Trip Leader: Gary Arcus
Date: 11th – 14th May 2019
Convoy: Gary Arcus, Bob and Bridget Mcpherson, Brett Anderson, Tom Van Hall
A small convoy of 4 vehicles aimed to do the full WA 4WD Association’s MundAl Track from Mundaring to Elleker near Albany.
The Saturday morning start near the Mundaring Hotel was marred by the Trip Leader’s navigation tablet refusing to react to any screen input (later determined to be a failure of the “digitizer” – the touchscreen) – fairly important for a trip with over 200 waypoints! However Bridget lent one of their tablets to the Trip Leader and we began after airing down at the start of Ashendon Road.
The first section from Mundaring to the Albany Highway was familiar Hills gravel roads often used on Club trips. The first unfamiliar section was the run from Albany Hwy to Jarrahdale – not on the bitumen road but a gravel one just to the south of the bitumen and passing the site of the WW2 Balmoral POW camp. Then onto familiar roads over Serpentine and North Dandalup Dams before heading off into the bush to approach Marrinup campsite from the north. Then through Jarrahdale and Nanga to pass the sites of Hoffmans Mill and Tallanalla – both being actively logged although they were quiet on the weekend. Then into Collie for a quick stop to buy a forgotten item before a little bush drive to the proposed camp at Glen Mervyn Dam. Unfortunately the good sized campsite area was closed as DBCA had just completed a prescribed burn. Luckily we found ourselves an overnight spot on the shore of the very low Dam near the ski area (currently closed to skiing). A bit noisy from the nearby road but quite OK.
In the misty morning Brett found that he had been adopted by a group of ducks who obviously knew what to do to get some food.
The day’s review was that it was a good bush run through mostly familiar country. Almost all suitable for campers and off-road caravans except for the small section leading into Marrinup (but this may have been off the planned track due to the Trip Leader’s confusion over some directions). An easier option is to turn left (south) under the power lines at waypoint mca9 and run down past the Marrinup POW camp road to rejoin the track to go past the campsite
On Sunday we were underway in good time after a leisurely pack up with the aim of getting a shower and fuel in Boyup Brook. We had a good run on some bitumen and then good farmland gravel before crossing the dry Blackwood River at Eulin Crossing and then stopping to see the remains of the tree blazed by pioneer explorer Augustus Gregory in 1845 – although there is apparently some debate over the date. We misplaced a vehicle in this section but managed to get a poor radio contact and agreed to meet up in Boyup Brook – however they rejoined while on a road into town. Then into Boyup Brook for fuel, showers, the store, and the visitors centre for some local crafts and foods.
Shortly after Boyup Brook we were on more farmland gravel before stopping for lunch at the large open area at Jayes Bridge (over the Blackwood). It was named after the adjacent Jayes property settled by (the later) Sir James Lee Steere and Mr I Monger in the early 1860s – Jayes being the name of the Lee Steere’s estate in England. The Jayes Bridge area is used as a staging point for the Blackwood River triathlon.
And then on southwards where we were within a kilometer of the proposed Camp 2 at Tone Bridge – except we were there at 1.30 in the afternoon! After a quick discussion we decided to push on.
Next stop was Lake Unicup and a look around at the remains of the Lake Unicup Ski Club – some corrugated iron shelters and change rooms which look long unused, especially since there was no water in sight!
And then to Muirs Highway and a stop at the Lake Muir (Bird) observatory which is very well constructed for a view onto …. a dry lake.
After Lake Muir we turned south and into the increasing karri forest. All was going well until we encountered ‘No Entry’ signs on almost all of the roads we needed to travel on. Having lost a lot of time we eventually found our way onto South Western Highway a long way west of where we expected. A quick look at the map and we headed for Fernhook Falls campsite arriving just after 4.00pm.
We were all very impressed with this campsite – about 10 bays each with a table and the dreaded concrete fire ring, a large camp kitchen with two gas BBQs, two dunnies, and three small wooden huts (each with its own pot belly stove). All in a very beautiful forest area and near to the pool and falls.
The review of Day 2 was that it was again a good touring track on good roads and into areas we had not previously visited. The only issue is the road closures in the western end of the Bevan Road area and this needs some planning and being prepared to back track.
After some showers overnight and a critter on Gary’s roof and into Tom’s rubbish bag in the night we packed up some damp tents and headed off through the karri forest to Mt Frankland.
The parking area is well developed with information shelters and toilets but the several hours trek to the top of the mountain was put off for another time. We then headed off down a small side track – part of the Munda Biddi mountain bike trail – through some nice forest and a log bridge across the Frankland River.
After some really nice forest we touched some farmland again before looping to the north and near to Rocky Gully before heading southwards. After nearly missing it we took off down the Salami Road loop where the trip notes called out a big hole. This turned out to be a large and steep dip in the bank after crossing the very tiny Denmark River. There is an alternate track around the hole but this also had a steep (but not as large) step up off the track. We all took this and made our way around the tight track. It was OK for our two towing vehicles which had high clearance, off road hitches, and short trailers but it would be difficult with anything larger and if it was wet. It is easy to avoid this loop as it brings you out on the previous road (Watershed Road) only 2 kilometres past the Salami Road entry.
The Salami Road loop took us past Blue Lake – but again this was grey and dry.
We continued on the track to make a northerly circuit of Mt Lindesay and then a road aimed directly south to Denmark. This (Stan Road) had a few steep and rough hill descents but easily done if slow. And the Trip Leader again misread the instructions causing a short bush detour before we rejoined the track.
After a quick consultation we decided to taste some civilised facilities and booked into the Riverbend Caravan Park for unpowered sites on their paddock near the river. It was camping and campfire on a nice grassed flat area but with showers a step away.
Our review of the day was a bit mixed with the forest sections enjoyed but the later loops around Blue Lake and Mt Lindesay being lacklustre.
The morning saw some very wet tents again from a heavy dew so we waited in the sun until 9:30am to leave as the Trip Leader confidently claimed that the next bit should only take an hour. A quick refuel for some and we headed onto the Denmark Mt Barker Road for a few kilometres before heading to the east on a sand track.
This took us through some light forest and then around the forest side of farm fences on sandy and at times rocky tracks
After crossing the Mitchell River (again just a splash) the Trip Leader misread the notes and went left down a well used track only to end at an embankment. This may be very recent as the road on the other side of the embankment appears to have been recently worked on. With help from the convoy the trailer was removed and then it and the car turned before we found a way out onto the road. Then we splashed across the Hay River and into an area with ominous warnings of mud holes in the trip notes.
And there were at least four muddy areas with multiple options for going through them. Stopping to check out the options took up quite a bit of time. The last one (on the section between waypoints at99 and at100) nearly got the towing cars stuck but using all of the 4WD equipment pulled us through. We were there when there had not been rain for some time and the surface of the muddy areas was dry but the big ruts had water in the bottom and were quite flat areas – essentially swamps. Definitely not passable if there has been any rain. The alternative is to not cross the Hay River at waypoint at97 and to travel south along the western side of the Hay River to meet Sunny Glen Road.
Then it was onto good farm gravel roads and two vehicles decided to head on the main road to Denmark and to Perth while the other two decided to complete the MundAl track to its end at Elleker. So in the end Bob and Bridget and Gary completed the MundAl track from end to end.
Overall this is an interesting drive and definitely a ‘touring’ track apart from the last sections which could be very challenging 4WDing in certain conditions. All of the group went into areas which they had not been to before and saw some very nice country.
The navigation is a bit challenging as there are over 200 waypoints to cover and some tricky bits which need to be interpreted from the trip notes. Using a system such as Ozi Explorer is a huge advantage but it could be done with a very active navigator using the trip notes.
Thanks to the WA 4WD Association and their track planners for setting this up. And thanks to the trip members for good company and help when needed.