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Well golly gosh. A mid winter E2E… twice. That’d be a nice challenge and a laugh I thought. Correct on both counts!
Last years mid winter S2N during what was the wettest August week in a decade, almost morphing me into a mouldy frog, and then riding back to Bunbury on smashed legs with just enough time to go back to work, made me realise that a double had to be done, and in August. Anyone can ride on a sunny day right? But winter really, really makes every day a workout in some way.
Bitter cold days of rain, sodden soft slow tracks, huge amounts of flooded trails, and on the positive, there’s hard packed faster forest tracks, no flies, no mozzies, no heat, photo opportunities galore, there’s almost no one else on the trail (so finding an empty hut is almost guaranteed), and there’s honking good fun to be had!
All the rivers are flowing, creeks are full, there’s heaps of water everywhere! And moisture laden beauty. I felt good after last years effort, and actually a little sad that I’d finished, but I felt good. So, why not? I’ll be turning 56 and what better way to celebrate? Adventure before Dementia.
As per last year I was bedridden with the Flu leading up to this one, so no bike club training rides, or MTBing , a week off work, no gym, no anything for two weeks so I could get a little better. Then I re-injured a previously broken foot and previously torn knee ligament. Beauty. Oh well, as long as I can pedal, who cares. I wasn’t out to set records, but I figured 11 to 14 days each way, av 80 odd km a day, taking into account storms, cold fronts and mechanical dramas, it seemed reasonable. Staying at huts was a priority too. No tent this year.
Bike was prepped, new tyres, cassette, chain, chain ring, brakes, and lower gearing with narrower faster rolling 2.8 bike packing tyres this time on my Surly Karate Monkey. I forgot to do the bottom bracket.
Challenges? Yeah heaps. Days of wet soggy feet and shoes from either riding through frame deep water, with the splash splash of pedals in water, or pushing through flooded boggy muddy tracks or just riding hours in the rain.They never dried unless I had successive days of sunshine.
Little toes that blistered so many times they eventually bled into my socks. I wrapped them in medical tape daily. I have wide feet like a human camel. No shoes are wide enough for my flippers and water softens flesh. Constant wet clothing which lead to painful saddle sores. I was turning into a human mouldy amphibian.
A large violent storm front came through while I was at Yirra Karta hut. The winds drove rain in so hard through the entrance that I got wet sleeping on the bottom bunk! A hasty 1 am retreat to move my bed up to the top bunk close to the wall, and I added earplugs to deaden the rock n roll heavy metal concert of rain on the roof. Ear plugs are not just for snorers!!
The ride from Nannup to Nglang Boodja hut in my home turf in Wellington National Park was THE hardest day in the saddle. I knew the big storm front was coming, but being an optimist, and also unfazed about these things, I wanted to make the hut. I love that spot. I do love the huts, the serenity, the locations…
As I eagerly scoffed the contents of the Donnybrook Bakery, the weather really took a turn…a real baaaad bad turn!! Hmmm ok, I’ll finish these pies, pasties, muffins, coffee and cakes (hey it’s my fuel ok!?) and venture out into it to test it on the highway...Jeeez Batman!!
All the wheelie bins were blowing over towards me, crows we’re going backwards, even the cows looked like they were leaning, I was down to 10 to 12kmh into the wind all through Boyanup, Crooked Brook and Ironstone, and then the hail, pelting rain, lightning, thunder and more wind smashed me up Ferguson Rd. Gosh I said. I was climbing Richards Road thinking I was gonna get hit by lightning as I was counting the seconds between Crack! and Flash!
A passing farmer offered me a lift on Ferguson road as I cowered briefly under some trees, to remove my specs. I declined politely. He laughed, shook his head and drove off.
I couldn’t see the road. It was awash, and I was riding in the gravel to stay out of the way of cars. The few cars on Ferguson road were crawling along. Hmmm, this is quite a fun day out I thought...This is living!! Maybe temporarily.
It was sooooo so good to reach the hut…. ahhh so nice to get changed and warm up. Shaking like a nuclear powered jackhammer. The percussion in my head was my teeth chattering. There were a few of these moments. Numb. I suffer from feeling loss in my fingers and toes easily.
There were also many moments of just loving the ride, the beauty, and how alive the bush was. The quietness and peace of Booner Mundak hut, with a chorus of frogs and a distant owl mixing with the eerie haunting sound of the wind through the sheoak trees. Finding a mass of tadpoles and young frogs in the rock pools above Yirra Karta hut.
I hiked and half-jogged up Mt Lindesay enroute to Booner Mundak from Jinung Beigabup. I jogged down. Made Booner hut on dark. Legs very unhappy all the next day!! Mental note: No more running. Just riding. There were two, maybe three days where I had nothing in my legs. Crack on regardless!
My bottom bracket was shot to bits by Yirra Karta hut on the return. Muddy water and corrosion. The cranks were wobbling sideways enough to make gear changing tricky, I had to go without my lowest gear for the rest of the way. Oh well, crack on, at least they still turned, albeit with horrid crunchy munchy noises. But I can still climb. All good. More rain. I was onto my second set of brake pads too.
An overnighter in Walpole for a bike wash, lube, beers and food. Another cold front moved in. More rain. Left Walpole in the rain.
The southern forests are my favourite. Mist, cloud, rain, rivers, Karri trees, hills, solitude, the physical exertion, animals, birdlife, meeting people in towns, shops and pubs. Bakeries. Love it.
S2N vs N2S? Harder? Easier?. No difference to me after 3 and a half times in two years . Don’t even think about it.
Including missed turns some extra exploring and excursions.