Saturday 19th March
Moving time: approx 7 hrs; Elapsed time: 9:30
My Strava ‘description’: Hard yakka on the tandem, nearly 1000m climbing in the first 60k 👀 (but we knew that would be the case) Could have done without the stiff easterly.
The Noongar (/ˈnʊŋɑː/, also spelt Noongah, Nyungar, Nyoongar, Nyoongah, Nyungah, Nyugah, Yunga) are Aboriginal Australian peoples who live in the south-west corner of Western Australia, from Geraldton on the west coast to Esperance on the south coast. Noongar country is the land occupied by 14 different groups: Amangu, Ballardong, Yued, Kaneang, Koreng, Mineng, Njakinjaki, Njunga, Pibelmen, Pindjarup, Wardandi, Whadjuk, Wiilman and Wudjari.[a]
The City of Fremantle acknowledges the Whadjuk people as the traditional owners of the greater Fremantle/Walyalup area and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still important to the Nyoongar people today. The City of Fremantle sits within the Aboriginal cultural region of Beeliar. Its Nyoongar name is Walyalup (the place of walyo) and local people are called Whadjuk.
A pre-dawn start. My fav. (Not.) The ‘official’ departure time from South Mole Lighthouse was 6.22am – pretty much on sunrise – but we’d been asked to get there about half an hour before that – for photos etc – so we rolled out of the AirBnB in the dark at 5.43am for the 10 min ride to the lighthouse.
I didn’t have to worry about navigating the last few streets to get there, as there was a steady stream of riders headed there. Wow, so many keen local Dotwatchers!
So I get grumpy at the best of times with flippant and disparaging ‘jokes’ about what the person on the back of a tandem doesn’t do… and I do recall being a bit short with some poor bloke who decided to comment about how I wouldn’t see anything the whole way on the back – or something like that. It was early, I was slightly nauseous and nervous – so not the best of times. The ridiculous thing about that ‘assumption’ is that – if they thought about it for a minute – the Stoker doesn’t have to keep their eyes on the road and so arguably sees more of the scenery than the Captain! (So I think I said something to that effect.) I really do get tired of assumptions about tandems made by people who don’t ride tandems. There had been a bit of it in the dotwatcher FB group in the latter part of last year when someone (not us) mentioned they were interested in doing IPWR on a tandem. 😒
In amongst photos and milling around talking, and some ceremonial stuff, I managed to eat an apple. I have a bit of a psychosomatic issue of feeling nauseous trying to eat before it’s light – which is usually compounded if I’m a bit anxious about the day ahead. (This happens to me before canyoning as well.) But, yeah…it’s not ideal when you have a huge day of expending energy ahead of you and it’s not practical to stop 10km up the road when your stomach-brain decides it actually wouldn’t mind having some breakfast now that it’s light, and we’re a bit hungry, and we need some energy doncha think….🙄
A minute silence in homage to Mike Hall, and then suddenly we were off and headed east. 16 bikes, 17 riders – with quite a lot of extra company for the first 15-20km – so much so, we quickly lost the other riders amongst them.
During this, I was getting messages on my phone from my sister (who was about to get sucked into being a very avid dotwatcher!) ‘Your tracker moved but now it’s back at the start!’ Then ‘All good’. Then ‘You guys ok? Haven’t moved in quite a while.’
[We started with the Spot strapped to the bedroll on Marc’s handlebars, but at some point – we can’t remember when now, we moved it to the back, on top of the dry bags we had strapped to the luggage rack’ … but it did play up a bit later in the day, and later in the trip as well.]
At about 15km we turned onto a bike path heading north-east alongside the Roe Highway, and by then the peloton of accompanying riders had thinned out. About 12k of bike path, an overpass and a loop and then we were heading east again – along Welshpool Rd E until turning onto Crystal Brook Rd a few km up the road. Consider the warm-up done – now for the climbing.
Somewhere along here a rider appeared and rode alongside filming us for an interview – as they did for every rider – and later posted to the dotwatchers group. I can’t remember everything he asked, and I let Marc do the talking (I’m not particularly fond of being filmed) – but we did have a chuckle at his last question – “Had you met before the ride?” Lol. ‘Ah, we’ve been married 32 years’ says Marc. (Wouldn’t that be a heck of a thing to decide to do with someone you hadn’t ridden with before, but hey… challenges mean different things to different people!)
So we knew that the climbing started in earnest along Crystal Brook Rd, but we didn’t anticipate just how nasty-steep it would be in a couple of places… so it was a bit of a slog. I knew that at the top of this road we turned right, and I thought I had discussed the fact that there was a lookout there – just as soon as you turned right – that might be worth checking out for views back to Perth. I couldn’t believe it, then, when we got to the intersection and he suddenly turned left and started heading downhill! “WTF ARE YOU DOING?!!!!!!!!!!!” (First of many navigational … um… ‘discussions’)
U-turn. There was a Dotwatcher at the top (watching on with some bemusement no doubt), but he kindly took a few photos for us. We then headed for the service station for a break and (probably a chocolate milk or something). And bugger going across the road for ‘better’ views from the lookout. We still had nearly 100km to go for the day, with lots more ‘ups’.
UP, down, UP, down … past Mundaring Weir (where Marc spotted Anthony/Thin Blue Dot having a rest – so we weren’t last then, for a bit, anyway!) Then UP to Mundaring. In that part we were joined by a dotwatcher (Mark) who rode with us for a bit. He’d been with Anthony who was having a break at the weir, and apparently already revising his planned distance goal for the day.
We were relieved to make Mundaring, and headed for a café with outdoor seating that I’d picked out beforehand on my google map research. Halfway for the day, given we’d already decided we’d pull up at York the first night.
Setting off again, we had only 15km along Great Eastern Hwy till the turn-off to York (Great Southern Hwy). There was a servo there, and because it would be the last opportunity for ‘refreshments’ for the next 50km, we made the most of it and sat in the aircon for a bit. We were joined by Anthony, who, when he realised his revised stops for the next few days coincided with our plans, suggested we share a room to ‘save money’. Needless to say as a married couple, and with my usual MO at the end of a long day on the bike of being able to ‘air’ any ‘chafed areas’, I was not very keen on this idea, and stewed upon it for the next several kilometres, but as it turned out, I didn’t have to worry about it.
He headed out from the servo ahead of us, but we quickly reeled him in and then passed him going up the hill. (That probably wouldn’t have helped how he was feeling.) Marc now gleefully reminds me – that I – Ms Adamantly Non-Competitive – spent a good deal of the next (at least) 20km (on my phone on the quadlock) checking the dots on the Indipac MAProgress site, and being quite ‘exercised’ that we were showing several kilometres behind where we actually were, and as LAST when we had IN FACT overtaken ol’ mate, and were, in reality, SECOND LAST! (We really had to sort this tracker positioning out!) He also reminds me that this was probably the only rest stop in the whole trip where I was the one agitating to get back on the bike and get going again. 😀
At some point along this section, a passing car slowed alongside us. What the heck? The passenger window was down and a familiar face gestures to the bike in the back. ‘I’ve pulled the pin’. Anthony had been picked up by Scotty’s wife, Greta – they were continuing on to spend the night with Scotty and son Jack (aka Leroy) in Quairading, then returning to Perth tomorrow. We wished him all the best. Gee – that was a lot of effort to go to do all the prep, get over to Perth, and then pull out on the first day. Bummer.
We arrived, with relief, in York around 4pm. In the main street, we were bailed up by a lolly shop-owner having a smoke outside her shop (she was doing the smoking, not us – we probably actually gave her a wide berth as we walked the bike up the footpath!). Penny Farthing Sweets. ‘A Tandem!’ she calls out. ‘I got married on a tandem! That tandem is hanging up in my shop!’ We went in to have a look. Marc took a photo – and then she gave us two boxes of chocolate mints! One day in, and already we’re meeting interesting characters who talk to you because you’re on a bike – and especially a tandem.
York is the oldest inland town in Western Australia, situated on the Avon River, 97 kilometres east of Perth in the Wheatbelt, on Ballardong Nyoongar land… (Wikipedia)
We found our booked accommodation, which we accessed after I missed that I had actually received the expected SMS with room code details and was panicking for a bit. Because it was warm and not too late we hand-washed the day’s riding gear and hung it outside for a bit. We just made the supermarket before it closed – the next day we had 70km till the next shop in Quairading, so we needed supplies – and also beer and chips for right ‘now’.
For dinner we opted for ordering a takeaway pizza and eating it back in the room. I was pretty chafed in the skin-meets-saddle area, so out came the creams and ointments. The next few days I applied a large fabric bandaid to hopefully avoid things getting worse ‘down there’.
When you sign up to do this ride, you feel like you’ve made an unofficial contract to engage with the dotwatcher FB group – but with the amazing support also comes pressure and expectations. The classic double-edged sword. Despite having tried to put it out there that we intended to attempt this a whole lot slower than the usual way riders tackle this, not everyone had got that memo – despite there having been a question on the group before the ride about whether there was a time limit. (Answer – no – it’s a ‘ride’, not a ‘race’.) Already someone was asking if TwoUp were ok – ‘they seemed to have stopped in York.’
An admin (who we happened to have chatted to at the Meet n Greet in Fremantle) let her know that this is what we had planned – but, as it turned out, it was going to take some time for followers to understand how we were going to be tackling this.
Anyhow. One day down, a bloody long way to go. Marc had already (somewhere) referred to the famous quote attributed to Desmond Tutu.
There is only one way to eat an elephant, a bite at a time.