The epic Munda Biddi cycling trail starts off in Albany and takes you on an eye-opening voyage across Western Australia. Ute Junker shares why its considered one of the most magical mountain biking trails in Australia...
Even with your eyes closed, your nose will tell you what terrain you’re riding through. A loamy smell? That would be the shaded forests. Briny whiffs tinged with the invigorating scent of peppermint trees? You’re on sandy soil, near the coast.
Passing through some of Western Australia’s most spectacular scenery – crossing farmland and wetlands, up coastal cliffs and down into sandy bays – Munda Biddi, the world’s longest mountain bike trail, stretches for more than 1000 kilometres from Mundaring in the hills north-east of Perth all the way to Albany in the south-west. For much of its length the trail winds within lush woodlands – which makes sense given that Munda Biddi means “path through the forest” in the local Noongar language.
“The redwood forests of California are world-famous. This is the equivalent but so few people know about them,” says Simon Mendelawitz, co-owner of Inspiration Outdoors, which offers a six-day biking tour along the track from Albany to Walpole. A remnant of the ancient Gondwanaland supercontinent, this part of Western Australia is home to some of the loftiest trees on earth, including karri and tingle trees found nowhere else.
“Karri trees are among the tallest flowering plants in the world – they are so tall and straight, they completely block out the sky,” says Mendelawitz. “The tingle trees are very different – their trunks are wide. There’s a famous photo of a tingle tree with a car parked in the middle of it.”
I begin my cycling trip in Albany, the southernmost section of the trail and Western Australia’s oldest settlement. Though it’s almost five hours by car from Perth, teetering on the edge of the continent, the town is a destination for its food and drink scene. Visitors here flock to Great Southern Distillery to sample its awardwinning single malt whisky and Liberté, an acclaimed cocktail bar with a sophisticated Vietnamese-French menu.
After Albany comes Denmark then Walpole, where a natural marvel awaits. Set amid the densely forested WalpoleNornalup National Park, the Tree Top Walk takes me 40 metres above the ground and into the canopy for a very different view of the trees.
From there, the days unfold in a leisurely way, with nothing to do but follow the trail. As I cycle, my attention wanders. Sometimes it turns outward: the slant of sunlight or the symmetry of a stand of trees or – on a break – tiny fungi pushing their way through the leaf litter. On other occasions, my focus turns inward to the big life questions or the endless options for a kitchen renovation.
Cycling through the forest, trees stand straight as arrows around me, stretching up 60 metres or more and screening the sky. The light is softer here, as are the sounds. It feels as if I’m travelling through an outdoor cathedral, the track transformed into the nave. Eventually, I emerge at the coast and the horizon reappears.
After days of natural wonder, the Munda Biddi has one more surprise in store. When I climb off my bike for the last time, I realise that my stress levels have plummeted. The trip has changed my perspective by giving me the freedom to focus on the track ahead instead of a screen. Freed from everyday routine, surrounded by nature, from towering trees to tiny blossoms to the breakers rolling in, I’ve arrived at an unexpected destination: relaxation.