7 Days Bikepacking Through South Australia

Rufant

Well-known member
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As I turn off the bitumen about 20km out of Blinman, it comes home that now it really is just me, my bike and what's in the trailer. There is no one else out here, no 4x4 coming down this track. I get my priorities in order and say out loud to myself "ok, Anthony. First priority, by quite some measure - do not crash..."
Way back in January or February this year, which seems like a lifetime ago. I was easily commuting 200km a week on my bike and riding gravel at the weekends. I decided I was going to ride the Mawson Trail - a 900km trail that starts in Blinman in the Flinders Ranges and winds its way back to my home town of Adelaide. I booked two weeks off work in September, almost certainly the best month for touring my part of the world. Then COVID hit, and along with many other things we took for granted my commute disappeared. Still lucky enough to be employed and able to work from home - I was still riding, forcing myself out of bed through winter to ride an hour most days before work. Sometime in mid July I thought I better start riding with the loaded trailer, I needed to get used to that as my 'new normal' (haven't we thrashed that phrase this year?). It was beginning to dawn on me that maybe riding the whole Mawson Trail was going to be too big an ask. Between being nearly all on dirt, the topography and carrying all my gear, means it is a very different challenge to normal riding. So I just decided to go, see how it went - what I was really seeking was something different and a sense of adventure - something I've found increasingly hard to find behind the wheel of a 4x4 lately.

Thumbs up if that sounds like a plan?


Now I nearly never post about gear, I think all outdoor activities industries are way too focussed on it (experience first, gear second, is how I think it should be. Too often it's portrayed as the other way round). However, it is fair to say I became pretty gear obsessed in the lead up to this adventure. When you have to consider temperatures from 0-35 deg C, you're solo and unsupported, with a finite amount of room and a finite amount of muscle to move whatever you take, you really focus on what you need, what you think you might need for X,Y & Z scenario, and most importantly what you are going to leave out.
I purposely didn't look at many other peoples experience on this trail, I wanted this to be my adventure, I didn't want to know what to expect. I've been doing these sorts of activities long enough I was confident I wouldn't die. I watched videos of guys going 'bikepacking' for one or two nights, carrying everything on the bike and eating in cafe's, or on an open fire. Then there were ultra athletes doing massive trans-continental record breaking rides - but not much in between. It should be noted I am no athlete, I'm no sack of ********, but I'm no athlete either.

Here are some shots from my (almost) final pack a couple of weekends before leaving.

All the clothes I would be taking. Some dedicated cycling gear, but also just good outdoor clothing. Plus some light 'running gear' to wear off the bike.


I was taking a backpack, mostly just emergency essentials or stuff I would need to access regularly went in here.

The majority of stuff would go in the bag for the BOB (Beast Of Burden) bike trailer. It might seem like a lot, but if you think I'm sleeping in a body bag and eating freeze dried foods, you probably don't know me very well :) I subscribe to this theory. (there were some things I took, that I didn't use and wouldn't take again, but I got it more right than wrong - which as this is really my first crack at this type of thing, I'm happy with that)


Unusually I left the bike set up to someone else. I had only been back into riding for a year and basically everything has changed since I could last call myself a rider, at that was all on mountain bikes. I knew what I wanted, I just didn't know what the best solutions for it were. So I just went to a local bike mechanic shop with a good reputation, told them what I wanted, and let them get on with it.
Hat-tip to Biomechanics Adelaide.
So onto my Giant Revolt 1 went, new tyres (Terravail), saddle (SQ Labs), crankset (SRAM Rival) - to be able to run a 33T front chainring, to give the 1x drivetrain suitable lower gearing for the terrain and pulling the trailer. Plus general maintenance and prep for the bike and trailer to try to ensure no major mechanical issues en route - 7P's and all that.

Where is Blinman?




So a couple of good mates, ran me up to Blinman on the Saturday.


A quick breakfast and they headed back home. Even on the bitumen the vastness of the landscape is not lost.


As I said, once you turn off the bitumen, it really focuses you on just how small you are in a very big and unforgiving landscape. Which of course is why you're here, that edgy feeling, right? The Mawson Trail uses a lot of 'Emergency Vehicles Only' tracks. The ones you wish you were allowed down in your 4x4. I quickly realised that being on a bike opens up parts of the country that are previously off limits (it also changes how most people react to you, as opposed to driving...). So I would be on trails I had never seen before, great. The safety net of someone else being along soon didn't exist on these trails, as it does mostly around Australia. Good.

Still no country for old men.


That first section of trail is a cracker. Majestic views, plenty of rocky climbs and fast descents - don't crash... and no one literally for miles around - don't crash...



Riverbed, South Australian style.

Touring set up, below.


So, off to a great start. Then it all started to go wrong.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
The rear mudguard on the trailer kept noisily rubbing on the trailer tyre, having broken over a cattle grid on the bitumen this morning. So I just took it off, not much sign of mud round here.



Eventually I spilled out into the road to Brachina Gorge, part of Flinders Ranges National Park. This dirt road I would be sharing with tourists in their 4x4's. So far I had been following the Mawson Trail signposts. I had paper maps and GPS too, but the signposts had been easy to follow, I hadn't needed anything else. It was only when I eventually got to the end of the road and the junction with the bitumen highway that I realised I was off track, not the first or last navigation error I've made. However as opposed to being in the Land Cruiser, I only had my own legs to recover the lost distance. Looking at the map I had probably missed a signpost about 5km back, it looks like I could pick up the Heysen Trail (a similar trail, designed to be hiked, this one around 1200km in length) for a while which would intersect the Mawson Trail. I was annoyed at this simple error, I would need to be more careful with the navigation, it's not just the effort of the extra distance, it's the impact it has on your morale. Something you have to be careful with on these solo adventures.

I stopped to have something quickly to eat, I should have had a more substantial lunch and a rest, but I had that feeling of being 'behind'. Seems ridiculous now, writing about it.



At least the scenery and the bird life were spectacular. It's a cliche, but you do see more when you slow down your mode of transport. I watched three striking golden coloured birds putting on an aerobatic display (maybe a grey fronted honey eater, googling images afterwards), and not for the last time, regretted not bringing the binos.

I pedaled on to this Heysen Hut, I had heard of these shelters along the trail for the walkers.





With some relief here the Heysen and Mawson Trails intersected, so back on the right track and in good spirits I pushed on.



A flat-ish ride for an hour or so, then back out to the NP dirt roads and some bigger climbs and descents.



I had been checking the map, noting where the trail went for the next foreseeable section. I could see the trail eventually went through Wilpena Pound Resort, the main facility here. The idea of a shower and someone else cooking dinner was pretty appealing, should make it there in good time...

This is perhaps the most popular area of the park, judging by the corrugations on this road. The first time I hit them at speed on a downhill section I was nearly thrown from the bike. The shaking was so savage I couldn't see. I was considerably more circumspect of them after that, and had a new appreciation for what 4x4 suspension and tyres have to deal with.

At the next stop I tightened the bottle cage that had come loose.

As I'm grinding up one of the many climbs that afternoon I realise I haven't seen a trail sign for a while. I was sure I was just following this road to the resort. I switched the GPS on my phone (I ran it in ultra low power saving mode most of the time), and confirmed for myself what I already suspected, I had lost the trail again...

Demoralised, at making the same mistake twice in one day. Only tempered by the fact I hadn't ridden so far in the wrong direction this time. The detour only costing about an extra 5km, rather than the 10km this morning. Pretty fed up I pulled a u-turn, as I'm riding back a tiny bird flew in front of my wheel, just a flash of green and gold, like a flying jewel, if I had blinked I would have missed it. I took it as a sign.

When I did find the trail again, I didn't feel so bad about missing it, the trail-head was 20m off the main road, and in their wisdom they had put the sign at the trailhead only.



So I pushed on, and I mean pushed. I was tiring quickly. With the ride to breakfast (we camped outside of Blinman) and then the detours, not to mention all the climbing and the roughness of the trail, not eating enough... With tiredness comes more poor decision making. Passing up several good campsites I decided to still try for the resort tonight. It was quite hot, the trail was technically and physically taxing. I was getting through litres of water. Unbeknown to me I had picked up a front tyre puncture this morning, Stan had my back, but I managed to rip out the seal on the rocks that afternoon. It sealed back up again, however it was another blow to my enthusiasm.

The last 5km of trail before Wilpena Pound is shared with the Heysen Trail, and is more goat track than fire trail.



5km or not, I just didn't have the energy for this. Plus my slow progress meant there was every chance I would lose the light.



This rock step finished me off mentally (I was already finished physically!), nothing to do but drag the bike and trailer up here, but that was it. Forget about a shower and a steak. Find a camp.

[the above pictures I walked back and took the next morning, I was beyond taking pictures that afternoon]

Thankfully a couple of hundred metres later there was a clearing.



With what little energy I had left I set up camp, made dinner, and crawled into my sleeping bag in my clothes. I slept 11 hours.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
I awoke, aware that much of yesterday had been a ******** fight, and I would need a different approach from here on. No focus on getting anywhere particularly, and just take the day as it comes.

The ride to Wilpena Pound Resort was fun this morning, late yesterday it would have been a nightmare. I probably would have crashed, with fast sections and many dry creek crossings.





So stopping, and stopping earlier rather than later, is the answer. You've got all this gear to be self sufficient, may as well put it to use.



Arriving at the resort, reinforced that there would have been no benefit to pushing onto here. It is many, many years since I've been here and I remembered it to be bigger than it was. I think there must be a restaurant in the actual resort section, but the camp ground just gets a cafe/shop next to the visitors centre, that would have been well shut by the time I got here.

Anyway, I was able to get a coffee and something in plastic packaging to eat. More importantly I was able to refill my water. I was down to the last bottle.



On the way out I checked out the old Wilpena Station homestead, back from before it was declared a National Park.



Out of Wilpena and back onto a 'Emergency Vehicles Only' I was alone and it was good riding.



As the sun steadily beat back the chill of the morning. I stripped off my merino wool layer and lathered on the 50 SPF sun block.



The track pops back out on the bitumen for a stretch before heading back into the bush in front of a monolith known as Rawnsley Bluff.



Being springtime, these pretty little flowers were in abundance. I called them chives, because they look like chives (they are not chives).



Still dreaming of a steak or a hamburger, I arrived at Rawnsley Park station around lunchtime. Which has accomodation and camping facilities. It also has a restaurant, which would be open for dinner... drat. My calculation of carrying 3 days worth of food was starting to look about right.



Both helicopter and plane scenic flights were available, to view the famous Wilpena Pound from the air.

A few km down the road I stopped at a viewpoint for lunch. An older couple pulled in and they explained they had enquired about staying at Rawnsley Park, and the most basic cabin was $470/night. I'm all for paying a bit more in the country, you should expect it, however...





Another couple who were living in Australia from overseas, and had just done a 14,000km trip in their Pajero, and were making their way back to Sydney. Stopped for a chat (remember how I said the bike makes people react differently towards you...).



We talked about getting out and seeing 'the other Australia'. They explained how they had seen more of Australia in the short time they had been here than most Sydney dwellers they knew, who had lived here their whole lives - who were only focused on "getting a house by the beach and a load of investment properties" - as the song says, I guess it depends how you measure success.

Another picturesque dirt road that afternoon. My post midday endurance aided by stopping properly for lunch.



Again, being an all access road it was rough, enough that I was happy to hit the bitumen again for a stretch that afternoon. Before turning off, taking the trail onto Mt Little station.



Time to think about a campsite. Despite looking pretty bleak and barren, I could see creek lines running off the range, these looked the best option for a more pleasant campsite.

As I made my way through the station, I was entertained by a little desert bird that would land on the track ahead of me and then run in front of me, not that it couldn't fly, it could, it just preferred to run. It was pretty fast too. I saw a few of them so it must be a characteristic of the species.



An almost unfathomable amount of work must have been required to originally build this structure. Once again it comes as no surprise that religion played such an important role for the early settlers - you would need to believe...



This looks like a good spot, 'Riverside Camping' South Oz style.

 

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Rufant

Well-known member
I set up camp and cooked dinner. My standard backpack/bikepack meal is this:



Macaroni - because it cooks quickly, in less water than other pasta.

Tin of tuna in oil

Half an onion (optional)

Sundried tomato pesto

That terrible grated, 'parmesan cheese'



Chop the onion (on a book! - the book is optional), cook it in the water with the macaroni.



Strain the pasta/onion once cooked and empty the tuna and oil into it, add a good couple of spoons of pesto, mix together. Top with the fake cheese.



It's seriously hearty. Packs plenty of carbs and protein, and nothing needs refrigeration.

This was a great camp.



Thanks for reading. More to follow.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
IMG_20200901_082802-2-scaled.jpg

Another fine, if chilly morning greeted me at the start of Day 3. I packed up camp and had Pho soup for breakfast, as you do.

As I rode on through the station I got to a junction with a sign to 'Jaspers Rocks'. I could see roughly where the rocks would be, it was probably a 20-30 min climb to get there on the bike, maybe an hour round trip. I mention all this as this was really the turning point, of being a trip following the Mawson Trail, and becoming one where I would really just use that as a guide and head off in my own direction if there was a side track or something I wanted to check out - I mean, when am I likely to be back here again? Exactly, so go and look now.

It was worth the detour. Cool rocks.





The plants can look so soft in comparison to the harshness of their environment.



At least the ride back to the main track was gently downhill. Big old landscape.



Mt Little Station served me up another treat a little further into the station. The oddly named Mayo Gorge. It wasn't really a gorge, at least not to my eyes. However it did have a permanent waterhole, quite a rarity in these parts.





There seemed to be plenty of water around generally in the Flinders compared to normal. They must have had rain recently, I mean it was only a few weeks since they had snow!



So Mt Little station was a nice surprise, it doesn't look like much when you first come onto it, but there are these hidden gems. Good on them for opening it up for other people to see.

I would press on from here to Hawker, my first town since Blinman. I needed to restock the food supplies and of course water again. But first, there was the small matter of climbing Mount Little.



Well, at least it wasn't called Mount Large Station. This is still gonna hurt though.

There was much pushing, and resting (and generally carrying on like a pork chop).



Luckily it was more gentile going for a bit after that.



As I shut the last gate to the station, an elderly local gentleman pulled up and offered me a lift to Hawker, I declined but thanked him anyway.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
The trail only follows the road for a while and then heads into the bush again. Which takes you past this tomb.



It contained (I presume) whatever is left of Douglas Bruce, who died of the effects of having his horse fall on him in 1875, nasty. As I said, don't crash.

The trail winds around kind of teasing you about getting to Hawker, when really you just want to get there. Anyway, It's still better than being on the main road, I don't like riding on the roads especially.

Finally at Hawker I treated myself to a cold beer at the pub. There is an excellent cafe here, and it was lunchtime.





Drat. So my steak/burger dreams would stay just that a little bit longer. I rode round to the servo (service station) for some food wrapped in plastic.

On arrival I spotted a familiar sight, and called out "nice trailer!" to which the reply came back...

"Are you the Russian?"

"What?"

"ARE YOU THE RUSSIAN???"

"No, I'm not the Russian...?"

So the fellow cyclist (with BOB trailer) came over for a chat. Apparently there was someone Russian somewhere on the Mawson Trail. I never did get to the bottom of why this was so important, but anyway. This is Charles.



Charles is just riding the Mawson Trail again, on his way to ride the Oodanatta Track. I've driven that track and wouldn't rush back in a 4x4, let alone a bike.

Charles asked about me - "I bought the bike 12 months ago to commute to work, and here we are..." to which he replied with all seriousness "be careful with bikes, they're addictive, they destroy families...". Odd. I grew up in the UK in the 90's, there were a few addictive things around then, I think I'll be alright.

As you can see Charles also has a BOB trailer. His is the unsuspended version, he was very taken with my suspended version, not really for the suspension, more for the extra bottle cage mounts it has. Charles carries 15L of water, he'll need all of that on the Oodanatta Track.

Charles has ridden to the Northern Territory, he has ridden the Birdsville Track and the Great Central Road. Charles is mad, but in a good way.

He looked over my set up in detail. We discussed many points. I guess with this human powered touring, you're always looking for any advantage you can give yourself on the trail. Charles wasn't keen on my backpack, but I explained it worked for me, especially as I had already done two short hikes off the bike that morning. He suggested strapping it on top of the trailer.

We said our goodbyes. I wonder if he ever found the Russian?

I restocked and refilled my water (I was wondering before I came, if people would begrudge giving me water, I was happy to pay for it but didn't want to keep buying plastic - however it was never an issue, people would actively recommend the best tap to use. Water quality is variable to say the least up here). I only had a short ride this afternoon to the Craddock Hotel.

A couple of things along the way.



I like the shape of this car, was is it? A Wosley maybe? Dunno.

Shingleback Skink - below (they can live for up to 50 years, and mate for life - don't run them over).



I tried Charles's idea with the backpack on top of the trailer. It made the rig too unstable for me with the extra weight up there, and strangely my back was less comfortable without the backpack on. However it did give me an idea. I had a spare dry-sack, that my (down) sleeping bag was in, in case it rained. Well as it didn't look like it was going to rain anytime soon, I could strap that dry-sack on top of the trailer, get a bit of stuff out of my backpack and a bit more out of the BOB bag. That would be also easier to access than getting into the BOB bag for lunch or whatever.

On arrival at Craddock, I checked out the cemetery. Created as the original site was "on a travelling stock route, and subject to sand drifts. Meaning the graves are likely to be disturbed by passing stock". Grisly...





On arrival at the hotel, the publican said a similarly kitted out guy had come through this morning, looking for a Russian. I explained I had also met Charles, but I didn't have an explanation for the Russian thing either...

It was good to stop early. Have a few beers. Fix the mudflap on the trailer (zip tie, of course). Chatting with other campers and locals (you can camp at the pub for free as long as you buy some food/drinks).





All the talk was about the impending storm tonight, with "damaging, gale force winds" a couple of guys that were going to be camping booked rooms... I was mostly unconcerned, I had been in high winds in that tent before. I was camped behind a tree that was sheltered by a bus, that was sheltered by the pub. Anyway, I got steak.



Then wind certainly came that night. I woke a few times, but I could see very little movement in the tent. The design just offers little wind resistance, so as expected, it did fine.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
Bit dusty though...



I wiped it down as best I could. It was still pretty windy, and despite my general direction being heading south, the trail today headed in mostly northerly directions this morning, into the wind.

I'm not sure what population Craddock was at its height, however it has three churches (three!). None are used as churches anymore. Anyway, I checked one out before heading out to battle the wind.



There are three things that really affect how hard the riding is, wind, how much uphill, and how rough the roads are. Fortunately this morning's ride really only had the wind, it was a struggle, but it could have been worse - this was the biggest climb of the morning.





I took a break down at this pretty billabong.



As I was transitioning to the softer slopes of the Southern Flinders Ranges, less dramatic that the rock forms further north, but also bringing more historical relics of the early settlers.











I know the road from here, to the next town, Quorn. Having driven it earlier this year, it was looking better in the sunshine.





Despite only being midday I was pretty tired, fighting the wind this morning had taken plenty out of me, and of course, once I turned south the wind died down, so no tailwind to help. With tiredness come mistakes...



I missed getting the bottle back in its cage, and dropped it under the rear wheel. Bottle was nearly full too. Not a big drama here, I would be able to refill at Quorn, but not something I wanted to make a habit of.


Two skinks crossing, mated for life remember.



Strangely one of the few cars I saw was a Police Holden Commodore, bit odd on a minor dirt road on a week day, but maybe it's a quiet day at the office...

I stopped for lunch and had a wander round these ruins.



 

Rufant

Well-known member
I was glad to hit the bitumen, I hadn't been able to shed the lactic acid out of my legs all day, with the extra effort expended in the wind this morning, that was coming home to roost now. At the top of a big climb I realised I had missed the turn off for the Mawson Trail, it bothered me because that was a bit of the trail I hadn't been on before, but it also didn't as I was just suffering through to get to Quorn, and the bitumen was frankly easier.

This was probably only to be expected. I'd gone from riding an hour or two most days, with the occasional full day of riding. To riding 8 hours a day, for now 4 days in a row. I wasn't beat by any measure. I was definitely finding my limits though.

Cop car came back past me on the road to Quorn, at quite a rate too, $1.30, $1.40, somewhere around there. They must have found something to do...

On arrival at Quorn I found out what all the fuss was about.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-03/sa-police-arrest-alex-blake-after-chase/12623872

So there was an armed fugitive running around outback SA, good to know.

I paid $5 to camp at the sports oval, took my clothing and had my first shower in 4 days. I washed my clothing as best I could in the shower and hung it on the fence to dry. I settled in at the pub with my book, the schnitzel menu (it was schnitty night, 12 toppings to choose from!), and a few drinks. Some shots from around the town of Quorn.









I awoke around midnight to the sound of a chopper landing. I guessed that they must have been looking for the fugitive - as it turns out I think they would have just caught him within the hour and stood the chopper down.

I realised my right knee was hurting a fair bit. I didn't sleep great after that.

The next morning I did some stretching to try and take the load of my knee. Knee's have always been a bit of an achilles heal for me, so it was a bit of a worry. It was a bit swollen so I found a stretch bandage in my first aid kit, took some nurofen and just decided to see how it went.



I restocked a few things at the grocery store and settled in at the cafe for a proper breakfast. With more towns on the route now I may as well eat as often and as much as possible. My knee was a concern, but you might as well give yourself as much energy as you can.

Correct start to the day.



I didn't know it at the time but I had a fantastic day of riding ahead...

Thanks for reading.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
IMG_20200903_155407-2-2048x1536.jpg


An easy ride due south of Quorn today, through the small town of Wilmington, then onto Melrose.

A couple of maps for reference.





No blistering headwind today. The weather back to SA's signature clear blue skies, crisp air and sunshine. A nice gentle climb helped warm me up, a quick breather at the top.





Things like this make me wonder what happened to require putting a specific 'No Trucks Up Here' sign...?



I picked my way down the other side of the slope. This detour over this small range popped me out on Old Gunyah Road, which I would stay on until Wilmington. It's a beauty of a road.



Flowing with the terrain, lined by springtime flowers. The only other traffic was a couple of tourist 4x4's coming the other way, waving as they went. A good, smooth surface - my hands (and knees) had taken a battering over the rocky tracks of the last few days, so it was great to just ride without the jarring of the rougher tracks.

Dotted with the sort of properties that make you want to buy them, and spend a few years doing them up.



Daydreaming about these houses, good cars for these types of roads, life in the country. Fair to say this was a good morning. That big breakfast had given me plenty of energy, the road and the weather were just spot on. I rolled into Wilmington just in time for lunch.

I knew the cafe here does some tasty pastry treats. I walked I and told them "I've been waiting for this" and I had.



The cafe is run by a couple. She does the serving, he does the baking. I went back in to compliment him on his efforts, the pastry is just so. He explained he was self taught, to which his wife then chimes in with "you should have seen the first batch of pasties, what a disaster!" with comments like that, it must be true love!

I trundled on out of Wilmington, and another church, striking against the blue sky.



I was planning a different route to the Mawson Trail this afternoon. I stopped to check the map at the public toilets on the way out of town, I didn't need any silly navigation errors ruining my day today.

A quick check of the bike found the trailer tyre quite soft, and so began the Day Of The Three Corner Jackal. (Which I thought was quite a good play on words, but no one else seemed to get it...).

Australia's 3 corner jacks are infamous for their ability to puncture just about anything short of a car tyre. In the end I fixed 5 punctures in the rear tube - blocking the public toilet sink with hand towel so I could fill the sink up with water, as two of the punctures were so small I could hear them but could not see them with the naked eye...





At least here there was a table, a sink, shade, etc. Could be worse. I did have a spare tube for the trailer, but I'm always of the mindset to keep that for when you really need it.

It should be noted there was a vast difference in quality of the Giant branded patches that came with the bike, and the Park Tool ones I brought as a back up. I think my Giant bike is great, superb performance, good quality and value. However the Giant branded accessories are mostly rubbish in my experience.

After an hour or so I finally got it to hold air. What about the tyres on the bike? They are Terravail dedicated gravel tyres, and although I did pick up a puncture on the first day, there was a lot of broken glass on those roads (because there is always someone, who's mother didn't love them enough, that feels the need to smash their bottle of cheap beer). They are also tubeless, so they might of punctured, I just didn't notice. The trailer tyre, came with the trailer, X many years ago (I notice Charles's BOB trailer had a different, dedicated looking trailer tyre). I had bought 3 tubes for the bike, and 1 for the trailer - I was starting to wonder if it should have been the other way round...

Anyway back on the trail, next town was the Mountain Biking Mecca of Melrose, with an excellent bike shop. Fortuitous I believe is the word.

I could see from the map that the Mawson Trail here took some farming type roads, whereas there is now a dedicated bike trail between Wilmington and Melrose, that utilises the old train line, so I took that instead.



I like all of the Flinders Ranges, from the moon scapes of the far north, through to these more lush rolling hills. Vibrant with springtime colours.









I rolled into Melrose in good time to hit up the bikeshop. I decided to get an extra tube for the trailer tyre if they had it, plus replenish my depleted puncture repair stocks. Score.



Had a good chat with the bike shop owner about business - booming since COVID hit, no surprise my bike shop in Adelaide is the same. Plus more people getting interested in this more, long distance, expedition type riding. I asked his recommendation for which pub for dinner tonight, he hesitatingly suggested one, or the other. Neither of which filled me with confidence. Which is a shame as the last pub meal we had here was pretty good, but that pub has changed owners since then. "Have a beer in one and a meal in the other?" he suggested, "Spread the love around" I said, "Yep", I can do that.
 

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Rufant

Well-known member
I booked into the campsite and joined all the MTB'ers in the unpowered section over the creek. Last time we were here we were lording it up with the 4x4 campers on the powered site grass.



Plenty of kids riding their bikes around the trails. I didn't know it at the time but the 18 hours of Melrose MTB event was on that weekend. Which also explained the large amount of MTB's I saw hanging off cars heading north after leaving Melrose.

I had a beer in one pub and an uninspiring meal in the other. Neither menu looked particularly inviting. I know a bit about food service supply and can pretty much tell when everything is just bought in and more or less reheated to order. I'm not looking for anything fancy in the country, just some honest cooking, that maybe has some flavour of the area. /rant.

Anyway, the big news was the recently captured fugitive, driving off from the servo in Hawker without paying, seemingly not long after I had been chatting to Charles at the same servo. He had previously done the same at the servo in Innamincka, nearly running over the owner in the process. I had been at that servo about a year ago. He was eventually caught trying to take the road the Warraweena, which I had driven in one of my first trips in the Land Cruiser several years ago, Stony, the affable leaseholder at that property was on the news! It seems I wasn't the only on in the pub familiar with that character.

Coincidentally, one of the cars I was day dreaming about this morning, I spotted walking between the two pubs.



Looks nothing special, hey? Well it's not really, this is the Ford Falcon RTV. Which was Ford Australia's response to the unstoppable march of the (mostly Japanese) 4x4 Pick-Up. Despite being 2wd only, it is actually pretty well engineered for light off road duties, with uprated suspension (with different front hubs also it would seem), underbody protection and a lockable rear differential.

Perfect for the roads from today, more fun than a 4x4, and plenty enough off-roadyness for most places you can get to in a weekend. I want one.



Anywho, despite my somewhat pretentious misgivings about the pub food. It was an enjoyable night, with the pub as busy as it can be in these times and with the fugitive making national news and a local personality like Stony making the news, it lent a bit of excitement to the people who knew the area.

I slept well and woke for the sunrise over the campground.



Today the plan was to follow the Mawson Track again, it was heading down through some familiar areas and some tracks I had driven before, but no worse for that.

Climbing the hill out of Melrose, a quarry gives you an idea of the (very old) geological history of the area. If you like that sort of thing, you'll have a field day through the entire Flinders Ranges.





This morning was some extremely pretty farm tracks.









Then onto Wirrabara Forest. You can't argue with the variety of scenery on this trip. Compare this with the arid rocky landscapes from the first few days.



There were plenty of these little stream crossing to splash through on the bike also.







I stopped for lunch. Pretty good lunch stop - you really begin to appreciate these things, as sometimes the best you can get is a small patch of shade at the side of the road.



Some people walked past and commented "that's social distancing done right!" and then had a heap of questions, you soon get used to this when on a bike with a trailer.

I got close up with the cherry blossom.



That afternoon's part of the trail I could see from the map was one I had driven many times before, at it is a cracker. Either in a 4x4 or on a bike, a stretch of woodland that winds out through farmers fields.



Then just follow a bike path that runs parallel to the road. This took me on to the pretty town of Laura. I got there in good time. So today would be an 'early minute' as they say around these parts.



Time to pull out the map and work out the final part of the adventure.

Thanks for reading.
 
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