Camino Salvado - Two Ways...

Newsletter, December 2019

The Camino Salvado is a pilgrimage trail from St Joseph’s Church in Subiaco to the monastery town of New Norcia, which generally retraces Dom Rosendo Salvado’s footsteps of 1846. Dom Salvado co-founded the Benedictine Monastery Community in New Norcia. The ‘new’ Camino Salvado was first walked in 2009 over eight days. The route has changed significantly over the last decade, and now stays off the Gt. Northern Hwy., until 5km from New Norcia. In the bikepacking / off-road touring scene, the ride is gaining popularity as a northerly alternative to the Munda Biddi.

Oliver’s Way - three days...packed into two!

I thought the Camino Salvado would be a good shake-down ride for my Munda Biddi end-to-end in late October. I was spurred on by Julie, after she mentioned that she was planning to ride it with her husband. I had worked out a three-day route that took in the Camino Salvado to New Norcia then back to Perth via Northam and the Kep track. Unfortunately a family medical situation meant compressing the same route into a two day ride over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in late September. The weather was sunny and quite warm with cloudless skys both days, which was a bit of a shock coming out of winter!

Day One - Como to Subiaco to New Norcia - 187km, 11hrs moving time.

Cruising along familiar bike paths and city routes early on a Sunday had me at Bell’s Rapids by 11am, just as it started to heat up. After stopping for some food, I followed the northern bank of the upper reaches of the Swan River. This firetrail gave me a taste for what I was in for through Walyunga and Chittering; erosion, baby headed rocks, pinch climbs (and some more extended ones) and rapid descents. After crossing Walyunga Rd, a 2.5km climb vindicated my decision to run a 26 tooth inner chainring with a 11-42 cassette, I was grovelling in the granny gear the whole way! A gradual descent into Chittering was followed by more climbing to exit the Brockman River valley. With the heat and exertion, even though I was carrying 3.5l of water, it was running low - I should have found a resupply option in Chittering. Avon Valley National Park felt wild and remote. Approaching Julimar Rd after two hours of toiling away with dwindling water, I stopped at a house to refill my bottles thanks to the homeowner, who probably didn’t have too many people knocking on his door! Riding through Julimar State Forest in the late afternoon, the swathes of blue leischenaultia flowers in bloom were breathtaking, as were the smooth-barked white, yellow and grey Eucalyptus megacarpa (Bullich) stands forming an open forest. I came across quite a number of 4WDs out for an adventure, most of them seemingly looking in disbelief that a cyclist would be out there too. Crossing the Bindoon-Dewars Pool Rd, the Camino Salvado soon heads east along the southern boundary of the Bindoon Army training area - this section was rugged, and fatigue was starting to set in as the shadows lengthened. Unsealed Old Plains Rd felt like a highway after the journey from Walyunga. I still had 40km to ride as night fell, I was very happy to have a dynamo-powered light out front. Night riding does strange things to your perceptions - narrowed to a beam, all other details censored out. I rolled onto the Gt Northern Hwy and into New Norcia about 9pm, freshened up in some public ablutions and set up camp on the oval, feeling pretty flogged!

Day Two - New Norcia to Northam to Como - 213km, 11.25hrs moving time.

Needless to say, I was a bit sore and stiff when I hopped on the bike the next morning. The plan was to do more km’s today, but without the technicality or elevation, at least until I hit the Kep track out of Northam. Retracing my route from the previous night on Old Plains Rd, I slowly picked up the pace and settled into a rhythm that I could maintain - that’s the key of long-distance riding, never going too deep. Alternating hand positions and standing up occasionally minimises aches and pains, but the body can react in strange ways - my ring and little fingers on both hands were pretty numb, remaining that way for a number of weeks ( I subsequently put ergo grips on the Jones bars for my Munda Biddi ride, which pretty much solved that issue.) Taking Catchup and Hall Roads to avoid going into Toodyay, the temperature was in the low thirties and there was a heap of elevation gained and lost through this ‘shortcut!’ A long descent into the Avon Valley and Northam on the sealed Irishtown Rd was a great respite. Refuelling in Northam I managed to sneak in a tasty vegetable curry to offset the beef jerky, electrolytes and sweet stuff I was using to keep pedalling! I’d not done the section of the Kep Track from Northam to Baker’s Hill previously and it was a bit of a shock to hit some steep, pinchy eroded climbs along the pipeline, followed by the seemingly endless false flat into Baker’s Hill. Some freewheeling was had on the blacktop into Wooroloo, but was again followed by a climb (which I had hardly noticed the last time I’d been out to Baker’s Hill) to Chidlow. By then it was dark again, and starting to drizzle - do I give up? No way! After refuelling again, the fast open descent on the north arm of the Heritage Trail was fantastic - the lights of Perth eventually visible beyond the darkness of John Forrest National Park. The final 25km from Midland home seemed to take forever, but I was on familiar terrain again and barring any fatigue-related stupidity, would reach home (eventually). I stumbled through the door at 9.30pm after two massive days. If I could manage that, I felt confident that I could do an 8 - 9 day Munda Biddi E2E. My bike, bikepacking bags and equipment choices were pretty much on-point, and I was fortunate not to have any mechanicals on my shake-down ride.

I’m keen to do the Camino in the opposite direction (New Norcia to Perth) next time, it would probably be a slightly easier ride. Make sure to take plenty of water, and if you want to be doubly sure, do a water drop near Julimar Rd prior to setting out.

Julie’s Way - cruisy days, mostly...

I’d been wanting to ride to my parent’s farm at Koojan, near New Norcia, for some time. So when my husband Allan and I decided to ride the Camino, we planned to loop across to Koojan and come home via Regans Ford and Guilderton.

Day One - Booragoon to Subiaco to Walyunga (camped) - 78k’s, 6hrs riding.

It felt great to be setting off on another multi-day cycle ride as we made our way to the trailhead at St Joseph’s in Subiaco and followed the trail out of the city. After Brigadoon part of the Trail was closed for a horse riding event and it took a bit of wandering around and backtracking to get back onto the Trail and on our way to Bell’s Rapids. The choice was then a lower river side path nearly blocked by Watsonia weeds, or a higher and hilly rocky path. Wearing shorts, we chose to spare the skin on our legs and take the high road. Umm... from Bell’s Rapids to Walyunga picnic area it was rocky, steep and very slow going. We got there at 6:30pm, with just enough light left to set up camp and eat. We did see an echidna though :)

Day Two - Walyunga to Julimar via Bullsbrook (camped) - 58k’s, 5.4hrs riding.

The tranquility of Walyunga was interrupted several times during the night as noisy freight trains rumbled through the valley. It was a gorgeous start to the day as we followed the lovely bush trail out of the park. On our way down to resupply at Bullsbrook via Shady Hills Road it was starting to get quite hot and a local called out ‘they got the hills right but shame about the shade!’

The hardest part of the day were the hill climbs east of Bullsbrook, there were some doozies! It was lovely riding through Avon Valley National Park and Julimar State Forest and plenty of choices of places to camp, particularly further into Julimar.

Day Three - Julimar to Bolgart (Bolgart Hotel) - 52k’s, 5.1hrs riding.

Nice ride out of the forest; a lot of bauxite in places so quite slippery. Al dropped his bike at one stage and hopped off - when that happens to me I crash with the bike and end up with it on top of me! After 7500k’s on my Ogre I got my first ever puncture, which we later discovered was due to a tyre changing error. A nice days ride to Bolgart where we stayed in the big old country pub built in 1916.

Day Four - Bolgart to New Norcia (Monastery Guest House) - 56k’s, 4.2hrs riding, 39°C.

Today was set to be a stinker so we were up early and on the bikes by 7am. Minor bitumen and gravel roads all the way except for the 5kms on the Great Northern Highway to the New Norcia bypass. Very little traffic until we reached the highway. After stopping for an early lunch I was really feeling the heat so started dousing myself with water - did the trick, and we rolled into New Norcia at 1pm.

Our touring cycling buddies, Will & Jen, rode up to New Norcia on their motorbikes and met us at the pub were we shared a great afternoon and evening together.

Day Five - New Norcia to Koojan (Mum & Dad’s) - 55.5k’s, 4 hrs riding time.

After a morning bike tour of the town, we met Will & Jen up at the hotel for coffee before setting off. On minor bitumen and gravel roads again today. Took a roundabout route to avoid the main roads. Had a nice chat with a family friend; he spotted us riding past his farm.

Got to Mum and Dad’s a bit after 3pm. Rest day tomorrow.

Day Seven - Koojan to Regans Ford (Caravan Park Cabin) - 55.8k’s, 4.3hrs riding time.

After a succession of warm, to stinking hot days, a cold front with thunderstorms was due later in the day with cold and wet weather to follow over the next couple of days.

We set off on gravel roads heading west from Koojan and all was well until about 15k from Regans Ford when I got another puncture. This time the tube had three splits in it and we realised the tape on the inside of the rim wasn’t covering all the spoke holes. Long story short, managed, after considerable time, to get one of the tubes patched enough to ride to Regans Ford. An hour after we got there noticed the tyre going flat again. Swapped the supposedly repaired tube in but no go, still flat. We rang our daughter and organised to get picked up tomorrow, missing the wet weather.