Recapping the Super EMR – ‘The Manjimup 1000’

Images thanks to Steve Pretzel and Ellie Hamilton

In this report, Steve Pretzel recaps the recent Super Early Morning Run, which extended the club’s usual early morning run range by throwing in an overnight stop in Manjimup in the Southern Forests.

Super EMR – ‘The Manjimup 1000’

By Steve Pretzel, with photos thanks to Steve Pretzel and Ellie Hamilton

Our monthly EMRs are always popular, but in a state as big as Western Australia there is a limit to the roads we’re able to get to in a single morning.  The answer? The weekend ‘Super EMR’.

With Eddie Lankhorst preparing to head back to Victoria I had put my hand up to coordinate things here in WA, and as this was my first run I was keen to get the group down to enjoy some of the great driving roads in the south west of state.  So, for our first ‘Super EMR’ we selected Manjimup in the Southern Forests as the overnight stop.

The weekend tour would cover just under 1,000 kilometers in total, so it was promptly titled: ‘The Manjimup 1000’

Our travelling troupe included Eddie and Vicki Rowe in Vicki’s 3.5 Exige, in a final salute to WA before upping stumps and moving to Melbourne (our loss; your gain), Steve & Bea in the Esprit, Wayne Proud and John & Robyn Edmondson in their Exiges, and Steve & Ali, Mike & Ellie, Paul & Caroline, and Alan and Karen in Elises.  We would be joined in Manjimup that evening by Andrew and Annie in Andrew’s glorious V8 Esprit.

Saturday March 17

We departed from our usual starting point at Guildford just after 8.30am, stopping at Byford on the southern outskirts of the metro area to pick up Mike and Paul who lived south of the river.

First stop was Waroona, at the confusingly named Pinjarra Bakery.  Getting off South West highway was a Good Thing, not so the several kilometres of gravel caused by roadworks, which we encountered shortly after turning.

The road from Dwellingup to Waroona was magic, flowing but with some tighter sections and elevation changes around Nanga Brook.

After cake and coffee we continued southwards on South West Highway, through Harvey before turning left down Mornington Road towards Collie.

We were tempted to call in to the Collie Motoplex, where several Lotus club members were enjoying a round of the State Speed Event Series, but we also wanted to get to Manjimup before nightfall, so we stopped for lunch on the big deck at the picturesque Harris River Winery instead.

A quick detour into Collie for a refuel and we were heading south again, skirting Wellington Dam and stopping at the quarry for photos.  Vicki and Wayne treated us to an Exige exhaust-music duet, with the luscious sound reverberating off the high rock quarry walls.  Not sure the birdwatchers and bushwalkers fully approved.

Our Grand Tour then took us through the scenic Ferguson Valley which, although quite dry, was still a beautiful sight.  We drove straight through Gnomesville (we planned to stop here on the way back tomorrow) and found an unexpected gem in Brookhampton Road.  Some roads just have a great flow to them and so it was with this one.  Medium radius turns and lots of them, with a well surfaced road as a bonus.

We popped back out on South West Highway at Kirup (famous – infamous? – for Kirup Syrup) and fifteen minutes later we had arrived at Balingup, the start of the jewel-in-the-crown Balingup to Nannup Road.

This road is, in my humble opinion, one of the best driving roads in Australia.  It’s just over 40 kilometres of tight twisty stuff – with a 110 kph speed limit!

By now most roads as much fun as this have been targeted by the fun police and have a 90 kph – or slower – speed limit.  It’s as though this little pearler is just far enough out of the way not have been found yet, and I sure hope they continue to leave it alone!

After a regroup and rest stop in Nannup we pushed on through the tall timbers of Karri forests towards our final destination, the Kingsley Motel in Manjimup.

With just enough time to shower and change and we were in the bar for a very well earned pre-dinner drink, before moving to the dining room for an excellent meal.

Sunday March 18

The plan was to leave Manjimup at 08:30.  In retrospect this was ambitious.  Not that anyone over-imbibed the night before, but this was Manjimup time and deadlines don’t apply in Manjimup on a Sunday.

Eventually, we were on our way, and after a refuel drove out of town on the South West Highway towards Bridgetown.

The Balingup-Nannup road has a cousin: The Bridgetown-Nannup Road.  We hooked into it, relishing the fantastic mix of hills, tight corners and fast sweepers that opened up as we left the rolling farmland and entered the forest.  The final run into Nannup was a treat as we threaded our way down a steep hill with a series of left-right-left-right chicanes.  The line of dancing Lotus must have looked awesome from the back.

One of the few roads we repeated during the weekend was – you guessed it – the Nannup-Balingup Road.  This time we didn’t encounter a single car travelling in our direction, and probably only two or three coming the other way.  Pure driving paradise!

Having worked up an appetite we stopped in Balingup for morning tea before peeling left off the South West Highway at Kirup to take the Upper Capel Road.  This was one that I had not driven previously and it was surprisingly good.  Except for the cattle truck that didn’t see the need to pull over and let a gaggle of Lotus past.  We all eventually muscled past and the truck driver was probably regretting his lack of courtesy when we encountered a section of dirt road and the line of Lotuses now ahead of him slowed down to about 20 km/h.  Had he let us past earlier we would have been long gone by the time he reached the dirt section.  Karma.

Upper Capel Road joins the South West Highway at Donnybrook, so we back-tracked a couple of kilometers to take the road back to Ferguson Valley.  This time we stopped at ‘Gnomesville’ – so named because for over twenty years people have been placing gnomes in the clearing beside a roundabout.  Today there are literally thousands of gnomes – of all sizes, colours and types – scattered around in groups and just going about their business.  It was a good opportunity to stretch our legs, take some gnome-selfies and swap groan-inducing gnome puns.

But lunch beckoned and we were soon underway again.  Briefly.

About five kilometres from Gnomesville I was about to peel into a left hand sweeper and suddenly, right at the entrance to the turn, were two bikers waving us down.  They had set up emergency traffic cones to close the road and we soon saw why.  Just around the corner was an ambulance, police car and tow truck.  Looking up we saw the rescue helicopter hovering.  Clearly, someone’s ride had ended badly that day.  It was a sobering experience and we automatically backed off as we back-tracked to Gnomesville.

So here’s a question.  You’re lead driver and you’re coming up to a roundabout.  There’s a motorhome on your left, waiting to enter.  If the entire group was together we could have entered the roundabout and all exited before the motorhome.  But you’ve got some stragglers in your group.  Do you, a) Enter the roundabout and with the cars that that are behind you and just keep cutting laps, shutting the motorhome out until your stragglers have caught up and all the cars have entered the roundabout, or do you b) Wait at the entrance to the roundabout and let the motorhome in ahead of you so that the group can all enter together?

I chose the latter – and we all paid for it by having to sit behind the motorhome crawling along in double-white-line territory for many kilometres.  Next time, no more Mr Nice-guy!

Lunch was at the Wokalup Tavern.  The food was good, but we had to wait about an hour and a half for it which meant scrapping several of the final sections of the drive.

In the end, only Vicki & Eddie, Mike & Ellie and Ali & I did the final ‘driving road’ section of the trip, through Serpentine Dam and Jarrahdale.  In the late afternoon Eddie, who was leading, called out over the radios to watch out for wildlife.  Fifteen minutes later, within about 3 kilometres from the official end of the run, a large male kangaroo leapt at Eddie from the side of the road.

The roo hit the front left corner and smacked hard into the windscreen before flying ten feet in the air and landing on the road ahead of me.  It was catastrophically injured so I despatched the girls to check on Vicki while Eddie, Mike and I euthanised the unfortunate animal.

Luckily Eddie and Vicki were unharmed, but the Exige will require a new windscreen and some front clam work.  It was an unfortunate end to what had been a brilliant driving weekend.

And that was the inaugural Manjimup 1000.  Two days of great weather, great company, great roads and of course, great cars.

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