Pt 1: Perth to Carinyah Campsite
Perth, Western Australia. It’s late autumn but the weather is still very agreeable. Cold but not freezing, and the air is crisp and pleasantly dry.
Days are still sunny with skies so stunningly blue and the UV factor so high, I can’t help thinking of Bono singing that old Cole Porter song – I’ve got you under my skin.
Melanoma is a very real threat out here.
Never mind. The sky is still pretty, and I’m here to ride the Munda Biddi*, a 1,000km off-road cycling trail that runs from Mundaring just outside of Perth, all the way to the old whaling town of Albany at the south-western tip of the island continent.
I’m not that ambitious though, I only plan to ride about a quarter of it.
*Munda Biddi means ‘Path through the forest’ in Noongar aboriginal language.
I’m already stocked up on a few days’ supply of food – oatmeal, cans of sardines, tuna and assorted stews, ready-to-cook pasta packs, Lebanese bread and my favourite trail food – peanut butter.
And I could not pedal out properly every morning if I didn’t have my freshly ground and Aeropress-brewed coffee. The combined weight of a hand-held grinder and an Aeropress is very negligible if you’re a caffeine addict like me.
Once inside the trail, re-supply can only happen at towns that are usually 3 days apart in between campsites.
Water, according to Munda Biddi’s website FAQ, would not be a problem though, as there are water tanks filled with rainwater at all the purpose-built campsites.
A water filter, however, is highly recommended. Who knows what else could have flowed in with the rain water? (Mine is a hack job on a Lifestraw, which works just as well as any fancy water filter)
I take my time getting ready on the first day of the ride. The plan is to arrive at Carinyah campsite (the first one on the trail) before sundown.
Normally, cyclists attempting the Munda Biddi start their ride from Mundaring (if it’s a north-south journey) but seeing as it’s about 40 kms away from Al’s house, then another 40 kms on the actual Munda Biddi trail before I get to the campsite, I decide to cheat and head straight for Carinyah campsite via the Albany Highway instead.
I’m not planning to ride the whole thing anyway, I just want to explore a portion of the Munda Biddi. 1,000kms of the same Australian bush scenery (I suspect it is) would have taken me a month at least.
Up into the hills
The sun is shining bright and hot as I ride through some quiet suburbs dotted along the highway — Wilson, Cannington, Beckenham, Maddington, Gosnells – they sound like typical English villages.
Albany Highway is not particularly busy, nor is traffic going at breakneck speeds. Everyone seems to be keeping to the highway’s speed limit. Very well-mannered drivers, these Aussies are.
By now, the shadows are getting longer and the temperature slowly dropping. There’s a very distinctive quiet in the Australian bush, unlike the cacophony of a tropical jungle which I’m so used to.
The silence is deafening.
Ahead of me is a crossroad, where the official Munda Biddi Trail cuts across Dale Rd on its way to Carinyah Camp.
Just as I reach the crossroad to turn into the trail, I see a rider with a fully-loaded mountain bike emerge from the opposite side.
Unlike me, he started from Mundaring sculpture park, the official starting point of Munda Biddi in Perth.
The evening sun is just about to dip into the horizon as we make our way to the campsite, a short ride away from Dale Rd.
It’s a chilly 10ºC as twilight creeps in. A quick wash and a hot dinner followed by a lengthy discourse on family, life and what lay ahead on the trail make it a perfect ending to a great first day on the Munda Biddi.