Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Swan Hill to Adelaide

In order to attend the Velo City international bicycle advocacy conference in Adelaide, Simon and I decided to catch a train to Swan Hill and ride through the Mallee to get to Adelaide.

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Tuesday 20th May 2014

We intended to catch the 7:42am vline train from Southern Cross to Swan Hill but a school group with about two items of baggage each arrived before us and took up all the room in the baggage car. As there was no room left two bicycles we were given refunds on our tickets. This put a spanner in our works from the get-go. We instead booked tickets on the 6pm vline train to Southern Cross, vowing to arrive at least 30 minutes early and thus be the first items of baggage on the car. We spent the rest of our time catching a train to Frankston, riding a rail trail to Langwarrin park, riding around the dirt tracks, riding back, eating fish and chips, catching the train back to Melbourne and waiting for the 6pm train. We managed to get on that later train, arriving in Swan Hill around ELEVEN PM. We then saw the sights (the giant thing on the side of the road) and rode out of town to camp in a bushland reserve at the locality called Woorenin South about 14 km north west along the relatively quiet Woorenin road. On the ride out there was a clear sky with a great spray of stars and then an amazing bright orange half moon camp up behind us to chase us all the way to camp. 

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Because we lost a day due to the train drama, we decided to show up in Adelaide a day later than planned and miss a talk that was related to but not officially part of the conference on the Monday 26th. And because we had an idea of the spots we already wanted to camp along the way we had a pretty lazy day of riding up Woorenin-Vinifera road (nice and quiet) to the Nyah-Vinifera park on the Murray river were we spent the rest of the morning lazing by the river under the river red gums and reading books. 

Mighty Murray
Amongst the River Reds
Tough life

At lunch time we got some lunch at roadhouse at Chinkapook-Nyah West road (which has an 'internet cafe' with a strict policy on attire "all computer users must wear shirts"). The afternoon was spent riding along the Chinkapook-Nyah West road in 27 degrees and a bit of a headwind. We arrived at Chinkapook in the afternoon, but too hot to continue, and despite the infuriating flies, we camped early behind the Chinkapook public hall (which has a handy, most required water tank).

Thursday 22nd May 2014

We turned right onto the Robinvale-Sea Lake road, we rode 5km up this road and then turned left into Chinkapook-Mittyack Rd which we rode this about an hour until it put us on the Calder Hwy. Another hot, headwindy day. By the time we had 10 km left until Ouyen we were already feeling pretty wrecked. Lunch in Ouyen at the Fairy Dell on Oke st (burgers with the lot), then back onto the Calder for another 37 km to the Hattah roadhouse where I had an icecream. Another 10 or 15 km we finally make it to the camp for the night, in Hattah Kilkyne NP on the boundary of the park, down a track. Lovely Mallee but the flies and mosquitoes were extremely attracted to us. 120 km under out belt for the day seemed our fill, arriving at camp after dark.

Friday 23rd May 2014

This was always going to be a big day on the road for us. We awoke as early as we could, rode the 33 km into Red Cliffs to stock up on water and have a second breakfast, then back out 2 k to meet the Red Cliffs-Meringur Rd C254 -- a long straight road into headwinds, through a mix of Mallee scrub and agriculture. We arrived at the Werrimull pub in the afternoon, with the thermometer on the wall under the cover stating it was 32 degrees. There was beer. I had a puncture to fix. We looked pretty sorry for ourselves. Riding on until we got to Meringur, we turn north on a lovely quiet road with only a few rises, to get to the Sturt Highway. Its getting pretty dark at this stage, so hi-viz goes on and lights. We ride on and on, next to the busy traffic of the Sturt until we get to the Walla Walla track in the Murray Sunset NP, after 145 km of riding on a hot day in a headwind. We find a patch of dirt to lay our bivy bags. At 2.30am we're awaken by a b-double truck pulling up 50 metres away, and another vehicle. They start having a conversation - a loud conversation with much swearing and generally appearing not really friendly types. My bladder decides it is time to pee but I don't want to wander around until these guys have left so I return to slumber but then I'm awaken by a nearby gunshot. And then another few. After the first shot woke me I was peering out into the dark. After I saw the flash with the second shot I started shaking and couldn't stop myself for about 30 minutes. After 1 hour and a half of missed sleep, 8 gunshots and they even let off some fireworks no less, the several times when they started the truck and then stopped it again (much to my chagrin) they finally left us in peace. And I can finally get up and pee without being accidentally shot. That was not a night when we recovered from riding 145km in a headwind.

Some peace before the Sturt Highway

Saturday 24th May 2014

After breakfast we went down the track from where we camped to look for evidence of last nights shots and fireworks. I managed to find the wrapper for the fireworks.

I refer Your Honor to Exhibit A: Fireworks wrapper

We rode into Loxton, which is an extremely bogan town for lunch, then headed onto Wunkar Road, which we hoped would be a quiet b-road heading west -- an alternative to the busy Sturt Highway. Little did we know that it would be swarming with motorbikes heading towards the pub at Wunkar -- the Golden Grain Tavern. The road is a fairly dry, desolate, straight one that cuts through Mallee country and pastoral land including wheat fields. It was pretty dystopian into a bit of a headwind.

At one point we were even passed at about 160 km/h by a Mad Max car replica, with six large Kawasakis on its tail. When we got to the turn off to the pub we could see a crowd of bikers in gathered the driveway and I was daring Simon to ride in and go for a drink. He decided it was getting late and we should keep riding. Coward. They look friendly!

source https://www.facebook.com/events/292567567563644/?ref=22
We kept riding into the night and finally found a conservation reserve in the mallee to camp for the night. Laying in our bivy bags we heard the occassional gunshot and firework going off, presumably from the Wunkar tavern, but the night was mostly peaceful.

Sunday 25th May 2014

We ride into Swan Reach, have a roadhouse breakfast, and cross the Murray on the free ferry.

Swan Reach ferry crossing
Making progress...

Then we ride on a nice and quiet road through beautiful Mallee scrub to the pub at Sedan. 
Nice and quiet
One side of the road looks like this...

And the other side looks like this...

They were putting on a feast there of burgers with salad and pasta for about $7 so we ate there and had a beer. At some point the pub was buzzed by a light aircraft. I'm not sure why but probably just goes with the gunshooting, fireworking countryside we're riding through.

If I had known about the hill climb coming up -- Sedan Hill -- I probably wouldn't have had that beer. I think it was two kilometres of pure misery for me because I'm severely anemic at the moment and really struggled up this one. The view was great but it really did make me want to cry. But I made it up the stupid hill.

Then it was some sweeping downhills to enjoy, riding into Keyneton, then turning to head towards Eden Hill. Unfortunately we ended up on a main road with no shoulder and a lot of end-of-weekend traffic coming back from some motor racing event with cars pulling cars on trailers and no idea how to share a road or pass safely. There were these signs for "Cycle Friendly Barossa" on the side of the road that I just laughed at. 

Then turning again off that busy road once we made it to Springton to ride up another stupid, but fortunately short, hill -- which actually congratulates the bike rider for having ridden up it -- followed by a curving road through farmland that we continued riding until dark, when we camped by a fairly dry river.

Monday 26th May 2014

Riding into Williamstown, for breakfast, then headed towards Gawler to get on the Stuart O' Grady path, which is a decent off-road path beside the Northern Expressway. 

The off-road bike trail that doesn't make it into Adelaide

Unfortunately this path dumps you straight on the Port Wakefield road (basically the Princes Freeway) and you get to ride some rather amusingly (not amusing at all) bike lane (rubbish shoulder with no decent surface, glass and debris everywhere, cars parked in it and running next to a three lane freeway doing 110 km/h) with bicycle symbols painted in it. 

Suddenly this "bicycle lane" ends and you have a stripe of yellow paint to ride on between a metal road barrier and three lanes of cars travelling at 110 km/h and refusing to pass you safely, occasionally honking at you in the manner they like to do. We get off this apocalypse of a road as soon as we are able and pick our way into the "cycling utopia" (I AM JOKING) that is Adelaide city where I am nearly driven off the road repeatedly until we make it to our hotel. We are in Adelaide to attend an international cycling conference (with 600 delegates from across the planet, including Europe) where Australia shows the world just how far it is Australia has to come in basically not (literally) killing one mode of its transport system. Embarrassing. 

But we did win the accommodation prize, so we get to arrive smelling like dirty socks and with bikes covered with dirt to the clean-pressed but unimpressed concierge at a flash hotel for our $300 a night accommodation, whom we ask politely through the holes in our dirty faces can we please take our bikes up to our room on the 8th floor. And they let us!

Official mascot of the ride

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