Western Australia: The Chittering Valley - Western Secret
I don't know about you, but the name 'Perth Water' always makes me think of something you drink, or... well, we won't go there. And yet that's what the locals call the majestic stretch of river south of the city. The Water is really a lower reach of the Swan River, and that river does another job as well as giving Perth something to reflect itself in - it actually provides that rarest of rare commodities in Western Australia: no, not humility, but corners!
The Swan River provides the corners for the Chittering Valley road, a short but magic run to the north of Perth. You won't find the name on most maps, although the road that runs up through this valley is usually marked and numbered; it's number 359. It just serves as a way for the various farmers to get to the main highway, so it's nothing special in most ways - but it does have lots of those nice corners.
This road, a well-kept secret (until now, I suppose) among the city's motorcyclists, is a detour off the Great Northern Highway. It begins at Bullsbrook, with a right turn off the highway. From here the road winds its way though farming country down to the river, and proceeds to follow that north. There are some excellent corners between here and just south of Bindoon, where it rejoins the highway. The surface is generally good, as with most Western Australian roads, although I would be wary of loose stock.
But you don't have to just ride the one road. There is a little web of roads, including one that runs west to Muchea and the beginning of the road to Toodyay, in the Avon Valley to the east. This is an interesting road as well, although it's not quite the same as when it still had a long section of loose gravel to cope with.
This gravel, round as a ball bearing, is a specialty of Western Australia. I have been told that it consists essentially of a kind of iron ore, and that the near-spherical nodules formed deep on the ocean floor. All I can say is that I wish they'd stayed there...
There's even a winery, Chittering Estate, on the way into Moondyne Nature Reserve, along with a number of other wineries in the Chittering region. And there are likely to be quite a few other bikes doing the Chittering Valley run, so you'll want to get your waving hand out.
Know Before you go:
There is petrol at Bullsbrook and Toodyay, should you head that way, and I'm pretty sure it's also available at Muchea and Bindoon. I was going a bit quick last time I went through there, and didn't notice. But of course the distance is pretty short anyway, so you're unlikely to have fuel problems.
Except for the occasional bit of loose gravel, tracked onto the road by farm vehicles, the surface is good. Do watch out for those farmers, though, and for bikes coming the other way!
The native wildlife replaces the stock at dusk, so there's always an animal alert. Kangaroos are not common but they do hang around at times, and big, low-flying birds form an unexpected hazard too.
Moondyne Nature Reserve is worth a visit, and the Gravity Discovery Centre is to the west, just past Gingin. I don't know about that... I've had no trouble discovering gravity all by myself...
For more information:
Visit the Tourism Western Australia website at: www.westernaustralia.com/au/Pages/Welcome_to_Western_Australia.aspx
Visit the Chittering Tourist Association website at: www.chittering.iinet.net.au
To incorporate some visits to the region's wine growers, visit: www.chitteringvalleywinetrail.com.au