Heya MB - you'd have loved this trip. Rich and I grinned like shaved apes every minute of it, once we escaped the mud.
I certainly thought my bike was going swimming for a few moments up the top of the gorge. Just lucky it stopped sliding quickly due to the rear digging in. For some odd reason, the grass on the greasy roadways gave us reasonably reliable traction but the stuff on the slope was as slick as a diesel spill. I'd have no issues riding up it again on a dry day, but they must of had half an inch of rain overnight when we got there, plus whatever had previously fallen to create the mud. It's a beautiful spot - perfect for an overnight campsite. The water in the gorge looked to be well over 6 feet deep - it was black water in the centre area. Perfect for a high summer ride.
(Speaking of riding.....I better continue this tale)
So feeling fortified with a gutfull of hot food, I continued north. Only 500 kilometres left to do and about 4 hours of daylight left to go. At least I didn't need to worry about food tonight. Anyway, just a few kilometres north of town, I pick up my GPS trail again.
The area is covered in grape vineyards for the primary local industry, wine making. The Clare Valley produce is on a par with the world famous Barossa Valley wine industry. I'm a beer man myself, so I try not to get too excited by the surroundings.
The road is good, but I'm chasing rain showers as I travel along. The locals give you a wave. They'd be well pleased the drought worries are gone.
Not all of the locals are so friendly. These guys eye me with contempt. They've obviously been standing here for hours, mooing, but they let me pass unchallenged. They can probably sense I've just eaten and pose little threat. There's little room on the bike for roadkill anyway.
Soon the road leads me into a wind farm district. Dozens of the white three bladed turbines cover the nearby hills like an army of invading Martian Tripods. The spinning blades stretching across the horizon to my right are mesmerising but I need to concentrate on the increasingly slick clay roadway. I'm caught between bands of rain and the water flows across the road surface in wide sheets. I'm confident to continue and follow my GPS route across the gently rolling hills. This mornings adventures suddenly return to haunt me...
And it only gets worse.
There's no avoiding this road - it's the only one that leads where I need to go to continue north. It's a rough grassy verge with hidden dips and swampy areas, but I have traction, so it works for me. The grass here is up to the front guard in height, thick and soaking wet. Steam puffs up from the engine guard every few minutes and I can smell the grass I'm mowing cooking on the exhaust headers. It's brilliant. But I'm up on the pegs and being cautious. If I hit a rabbit burrow or bog hole here I doubt I'll see any help pass by today, at least. After about three quarters of an hour of riding standing in trials mode, I finally reach an intersection with a better all-weather high camber surface.
I wonder if I need to milk the bike, after all the grass it's just eaten, but opt for a pee myself instead. The road ahead is still wet and torn up, so I flag down a passing farmer's utility and chat about the road north. They've had a lot of rain overnight, but other than a bit a couple of kilometres up the road, it's all good. The local road works gang drives by a few minutes after I set off again. After not seeing another soul the past few hours, it's reassuring to see traffic on this route.
I can live with half a road, but the dark clouds are building and I start thinking about escaping to the bitumen. I need to make better time.
The road north. Not looking real good with more rain threatening.
The road east. Looks fine but if it's like the earlier roads, it's likely to be a river if the sign is accurate. First flood sign I've seen today.
Another photo stop and a pee to warm up. It's raining lightly on and off, so I check the GPS and cut across west to the bitumen road a few kilometres away.
After a few more kilometres of boring bitumen, I reconnect to my dirt road route along a winding gorge/creek road leading past an early colonial church
onwards to a place called "Magnetic Hill". I follow the directions on the sign, lining up with the sign and releasing the "handbrake".
Looks innocent enough.
The view ahead at this point.
As soon as I ease off the brakes, my bike starts to roll backwards, uphill!!!
Must be some farmer playing a "Wile E Coyote" on me. Or voodoo. I get a little scared and confused
, so thumb the starter and bolt forwards, up the downwards hill and onwards through the gorge.
Roos and wallabys start to make an appearance near the road.
The rugged sandstone ranges that make up the Flinders Ranges are now starting to surround and embrace me once again. The sun's setting, so I make a cautious dash for nearby Orroroo township, for fuel and grog.
Once in town, I'm met by the sight of the service station owner making a bee line for his car. Thinking I'd missed out, he surprises me by opening up a pump and grumbling off inside the recently shut shop. Must be on a promise? Taking on $22.50 of fuel and re-locking the bowser for him, I surprise myself by producing that exact amount in correct change from a wallet containing just a few other fifty dollar notes. He doesn't smile at the city slicker giving correct money, just grunts. Definitely on a promise.
Next off to the second of the town's pubs, for the fluid that warms all bike riders - a couple of bottles of Stones Green Ginger Wine. These sit happily inside the pop-up tent's bag, safe from any fall. I hit the road for Hawker once it's properly dark, so my headlights can find the roos easier. The heated grips and winter gloves get used, as the temperature's rapidly dropping and I'm cold from a t-shirt still damp from the morning's activities. Amazingly, not a single roo sighted, I reach Hawker an hour later. Everything is apparently shut by 7pm, so I push on north.
The next 105 kilometres is a nightmare for any rider. Hundreds of roos, big reds 6 foot tall and smaller greys, along with dark, solid Euros line the road. Some of them wont even move away until I'm within kicking range. It's a clear, cold night and they've come onto the bitumen to enjoy the radiated heat from the slowly cooling road.
About 2 hours later, I reach Blinman and search for a friendly face at the pub. I'm that cold and tired I burn the waitresses eyeballs with my high-beam as she sits on the porch, enjoying a quiet cigarette. After a few minutes, I realise what I've done and kill the lights. Surprisingly, she doesn't come over to kick me in the nuts, like a normal person would. I apologise and leave town, before she changes her mind.
Down into Parachilna Gorge, I look for a familiar campsite but see nothing I'd be happy with given the threatening rain. But the ride's good, following the twisting gorge alone in the dark. I continue on through the darkened mountain range until I reach the western plains and the lights of the Parachilna Pub. This place is, to me, a yuppie hole. The owner, standing outside talking to a couple of his bimbo staff while dressed like he's just fallen off the top deck of a cattle truck or a scrub brumby, makes me roll my tired eyes and wish I was elsewhere. Bloody tourist trap ever since they tore the one tiny roomed bar apart and spent a million dollars "modernising" the place. At least in the old pub bar, the galahs were only painted on the walls, not walking around inside it. Even with one of the cute, blondish bimbos willing me inside for a designer beer or a comfy heated room, away from the evil hopping roos lurking along the road, like a siren to a shipwreck survivor, I remember my budget and the swag that's been digging into my back the last 580 kilometres. I politely pass when I learn nobody I'd want to meet is nearby. So I hit the road and do the last 40 kilometres to one of my favourite places on Earth, Brachina Gorge. Despite the Siren's concerns, I don't see a single roo, or any other livestock for that matter, until I reach camp at the National Park boundary.
Shortly after lighting a small aboriginal style twig fire, I disturb a few birds, but settle down to a nice rest against my swag, breaking out one bottle of Stones to keep me warm and the mp3 player for some relaxing blues music. With the "bushman's television" fire going, I'm content with the day just finished. It's not long before I start to fall asleep, so I roll the swag out properly, throw a couple of thicker branches onto the fire and soon fall soundly asleep. In the morning, I wake and stoke the fire for a brew and some porridge.
After a relaxed start, I'm loaded and hit the start of the gorge. I've got a great day ahead. It's been a while since I last visited these mountains and I'm keen to explore.
The wide riverbed area that forms the base of the road through the mountain ranges.
To be continued....