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Bikepacking the Holland Track in Western Australia

Salsa Anything Cage HD


Updated October 24, 2016


This post is about cycling the Holland Track from Hyden to Coolgardie with an extension on to Kalgoorlie in September, 2016 on my bikepacking configured Salsa Mukluk fatbike. This will be my inaugural bikepacking ride so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.  This post is going to be a work in progress as I document my planning and later riding of the Holland Track in Western Australia. Working notes for me and anyone curious in riding the Holland Track.

Also with this post I am going to document some of the gear choices I make as move from what may be described as a traditional pannier based touring style where I didn’t have a strong focus on weight carried or volume of gear carried to where I have much more limited carrying space and hence volume and weight become more important, e.g., my Chasing the Dirt Tour.

That said riding the Holland Track as planned means there will be no re-supply points between Hyden and Coolgardie and hence I need to carry sufficient food and water.  Riding in spring, late September, assuming good winter rains there should be water available at a couple of granite rock outcrops, Thursday Rock and Victoria Rock. However Thursday Rock is likely to be three days riding from Hyden and Victoria Rock is four days riding, hence I will need to carry at least three days water for most of the ride, i.e., about 18 litres or look at the possibility of a couple water drops to spread the load.  If water drops turn out to not be an option I will need to pull my Extrawheel trailer. The trailer will only be used to carry the water for the first three days.

Holland Track: Planned Ride Schedule and Logistics

My window of time to complete this ride is very much limited by work and hence I have a one week window in September, 2016.  Easter is probably a better option timewise but then you are also likely to be sharing the Track with a lot more 4WDrivers due to its popularity. Winter is the other option but apparently the track can be closed if there is a lot of rain, so I am back to having one week in September.

Normally my preference is to either bus to the start and finish of a ride or ride from home, but with the Holland Track bus options are limited.  Transwa only services Hyden once a twice a week, Tuesdays ex Perth and Thursdays ex Esperance.  Add to this, the only bus service to Coolgardie and/or Kalgoorlie is via Esperance (two days ex Perth).  Coolgardie is also only serviced twice a week with the outgoing bus service on Fridays ex Kalgoorlie and the incoming bus from Esperance on Sundays. Kalgoorlie, a 40 kilometre ride from Coolgardie is better serviced with outgoing buses three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and incoming buses three times a week on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Most of the services connect in Esperance with Perth buses. It just requires an overnight stay.

The Transwa rail service to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, the Prospector, does not take bicycles, well unless they are folders and in a bag that is. Transwa bicycle transport terms and conditions are available  here; currently there is a $15.00 charge for bicycles.

Given all the above plus a prior commitment on the first Sunday of my one week window my plan is now to do a water-drop drive to Hyden in one day (Saturday), catch the Transwa bus to Hyden on the Tuesday, ride to Kalgoorlie and then catch the return bus to Esperance and onwards to Perth. Oh the joys of wanting to undertake a more interesting bicycle tour in Western Australia 🙂

Holland Track: The Route and Schedule Summary

Holland Track

DAYFROMTODISTANCE ESTIMATENOTES
SaturdayPerthMt Holland900 kmComplete pre-ride water drops
Day 1 - TuesdayEast Perth PerthHyden (Transwa bus) then ride to Emu Rock66 kmTranswa bus service EP3 arrives at Hyden at 12:40. Hopefully about a three to four hour ride from Hyden to Emu Rock. My chosen route from Hyden is selected to avoid as much bitumen as possible.
Day 2 - WednesdayEmu Rock Sandalwood Camp78 kmWater drop at Emu Rock; Water drop at Mt Holland enroute to the dry camp at Sandalwood Camp
Day 3 - ThursdaySandalwood CampThursday Rock99 kmWater anticipated at Thursday Rock
Day 4 - FridayThursday RockVictoria Rock52 kmWater anticipated at Victoria Rock; Popular local camping area
Day 5 - SaturdayVictoria RockCoolgardie47 km
Day 6 - SundayCoolgardieKalgoorlie42 kmEnd of Trip
Day 7 - MondayKalgoorlieEsperance-Transwa bus service 671 - Departs 14:30, arrives 19:30
Day 8 - TuesdayEsperanceEast PerthTranswa bus service EP6. Departs at 08:00 and arrives at East Perth at 18:15
Schedule timetable for riding the Holland Track to Coolgardie and on to Kalgoorlie.

Holland Track – Done and Dusted

I completed my ride of the Holland Track in September 2016. The following is my summary of the ride including the trip down on the bus from East Perth to Hyden and the then return via Transwa from Kalgoorlie to Esperance to East Perth.

Day 1: East Perth to Emu Rock on the Holland Track

Transwa Volvo B11R with Irizar i6 Body

Transwa Volvo B11R with Irizar i6 Body

My day started with a mix of riding, train and a Transwa bus.  Transwa have new buses which it turns out have luggage spaces that are not as high as the old buses and maybe a bit smaller overall.  Definitely a tight fit for my bike; expect to have to remove the front wheel. Also on this leg at least, they enforced the limit of two bikes, so it pays to book in advance.  The bonus with the new buses is that they come with USB charging ports times two. Handy for keeping the phone etc charged whilst traveling.

The bus trip from East Perth to Hyden is pretty straight forward. I left East Perth at 8:00 AM and was off the bus at 12:40 PM. A quick unloading and check of everything and I was off on my adventure.  As today’s riding was mainly paths, bitumen roads and hard pack dirt roads I had the tyres on the Mukluk pumped up to their max at 30 PSI.  I didn’t feel this was a disadvantage and with the tail winds I rode hard and fast; is 20 km/h fast? 🙂

The weather started out okay when I left Hyden with it blowing hard but in the last few kilometres before Emu Rock it bucketed down. That led me to bailing for the day a bit earlier than planned.  Of course after getting all setup,  it stopped raining and cleared up. Duh.

This was my first night in my new tent, a Zpacks Duplex and whilst I had pitched it home, I did have a bit of fun with it on this first night. Thankfully over the ride I got my pitching of the tent pretty well sorted and it worked well. Love the light weight, the space, oh the space,  but the packed size is a bit on the bulky side. Apparently rolling is better than stuffing with Cuben Fibre tents but it didn’t seem to make much difference to me.

Oh it turned out to be the coldest night of the ride, easily sub-zero and of course I had managed to leave my puffy jacket at home!  Stupid stupid stupid. Thankfully my Icebreaker thermal, plus riding shirt plus RAB rain jacket came to the rescue, well sort of. Lets just say it was a bloody cold night!  Lesson learnt: If you take something out of the bag, put it back!

Holland Track Day 1 Lake Carmody Road

Holland Track Day 1: A taste of the road riding heading into the Holland Track from Hyden. This was the last section of the Lake Carmody Road before swinging north on to the Track itself.

All that said, I was happy with my route chosen to get to the start of the Holland Track with the local roads in good condition and reasonably flat riding.

In terms of phone coverage, I had nothing on my Telstra blue tick phone at the base of Emu Rock but I didn’t get up on top of the rock so maybe there might be a bit of reception there. It was too cold for me to bother checking.

On the water front it turned out that there is very good water catchment at Emu Rock with a vast amount of water on the eastern side of the track and also a kilometre or two north of Emu Rock. That said this winter was pretty wet so it maybe not so positive in a dry winter.

 

 

Holland Track – Useful Sources of Information

Most sources of information I have found on the Holland Track are from a 4WD perspective or motorbike perspective.  There is little around from a cycling perspective. That said the 4WD resources have been useful to me in planning this ride.  The main resources I have made use of are:

  • The Holland Track guide-book, Explore the Holland Track and Cave Hill Woodlines, Explorer Series: Western Australia No. 1 3rd edition.  Published by Westate Publishers Pty Ltd, Kalamunda, WA 6926.
  • Holland Track – This webpage is a bit dated now but is handy for the GPS coördinates to various points on the Track.
  • The Holland Track – A more contemporary trip report on the Track.
  • From a cycling perspective there has been some discussion at the Australian Cycling Forums including a trip report of a ride undertaken in November when it starts to get hot out on the Track.

10 Responses to Bikepacking the Holland Track in Western Australia

  1. lodgej June 1, 2016 at 5:59 AM #

    I’ve looked at doing this track on my bike for a few years now. Congrats on making a plan to do it. The transport issues have always stumped me. The thought of a 2 day bus trip to get home always put me off. I have contacted Transwa on a couple of occasions about their lack of help in the bicycle department and have met with mixed responses. The latest response was much more positive and it appears it may be possible to transport more than 2 bikes to Northam/ Merredin at one time providing a fair amount of notice can be given and you don’t book through the normal channels. Perhaps this same person can help with bike transport on the Kalgoorlie train. I haven’t pushed that one.

    • Andrew Priest (Aushiker) June 1, 2016 at 12:42 PM #

      Thanks for your comments. You raise a good point re the trains and maybe this is something to at least follow-up with the Minister for Transport. The more folks that raise the issue, the more chance we have of it being addressed.

  2. Lance Deegan June 2, 2016 at 10:53 AM #

    About 10 years ago, I looked at doing this ride but none of my mates would come with me. What worried them (and me if it came to that) were some pictures we saw of long sandy stretches. To this day, I’ve never been there so I don’t know if these stretches of deep sand are typical or even exist at all. Either way, 78 then 99km on a 4WD track are going to be a couple of long hard days.

    • Aushiker June 2, 2016 at 12:29 PM #

      I guess I will find out soon enough 🙂 One of the reasons I am going riding the Salsa Mukluk is the possibility of some sand. That said I have done 100 km days on dirt before and others are reporting completing the ride in less time than me so hopefully it is doable.

    • Aushiker June 2, 2016 at 8:17 PM #

      Forget to post this comment from a Facebook post. This is referring to ride undertaken in May 2016:

      Not much sand but there is some, a few big holes but on the bike the centre was rideable. It was great fun. If you ride a MTB get the fattest tyres you can run on your rims. Most of the trail is hard pack and pea gravel.

  3. robertirogers June 11, 2016 at 12:21 PM #

    My wife and I are coming to Alice and doing the Great Central Road in August. We’ve been following Erwin (Cycle Run Australia on FB) and he’s just finishing up at Uluru. He didn’t report any rain for two weeks on the track, so it might be a dry. year? However it was raining at Uluru.

    Should we expect rain in August? You will be closer to the ocean; does it rain more there? We rode Oz counter clockwise in 2000/2001 and passed through Perth Sept 17 and we didn’t have any rain until one day in Albany.

    I believe you know Ken Steinhoff; he and I worked together 45 plus years ago.

    Let us know about rain patterns if you will, we have trouble getting good weather info on Oz here in the U.S.

    We’re at: http://newbohemians.net (Around Australia by Tandem Bicycle)

    all the best,
    Bob (and Claire) Rogers

    • Aushiker June 14, 2016 at 8:44 PM #

      Hi Bob and Claire. Uluru is a very very long way away from Fremantle in Western Australia so I am now aware of rain patterns so cannot help you from personal experience. However the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is a great resource for this sort of information. Wind roses are handy and their climate data is also very useful in terms of rain and temperatures.

      I hope this helps and safe travels.

      • robertirogers June 15, 2016 at 12:11 PM #

        Thank you for your links. We’ll be following your trip. It sounds like an interesting track. We could just keep going to Perth! Not. We’ll probably be ready for some bitumen.

  4. George September 1, 2016 at 8:43 PM #

    Hi Andrew,

    How are the plans coming together? I’ll be interested in reading how you go.

    • Aushiker September 5, 2016 at 2:39 PM #

      Plans are going good. Bike is ready; gear has been revised to adopt an ultralight approach. Test packing planned for the weekend then all that is left is do a run down to drop off water and it is all on. I will update once it has happened (or not).

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