Donnelly River to Karta Barnu, Munda Biddi Trail
Having arrived in the holiday village of Donnelly River the evening before, the following morning we woke refreshed and ready to begin the 23 km mountain bike ride with trailers. Spending the night in the mill cottage turned out to be a great idea, entailing an evening by the fire and a nice big steak for dinner.
We prepare the bikes and trailers under the watchful eyes of the local emus, we lock up the cottage, consume a couple of large coffees at the General Store and phone home using the old Telstra payphone.
When the animals disband, 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 much shorter trip was going to cover a small section of the trail from Donnelly River to Manjimup over two nights and back to Donnelly River via country roads. Both the Munda Biddi and Bibbulmun 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 but 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. I had purchased my first mountain bike a few months ago! It is often said that 1 km travelled off road on the bike is 3kms of on road. The jitters fleetly disappear when I became aware of the forest sounds and smells around me. The green towering forest was picturesque to ride through.
We travel on pea gravel 4WD tracks and it’s a good run for a while to be cycling a mellow gradient. The trail starts to climb uphill and the path switches to narrow singletrack. Towing the trailer behind feels 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 and eucalyptus.
The forest in this section is really damp with moss growing abundantly. 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 a lot 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 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. Maybe smaller snacks would have been better!
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.
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 which becomes a motivating boost when I spot one.
Hours in and really into 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 given there is a nice 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 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! I’m overcome and shed a tear. Today was a big challenge and nothing I have completed before. I’m unpractised in trail riding and endurance cycling.
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 choose to set up our tent some distance from the hut, 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. Food becomes a gratifying reward on this trip.
We read and write in the hut log bog, definitely some entertaining experiences to find out about. Prior to the trip (2015) completing some research there wasn’t a great deal of information on the internet about the trail, however the log book reveals international travellers are coming through and referring to the trail as one of the best of its kind.
Despite the relentless uphill zigzag, the ride today was beautiful through mostly forest. The experience felt liberating and spending a night in a tent away from the city was magic. We were knackered and fell into a deep slumber instantly after our meals.
At around 11pm I woke to noises and a flashlight scanning over the tent. The noises cutting through the silence of the forest sharply. I nudged Derek and we quietly unzipped the tent peeping out. Derek went to investigate and it turned out a German guy by the name of Sascha, had cycled the same route except his starting point was further away at Jarrahwood.
Stay tuned for Day 2 on the Munda Biddi Trail in Western Australia!!! Hope you enjoyed 🙂
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