Donnelly River - A new way... - CycleBlaze

Donnelly River

End of this ride...


Donnelly River

There's really not much to do in Nannup. My cohort, the older (I won't say geriatric) yuppies seemed to have overwhelmed the town. With the state borders (and all international borders in the country) shut tight, and the entire state currently covid free, there is nowhere exotic for our cashed up seniors to travel to. So they have all bought motorhomes and caravans (and electric bikes) and are exploring their own backyard. It felt like they had all converged on Nannup. They were gobbling up all the cafes' cakes faster than I could get to them. 

I'll let you in on a little secret. Over 40 years ago, I discovered there are a number of unclaimed fruit trees in Nannup... and I know their locations. I love free fruit, it tastes better. I grew up in a place that was called the Prune Capitol of the World. They now call it Silicone Valley. The whole district was irrigated orchards and market gardens. I am a connoisseur (can you spell that one, too?) of Found Fruit, been raiding other people's fruit trees all my life and I've been raiding this Nannup fruit tree for years. It's a huge loquat tree, just behind the Catholic church on the main street. The church is painted the same yellow of ripe Loquat fruit. I picked and ate quite a few of them. And now you know it's there, you can too, next time you ride the Munda Biddi in October/November. I picked the tree again as I was leaving town... after partaking of my usual breakfast, of course...   hh 

The Friendly Local and I picked it again on our way back from Donnelly River.
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It's about 35 km as the road and track winds from Nannup to Donnelly River, probably much closer as the crow flies. The first 15 km is paved and uphill. From memory, it was a steep and difficult climb. And so much for an old man's memory: yes, it was uphill - I got that right, but it was a gentle grade and well within my capability this fine spring morning. There was very little traffic, the only thing I had to look out for was the inevitable morning milk tanker. There are small dairies throughout the southwest and that means everyone on the road has to be on the lookout for the milk tanker - small narrow windy roads and large milk tankers. This one came booting down the hill at a good clip, but I could hear him coming and he was only hauling a single trailer, so it was no problem getting out of his way to let him zoom past. He waved. I waved back.   

Turn left where the paved road crests the ridge and the road surface turns to gravel. You bounce along for another 10 km on this road until you reach a crossroad in the forest where there is a Munda Biddi/Bibbulmum campsite in the remnants of a pine plantation. I stopped there for a rest and was offered a cup of tea and sticky bun by a couple of the camping grey nomads... yes, please!! Originally, I was thinking of stopping there for the night, as I still had two days to kill til the FL picked me up. I talked to the campers for over an hour and fully rested and refueled I told them I felt like I hadn't suffered enough today and felt obliged to carry on to Donnelly River. Riding a bike can't be this much fun, can it? 

A Word About Karri

It happens very abruptly and seems to change as if by magic. One minute you're riding through the Jarrah forest and the next thing you know you are surrounded by magnificent Karri trees. The forest flipped from Jarrah to Karri as I was riding along the ridge road before I met the grey nomads at the camp site. In the turn of a bike wheel (26" at that) the forest completely changed. The Jarrah forest is lovely and I really enjoy riding through it, but the Karri trees are majestic. They are big trees and unlike Jarrah, they grow straight and tall. Riding amongst them is a hoot. Unlike Jarrah, they don't grow over bauxite deposits so Alcoa isn't interested in them, but they do make beautiful timber, so they are under threat from the FPA.

It was another 10 km of single track through the Karri forest to the Donnelly River townsite. Up, mostly pushing the bike, for 5 km and then mostly down for another 5 km until you cross over the quaint little Donnelly River and ride into the townsite. This town has an interesting history. 

The townsite is set amongst a stand of tall Karri trees.
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The mill/town location is very remote, down a twisty windy back road and it started up as a bush camp and simple timber mill in the early 1900s. A big timber company, Bunnings bought it out and in 1950 installed a proper steam driven mill capable of handling large logs. That ran for about 30 years and then closed down when it became uneconomical. 

The old mill, untouched from the day they shut it down in 1978.
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Bunnings gave the town and mill to the government as long as it would be used by the public. The town was leased out to a private operator and run as a holiday getaway site for a few years. There are 33 mill worker houses, a general store, singlemen's quarters, a school and several other outbuildings. A private group of 33 local Western Australians got together and bought the whole town a few years back. Each person owns and rents out one of the 33 houses. Together they collaboratively own the town and hire staff to run and maintain the village. They make enough from their holiday rentals to keep the town alive. 

Kids, Kangaroos, Emus
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And boy is it alive during school and public holidays!!! I rode into a cyclone of kiddy chaos. There is a resident population of kangaroos and emus, galahs, parrots, magpies and the transient population of little kids running amok... kids chasing emus, emus chasing kids, magpies and kookaburras swooping and picking off stray sausages and chips from outheld fingers, bikes-trikes-skateboards-scooters, a very deadly looking flying fox (zip line) zipping through the trees - kids a dangling. The school house has been converted to bunkrooms and a kitchen for the Munda Biddi and Bibbulmun riders/walkers. $25 gets you a bed, a big fluffy towel, a hot shower and use of the kitchen. But most of the riders/walkers prefer to stay for free in the two sheds out in the school courtyard. You pay for the accommodation at the general store. It's also a cafe and after I paid for two nights and settled in, I returned for a lasagne dinner. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the school house verandah talking to the other trail riders and watching the kids run amok well into the evening, playing spotlight tag with torches (flashlights). 

I had a very busy and exhausting day; watching all those kids was more tiring than the bike riding. I slept well that night. The next day was more relaxing, reading my kindle and snacking at the general store cafe. 

How big is an Emu, you ask? The FL is about 5'4" and they are eye to eye.
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The Friendly Local arrived right on cue the next morning, she walked around the townsite while I dismantled and packed the bike. She grew up in a small wheatbelt town and went to a one room school house. She took one look at the two sheds in the courtyard. Of course she knew exactly what they were there for: one was the boy's shed, the other the girl's. It's where all the kids would hang out at recess and lunch time if the weather was too cold/wet or too hot/sunny. 

A few of the mill houses. They are set in a semicircle around the townsite. If you book in advance, you can rent one.
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The old school house, now museum and bunkhouse for track riders/walkers.
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Boys on the left and Girls on the right
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Kathleen JonesI laughed out loud when I read how tired you were after a day of watching the kids. I can imagine they were exhausting, yet good to be around. The youngsters near me have kept my spirits up during this pandemic.
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3 years ago