Tales from the Trail - Darren Broadhurt’s E2E on a Recumbent Trike
I've just arrived in Australia, from Bali, Indonesia. My third continent and 51st country on a round the world cycle tour. But I'm not on a 'normal' bike. I've cycled from the UK, around Europe, through Central Asia, across the Pamir Highway, Nepal, India, Japan, Korea and then SE Asia on a recumbent trike. Just under 34000km and still going strong.
My plan is to cycle to Brisbane on the east coast and from there head to New Zealand before hitting up the Americas. But first I've got to try something really stupid. I'm going to attempt to ride the Munda Biddi on my fully loaded, touring trike. Why?? Because it's there of course!
I spent a couple of weeks in Jarrahdale with a friend, during which we ride from Jarrahdale to the Wungong hut as a sort of practice/recon mission (I was in the British Army for 29 years prior to this cycling malarkey and we are taught time in reconnaissance is seldom wasted, or so said Rommel!)
The day arrives for the real thing being me riding nearly 1000km on an offroad track through the forest and outback to Albany. Some people say I'm crazy and I'll never make it, but yes life is still a competition and so now I'm even more determined to prove it can be done. I'm told about steep hills, pea gravel that sucks bicycles and cyclists in never to be seen again and fearsome creatures of the forest (The deadly "Drop Bear" being my main worry, but also the Boxing Kangaroo and Pecking Emu!!)
It's time to get back on the trike and adventure out into Australia. The fact that it was the end of November when I finished cycling in Indonesia has my legs all a quiver, two and a half months off and I'm about to try to cycle 6500km across Australia, and the first 1000km will be offroad!
So what is the Munda Biddi Trail, here's the official blurb… all I took from that was a few sparse but daunting words.. "pea-gravel", "loamy soil and fine white sand", "extremely hot" and "relatively gentle terrain" (if your name is Sir Edmund Hillary then yes it might be described as gentle!!) Oh well time to get on with it. Did I mention my bike now has several days worth of food, and water and weighs a ton?
29 Feb 2020 - Wungong to Dandalup 45km
My first day on the trail. Sunny and cloudy. Hard cycling through the pea gravel on the trail. Hills, steep descents, then up a silly big hill to my first night in a hut. My friend has cycled with me and after a cup of tea heads home. Fortunately we dropped off her pickup truck earlier so she can drive home, it's been a long day for her! The hut itself is open sided with large areas for sleeping on and several benches and tables for cooking and eating. There's also a couple of tanks to catch the rainwater off the roof. This is the only available water and the warning sign says it needs to be boiled vigorously for 1 minute to make it safe! There's also a long drop toilet shack nearby for other needs! It's actually a lovely setup and the fact they are provided along the trail free of charge by the Parks and Wildlife Service is amazing.
01 Mar 2020 - Dandalup to Bidjar Ngoulin 65km
I slept very well last night, probably something to do with spinning up pea gravel hills and along corrugated tracks! It's indeed another hard start to the day, with a steep gravel descent. I pass the Serpentine Reservoir and the last quarter of the day is an easier finish. Colin and Julie are already at the hut, they are out just for an overnight ride then Ren turns up. They are all bikepacking and I marvel at their sleek low weight mountain bikes with huge hill climbing gears!! We play cards and chat into the evening. Great people.
02 Mar 2020 - Bidjar Ngoulin to Lake Brockman 34km
The plan today was to get to Yarri camp at 77km. By 1pm I am shattered and call it a day at Lake Brockman. The hills, followed by soft sand through the forest tracks have worn me out. I pay for camping, AUD15, at the lake and go for a swim fully clothed to wash the dust out of everything. I decide to hammock camp tonight for a change.
03 Mar 2020 - Lake Brockman to Collie 88km
With only 34km done yesterday I've got someway to go to reach Collie Town today. I'll be bypassing Yarri hut as I've got an invite to stay with Brian and his wife Jeanne. Dinner, a shower and comfy bed for the night. They are both trike riders too! Trail is more of the same, narrow forest single-track, dead branches litter the floor and poke me or hit me on the head as my front wheels hit them and spin them out. I have to stop frequently to pull out branches from the bike! Dinner however is well worth the extra mileage and is a veritable feast, huge piles of delicious veggies and ice cream to finish. Just what I needed. And as a bonus I get to wash my riding clothes.
04 Mar 2020 - Collie to Nglang Boodja Hut 45.5km
This morning it's crumpets and lashings of butter for breakfast. I haven't had those in a while! Then Brian and Jeanne get out their trikes, and take me for a tour of town. The swing bridge, Soldier's Park, then Mungalup Park with the river and finally Black Diamond Lake, which in the right light looks turquoise! We can just about make out the colour today and people are swimming in it even this early in the morning. I say my farewell and thank them for their kind generosity and exit Collie left. Thanks you guys, you were amazing!! I follow the main East West highway back out to the Munda Biddi Trail and resume my torture. Fortunately today is a short one to the next hut and I also get to stop at Honeymoon Pool and campsite on the way. These campsites in the forest are excellent with toilets and gas barbecues all around. The river pool is as clear as a bell and people are swimming and jumping in. I have lunch, PB&J wrap and head off to my free hut for the night. The park campsites need to be booked and paid for online before using and a ranger comes around and checks up on people. At one point in the trail today I head up a hill following the markers only to find the trail drops down via a steep zigzag to an adjacent track below. I'm pretty sure there was a turning 500m back with a gate, so rather than taking the treacherous path I backtrack, cycle around the gate and 500m later come to the bottom of the zigzag slope! Crazy long cut!
I'm all alone in the hut today and the water in the tanks is decidedly colourful. It tells you to boil the water vigorously for 1 minute on the tank but I'm taking no chances and filter it then boil it. Once boiled it's changed colour from green to brown, so I've probably killed it good `n`proper! My cups of tea seem OK, I'll let you know how I feel in the morning!
05 Mar 2020 - Nglang Boodja to forest short of Jarrahwood 78km
After the first 10km the riding was easy today, a short break in Boyanup for coffee and a beef roll then continue on until Donnybrook. Here I was torn with indecision. I could camp somewhere in Donnybrook although the local park had no camping signs up so I'd have to stealth camp in the woods. Or I could continue on another 40 odd km to the next hut. I had a refreshing pint of IPA in the local tavern to help me decide. Unfortunately the beer said "of course you can do another 40 odd km, it's only 2:30pm!".
Oh well I saddled back up and tootled off. I really shouldn't listen to beer in future!! The going was tough, and when I wasn't fighting in the forest I was pushing through soft sand and bouncing over the deepest washboard I've ever seen! In the end I stumble across a dam in the forest with a bit of stagnant water. I set up camp and have a wash in the water. Then wash all the mud and clay off my feet and sandals.. Then repeat because I'm filthy again. Finally I'm sort of clean and cook dinner. I have a cup of tea and one of those packet cheese pasta sauce things. I haven't mastered simmering on my new stove yet (there's a good chance I'll never master it!) and in the end turn off the cooker and let it sit in its own steam. It was that or watch it all boil over again and watch my dinner soak into the dirt!!
06 March 2020 Happy 51st birthday - Jarrahwood to Donnelly River 82km
I spend my birthday alone but managed to buy a bottle of wine to celebrate when I passed through Nannup. I also bought some cake! Today I spot lots of kangaroos and emus.
7 March 2020 - Donnelly River to Pemberton 106km
Hard hard slog all day. This trail doesn't get any easier, narrow single-track in the forest really slows me down as my front wheels plough their own route through the Bush! I do however stop at a brewery outside Pemberton, 27 AUD for burger n chips, 16 AUD for pint (6 small taster glasses). Another delicious birthday treat! Shortly after on a fast long descent into Pemberton as I'm applying my brakes to slow from 64kmph my right front wheel locks up and starts skidding. I finally manage to come to a halt. I check the wheel but it seems stuck?! What's going on? Finally I wind the brake pads fully out and then undo the wheel quick release and the wheel pops off. Now I've found the culprit, my worn brake block has welded itself to the rotor!! The disc has done 30 odd thousand km and is thin, this means an increase in heat, the pad was worn, also increasing heat. Hot day, long fast descent and zap!! Instant weld. I get my pliers out and manage after some kerfuffle to peel off the brake pad. My rotor now has a small buckle that I manage to bring back into line with the pliers but it's not perfect. Time to find a bike shop! I put new pads in (I was carrying spares) and file off the bits of metal that are on the pistons, I have to remove the piston circlips to get them back in, so all in all a bit of a bodge but at least they work for now! In Pemberton I decide to call it a day and after watching the last bit of a local cricket match at the village oval I find a camping spot in some nearby forest. No hut tonight!
8th March 2020 - Pemberton to Schafer Hut 27km
Rest day after yesterday's long day and I only cycle 27km. I end up in a Bibbulmun walking trail hut. It's right beside a lake in the forest and I swim, washing my clothes and myself before drying out in the forest sunshine, beautiful! The Bibbulmun Track is a long distance walking trail that also runs from Kalamunda, Perth to Albany. It occasionally crosses paths with the Munda Biddi Trail.
9 March 2020 - Schafer hut to Yirra Karrtta hut 62km
Another up n down day made hard yet again by soft sand. Sand has taken over from the pea gravel and is much much worse! I cycle through Northcliffe, a very quiet village in the middle of nowhere with a general store, petrol pump and that's about it. Treat for the day, I buy myself a bag of crisps! Cheese and onion flavour.
10 March 2020 - Yirra to Kwokralup Beela Hut 49km
I meet David and Helen at today's hut. They are on Surly touring bikes and both have trailers. They are from Australia and are cycling towards Esperance, occasionally using the trail huts and once at Esperance they will strike north to Darwin. This means straight through the middle of Australia, and for those that don't know, there isn't a lot out there, hence the trailers. Currently there's not much in them but once they cycle north they will be able to carry up to 5 days of water each in them!! That is going to be a huge weight! Good luck guys! There's also a lovely river about 500m away from the hut for a nice swim and clean up after the day's ride.
11 March 2020 - Kwokralup Beela to Frankland River hut via Walpole 50km
I buy eggs, sausages and rolls in Walpole and use the public gas bbqs to cook it all for lunch. Most towns here have these public BBQ areas and they can be used for free. They're either gas or electric, no charge! Then it's on to the Franklin River, it's absolutely beautiful but some serious serious climbs. Again I stop in a Bibbulmun Track hut and meet Scott and Matt, firefighters from Perth who are just finishing a 7 day walk from Denmark to Walpole. They've carried their kit AND 7 days worth of food! Great going!
12 March 2020 - Frankland River to Booner Munduk hut 34km
Rain! But only for a short while as I get ready to set off. Had a great chat with S&M last night. This morning I'm in two minds how far to push so we'll just have to wait. I do take a detour to a vineyard and olive producer and meet Andy, a Swiss man who owns the place. I sample some wines and buy a bottle for tonight, why not!! It was unfortunate that his place was right on top of a hill!! Later as I hit the trail again I enter onto Middle Road. I'd heard about this road and I wasn't to be disappointed! Sand sand and deep sand. I'm pushing more than cycling at times and so when I reach the Booner Munduk hut after only 34km I am shattered and my dilemma regarding distance today is gone. I've had enough for the day! Time to open the wine. On a side note I manage to get some mobile coverage and find out that America has closed its borders to Europe less the UK!! This Coronavirus is getting out of hand. In 2009 when H1N1 killed 150,000 or more there was none of this panic. Modern reporting gone mad I think.
13 March 2020 - Booner Munduk to Jinung Belgabup Hut 51km
Last night Steve pulled in as I was just about to go to sleep. Ended up chatting with him for an hour. This morning he pulled out his coffee Espresso maker and stove and made us both coffee!! Brilliant! He is doing a lot more mileage per day than me so I won't see him at the next hut for another coffee fix, more's the pity.
And to start the day, another 3km of sand! Push push. But then I turn onto another track and it's gravel and the speed picks up. However, there are still sandy patches and by the time I'm near the hut I know it's enough for me. Also it's been raining all day, mainly drizzle, but with a cold wind and I've deployed the waterproof jacket for the first time! The single track climb up to the hut is a real pain. I've finished dinner and two more cyclists (Dutch this time!) roll in on their mountain bikes. "Are you the crazy trike rider" they ask? Haha yes, hello! I'm famous!
14th March 2020 - Jinung Beigabup to Youngs Siding via Denmark 64km
It's a nice easy ride today and by lunchtime I arrive in Denmark, a small town on the coast. Just before Denmark I hit Lights Beach and a local nature reserve. All very nice to see the coast again. In Denmark I pull in to the petrol station and fill my fuel bottle for my cooker with unleaded petrol. Whilst paying my 1.37 AUD I notice they have a hot food kitchen. Time for some fish and chips. I was offered shark or Red fish?!? Where's the cod and hake? I settled for red fish and it's delicious although the chips are too skinny and crunchie with no vinegar. More like fries. Better luck next time. I also do a small shop for groceries then head out of town. The trail follows the coast and I'm cycling down a tree lined track with rocky inlets, beaches and shelters on my right. It's very beautiful in this area. I pull up in the little hamlet of Youngs Siding and fill my water bladder and ask if there's anywhere to camp tonight. I'm told to pop around the back to the cricket oval and sleep in the open pavilion, and that's what I do! In the night the heavens open and it pours with rain. Fortunately I'm under the cricket pavilion cover and snug as a bug!
15th March 2020 - Youngs Siding to Albany 44km
Last day on the Munda Biddi Trail and it's another easy one. I bump into Heather, an older lady originally from Yorkshire who used to race cycles in the velodrome!! She must be fit, and she does tell me she rides out still with a local group and friends. Only yesterday she helped drag the field of riders back in on a charity ride by breaking the wind for them!! Good going! On I ride and just after a spot of lunch, PB&J flatbread I spot Kev, my old army mate cycling up the road to meet me. He escorts me into Albany and the signboard for the Southern Terminus of the Munda Biddi Trail. Also waiting there for us is Kim his wife and Brian and Jeanne from Collie who have driven 3 hours to see me finish!! Wow!! Thanks guys! After some pictures we all head back to Kim and Kev’s house for a spot of tea and lunch!
So, that's the Munda Biddi Trail completed. I've probably not done it justice in my writing, It has been hard. Easily the hardest riding I've ever done. Full stop. But it's been beautiful. The huts have been amazing. The forest, with huge Jarrah and Karri trees I will always remember. As I will the sand, pea-gravel, washboard, single-track and dead tree obstacle course! If you're looking to get away from it all for a couple of weeks I can highly recommend the trail. Or just a weekend, there's no need to do it all at once.
Most mornings I started the day with a big bowl of porridge and lashings of tea. Lunch was mainly a couple of tortillas and peanut butter and jam. Dinners were pasta and sauces with some occasional fresh vegetables. And more pints of tea!! Water was available in all the huts and towns and villages. I paid for camping once and the rest was free camping in the huts and forest. Treats of wine, cake, a brewery visit and fish and chips helped me through.
Thanks to everyone I met for the chat and company. Stay safe everyone, until the next time. Thanks for reading and don't forget you can keep up with my journey on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/everywhichwaybutlost or my blog at www.everywhichwaybutlost.com