Western Australia: Karridale to Pemberton - I'll Take the Low Road
If truth be known, this road is a pretty obvious choice for any motorcyclist visiting the southwest of Western Australia. It's the only convenient connecting road between the attractions of Margaret River and the South Coast, so you'd probably take it anyway. What I'm hoping to do is help you to enjoy it a little more, and even persuade you to spend a little more time exploring its delights - especially in Pemberton.
Karridale is a small service town on the Bussell Highway north of Augusta, notable today for little more than the fact that it's the beginning of Highway 10. That wasn't always so; back in the 1880s, Karridale's sawmills provided the blocks of karri and jarrah wood used to pave the streets of London.
Highway 10, here called the Brockman, is fortunately paved with grippier stuff. At Alexandra Bridge, where there is a pleasant campground, it crosses the Blackwood River, and that's about the last bit of really interesting scenery for a while. The most famous denizen of these lonely flats is the Quacking Frog which, although only 35mm long, does a passable imitation of a duck. I'm serious. Well, maybe I'm not being especially serious, but it is indeed true.
There is another campground near the turnoff into Stewart Road, which runs for a relatively straight and fast 29km (there's one major turn) before it rejoins Highway 10. This is now called the Vasse Highway. The scenery becomes a lot more interesting and includes some really substantial trees in the surrounding forest on the way to the Pemberton turnoff.
Pemberton is off the main road, but is well worth a visit. Apart from being a pleasant town in its own right it offers the Gloucester Tree, the highest lookout point in the area (I was too chicken to climb the pikes that lead to the top) and the wonderful little Pemberton-Northcliffe tramway - where small motorized passenger cars rattle through the forest along timber tramways and over high trestle bridges.
From here you have the option of staying on the Vasse Highway which, confusingly, is no longer Highway 10; or following Highway 10, which no longer seems to have a name for the rest of the way to Northcliffe. In either case you end up on Highway 1, on your way back to Perth or on to Albany.
Know Before You Go:
There is very little if anything along this road by way of services. I do not recall any fuel supplies at all, although I could be wrong. Mind you, that's no real hardship; the total length of the recommended run is less than 120km.
Make sure you don't miss the turnoff onto Stewart Road, or you'll find yourself enjoying the charms of Nannup. The only other connecting roads are forest tracks.
If you take side roads, be prepared for WA's unique ball bearing gravel. If you're not used to it this can be quite disconcerting, as the bike loses traction.
This stretch of the Brockman Highway is an almost constant succession of corners. That might sound good, but they're pretty gentle and therefore not very interesting on a bike. What they do tend to do is hide oncoming traffic; be very careful when overtaking.
For more information:
The Pemberton Tramway Co runs a number of services over its 57km of tracks, and even offers Driving Experience Courses, where you hop in the driver's seat of a steam locomotive. For more information, including fares and timetables, visit: http://www.pemtram.com.au/, or tel: (08) 9776 1322.