With the Easter holiday providing the perfect opportunity for a break, this will be the last post until mid-next week, and what better way to get you prepared for four whole free days with which to ride your bike than the second installment of the story about a guy and his bike and the great and wide open spaces of rural South Australia at his disposal? Read, go forth, and ride your bike somewhere new!
Part 1 can be found here
I spoke with a Druid. I ate a lot of Vegemite toast.
Day one of my ride (Gawler to Riverton) was hot, but there was glorious cooling rain in the afternoon and overnight. The next days were looking good, and as I sat on a bench in the main street of Riverton on day two, nodding to passers-by while I ate baguettes, I wondered how the considerable overnight rain might have affected the dirt roads to the east.
The plan was to go up the middle road to Burra. That is, to travel slightly to the east of the Barrier Highway following what was the old main road, and still unpaved.
After the great roads of the first day, these roads were not that interesting, but they are all good metaled roads with minimal corrugations. It’s easy to be a bit fussy until you have to get back on the bitumen with all the cars that entails, and then any gravel road seems nice again.
What was also nice was to see a wind farm, because all the backs of all the turbines were pointing in the direction I was riding. Yes, gentle reader, that means a tail-wind; that most delicate and elusive of creatures whose unlikely presence is to be celebrated.
Things were uneventful. In the tiny settlement of Black Spings I saw my first Druid for the trip. Of course, he may not have been a real Druid, but he did wear brown hand-made robes that went to the ground, sandals, and had a long hair and a beard. He seemed to be walking on a quest of some kind; perhaps posting a letter. I thought he may turn me into a newt, but no, we spoke for a while of that universal subject, the weather, and parted ways unchanged. Maybe the Druid had summoned the tail wind.
Getting closer to Burra – perhaps 20 km out, you cross a bit of a range, and this is the most interesting country. At this point I had probably travelled about 150 km from Gawler, so a more intrepid rider than I might go all the way up to Burra in one day. I mention it also because there is a nice spot to camp about 30km south of Burra. It is in Burra Creek, and there are longdrop dunnies, but no water. It is accessible from the ominously named World’s End highway, (bitumen) which is not that bad really.
I did not take this turn to the right, but continued instead up over the range and in to Burra. There are a couple of pubs to choose from, both offering single rooms for around $50.
I chose the Commercial; the more dilapidated of the two, but it did offer inclusive breakfast.
I began mine a little early, at afternoon-tea time in fact, with the first of many slices of Vegemite toast. The breakfast areas of these hotels – with cereal, muesli, toast, more toast, and little packets of jam that can be scoffed later like gels – are ideal for cyclists.
I started the next day at first light.
Another beautiful day, and the first section (on the Mawson this time) down into Clare is really great. After some gravel roads it climbs the same ridge as yesterday, just a little to the east this time. Unmade road which again is dodgy to unridable in the wet, but great in the dry. A nice easy climb, and rewarding descent.
Then there are 20km or so on flat dirt until you pick up the Riesling Rail Trail north of Clare.
I guess I’m ambivalent about the Riesling Trail – probably because I’ve been on it so often, but it’s undeniably an easy, fast, all weather way to get from Clare to Riverton. Lots of places to stop for food and drink (great Sevenhill bakery rather than stopping in Clare for me). Once on the trail you can take it easy or flog back down to Riverton in a couple of hours.
The dirt roads into and out of Burra to the south are great. The route I took was a pretty gentle for a regular cyclist, but with dirt you never know what the conditions will throw at you, so I find the reserve reassuring. Indeed, the heat on day one was a test, and without the rain I would have struggled. Conditions on the next two days were ideal, to the extent that the last day was over pretty much by lunch time.
What I liked about this route was getting out of Adelaide early on the train; being at Gawler having skipped the ride out of town. Options from there abound depending on ambition. 160 km up to Burra in one hit then back down the Riesling the next day? (someone else can try that), Slipping back from Tanunda to Adelaide via Mt Crawford, the Mawson and the Linear Park? Lots of choices for nice riding close to Adelaide.
- Downloadable map of the Mawson
- Riverton to Burra via the Old Adelaide Rd
- Burra to Riverton via the Mawson
All images: David Hume