What kind of test was this? We all survived the Outback, the warm coke and beer, the dangerous bugs and critters, the road trains, the brutal heat and gusty head winds, hangouts in roadhouses, cold and hot pools, … Why are we being sent over this pass, instead of riding the much shorter and flat road into town? Are we cycling zombies or still considered to be alive?
If the Indonesian road builders had been trained by Australians, the whole country would be plastered with these ‘walk your bike’ signs.
No way I push my bike, unless it is to cross a river or alike.
Tailwind for the first 110 km. The last 20 km to Riverton against the wind. Riding through grain fields and vineyards.
Leaving from Jamestown was easy: Setting the bicycle into the wind, and off you go. The tailwind blew us almost directly towards Adelaide. If it wasn’t for some photo stops, lunch at 72km would have been reached by not later than 9am. The first 60 km were on tar, the last 60km on compact and fine gravel; after lunch it was a nice bicycle trail on an old railway track, away from traffic. It was as if the kangaroos wanted to say goodbye to us. In the morning, all of a sudden, they showed up around every corner in the corn fields, under trees, in the grass and on the rocks. No time to store the camera away. This changed once I entered the wine area. At least I haven’t seen any in there. Seems they don’t like grapes or carry wine bottles in their pouches. After lunch we continued on a nice trail, the ‘Riesling Trail. It is built on an old railway track that cuts through narrow valleys seamed by pine trees covering the trail into cooling shade. It almost felt as if riding thru parts of the Black Forest, so dense and dark where the rows of trees. Several vineyards have wineries and offer wine tasting. However, my French friends stood me up with a meeting at a vineyard for a joined wine tasting, thus I continued to see, if I can find them somewhere else. The nice tailwind was over after turning onto the second trail, the ‘Rattle Trail’ in Auburn. Only about 20km to go to Riverton. I was arriving in camp very early; somehow unusual for me. Time to stroll through the sleeping town. Because it is a Saturday, Riverton was almost shut down completely. Only a deli and a bottle store was opened, where I could buy some pops and ice cream. Thereafter enough time to relax and prepare for the final riding day, which will lead us to Adelaide tomorrow, with another rest day, that closes the Opal, Missiles and Vino section. Some riders will leave us here, 7 others will join us.
Cool morning, hot afternoon. Into the Flinders Range, a short climb. First 28 km on a bumpy tar road.
The first day cycling outside the outback and without road trains. It was so different and for those, who did not cycle in Indonesia, a completely new experience. The first 28 km where on very bumpy gravel road; almost as if build by Indonesian prisoners. A constant head wind was accompanying us. The first 36km were also a constant climb from sea level to 480 m. First almost not noticeable, but the last 6km with grades up to 6%. Nothing compared to what we had in Indonesia, but a lot for what we had so far in Australia. You even saw fellow cyclists walking their bike up the hill. Huge trees were seaming the slopes of the mountain range. We ended up in a ‘Beautiful Valley’ in the Flinders Range. Fields of grain as far as the eye could reach. Large herds of sheep and even alpaca were farmed. The times where we had to carry extra water are over now. Coke stops should be available in shorter distances, as the density of settlements will increase. Wilmington after 40km and Melrose after 64km were our first stops. These are really sleep old historical towns founded in the 1860 range. They still appear as if time stood still since then. Toys and puppet museums are main attractions, as well as old farming tools. Lunch was in Melrose, at a bike shop & coffee house. Yes, a real bike shop! Cycling is very popular in this area. There are even bike lanes and special bike tracks & trails. Since the outback wildlife will more and more disappear, road signs are now warning to watch for cyclists and less frequent to watch for kangaroos. After a cool start in the morning the temperature raised as usual. Unfortunately, I had two flats today, which slowed me down significantly. The first was 8 km from lunch and I could pump up the tire at the bike shop. The second was 30 km from camp and with my little pump I could only get 1 bar air into it instead of the usual 4 bar, making the final 34km a bit more difficult. It was still early in the afternoon and I finally arrived in camp at 3:30pm. First thing was fixing the punctured tubes to have spares for the next two days. X-fingers that I don’t run into more problems in the following two cycling days. I’d rather spend extra time with wine tasting in the vineyards that we pass, than fixing tires!
Cool morning, heat turned on as usual. Wind was more to our favor accelerating the ride to the next camp.
Today was the crossing over into another state. We are leaving the Northern Territory to South Australia on our way to Adelaide. Before I started onto the official track I turned into a dirt road at camp for some sunrise photos. The wind seemed to be good to us today, as we turned a bit more to south out of the ever blowing south-east wind. It was a quick 20 km ride to the ‘border’ to South Australia. Not a real border, but huge signs warn from carrying uncertified fruit, veggies and livestock from NT to SA. They want to keep fruit flies and other parasites out of their state. The landscape turned flatter and flatter with occasional small hills. The trees and bushes grow smaller and do not offer any shade at all. We are entering a deserted territory. The distances between roadhouses increases, such that we are forced to camp in the ‘middle of nowhere’. No more cold drinks, no cell phone reception. Just us and occasional trucks and caravans that stop at our rest area. I was riding at the very end of the group. Only Henry and Chelsea were behind me. Good time for photos, as the ride will be not exhausting today. Lunch at 70 km was well placed with lots of food. The 56 km thereafter a bit more into the wind, but not as bad as the previous days. I arrived at the desert camp at 12:30. Brutal heat, no shade, but hot soup and tea. Everyone was hiding in the little shade the van and the canopies offered. Some fellow riders obviously don’t like camping, or the desert and continued on their own to the next town, which is another 51 km further south. However not before they emptied a substantial part of the cold drinks in our cooler box. I think the desert camp and camping at all is the flair of such an expedition trip and not the run for AC cabins in every campsite. However some like it different. Tonight is another cinema night, the only goody we have in the desert besides a cooler box with cold drinks for a while, since Gerald bought the LCD projector.
After 3 days without cycling, except for grocery shopping in town, it felt good to be back in the saddle again. We were quickly out of town into a crosswind. Dana, Charles and I formed a peloton for the rest of the day, helping each other to break the wind. It were long 93 km to the Stuarts Well roadhouse to have a cold drink and stack up with food and beverages for the desert camp. Not much time and opportunities for photos on the road, as that would mean to leave the little group and struggle through the day on you own.
Gerald bought a battery powered LCD projector and a sound bar during our rest days in Alice Springs. A well made purchase to have desert camp entertainment when nothing else is around or to do. The movie of the night was ‘Mad Max’ filmed in locations in the outback and on the Stuart Highway, perfect to fill in the things we did not see on the highway. There are more movie treasures in our box for the forthcoming desert night in Southern Australia.