Thursday, December 04, 2008


It's near the end of the year and some people are running out of them. Here's a whole bunch — free  :-P

Hat tip:  Francis.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Munda Biddi Trail: Stage 1: Mundaring to Collie

Maps encourage boldness. They're like cryptic love letters. They make anything seem possible.
         (Mark Jenkins)

'Went back to have another crack at the Munda Biddi Trail. Unlike the last time, where I traveled hard and fast (only completing 1/3 of Stage 1), this time round I intended to travel... umm... hard and slow (to cover more ground)  :-D

Since the previous ride in 2007 (old map), half of Stage 2 has been completed, adding another 165.1 km (103.2 miles) to what will eventually be a 950 km (593.75 mile) off-road trail.

Again, as this is a multi-day ride, ride reports will be presented in a daily format. This page will remain as the index to the 2-week ride, and be regularly updated until the reports — 5.7 GB of pictures and 1.66 GB of videos to sort, edit, and notate — are complete.

Topeak Bikamper
Bob Ibex Trailer
Day 0
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13

One should count each day a separate life.
         (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

Munda Biddi Trail: Stage 1: Epilogue

In the temple of science are many mansions . . . and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them there.

Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes. Were an Angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, it would be noticeably emptier but there would still be some men of both present and past times left inside . . .. If the types we have just expelled were the only types there were, the temple would never have existed any more than one can have a wood consisting of nothing but creepers . . . those who have found favor with the Angel . . . are somewhat odd, uncommunicative, solitary fellows, really less like each other than the hosts of the rejected.

What has brought them to the temple . . . no single answer will cover . . . escape from everyday life, with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from his noisy cramped surroundings into the silence of the high mountains where the eye ranges freely through the still pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.

         (Albert Einstein)

It's come to the end of another tour again.

The past 2 weeks have been blessèd:  initial trepidation (and more than a little self-doubt) gave way, with the passage of time and accumulated experience, to a quiet, brimming joy found only in self-sufficiency and solitude. Whilst dealing with people in the process of preparing of the trip, I detected nothing but warm glows of encouragement, and became recipient to bouquets of well-wishes and enthusiastic assurances that I would have the time of my life.

In the vastness of the bush, material trappings, comforts, and everyday conveniences were exchanged for pure, unadulterated luxury of the mind and soul. Alone in the bush, I had the time and space to luxuriate in thought, refine emotions, disengage the past, explore and ultimately, define myself. Riding your bike (or pushing) for days on end and encountering no one but yourself — having to look in the mirror if you want to see what a human being looks like — reveals what truly motivates you. Sweat, dust, blood, and grime: they distill you.

And, when I do meet people, in towns, resorts, retreats, by the roadside (save for one memorable instant), walking their dogs by trailside, or enjoying a barbecue by the creekside, they are always warm, friendly, and sometimes, like the gentleman with piercings in Dwellingup, more than a little quirky  :-D  It is all the more lovely then, that, while being generally helpful, folks only offer help when asked — they seem prescient of the privacy a traveler in the bush may be seeking.

Over the crunch and crackle of pea gravel, dry twigs and leaves, redolent of eucalyptus leaves hazing the skies blue in the sun; under the gurgling laughter of Kookaburras, the odd human-like cries of "twenty-eight!" by Australian Ringneck Parrots, and the sharp, swooping "Karee! Karee!" of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos; the endless, droning buzz of bush flies crawling into my ears, mouth, nose, eyes (and yes, heart); and the sharp, painful bites of march flies in the heat; I learned to detect and appreciate the security, the contingency furnished by each bubbling brook, each sparkling stream, each quiet dam, each halcyon lake. Through long days on the trail, I chased emus, kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies and rabbits; in camp, I chased flies, more flies, tarantulas, and centipedes from my food, my belongings, my bed.

And, like sol and Lisa, I learned to grow comfortable and make peace with my love of solitude. I feel most alive when I am alone, whether it be blasting down fire roads at 45 km/h (28 mph), dicey with a fully-loaded trailer, or pushing a 62 kg (136 lbs) bike-trailer at 3 km/h (1.9 mph) for hours on end up steep, long river valleys and remote mountainsides. I think most deeply when I am alone, whether it be scribbling cryptic notes (some of which I can never make head or tails of later), self-deprecating jokes, snide remarks, and drive-bys on frayed, dog-eared notepads with greasy, dust-caked leather gloves; summarizing the day's ride after a hearty dinner in camp, scribbling under the anemic glow of a single-AAA cell headlamp, snug in merino wool and Polartec™; or gorging on AUD$6 hot dogs on a bench on Hay Street, bottle of beer furtively clad in a brown paper bag. Solo, I love to be able to stop for precious minutes and hours, just to marvel at the simple beauty of a nameless wildflower; luxuriate to an unheard recital by a hidden brook; gape at the Dali-esque play of shadow and silhouette at sunset; bear silent witness to the stars by a flickering campfire; hold cheerful communion with sunrise; or, close my eyes and listen, just listen and be caressed by the unbound wind... and revel, revel, revel.

I had the time of my life. Perhaps I even had a little too much fun; I find myself wondering about Gary Arndt and Woodrow Landfair, Martin Adserballe and Janne Corax, where adventure is less a sojourn than a lifestyle.

I wonder what Stage 2 and 3 of the Munda Biddi Trail will have in store for me.

Deepest gratitude to the following, who made this ride possible/easier and/or contributed to its success:

God; Mom, Dad, Auntie Yok, Jay Wong; Peter Chew (Cycle Corner 6285 1468), Calvin Tay, Xavier Goh, Mabe (Campers' Corner), Chris Wee; Viki, Louis, Ahmad (Cycle Craft); Sulaiman (The Rebound Center 6743 9474); Ben (Chapter 2 Cycle); Gilbert (Hup Leong Co.); Miss Chua (Jinson Industries); Hon Shin, Dexter Ong; Erik Toh, Shaun Yip (Ascendant Motorsport); Nicholas Mok; Don (Fremantle Airport Shuttle); Jody, A.J. (Mainpeak); Dave, Jan, Calvin, Fai (About Bike Hire); Crystal Reed, Sarah Holland (Munda Biddi Foundation); Mike Wood, Tara, and staff of Mountain Design, Perth; Andrew Priest, Trudy & Gernot, Ron, Jamie, Darren Alff; Martin Adserballe, Janne Corax, and Happy Orange Guy.

         Thank you.

'Went down to About Bike Hire to return the Bob Ibex trailer. As it wasn't a Thursday, Dave, Jan, and their friendly dog, Maggie were not on duty :-( Anyways, you were absolutely right, folks! I had the time of my life :-D

After which it was time to pay a visit to the Munda Biddi Foundation office to thank Crystal and Sarah for their invaluable assistance in planning this ride.

While I was there, I got myself a membership, a fridge magnet...

...and since I already possess the short-sleeve variant from last year's ride, a long-sleeve jersey this time :-P

Back in Willetton boxing Cloe up for the flight back.

Here's a friendly tutorial on how to box your bike.

All ready to go.

Stage 1 spans from Mundaring to Collie. The first half of Stage 2, from Collie to Nannup, covering another 165.1 km (103.2 miles), is now complete. Click on the image above for an interactive map. Some GPS data files for the Munda Biddi Trail are available from the UWA Outdoor Club.

Too many times we try to describe the life with a row of digits, bring a moment down to statistics, measure success with the number of kilometers cycled. It became well established, that a bunch of numbers is required in every summary even if they express the spirit of the expedition in the worst possible way.
         (Jakub Postrzygacz)


Distance  411.48 km (257.18 miles)
Elevation climbed  14,110 ft (4301.8 m)
44 hours 57 minutes 41 seconds
Average speed  9.14 km/h (5.71 mph)
Maximum speed  28.5 mph (46 km/h)

Lowest temperature  7° C (44.6° F) (Days 6 and 7)
Highest temperature  32° C (89.6° F) (Day 6)

Shortest riding time  1 hour 44 minutes 47 seconds (Day 13)
Longest riding time  5 hours 25 minutes 37 seconds (Day 11)

Least distance  18.1 km (17.6 miles) (Day 8)
Most distance  55.18 km (34 miles) (Day 11)

Least climbing  230 ft (70.1 m) (Day 13)
Most climbing  1800 ft (548.8 m) (Day 11)

Bike:  2005 Merlin XLM custom
Size  52 cm (20.5 inch)  11 kg (24.2 lbs)
Trailer:  Bob Ibex 7.7 kg (17 lbs)
Lowest weight  54.9 kg (120.8 lb)
Highest weight  62.7 kg (137.9 lb)

187 cm (6' 2")
Start (November 11)  62 kg (136.4 lb)
End (November 23)  60 kg (132 lb)

Things I should have brought along

more cash
switch front and rear tires to 2.4" (or get a Surly Pugsley)
spray Plaster
Black Diamond™ Spot Headlamp
spare bungee net
3 spare 127 mm, straight 14 gauge spokes for Bob Ibex wheel
spare Bob Ibex wheel quick release
spare Bob Quick Release with bobbins (for hitching trailer)
clothes pegs
Solar panel (e.g. Brunton's excellent offerings)
battery charger (mains & solar DC)
a bigger knife
windscreen for stove
Brunton Flipsticks
Brunton Canister Stove Stand + "Cassette-Feu" portable range gas canister valve convertor
freestanding ultra-light 2-man tent (e.g. MSR's awesome stuff)
more packets of GU Energy Gel
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and/or SPOT
flamethrower (for the flies + nasty critters)
Ghostbusters vacuum machine (don't ask)

No mobile / cell phone was carried or ever used on this ride.

Ride conducted solo.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Munda Biddi Trail: Stage 1: Day 13

Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia.
         (Charles Monroe Schulz)

Journal entry

After deciding that doing the first half of Stage 2 is a no-go, I had a looooong shower. You know? The sort where you waste tens, if not hundreds, of gallons of potable water that might have meant the difference between life and death in some godforsaken, desiccated country, but instead you just sit and doze off for the better part of an hour under what feels like endless, warm, cleansing, soothing rain? And find a French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD) agent waiting for you at the door when you're done.

By the time I'm done — that and washing the day's laundry, Bob, Cloe (disassembled), and all the bags, of mud (to increase my chances of being accepted on public transport) — the clock read 12:38 AM. Time to figure out how to get back to Perth.

There is no passenger train service from Collie to Perth, but there is one from Bunbury, about 55 km to the west — an early morning train. A couch line serves Collie and Bunbury; the bus leaves before 5 AM. However, according the the locals, tickets must be purchased from the tourist bureau. The good news: the tourist bureau is open on Sundays. The bad news: it opens at 9 AM.

Another night at Collie Motel costs AUD$85. The bus fare is AUD$45. No one knows if tickets can be purchased at the bus. I called a local taxi company for a quote on chartering a station wagon to Bunbury: $100. A trifle pricey for a 55-km trip compared to the $66 fare from Willetton, Perth to Mundaring. Then again, I'm calling at 2 AM for a 4:45 AM pick up, and the gentleman on the phone even looked up the train time table for me.

View Larger Map

I made the booking.

The driver had already arrived when I started lugging the stuff down at 4:36 AM. As the cab belongs to her husband, she had no idea how to remove the lower half of the rear cage and fold down the seats, so I had to remove Cloe's rear wheel. Except that for my Merlin™, it necessitated deflating the rear tire. Ever experienced something you didn't want to do but had to, just to get through with it? It's like learning Chinese (Mandarin) all over again.

More trail access info from Trudy & Gernot here.

Coalfields Road (Route 107) to Bunbury was dark, foggy, and deserted and climbs 200 m (656 ft) in a long series of dips.

The 300+ m (984+ ft) descent to South Western Highway (State Route 20) was incredible, more so at night. The 3 lads from Collie were right: it is one big, long, and steep downhill after the long climb. The authorities even implemented mandatory brake inspections for all trucks over 22.5 tons, as well as built a runaway truck arrester ramp.

In the video, you can see the Bunbury's lights in the distance. The elevation at the end of the video is 16.5 m (54 ft).

FWIW, Dave and Jo Whitney rode this leg on a tandem in the spring of 2006.

'Arrived at Bunbury Passenger Terminal, Wollaston, at 5:40 AM. 'Can't believe I managed to reinstall both wheels; re-inflate the rear tire; hitch the trailer; reload the bags onto the trailer; all within 5 minutes. Nothing succeeds like desperation (with due apologies to Mr. Wilde).

When it came to my turn at the Transwa ticket counter, I was informed that trailers aren't allowed on the trains  :-(

Pre-bookings are also required for bicycles  :-(  :-(

But just this once, as the train is not full, they will make an exception for me  :-)

One catch: I have under 5 minutes to unhitch my trailer and bring Cloe and Bob onboard as the train isn't going to wait for me. They say unhitching a fully-loaded — 32 kg (70.4 lb) — trailer is impossible. Well, you know what they say about pressure: given enough of it, you'll come out a diamond... or a nutcase.

Cloe, Bob, Happy Orange Guy, and me are on the train.


The bike and trailer are safely locked in carriage number 2. Everything was done in a hurry to meet the train's schedule so I didn't get a chance to take a picture. Once onboard, Xavier, the friendly train conductor cheerily informed me that I was very lucky. If this was a weekday, I would have a snowball's chance in hell of making it on the train, what without a booking, and saddled with a bike and trailer. I looked at Happy Orange Guy dangling from Cloe's saddle, through the glass, and smiled.

7:41 AM.
'Only slept 50 minutes last night. 'Gonna try and grab 40 minutes of sleep before the train arrives in Perth.

'Arrived in Perth at 8:30 AM.
Somehow I managed to re-attach the Bob trailer to Cloe without removing the load (not recommended).  *grin*

Upon exiting the station, I realized I forgot to bring the bike map for Perth, Fremantle (PDF) and Stirling.

It shows the way to Willetton.

I think Captain Picard is getting tired of me.

'Re-entered the station and went to TransPerth information counter, but they had no bike map for me. 'Got them to direct me to the nearest bike shop.

Start from Perth city  8:55 AM
Altimeter reading  520 ft (158.5 m)
Temperature  23° C (73.4° F)

'Rode a couple blocks to the bike shop and discovered that they are closed on Sundays. 'Had a chat with a nice chap waiting at a bus stop outside the shop. It turns out that he's a commercial diver. 'Had a nice chat sharing diving adventures (that's one pursuit I haven't indulged in for a while).

Rain came down in brief, heavy, intermittent showers.

Then, I noticed a backpacker's lodge, Globe Backpackers, across the street.

'Walked in; bought a cup of hot chocolate from the machine, promptly scalded my hand, achieving dork status; obtained a general map of the local area, and voilà! located the whereabouts of About Bike Hire, the bike shop I rented the Bob Ibex trailer from — open 7 days a week.

Plotted a route and started riding toward it. Shortly after, I pulled over due to a grinding sound and discovered that I installed the front wheel the other way after the cab ride this morning. More importantly, there was brake dive on non-drive side brake pad; conversely, the drive side brake pad crept up, ripping into the tire sidewall.

Next time, I will store my long-arm 5 mm Allen key in a more accessible location. I.e. not at the bottom of the Bob Dry Sack. The shorter arm of the Topeak Alien DX 5 mm Allen key generates too little torque for this application. Either that or I should spend more time in front of the computer as a hardcore keyboard pro-rider to build up strength in my fingers.

A little later, Riverside Drive and Swan River.

Leaving the road, I rode along the paths of Langley Park.

Reaching Point Fraser...

...I spied some kayakers off Heirisson Island.

Behind me, a cyclist tows a 2-wheeled trailer.

About Bike Hire.

I dropped in to purchase the much-needed map, but alas, they didn't carry it.

With the maps available at hand, the friendly staff there assisted in helping me stitch a route to Willetton.

They settled on the maps in the Armadale to Perth booklet.

Rides 7, 6, 5 would lead me to Willletton.

From Fraser Point, the route crosses the Causeway, over Heirisson Island, and then heads west to South Perth.

Then, paralleling the Kwinana Freeway, it drops south to Mount Pleasant.

East from there is Willetton.
Total route distance  23.9 km (14.9 miles).


The map on the store brochure shows part of Victoria Park. Enough, I figure, to get me to Albany Highway. From there, I would dead reckon my way to Willetton with a compass and the crude, general map on the back of the Armadale to Perth booklet. This way sounds more interesting, if not shorter.

After crossing the Swan River and Heirisson Island. I attempted to follow Bike Route SE26, but quickly lost it.

'Got on to Albany Highway. Breakfast being so meagre (with my energy expenditure, a Mrs. Mac beef pie and a cup of coffee on Transwa does count as meagre), I stopped by Turkish Oven Kebab Shop to refuel.

As I ravished a supersized plate of PETA's worst nightmare, the waitress / cashier / barista stands outside taking a smoke break fogging Cloe, Bob, Happy Orange Guy, and assorted luggage free of stowaway insects with her cancer stick.

When I was done, activity in the store and kitchen actually halted as the staff followed me outside to watch how I was going to start off and ride up the uphill section of Albany Highway. Furiously spinning away on a gearing of 22 x 34, I began to understand how a hamster in an exercise wheel on display in a pet store felt  :-P

Hey! A Toyota Mark III Supra!

'Eventually reached and got on Leach Highway (southwest bound). I became disoriented at the junction with Manning Road and resumed heading east. 'Ran into Albany Highway again and backtracked.

Back at the junction, unsure of which way to go on Leach Highway to Willetton, another friendly local pointed me the right direction (southwest).

Blue Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) in bloom.

After an uncomfortable crossing on Shelley Bridge (Riverton Bridge is much safer), I turned south on Vahland Avenue for the final approach to Willetton.


Il faut souffrir pour être belle.


The true stars of the ride.

         Thank you.


Start  2:45 AM
End  2:45 PM
Total  12 hours 0 minutes

Cateye AT-100
Altimeter reading at Willetton  525 ft (160 m)
Elevation climbed  230 ft (70 m)
Distance  13.5 miles (21.6 km)
1 hours 44 minutes 47 seconds
Average speed  7.7 mph
Maximum speed  24.4 mph
Temperature  10° C - 24° C (50° F - 75.2° F)

Cateye Enduro 8
1 hours 40 minutes 42 seconds*
Average speed  13 km/h
Maximum speed  39.5 km/h
Distance  21.95 km  [my way is shorter by 1.95 km!]
Cumulative distance  411.48 km (257.18 miles)

* = The Enduro 8 doesn't appear to keep time or give a speed reading below speeds of 3.6 km/h (2.25 mph). E.g. when I'm pushing Cloe and Bob up steep hills. Distance, however, continues to be tracked.