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MUNDA BIDDI FAM TRAIL
Unsupported adventure for mother and son in Western Australia
Our first family adventure, our first bike trip together. And what a trip! We rod with pride, one of the longest bike trails on the planet. With the bikes fully charge, the 15 days in the eucalyptus forests were sturdy, sometimes rough, but all unforgettably wild.
When the Munda Biddi Bike Trail was inaugurated in April 2013 with its 1000 and more kilometres from Mundaring to Albany, it was the longest offroad bike trail in the world. A few months earlier I was in Perth with my son Jack. He lives there, while I still live where I was born, in Italy. We both love sport and big spaces and the idea of cycling the entire Munda Biddi route together came spontaneously to us. We will be able to realize our intention only many years later. For both of us the first cycling experience self-supported, but above all a very, very special family trip.
Mundabiddi is an Aboriginal word meaning "path through the forest", according to the local Noongar language.
(Here is a report of this adventure, divided into the 14 stages in which we have covered it).
First sector: the baptism of fire
I like Australia very much and as soon as I can I reach my son Jack in Perth, often bringing my bike from Italy. In November 2019 we both decided to dedicate our holidays to Munda Biddi: two weeks for the Trail and one week for the sea, when the adventure is over. So, as soon as we landed in Perth, the day was dedicated to bike set-up and bikepacking preparation. The next day we set off early in the morning to reach the Northern Terminus of Munda Biddi in Mundaring, with a short stage, to test our travel set-up, tent and kitchen. Our bikes are fully charged and we immediately notice it in the ramps that go up the hill near Perth, where the Trail starts. My bike weighs just under 30 kg, Jack's weighs about ten more. But seeing the Perth skyline from above and savouring the first 7 km of the Munda Biddi is already a reward.
Munda Biddi Trail brings riders deeply in contact with the classic Western Australian bush environment with its eucalyptus forests and daily wildlife encounters with kangaroos and emus. Since the beginning we thoroughly appreciated the continuity of this full immersion in nature as the paved parts of the trail are just a small minority. The trail is designed with a great variety of single track, fire roads, unsealed roads with typical pea gravel.
Every morning we are given a priceless wake-up call: at sunrise the whole forest starts chirping, an unexpected concert that will accompany us in all the fields with a tent (audio). But attention! The beginning stages of Trail are known as the "baptism of fire of the Munda Biddi". I immediately realize that I underestimated the harshness of the trail, an incessant ups and downs through the eucalyptus forests, which, seen from Perth, looked like a vast but harmless forest. Road passages are carefully avoided, we are immersed in nature completely and in continuity. The rustle at the sides of the path warns us of kangaroos, they too will be company almost every day.
The Serpentine Reservoir, the first large national park we cross, welcomes us with a small family of kangaroos, some snappy wallabies and a bunch of sprightly emus. In addition to the fauna, we also happen to encounter "diversions", the changes of route due to the bushfires, the programmed fires; in these cases we ride on alternative paths, marked by Munda Biddi Trail Foundation, which constantly monitors and updates the route with surprising efficiency.
After a first part all in the forest, the trail goes out in rural areas, tangenting the Dandalup dam and the small village of Dwellingup, where we begin to get familiar with the pubs of the Great Southern and their respective beer selections.
Second sector: in the kingdom of the giant Karri
Let's start to settle in and find the right rhythm of riding.The alarm clock is very early in the morning: a concert made by the calls of the birds, which has its peak at sunrise (audio). The alarm clock is very early in the morning: a little concert made by the calls of the birds, which has its peak at sunrise (audio). We make most of the route in the morning, also to fight the heat, while the constant shade of the huge trees shelters us from the scorching sun. The route is always open, but spring and autumn are the best seasons, also because of the lower risk of fire.
This central part of the Munda Biddi was for us the most spectacular. It is here that the Karri forest, the great eucalyptus trees, becomes majestic and endless. We head south, constantly embraced by this ancestral forest. We perceive a sense of immensity and trespassing, in an environment that, despite its severity, proves to be more "welcoming" every day. It is also thanks to the flowers that dot the trail: as we push south, their blanket increases and adds new energy to our ride.
Nestled in the forests like a jewel, we meet today the small village of Donnelly River. Its vintage style store is surrounded by emu, kangaroos and parrots, who are happily strolling between the terrace and the garden. A few little houses are scattered among the trees, no TV, telephone, internet connection. Rhythms and spaces so human that they are now as rare as gold. Like the delicious cakes in the store, fresh from the day.
The Munda Biddi is meticulously marked. At every change of direction (and there are so many of them) a yellow arrow-pole, discreet but visible, indicates the right direction. However, this is the only information on site: there are no position indications, relative or absolute distance signs. Therefore, the 9 maps that illustrate the route, water points, available services, info on the villages in the vicinity are indispensable. Useful the gpx track for a confirmation of the right distance.
Third sector: towards the Ocean
We begin to desire the sea... but we can still only imagine it! Along the way we meet instead a very famous Karri, the Gloucester Tree that dominates the homonymous park. The tree is climbable thanks to a sequence of rungs that unfold along the trunk and we do not miss the opportunity to climb up to 58 meters high. As soon as we leave by bike a beautiful flow trail with hairpin bends and humpbacks awaits us.We are confident and we almost forgot that we have two tens of kilos bikes under our butts!
Heading southwest, the Trail enters a very rugged and wild territory. During the 50 km to Yrra Karta Hut, where we stop for lunch, the trail opens into clearings where it really seems to be at the dawn of civilization. About human, along the way we met only a handful of bikers and not everyone on the track for the Munda Biddi full, but only for some segments. The encounters are always very welcome and among wide smiles we gladly lose more than a few minutes in chatting and exchanging information.
At last we admire the ocean from the summit of Mount Frankland, a 411 m high granite hill that surrounds 31,000 hectares of forests, immensity and wilderness. The descent towards the coast includes several stretches of sand where the bike sinks, among our expletives ... So we arrive tired to our last camp stretched in the bush, but ready to treat ourselves to a special dinner in front of the forest that is dozing, just like us. All around, a range of pastel colours and muffled silences that we don't forget.
(All Hut that dot the Munda Biddi have been a welcome surprise: they are free camping areas distributed regularly, equipped with toilets, shelter huts and large rainwater collection tanks. A formidable help especially for self-sufficient trail beginners, just like us).
And here we are at the iconic beaches by the ocean: Green Pools, Elephant Cove and Light Beach. The Trail connects them thanks to a memorable path, between glimpses over the sea and twists and turns in the green dunes. So we decide to stop in the coastal village of Denmark for a day of well-deserved rest, where we treat ourselves to hearty food, chardonnay tastings in the well-kept local farms and an evening in a famous craft brewery. To prepare properly for the last stage and the finish line, which we desired with all our might right from the start.
Epilogue: Albany, Southern Terminus
"Come on, it's done. I'd be down on my knees in Albany right now," Jack said yesterday. There was no need, we got there on our heavy bikes, and obviously full of pride. John, who we met the day before in Denmark, offered to take our clothes to Albany in his van but we declined, “we can't change the team that wins". Albany was reached as our imagination had hoped, with joy and generous smiles, also because of the relative ease of this final stage. We crossed it in the company of Christine, who also left Perth a few days before us and hooked on the way.A nice trio that arrived joyfully at the end of the line, and this was a good excuse to multiply the beers and “celebrations" at the Southern Terminus and then in the streets of Albany, until late in the evening.
Postscriptum: we've been a family on-trail, but above all we've been very efficient travel companions! We've had our difficult times, but we've solved them as a team. The usual roles dissolved and turned into new alchemies: when Jack was perplexed, I took the initiative; when I was a bit groggy, he was the locomotive. This trip was a surprise, a new page that opened and where we want to write more adventures.
MUNDA BIDDI FAM TRIP essentials:
dslv: 9730 mt
paper maps: 9
riders met along the trail: 16
snakes sighted: 7
butt cream tubes used: 4
species of flowers photographed: 29
I was born and live in Italy, I am a graphic designer and cycling guide in Emilia Romagna, a region of Italy where you can eat divinely. But adventure sport in the wilderness is the payoff of my life. In addition to cycling I also like trekking and everything wild you can do in the mountains, despite living by the sea. I became a grandmother in 2013, but I still want to imagine and plan many outdoor adventures to live, near and far from home. For some years now I have been following and developing projects that combine visual, communication and cycling tourism for my region.. Instagram: digibike_pics.