Heading for Hyden: The Great Western Woodlad - A treadling Hyohakusha - CycleBlaze

November 18, 2017

Heading for Hyden: The Great Western Woodlad

Stage III

Getting ready to go
11/11/2017, Saturday
0 km

I arrived back in Kalgoorlie on the Prospector train a couple of days ago with my new wheel and bag of spare parts and have been rebuilding the bike (all new running gear) and trying to motivate myself to get up and moving again.

The bike is looking good. The rear wheel is hand built by Quantum Bikes in Perth. The rim is a Sun RhynoLite 36 spoke, the hub is Shimano XT and it's laced with heavy duty 13 mm plain gauge spokes. For the time being it is shod with Maxxis Crossmark II tyres and tubes. I was thinking of starting off with a tubeless set up, something I'd like to try out someday, but in the end decided to keep with the technology I know for this last final stage of the ride. I'll build it up tubeless when I get back to Perth. If I thought the bike was heavy before, it is now in the heavyweight Sumo category.

New heavy duty rear wheel... just about all new running gear. How many 30 year old frames look this good - still going strong!!!
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I ditched the Henry Shire tent and am back using my resurrected Big Agnes Copper Spur. I reached out to the Big Agnes customer service department and they came to my rescue quick mailing out a near new tent fly to replace the one eaten by the dingos in Kings Canyon. I should be able to get another couple years use out of the tent now before the tent body finally dies from overuse. Great company, great customer service, great tent.

And how am I going personally, you ask? Well, I've put back 5 of the 10 kilos I lost during the ride and I had my broken molar repaired. I'm fit, relaxed and ready for more cycling adventure.

Time has flown. It's summer now and I find it hard to accept that I started this ride in the middle of winter. Daytime temperatures here are now about 35 degrees + in the middle of the day, so it's a completely different environment from the start of the ride.

I've personally chosen not to take the main highway from Kalgoorlie to Perth. Over the years I've driven it dozens of times and I don't like it. In a car I find it too crowded with big trucks, too narrow and everyone travelling too fast for the road conditions. Why try and ride that on a bike when I can head south to Norseman and then across to Hyden on the dirt road through the largely untravelled Great Western Woodland - one of the best kept secrets in Australia. And then wander through the wheatbelt on backroads and dirt tracks heading for the coast. No contest, the decision is obvious.

First day back in the saddle
12/11/2017, Sunday
70 km

I left Bev's (Rellie #1) house around 0730, give or take a bit. It was an easy pedal out of town across back streets to the Alt 94 highway to Kambalda. It was a fairly warm day, in the low 30s, plenty hot enough for my first day back on the bike.

My body well remembers the cycling routine, but the muscles are out of shape and even though I made the 65 km to Kambalda by lunch, the warm day and the fast pace had an impact. I really shouldn't push it that hard this soon back into the ride. The headwinds didn't help and as the southerly storm front approached, the winds increased.

I thought I'd sit and wait out the storm front, hoping it would pass quickly and give me some more saddle time. After an hour or so, it was pretty obvious the winds were actually picking up and the clouds were looking ominous. I decided to pedal out of town and camp in a bush reserve only 5 km away. I had the tent up by 1630 and it was raining about half an hour later. It rained lightly but steadily for the rest of the night.

And despite my best intentions, I'm still carrying way too much shit.

Into the wind...
13/11/2017, Monday
93 km

I woke early, first light is now about 0400. The rain had stopped, so I got out of the tent and brewed up a cup of coffee and made my breakfast. The predominant breakfast background noise wasn't the dawn chorus, but the wind roaring through the trees. By the time I pushed the bike out to the road it was 0730 and the headwind was there to greet me and was my constant companion throughout the day.

I had a second breakfast and a hot shower at the Widgemooltha roadhouse/pub/caravan park and was back pedalling it out at 13 kmph for the remainder of the day. My road merged with the main highway east, so there was an increase in traffic. And there was seldom much of a shoulder, so it was one eye looking forward, one looking into the rear view mirror and both ears tuned in for road traffic. It was a slow hard day, but I was pleased with the final tally given the conditions.

I camped in the scrub about 30 km short of Norseman. I love how easy it is to find a camp site in Australia. It's as simple as look left and right as you're pedalling, pick a promising looking track and zip down it when no one is looking. It was a quiet night with a light drizzle of rain.

Norseman again...
14/11/2017, Tuesday
30 km

I woke to the fine misty rain and fairly strong southerly headwind. It was coffee and muesli in my raincoat and packing up the wet tent and ready to go by 0730 again. The wind was blowing a bit harder and the going was slower. I averaged about 11 kmph and got into town at 1030. It's my second time here on a bike. So it was straight to the Railway Inn, one of the few highlights in this grey failing mining town on the edge of the Nullabor.

Warm room, good bed, clothes hand washed, tent dried, provisions acquired and for once a good tailwind predicted for tomorrow. I'm ready to ride the 300 km of dirt road through the Great Western Woodland.

Rolling with the wind
15/112017, Wednesday
110 km

I rolled away from the Railway Motel/Inn at around 0700, greeted by a friendly mild tailwind for a change. That's the way to start a day's pedalling. Luckily, for some reason about 2 km from town I decided to check my phone in the handlebar bag - and it wasn't there. OK, I had checked it just before I pedalled off, so what happened to it? The bag lid wasn't secured (old model Ortlieb handlebar bags are difficult to close), so it must have jumped ship... I sped back to the Inn, constantly scanning the ground for the phone and found it in the parking lot of the Inn, facedown but intact. That is not the way to start a day's pedalling.

The first 15 km once you clear the outskirts of town, is a slow steady uphill into and through the middle of the Great Western Woodlands. It's 300 km of bush riding through what is the world's largest and healthiest remaining temperate woodland - over 16,000,000 million hectares of it. And the Norseman to Hyden road runs straight through the middle of it. Dundas Shire maintains the Norseman half of the dirt road and they take great pride in keeping it in fantastic condition. There were three road crews on it for this trip, all three crews checked up on my status and asked if I needed food and water. Which is a nice extra touch, seeing as it is 300 km without services. I was packing the full 21 litres of water and a week of food, so I was fine, but it was nice to know they were out there looking after me.

I got a puncture about 40 km into the ride and spent about an hour changing out the tube and fixing the flat - a nasty little thorn easily puncturing the cheap paper thin Chinese tube. Couldn't help but think it wouldn't have been an issue if I was running a tubeless setup.

But it was an absolutely lovely day of cycling. The first 2 hours were traffic free, then a short clump of traffic (half a dozen or so cars going both ways) and then maybe a car every hour, all of which you could both see and hear from miles away. The temperature was about 25 degrees and there was that cycle friendly tailwind at my back all day. This is actually one of the most remote and pristine wilderness areas of Australia and so few people know of its existence.

110 km for the day and about 8.5 hrs in the saddle.

I camped the night at the free campsite at McDermid Rock, a small granite monolith that juts well above the tree canopy - the views from the top are sublime. I shared the campsite with one pair of friendly grey nomads. They refilled my water bottles, so now I had plenty of water to last the distance to Hyden. The gnamma (water holding rockholes) were still holding rainwater, so I could have filtered some for drinking, but instead took my washcloth with me up the rock and had a good clean up by starlight at one of the waterholes.

I carefully picked a spot to pitch the tent, but just as I was banging in the last peg with a rock, a hord of Bull Ants came boiling out of their nearby nest and quickly let their displeasure be known. To be bitten by a Bull Ant is a singularly memorable event, not something you ever want to repeat. I literally pulled up stakes and beat a hasty retreat...plenty of room in this wilderness woodland for the both of us.

By the time I cooked dinner and crawled into the tent it was well after 2100 - sleep came quickly.

How long will these tailwinds last?
16/11/2017, Thursday
122 km

First light is well before sunrise, actually around 0400 or so with enough light to safely start riding by 0430 - nah, that will never happen. And for some reason I now always seem to wake up at first light. I guess that is one of the results of sleeping in a tent for the past 5 months: I'm literally waking up with the birds. I was fed, coffeed, packed and rolling by 0700. There were more tailwinds and higher temperatures forecast for today, but a storm front is slowly approaching from the west. If it is a big rain bearing storm, I'd like to be off this dirt road before it gets here. The Kondinin Shire half of the road doesn't get the same loving care that the Norseman half of the road does and it cuts up badly in big rain. So it will be nose down and pedal and take full advantage of the tailwind gift.

I passed the second roadcrew just before the Breakaway campsite, where I stopped for a long lunch, trying to avoid too much pedalling in the mid day sun and it was over 30 degrees by then. The plan was to pedal until dark and see just how far I could get before those tailwinds died out and turned into the predicted prestorm headwinds.

I ended up putting in about 9 hrs of cycling, with the tailwinds still blowing when I put up the tent by torchlight around 1930 hrs. 122 km and I was beat. The sole of my left foot is bruised and tender, the palms of my hands are the same, as are my backsides.

I camped at one of the numerous roadside gravel pits, well off of and well hidden from the road. I cooked dinner, ate and then cleaned up to the lightening lightshow of the approaching storm front - tailwinds still blowing. It rained lightly once during the night for just a few minutes; the storm dropping what little moisture it held well before it got this far inland.

The winds turn ...
17/11/2017, Friday
85 km

I'm left with 75 km to town and an additional 10 km out to the Lynch (Rellie #2) farm and about 35 km of it is still dirt road through heath country then single lane paved road into the wheatbelt. So, in theory this should have been a doable, relaxing ride.

First thing in the morning, getting out of the tent I realised that I still had a good tailwind. Unbelievable - it should have turned against me early yesterday. The weather forecasters might just have got it all wrong for once...

Nah!! By the time I had brewed my morning coffee at 0500, the winds had turned to the north and started to build. By the time I got going about 0630, it was a strong side wind blowing from the north. I thought that was not too bad, all things considered - had to be better than a headwind... didn't it? But then I remembered my experience out of Tjukiyerla on the GCR; that was a side wind and it brought me to a full stop. Oh well, just pedal it out and see how the day develops. I still had plenty of water, so I didn't have to worry about dehydration and from my last trip on this road, I knew there was a water source at the East Hyden Wheatbins.

It was dirt road rollercoaster hills all the way out of the heathlands. The surface was a bit corrugated and bouncy in parts, but overall in much better condition than the GCR. My bruised hands were still complaining though; they have had enough of dirt roads now and are looking forward to a good long rest.

You have lots of time to think riding a bike solo through the outback when there is no traffic to contend with. I killed a lot of time devising improvements to my handlebar set up. The Modolo Dumbo bars are almost infinitely variable and I thought a few tweaks could improve the ride. I also thought some additional padding would help soften the ride and repurposed neoprene Auzzie beer holder would do the trick. I'm also mentally designing a "tiny house" as I ride. Zoning into "mindful pedalling" is another way to help fill up the time.

By the time I got to the wheatbelt and the single lane bitumen road on the flats, the wind had built into a steady 35 kmph sidewind and my top speed was limited to about 12 kmph, at times it was little better than walking pace. Luckily, the wind was blowing right to left, so when the big gusts came they blew me onto the shoulder, not the road. I stopped for a long break at the wheatbins and refilled my water bottles, meeting young Annabelle - the one person operation unloading, testing and recording the harvest from the farms as the trucks brought it in from the fields. We talked for quite a while about travel and living in the country... nice kid.

Annabelle informed me that the winds would build to +50 kmph and the temperature would peak at about 35 degrees and at that point they would shut down all harvesting for fear of fire. With that strong northerly wind, a fire through the wheat harvest would burn everything in its path all the way to the south coast 200 km away. I was still about 40 km from Hyden, and travelling at under 10 kmph it took the rest of the day to make that distance. I was pretty burnt out by the time I got into town. I spent about an hour in town, recovering, rehydrating & refueling the body, then cycled the rest of the distance out to the Lynch farm (more rellies on the wife's side).

Apart from Headbutt, the cat, I had the farm to myself. Heather's dad, Uncle Harry, had died yesterday and the family dropped everything (in the middle of harvest) to gather with family in Perth.

Going Backwards
18/11/2017, Saturday
0 km

Spoke to the wife and it looks like I'll be going back to Kalgoorlie. Uncle Harry spent most of his life on a Station (N Americans read that as Ranch) out of Kalgoorlie, so the rellies and friends will be there for the funeral. My wife will swing by Quarading and pick me up. I'll leave the bike at Lindsay's (Rellie #3) farm in Quarading and start up again when I return. I'm going backwards....

I've named him Headbutt because he jumps up on the kitchen windowsill and headbutts the pane hard until I come out and give him a pat and feed him some dry cat food. I watered the horses while I was there, too.

And it rained off and on for most of the day, too. Nice of it to do so on my rest day...

Photos will follow

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Scott AndersonHey, Victa! How about those photos you’ve been promising!

Awesome journey, great journal. I was reminded to go back and reread it a few days ago when we had dinner with Bruce and Andrea. They mentioned your visit before (we were out of the country at the time), but this was the first time I connected it up with your journal to recognize it was you. Sorry we missed you.
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11 months ago
Victa CalvoHi Scott,

Yeah, that trip is a couple of years in the past now, but it did have a big impact on me. If offered, I don't think I'd do it again. More accurately, there are parts of it I'd rather not repeat...

I'll leave this ride alone now, no more photos, but you have reminded me that I need to go back to my latest ride (Yunnan) and finish up.

Thanks for the reminder. Hopefully, our paths will cross sometime in the near future.
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10 months ago