Perth to Dwellingup

It felt good to be finally heading South. Leaving town was another navigational challenge. Lots of great bike paths alongside the freeways but stringing them all together, checking and rechecking, made for a stop, start kind of run. Finally arrived at Armadale and from there it was a fairly straight forward run with some long straight sections on back roads.

Serpentine is a fairly plain but endearing country town which does have the Serpentine Falls National Park to explore. The caravan park was a sort of soulless place although it was such a beautiful afternoon that it was hard to complain about passing the time with a few stubbies and a long chat with Anne on the lawn. The cabins there were very expensive for what they were, nearly twice what I was paying in Perth, and the two night minimum, up front payment and $50 deposit was, I thought, quite over the top. It was one of those places that felt like they'd actually prefer not to have to bother with customers.

The storms hit the next day and the decision to stay the two nights was vindicated. I ventured up to the National Park for a walk in the afternoon. Sheltered under a tree when a huge squall came blasting up the valley. I'm not sure that under the tree is the safest place, but there was not many other options.

Tuesday was clearing, but still on and off showers so I had quite a damp ride up to Dwellingup. I rejoined Munda Biddi for some of the way and while there was less pea gravel and craggy rocks, navigation was quite challenging and I did have some concerns about getting lost.

Accomodation at Dwellingup was in a Bushwalkers Room at the local camping ground and was much more in line with my budgeted accomodation costs than Serpentine! A nice forest town.

Skirting round bushfires added to the challenge.

 

 

A leisurely ride along the Swan River

This was meant to be a day at the beach. Hot weather was predicted and a day out to Cottosloe and Scarborough beaches seemed a great way to spend my last day in Perth. Maybe a bit of bodysurfing, a latte and lazing around in the sun seemed in order.

All packed and ready to go I went to put my glasses in the handlebar bag, and they were nowhere to be seen. I looked high and low, went through every item I had, which I had become used to doing as I had already lost, and found, various items. But no glasses.

This was completely deflating as I have reluctantly become quite reliant on distance glasses over the past few years. These ones had been actually purchased for the trip being a style more suited as active wear. I had only collected them the day before I left. I was pretty devastated as I thought through my options (Anne had encouraged me to bring a spare pair but I had not followed that advice). Could I get another pair made? Could I pushon regardless? Perhaps I would need to replan my trip? Or maybe I should just go home??

I figured that they must have dropped out of my pocket during the long ride yesterday as I had fallen into the bad habit of stuffing them in the pocket rather than returning them to their allocated spot in the handlebar bag. They are forever being taken off and on while I am riding and navigating with maps and the phone. Finding them would be an impossibility as I covered more than 60 kms yesterday.

Then in an epiphanatic moment it occurred to me that they may have been dropped when I had my meltdown moment yesterday! You might remember my helmet tumbled to the ground and putting them inside my removed helmet is another bad habit I had fallen into. Could they be there?

It seemed a one in a thousand chance but I set out to ride back to the Lesmurdie Falls car park, from where I trekked through the bush, and up the escarpment in the heat, for five or six kilometres, finally arriving at the meltdown spot. They weren’t on the ground where I had thrown my helmet, but there, snug in the fork of a tree, were my glasses. I could not believe it! It was such a long shot to come all this way and I had resigned myself to not finding them, but I had. It was exhilarating, like winning th lotto I guess. I could become addicted to losing my glasses.

By the time I got back there was not enough time to get to the beach so I went on a long ride into Perth along the Swan River. There was games cricket, boating, picnics, markets and all sorts of Sunday afternoon activities. I had a pot of Swan Larger to go with the ride and then returned to prepare to leave Perth the next day.

A young man in the bike shop had told me that the track gets much better further down south, so the plan was now to ride to Serpentine, wait there for the predicted bad weather to pass, and then ride up to Dwellingup and rejoin the trail there.

The glasses spent the night in the tree!

The trek up beside the beautiful Lesmurdie Falls to to the melt down site.

Crossing the Swan River on the cycle path.

 

Up to the start of Munda Biddi

I wanted to ride from the start of the Munda Biddi Trail which is at Mundaring, high on the escarpment in the Perth Hills. Finding the way up was a bit tortuous trying to avoid the busy freeways. There seems to be so many huge trucks in Perth! Throw in a flat tire, stiff headwinds and the steep climb and I had quite a tough morning.

I finally arrived at the start of the trail and enjoyed a pleasant roll down to the Mundaring Weir. I lost the trail at the Weir and continued on the road. A guy on a road bike caught up to me and pointed out where I could rejoin the trail.

Rejoining the trail was a bit of a shock as the trail was incredibly rough with jagged rocks and patches of sand and pea gravel that grab your tyres and wrench your handlebars out of your hands. Progress was exhausting and this without the full load of all my camping gear. The track crossed a road and amazingly the road cyclist was hurtling past. He stopped and we had a bit of a laugh and went on our ways, he on the road, I on the trail.

Paul and I crossed paths a third time as we were on the road back to Perth. Paul helped with directions but then offered to ride with me which was very kind of him. The only problem was that I had to work pretty hard to keep up with him and by the time we got to Kalamunda I was pretty well out of petrol. Paul left me at the bike shop there and later hooked up with me on Strava.

I still managed to get lost and had a bit of a melt down moment when the road petered out into steep bush land half way down the escarpment. My helmet was thrown off, I took some deep breaths and sat down on the edge of the path, ate a wrap and drank water.

So the day finished with a scramble on foot through the bush, finally coming out at the car park of the Lesmurdie Falls. Arriving back at my cabin hot and exhausted I enjoyed a refreshing swim and cleansing ales.

Flowers and sunshine disguise a hazardous track!

 

A day out in Fremantle

A determined and relentless magpie welcomed me to Perth within five minutes of my first ride. I thought swooping magpies were just a Victorian thing! I also managed to get quite lost at stages on the route to Fremantle. Perth has some very high quality bike paths but it took some time to understand how the main routes connect together.

Fremantle was very enjoyable. Activities included a really productive hour and a half in Mr Walkers Bicycles servicing the bike with a very helpful young man, poking about town and a snooze on the grass at the foreshore.

For lunch I set myself up with a piece of battered fish and a beer from the foreshore outdoor chippery. I went back to the counter to get some tissues and was perplexed to see the look of horror on the face of the Indian man on duty. 'What? Aren't I allowed tissues?' I was thinking. But the mad squawking of seagulls suddenly bought home the reality of the situation. I scrambled back to the table to save some scraps of fish. The birds also managed to tip over the beer that was cascading off the table like a frothy waterfall. I brushed myself off and carried on as all was normal in an attempt to avert the eyes of the concerned onlookers. A kind lady came over and said, 'Would you like me to get the sauce for you?'

 

 

Going Home!

The last post from the blog from my Scotland/Ireland ride in 2015 never got posted until the first day of the Sulawesi ride almost two years later. I promised myself that I wouldn't let that happen again. But here I am in a cabin in Perth on the first day of the Munda Biddi ride, and what am I doing? Writing up the last instalment of the previous trip! I find that once I turn for home, the motivation to keep up the entries just drops away.

Anyway, here is how it all ended up.

The boys from the homestay were very slow to get the little boat organised to take myself and the two Lithuanian boys from Pulau Kadidiri back to the main port on Pulau Wakai, where my bike, and the overnight ferry back to Gorantalo were waiting. I was getting a little impatient as I could see boats full of Europeans from the resorts heading in that direction.

Sure enough when we arrived at the port my worst fears were confirmed, with a long line of Europeans waiting for tickets, and the ferry looking very crowded. At least I felt a little differentiated as I had a bike with me, and hey, look closely, I'm Australian! The Indonesians were setting out their cardboard mattresses, and eating 'nasi bungkus' on the lower deck, and I parked the bike down there (in hindsight I would have been better off bunking down there too). The scene on the top deck knocked me flat, with every square inch occupied by Europeans of all descriptions, old, young, wannabe hippies, Dutch skinheads, and as if to drive home my anguish, a very tanned, sunglassed young blond woman whose tight black tee shirt read, 'I love Australia!' So my claim to fame of being the only Aussie on board was also blown out of the water (at least she didn't have a bike). This was only Indonesian ferry I've ever been on where the canteen sold Bintangs, and they were going down at a rapid rate. With all the mattresses taken up I found a little space in a closed off gangway and struggled to sleep amongst the waves, the wind, the hard cold steel and the Bintang induced socialarity of the other travelers. In almost story book fashion I finally fell into a deep sleep in what seemed only minutes before the foghorn blared out as we had arrived at Gorontalo two hours before schedule – 4 am!!

I felt I had the last laugh. As the Europeans and the Australian girl in the back tee shirt negotiated furiously with the touts who wanted to whisk them off to the next big destination, I casually got on my bike and pedalled quietly off into the dark empty streets. Back in town I found a hotel, woke the boy behind the desk, and fell into a deep sleep in a reasonably comfy bed.

That day I sampled some traditional Indonesian cakes and coffee, had a haircut, toured the Portugese fort and was given a 'nasi bungkus' for the next ferry trip to Bitung, from where I hoped I could ride back to my starting point at Amurang. This was to be a Pelni Ferry, which to me are more like ships. I stressed about getting there early to scrounge out my space but in complete contrast this ship was basically empty with only the crew and the odd family or two aboard. For a small fee the crew stationed me in my own cabin with TV (not working), a table, a toilet and a shower with hot water. The sign on the door said 'Kapal Pemilik' (Ships Owner).

This was a much longer journey so the comfort was most welcome and I caught up with much of the sleep I had missed the night before. When sun rose I wandered the decks getting good language practice with those on board. We were cruising parallel to the mountains I would have to cross, and so I spent a lot of time thinking through various plans of attack to get back to Amurang.

The ship arrived early which seemed like a good thing. However we anchored a kilometre or so off the harbour and spent the next three hours waiting for our dock berth to become available. During that time I was approached by an elderly Indonesian woman with her grandson. She wanted to use my phone as her credit had run out. I was feeling tired and sceptical but stuck by my mantra of trying to always keep positive and let her use the phone.

The elderly lady was very thankful and asked about my plans. It turned out she lived right at the top of the huge mountain I had to cross to get back to Amurang. She also was being picked up by a ute truck and was happy for me and the bike to sit in the back. So when we finally got to shore I was whisked into the back of the truck and had great reception to listen to the Bulldogs live as we drove up to Tomohon.

I slept on the floor at her very busy home and was offered RW (dog meat) for tea. Declined! The next morning I coasted for about 50 km which was almost all downhill. Sendowan Baru was all locked up when I arrived back at my starting point. I took some time to reflect. It had been a fantastic trip which fulfilled all of my dreams and more.

I reckon travelling alone has great advantages but there are many times you wish family and friends were there to share the emotions. This was one such moment.

Eventually Frank arrived and was pleased to see me in his own reserved way. Over the next few days I packed the bike, headed back to Manado for a final night in that city I have become quite fond of, and flew out for Malbourne.

 

 

 

The Togian Islands

The Togian Islands were never in the original plan. Ferry schedules meant I was sort of stuck there for six days and just had to make the best of it. The days passed pretty quickly, swimming, lazing around in the hammock, watching the comings and going, and taking in the sunsets.

There were a couple of day trips including Jelly Fish Lake where you swim surrounded by harmless jellyfish in a lake just behind the beach, and an epic three hour journey in a small rickety boat to the volcanic island of Una Una. While we were trekking up the volcano the wind blue up and so Leif from Manchester, the Romanian couple and myself had to spend the night in the tiny village of Tombola.

The next morning the waves were still up. We waited around and then headed off into the rolling swell. Just to add to the drama one outrigger became detached just as we were about to board. It was quite a tense journey but we eventually arrived back at Kadidiri, much to the relief of everyone there. As there is no phone coverage they didn't know why we had not returned the night before as expected.

But most of the time in the Togians was just lazing around which I wasn't sure how I would cope with, but got through.

My hut on the left.

The kitchen at Lestari's on Kadidiri.

Heading to Jelly Fish Lake with Bruno and Myriam

A snorkelling stop along the way.

Bruno was keen to learn how to climb a coconut tree.

Coconut milk for lunch.

The rickety boat to Una Una.

We had to stay the night in Tombola.

My host for the night.

 

The beach at Tombola.

Waiting for conditions out at sea to settle.

The outrigger falls off the boat.

Repairs almost complete.

Z

Tensions high as we battle the waves.

I missed the bike riding but just had to accept things as they were.

 

 

Kokolomboi

The trip from Bulagi to Lemeleme was even more spectacular than the previous ride. Rain settled in only ten minutes after starting but eventually cleared. I found a tiny little beach with a shack where I had breakfast, a swim and dried out clothes.

A village I passed through later in the morning was absolutely amazing. Lukpenenteng was nestled at the bottom of a hill, sandwiched between cliffs and a bay that had a lovely aqua blue colour with craggy islands dotted around. Fisherman poled around the bay looking a bit like the stand up paddle boarders at home. People peered out and smiled from their windows which were often high above the road due to the cliffs. Lukapeneteng seemed to have every cliche you would expect of a tropical destination and not a sign that the wider world had discovered the place. My prediction is that it will eventually become a travellers destination.

Unfortunately I had to keep going to get to Lemeleme where I arrived pretty exhausted after the seven hour ride. Ivan was waiting for me in a simple homestay where the family made a fantastic meal and showed me to a really comfortable room. As soon as I washed and changed Ivan was keen to get going to Kokolomboi. It was already past two o'clock and it became apparent that Ivan was intending we stay the night at Kokolomboi so I hurriedly threw a few bits and pieces into my day pack. We were taken on the back of motorbikes to the start of the jungle trek to Kokolomboi and as I got off the driver said that it was more than one hour to the village.

That of course turned out to be a very ambitious prediction. The trek was very steep and slippery and progress slow. I was exhausted when we arrived but spirits lifted by the warm welcome. A group of people from the village were waiting at the entrance, and while four or five boys banged wildly on the drums one of the village elders did a sort of 'hukka' like welcome, staring me down and waving a machete around madly.

The village is at the edge of an area of pristine rainforest and the people are striving to preserve the environment and their indigenous culture. They were forced out of their traditional huts by the government who insisted the huts be replaced by rows of bland looking weatherboard and tin roof accomodation. They were told that their huts would be burnt down if they didn't accept the development project.

They have already seen off one attempt to replace the forest with palm oil plantations, and no doubt there will be more to come. They are revegatating damaged areas and with a sense of ceremony I was asked to choose a sapling from the nursery, after which I followed the village leader, carrying my sapling, in a single file line with five or six others through the village. The people in the huts gave the thumbs up and nodded approvals as we headed off into the jungle. The sapling was planted in an opening on a steep hill and the lovely young guy who seemed to be in charge of the revegetation said he will send me a photo of tree, a Meranti, in six months time.

The daylight was coming to an end and the tarsiers were still at least an hour away so unfortunately I didn't get to see them. The ferry I was planning to catch to take me off towards the Togian Islands left the next morning so we were up early and off on the trek down from Kokolomboi.

With the benefit of hindsight I would have allocated more time to Pulau Peleng. Who knows, I might get the chance to return and do the place justice one day, and visit my tree. A long day on the ferry and then a hot, noisy and frustrating nine hour bus trip, with the bike on top of the bus, got me to Ampana for the ferry to the Togian Islands the next day.

Drying out after riding through rain.

The sea approaching Lukpeneting.

Lukpeneting

Trekking with Ivan up to Kokolomboi.

The welcoming committee.

Heading back to the village after the 'hukka'.

Selecting the sapling - a Meranti.

An onlooker.

Each ferry seems smaller and more rickety.

Lemeleme harbour.

If you look carefully you can see the handlebars of the bike on top of the bus. The bike seemed to be in better condition than me after the nine hours.

What to do with a sunken ferry? Turn it into a hotel!