I had a cunning plan and that plan was to ride from Melrose to Adelaide. It was a great plan. 6 days roughly 90kms per day and I was home and hosed. But not all plans work out the way that they were planned.
Day 1. Melrose to Curnow Hut - 105Kms
After catching the bus North to Melrose, I dropped into the bikeshop/cafe for a quick bite to eat for heading south. I caught up with two other riders that had ridden all the way from Blinman.
I rode with them for the first few kilometres on and off, but as they were travelling lighter and were obviously fitter, I slowly disappeared off the back of a grinding climb. I did warn them, that I would fade off into the distance at some stage.
I once again met up with them in Wirrabara forest when they had stopped to have a conversation with a guy riding North with his wife in the support vehicle. I stopped to talk as well. We left at different times, so I did not see Bill and his mate until the Pub in Laura.
As you can see I passed a few abandoned homesteads and buildings on my way to Laura including White Park which I thought was interesting and find a photo of it in its heyday, was great. Apparently the forestry in this region was the first commercial forestry in South Australia.
Coming into Laura was easy as there is a rail trail to take you the last few kilometres. As I came into town I spotted a pub and two familiar bikes. That was a good enough excuse for me to stop and have a break. Apparently Bill said that I was one pint behind them, so I was pretty pleased. It was there they were devising a new plan as they were going to stay at Spalding, but there was no accommodation.
As we rolled out of town, they stopped at a chemist and it would be the last that I see of them, as they were skipping straight to Jamestown, then on to Hallett, where I was sticking to the trail.
Passed an abandoned school (Manatoo, which operated from 1920 until 1927).
From there it was more of the back roads (dirt) until the Campbell Range. It was in the range that my first nights accommodation was at Curnow's Hut. This hut was ruins and the Friends of the Heysen Trail, restored the hut for use by Heysen Trail walkers and Mawson Trail riders. The only thing that was annoying was that after riding 105kms and it was coming on to sunset, I found that I had to lift the bike over the fence which was quite hard due to fatigue and weight with all my gear (probably close to 25kgs). A small gate with a cypher lock keyed to the same as the door on the hut would be nic, but for the price of accommodation (free), I really shouldn't complain.
The hut was empty, which was nice, as it meant I could bring my bike inside and spread my stuff around and not interfere with anyopne else. It was a great hut with sleeping platforms in one room, two fireplaces, a sink and a couple of tables and chairs.
Day 2. Curnow to Hallett - 80Kms
I slept like a log overnight and it was time to pack up, clean up and hit the trails again. The day started with climbing over the Campbell Range. Not overly hard, but periods of constant climbing. Oh and gates. Gates will be a theme for today, as there is lots of them.
You can see the topography of Campbell Ranges in the photos below. Typically South Australian steep gradient rolling hills. The descent was fun though, albeit a little bouncy.
There was a nice dirt road descent through fields of wheat until you went under a disused rail bridge, which there was a turn-off to Bundaleer Campsite (Heysen Trail). Continuing on from here I soon came to the start of the Bundaleer Channel Trail. The Bundaleer Channel scheme comprises a series of channels collecting water from nearby hills, and a large Reservoir of water collected for ultimate re-distribution. It was started in 1898 or completion in 1902 and operations continuing until 1944. There is a great wealth of information and historic photos on this page if you want to read about it some more.
The Bundaleer Channel trail was reasonable flat, so not to hard to ride, but the number of gates was ridiculous. Everytime there was a bridge over the channel linking a paddock to another there was two gates to open and close. I can't even remember how many there was on the 15kms to Spalding.
Around 0930 I made it into Spalding, where I found a shop to stop for refreshments. 1 Chicken Caeser roll, 1 Solo Lemon drink and a powerade later, I was ready to find some fresh water. Across the road was a park and there were some locals maintaining the park. I asked them about water and a lady said I could have the water from the Murray from the tap in the toilets or she would walk 3 doors up to her house and supply me some fresh water from her tank. I chose the latter and was very grateful of her offer.
Once refreshed it was back out of town and once again on the Bundaleer channel trail for a bit longer. It was good to see the engineering solution for the channel to overpass one of the creeks (you can see the photo below).
Then once again it was another steady climb through the hills. Not sure what this range was called, but there were points that I had to get off and walk. There were multiple reasons for this, Fatigue, Heat, Dehydration and the realisation that I was getting some chaffing in places that I haven't had chaffing before. Eventually I made it to the top, where all the wind turbines were located. The Heysen trail ran along the ridge and crossed at this point. There was a turn-off to the Whistling Trig Point campsite, but would have to lift my bike over the fence again and push it up the ridge for 1.5kms if I wanted water. There was also one tree at this junction. A lovely shady tree, where I collapsed for a good 45 minutes or more as I was shagged. I contemplated my options to get to Hallett, or whether I should ditch my bike and go for a 3km return trip to see if I could get water as I had 1 litre left to get 22kms to the next nights accommodation. Did I mention it was hot and 1L of water was running it a bit thin? As I laid there, I enjoyed the views, had something to eat and communicated with my wife as to what my options were.
Eventually I got my butt into gear and enjoyed a fast descent down off the ridge. Once I got to the bottom it was open paddocks with a hot dry headwind or crosswind. It was a tough final 12 or so kilometres and a few times I was tempted to knock on the door of a farmhouse and ask for water. There was one stage I actually saw a farmhouse close to the road and decided that it was time to ask for water, but as I got closer, I saw it was empty and not totally convinced that it was inhabitted. So onwards I trudged. By this stage I was doing a couple of kilometres and when I found a tree, laid under it a while. I pretty much did this all the way to Hallett. There was one tree at the corner of Tiver Rd and Tin Hut Corner Road, that had a beautiful Eucalyptus where the root made a wonderful seat that allowed me to lean against the cool tree trunk. It was very blissful.
Finally I made it to Hallett with a slight diversion off the Mawson trail as it looked slightly shorter and less hilly. I guess I will never know if it was. It was straight to the pub after sighting my accommodation in the distance. I needed water, I needed a comfy seat and I needed a beer. Apparently I also needed a pizza!
I spent a couple of hours (at least) in the pub, talking to the publican, a farmer and watching very cheezy Star Trek (jeez that show is crap). Eventually it was time to head back to my accommodation for the night. Another great free accommodation setup by the friends of the Heysen Trail. This time it is the disused Hallett Railway Station. This place is flash!
Not bad for a freebie, ay? It even had a solar powered light! The weird thing that I couldn't work out was there was a second room behind the sleeping quarters behind me, set up for more sleeping quarters, but couldn't work out how to access them. Maybe it was purely for Friends of the Heysen Trail.
Like the last place they said the water was not fit for consumption without treatment. I think it may be an ass covering thing, as the water looked good when I got it from the tank outside, but boiled it just in case. As it takes time to boil and cool water, I mosied across the road and asked one of the locals if they wouldn't mind filling up my water storage bladder. She was kind enough to do this, but thought it was weird as it came from a rain tank, just like at the station.
It was a warmer night and to be lazy, I took the cushions from the left behind the bike and the blanket from the right and set it up on the sleeping shelf to bed down for the night. Weirdly I woke up at 0200, so ate a piece of leftover pizza then started boiling another pot of water to carry with me. I let that cool down and packed most of my stuff up ready to leave at first light. After that I sat down on the lounge chair and fell asleep, whilst sitting up. I woke up at one stage feeling cold, so wrapped myself in the blanket and fell asleep again.
I awoke at approx 0600 and started to get changed to ride again. It was there that I noticed some bad chaffing on my nether regions and it was weeping! That would explain the discomfort. It was this and my numb finger that was enough for me to pull the plug. The hotter day was just another bonus to not have to deal with as well and ended up being a 38 degree day in Adelaide, so probably a similar temperature out that way.
Anyway with a bit of to and froing with my wife it was decided that she would pick me up at Burra. So there was nothing left but to dump my garbage at the local Country Fire Services bins, then turn back around and ride the highway to Burra.
On the highway, as per the experiences I had in the Northern Territory, the truck drivers were the best and gave the greatest amount of room. Generally the car drivers were pretty good, with only one person determined to get past to save themselves 5 seconds by squeezing through with an oncoming car.
On the way to Burra, I stopped at Mt. Bryan to check out the massive fan blade from the wid turbine (see below). I was a bit apprehensive as Donald Trump told me that I can get windmill cancer from these things. A couple of nice old buildingsin the tiny speck on the map.
Finally I rode into Burra, well I thought it was Burra until I saw a sign that said 2 kilometres to go. On the way in I visited the historic copper mine and then ventured into town. I can recommend the bakery in town for their baked goods. After feeding my face, I road around town to check out the historic buildings. I was very impressed on how nice Burra is and will definitely be back. Oh and they apparently have a brewery, Unicorn Brewery. Not sure if it still is up and running or not!
Finally I found a shaded spot by the Burra creek and laid around for a while and was visited by a duck! Eventually I had to find another shady spot to wait for my wife to pick me.
All in all it was a great ride let down by a numb finger and some chaffing. I will plan for my next trip along the Mawson Trail.
My name is Mark McIntosh, but everyone calls me Macr.