS 334 tyres and I believe both Stuart and Mike also road with the same tyres. I found particularly with the tyre pressure lowered for the Peak Charles National Park section that they handled the gravel roads well and where reasonable on the bitumen. That said, there is clearly some noticeable rolling resistance on the bitumen as they sound like a four-wheel drive tyre, so would not be my first choice for bitumen road touring.
I didn’t have any punctures over the tour, however, Stuart did have one, the only one in the group. I believe his was caused by a stone. So overall I am happy with my choice of tyres fro this tour.
Photos: A small selection of photos are included here to illustrate the ride. The full gambit of photos that I took can be found in the tour gallery.
The Esperance to Perth Itinerary As it Panned Out – Actual Kilometres
|1 – Friday April 2, 2010||Perth to Esperance||Approximately 735 km by road. I flew down via Skywest Airlines.|
|2 – Saturday April 3, 2010||Esperance to Salmon Gums||114 km as we ducked back into Esperance for a spot of shopping.|
|3 – Sunday April 4, 2010||Salmon Gums to Peak Charles National Park||108 km as we took a “short cut.” Lot of rough gravel road riding on this route.|
|4 – Monday April 5, 2010||Peak Charles National Park to Norseman||114 km. Approximately 56 km of gravel road followed by good bitumen road. No facilities or towns on this section.|
|5 – Tuesday April 6, 2010||Norseman to McDermid Rock – The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail||131 km. With the exception of riding in Norseman itself this section is all gravel road. That said the road is in very good condition.|
|6 – Wednesday April 7, 2010||McDermid Rock to Forrestania Plots – The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail||131 km. Good riding on the gravel roads up to the shire boundary. Went downhill fast from there.|
|7 – Thursday April 8, 2010||Forrestania Plots – Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail to Kondinin||135 km. Very poor quality gravel road for 21 km then bitumen through to Kondinin. My route included a visit to Wave Rock and Karlgarin.|
|8 – Friday April 9, 2010||Kondinin to Brookton||143 km. Good bitumen road all the way. Corrigin is the only town passed through.|
|9 – Saturday April 10, 2010||Brookton to Churchlands||148 km. Brookton to Karragullen then urban riding through to Churchlands.|
Day 1 – Friday April 2, 2010 – Perth to Esperance
Myself, Mike and Stuart flew to Esperance on Skywest Airlines, whereas Perry travelled down via the Transwa bus service. In terms of flying, there was no hassle taking the bike on Skywest. It did need to be boxed up and they charged $20.00 to take it. I also had two panniers and my handlebar bag; again no issues with this luggage.
Myself, Perry and Mike camped at the Esperance Seafront Caravan Park. We did need to book in advance due to the Easter weekend. The site cost was $34.00 and the park is reasonable. It was booked out apparently for Easter.
Myself and Mike took a taxi in from the airport to Esperance. As we had two bike boxes a maxi-cab was required and hence we paid a premium for this. The cost was $64.00.
With the hassle of packing up the bike (see above), getting to the airport, getting from the Esperance airport into town and reassemble of the bike, I think I will just take the bus in future.
To get the Long Haul Trucker into the bike box I had to remove the rear mudguard, the kickstand, seat and pedals. As well I did remove and tape within the frame the rear derailleur and removed the handlebars. In addition I had to loosen the front rack to shorten the bike. The bike arrived in Esperance undamaged but the box did show signs of rough handling.
Day 2 Saturday April 3, 2010 – Esperance to Salmon Gums – 108 km
This is a flat route, average grade of 2 %, maximum 6% which is Six Mile Hill just out of Esperance. The total climb as recorded by my Sigma Sports ROX 9 was 441 metres. There is Telstra Next G coverage at Salmon Gums and a public phone booth.
The ride is all on bitumen and the road is good. Not much of a shoulder but fairly wide and well maintained. We found the traffic was fairly light and well-behaved. All up good riding on this section.
From Esperance the only hill on the route is Six Mile Hill at 6% incline. From here the ride is a gradual incline through to Salmon Gums. The first and really only stop in terms of food and drink is at Gibson, home of the Gibson Soak Hotel, a small store and postal agency which is about 28 km north of Esperance.
The next locality is Scadden. Scadden is now just a pioneer park, but well worth a stop. There is water available here and toilets.
On from Scadden is Grass Patch, which was our planned lunch stop. Well it is pretty much nothing more than a patch for sure. Basically it consists of a pretty unfriendly pub. Don’t expect anything much in the way of food, drink or friendly service. There is a water tap on the north side of the pub.
Next stop, Salmon Gums. Salmon Gums is a roadhouse, pub (cheap beer – we paid $2.50 for a stubby of Coopers) and a very friendly but basic caravan park. Camping cost $5.00 per person for a tent site, use of a picnic table, shower and a sink to clean dishes etc in. No camp kitchen but. We had a great night here as it was the caretaker’s birthday so he put a barbecue on for all the people staying the park. Charged $5.00 for a feed. Money well spent!
Day 3 – Saturday April 3, 2010 – Salmon Gums to Peak Charles National Park – 72 km
This is a fairly flat route, average grade of 1%, maximum 4%, however the route is pretty much all gravel/sandy rough roads; not the best and hard going at times. The total climb as recorded by my Sigma Sports ROX 9 was 424 metres. I forgot to note if there was Telstra Next G coverage at Peak Charles National Park camping ground – whoops.
Well our 72 kilometre ride plus climb of Peak Charles turned into a 108 km slog on mainly gravel roads and no time to climb Peak Charles. The joys of using what turned out to be a rather old map and/or incorrect one. Our map showed a track from Hanson Road through to Peak Charles which would save a fair few kilometres. It didn’t as the track no longer exists. It is farm land now days.
The correct route is to head north on Esperance – Norseman Road until turning left on to the Kumarl – Lake King Road. From this road one turns left again on to the Norseman-Lake King Road and eventually off to Peak Charles itself. The first 25 kilometres is on bitumen and then the road goes to pack with some pretty rough riding through to the Norseman – Lake King Road. It improves here for bit before again getting rough as one enters the National Park.
At Peak Charles there is a basic campsite which is poorly positioned as it got very windy here, with the wind swirling around. In terms of facilities, there are picnic tables, fire pits and a drop-box toilet. There is no water at Peak Charles.
The walk to the Peak Charles Lookout is a medium 2 km, 1 hour climb. The sign at the campground suggests to allow three hours for the return climb to the summit.
Day 4 – Monday April 5, 2010 – Peak Charles National Park to Norseman – 108 km
This is an undulating route, average grade of 2%, maximum 7%. The route is gravel/sandy rough roads for the first 56 km; not the best and hard going at times. The total climb as recorded by my Sigma Sports ROX 9 was 535 metres. There is Telstra Next G coverage at Norseman and there are public phone booths available.
As with the day before, the gravel roads where pretty rough for most of the 56 km. Lots of corrugations and rocky sections. One thing that did help on the gravel section was reducing the tyre pressure to 60 psi front and back.
As it was Easter Monday, the IGA (grocery store) was closed. We where able to do a reasonable re-supply at the BP Roadhouse which was reasonably priced as well. It is open 24 hours a day.
We camped at the Gateway Caravan Park in Norseman. Cost was $26.00 for a site, i.e., $6.50 per person. Good facilities including a camp kitchen and laundry.
There are no towns on this section, in fact there is nothing from Salmon Gums so we ensured we carried sufficient water and food for lunch for the two days.
Day 5 – Tuesday April 6, 2010 – Norseman to McDermid Rock – 131 km
Norseman to McDermid Rock
This is an undulating route. The route is very good gravel roads once you leave Norseman. The average grade is 2%, maximum 5%. The total climb as recorded by my Sigma Sports ROX 9 was 672 metres. There is no Telstra Next G coverage at McDermid Rock.
This by far the more interesting section of the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail in my view. It starts with Lake Cowan at Norseman and includes other interesting sites including the Gemfields and Woodlands picnic areas, Disappointment Rock (walk trail) and the camping locations of Lake Johnston and McDermid Rock (walk trail as well).
Once we got the obligatory photos taken in Norseman we where off on the 297 km Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail heading to Hyden with our first planned stop being McDermid Rock. There is a road condition status board to show the road status just as you leave Norseman; mind you the alternatives are a long way on a bike if you are heading west and the road is closed. Luckily for us it was all go for us on this ride.
After the road status sign, Granite and Woodlands Trail follows the Lake Cowan causeway. Lake Cowan is the first interpretative point as you leave Norseman.
After Lake Cowan you join the Norseman-Hyden Road proper and again there are warning signs. This time of the road trains that ply the route out from Norseman to the mines west of McDermid Rock, We only came across a few road-trains and all of them where professional, slowing down as they passed us.
The next stopping point on the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail as you head west to Hyden, is Woodlands. Woodlands Walk Trail is nothing more than rest stop and maybe wild camping area if needed. It is about 7.5 km east of the Lake Cowan Lookout.
From Woodlands the Trial continues on to Disappointment Rock, a low rock with an easy 1,900 metre walk with plenty of interpretative sights along the way. A nice break from riding.
After Disappointment Rock, is Lake Johnston. Lake Johnston is considered the key feature on this section of the The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail. Stretching out on the south side is the major pan of the lake where as to the east a large lunette has developed. The interesting thing about Lake Johnston is that it is not one lake, but rather a chain of playas stretching some 100 km from its northern end to its southern end. With a good rain it turns into a “proper” blue-water lake.
From Lake Johnston we rode on to our planned overnight campsite at McDermid Rock. Whilst there is no water on the Trail, it is possible that there will be water on McDermid Rock after rains. There are rock pools and a small dam on the rock. The small dam on the Rock was built by J. O. Magee who was granted a pastoral lease in the area in mid-1950s. It is believed the dam was built to try and provide water for the stock. The lease was cancelled in 1958 and then ended the attempts at pastoralism in the area.
At McDermid Rock camping area, which is about 1.5 km in from the Hyden – Norseman Road, has a few picnic tables and fire rings along with a drop-box toilet but no water tanks. There is also a 1,271 metre walk trail on the rock, the McDermid Rock Walk Trail which is worth completing. It is quite informative.
Day 6 – Wednesday April 7, 2010 – McDermid Rock to Forrestania Plots – 131 km
McDermid Rock to Forrestania Plots
Day six of our bicycle ride from Esperance to Perth found us “enjoying” the second day on The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail as we continued west towards Hyden. Today we aimed for Forrestania Plots.
This is an undulating route. The route is very good gravel roads up to the Shire Boundary where the condition of the road deteriorates quickly. It really is quite a contrast in road conditions between the efforts of the Shire of Dundas on one hand the total lack of effort by the Shire of Kondinin on the other. Due to problems with my Sigma ROX 9 I have no other data for this section. There is no Telstra Next G coverage at Forrestania Plots.
On a sad note, there is a road-side memorial to Hayley Scott-Healey who was killed on this road in a motor vehicle crash on January 1, 2008. I sad reminder to be careful on the roads at all times.
The next significant point on The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail is Emily Ann, about 32 kilometres west of McDermid Rock. Emily Ann is an information site about the nearby mines and really not much else other than a short and I mean short section of bitumen.
After another 24 kilometres on the The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail is The Breakaways. The Breakaways are worth taking the time to drop off the Norseman-Hyden Road for a visit. There is also good camping here but it can get very cold here at night in winter.
Continuing on from The Breakaways is Grevillea Hill. Nothing more than a picnic table here. Stuart punctured here. IIRC the only puncture on the tour.
The next information point on the road is the Shire Boundary which marks the leaving of the Shire Dundas and at the time great a great road to ride and the entering of the Shire of Kondinin and a shockingly rough ride from here until we popped back out on to the bitumen west of the State Barrier Fence. It was amazing to experience the difference in road conditions and how a change in attitude to road maintenance can make such a difference to the experience of The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail. I hope the Shire of Kondinin now has its act together. If you have more recent experiences of the Norseman – Hyden Road do let us know via the comments below.
After the Shire Boundary we continued on to Forrestania Plots which was our camping stop for the night. Forrestania Plots is nothing more than a rest area with space further in from the road that can be used for camping. There is nothing else here; no fire ring, no toilet and most importantly to note, no water at all. We camped behind the pull in area which is sheltered by the pine trees and is quite flat.
Day 7 – Thursday April 8, 2010 – Forrestania Plots to Kondinin 135 km
Day seven of our Esperance to Perth ride had us on the undulating route leaving Forrestania Plots and The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail at Hyden and back into riding the bitumen in the wheatbelt.
According to Google Maps and my Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail guide this route is only 107 km, however, I recorded a route length of 135 km. I did visit Wave Rock and Karlgarin but these diversions do not explain the discrepancy. I know it felt like 135 km!
The riding is very poor gravel road for approximately 21 km and then the bitumen starts. The road did improve a little bit west of the State Barrier Fence but was really saved by the now extended section of bitumen coming in at the 21 km point. Of course where the Shire gives, the Shire takes away and the undulations started and they last pretty much for the rest of the route.
Before the State Barrier Fence we passed the Holland Track (this is probably the southern end of what is left of the “real” Holland Track and something I would like to ride.) Not long after the Holland Track we came upon the State Barrier Fence and one and only cattle grid for the road. The State Barrier Fence pretty well marks the end of the dirt road riding and not long afterwards we were back on the bitumen.
Once you leave the dirt the next point of interest before coming into Hyden is Wave Rock. There are a few facilities at Wave Rock along with the scenic attractions of course. The Visitors Centre does food and there is a store at the caravan park (I didn’t actually go in to the store so not sure how useful it would be for re-supply).
From Wave Rock it is about four kilometres into Hyden. Hyden has really improved in recent years and now has a great bakery and IGA. I think we all pretty much re-supplied here at the IGA.
The road from Hyden is quite reasonable and the traffic is pretty light. The road does deteriorate marginally on the edges west from the Kalgarin Hills.
Camping at Kondinin was at the town caravan park (grass area). It cost us $8.00 + a $10.00 key deposit each which I didn’t use nor need. The shower/toilet was open all night. The only downsides with this caravan park is that the Shire does not seem to believe in global warming, leaving instead all the lights on overnight. There did not seem anyway to turn them off, so we were spot-lighted for the night. Does this make us celebrities? Oh there is no camp kitchen here at the “caravan park.”
Day 8 – Friday April 9, 2010 – Kondinin to Brookton 143 km
Todays ride was our eight-day on our tour from Esperance to Perth and it would turn out to be our next to the last day. This section is an undulating route. The route is good bitumen road for the ride. The average grade is 2%, maximum 5%. The total climb as recorded by my Sigma Sports ROX 9 was 699 metres. There is Telstra Next G coverage at Corrigin and Brookton as well as public phone booths.
The ride through to Corrigin is very good with Gorge Rock being worth a visit if you have the time. Corrigin is the major town on this wheatbelt section of the ride. Corrigin has a few shops including a hardware, IGA and a chemist. Corrigin is famous for two things: Dog in a Ute and its Dog Cemetery.
From Corrigin, the road is a bit more patchy, but still good riding. The most frustrating aspect of today’s riding was the flies … had to resort to extreme measures to keep them at bay …
The “big” hills are just out of Brookton of course. Brookton has a co-op which is good for resupply and a couple of roadhouses but not much else .
We camped at the Caravan Park and Camping Ground which is very expensive! The charge to camp is $17.00 per person or $17.00 for two persons in one tent. Whilst it did have a grass area to camp on, there is no camp kitchen and compared to all the other places we camped at, this is just a blatant rip-off. Frankly I doubt I would bother staying in Brookton again and would plan my rides to avoid the town where possible.
Day 9 – Saturday April 10, 2010 – Brookton to Churchlands (Perth) 150 km
This was our final day of riding from Esperance to Perth and it was a fairly big day. This is more of a hilly route where the average grade is 3% and the maximum 7%. The total climb as recorded by my Sigma Sports ROX 9 was 1,193 metres.
This was the most unpleasant section of the ride. The traffic increased significantly between Brookton and Karragullen with the behaviour of the drivers also deteriorating as they volume increased. There was also a fair bit of road train traffic on this section. Frankly I was glad to get off the Brookton Highway and whilst there was still Orrong Road to come, at least there was an end in sight and bike paths to come.
The section through to Karragullen was by far the hilliest section and overall I recorded 1,193 metres on today’s ride.
This section of the route crosses both the Bibbulmun Track and Munda Biddi Trail both of which provide possible camping spots. Should I go this way again, I would consider making use of the Brookton Campsite on the Bibbulmun Track as it can be easily accessed by bicycle and is only a few kilometres off Brookton Highway.
There is really not much more to add to this day’s report. Once we cleared the hills it was typical suburban riding. I did take the “long route” to Churchlands so I could tick off 1,000 km for the ride.
Overall this is a good ride and one worth considering if you are looking to explore the wheatbelt of Western Australia or are looking for an alternative route from Perth out to Norseman on to the Nullabor or vice versa. Personally I would go through Hyden and on to Norseman rather than taking on Great Eastern Highway but then I do enjoy riding the dirt. I would also consider looking at an alternative route maybe through to Jarrahdale and then into Perth that way to avoid the Brookton Highway.
Anyway your questions or comments are most welcome below.