The long and winey road

4 December 2019

Thursday 28 November 19 – Port Augusta – 0km

A quick note on food…

We eat a lot! In general I eat much more than Martina, sometimes literally twice as much. Even so, I have lost weight and as early on as Slovakia I was down to 62kgs, which is 8-10kgs less than I would be at home. Martina’s weight on the other hand had only fluctuated a few kgs in either direction and she would bemoan the fact that I could eat what I liked and still lose weight! Until now that is…the extra kilometres we have been doing in Australia has meant that we have both lost weight – I’m guessing that I’m down to 62-64kgs again and Martina is all but fading away and her trousers are now literally hanging off her! That is not to say that we’re not trying, but it is actually very difficult to physically eat enough. As well as eating throughout the day we always have a monster dinner – but within an hour we are both hungry again. We eat a load of nuts in the evenings to try to keep the hunger at bay, which does help.  But don’t think either of us has ever experienced anything like these prolonged periods of feeling hungry. Every time we have a day off we basically eat all day to try to ‘stock up’ for the next stint in the saddle…

Martina proving my point – yes we ate all of the mince pies (the first of the Christmas season for us) in one sitting – totally guilt free! Just one small example of what we ate in Port Augusta on our day off.

One ‘issue’, which is only in our minds for now, is what happens when we finally stop? We can only hope that our metabolisms will quickly realise that we have stopped exercising for 8-10 hours a day and our appetites dramatically reduce..or else we will both turn into whales!

On with our story…

We’d been told that there isn’t much to do in Port Augusta, which suited us to be honest –  but we did notice that near our campsite there was a short walk to the Matthew Flinders Lookout, the Red Cliffs and the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. We packed a large lunch (see what I mean?!) and set off and were thoroughly impressed with the salt water wetlands next to the Red Cliffs…

On top of the cliffs is the Lookout, which takes in views across the Spencer Gulf to the Flinders Range, named after Mathew Flinders, an English captain who sailed up the river in the early 1800s and was the first to chart this area…

The pathway also took us to the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens via an area of salt bushes, which we have seen all across Australia, especially on the Nullarbor. These bushes have adapted to the harsh conditions of Southern Australia and one way they have done this is to spread themselves out so that their roots have as much access as possible to the little moisture that is available underground.  Which is why you never see them growing next to each other.

We also saw a kangaroo, a Nankeen Kestrel, a bright blue wren and this chap who skitted across in front of us and then posed for a photograph…

It is a Goanna (race horse lizard, sand goanna or monitor lizard) and apparently, according to aboriginal folk law, the stripes on his tail are where the boomerangs have hit and the spots are where the spears have got him, but he still managed to get away because he’s so fast!

We walked back to town to stock up on food (again!) for the next few days of our journey then back to camp for a snooze, a large dinner and an early night.

Friday 29 November 19 – Port Augusta to Crystal Brook – 115km (subtitled lifecyclers vs the wind!)

To say that today’s ride wasn’t one of our best would be a bit of an understatement.  Basically it was a long stint on the main road heading south out of Port Augusta and for the first time in absolutely ages we had to share the road with lots of traffic. Maybe we are out of practice, but we just didn’t enjoy being on a road with so many other vehicles. There was a narrow shoulder for us to cycle on, but it really wasn’t wide enough for much of the ride and only in a few places did we feel completely comfortable. Adjacent to the shoulder was an area of gravel running alongside the road, so apart from the traffic on one side we had a cyclists nightmare on the other.  And to add to that nightmare was a strong wind – blowing at about 25kph and gusting up to 40kph from our right. This meant that any time a truck or road train went by, their wake was blown into our path making us wobble all over the place. So it was slow progress trying to control the wobbles, avoid the traffic and nightmare gravel trap all at the same time.  For some of the day the wind was a headwind which, believe it or not, made things slightly easier than when it was a cross wind except for the fact that it slowed us down even more!

The Flinders Range of hills extends a long way south and we both commented that they were spectacular and at least gave us something other than the traffic to look at.

Halfway through the journey a particularly big gust of wind completely caught me out and blew me off into the side gravel trap. Unfortunately my front wheel skidded and over I went – luckily no damage done except for a scraped right knee. Not long after that we decided to take a break at Port Germain, where we found that the post office served coffee and the kind chap running the place let me use the staff toilets to clean my cuts and grazes.

Then it was back to the highway until we reached the small town of Crystal Brook. There was a fantastic, immaculately kept, community-run campsite with a brand new amenities area, which we commandeered straight away and used like it was our living room.  Just what we needed after our 11-hour day in the saddle!

Friday 30 November 19 – Crystal Brook to Clare – 86km

After a hellish day yesterday we were very glad when today’s route took us on to a more minor road towards Clare. We went through the centre of Crystal Brook right at the start of the day.  A very nice old town, if a bit quiet at 7am…

The roads were much quieter, but there were a few tough hills to climb and the wind was still blowing at about 30kph into our faces all day. Even so, we rather enjoyed the scenery and it was nice to have some lumps and bumps to cycle through, which we’ve not had for some time…

We arrived in Clare mid-afternoon (Martina had, of course, been singing Christy Moore’s ‘it’s a long long way from Clare to Here’! as apparently the area has lots Irish heritage)….

….stocked up at a supermarket and found our campsite for the evening. Clare Valley and the area between it and Adelaide is one of the most famous wine-producing regions in Australia. On our way into Clare itself we saw loads of vineyards…

…and cellar doors (Wine tasting rooms where food is often served as well). This one in particular made us laugh…

 

Sunday 1 December 19 – Clare to Riverton – 46km

It was raining when we woke, which is always fun when you’re in a tent. Actually we think this is the first time on our trip we’ve had to get out of our tent in the rain – and we never would have thought that it would be in Australia! But we were well prepared and set about getting up without too much of our stuff getting wet.  The tent is always going to go back into its bag wet, but that can’t be helped –  but other than that we were up and out and into the communal area reasonably dry. It was pretty cold too, single figures Celsius I’m guessing, and it was quite windy, so we loitered over breakfast and weren’t in any rush to get away.

We eventually peeled ourselves away from the relative warmth and comfort of the campsite and made our way onto the Riesling Trail – a bike and walking path that goes to Alburn about 25km south. The trail follows an old railway line through vineyards and farmland, and being an old railway line was pretty flat. It would have been great to go for a leisurely ride along the trail taking in some of the many cellar doors we saw, though I’m not too sure if it’s good to mix wine tasting and cycling at 8am on a Sunday morning!

Even though it was raining, and it felt like we were inside a cloud, there was plenty to see. Lovely bridges to cross…

…woodlands to go through…

….sculptures to see…

…and lots of interesting information boards to read along the way. There was then a lovely slow descent down to the village of Alburn…

….but because we didn’t have to pedal very hard and it was still chucking it down, we both got really cold very quickly. One more problem with losing a lot of weight is that there’s not much fat on us to keep us warm! Even though it was only about 11am we were thoroughly cold and wet and so decided to look for accommodation. It was a real shame as we’d really enjoyed the initial part of the ride, but didn’t want to slip into getting colder and wetter so decided this was the sensible thing to do. We found a campsite with cabins in Riverton, 18km south from Alburn, along the Rattler Trail – similar to the Riesling Trail, but named after the rattling trains that used to go along it.  We enquired and booked one and the lovely caretaker, Mary, said she’d put the heater on for us so that it was warm when we arrived.  When we got there an hour later Mary ran to meet us, directed us to our cabin and told us to get warm and settled before anything else – and it wasn’t long before were warm and snug with cups of tea and coffee.

Though the rain eased off in the early afternoon the wind picked up to a 60kph side wind, which would have been hard to cycle in – but being the opportunists that we have become it gave us the chance to dry the tent and our wet weather gear out!

The lovely Mary invited us over to her van for a drink before dinner so after a lazy afternoon we had a very enjoyable early evening chat over a glass of wine or two with her and her husband John. They are grey nomads who have been on the road for 7.5 years and are regular visitors to the campsite in Riverton, often looking it when the usual caretakers have time off. Mary and John are very easy to chat to and are very interesting people who have travelled extensively.  John was a lot happier in person than he looks in the photo – honest!

A general note on the cold, wet and fairly miserable weather we have had recently.  Apparently it’s unseasonably cold in South Wales at the moment, and the state of Victoria, which we will be crossing into in a short while, is experiencing its coldest start to the summer season for a long time.  So we may have to get used to it for a bit longer!

Monday 2 December 19 – Riverton to Williamstown – 83km

Once again the wind was blowing pretty hard when we set off, which made cycling tricky; but at least the roads were reasonably quiet. Within 10 minutes of leaving, however, the rain came on pretty hard and we had to make a stop to put our wet weather gear on. Luckily there were a few hills for us to push up which meant that we generated some heat of our own and we didn’t go down the slippery slope of getting cold like we had done yesterday. The scenery was nice and rural and despite the wind and rain we really enjoyed the ride…..

We made a stop at a bakery in Kapunda, about 30km into our journey for a coffee, but when we smelled the pies we knew that a second breakfast was in order…

…and the taste met all our expectations. The pies were top notch as they say over here! We also had a cake just for good measure, so suitably fuelled up we carried on up over a few more hills and entered the famous Barossa valley wine growing region…

This is a much bigger area than the Clare Valley and it even looked a bit more professional with some names that even we have heard of like Penfolds and Wolf Blass. We made one short stop at the rather lovely town of Tanunda, which is the centre of the wine tourist route, cycled over the famous Jacob’s Creek…

,,,and then on to Williamstown, our destination, which was another 22km down the road. Even though we got a bit of a drenching early on we really enjoyed the whole Barossa valley experience.

Tuesday 3 November 19 – Williamstown to Adelaide – 48km

We had been in contact with some WarmShowers hosts, Rosalie and Ian, in Adelaide who had agreed to look after us for the couple of days that we planned to be there. Rosalie had been kind enough to send us a suggested route from Port Augusta to Adelaide, which we had followed all the way – and the final part of this was through the Adelaide Hills into the city. We’d heard that some of the routes from the north could be a nightmare so we were keen to take some local advice and avoid the busy routes if we could.

We were up and out at our normal time even though we only had a short day ahead – there were some hills involved so were uncertain how long it might take. The hills turned out to be not too hard and the road mainly undulated through some tree-lined avenues and more picturesque vineyards…

The road was a bit narrow in places and some of the traffic got a bit close on occasions, but in general we had a lovely ride right to our hosts’ door. They were out at the time, but we’d been told that if we were early that we could let ourselves into their backyard and chill out – which is what we did. We let Rosalie know we’d arrived, but it was Ian that was home first and he did look a little shocked to see two strangers eating sandwiches in his back garden!

We spent the afternoon looking around their lovely local area and settling in. Rosalie cooked a fantastic fish curry before she an Ian had to race off to see a show in the city, leaving us to chill out before having an early night.

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