This is a write-up of a my four day roam in the Darling Range to the east of Perth to shake down my new touring set-up including the Extrawheel Voyager. The ride takes in the Dandalup Campsite on the Munda Biddi Trail, the Mount Cooke Campsite on the Bibbulmun Track and the Wungong Campsite on the Munda Biddi Trail. The ride route was from Fremantle to Dandalup Campsite via Dandalup, then on to Mt Cooke Campsite via Dwellingup, then on to Wungong Campsite via Sullivan’s Rock. The final day is riding back to Fremantle via Jarrahdale.
My weapon of choice was my Surly Long Haul Trucker pulling my Extrawheel Voyager. I had Ortlieb Classic panniers on the front with sleeping gear and clothing and a pair of Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus panniers on the trailer. I didn’t need to use an additional two panniers to the rear of the bike was pannier free. A guide to my equipment list can be found here.
Day 1: Fremantle to Dandalup Campsite (Munda Biddi Trail) – 89 km of riding and 554 metres of slope at an average of 14.0 km/h
The route taken was my pretty standard exit route from Fremantle. This involves my riding south through Henderson before turning east on Anketell Road to the Kwinana Freeway PSP.Once on the PSP I headed south until Lakes Road, where I swung east again to North Dandalup. From North Dandalup I climbed Whittakers Hill (Road) before picking up theÂ Munda Biddi Trail at Scarp Road. If I was to do this ride again I would stay on Scarp Road longer picking up the Munda Biddi where it virtually kisses Scarp Road.
The first 82 kilometres where flat unexciting riding. Of course the day I rode there was moderate south-easterly winds blowing so I battled those all the way to North Dandalup. I made the mistake of pushing on through â€œlunch timeâ€ to have lunch at North Dandalup. By the time I got there, about two hours after when I should have had lunch I was hurting bad and very tired.
From North Dandalup, the climb up Whittakerâ€™s Road kicks in and I was knackered before it started. The lunch of course was not properly digested which didn’t help at all. All up Whittaker’s Road was very painful. It climbs rapidly, with a maximum grade of ~ 14% and is of course all pea-gravel, which means lots of spinning and hard work. With the loaded bike and trailer I had no choice but to walk most of it. It hurt.
One think to keep mind is that Whittaker’s Road peaks at a three way intersection. One should take the centre option continuing straight on over a rocky section of road to meet up with the Munda Biddi Trail.
Once Scarp Road is reached it is a mix of wide track and single track through to the campsite. Adding to the fun is lot of pea gravel. TheÂ Surly Long Haul Trucker with the Schwalbe Marathon Cross HS 334 tyres don’t play nice in pea gravel. I lowered the pressures to 65 which helped a little bit but really I need as wide as tyre as I can get for this sort of riding. Other than that the Surly coped with the short section of Munda Biddi. Differently not my first choice of bike for this sort of riding but!
The Dandalup campsite is in good condition, however I notice that they have moved the dropbox from up behind the campsite out to south side alongside the track into the campsite. It does still appear to be anEnivro Loo which is a good thing. No stink! The downside is the ugly sight of what is left of the old one.
One of the aspects of the Dandalup Campsite that I really enjoy is the views over the escarpment to the coast. Once again the campsite did not disappoint, putting on a beautiful sunset to be enjoyed over a coffee and dinner.
Despite the option of staying in the shelter at the campsite, I choose my preferred option which is to pitch the tent. I find it more comfortable, often warmer and quieter in the tent away from the shelters, so I rarely sleep in the shelters themselves.
Day 2: Dandalup Campsite to Mt Cooke Campsite (Bibbulmun Track) – 91 km of riding and 995 metres of slope at an average of 12.2 km/h
The plan today had been to ride theÂ Munda Biddi Trail through to pretty much South Dandalup Dam and then to head east on North-East Road. However, based on yesterday’s experience I took to Scarp Road as soon as I could and stuck to the roads through to South Dandalup Dam and then on to Dwellingup once I became aware that North-East Road is closed until 2015 due to mining activities.
The ride along Del Park Road takes one over the conveyor belt. Alcoa uses the belt to move bauxite from the mine through to the refinery on the escarpment. It was at the belt that I found out that the North-East Road was closed. Luckier I took the trouble to cross the road to read the big sign!
Just up the road from the conveyor belt is the South Dandalup Dam. It is not looking that healthy, despite the destructive practices of theÂ Water Corporation to maximise run-off (notice the clearing around the edge of the dam?)
From the Dam, I headed on to Dwellingup as I could pick up Duncan Road which allowed me to pretty much loop back to Albany Highway, to a point not that far south of where I intended to come out anyway. However as this means riding through a controlled area (Dieback [Phytophtora cinnamomi] Disease Risk Area and a Water Authority catchment) a permit is required fromÂ DEC Dwellingup. If you are riding through, not camping it shouldn’t be a problem getting a permit.
A helpful navigation tool throughout this area is the grid reference trees (and the odd road sign ). The reference trees are based on the old imperial grid reference system. If you have a map that shows the trees (e.g., Bibbulmun Track or the DEC 1:50 000 series maps) you can use the reference tree to confirm you location on the map. The only downside is that the trees are getting wiped out slowly due to fires and clearing so while they are handy, they can no longer be relied upon as a key navigation tool.
The detour however added 24 km to the day and a lot more climbing. It was one of those routes where I seemed to be forever, climbing a 7 to 8%+ grade for short period, then going down and then repeat and repeat and repeat. All on pea-gravel roads which meant going down was not much faster than going up.
As it was I lost the front end in some sand late in the day and went down. My first off for the ride.
Also within about 200 metres of the Mt Cooke Campsite on Cooke Road there is a washout which has a very serious descent into it and a damn hard climb out. I had to unload and make two trips to get the bike and gear out of the creek. Something to keep in mind.
Oh one more point. Albany Highway is a horror â€¦ hate those strips to keep people awake. Ever second driver seemed to feel the need to run along them when passing me! Drove me crazy.
At the end of the day it was nice to make the Mt Cooke Campsite on theÂ Bibbulmun Track. I did my normal trick and pitched the tent. The Bibbulmun Track Campsites are of a less sophisticated design to theÂ Munda Biddi Trail ones. I assume a lot was learnt from the experience of building the Bibbulmun Track and it has resulted in improved campsites on the Munda Biddi Trail.
The Mt Cooke Campsite was burnt down in the 2003 Mt Cooke bushfire so has been rebuilt in a slightly different location. Little remains from the original site.
The campsite also marks the edge of a dieback protection zone, so walkers are expected to clean their footwear before climbing the mountain, the whole 552 metres of mountain
Day 3: Mount Cooke Campsite (Bibbulmun Track) to Wungong Campsite (Munda Biddi Trail) – 44 km of riding and 430 metres of slope at an average of 10.6 km/h
It was nice to get going this morning as I did feel a little guilty camping at Mt Cooke. Silly really as I hadn’t ridden the Track into the campsite. Anyway, the first port of call within metres of leaving the campsite was â€œThe Washoutâ€. The descent in was more tricky that yesterday so it took three trips to get all the gear across to the other side. The photos I don’t think do justice to the angle or difficulty of the crossing.
From the washout I continued south to the southern end of Mt Cooke before swinging north-east on the Powerline Road (whoops shared the road with theÂ Bibbulmun Track for a kilometre I guess), From here the route picked up the Millars Log Road right through to the Balmoral POW Camp (historical site). Other than the Powerline Road this was reasonably riding on wide gravel road with the usual pea-gravel issues. Powerline Road is rougher for sure.
Millars Log Road passes by the southern side of Mt Vincent before through Sullivan’s Rock, but I didn’t bother to visit the rock. Been there done that numerous times before. Just did a quick rubbish dump into the roadside bins here and had a quick a snack before moving on.
The Jarrahdale Prisoner of War No. W20 (Balmoral) Camp was interesting so I stopped here for lunch and took the time to have a bit of a wander around the place. Sadly little remains of the Camp so it is hard to get a real sense of what it once was. Still it is our history and well worth persevering and remembering.
After lunch at Balmoral POW Camp it was back to the pea-gravel highway, theÂ Munda Biddi Trail for the last 12 kilometres or so to the Wungong Campsite. 37 Mile Road was very quickly remembered from my last ride through here. A lot of walking up and very slow descents; read little more than seven kilometres an hour and one foot unclipped stuff. The pea-gravel still was able to take me out once.
Once Jarrahdale Road was crossed it was very pleasant railway formation road riding all the way to the campsite; quite a change and a nice way to end the day’s riding.
I got into the campsite early today, around 2:00 pm so took the opportunity to have a bit of a nanna nap! Made up for the poor sleep from the night before. It finished the off the third day â€œhit the wall quite nicely.
Wungong Campsite is a very nice one; no great views, but it has a very in the bush feel about it. The vegetation is lush and close to the campsite giving it a great feel. It is one of the better campsites for sure in the northern half of the Trail.
On a personal note. MyÂ Brooks B67 Flyer is still taking its toll, not breaking in as fast as I would like. Nothing too serious and it is not making things worse but it is bad enough to remind me that it is there all the time. I remembered I had someÂ 3B Neat packed away today. What bliss! Instance relief and hopefully pretty much fully healed overnight. As long as the skin isn’t broken, 3B Neat is amazing stuff. Well worth a tube in the panniers in my view.
Day 4: Wungong Campsite (Munda Biddi) to Fremantle – 90 km of riding and 556 metres of slope at an average of 16.3 km/h
Today was my last day on the bike as part of this ride. I decided this morning to stick to the plan and rode the Munda Biddi from the campsite through to Jarrahdale. 37 Mile Road was much easier this morning heading south which made it more fun.
I stopped at the general store place in Jarrahdale for a early lunch. I had heard the burgers where pretty good. I can only assume this does not include the steakburger. That was nothing special for sure.
I pulled out of Jarrahdale taking on Nettleton Road. The final descent was fun for sure, hitting 60 km/h easily and the Extrawheel Voyager hanging of the back nicely.
Regretfully that is the where the fun ended. My choice of route from South West Highway didn’t turn out that great and my turning off Abernethy Road too early resulting in spending to much time on Thomas Road didn’t help. That said the Friday traffic wasn’t nice all the way from the South-West Highway through to Rockingham Road. I really need to re-think the options getting across to the coast.
In summary a good four day shake-down ride for me. The Extrawheel Voyager has worked out well with only one small problem to resolve. The Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri is great cooking system and I learnt a little more about my gear and some fine tuning is now planned.
If you are looking for a short four to five day ride out of Perth then I do recommend this route or maybe a variation of same.