Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Munda Biddi Trail: Stage 1: Day 8

But the worst of it is that it is just this contentment that I cannot endure. After a short time it fills me with irrepressible hatred and nausea. In desperation, I have to escape and throw myself on the road to pleasure, or if that cannot be, on the road to pain. When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid air of these so-called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my moldering lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the devil burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life. For what I have always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity . . ..
         (Herman Hesse)

Blue line with yellow dots = Munda Biddi Trail.
Green line with yellow dots = Touring route.

Image for illustration only. Important information has been erased from this map. Do not use.

Elevation profile.

6:30 AM.

Sun coming up the ridge behind me.

From notebook

The wind really picked up last night and battered the tent. In my bid to protect against the wind, I did not open the mesh windows of the tent; the result was condensation dripping on my face and sleeping bag this morning. Bad call.

'Put out the fire before I slept last night — even though it provided a sense of security — as the wind was sending sparks flying into the shrubs nearby. 'Won't want to compound my guerilla camping with starting a forest fire.

Killed by a recent wildfire, the trunk of the Blackboy (Xanthorrea) on the right is hundreds of years old. (They only grow 1 to 2 cm a year.)

Why it is a bad idea to go camping with me:

Bug Bait: Please, be careful if you try this. . . If you need to catch bugs for bait, you can set a small green coniferous branch in your fire. As it catches, set your tarp on the ground under a high tree canopy (10-15 feet, so you don’t set the tree on fire), pick up the branch and wave it over the tarp for a minute, careful not to set anything on fire. The smoke should make tons of the beetles, spiders and other landlocked insects jump out of a tree onto your tarp. It is also fun to do this to friends' campfires, sending them scattering when it starts raining spiders.
         (Guerilla Camping Survival Tricks: Appendix B)

The temperature at 5:45 AM was a surprisingly warm 18° C (64.4° F), but the wind made it feel colder. It also made my JetBoil™ extremely inefficient, sending me to do my cooking in the uncompleted toilet shed in a bid to conserve fuel. This is the first time I found my stove significantly affected by wind. I hear that the MSR's Reactor™ is more resistant to such blustery conditions. It has its own drawbacks though: besides being significantly bulkier and heavier, it also lacks an integrated ignitor. For my needs, a windscreen would probably have sufficed.

Looking back, with the amount of energy I have been expending, restricting lunch to 4 - 5 muesli bars is foolish. I should eat more so that I can cover more ground (and faster).

Plan to eat more for lunch today. 'Had lasagna for breakfast!

'Went back to the creek to wash up and top up the water bottles.

The water was clear enough such that I didn't have to use my MSR Hyperflow™. The SteriPen™ was enough.

As the days pass by, one thought which struck me most is this: it is not hardship or the lack of luxury and comfort that we fear; it is the loss of such ease and convenience once we attained them. When I was a starving undergraduate in Palo Alto, a neighbor — a brilliant old gentleman, who used to teach computer science at Stanford — once told me, "The secret to gaining a cat's loyalty is to offer a level of comfort higher than which they are currently living at. Once you do that, they will never leave you — until someone else offers a level of comfort above yours." This thought echoes in my head whenever I check into a hostel, motel, chalet, or hotel. When I have a nice, comfortable bed, hot shower, stove, sofa, et cetera, it may be physically comfortable, but never mentally, for, once used to the comfort, convenience, and luxury, I begin to dread their loss the following day. In contrast, whenever I had a hard day, in the days after, I think to myself, "That wasn't so bad. I lived through it. Now I know I can take anything equal or less than that."

There is book knowledge and there is experiential wisdom: this is experiential wisdom. I actually experience the truth behind the adage, luxury is a trap — for, once having ensconced you, addicted you, you will do anything to remain within its domain. This, I feel (you would rarely find me use that word), is a greater danger than any other to adventure and travel, for, following its dictates, one misses the core — the bitter pit — of what locales have to offer, and instead waffle around in meaningless, pedestrian activities, like shopping and sipping coffee by some meaningless street in some meaningless city.

But luxury is seductive, and I occasionally still fall prey.

For what it's worth, here's Tang Li's praise of discomfort. Nota bene: not for those who sold out.

Today (hopefully) will be an easier ride. According to the terrain profile, there is between 3.5 km to 7 km of "challenging terrain" in the 16.99 km to Dwellingup. For today, I am not sure if I want to ride another 17 km beyond that to Nanga. If there is a nice room at Dwellingup, I won't mind a little rest and shelter from the wind.

Dwellingup is also my restocking point for the journey to (hopefully) Collie. So far — compounded with my unfamiliarity with a trailer (let alone loaded to the max. I.e. 32 kg (70 lbs)) — this has been a hard ride. A great ride, no doubt.

Temperature  22° C (71.6° F)
Due to my wounds, I had to give swimming in the dam a pass.
David and Lenah have some nice pictures here.

The forest is alive with the sound of rushing wind: at times, like a gentle whisper; others, like the coming of rain, or a waterfall; now and then, bearing down like a roaring freight train.

A look at the info board before I leave.

'Was unsuccessful in restarting the fire this morning. The wind was too strong and changing directions too quickly. Just as well, I won't be able to control the inevitable sparks anyway. To get an idea how strong the wind is, by the time my heaped spoonful of coffee powder travels 3 inches to my cup, half of it has been blown away. You can freeze me; you can fry me; but don't mess with my coffee, man  >-(

'Ate a small amount of tuna and crackers as a 2nd breakfast.
1.75 liters in the Camelbak HAWG and filled the two 16 fl. oz. waterbottles.
Altimeter reading  805 ft (245 m)
Temperature  25° C (77° F)

Maintenance issues

Rectified front brake, drive-side, brake (pad) dive.
Increased fork pressure to 60 PSI (55 seemed too soft).

Started at 12:15 PM.

Journal entry

'Left campsite late today; the organizer of a group of high schoolers who showed up in the late morning was right — the trail up from Oakley Dam is hard. Major push city for bikes with trailers.

This area is dotted with granite tors. I camped at the base of this one last night.

While taking pictures of Cloe and Bob against the landscape, I heard a thumping sound getting nearer and nearer to me. I turned around and witnessed a large kangaroo hopping across the trail, less than 3 meters away. Maybe it grew tired of hiding in the bushes and waiting for me to leave. Maybe it figured, "This fella has been hauling a 51+ kg (112 lb.) load for the last 8 days, with less than 1/10th of my strength. He's not dangerous, he's loco. Okay, good to go!"


Stopping for a breather amidst the flowers.

Looking west.

Some sort of seed decides to join the pea gravel in jamming my front derailleur.

More wildflowers.

More flowers during snack time.
(The picture doesn't do them justice.)

Bush flies snack on my wounds oozing through the lycra.

And I snack on stuff bush flies won't eat.

Don is Don.
Don is Good.
Don is Small!

2:30 PM. Post-lunch ride rocked: wide, well-packed, hard-packed fire road, hardly any loose gravel, and wide, sweeping turns. Cruising between 18 km/h to 35 km/h for stretches up to 20 minutes, I was hardly aware of the trailer behind me  :-)

'Kept to my food schedule for lunch and stayed hydrated; the result was that I remained in good spirits despite some arduous pushing and more flies than usual.

Tiny wildflowers.

Real tiny.
(Those are size 46 shoes. And you know what they say about men with big shoes.)

Equestrians share the trail at some point (but I didn't see any).

Slipping and sliding.

A flowering Xanthorrea.

610 m of downhill on slippery pea gravel later...

Marrinup Camping Area. Marrinup used to be a small town. It was totally destroyed by a bush fire in 1961. I demurred on visiting Marrinup Falls as it would mean doubling back 3 km on Grey Road.

A nice picnic spot. Probably meant more for automobile use, it is too close to the road for camping (that, and the ground is not level).

These certainly make the restrooms at the Munda Biddi Campsites seem luxurious.

Parts of the campground cordoned off for rehabilitation.

Did a Pugsley do this?

Now that's camping with a trailer  :-P

Another campground restroom.

Approaching the outskirts of town.


'Misread the map and overshot Dwellingup, hitting the junction to Forest Heritage Center. Double-backed, followed the sound of traffic on sealed roads, and ended up in Dwellingup.

'Coasted down to Dwellingup Community Hotel, a pub and hotel.

The graceful bartender quoted the room rate of AUD$40 a night. Restrooms are communal; that's fine with me.

She also led me to a sheltered area at the rear, where I could lock Cloe and Bob. Deal.

After that, with 5 minutes to spare before 5 PM, I decided to acquaint myself with the town even though it is so close to closing time. Walking into Dwellingup General Store, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they close at 6 PM, so I replenished my supplies.

As the cashier rang up my purchases, a muscular guy with a shaved head and more piercings than an acupuncture training mannequin a voodoo doll sauntered in, walked right up to my face, and yelled, "YOU CYCLED ALL THAT DISTANCE ON A PUSH BIKE? YOU CRAZY FUCKER! YOU'RE ONE CRAZY FUCKER, YOU KNOW THAT??!!"

I grinned, nodded, and quipped, "Yeah, you're right: it was more pushing than biking."

He stuck his head past my shoulder, glanced at the figure on the till — $81.88 — turned back to me, and said more softly, "Yeah, you should eat more, mate. You look like you're disappearing."


Among the items I bought was a large roasted chicken, a loaf of 5-grain pumpkin bread, 200 grams of Swiss cheese, a bag of chips, and 2 bottles of Powerade™. 'Sitting on a park bench, I massacred the chicken, cheese, chips, and Powerade. An old couple walking by witnessed the carnage and remarked, "Oh my! You must be really hungry!"

In between gulps, I grunted, "Yeah, I just got off the boat! Oh, yes!"

Wilde was right, nothing succeeds like excess.

A fabulous hot water shower followed.

At 8 PM, I decided to hit the bar for a drink. Toohey's Extra Dry was nice and sharp; cleansing the palate well. I'll keep it in mind for oily, artery-clogging, heart-killing, pizzas when I get back to Perth. Next, I tried Emu Bitter. That, I love too. Then, one of the gentlemen who saw me ride in earlier in the evening, came over and introduced himself. John and I chatted at length for a couple hours. I was fascinated by his travels all over Australia in his 54 years (he looks 46!). I was especially piqued by how a special lady led him to spend 33 years in Melbourne. Then, it was time to return to my room to plan for tomorrow's ride to Bidjar Ngoulin. As I left the bar, the bartender wished me a good journey.

So far, so good  :-)
-10:30 PM


Start  12:15 PM
End  4:35 PM
Total  4 hours 20 minutes

Cateye AT-100
Altimeter reading at Dwellingup  815 ft (248.5 m)
Elevation climbed  560 ft (170.7 m)
Distance  11 miles (17.6 km)
2 hours 53 minutes 7 seconds
Average speed  5.2 mph
Maximum speed  23.7 mph
Temperature  18° C - 27° C (64.4° F - 80.6° F)

Cateye Enduro 8
1 hours 53 minutes 2 seconds*
Average speed  9.6 km/h
Maximum speed  38 km/h
Distance  18.1 km
Cumulative distance  221.69 km (138.56 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.

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