Day 103 & 104: 9 & 10 September – Bikepacking on the Munda Biddi trail

Author: Mr A

9 and 10 September 

From: Dwellingup

To: Pinjarra Hut, Lane Poole Reserve

Distance: Ridden – 68km

I packed up a very soggy tent, the mist thick in the valley, and headed beck in the car to the little village of Dwellingup. I love this place, its a bustle of activity with an adventure race on, people in hiking boots stomping around, motorcyclists at the pub reliving the twists and turns of the roads around the area. 

It was my birthday, and the treat I’d planned was to do an overnight ride on a small section of the worlds longest off-road bike trail – the Munda Biddi. The trail stretches from the hills just east of Perth all the way down to Albany on Australia’s far south coast, a cool 1100km of marked trail.

Touring on the dirt, carrying all your camping gear, preferably avoiding bulky panniers to better enjoy the riding, that’s we call bikepacking. Backpacking with a bike. And I love it – especially solo – I can ride at my pace (not fast!), stop and make a brew when I fancy (which is quite a lot).  It’s certainly easier carrying gear on a bike than on your back, well until the trail gets steep….You can also cover more distance than on foot and explore further, without mixing it with cars that much. 

So the first task was to load the bike, no mean feat as you can see from this photo. Can you spot the item that didn’t make it in? 

The bottle of Jack? Well done…it was my birthday after all. No harm trying. 

So everything is finally loaded and its already early afternoon. The bike is looking her impressively, dark, looming self, and I’m ready for the off. 

Now my training preparation for these rides is called the “muscle memory method” Let me hereby declare at 61 years of age, that no longer works! On the first steep hill I find myself “hiking the bike”, pushing 35kg of dead weight up slippery pea gravel. 

The pain was soon forgotten though when I warmed up and hit some gentler track. The jarrah forest is really spectacular and after a long break from the woods through the arid north of WA, the scenery was touching something primeval in the lizard part of my brain. Which, as some of you know, mostly gets activated after a few too many. 

The trail took me back along the river that I had been paddling, and then further deep into the upper reaches of this reserve. Really wonderful trails that just wandered along through the magifncent strands of giant jarrah.

 I only saw one other group of riders on the track the whole afternoon. Alone with my thoughts I pondered why it is WA invests in a trail like this, and NSW with similar country down the Great Divide does not. Our state can barely get their act together to join up the few off road cycle paths we do have. 

It was late afternoon and it was already starting to get chilly when I arrived at the “hut” that was to be home for the night.

Now I had brought my tent as apparently it was a “busy weekend” and yet not a soul was there. No doors and ends to the building either. The temerpature was dropping to single figures at night so I shivered with anticipation, and not in a good way. I soon had a brew going and my “one pot dinner” bubbling. The latter was a disaster. If you ever see “Sharwood’s Indian Side Dishes”, put it down and move away from that aisle. Oh yuk…Having planned for my culinary poor judgement out came the wraps, Vegemite and cheese. Much better. Then it struck me, here I am on my birthday, choosing to be own my own in the cold, dark, damp woods with not even a tot of bourbon to keen me company? What was I thinking? Well, what I was thinking was “Carpus Diem” (seize the day). I had the privilege  to watch a great leader marshall a group of us sometimes riders around this philosophy and inspired us to do just that. Dave Curran, now CIO at Westpac, got us out there pushing ourselves, both on and off the bikes. I want to take advantage of every chance while I have my legs and lungs to get out there. Even if it happens to be my birthday and I “should” be “celebrating”. This was my celebration of being 61. 

The morning dawned not early enough for me, after my air bed decided to have an “unplanned flattening” in the early hours. That was a low point, literally!

I was packed and off into the mist at sparrow’s. 

Retracing my steps back to Dwellingup, I made it to the pub for a some much needed calorie replacement. A great couple of days. A micro adventure  – turning dreams into memories – I won’t forget my 61st birthday. 

Day 101 & 102: 7-8 September – The solo micro adventures of Mr A – packrafting and bikepacking galore!

Author: Mr A

Sept 7th

From: Perth

To: Lane Poole Reserve

Distance: Driven – 120km  Riden 15km

When the cat’s away…Mr A gets to play with his toys…on this occasion his packraft and fat bike. Mrs A is in the US and Miss Tassie (our Burmese cat) doesn’t fly until next Wednesday. I had a few days to go off exploring. I had read about an area a 90 minute drive south-east of Perth that had some white water paddling and also great off road biking tracks.

I headed off in the car with camping gear as the Zone is getting some repairs done in Perth. The landscape changed dramatically, forested hills and lush valleys. I’d booked a camp site in the Lane Poole Reserve, 50,000 hectares of outdoor playground with a river winding through jarrah trees and miles of walking and biking trails.

Up went the “Norman No Mates” little hike tent. and I jumped on the bike to scope out what the paddling would be like. Wow…some stretches of flat water interspersed with rapids of varying sizes. This looked interesting! I’d not taken the packraft out on anything like this before.

Sept 8th

From: Charlie’s Flat, Lane Poole Reseve

To: Yarragil, Murray River

Distance: Driven 8km. Paddled 12km. Cycled 20km

It was time to test my metal in some white water. I drove upstream and parked the car, the plan being to paddle down to my camp, jump on the bike and ride back to collect it. I was soon in the water and heading downstream at a fair rate of knots in the strong current. My first little rapid and all was good. I had decided to leave the spray skirt off, trading ease of egress should I be tipped, with the downside of getting some water in the boat. Following the paddling map I soon heard the roar of the “only for the experienced white water canoeist” rapid, and decided as I was on my own, with no helmet, I better portage this one. With a 3.5 kg boat that’s easy. The next rapid was pretty bouncy, but the little boat just bounced over the white water like a wild thing…great fun…some adrenaline released!

I only saw a couple of other boats on the water, and watched a family coming down the rapid behind me…no one looked in control and sure enough dad and his son tipped in. I rushed over as I hadn’t seen the son come up, he was trapped under the boat briefly and then popped out not a happy little chappy. I helped get him out of the water and calmed him down. He probably won’t take a deep bath for a while. And so that’s how people drown, no skills, no risk assessment, just jumped in and went down with no clue how to keep the boat going the right direction.

I was at camp by lunch so drove down steam and left the bike and then paddled down, deflated the raft and strapped it on the rack and cycled back. These boats are so flexible, people just don’t know about them.

Day 102 & 103: 8-9 September – Arriving in the Windy City (no wind!) 

Author: Mrs A

From: Sydney, Australia

To: Chicago, USA

Distance flown: 15,100km (8 Sept)

Time: 26 hours door to door

Distance walked: 15.2km (9 Sept – Mr A’s birthday)

The 8th September went on and on, as I left Forestville at 9am and arrived at my hotel at 7pm the same day. I took the longest non-stop flight in the world, the 13,800km QF7 to Dallas, then rushed through the airport to get to my connection to Chicago, catching it by the skin of my teeth. Unfortunately my luggage didn’t have the same luck, and arrived sometime during the night.

The USA is in a bit of a frenzy with Hurricane Irma about to hit the whole state of Florida and everyone ordered to evacuate. Chicago airport had multiple stressed looking families with piles of luggage who have escaped the danger zone, relieved to be safe while wondering what they will end up going home to after the storm has passed. There is little else on the news programmes.

Chicago meanwhile is calm and safe with no storms forecast here. Once I had checked in, had a long hot shower, and then put my travelling clothes back on (still no luggage at this point), I headed out to explore, despite it being dark out there! My hotel is very centrally located, opposite Grant Park and Lake Michigan. Crossing the road my first sight is an 8 piece Latino band playing salsa with around 100 people wriggling their hips on the temporary dance floor. A fabulous atmosphere, all free, with many local people sitting around with chairs and picnics enjoying the show. 

I continued my tour, heading over to the Buckingham Fountain – stunningly lit up agains the backdrop of the city. I was pleased I took my camera with me, and I joined many other photographers taking photos of the spectacle. Behind the fountain was the Windy City Wine Festival kicking off – I wasn’t game to go for a solo tasting after being awake for nearly 30 hours though!

Saturday morning began early, with jet lag ensuring sleep was totally absent. My luggage had arrived so I could finally change clothes and freshen up properly before heading out to explore in daylight. I headed across the park to the lake and took the lakeside walk along to the Navy Pier. Here I booked myself on an Archtecture Boat Tour of Chicago.

Chicago has a river running right through the centre of the city, in the past polluted and unpleasant, but in the past thirty years has been cleaned up, and more recently a riverside walk opened up and sustainable plantings to encourage the return of native fish. The boat travelled along the three arms of the river, with a self professed architecure geek giving an interesting and humourous commentary about the buildings around us. I learned so much, in particular how to see the buildings as sculptures with a historical context. The 75 minute tour went quickly and it was soon time for lunch.

After a bite to eat it was on with the exploring, walking through more parks on my way to the Museum of Contemporary Art. There are 570 parks in Chicago, meaning that you are never far away from a patch of green and trees. It makes for a very attractive city.

At the MCA I paid my entry and went to see the primary exhibition of paintings and prints by Japanese Takeshita Murakami. Some interesting artworks, many based on Anime and Japanese folk law – I think I might have found the next ‘impossible’ jigsaw for Donna and Andy!

By the time I left the gallery I really was feeling the effects of only 4 hours sleep since Thursday night, and began to head back to the hotel…diverting briefly to do a little shopping and get a local SIM card. As much as I hoped I could do without an active phone, I am finding there is very little working free wi-fi and it is challenging to look anything up offline.

Back at the hotel by 6pm I had a 40 minute nap, then went to a local cafe for some food.  I really like Chicago. It feels quite like Sydney – very international, welcoming, young, vibrant, clean and safe. I chatted to a lady at the cafe while I was waiting for my food. She had lived here for 8 years and gave me some good tips and ideas for tomorrow. So much to do! 

But first – sleep…

Day 101: 7 September – From west to east

Author: Mrs A

From: Perth, Western Australia

To: Sydney, New South Wales

Distance flown: 2034 miles/3,274 km

Time: 4hrs 10 mins

Modes of transport travelled on: 5 (shuttle bus, plane, train, bus and car)

It was an early start to Thursday morning when I woke at 1.30am and checked my clock, before dozing until the alarm went off at 3am. I farewelled Mr A and caught the shuttle bus to the airport, and by 5.15am was cruising across the runway and up and away, heading east across the continent.

Arriving in sunny and sparkling Sydney I called into Vision Critical, my old work place, to leave my bags while I headed over to Paddington to have my hair cut. It was so good to see everyone and I was amazed at how many people are following our adventures.

At Lunio’, Toni worked wonders, tuning my hair from wild bush bumpkin into something slightly more civilised, and I returned to the city to pick up some US$ spending money and my luggage.

Onwards then to my next bus out to Foresville. Expertly coached by Eveliene I found my way to the right stop, and arrived at the assigned location to be escorted back to their house for the night. A delicious Thai meal and a couple of glasses of wine later and the day was complete. Of course I had lots of furry Burmese cuddles with Donut and Noodles too!

Noodles is doing well despite his extended vets visit after developing diabetes, though I’m not sure I will be putting them on my list of top spots for a hair cut! Hopefully fur will have returned by the time we see him next in December.

Mr A meanwhile has headed bush – he left Perth after a longer sleep, collected some bike-packing-friendly-food (light and instant!) and set off for Charlie’s Flats at Nanga Brook. He’s tackling some sections of the Munda Biddi Trail, the longest off-road cycling trail in the world. It runs for over 1,000km but I don’t think he’ll do it all! Am sure he will be along once he’s back online to explain more…

Day 100!: 6 September – Preparing for the send off!

Author: Mr A

From: Karrinyup Waters

To: Country Comfort Hotel, Perth Airport

Distance driven: 23km

Well how timely, 100 days together marks the end of Phase 1 of this tour. Tomorrow Mrs A flies out in the morning for her round the world trip, and I “head for the hills”. After a 3 week interlude while she travels to the US and then the UK, Phase 2 will commence when she returns to join us. Yes…us…by then our fur child will have joined the adventure, the lovely Miss Tasmania, blue Burmese and a camping cat. So today we had to dash off to Pet Barn and buy all sorts of goodies to accomodate her every wish (eat, sleep, poo, purr, repeat). 

This afternoon we took the caravan in for a few bits and pieces to be fixed up at a repairer Zone RV are using for several other customers, thankfully giving us a much better reception than our last attempt in Exmouth. So we waved goodbye and headed off to our motel for the night near the airport (well…almost a night – Catherine has a 3am alarm call…shudder).

A send off dinner was had at a local Chinese. A veritable mountain of prawn crackers was delivered to the table followed by humungous dishes of great seafood. Feeling rather replete. Tomorrow we both go our seperate ways  – a little sad – but also both excited by our respective plans. Watch this space…

Day 99: 5 September – Exploring Perth on two wheels

Author: Mrs A

Location: Perth

Distance cycled: 28km

Spring truly sprung in Perth this morning and we were back in the shorts and t-shirts again as we jumped on our bicycles to head into the city. Our first stop was to a chemist so I could pick up some drugs to try and keep me breathing over the next three weeks, and we had lunch in a lovely cafe next door.

Onwards then towards the city following 14km of off road cycleways and towards the botanical gardens. Perth is pretty hilly, something we particularly realised today with some steep climbs to reach the gardens.  But we made it up, me wheezing quite heavily with my compromised airway, but proud to have made it

The gardens are beautiful, native plantings representing different areas of Western Australia’s wild flora. Most of the pathways were not meant for bikes so we missed out on a wonderful looking treetop boardwalk winding through the gums, but sneaked through to some of the lookouts over the intersection of the Canning and Swan Rivers.

We finally got to see Western Australia’s famous everlasting flowers, stunning carpets of pink and yellow we had hoped to glimpse on our journey south. They are worth the hype!

We finished our ride back at the Toyota garage, where we handed over a swift $800 (gulp) for all the electrical repairs and parts we needed fitting, and loaded the bikes on the back of the Landcruiser. We returned to camp via the Perth Sailing Club for some sunset photos (sorry Eveliene, didn’t make it to the Blue Boat House – we drove past and it looked busy!).

A chilled out evening ahead, and hopefully an early night – I didn’t sleep well last night with all my medical relevations swimming through my head.

Day 98: 4 September – Retail therapy and another WA hospital visit

Author: Mr A

From: Karrinyup Waters

To: Perth City Centre

Distance driven: 14km

Distance walked: 13km

We drove the Cruiser into Perth City Toyota, acting on an introduction from the Trenfields to the Service Manager there. 12,000km and remediation needed – a few minor repairs. What a terrific reception we got there – knowledgable, personable and friendly service. A world of difference from Mosman Toyota in Sydney! 

We left the Cruiser in good hands and headed into the city on the FREE buses. Then we went for a FREE (if we wanted to be mean, which we didn’t) lunch at the payment optional vegan Indian restaurant right overlooking the Swan River.

Things went downhill from there in the payment dept, new glasses and prescription sunnies for me after my recent eye test (although a 2 for 1 deal at Specsavers pretty good though), some outdoor shop power purchasing (we’re not on holiday if we don’t visit every gear shop), and so it went on.  Actually we loved Perth City Centre. So quiet, almost carless, clean, a pleasant change from Sydney’s clogged CBD. 

Our last task of the day was to visit an ENT specialist Catherine has got to know through her Facebook group and get her trachea looked at (for those not regular readers she has a rare disease which blocks her airway). Basically not very good news. She will need to have another op when she gets back from her world tour. Ah well…such is life for the Andersons – if its not her throat its my eyes – all the more reason to cram in the travel while we can. 

We decided to not worry about it and ram a decent Thai meal down us. Marvellous….an Uber back to camp and that was day 98. 

Day 97: 3 September – Chilling in Perth (literally) 

Author: Mrs A

From: Roleystone, Perth

To: Karrinyup, Perth

Distance: 48km

Caroline and Andy treated us to a delicious full English breakfast which set us on the right path for the day ahead, helping us warm up on this fresh Perth morning. We farewelled our new friends and set off to our campground, about 14km north of Perth. 

We decided to head first to the local shopping centre, marvelling at all the choice – we even replenished our herbal tea stocks in T2!

From there we headed towards the coast, checking out the beaches. The wind was quite chilly and wintry – only about 17 degrees – at least 10 degrees cooler than we like! 

We had a short explore before heading back to the mobile apartment for an evening of leftover curry and movies (thank you Donna and Andy!)

Day 96: 2 September – Arriving in the big city

Author: Mr A

From: Cervantes

To: Roleystone, Perth

Distance: 231km

A short cruise down the coast had us arriving at the Pinnancles, an alien looking landscape of limestone rock formations protruding from the desert.

The origin of their unique structure is still unknown, and little work has been done to understand them. This trip has really underlined the incredible diversity of our landscape here, and how much of its formation remains lost in the 500 million years of its evolution. 

By mid afternoon we were entering our first city for three months. Closer to Jakarta than Sydney, the fact that we’ve driven here (the long way!) makes it all the more rewarding. We headed to the hills where we had arranged to visit friends of friends, Andy and Caroline. We watched the temperature drop on the Cruiser’s thermostat as we climbed up the tree lined roads. By the time we had arrived it was late afternoon and around 12 degrees! 

They had a fabulous roaring fire on the go and we settled down with a bottle of red to get to know each other. They have travelled over 64,000 km around Australia, yup that number is not a mistype. What an incredible journey, all written up in their blog ( It’s just wonderful for us to meet new people like this and get an insight into their lives. There was certainly a lot of common ground around how health issues focus the mind on living life to the full while we can.  

Day 95: 1 September – First day of spring…

Author: Mrs A

Location: Cervantes

Distance cycled: 12km

A blustery, showery day met us as we awoke this morning, making it very hard to muster the energy to get out of bed and greet the world. But we did, jumped on our bikes and explored Cervantes, heading first to Lake Thetis home to more ancient stromatolites. 

A 3,500 year old stomatolite in the rain:

From there we cycled back to the coast to the Lobster Shack. This is home to a multi million dollar business, fishing for and processing Western Rock Lobster (known locally as ‘crayfish’) – most of which are exported live overseas. They also have a very basic restaurant where their chefs cook up the locally caught lobsters for visitors. We had to try it out.

Verdict: delicious! I’m looking forward to cooking the one in our freezer soon…

The sunshine disappeared after lunch, replaced by ever strengthening wind and increasing showers. We decided to give up our cycle exploration and retired to the mobile apartment for an afternoon holed up with chocolate and binge watching some of the Netflix we downloaded in Geraldton!