In July 2012 I had the opportunity to take three months long service leave and my plan was to use this time to challenge myself with a bicycle ride from Darwin to Perth via a mix of coastal and inland routes. Regretfully after only four days of riding through Litchfield National Park and having arrived at Adelaide River I had to bail to Darwin and eventually back to Perth as I had come down with a serious bout of influenza. It took me three weeks to recover before I was able to head out again, this time on a shortened ride of ~ 3,000 kilometres in Western Australia, the Chasing the Dirt – Out and Back to Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) by Bicycle Tour.
This page summaries first leg of the Chasing the Dirt – Out and back to Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) by Bicycle Tour, riding from the start at Fremantle (Perth) through to Geraldton via a bit of a zig zag route a little inland from the coast.
This leg was 661 kilometres and I took nine days to get Geraldton plus I had a rest day in Geraldton. The break down of the tour is as follows. It is written in the present tense as I wrote the notes up each day in the tent using my Apple iPad 2.
Day 1 – Saturday August 11, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Fremantle to Two Rocks
90 km with 575 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.6 km/h.
Not my best day touring. For some reason for the first time ever my thigh muscles decided to play up and boy by around two hours into the ride they where hurting and they hurt every time I got a sniff of a climb. Easily knock two kilometres off my average speed and cost me a good hour of riding I reckon. That said, other than my thighs, the ride was pretty much as expected. The traffic was well the traffic; that is this is not the best riding traffic wise once I pulled on to Marmion Avenue at Burns Beach Road and that is despite the shoulder. There is a serious need for tolerance in them northern suburbs. Up to Burns Beach Road there is some nice riding along the coast to Burns Beach.
Getting closer to Two Rocks meant more “considerate” driving not and of course the need to yell at me. Really do wonder sometimes. So it was good to get clear of Two Rocks and swing west. Not long before Wanneroo Road there are some pine plantations and as it was getting late into the day I found a track and headed off in search of a bush camp.
As it turned out I find a good spot and was within minute visited by a very big kangaroo. Friendly too. Also later on a vehicle drove past on a track not far from where I camped. Joys of Saturday night camping on the outskirts of metropolitan Perth.
So all up a day of road bashing with some good moments and some not so good: one of those things one needs to do to clear the city.
The Surly Long Haul Trucker played nicely today and all my gear worked well with the exception of the Ortlieb Bottle Cages with both of them detaching themselves within a few kilometres of the start. Thankfully I heard them hit the ground and saved my methylated spirits, my stove fuel. I did jury rig them back on to the bike and one survived the rest of the tour but the other did a runner later on, lost forever. I have raised this with Ortlieb who are aware of the problem and have stated that they have modified the mounting brackets. They are also sending me a replacement.
I was also able to get Telstra Next G coverage at my campsite.
That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Two Rocks.
Day 2 – Sunday August 12, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Two Rocks to West Gingin
43 km with 348 metres of climbing at an average of @ 11.2 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 133 km
Well today was an interesting one; one of a lot of pain and fruststation. I really need to get my tour legs soon. The day started off pretty good; a few mechanical niggles which turned out well. I found the front brake was rubbing which explained yesterday’s hard day. The cause of that little issues was that I had not tightened the Pitlock skewer enough hence the front wheel was out of alignment and moving a touch. It seems that the Pitlocks need a lot more tension that I initially thought.
Once I got going I had a nice time riding on the limestone forestry tracks before coming out on Military Road and back to bitumen. Military Road was good going until I hit the wall when I swung west on to Gingin Brook Road and the on to Cowalla Road. I really mean a wall: I swung straight into what the Bureau of Metrology refers to as strong wind (an understatement in my view) northerly headwind which faced riding into for 30 km on Cowalla Road. The wind plus endless undulations where not fun! At around 2:00 PM the rain storm hit to cap off the day. A this point I was still facing 15 more kilometres of headwind and the rain lashing into me when I saw a sign for the Back to Nature Caravan Park. That was it for me, somewhere to camp. It is a fairly new caravan park run by Sheila and Harry, really nice people. Very nice private ablutions, recreation room, camp kitchen etc. $15.00 to put up the tent but because of the rain Harry let me use his caravan which he uses as a workshop. Really nice of him.
Anyway if I stick to my plan, I am now a day behind. Will think about the options and see what the weather is like tomorrow.
I was also able to get Telstra Next G coverage at Back to Nature Caravan Park.
That ends the day and this touring note from the caravan at Back to Nature Caravan Park.
Day 3 – Monday August 13, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: West Gingin to Regans Ford
46 km with 179 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.5 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 179 km.
It was a funny day of riding to day. I don’t seem to have got my riding legs back properly after my enforced month of the bike due to the flu (see Dreaming Tour for what could have been). Anyway today should have been easy riding as the Back to Nature Caravan Park was the at the high point on Cowalla Road (tell tale telecommunication tower) and well swinging east should have come with a south-westerly right? Wrong. It seems going by the olive trees that the prevailing wind was from the south-east today and of course it was right into my face. Ah the joys of the touring cyclist.
For those preferring to bush camp there are opportunities at the Cowalla Road/Orange Springs Road and north of here on Cowalla Road. Of course I found this out today instead of yesterday when a bush camp would be have been handy, but then that hot shower was so nice.
I am now at Regans Ford Caravan Park. Regans Ford which is on the banks of the Moore River consists of the caravan park (which has lost its mojo in my view), the roadhouse (not bad food for a roadhouse (not a resupply point) and Regans Ford itself where camping is not allowed (I saw six signs saying no camping I guess that are serious about that point :)). Pity as on the north side there is a nice little spot for a bit of stealth camping after dark if you don’t mind the highway traffic.
One highlight from today was coming across my fruit and vege fridge from my previous sojourn through this area. Only advocardos on offer today so I passed them up.
The rain from yesterday didn’t get on with the Squirt Lube which I had applied to the Surly Long Haul Trucker’s chain which is probably fair enough given it is a dry lube. Anyway I needed to reapply the lube as it had washed out. So first lube of the chain without cleaning or degreasing was done at 179 km.
I was able to get Telstra Next G coverage at Regans Ford.
That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Regans Ford Caravan Park.
Day 4 – Tuesday August 14, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Regans Ford to Waddi Bush Resort
76 km with 803 metres of climbing at an average of @ 13.0 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 255 km
Back on the bike and now to the east of the Brand Highway. Overall I have had a good day. I feel like I am getting my bike legs back even though this was a day of beaut weather, undulation after undulations, headwinds and some rain.
My route today had me taking the Dandaragan Way (Dandaragan Road, Badgingarra Road) and Koonah Road rather than fighting with the trucks on Brand Highway. Even with the Indian Ocean Drive opening by all accounts the truck traffic on the Brand Highway is far worse than my ride of the highway in 2009.
Having heard truck after truck going up and down Brand Highway the night before I am pleased I took the Dandaragan Way which is a 78 km alternative route between Regan’s Ford and Badgingarra. I highly recommend this alternative route for the touring cyclist. There is camping at Waddi Bush Camp ($20) and at the Dandaragan Transit Park ($20.00 for an unpowered site). Had I known about the Dandaragan Transit Park I would probably have ridden here yesterday rather than camping at Regans Ford.
An interesting place on this route is the Dandaragan Catholic Cemetery which was opened in June 1890 and closed in April 1927. There is little left there now but one grave is of the nine year old son of John McVee; John helped build the cemetery. How sad is that?
I also came across this “artwork” at the intersection of Badgingarra Road and Dandaragan Road. Really not sure how to describe it.
One final comment for the touring cyclist and that is the Dandaragan store/post office has a reasonable range of goods to supplement supplies if needed.
Waddi Bush Camp is pretty run down now days so don’t expect too much here. That said there are showers, there is power and there is bush, just no Telstra Next G coverage as the Camp is in a mobile phone tower shadow.
That ends the day and this touring note from the room at Waddi Bush Camp.
Day 5 – Wednesday August 15, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Waddi Bush Resort to Little Three Springs Reserve
98 km with 699 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.0 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 353 km
The grand plan for today was to go into the Stockyard Gully Caves within the Stockyard Gully National Park and camp there. I hadn’t however reckoned on the 4WD only marking on the map really meaning 4WD only; sand on deep sand is this track so no riding for this bunny. After humming and haring and it getting dark I gave up on pushing my bike the five kilometres of the track and retreated to Little Three Springs Reserve and in the dark found a spot to camp. Next morning I saw the no camping sign. Whoops! That said just a little further along the eastern leg of Woolmulla Road there are lots of opportunities for camping off the road. Had I known…
Back to the day’s ride. After leaving Waddi Bush Resort I picked up Biddy Road through to the Emu Downs Wind Farm, taking a moment to pull in at the Drummond Reserve Rest Area.
At Yerramullah Road, the home to the best mailbox I have ever seen, I swung north leaving the bitumen for pretty much the rest of the day. I followed Yerramullah Road north before picking Cantabilling Road and Black Arrow Road. Then back to the bitumen for the climb of the range that runs north south through the Mt Lesueur National Park. The climb is worth it with great views to be had out to Green Head and the ocean and of course a screamer of a decent (50 km/h + with the Extrawheel Voyager trailer. Loved it :)). At the bottom of the range I again hit dirt picking up Cockleshell Gully Road which is a beaut ride through Mt Leseuer National Park until Cockleshell Gully creek when the climbing starts again. To add to the ride through here, the wildflowers where starting to come out when I went through.
Oh, on Yerramullah Road I passed the farm, Yerramullah Park, which it seems is the home of the “best mailbox I have ever seen.” It was rather ironic but to see the swagman at the gate with a sign further behind making it clear that visitors where not welcome.
The dirt roads through here are pretty firm, maybe a bit muddy after rain. Pretty much as per the photo of Yerramullah Road.
With regards to my gear, the Extrawheel Voyager trailer had fun flicking mud everywhere so maybe my removing of the mudguard was not such a smart idea. I also had my homemade quilt stored in a Sea to Summit compression sack which was in turn mounted on the Upper Rack of the trailer. It managed to rub against the tyre and now I have a hole in the sack. Thankfully no damage to the quilt.
Also my Exped Synmat UL 7S has managed to delaminate and tube has come unstuck creating a single channel, a big lump out of two channels. The lump runs down the middle of the mat which is also now leaking. I am luckily if I can get five hours of sleep on the mat before I need to pump it. Mainpeak have come to the party and I have a replacement mat heading to Geraldton for me to collect.
That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Little Three Springs Reserve where the Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage is at best marginal.
There ends my best days riding so far.
Day 6 – Thursday August 16, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Little Three Springs Reserve to Lake Indoon, Eneabba
53 km with 194 metres of climbing at an average of @ 12.8 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 406 km
Today was a funny day of riding. I just don’t get on well with headwinds despite spending my summers riding into the infamous Fremantle Doctor. To cap off the day, thanks to Illuka Resources, Erindoon Road is now blocked off so had to turn east on Rocky Spring Road which is now extended through to Brand Highway (nothing like a GPS map and a paper map not being current). The end result of this was that I copped 10 km of Brand Highway into Eneabba, exactly what I didn’t want.
Eneabba turned out to be quite a nice little spot to stop. The roadhouse is nice and the staff friendly and there is a very good little store and post office hidden back in the town. A good place to top up supplies for sure. That said I suggest avoid the Signature brand batteries (IGA ones). My set with a two year use by date where dead in the water.
From Eneabba I headed west for about 10 kilometres to camp at Lake Indoon. Lake Indoon is a great spot to camp. There are nice hot solar powered showers, drinking water and a lovely fresh water lake to camp alongside. Pure luxury! A must for the touring cyclist in my view and worth the 10 km diversion from the Brand Highway. The cost to camping here is $10 per person but there is no honesty box, so unless someone comes to collect, no payment is made. I suspect that the collections are only done on the weekends.
That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Lake Indoon where the Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage is at best marginal.
Day 7 – Friday August 17, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Lake Indoon, Eneabba to Mingenew
97 km with 687 metres of climbing at an average of @ 13.4 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 502 km
I had a great night at Lake Indoon. Mild temperatures but noisy birds! Duck Flight Control needs to impose a curfew! 🙂 I could hear ducks landing and taking off during the night.
The flag on the Extrawheel Voyager trailer, my wind sock was not looking good this morning. South-easterly swinging to the north was the wind indicator. Not good when the whole ride was south-west then north.
I had been reading some of Mawson: An the Ice Men of the Heroic Age: Scott, Shackleton by Peter FitzSimons the night before and well after what they went through, what is a bit of headwind? Time to toughen up me thinks.
So I stuck to my original plan and headed off straight into a strong south-easterly. It blew in my face for the next 30 km as I headed out on Eneabba Three Springs Road. The first 30 km took around three hours as I decided to try and keep my heart rate in a lower zone and therefore not burn out. It turned out to be a good plan.
Thankfully once I turned north on First North Road the wind sort of helped a bit and then as the day went on the clouds moved on, the sun came out, the temperature went up and the wind dropped off. No north-westerly so I am managed to pick up a little bit of pace and made Mingenew around 6:00 PM. Being a Friday it was fish and chips night at the caravan park, so a nice bonus as I really didn’t feel up to cooking after my biggest day on the bike to date.
I am still not quite in the touring zone but as I really should have said stuff it to the idea of “I must get to … today” and instead slowed down and explored a bit more and camped out. I regret not exploring and maybe camping at Cockatoo Canyon and/or on the banks of the Arrowsmith River.
That said I fired up the stove at lunch and had a cuppa of tea so some progress 🙂
All that said the Mingenew Springs Caravan Park is very nice … good camp kitchen, showers and camping area. Cost is $18.00.
Back to the ride. My route today was the Coolimba-Eneabba Road then on to the Eneabba-Three Springs Road (all bitumen) before swinging north on First North Road, Bunney Road, Tomkins Road, Carey Road and Scott Road (all good quality dirt roads). Eventually Scott Road becomes Mingenew South road which is bitumen. All good riding with a fair bit of undulations. Just need favourable winds 🙂
It was good to be off the highways and to enjoy what are really low traffic roads.
That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Mingenew where there is good Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.
Day 8 – Saturday August 18, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Mingenew to Ellendale Pool
82 km with 595 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.2 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 584 km
Lazy start to the day today. Thought I only had 50 odd kilometres so was not in a rush. I had that wrong, but it worked out okay anyway.
Before leaving Mingenew I dropped into the Mingenew IGA which is well stocked and would be good for resupply and I also visited the bakery (isn’t that what cyclists do? :)). The Mingenew bakery was pretty disappointing but.
From there I tackled the Mingenew Hill. I rode to the upper carpark and then walked to the summit. Nothing to major, but I did manage to crack what I thought at the time was viewing screen on my camera when scrambling up some rocks. Ouch 🙁 Thankfully on closer inspection later on I found I had only cracked the protective layer I had put on the screen.
The information panels at the Mingenew Hill are informative … a great reminder of the stock routes of the past.
From Mingenew I ignored the suggested route on my Garmin Edge 800 (maybe a bad choice by me) and left town on the Midlands Road. The short distance to Dongara was tempting (and down hill too) but I resisted and swung off the Midlands Road on to Strawberry North East Road and then Burma Road which was my home for the next 45 km. Pulling out from the Lockier River on Burma Road was hard going. Endless kilometres or it felt like of 2 to 5% grade climbing. Really in some ways that is what Burma Road is all about: dirt and climbing.
Eventually the Alinta Wind Farm came into view signalling the high point and of course winds (in my favour today) and with that Nangetty Walkaway Road. A short spell on this road and I was soon off and descending Ellendale Road and I mean descending! This is one killer climb out if one choses to ride back out to Nangetty Walkaway Road.
I think I may take a punt on continuing along Ellendale Road and head into Geraldton via the Geraldton-Mt Magnet Road (the Garmin Edge 800 disagrees with this idea but).
Ellendale Pool: A beautiful pool with a sheer rock face on the other side. Nice camping area with toilets and a water tap (says not to drink. The not to drink/warnings against swimming I suspect apply more when the water is much warmer in the summer if the information on the signs is correct. I am using the water with filtering for cooking (boiling). Guess will find out if this was a bad move or not)
I am sharing the campsite with a lot of “grey nomads” including one who it seems is planning on partying! He is sharing his choice of music with the rest of us 🙂
I also heard that goons visited last night and ripped up a bit so maybe coming here on a Friday/Saturday night is not so smart. Lot more of us here tonight so maybe it will be cool. Either way the bike is getting laid down so it is not so visible and locked to a tree. All the panniers went into the tent’s vestibules. A pain for sure. Why cannot people just grow-up and learn to be considerate of others?
All that said, this spot is worth a visit for sure.
My highlight for the day was lunch under a coolabah tree (okay a pine tree but that does not sound so poetic) when the most beautiful snake I have seen crawled pass me. Unfortunately my clumsy attempt at getting the camera scared it off so no photo 🙁 It was about 45 to 50 cm long, very thin, and the most amazing pale green/opaque colour. Will have to try and find out the type of snake.
Well that and Ellendale Pool are the highlights of the day. Off to Geraldton tomorrow. Heard the caravan park prices have sky rocketed.
That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Ellendale Pool where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.
Day 9 – Sunday August 19, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Ellendale Pool to Geraldton
54 km with 230 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.7 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 638 km
8:00 AM and just getting brekkie going. Decided to sleep in. Most campers are still very quiet but Mr Party Animal Grey Nomad has decided to fire up his generator. Such an inconsiderate man.
On another note I was speaking to a nice bloke, ex-cocky, who has had a couple of heart attacks, last one only a few weeks ago. He is travelling around down “memory lane.” A very powerful reminder of our morality and how it is important to value everything in our life, family, friends and others. Mr Party Animal needs to learn that lesson to.
Well the Ellendale Road hill has been and gone. I think my perception and that of my fellow campers was rather distorted. The climb was not as bad as I was expecting; definitely no walking today. For the record the climb was from the creek at the bottom to the intersection with Nangetty Walkaway Road is 3.8 kilometres with 107 metres of climb. Overall the ride into Ellendale Pool is approximately eight kilometres. The climb is also on Strava 🙂
The other positive news is that my paranoia about possible hoon behaviour was unfounded with a quiet night passing.
Riding into Geraldton I put my faith in the Garmin Edge 800 today and that was an error … I think some balance is required between the map and the GPS. That said the road pretty much descends from Ellendale Road to the coastal plain. On the way one passes the Alinta Wind Farm information area where by chance I came across some workmen working on a tower. Just watching them at the top of the tower was enough to give me the jittys! Heights are not my thing.
Once I reached the coastal plain I turned north on to Arthur Road and then Scott Road chasing the dirt. Following the GPS I then came out on to Edward Road, straight flat bitumen road with little tree coverage. As the railway runs alongside Edward Road I did for awhile jump onto the railway maintenance track: at least it was more fun to ride!
The trouble started when I started to get into the outskirts with Geraldton as it turns out I was coming in on a major transport route, read trucks. The Garmin Edge 800 map does not reflect the current road routing (not impressive given Google maps are far more up to date) so my ride into Geraldton was less than ideal and based as much on my limited local knowledge as the GPS/map. In hindsight I should have swung west on to/crossing Brand Highway earlier and hence had the opportunity to take local roads into the caravan park.
I stayed at the Belair Gardens Caravan Park, 463 Marine Terrace, Geraldton. A very well setup caravan park but expensive. Campsites are around $30 a night but there is a good camp kitchen and shared table for each two “campsites.” There is also access to a recreation room. I took the luxury route for Geraldton and took a cabin for the two nights but in hindsight a silly decision.
That ends the day and this touring note from the cabin at Belair Gardens Caravan Park where there is marginal Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.
Day 10 – Monday August 20, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt: Geraldton Rest Day
23 km with 177 metres of climbing at an average of @ 16.3 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 661 km
A day off in Geraldton. Really not my favourite place and with hindsight I should have timed my arrival better, got my washing and shopping done and moved on with a day instead of staying here two nights.
That said if you are staying here, there is nice riding along the harbour and the HMAS Sydney Memorial is worth a visit, but the city lacks a soul in my view and the driving! What is it with these people? Three very scary incidents all in 23 km of riding. People here need to chill out and relax a bit.
On a positive note, my replacement Exped Synmat UL 7S was waiting at the Post Office for me. My thanks to Mainpeak for sorting out my faulty mat. I note that the mat seems to have some design changes. Hopefully it goes well.
I also got out to BCF to get replacement head torch, a Princeton Tec Fuel to replace my Petzel which has a broken battery connector so not sure how long it will last. Oh also got a new Light my Fire Spork; a fork prong went on my last one.
Other than doing the above and visiting Coles to get my shopping done (at least there is bike parking there) and making use of the free Wifi at McDonalds (there are bike racks outside the bike shop across the road from McDonalds) and a little bike maintenance (front brakes are handy :)) I had a lazy day.
Back to it tomorrow.
Your Turn To Talk
I hope you found this bicycle touring note of ride from Fremantle to Geraldton an enjoyable read and hopefully informative as well. Please do share your thoughts on ride and/or riding this area with the rest of us by leaving a comment below 🙂