Curious about Collie... - A new way... - CycleBlaze

Curious about Collie...

Hasn't changed much in 40 years


Collie Bound

I slept through the tail-enders' early start, got up at a more reasonable hour, made a leisurely breakfast - more coffee/muesli/honey - and packed my gear. I started pedalling around 0830. It was yet another perfect day ahead of me - clear skies, no wind and a high of about 25 degrees. I was heading for Collie, about a 50 km ride along interesting single track and then farm land as you approached the town. 

Today's ride had a lot of meandering single track through the forest.
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I met a group of about 6 not too fit seniors on electric mountain bikes who had been dropped off by a Collie based bike tour operator. I've seen quite a few electric mountain bikes on this trip and not a one on any of my previous runs on the Munda Biddi - it seems their time has arrived. They were heading for Lake Brockman where the tour operator would pick them up the next day and bring them back to Collie. From where I met them, it would be about 60 km to Lake Brockman and they'd make it there easily before dark if they had no mishaps. Six high tech electric mountain bikes... six geriatric out of shape riders... 60 km of bush tracks - I'm sure they would be fine. That will probably be me in a few years time... 

Very distinctive (hence easy for me to identify) Kangaroo Paw, the only one I saw on the entire ride, spotted on the track just out of Collie.
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I lived in the Collie area for a few months 40 years ago. It was a pretty rough town. There was a coal mine and the adjacent power station, farmers and farm labourers, and bush workers. The coal mine and power station were well past their prime when I lived there. Coal mines and power stations only have very short lifespans (30ish years), but these two have been limping along well past their use by date. The government has announced both will be closing soon and they are trying to reinvent the town as a tourist and mountain biking hub. I've met a couple of Collie locals in the last few years who tell me the town has changed greatly since I lived there and I wouldn't recognise it. In its current configuration, the Munda Biddi actually doesn't run through Collie, it turns west into Wellington National Park about 15 km short of the town. The plan is to reroute the track through the town and to undertake a major face life of the town and build a number of world class mountain bike tracks in the surrounding hills. I thought I'd take that 15 km detour into Collie and spend two days there checking it out. 

While there, I did notice three big changes: they have built a couple of new suburbs with modern tract homes; they are expanding the cemetery, its the first thing you see as you enter town; and they have a new McDonalds. The train track bisects the town, right down the middle. One side has a nice little central park (very pleasant on a Sunday morning) and the shopping centre. Apart from a couple of banks and the two supermarkets, half of the shops are looking a bit the worse for wear, an equal number are derelict/closed. The other side of the track has the three pubs and the McDs. One of the pubs has been converted to into a cheap and cheerful backpackers (the Colliefields Backpackers, where I stayed), the other two look much the same as they did 40 years ago, complete with skimpy barmaids and spunout alcoholics. The dress code in the pub (for men and women) is workboots and dirty high-vis overalls. Many rural towns in WA also have a serious meths and synthetic opioids addiction problem, the highest user levels in Australia and also one of the highest meths user levels on the planet. It makes the McDonalds an interesting place to people watch. It's a bit sketchy on the pub side, but 200 metres away on the other side of the tracks, it's comparatively quite nice. I think they have a long way to travel before Collie becomes a mountain biking mecca for the well heeled, but I applaud their efforts and hope they succeed in turning the town around. 

Either way, the expanded cemetery will have them covered...  

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Bruce Lellman"...the expanded cemetery will have them covered..." A nice turn of a phrase, Victor. Well done.
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3 years ago