DAndalup to Dwellingup
Munda Biddi Trail
The Ride - Getting into the swing of things as we moved onto day three of our Munda Biddi E2E, Aron and I had stopped at Dandalup Campsite for lunch and a bit of a rest. Devouring my salad roll (great advice to wait for the Jarrahdale General Store to open so thanks Eilidh if you're reading), I had a good poke around the campsite before we packed away all of the gear we had brought up and thought about the second half of the day into Dwellingup. Aron had booked us into the Dwellingup Forest Lodge and we had about five hours to complete the 42km journey into one of my favourite towns in WA before it got dark.
Dwellingup is a place I visit many times each year with one of my Bibbulmun Track maintenance sections located in Lane Poole Reserve but a town I had never stayed in overnight. The area coming into Dandalup was extremely pleasant and after tackling the spur trail in and out of camp again, I was pleased to see that the lovely forest riding continued. While we hadn't reached peak wildflower season yet being late August, there was enough colour through here to make it feel pretty magical and early on there were some good finds including a Grevillea, Hibbertia commutata, a Pink Myrtle and some Zamia Palm seed cones. The downhill riding was enjoyable and helped to boost the average speed for the day but I still found myself stopping quite a bit to photograph the wildflowers or a nice looking section of Jarrah. There are some lovely older trees out here that were saved from the chop as this has been, like most areas of the South West, been logged at some point in time.
This is the type of Jarrah forest I really enjoy and it reminded me a little of the area due east of here on the Bibbulmun Track near Mount Wells. The soft grey bark of the Jarrah trees was really nice to see as quite often you find that they have a blackened tinge to them due to not shedding their bark very quickly after a fire. Spotting a Snottygobble brought a smile to my face as we started up a smol puppa hill that led to some of the best forest of the whole day. The clouds had rolled over as we reached a small creek and I love when this happens as the lighting becomes a lot more even. The harshness of photographing the forest in full sun with extremes of light and shadows isn't an issue and everything looks much better. It also helps with the wildflowers as it reduces the chance of some features being horribly overexposed. Crossing the creek over an old wooden footbridge, I spotted some flowering Parrot Bush and a Flame Pea, a flower I still call the Miami Vice Pea because of the pink and orange colouring. Through here we could hear the calls of the Black Cockatoos and I am always keen to get photos of these lovely birds, so inched along slowly once we saw where they were.
I managed to get a shot of one as it hung around on a branch way up at the top of one of the trees and was happy with that outcome. I just enjoy watching them whenever I come across some, getting a photo is just a bonus. Continuing on, we reached a vehicle track at the bottom of the hill and found a bit of an obstacle blocking the way. A large tree had fallen over the track but luckily it required an easy walk around to get through. We had experienced a pretty wild winter with plenty of storms blowing down trees but I was hoping that most of the ones that had been reported along the Munda Biddi would be gone by now. Crossing over another creek, this was the start of a medium puppa climb (about 80m of vert). I left Aron to ride at his own pace while I started up at my rhythm, something we had settled into by now. I stopped a few times along the climb to take photos of some Bacon and Egg flowers and to admire the beautiful Wattle that was flowering along the edge of the trail. At the top of the hill I decided to keep going as I knew it was a fairly lengthy downhill that Aron would have an opportunity to catch up on as I would no doubt be stopping for photos.
Little did I know that I would be stopping for the one thing I had been hanging out to see in Western Australia for a very long time. As I was enjoying a nice section of downhill single track, I heard a rustle off to my left and out of the corner of my eye I spotted something moving off the edge of the track. I slammed on the brakes and tried to get off as quietly as possible, reaching for my camera with great haste. It was confirmed to be an echidna and I let our a silent squee and my face erupted into a giant smile. I was lucky that a fallen log had halted the path of the echidna as it had decided to pretend I wasn't there by butting its head right up against the log and stayed still. I snapped away at it and then went back to my bike to grab my phone to record some evidence I could share with everyone who knew what a big deal this was for me. Aron came rolling over the hill and slowed down when he saw me crouched over the edge of the trail with my phone out. It was a momentous occasion and it was nice to get the monkey off the back so to speak.
Giddy from my sighting, I was buzzing for quite a while after as we both rode down the hill towards the bottom of the valley. Short of spotting a numbat, nothing could top that today and instantly put this day right up there in the rankings for the overall end to end. At the bottom of the hill Aron looked at his Munda Biddi app on the phone and declared another smol to medium puppa hill so I set off ahead, buoyed with energy still. The forest here continued to be excellent and thankfully the clouds seemed to have rolled in for the afternoon so the lighting was equally as good. The hill wasn't so bad and again, I decided not to wait for Aron at the top given there was another long downhill section to enjoy. I wasn't exactly going at a cracking pace as there were wildflowers to admire including a Tassel Flower and Prickly Hakea. Reaching a bridge over another creek, I stopped for a while before realising Aron wasn't catching up very quickly. I checked my map and saw that Del Park Road was just up ahead so continued on to wait there. Aron eventually arrived and given it had taken us over two hours to cover this first 17km of the section, we had a little talk about the rest of the day.
With plenty of hills still to cover and only about three hours of sunlight left, at the speed we had averaged it would be after dark until we arrived in town. Aron made a decision to take Del Park Road all the way into town, cutting off about 12-13km from the rest of the day. This meant I would be unleashed but needed to average around 12kmph for the remaining 25km, something that doesn't sound too fast but adding in a lot of stopping for photos and tired legs, could be a challenge. Saying a tearful goodbye, we parted ways and I raced off towards Scarp Road to join it for the millionth time today. Met with a decent incline of between 7-13% for this first part of the climb, I got the heart rate up as I powered on, missing an obvious turn as the trail leaves Scarp Road. I realised pretty quickly as I could see the trail below where I was and despite the trail joining up to Scarp Road again, I rode down a small bank to reach the proper trail. The forest here really enjoyable so I decided to not worry about time and photographed as per my usual process and I'm happy I did this. Reaching the top of the hill, there was a nice downhill section leading towards the Turner Hill Mountain Bike Park but sadly my legs didn't have enough in them to do a couple of side trails.
The ride down the wide road was an enjoyable way to make up some time and after another short climb I reached a section that would have once been enjoyable but is now a bit of a non-event. A straight road leading up the hill to the highest point of the day was previously a test site for Alcoa with all different species of trees lining the edge with corresponding name plaques. A lot of them don't seem to exist anymore and it felt like a graveyard riding past the wooden crosses. Also making this is a not very pleasant section to ride was the noise from the conveyor belt running parallel to the road. As a result I just put my head down along here, hoping the crossing of the conveyor would arrive soon and I could forget about the horrible damage that bauxite mining has done to the landscape around here. Reaching the conveyor, I gave my thoughts on Alcoa's blatant destruction of the Jarrah forests (see photo gallery above) and continued on. If you want to see the effect the proposed expansion will have, go up to the map at the top of the page, select Satellite view and imagine the orange cancer to the east of this point spreading much further east and north. There is an opportunity to provide your opinion to the EPA about this proposal in late 2021 so follow this page or the WA Forest Alliance to stay informed.
Now heading away from the noise and ugliness of the bauxite mess, you head back towards the east and join the powerlines you crossed earlier. This will be a common occurrence as you head towards Collie with the many powerlines providing easy avenues for the track to take. Luckily it doesn't last long (and is all downhill) so you are back in the forest in no time. This section leading towards Marrinup I found to be very pleasant with lush forest that was blocking out the sun now it was getting low in the sky. At the bottom of a long downhill along Grey Road, you head up an eroded hill and a section of forest that doesn't quite seem normal. The white trunked trees are from early regrowth areas of bauxite mining where they decided to plant trees that weren't native to the area. Most people wouldn't know as it looks similar to Bullich but having spent countless days in the forests of WA, it looked out of place to me. Joining the powerline again, I was soon at Marrinup, a nice car camping spot with a bit of history. Similar to Balmoral that we rode past the previous day, Marrinup was a former POW Camp but unfortunately is a side trip off the Munda Biddi.
Not having time to do this or the nearby Marrinup Falls, I continued on, bemusing the car campers as I rolled through on my fully loaded bike. With the sun now sitting pretty low in the sky, I was on the home stretch as I headed on the final leg towards town. This section is a fun mix of single track and vehicle tracks that run past the farms. Heading east, I knew Dwellingup wasn't far away and I was confident that I would be making it before dark. Enjoying the late afternoon riding, the lighting was heading into golden hour territory as I happily moo'd at the cows and baa'd at the sheep in the nearby fields. A dam on the edge of a farm provided a cool spot to photograph as the sounds of the Black Cockatoos announced that I had arrived in the Dwellingup area. Town came very quickly from here as I spotted the railway line that is home to the Hotham Valley Railway and the intersection of Del Park Road was only a short ride away. Riding past the pub and towards the new Trails Centre, I didn't make it in time to sign the book but what a day of riding it was. Stopping my Strava, I checked in with Aron and located where the accommodation was on the map (up a hill so yay). After a nice hot shower, we both walked down to the pub for dinner and thankfully the kitchen wasn't closed like it was in Jarrahdale the previous evening. I figured I had earned a decent meal tonight so went with garlic bread, a large mushroom arancini ball and chips plus a sticky date pudding for dessert. Day three done!!!