Donnelly River to Karta Barnu, Munda Biddi Trail
Having arrived in the holiday village of Donnelly River the evening before, we woke up the next morning ready to begin the mountain bike ride. Spending the night in the mill cottage turned out to be a great idea, we relaxed by the fire and ate a nice big steak for dinner.
By the time we prepare the bikes and trailers (under the watchful eyes of a few of the local emus), locked up the cottage, consumed a couple of large coffees at the General Store and phone home using the old Telstra payphone, we set off to the south entrance of the Munda Biddi trail at about 11:00am.
The Munda Biddi is an epic off road cycle trail extending 1,000 km from Mundaring to Albany, in Western Australia. Munda Biddi means path through the forest in the Noongar Aboriginal language. Our little trip was going to cover a small section of the trail from Donnelly River to Manjimup, and back via country roads. Both the Munda Biddi and Bibbulmun trail pass through the old mill town, and for travellers of the trail the village makes an ideal zero (rest) day. Although Donnelly River is not a town as such, the general store serves coffee and some cakes, as well as a few basic supplies.
I was a little nervous when we kicked off the journey, it was probably the thought of 3 days of cycling ahead of us, of which 2 were off road. It is often said that 1 km travelled off road is 3kms of on road cycling. I’ve never done anything like this before. The jitters fleetly disappeared when I became aware of the forest sounds and smells around me. The towering forest was green from the winter rain and it was picturesque to ride through.
We travel along a few pea gravel sections which I’m guessing also double as 4WD tracks. It’s a good run for a while. The trail starts to climb uphill and the path becomes narrow, really narrow. Towing the trailer behind feels a little unnatural at first, if the trailer turns too sharply it topples over and I am starting to think a little practice before the trip would have been beneficial. We are surrounded by trees and its only the beginning of many for the day – karri, jarrah, eucalyptus.
The forest in this section is really damp and there’s moss around. It is incredibly dense either side of the trail and we can make out a ravine to the left, where we can also hear, but not see a running water system below. Also, a water bird of some kind making a heck of alot of noise that echoes around us. This utterly beautiful however very impractical section for the trailers goes on for a while and we decide to break it up and stop for lunch. Derek’s tarp proved handy, we laid it out on a log. It’s a little amusing to think we went to the trouble of not getting our butts wet, all the while with a big chance that we may be cycling in the rain according to the weather forecast. Lunch is simple, pieces of bread slathered in avocado, slices of dried cacciatore and parmesan cheese. We devour the food and, although greatly satisfying it is a little hard to get going afterwards with full stomachs.
The Munda Biddi shares some of the trail with the hiking friendly Bibbulmun. Both start in Mundaring and end in the seaside town of Albany, we pass the half way point of the Bibbulmun and take a brief happy snap. We haven’t seen a sign for the Munda Biddi so this was the closest memento. As it was, driving home along Southwest Highway we spotted one. Following this, we cross a little bridge, there’s a couple of small bridges over creeks during the day. All down hill and super fun. Someone has written the distance remaining on the trail markers and it’s a motivation boost when we spot one.
There’s forest litter like branches and leaves on the ground, I found a nasty looking bruise on my leg later in the day. I do remember the log that caused it, thinking , “no way, logs flick up too!” In the swing of things I’m concentrating on the path and the scenery of the forest turns into a bit of blur. The winter air is welcomed, I couldn’t imagine doing this in summer.
We reach One Tree Bridge, a historical landmark for the area. Bill from Follow My Ride has written a nice little spiel about the spot. It’s picturesque and the point in the trail where the river comes into view. This would have been a nice spot to stop for lunch – there’s a picnic bench. We cross Graphite Road and continue onwards.
We are climbing upwards along a narrow single track that precisely zig zags up a steep hill. It’s an absolute bitch! I walk most of it and even that is no easy task. Towards the end of the day, it’s demanding, pulling up a bike and a packed trailer. The ground is a little wet and the wheels don’t grip as well. There’s some cursing when we finish a zig zag and see 5 more. It was definitely a mentally challenging part of the day, possibly because of the thought of not knowing when it would end. In saying that, it may have been a different experience without the trailer? Going the other direction, riders would be treated to an awesome downhill experience. When I’m feeling almost beaten, I reach a turn and look into the forest for a moment to catch my breath. The sun is penetrating the karri trees and there is a golden glow. This is why I am here, to enjoy nature. There are two places in Perth to be at sunset – on the beach or in the karri forest.
We reach the end of the zig zagging saga, and are welcomed by a wide open, almost straight path, and a few metres away, a marker for the hut!
We made it and before dark! The view over the top of the forest was a sweet end to the uphill battle. It was stunning. We climbed roughly 100 metres in elevation from One Tree Bridge.
The hut is in pristine condition and well laid out. There are bunk levels to lay out your sleeping bag and stuff, a veranda with two picnic tables, two water tanks, bicycle parking which is also covered and a clean large toilet further away. There a few special small touches like a young lemon tree and broom to dust the hut.
We set up our tent, lay out the sleeping mats and bags. We light up the portable stove and brew a nice chamomile and ginger tea. For dinner, we cook one of the dehydrated meals – chicken and mushroom rice and for dessert it was a Rawsome chocolate slice.
We read and write in the hut log bog, definitely some entertaining reading about other’s experiences. There’s not a lot of information on the internet about the trail however the log book has lots of entries and it looks like a lot of international travelers are coming through and referring to the trail as one of the best of its kind.
Despite the uphill zigzag, the ride today was beautiful and covered mostly forest terrain. The experience felt liberating and spending a night in a tent deep in the forest away from the city was magic.
We were knackered and fell into a deep slumber instantly after eating.
At around 11pm I woke to noises and a flashlight scanning over the tent. The noises cutting through the silence of the night forest sharply. I nudged Derek and we quietly got up and peeped out of the tent. Derek went to investigate and it turned out a German guy, Sascha, he had cycled the same route except his starting point was further away at Jarrahwood. Now that is epic!
Stay tuned for Day 2 on the Munda Biddi Trail in Western Australia!!! Hope you enjoyed 🙂
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