Boscabel to Darkan 1996


Proandra Farm stay, Boscabel to Darkan, day 9, Wednesday 23 November 1996. During the night the wind strengthened from the north-west. I discovered this when I needed to get up in the night and find the toilet, which was some way from the house, out the back and off to the right down a path. It was hard to find my way in the dark. The wind swished the trees around and banged the toilet door. The signs weren’t good for the coming day. But there were some hours before I had to start riding so I hoped that conditions might improve.

Darkan welcome

Darkan welcome

When I awoke later in daylight the wind was still up. I had a good breakfast and cleaned and tidied the house, moving any furniture back that I had shifted and washing the dishes. I finally left rather late, at 8:45. No-one was about, not even the dogs. I rode to the end of the driveway and turned left, west, onto the gravel road.

This day was to be remarkably similar to my previous ride to Darkan in 1987, only not so fierce, with less rain and no hail. The wind would freshen from the north-west as a shower came through, then slacken and turn south-west in between. I could see the showers coming and managed to avoid most of them.

I found the bitumen road at 1363 and enjoyed it for 11 km before getting onto gravel again at 1374. This conformed to my RAC map. I took a drink-stop at 1378. I had passed a sign saying ‘floodway’ earlier. I have often seen these signs on my rides and when I passed this most recent one I wondered what I would do if I actually came to a flooded section of road. I formed a plan in my head.

Then, after my drink-stop, at 1379, I came to another sign saying ‘floodway’ and there indeed was the river bubbling merrily across the road, to a width of about 100 metres. There was no way around it because the river continued into the paddocks on the right and left. So I had a chance to put my plan into action. I took off my shoes and socks and carried them round my neck. Then I picked up the bike, complete with luggage, and carried it as I waded carefully into the stream.

The surface was firm underfoot and the water was clear enough to see through. If it got too deep and difficult I intended to go back, unship the luggage that weighed as much as the bike, and make two journeys. But I got over in one, without mishap. At the other side I dried my feet on some long grass, put my shoes back on and resumed the ride.

At last at 1381 I met the main bitumen Kojonup-Darkan road. I now turned north-west, which made the going easier because the wind was no longer straight in my face. I passed the lake 30 km out from Proandra, like the lady had said, but when I say Moodiarrup I mean the store, which was another 2km. The lady had told me that the store was closed. I remembered that when I had stopped there in 1987 for a welcome rest and shelter and lunch on a stormy day the lady who was running it said that she had worked there since 1955 and was about to retire. I thought the store might have been closed since then. But when I got there (1393) I found that it had only been closed since April 1996.

A shower came through just as I arrived, so I took a drink-stop and sheltered under the porch until the rain stopped. Because on this day the rain was no longer continuous there was no need to get wet. After quite a long wait the rain stopped and I could see from the grass that the wind had turned a little south of west. Since the rest of the way to Darkan was due north I felt that the hard part of the ride was over. I set off again.

I passed through Duranillin at 1404 and took another drink-stop at 1411. The going wasn’t too easy – there were hills and I was still tired from the two hard days. But I rolled down the hill, turned east onto the Collie-Darkan road and arrived at the Darkan Hotel at 1:18, 1429.5.

I went into the front bar and the man I had spoken to when I made the booking greeted me. He was very friendly and seemed to enjoy being a hotel-keeper. On the telephone he had quoted $15 for the room only. When I told him that I would not be requiring dinner or breakfast because the roadhouse was next door and because I usually got going early in the morning, he decided that $10 for the room was enough. So I paid there and then at the bar. His wife said that people usually just went to the roadhouse. This was open for all meals seven days a week, being on the main road from Bunbury through Collie, Darkan and Arthur River to the Great Southern Highway. They told me to make myself at home – they said they were pretty laid-back.

The three small cabins at the back, in one of which I had stayed in 1987, were still there, but now it was possible to have a room in the main hotel building. I had room no. 5. This was a great contrast to Proandra – the room was so tiny that the bed just fitted in from one wall to the other. But it was clean and comfortable and there was a bedside light precariously clipped to an old chair and a wardrobe with a spare pillow and quilt and a coathanger.

I got some food from the roadhouse and went back to my room for a sleep. The sun was shining brightly through the window so I drew the curtain.

When I awoke dark clouds were building up in the west. I showered and changed and hung my washing on the line, hoping it would mostly dry before the rain came as it certainly would. I crossed the park where the old railway line used to go through (I’m sure it was still there in 1987) and did my shopping at Foodland, for breakfast food, boxed drinks and milk. I took this back to the hotel before setting off for a quick walk round the signposted ‘Darkan Heritage Trail’. Locals are trying to make this insignificant and rather dull town into a tourist magnet. Rain started falling intermittently.

I made my telephone calls during one shower. I had decided to go to Collie the next day, then to try the short cut to Harvey along the Mornington Mills Road. The hotel-keeper had told me that it was indeed gravel all the way to Quindanning, and he didn’t know how good it was. It might be like the Waterhatch Road (see 1995 ride) and I would have to ride 69 km to Dwellingup the following day. And there would be no television in the hotels. I hankered after a good-sized town with decent motels and shops and restaurants.

I walked up the hill but decided that there was not enough clear weather left to walk the full trail, so I just went back towards the Kojonup Road and through the park at that end. Five straggly little gum-trees stood around a path described by a sign as ‘walk trail’. The trees carried a sign saying ‘five gum trees forming a shady bower for walkers to rest.’ Further on was a wooden rotunda with a flower-bed. None of the flowers were native but they carried a sign saying who had planted them and when. Many of the little houses in the town had better flowers in their gardens.

I mailed a postcard on my way back to the hotel. The rain was really threatening to start soon so I went to rescue my washing. The proprietor had said that there was a laundry, so I went in there and found a hot-air clothes dryer. Not bad for $10. Many expensive motels can’t provide that for their guests. I got my stuff into this, then the bucketing started and continued for a couple of hours.

I got chicken and chips and a cheese sausage and a rich choc-milk from the roadhouse and settled into my tiny room to eat and read.

Later in the evening I decided to go into the bar, which was pleasantly old-fashioned with pool tables and a juke box and people allowed to smoke and wear thongs for fotwear. I played some tunes, drank beer with a lime dash, watched the games of pool and had pleasant chats with the hotel-keeper and friendly shearers who came over and introduced themselves and wanted to discuss my bike-ride.

The rain had gone, the sky was clear and starry and the air was cold when I left the bar and walked up the road and back before retiring for the night.

Reading at Darkan: 1429.5 km. Day’s ride: 68 km. Aggregate 565 km. Kpd 64.2. Kph to Darkan 15.0.

Charles A. Pierce

Other Days on this Tour:

  1. Kelmscott to Rocky Gully Tour 1996
  2. Kelmscott to Pinjarra 1996
  3. Pinjarra to Harvey 1996
  4. Harvey to Donnybrook 1996
  5. Donnybrook to Bridgetown 1996
  6. Bridgetown to Nyamup 1996
  7. Nyamup to Rocky Gully 1996
  8. Rocky Gully to Kojonup 1996
  9. Kojonup to Boscabel 1996
  10. Boscabel to Darkan 1996
  11. Darkan to Collie 1996
  12. Collie to Waroona 1996
  13. Waroona to Mandurah 1996
  14. Mandurah to Cottesloe 1996

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