March 3 — Bruce Rock to Narembeen, 41.18 klms, Avg speed 13.5 kph, Cycling time 3.02 hrs; Total kms 19,224
Someone’s flicked a switch! We’ve noticed a change in the weather over the past few days, not as hot during the day & getting cooler overnight, it was 17C this morning when we loaded Crazy Roby & Horsey, a temp we’re not accustomed to feeling. Still once we battled the blustery headwinds we soon warmed up, the winds were pretty fierce so out came our iPods to help us along the way & I also slip streamed Greg for some of the way, well he offered so I didn’t say “No”. Narembeen is located 280km east of Perth in Western Australia. The original town site was located at Emu Hill, 5km out of the current town site, but was relocated after the building of a pub which Emu Hill didn’t want. By 1925, Narembeen had a population of 2,100 and Emu Hill was no more, today Narembeen (Shire pop 906) is now an established agricultural region producing a variety of cereal products and livestock. We went upmarket & stayed in a cabin at the Caravan Park for 2 nights as the camping area wasn’t that inviting, the cabin sent us over budget, what the heck, the comfortable beds were worth it! Narembeen does have a Cafe, but it hasn’t opened for a few months and nobody seems to know why, so Greg has instant coffee and I tea out the front of a gift shop that has set up a sort of substitute. The day warms up and the pool next door does look inviting, but we have some admin. to do and after lunch Greg does he usual disappearing act under the auspices of needing time to think. Not many people snore while they’re thinking, Greg does. We have a beer at the pub in the evening before returning for a broccoli pasta dinner and a TV watch. All very suburban....The next day the school swimming carnival was on with all the associated noise of excited kids and screaming parents. The sports’ teacher’s mega-phoned voice put an end to our day of rest so we had a ride around town, did a little shopping for Hyden, our next stop, in case we missed the supermarket closing at midday tomorrow. It’s a long weekend in WA so the supermarkets will be closed on Monday as well so a little planning is called for before we once again hit the road early to beat the heat. We may have less troublesome winds as the forecast is for ENE to NNE winds at 12klms but as the journey tomorrow is made up of both an easterly and then a southerly direction we’re not too worried. Tomorrows ride will also be the most easterly point on this foray into the wheat belt before we head south and then back west again so, wind gods willing, we may even enjoy a few tails winds next week. Yeehaa!
March 5 — Narembeen to Hyden (Wave Rock), 94.04 klms, Avg speed 20.1 kph, Cycling time 4.37 hrs; Total kms 19,318
We felt like champions, at 11am we arrived at Hyden after cycling 90 klms, 1.5 hours earlier than we thought, a ride with long undulations & a great tail wind for the last 52 klms. We were carrying enough food for the next 3 days but as we’d arrived earlier ducked into the supermarket & butcher to pick up some more goodies. There’s nothing really exciting about the small town of Hyden itself, the main attraction is 4 klms up the road, a natural attraction called Wave Rock—it’s a spectacular granite formation reaching over 15 metres high & thought to be in excess of 2,700 million years old. The rock was 'discovered' thanks to a photograph in an issue of National Geographic in 1967. Over 100,000 tourists a year visit the rock and account for about 15% of the income generated in the area. Our unpowered camp site at The Wave Rock Caravan Park was expensive (‘cos they can) & it was filled with other tourists, a bit of a shock seeing as we’ve had most Caravan Parks to ourselves over the past weeks. Still we really enjoyed our 3 days there, The Wave & district views were stunning. We had a pretty good meal at The Hyden Hotel (cook your own steak on the barbie) where the staff were delightful, they actually enjoyed serving you. Across from the Caravan Park was the Country Kitchen Wildflower Shoppe where Pam served up a great coffee & the mouth watering sausage rolls guaranteed a return visit the next day. After cutting back on my brekkie to accommodate the above we trotted over the road to be told by Pam the sausage rolls had sold out! Still, a shared pastie, good cuppa, yesterday’s paper & comfortable lounges didn’t disappoint. There are some nice walks over and around Wave Rock (actually gazetted as Hyden Rock) and we did them all. The scenery is a bit scrubby with scattered Salmon Gums, but the rock creates various micro climates because of its size and water run off. So the bird life is varied and interesting. We cycled the 5klms back into town on Sunday morning to take a few pics and pick up some beers. As luck would have it the pub didn’t open until well in the afternoon which meant that Greg, good boy that he is, will have to cycle back again for the icy cold amber ales which I’m enjoying more and more. There’s no internet at Wave Rock, which is probably a good thing, so we spend our afternoons reading under the cover of a large tin roof that forms part of the camp kitchen, cum BBQ area. Greg knows the way to my heart and I find him determinedly mashing potato on a flat plate with a plastic fork in preparation for the evening meal. Now that’s love. On top of this very creamy mash, with “just a dob of butter” sit a couple of BBQ’d bangers, onions and zucchinis to which I add a green salad. We’re never going to starve....
March 8 — Hyden (Wave Rock) to Karlgarin, 21.65 klms, Avg speed 20.5 kph, Cycling time 1.00 hrs; Total kms 19,339
We ride the 5klms into Hyden to pick up more supplies which include a hand full of Rosemary I need for tonight's dinner that Greg pilfers from a bush outside the Hyden Memorial Hall. With a great tail wind & an hour later we arrived at Tressie’s Caravan Park at Karlgarin. Our next stop south is Lake Grace, we could have ridden the 106 klms in one stretch but wanted to stay at Tressie’s & look around Karlgarin. The latter was once a small farming district with the town being determined by the railway coming from Lake Grace. The town was tiny, with 4 homes, a school & police reserve. Today the town is still small with a population less than 50 people, the school has closed, the police reserve no more but the yesteryear style of the shop is still trading as is the Karlgarin Country Club with a great 50’s mural. We went to the Club on both nights for beers, the Club is the only social point for the locals so they all work together to ensure it remains open. Across the railway line, Merv & Laurel run Tressie’s Museum & Caravan Park. Their family have been farmers in Karlgarin since 1922 & the idea for the Museum & Park was to give Merv an interest after farming, he’s also been collecting machinery & memorabilia for the last 30 years. The Park is one of the best we’ve stayed at—spotlessly clean, quiet & with a great camp kitchen & it’s cheap too, we’re staying in budget accommodation cheaper than our unpowered tent site at Wave Rock. We’re not really into museums but Merv’s collection, display & his passion won us over & we happily spent the morning looking around. Again as there’s no internet or phone reception here we can’t do much admin and log work so the luxury of reading took up a good part of our days, it’s certainly no hardship.
March 10 — Karlgarin to Lake Grace, 87.04 klms, Avg speed 20.7 kph, Cycling time 4.11 hrs; Total kms 19,426
We delayed our trip to Lake Grace by one day as the winds were more favourable today and they were, we had a fantastic 25 kph tail wind which gave us time to take in the beauty of the farming landscape & natural salt lakes shimmering in shades of pink, green & mauve. What a lovely town Lake Grace is, we’d driven through here on our way to Mount Barker and Albany about 10 years ago but couldn’t remember much about the town other than the only living thing we saw then was a dog sleeping in the middle of the road outside the pub. The Shire of Lake Grace covers 10,747 square kilometres & has a population of 1456 & Lake Grace is the major town in the region. We’ve already discovered excellent coffee, a pizza shop & cheap donga accommodation at the Caravan Park so we’re here for 2 days.
We both noticed as we cycled south from Karlgarin that the scenery had changed ever so slightly. It was slightly greener, but not by much, and we rode by a vineyard. As Greg says, it always warms the cockles of his heart when he’s near vineyards. I just think he’s a piss head! We also passed some people shearing in an open shed near the road and I’m sure we both think what a very tough way to make a living the shearing of sheep is. On our first night in Lake Grace we had a few beers and then though we’d check out the local pizza shop. The beers were cold and the pizza pretty good, although we both agreed it’s still hard to beat Dave’s at Dimitri’s Pizza on Crown St Surry Hills. One of the things we miss from home is amongst others, the regular places we’d go for coffee or a feed and although Dave doesn’t take bookings he always had a table for us. Anyway, fed and watered we returned to our donga for the night and slept well. Riding 90 odd kilometres will do that for you. We coffee’d and papered at the local Cafe before having a wander around town. Again, the local school was having a swimming carnival at the town pool so we didn’t venture there, and the weather, while still warm, has changed. The mornings cooler and slower to heat up, we find ourselves seeking sunshine with our morning cuppa, something we’ve not done since we left Queensland more than 18 months ago. The light seems to have lost some of its intensity too, although this may be just our imagination. The gardens in Lake Grace seem to sustain more ornamentals than we’ve seen for a while and I even manage to find a Gardenia, which I promptly pick, to brighten our donga. Friday nights, as is the case in most wheat belt towns, is Club night. We go along for a look, a beer and a feed. In that order. The bowling, tennis, hockey, footy, soccer and just about any other sport you care to mention, well probably except for curling, are all celebrated at the local sports/district club. Friday night is fish & chips night and we dig in with relish. Our evening is tainted only by, what Greg describes, as the village idiot, planting himself at our table and talking at us for an hour or so. He is harmless, but just not much fun. We leave early and catch an episode of New Tricks on the tele before the sand man does his job. We managed to avoid the sprinklers and our washing has dried while we were away. Greg is learning, be patient.....
March 12 — Lake Grace to Kulin, 75.38 klms, Avg speed 18.4 kph, Cycling time 4.05 hrs; Total kms 19,502
It was that cold when we got up that for the first time in over a year we started our ride wearing a jumper, Greg even put on leggings and shoes. He hasn’t ridden in shoes and socks since before we got to Cairns. I know we’re both really dreading the coming winter months. With 20 klms under our belts off came the layers as we headed west to the Tin Horse Highway with another great tail wind pushing us along. The 20 klms highway is named after all the tin horses that appear along the way. What started out as a bit of fun, skilfully made by local farmers our of drums & odd pieces from farm workshops, soon became a competition between East & West Kulin to build the biggest & the best horse, it was fun looking at them all.
Kulin (Shire pop 920) was once known for its Sandalwood, today it’s a lovely, quiet town whose economy is based on agriculture & its successful grain production is reflected in the size of its storage sheds & silos, they’re huge. Nearly 150,000 tones of grain can be stored in the bins making Kulin the largest grain receival point in the district. There are 2 Caravan Parks here, one old & one brand new (was the old bowling club) however we’re staying in the new Hostel attached to the new park, it’s Backpacker accommodation with 24 dorm beds but we’ve got our own room, too old to share! We’re the only ones here so are making the most of the great facilities—fully equipped kitchen, couches, flat screen TV & stereo. Steak & Chicken Parmagianna was devoured at the local last night, over the next 2 nights we’ll be eating a home cooked beef casserole soaked up with Greg’s yummy mashed potato (just a dob of butter). We have ordered some new clothing, cycle shoes for Greg and de-hy mince meat to be delivered further up the road in preparation for our trip into the Dryandra Forest and down one section of what is known as the Munda Biddi trail, a bush track pacifically (as Greg is want to say) designed for cycling, which we’ll attempt early next month.
March 15 — Kulin to Corrigin, 54.82 klms, Avg speed 18.7 kph, Cycling time 2.55 hrs; Total kms 19,557
It’s the usual—another great scenic ride & with a tail wind too. Dogs are loved in Corrigin, there’s a Dog Cemetery 5 klms out of town & the town currently holds the Guinness World Record for the number of dogs in utes. It’s another typical attractive wheat belt town with good coffee found at The Mallee Tree. I’d booked us into a O’Nite van at the local caravan park and after a quick whizz around with a Chux the van was home for the next couple of nights. For some reason we both felt a bit lazy in the food department & bought a jar of Paul Newman’s pasta sauce for dinner. I’m pretty sure that Paul doesn’t make much pasta sauce any more, him being dead and all, and it shows..... The next day we rode 5klms out of town to the dog cemetery. We wandered around looking at the loving care people had prepared their dogs last resting place. Greg facetiously asked if the Catholic dogs were in a different area from the Proddies. He decided that all dogs were Godless which explained why a) they were so happy and b) no dogs had ever started a war. Rare moments of lucidity from the wine addled mind. We then headed back into town and had a ride around. You can buy houses very cheaply in the wheat belt and Corrigin is no exception. A glance at the Estate Agents window will show you can buy a reasonable home for well less than $200,000. Coffee followed this spurt of activity followed by an equally unimpressive lack of activity while we had an afternoon kip before Greg prepared a pretty good roasted chicken Maryland with vegetable risotto with yet more vegetables. No chance of scurvy here.
March 17 — Corrigin to Brookton, 93.56 klms, Avg speed 19.7 kph, Cycling time 4.44 hrs; Total kms 19,650
We set off at about 7.00 in the morning for what was going to be our longest ride for a while at over 90klms. Fortunately we had a bit of a tail wind and arrived at our destination before lunch. After a feed of ham and salad rolls on Brookton’s now defunct railway station (no passenger services for over 20years) and surrounded by a very pleasant garden and landscaping we wheeled ourselves over the railway line to the Brookton Club Hotel which were our digs for the next 7 days. What a friendly place Brookton was. We saw on the Deli window that the local Country Club was having a social bowling Do with free hamburgers. How could we resist? We even brought some rain to the bowls, not that it interfered in any way with the bowling or our prowess. It lasted for about half an hour and less than 5mm of rain fell but it’s the first rain we’ve seen for a very long time. After playing social bowls on the Friday night (we did win(?) the losers prize) the invitations flowed & we attended the opening night of the Beverley (Railway) Platform Theatre (thanks Chris & Barry (B1) for the borrowed clothes, the lift there and the great company), were shown around Peter’s farm & the area with Ron in tow (a fun morning, thanks to you both) & were served the best coffee at The Brookton Deli followed by an invite to dinner (firstly by Naomi and Brad and then Andrea & Steve, many thanks. The deal was they supplied the house and we cooked and that suited us perfectly) & finally great hospitality from Barry (B2), Liz, Ron, Emma, Mairead & Top Dog, Jerry from The Club Hotel where we stayed for the week. We had a great room with a tele’, not that it was used much, a queen size bed and a huge veranda just outside with comfortable chairs just right for reading. Clean, bright, airy and quiet combined with cold beer, cool wine and good tucker all delivered with a friendly smile, who could ask for more. We both had such a nice time in Brookton and were made to feel very welcome by all and sundry. It gave us a taste of what living in a small country community is all about. With school holidays & Easter bearing down upon us we planned our itinerary for the next 5 weeks and shall head east after Collie, through more wheat belt towns returning to the west coast mid May.
March 24 — Brookton to Narrogin, 74.81 klms, Avg speed 15.4 kph, Cycling time 4.49 hrs; Total kms 19,725
Today was a hard grind, constant head wind, hills to test us approaching Narrogin & thighs screaming out in pain, well mine anyway! Some of the above was our fault, our fitness levels had plummeted not being on the bikes for the past week & we’d put on “condition” - served us right! Narrogin’s pretty big (pop 4600) surrounded by rich agricultural land & known for its spring gardens, historic buildings & nature reserves. We’re staying at the Caravan Park (it’s just OK) but the camp kitchen is a great place to catch up on admin stuff over the next 3 days. Our dozen packets of de-hydrated mince (think dog poo in colour and porridge in texture, yummmm) were awaiting our collection from the Post Office so these & other assorted goodies were posted to the Stirling Ranges Resort, we should be there 15/4. We found good coffee at Jessie’s Cafe and had an OK feed at the Duke of York Hotel. Greg did battle with Westpac Bank and pushed his blood pressure to the brink, not hard to do when he’s dealing with large corporates. Lisa and John, the caretakers of the Dryandra Woodland Village where we’re heading to next, kindly offered to take some groceries to the cottage we’ve rented for three days from Sunday. Greg has gone mad and bought stuff for a roast lamb, BBQ, pate, olives and yes a significant allocation of beer and wine. We told John and Lisa we have friends coming along. Smart people, I don’t think they believed us. There are no shops, pubs or any other commercial activity other than a phone booth anywhere near Dryandra Woodland so we spent a good part of Saturday morning at the supermarket here to ensure malnutrition doesn’t creep up on us. With all the natural disasters going on all over the place it seems trivial to complain however.... On arrival at the caravan park we entered the office to book in and pay. Greg reckons if he dies of lung cancer, it will have nothing to do with the 15 years he smoked as a kid, and everything to do with the 5 minutes he spent in almost 100% nicotine saturated air within the office. On our escape from the office and with stinging eyes I asked if they had any sprinklers of any kind. Regular followers will know we have had some difficulty with these in the past. “Cough, cough, hack, hack naahhhhh! Noffin’ like vat ‘ere.” Was the reply from the walking fag end. So you can imagine our alarm when at about 2 o’clock that morning, sssssssssssss and on came the sprinklers. We were surrounded! Please be aware dear reader that we were camped on dirt. No grass, just dirt. So I don’t know what the hell they were watering, but Greg sprang from the tent like a startled Hippo (yes, dressed as usual in his birthday suit) leaving a sound wave of swear words and promptly dropped heavy stones on all the offending water dispensers. We found out at approximately the same time the next night, he’d missed one. I think he’s hammered the thing through to China. So if there are floods there you'll know why.
March 27 — Narrogin to Dryandra Woodlands Village, 29.75 klms, Avg speed 15.3 kph, Cycling time 1.56 hrs; Total kms 19,755
Our ride to Dryandra started hilly then got flat as we approached Dryandra Woodlands Village which was established in the late 1920s as a Forests Department settlement for the harvesting of mallet bark for the tanning industry. It eventually became uneconomical & the emphasis changed to one of conservation now featuring the largest remnant of original vegetation in the western Wheat belt covering 22,000 hectares. The 8 original woodcutters cottages have been restored & Dryandra is now home to a large number of rare native mammals including the Numbat & Woylie & lots of birds. We could easily have been sloths for the 3 days, the balcony being the perfect, peaceful place to read interspersed with impressing Greg with my bird spotting/sounds skills. However, guilt got the better of us & the woodland trails beckoned & our 12 klm ride & 5 klm walk ticked all the boxes. Of course all the goodies that John delivered & stacked in the fridge (thanks John) were a bit of a distraction. Being on the road you don’t have too many opportunities to have a roast so the roast lamb and fillet of beef with loads of veggies & Greg’s crispy roast potatoes were devoured with gusto washed down with a boxed Cabernet Sauvignon which tasted more like port! We were very sad to be leaving Dryandra as we both enjoyed it very much. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to enjoy forests and we’re certainly looking forward to spending the next week or so in and around the huge timbered forests of South Western WA.
March 30 — Dryandra Woodland to Boddington, 79.97 klms, Avg speed 18.4 kph, Cycling time 4.20 hrs; Total kms 19,835
Today’s ride was hilly & pretty but at least we had a tailwind. I struggled for the first 45 klms to Wandering, don’t know why, it just seemed to take ages to get there, still a hot chocolate & a break at Wandering recharged my batteries. We saw 2 rivers, surprise, surprise, both had water although not running & we moved from wheat & sheep to wheat, sheep, horses, emus & Kerry Packers (alpacas as Greg informed me). Boddington’s been a mining town since the early 80’s—bauxite & gold— considering this the town ‘s delightful, located on the Hotham River & surrounded by forests. The Caravan Park was filled with the said miners, however, it was one of the prettiest parks we’d stayed at for a long time with grassed sites, flowers & home to a friendly bunny rabbit. We had a walk along the river and the weir before our thirst got the better of us and we went to the pub for a couple of beers (bugga, skimpy night is tomorrow) before heading back to the camp kitchen for a spag bol’ and salad, mmmmm.
March 31 — Boddington to Dwellingup, 55.38 klms, Avg speed 13.7 kph, Cycling time 4.00 hrs; Total kms 19,890
Hills, hills & more hills today, we hadn’t struck hills like this since Queensland, it was a slow, tough ride with lots of mining & forest B Doubles grinding up behind us. We passed the big mine as we left Boddington & again saw rivers & dams filled with water. The Murray River Valley runs through Dwellingup (pop 450) & tranquil streams swell to fast moving rapids in winter. Being surrounded by forests, (the town reminds us of being in the Blue Mountains in NSW) Dwellingup has many attractions 2 main ones being on the circuit of The Bibbulmun Walking Track (WA’s longest walking trail 997klms) & also The Munda Biddi cycling track, which we disappear down on Saturday. We had lunch in the park by the old railway that’s hopefully going to be restored for tourism before heading off to the caravan park and settling ourselves into a bushwalkers Donga for the next couple of nights. After the obligatory clean of the donga and a cup of tea and a well earned shower we, naturally enough, thought about a beer. Greg thought that because he’d been such a good fellow I’d take him to dinner at the pub. So I did. Guess what? He had steak.