Bridgetown to Nyamup 1996


Bridgetown to Nyamup, day 5, Saturday 19 October 1996. I went down to breakfast in the Freemasons’ dining room shortly after six. There was no-one else there, but a man came in puffing a cigarette, said something I didn’t quite catch and went out again. I turned on the urn and got stuck into the cereals, of which there were several varieties and no shortage. Milk, butter and jam were in the fridge and there was plenty of bread. I pigged out, bearing in mind what I had ahead of me. There was a jar of chamomile tea-bags, and I took a couple of these, thinking that they would help me sleep at Nyamup. I would need a good night’s sleep before attempting Rocky Gully.

Nyamup

Nyamup

I left Bridgetown at 8.18. The weather was cool and overcast with a few spots of rain. Winds were NE – E with calm periods. The main road between Bridgetown and Manjimup is comparatively flat. I rested past the Donnelly River at 1130, turned off the main road at Palgarup (1141) stopping briefly to check that I had taken the correct road because the name on the sign was different from that on the map.

The hilliness began again now that I had left the main road. I rested again at 1144, then finally on reaching the Muirs Highway at 1157. The road through Dingup is still gravel and I had to get off and walk down one particularly steep hill on a curve, where the road, quite properly, has been built sloping upwards from the inside to the outside of the curve. This is good for motor vehicles but I could see my bike falling over and sliding, causing injuries and damage.

As in 1991, I cut 5km off the journey by bypassing Manjimup and taking these back roads, including 7-8km of gravel, through Palgarup, Balbarrup and Dingup. I joined the Muirs Highway 8km SE of Manjimup, some 12km by road from Nyamup. The road was hilly but the light easterly wind wasn’t a problem.

I reached a turnoff on the left clearly signed “Nyamup’. I turned off and began a climb, then there was a steep descent for about 1 km. At last the collection of wooden buildings came into view.

I followed a sign that said ‘office’ and found a closed, deserted building that had a post box and a telephone. I thought this was the office, not seeing the other sign pointing to a house behind me. I had to walk over and ask someone at the only house that seemed occupied, before realising this. I had heard hammering down at the old mill when I arrived but this had stopped and I couldn’t see anyone there. Later I was to find that the old mill was deserted, half in ruins and dangerous, so I don’t know who could have been hammering.

I noted the time and distance when I stopped at the building with a telephone – 11:55, 1169.8.

I knocked at the house marked ‘office’ and the man in charge let me in, took my money and gave me a receipt. It was only $30. He said he would bring three blankets up in his car. He pointed out my cabin – No. 14, the last in the row as you go up the hill on the way out. This would give me a bit of a start in the morning.

I already knew that I would try for Rocky Gully the next day, no matter what the weather forecast. I had got this far, I was well placed, the bike and I were in good condition and if I didn’t make it this time I never would, and would regret it later, just as I have regrets about having chickened out of things on other rides. But I am getting older and this was one challenge I might have no chance to meet later.

I rode up the hill to my cabin. I passed number 12 and there was only one left. I thought I had made a mistake, and would have to hunt, or go back and ask. But many places of accomodation still hold to old superstition and won’t have a room or unit or cabin number 13. My cabin was indeed the next one.

The man duly came up the hill with the blankets. He turned on the electricity and checked that everything was working, and showed me around. Then he showed me a map of scenic walks that visitors could take around the area. After that, he bade me a nice rest and an enjoyable stay.

The timber and fibro house was freshly painted and clean and everything worked, but it was obviously an old place done up rather than a newly-built one made to look traditional. Nyamup used to be a small town, housing workers for the mill whose cannibalised ruins I was to explore later. The mill hadn’t been closed very long – a Bunnings accident-free days chart was still on the wall at the little booth near the mill.

I had a choice of three bedrooms, a lounge with a lounge suite and open fireplace, a fully-equipped kitchen and a bathroom with a bath and a shower nozzle hanging over the bath. The toilet was reached by going out of the back door and down a little path of paving stones. I felt a bit sad to be alone in this nice place. There was a clothes-line on the raised front verandah, which was reached by a step at its southern end.

I chose the middle bedroom which had two beds, one with a fitted sheet. There were plenty of pillows. There was a master bedroom with a double and single bed and a tiny back bedroom with a small bed and a chair.

I lay down and read my book and ate some biscuits. Then I had a nice sleep before getting up and having my shower and doing my washing.

I took the map and started on the shorter of the walks – still 3.5 km. I wanted to experience the place properly but didn’t want to overdo it. I remembered Northcliffe in 1987, when I had got a bit lost in the forest park and had ended up walking much further than I had intended, the day before the long ride, including 50km of gravel, to Walpole.

I walked slowly down the gravel path, taking a detour into the forest to look for wildflowers, particularly orchids. I found an orchid with very small green petals with dark red tips. It had the form of an orchid but I have never seen one like it before. I want to look it up.

I passed a sign saying ‘water’ at the head of a narrow track and walked down this, hearing the rush of water getting closer as I went down a steep slope. Finally I saw the river and the dam. This was quite an old structure. There was a narrow wooden walkway and I started to walk carefully across this, but it bent and creaked a little and I walked back. Had I known this river was there I could have come down earlier and had a dip.

On the way back up to the main track I took another detour through the forest to look for orchids, but didn’t find any.

I walked on and followed the instructions: come to a bridge, look for the red peg and follow that track up a steep hill to see ‘a beautiful view’. The track was rough and eroded and I stepped carefully to avoid injuries. The view was indeed beautiful, on the way up the hill as well as at the top. The afternoon sun slanted across a broad slope of green pasture. At the top I could see over the top of this, down the further slope to a wooded paddock where cows strolled about.

Looking back the way I had come I could see that the slope of green pasture was divided by a fence and the river from another paddock where many large trees stood about among the rich pasture. It was as though an area of forest had been carefully cleared and sown to pasture without removing the trees. Sheep grazed in the dappled shade. Farmers are being encouraged to develop this sort of wooded pasture to save trees and conserve the land.

I walked right down to the river and found the rotted remains of an old dam or bridge, but there was now no way across. I found the right track and slowly retraced my steps to the settlement.

Before going back to my house I looked at the old mill. A lot of effort had gone into building it. Massive tree trunks formed the frame of the structure. Most of the floor was missing. Thick, broad planks had been laid over beams resting on dozens of large tree trunks set into the ground, but now only these supports were present over most of the large area of the shed. The effect reminded me of pictures I have seen of the Colosseum in Rome, where the floor of the arena has largely disappeared, revealing the network of chambers and passages that used to lie under it. I supposed that the timber had been taken to provide for the holiday village.

The conveyor belt that used to feed the bandsaw was still there, the great links and cogs rusting. The saw itself was long gone. There was another conveyor belt that used to lift the sawn timber out of the mill and drop it into a third conveyor belt that carried it about two hundred metres and dropped it into transport – trucks? Railway trains? There was nothing down there now but a rough track leading nowhere.

Lastly, to test its quality, I took a walk down a gravel road which I had seen on the new map book in the shops, but whose name I can’t remember since it isn’t on any of my maps. Some maps suggested that this might be a way of cutting a few km off the journey east down Muirs Highway, and I had contemplated leaving by this route in the morning. But it didn’t look that good, and I have learnt the folly of taking a few km of gravel to save a few km of distance. The saving is illusory unless the distance saved is considerable, as with the Chesapeake Road to Walpole in 1987 or the Grays Road to Pemberton in 1991.

I went back to my house, cooked up a couple of packets of pasta and brewed a pot of camomile tea, which I had black with sugar. It was delicious and soothing. I had some biscuits and sultanas. I read my book ‘A House for Mr Biswas’ by V.S.Naipaul, while leisurely eating this meal. I wished he could have had this house I was in.

Afterwards I groped my way through the quiet darkness towards the dim light of the telephone box. I left my verandah light on to show me my way back. I booked the Rocky Gully Hotel for the next night. Once that commitment was made I felt stronger and more confident about the next day. I made a couple of other calls.

I went back to my house and settled down in a comfortable chair in my lounge room, with my feet up on another chair, to read my book for a couple of hours. There was no television. There was no sound save for the thin, evocative sound of one of those insects that sing at night. I got up halfway through the evening to make a cup of hot chocolate and have a few more biscuits.

When I went out to the toilet before bed the night had already become very cold. I loved the dark, quiet ambience of the place.

I went to bed in my shirt and needed all three blankets. Because the house lacked any insect screens, I had been worried about mosquitoes, but there were none.

During the night I woke up and had to go out the back again. It was freezing. I didn’t turn on a light. I looked up and saw the stars like I haven’t seen them for years – standing out brilliantly. The Magellanic clouds, faint patches in the city, were so bright that at first I was alarmed, wondering what they could be. The Milky Way and background stars and clusters and nebulae were so bright that the effect was of a sky with a hazy overcast, but of stars, not water vapour clouds. I had to turn on the light in the toilet and when I came out the magic of the stars was lost because my eyes were now not so sensitive. I hurried back up the frosty paving stones, through the back door and into bed.

Reading at Nyamup: 1170.1 Day: 57 km. Cumulative 306 km. kpd 61. kph to Nyamup 15.5. 7 km of gravel road included.

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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