We arrived at Adelaide airport and found our usual out of the way spot by the smokers corner to put the bikes together by 15:20. This went well, until Mike got to pumping up the tyres with our trusty Lezyne mini-pump and found that the air was escaping somewhere. Adelaide airport has bike facilities with storage and a bike station, complete with rusty tools and a dodgy-foot pump, but we decided that obviously we needed a workable pump to take with us. It was 16:40 so there was a bit of urgency as shops tend to close at 5 pm. Mike took a cab to a bike store 7km away, bought one and was back in half-an-hour. while I sorted out our gear. We ended up getting on the bikes around 17:45 and left the airport with only one or two wobbles! At the start of a tour the weight on the bike always makes us wobble a bit. The roads were quiet and we soon hit the Torrens River cycle path which is excellent and we are sure also pretty, but it was dark and our bike lights were firmly fixed on the path ahead. We got to our campsite after 19:00 and enjoyed slightly soggy Subways purchased about 2 hours earlier at the airport. Our new sleeping bags were good!
After breakfast consisting of oats and hot water in the campers kitchen, we organised our packing a bit better and so we only left after 09:00. The weather was really good, very calm and cool, and a bit overcast. We are on the river path again, can confirm it is very pretty in daylight. We turned off it after about 12km onto Gorge Rd which meanders uphill along the river. This is a great road to ride and we recommend it, however we turned off after a few kilometers onto the Mawson Trail. This was a decision we would regret. The trail is 900km long and promises a variety of farm roads, forestry trails and GOAT TRACKS (not really goat tracks). But a goat track was what we got today. In the end it took about 4.5 hours to "ride" 10km. Obviously not a track for cycle tourists. We spent most of the time walking, but by walking I mean me pushing the bike uphill by it's handlebars with Mike pushing from behind, with all our might! The inclines got to way in excess of 20%, and we can't even push a laden bike up that on a slippery surface on our own. Only thing to do was for us to get one bike to the top between us and then walk back down and get the other bike. So each time we walked 3 times the distance we would have had to ride. If only riding had been possible. Then once at the top on the hill you could ride for a few hundred metres before you got to the next crazy hill and had to do it all over again.
We stopped for lunch around 13:00 and eventually just before 15:00, we got to the gate which was the end of this crazy track. Of course it was locked and the only option was to unpack the bikes and pick them up over a metal bar about a meter off the ground. After this I had serious doubts about reaching our end point. We had only completed 23km by then and had over 40-odd to go. It seemed impossible! Things improved then, we entered an area of vineyards and other farming, very beautiful landscape and views. Great little farm tracks which could actually be ridden. Many skippys around, and also cows and sheep. The cows are always very curious when you are on a bike. We did eventually reach our campsite, albeit in the dark AGAIN, our legs will need to repair themselves overnight! This is a walk-in site only, so for hikers doing the long distance Heysen Trail and cycle tourists on the Mawson Trail. So of course we had to do the bike unpack-repack process at a gate about 200m from the camp spot as that gate was also closed. It is a nice spot though, and we have had our first cold shower.
The night was dead quiet until the logging trucks started up at 04:30. We had some bike maintenance in the morning, sorting out a dynamo that we thought was not charging a phone gps correctly, tightening bolts, etc. We ended up leaving around 09:30 again which is really late for us on tour. The first 12km were on good surfaces with short steep climbs. This took us to Trail Hill where the Barossa Valley suddenly appeared far below us in a patchwork of farms. We had our morning coffee break up there before dropping down very quickly to the valley floor. So this is the famous Barossa Valley. You can actually smell the wine around the vineyards. Looks like the harvest is over for the year. Nurioopta is a lovely village/town and we stopped for lunch.
The roads have dedicated cycleways and it was good to see some civilisation. After Nurioopta we are back on all sorts of farm tracks, gravel, sandy, heavily rutted from water, and my special favourite which was rocks just strewn everywhere. But it was ALL rideable at least. Sometimes quite slow. Had a fall on a sandy patch, hopefully that is my fall for the trip over with. We reached Kapunda and headed out again for about 8km to reach a campsite on the Heysen Trail (walking trail) but about 1km from it there was a locked gate and the sign said it opens 30 April. We decided to camp right at the gate as the place was farmland and quiet. We had picked up some water at Kapunda but as there was a water tank at the campspot we had not factored in extra water for showering. Amazing what you can do with a couple of litres though! Good training for later on in the trip. As always when we camp in this sort of place we say "What are the chances someone will come though the gate?". Lucky for us about 30 min after we had both showered along came Farmer Joe in his rattling farm vehicle. He was so friendly and obliging and even offered to let us through the gate to the water tank. As he was going into town he offered to get us something and also was happy to help with firewood. People surprise you how obliging they are. We didn't need anything, other than our bed. We arrived before sunset so that was a win!
Feel like we are in the swing of it now as we were on the road by 07:30. First morning that we could get into routine, without any hiccups. Our MSR fuel stove uses almost any kind of liquid fuel and usually we use Shellite (white gas) to start as it is clean and doesn't have an odour. It is also expensive and not readily available off the beaten track. So we always end up switching to petrol. This trip we chose to try kerosene as it is sort of in between the two from an odour and price perspective. We had read that it is difficult to light. It is! We ended up setting little twigs on fire and poking the flame into the primer dish (more difficult than it sounds). Anyway, it was a hassle we did not need so we got some Shellite which worked as expected. Beautiful morning but it turned windy and we knew rain was forecast.
First part of the day was a mix of smooth bitumen, sandy track and a technical rocky section that the track designer obviously included for a laugh, but we weren't laughing! We could see some pretty black weather fast approaching and the head wind was strong. We descended pretty quickly down a gravel road into the Clare Valley. Then we got stuck behind a large flock of sheep being moved to another paddock. Two men (shepherds?) were herding them down the road in utes. The men, not the sheep. It was a crawling pace. We asked one guy how far they were going and it seemed quite a way. "If youse are in a hurry," he said, "we can move the sheep into a paddock, and then get them again", but that seemed like a massive effort to us city dwellers. Anyway, the second option was "put your bikes on the back of the ute and I'll drive you through a paddock to overtake the sheep", but that seemed like quite an effort for us. We said we weren't in a hurry but wanted to beat the weather, so the compromise was that shepard offered to open a farm gate to a paddock which allowed us to race along the edge of the paddock on the opposite side of the fence to the sheep, so we could overtake them. All good in theory as the sheep were going berzerk on one side of the fence, while we raced them on the other. Eventually we won, and passed the large flock. While we were racing the sheep, shepard was racing us directly through the paddock so he could open another gate so we could get out ahead of the sheep. All good. Cycle tourists happy, shepard happy, and shheep happy!
We stopped in Riverton for lunch and the heavens opened. We found a spot undercover behind the public toilets with a wall plug and sat and ate our lunch and charged our phones. The rain stopped after about an hour and we got onto the Rattler Rail Trail which took us to Auburn and the Reisling Rail Trail, and then on to out campsite just before Clare. Got to love a good rail trail and 42 km of good rail trail is a great thing for a cycle tourist. There were many "Cellar Door Open" signs where you could purchase wine if so inclined. The rail trails had great picnic spots and were impressive. We arrived at our campsite at 15:30, just goes to show what you can do when you get up earlier! We wanted to do laundry as our cycle clothes took a turn for the worst on day one on the crazy hills and the only answer to that problem is a washing machine. The campsite is busy and the laundry super busy. The amount of loads of washing people (women) do in these places is astounding. Only one drier was operational. Anyway, we now have clean clothes.
Minus 3 degC this fine morning when we got up just after 06:00. We went to make breakfast at the camper's kitchen and when Mike returned to pack up the tent it was iced over without our body heat inside. Beautiful clear day as we set off at 07:30 again, following the rail trail to Clare and then picking up a great farm road to Spalding. We deviated from the Mawson Trail here which went off into the eastern hills just to loop back to Spalding. The farm road was a mix of bitumen and good-ish gravel suface and we had an excellent first half of the day. Spalding offers entertainment in the form of the "Biggest Display of Barbed Wire in the World". Other than that, a perfect tiny village. We went off into the hills here, following the Bundaleer Water Pipeline as it snaked across the rolling hills. A note to other cycle tourists is that you can pretty much camp anywhere around here. Even when the paddocks are fenced there is often a very wide bush margin and easy to find a place to pitch a tent. One gets the feeling no one would mind. Local motorists are friendly and most drivers very accomodating.
After the pipeline trail section we ended on a regional road for a bit (no shoulder and heavily trucked so we moved fast). We rejoined the Mawson to allow us passage on a climb of 200m ascent that was mostly impossible to ride on a very rocky goat track. We find ourselves feeling philosophical about this now, if it get's too hard you can always get off and push, right? The track takes you up into steep hills, mostly sheep pastures here. We were headed for Curnows Hut but from about a kilometer away you could see it was in a little forest and we prefer to be out in the open. So we pitched our tent in a little corner of open pasture. Our neighbours are sheep, our favourite kind.
An overcast and blustery day, first stop was a kilometre down the track at Curnows Hut to pick up some water. It was a 600m walk from the Mawson Track to the hut, a lovely stone hiker's hut with some hikers there who had overnighted. The tank water is crystal clear so far at each tank we have used and so we are only using the Steripen to zap any potential bugs. After this it was a 36 km ride to Laura on mostly good roads. As usual, lovely scenes of bare farmlands. Apparently they start sowing on Anzac Day so there will be a burst of activity. We ate lunch in Laura at some picnic tables in the park and some maintenance men came over for a chat.
We had planned to go off into the hills again to camp in Wirrabara Forest, but the road we were on had a great shoulder so we stayed on it and decided to camp here in Wirrabara which is a great little place with a lovely campspot at the oval. We had a lovely reception from the onsite caretaker who gave us our own toilet and shower room which was a treat. It is a quiet spot, or it was until the massive flock of Galahs came in to roost nearby - the noise was deafening; like a great swarm of bees! Anyway, they have quietened down. It was great to have a hot shower as we had quite a bit of rain on the bike today, but we've really enjoyed the first relaxing afternoon of the trip due to the shorter day. Our bikes are looking muddy already.
We like heading off by 07:30 but it means waking up around 06:00. This isn't a problem as usually we are asleep by 20:00; I think even earlier last night. "Do you think we should set an alarm?" Mike asked last night. I didn't think this was necessary as the magpies usually wake up before 06:00 and then the kookaburras follow, but it's not an exact science. Mike's reasoning was that as it is still dark at 06:00 he often checks the time thinking it might be get-up time only to find it is only just after midnight. I agreed to the alarm and we would test it out in conjunction with the magpie/kookaburra theory this morning.
So, the kookaburras slept in this morning. The magpies woke up later. Anyway, still on the road by 7:30. We headed off on the road to Wilmington, still with the good shoulder and the road was very quiet. Just before Melrose we could see there was a bit of a stop-go in the distance as the shoulder-resealing was going on. We had the option of getting onto a cycle route here and we did. A few hundred meters later it turned into an unrideable rock-strewn disaster. So we had to push the bikes a bit through that. Just at the Showgrounds after Melrose we got up close to Mount Remarkable which is a beautiful rock and we stopped for a bit to figure out the route ahead. A friendly motorist pulled over and jumped out of his car and asked if we needed help and pointed us in the right direction to get onto the Melrose-Wilminngton cycleway. We stopped for a coffee break in a dry river bed (every single one is dry) and then got onto "Mike's Path". This is a 20km dedicated cycleway and is pretty darn brilliant. It even counts down in 500 m intervals. It has a great surface and you are able to soak in the views, with the Flinders Ranges now in distant view.
Wilmington's claim to fame is the January night Rodeo and this sport features quite prominently in the village. We picked up some food at the grocery/fuel/hardware store and went to the nearby rest stop area to eat. Mike's Thermarest mattress had a leak (first leaky Thermarest we have had) so we used some water to find it and marked it with a pen to repair later. It grew warm in the sun. We wanted to ride about 20 km from Wilmington into the hills on the Gunyah Road as the Mawson takes this route into Quorn. The road surface was mostly okay and one could pick a narrow smooth section on the bike, and it was well-graded. It was a good ride and we enjoyed the scenery; it was a good day on the bike today. Just at the top of the last climb (we planned to bush camp somewhere on top), Mike felt the load on his bike wobble a bit and when he stopped to have a look he saw that one of the two bolts connecting his rear rack to his bike had just disappeared, as if it had gradually rattled itself loose and popped out. So we had to replace the bolt there and then (he comes prepared with replacements). We turned off on to the Old Gunyah Road, and then rode only a few hundred meters further on to a good campspot by a tree along the road. Only two cars passed us since we picked the spot. We carried a bit more water tonight so we each had 2.5 litres of water for showering, which felt quite luxurious!
A lovely quiet night. I got up around 04:00 I suppose, call of nature and saw the milky way for the first time in a long time. We usually tour during northern hemisphere summer and it is never dark enough. Later the magpies were on time with their wake up call, a little while later our alarm went off. It was a nice ride into Quorn, first on the Old Gunyah Rd and then on the bitumen. Quorn is an interesting place, probably our first Outback town on the trip. There is a lot to see there including a lovely old railway station and historic shopfronts. We bought a lot of food as we wouldn't have reliable shops for a few days (turned out this decision was correct for more than one reason). We went to the picnic site in town to eat delicious Quornish Pasties for morning tea. We uploaded the website and saw some alarming news - WA in lockdown. What did this mean for us in SA? As it turns out any West Australian from Perth or Peel regions arriving in SA from the day we arrived, 17 April, to 24 April has to get tested on days 1, 5 and 13 and self-isolate 'til a negative covid result. What do you do about this sitting at a picnic spot in Quorn? We got back on the bike to mull it over after spending a couple of hours there. We were headed for Warren Gorge which is a picturesque camping spot without water (we think). We carried a fair bit of water and took the sealed road there. A lovely ride. We decided not to camp there as there was no water available anyway and we could just keep going towards Hawker. We planned for our first day off the bikes in Hawker, but now we had to seek out a covid test so it seemed a good idea to get as far a long as we could.
The pavement ended here and the road conditions varied. Suddenly we found ourselves in the Outback. It was like flicking a switch, no more pastures, and paddocks empty of crops, suddenly it is just small thorny shrubs and red dirt. We were totally amazed to come across a river and thought this would be a great camp spot. We took a track off the main route to have a closer look, there were great pools of water, obviously from the recent rains. We turned back to inspect it further on but the white crust on the surrounding rocks gave the clue before we tasted it, salty. You can imagine lost explorers being driven mad by such an experience
A few kilometers further on we pulled off the track to find a campspot. We are on an enormous open plain of flatland, surrounded by the hills of the Flinders, it is spectacular. We sat down to tackle our next challenge, the covid test. We checked out the testing sites and there was one in Hawker. It said you needed to make an appointment so I rang them but as it is Anzac Day long weekend we could only get one on Tuesday and today is Saturday. We will be in Hawker tomorrow, but we have no where to stay. We also have to stay there for 24 hours to wait for the result. We rang the Covid helpline for support on how we could self-isolate as we are in a tent but all they could say was we had to be somewhere where we did not have to share facilities. We thought about booking into a cabin in a campsite but everything in Hawker was full for the long weekend and anyway, the only big campsite we had stayed in in Clare had required a covid declaration to be signed. So if we arrived to check in and they asked us the "hotspot" questions we wouldn't be allowed in anyway. So now we are officially "persona non grata" I presume. We can get a test at Leigh Creek on Tuesday or Wednesday. They have drive through testing. It's about 260 km to Leigh Creek and we don't have to be in a campsite before then or buying food as we have enough. We can just pick up water at taps when we find it and stay in the bush, so this is our isolation strategy. Right now we are as isolated as we can possibly be in this spot. Once we get the negative result we can be in the community apparently.
It is 2 nights to full moon and so the night is very light, this morning we got up at 04:00, call of nature and a chat about how to manage the Covid/isolation situation and the moon hung very orange over the horizon. It set just after so we only had darkness for about two hours. Dead quiet up here though. Amazing sunrise as the Flinders turned their colours back on. We set off on the Mawson and had a great flat ride to the main road to Hawker. We decided on the way that we would just go directly to the Hawker hospital on the off chance that they could test us today. We had our coffee break on the gravel road and met up with a large group of riders on the trail for the day. They were friendly and we had a chat, and their support vehicles were just behind. We had 30km to ride on the main road, but it being Anzac Day this was quiet with the only traffic those people returning to Adelaide from holiday trips. We stopped for a rest at Wilson Station which was a stop on the old Ghan railway. We had both received text messages from SA Health with an online questionaire to complete. They listed all potential contact sites and you had to answer yes or no as to whether you had visited at a certain time and date. The only thing we said yes to was arriving in SA on 17 April. In Hawker we rang the hospital again and they said we could get tested today between 13:30 and 15:00 but the samples would still only be collected on Tuesday lunchtime so it would be Wednesday or Thursday when we would get our text message advising of the outcome (we presume negative). We said we would be there at 13:30. We were told not to enter the bulding but ring the bell and someone would come out and test us. I mentioned our situation being cycle tourists, which would make isolating difficult, but this was not anyone else's problem, only ours.
We got to the hospital and rang the bell and we suppose then the person got suited up as why waste good PPE on people who fail to arrive? So a bit of a wait. The guy was really nice though. After the test we sat on the pavement outside the hospital to eat some lunch. We filled up all our water containers and set off into the bush on the Mawson. We had originally planned to camp in Hawker, but as we cannot self-isolate there and we would also not be welcome at any other accommodation option we are just going to continue the journey. We have altered our plans a little as we had planned to camp at a station resort campsite but now we can't go there. As soon as we get our messsage with the all clear hopefully Wednesday, we can rejoin society, but until then we need to make sure we have enough water. It is good to try out being full with water; this was something we had planned to do only further along the journey and on flatter roads e.g. Oodnadatta Track! The bikes handled the extra load well, they just become more tank-like! Mike is carrying 12L in total and I am carrying 11L (and we'll be carrying more on the Great Central Road). About 10km along the track we found a good spot for a bush camp. It felt like a tiring day with all the uncertainty.
We joined the main road a kilometre down the track and had an amazing 40km ride. The scenery is barren and beautiful and the road was quiet. We do appreciate bitumen. After about 15km there was a sign which said "Out of districts" and I guess that is when things get serious. Even the sheep seeking shade in unfenced pastures seemed tough. We love sheep and see them often on our travels. Funny now to reflect on pristine white sheep in green Irish fields and then see these beasts which are all the exact colour of the dust they live on and in. We stopped for coffee at a viewing site to do with the first European surveyors up here. The info boards were peeling and hard to read. There is a big station here called Merna Merna where you can camp and this has been owned by one famly since the 1860's.
We turned onto a scenic route which went for 28 km and rode the whole of it. The surface was horrendous at times, very badly corrugated. The views up close of the Flinders Ranges were amazing, the colours so varied. When we got to the end we turned onto the Flinders Ranges Way and found a bush camp a few kilometres along. We had to camp before the start of the national park as one can only camp at designated camp area within the park. We have not found the self-isolation difficult so far, only a handful of cars even passed us today. There are no shops/cafe's or anything for days. We will pick up more water tomorrow at a hut along the route.
Shiny big full moon last night which only set around 05:30 this morning and we got up shortly after. Magpies woke up early this morning, we were amazed to still hear magpies. We hopped onto the road around 07:15 and stopped at a viewing site for morning coffee an hour later. The views along the road were impressive. In all it was only 28 km to Wilpena Pound Station which is the main campsite area for Flinders Ranges National Park. We stopped to book into the Wilcolo Campground for the night. This is a site for walk in campers only and serves the Mawson Trail and Heysen Trail. It does not have any facilities apart from a pit toilet and water tank and cost $10 for a night. We were bargaining on having it to ourselves as we had not yet seen a hiker and the only cyclists on the Mawson that we had seen (very few) were definitely not camping. You are not able camp in the national park outside designated campsites/areas. The campsite at Wilpena Pound was lovely and did not seem crowded, school holidays having ended now. We were super impressed to see it even has an IGA Express shop on site, but as we are still self-isolating this was not an option for us. Luckily when we shopped in Quorn prior to the news of the covid situation we bought enough food to last us. Thursday seems far away still.
The track to Wilcolo Campground and beyond started just at Wilpena Pound Campsite and it was about an 8 km ride. Until we realised pretty quickly that for us it would be mostly unrideable. It was pretty technical in places, almost all single track with deep ruts and crossed any tiny pitched creek beds which were massively steep both down and up. Some sections had sharp shale embedded so that they stuck out for you to ride over. This kind of stuff can really take your tyres apart. I guess for mountain bikers that like to have a story to tell "How I blew two tyres in one day" it is part of the excitement, buy our tyres have a long way to carry us! We got to a part where we could not actually work out how to traverse this steep creek bed crossing and almost turned back. Eventuallly we got there, the route improved towards the end (which is a good thing as we have to get back onto it tomorrow). The campground is in a beautiful spot with great views of the mountainside and surrounded by fir trees. It is convenient to have a toilet and the water tank. They could perhaps have stretched the budget to a picnic table and benches. We spent the afternoon doing a bit of resting and recuperation and also some maintenance. Tomorrow we will call it a day on the Mawson Trail
We had taken a gamble on the first 10 km of the path until it joins the gravel road in the park being better than the bit we walked/cycled yesterday, and it was, but not by a huge margin. It still took 2 hours to cover the 10 km. We met a pair of cyclists who would complete the Mawson today. They had a set of parents taking their gear today so were not carrying much and had quite different bikes to ours. They were friendly and a little amazed that we had managed that bit out of Adelaide. We were too. "Managed" is an overstatement, we really only survived it. We met the set of parents later on when they passed us in their car on the park road. We stopped for coffee just as we got into the park at a picnic spot. We had a further 20 km to cycle in the park. The road was gravel and quite rough and ready in parts but very good. Some steep little climbs to get the heart rate up, but all rideable. The motorists were without fail very patient and would often slow right down to lessen the dust cloud. The park views were spectacular. We are really pleased to have had this experience of riding the park. Each small campsite or pit toilet and even the info boards near the entrance has a tiny water tank so you can always get water which was great. We are just using the Steripen on this tank water as it is crystal clear (instead of filtering).
Turning off the park road onto bitumen (yay!) we had planned to ride about 8km or so to just after the park boundary and find a place to camp. We have decided to ride shorter days instead of taking a full rest day. There has not been a place really suitable for a whole day off and the weather is so good everyday that neither of us have woken up yet thinking we would rather have a break. That said, we have ridden 700 km without a day's break so will definitely have one by Maree. We find the time between 12:00 and 14:00 quite hot and it was great today when we crossed the park boundary to have another little shelter to sit under in the shade. There is always an afternoon breeze and if tyou sit in the shade it is pleasantly cool. Shortly after this we crossed another floodplain, the warning sign for this one said "Floodplain Next 7km" so that gives an idea of how flat it is! The landscape is dotted with these fir trees which are great for shade, and we left the road at a dry river bed and could pitch under the trees for a lazy afternoon.
We almost had internet access today but it did not stick so we will only be uploading the last few days on 30 April. We had a great ride into Blinman where we had our flask coffee before turning onto the unsealed road through Parachilna Gorge. This was another beautiful ride and the rock features in the gorge were interesting. The road was a bit rough in places but all very much downhill for us. We would not recommend tackling it in the other direction as it would be a slog uphill! We filled up with water at the tank at the start of the Heysen Trail. After a few kilometres we suddenly left the gorge behind and the road ran straight and flat ahead. It was amaziing to turn and look over our shoulders and see that we have left the mountains behind. In front only flatness spreading out in all directions. in the far distance I suddenly spotted an aerial and within a few hundred metres we had mobile phone reception. I stopped to turn on my phone and instantly received the two text messages we were longing for: Negative Covid test results for both of us so we can rejoin society AKA shop for food and stay in a campsite when we get to Leigh Creek. We will have to have another test there as well which coincides with us being here 14 days so that works out well.
We pulled over on the side of the road to upload the website but the internet signal disappeared. As said aerial was in Parachilna we thought we would have lunch there and give it another go. However, said aerial was obviously not THE aerial as there was no 3G signal available. Parachilna would not be much to write home about on a good day, but with the public toilets closed and the hotel closed for renovations, there was only the old Ghan Railway station and a couple of picnic tables and benches. Still, they are trying to make something of the place with metal artwork. We headed back onto the bitumen and stopped at a creek about 10 km further on to camp. We could have kept going today but we are going to camp at Leigh Creek tomorrow and do laundry and are now about 55 km from there which is a morning's ride on this road which should be quiet and cool at that time. Only problem with our chosen bush camp was the fly plague.
We are trying for an earlier start and woke up at 05:30 this morning to be on the road before 07:00. It was so weird last night in bed; you could see the truck lights coming for about 10 min before they passed us - Super bright lights, but no sound, just super eery. We saw a few road trains on this road, and they were very loud when they passed our campsite, and also gave us food for thought as we try and avoid them. It grew windy overnight too and stayed warm. We slept with the outer tent doors open and could see the stars and milky way which were absolutely brilliant (bright) before the moon rose. We only had 55km to Leigh Creek but with the headwind it seemed to take forever. We pulled over at the turn off to Beltana historic village and leaned the bikes up against a metal cupboard. In a while a delivery truck came along to deliver things that had to go into the box, so we moved the bikes. The delivery driver was a jovial fellow who gave us the daily paper to read free of charge!
The road is pretty desolate now but the dry creek beds still have large shady eucylypts growing in them. It is pretty clear that this area copped the worst of the flood waters a few months ago, there are signs on the road of mud and debris being scraped clear, and also in places where water crossing the road has recently damaged the surfface. We saw a family of emu's rollicking through the scrub. There is as always a lot of road kill, mainly skippies. The road was pretty quiet for us (and especially, thhere were no road trains). First stop in Leigh Creek was our 13th day Covid Test at the hospital. The nurse was a little unsure if she could do it on a Friday as the collection was already done today and so it would have to wait in the fridge til Monday. She went off to check and found that another nurse was due to go to Port Augusta today so she would take them with her. We sat on the aircon box around the corner and she took the swabs. Boy, we were lucky to walk away with intact sinuses, she was VERY thorough. After this we went to the Foodland store and bought a lot of food. We like Leigh Creek. It seems a nice town with proper facilities and a good lay out, and very quiet. Our plan is to take the day off here tomorrow as the headwind is due to worsen for us and it will be warm again (29 degrees, which was the same as today). We did the laundry which is hanging on the washing line. It feels like the trip is only beginning.
After our rest day yesterday, we were up at 05:15 and on the road by 06:45. It was a fabulous ride, all gently downhill and the road was quiet and, most importantly, sealed all the way. We were expecting it to be unsealed after Lyndhurst for a way. The area is very flat and amazingly barren. There are things to see though, mostly the ever-present old Ghan Railway. We are getting used to the sometimes lunar landscape. We stopped for coffee at Lynhurst ("population 30 (most days)" according to the sign). It is amazing what these small dots on a map provide; in this case clean public toilets and treated water in the tap. Some interesting information boards too about the Oodnadatta and Strzelecki Tracks. The road to Innaminka turned right - no services for 473km. The Oodnadatta was straight ahead.
There would be a slight headwind today and it started up sometime after our lunch break at 11:00, as did the flies. This is of course a feature of the outback: plagues of flies. We are using our fly nets and at least they don't bite. They did make for a tasty addition to my jam and cream cheese wrap though. We decided to ride another 20 km after lunch and find a bush camp. The large shrubs out here provide a lot more shade than you would think. We lay under one for a couple of hours before getting into the tent.
We heard the sheep coming home during the night, bleating and bah-ing away as they came closer. Our bush camp was at a dried up waterhole, but it had obviously been full with the recent rains so it seemed to have resulted in millions of flies and also other bugs which were attracted to the tent when we had our headtorches on inside last night. The bugs in turn attracted a bird which flew back and forth just over the tent catching the bugs. Everything has got to eat. Except nothing seems to eat flies. We really appreciate the brilliant sunsets and sunrises out here and feel lucky that we will be seeing many. It is a highlight of each day. As we got on the bike to leave our bushcamp before 07:00, a family of emus poked their heads out of the waterhole and loped along towards us, obviously very interested and curious. They ran alongside us for a while. The road to Marree continued sealed, slightly downhill and lightly trafficed. We had a slight tailwind as well. We stopped at a few interesting things (see pics). One seemed to be an "Inukshuk" which we are used to seeing in Canada. I don't know if there is an Australian equivalent. It is meant to represent a man showing you the way. This one was big and his head had fallen off and lay on the ground behind him.
We arrived Marree at 09:00 and it has a frontier feeling. It is interesting to read about the history of the Afghan cameleers and the Old Ghan Railway. There is a railway museum at the old station. The railway only stopped runnig in the 1980's. A strange lady came to speak to us, starting by asking if we had had a look at the mud mosque yet (a relic from the cameldriving days) and ended up by telling us the water irrigation was illegal and the government pays everyone hush money... Hmmm, Nutter! We went to the post office to pick up our food parcels which we had mailed from home just before leaving. As usual we wondered where everything would go and then it all disappears into panniers and seems to fit okay. We went to a picnic site in town by the old station to fill up our water containers. They had rainwater tanks there so we can fill them up and then Steripen the water. An older gentlemen came to have a chat. He has lived in Marree all his life, he is descended from Afghan camel drivers and he lives in an "Afghan house" in the town. It seems the town only had Afghan housing and railway worker housing. He worked on the railway until it shut down and then he did work in the hotel. He said that there are only 80 permanent inhabitants in Marree, but during the railway heyday this was much higher. The track required maintenance all the way up to Oodnadatta and beyond. We asked about the summers here and he said that they all have aircon at home now and you would die without it as the temperatures get to 50 degC. In summer there are hardly any visitors. The closest main centre for him for medical appointments and the like is Port Augusta and he said that everyone knows if someone is going down and or coming back and they will pick up supplies for you. Otherwise the Foodland at Leigh Creek will deliver. We are always so interested in the way people manage living in small communities. Perhaps the lack of choice in what you eat is made up by the sunrise you can watch each morning?
Without further ado we set off to start riding the Oodnadatta proper. We had a strong southerly wind by now which was a crosswind for us and turned very strong within a couple of hours. The motorists on the track are very accommodating of us. The track is wide and the views expansive and mostly of nothing. It is very flat and barren and vast. No more eucalypt trees or any trees for that matter. The surface is not as good as we had expected. The corrugations were bad in places and hard to avoid. Other places are very sandy, and at times it is difficult to pick a line. The wind brought with it cloud cover which was encouraging and meant we were still riding after 14:00. It seemed much cooler. We could see to the south that far away it was raining and are unsure if the wind will bring the rain all the way here. Rain was forecast south of us; 1mm. We pitched the tent just off the old Ghan Railway embabkment. Other good news today is that our 13 day covid test result came back negative.
The wind blew hard all night and then we had some drops of rain. Also a few road trains rumbled passed during the night, which was reassuring as it seemed unlikely then that we would meet any during the day. When they come you hear a low rumble from ages away and you see a massive dust cloud lit up like a spaceship is landing and it just draws closer and closer, until it passes with all colours of lights beaming and the ground vibrating around it. As it was cloudy last night, it was so dark you could literally not see your hand in front of your face so the road trains passing had an even greater impact. We were pleased to wake to a favourable wind and a cooler day.
The road was in much better form today, although you stilll need to concentrate hard, you can at least look at the view and overall our average speed was pretty good for an unsealed road. We saw the strange sculptue park (see pic).We stopped for our morning coffee at the turn off to a mining road. A mining vehicle came along and the driver and passenger were friendly and had a chat. They were inspecting a water pipe feeding the Olympic Dam Mine in Roxby Downs which they said was 2 hours that way. They wished us well on our trip. A short while later we came down a hill towards two caravans camped by a creek and a man who had been walking along the fenceline came running along to chat to us. He and his wife have travelled from NSW and are on the road for 18 months. He offered us water and was interested on our trip. When we stopped for lunch a while later he came along again this time with wife and van, hopping out of his car to find a Geocache on an old rail bridge and we had a chat again. All the other vehicles passing us were really good, everyone waving, hooting and even shouting encouragement out the window, always giving us plenty of room. It is a great atmosphere.
After lunch I cycled in my fly net as the flies had become ridiculous. It keeps them away, but also somehow hampers your vision and so that is a downside. Mike puts up with the flies as he prefers to see where he's going! That includes having flies trying to enter your brain via your ears, so I opted for the net for a while. It was great to see Lake Eyre and read about the Lake Eyre Basin and aquifer. This area is 12 m below sea level. We had not realised the size of the basin - it takes up 22% of Australia and the water stored under the ground is inexhaustable. Unless we wreck it somehow which is always a possibility. The lake itself is an amazing sight, as you draw near it you would reallly think it is water, although it is only salt. We passed a few spots today with ponds or waterpools; all salty. It is amazing though how quickly the reed beds and birds would have arrived with the recent rains.
We found a good bushcamp at the 80 km mark. Overall today was much cooler and this looks set to continue. It makes a big difference feeling comfortable riding until 15:00. Our camp spot is 13 m below sea level which is a little strange, but dry.
Judith (as she was falling asleep), "Do you think we need to worry about dingoes here? Sleeping with the tent outer open makes me think one could run off with one of my cycling boots." Mike responds, "I don't think there is anything here, besides dingoes don't steal boots, they only steal babies." So ends another evening in the great Australian Outback, and these are the things that occupy our minds. Setting off this morning it was only 3 degC and we were followed for a way by a pair of raptors. Smart hunting, they are looking to see if we send any small rodents or rabbits scuttling away and then they will pounce. We have had this sort of bird behaviour before on tour.
The road was fairly rubbish for the first 10-15 km, mostly either corrugated (around 200 mm deep) or deep sand, so just the things to hack you off. We have realised that as most of the traffic goes in the direction of William Creek or Marla (same way as us) the left hand side of the road is mostly completely crapped out. So we find it easier to get a rideable line on the right hand side AKA the wrong direction. Very little traffic though today, less than yesterday and hardly anything coming towards us. We had a brief rest at Margaret's Siding, an old fettlar's building and then rested for a coffee break at Coward Springs. This is a great little spot. It's a really well set out campsite, the best we have seen here. We paid $2 day use fee which gave us access to the hotsprings, but we didn't stay for a swim. We did get water though from the rainwater tank. Out here places rely on borewater (like Marree) or rainwater. I also bought some dates which they grow here. They did have a little coffee van and will serve up your regular morning cappucino. We have our flask coffee though. We chatted to a few campers.
After this the road got a bit better, then a bit worse, then a lot worse. Unfortunately we could not really enjoy the view as you had to keep your eyes glues to the ground to spot changes in the surface. We stopped at another old Ghan siding for lunch and the fly plague began and did not end. We had to ride in our flynets after that;even Mike resorted to a fly net as it seemed safer to not see where one was going, rather than going nuts! The flies were climbing into our eyeballs, ears, mouths. We swallowed a couple. One fought back and disappeared somewhere up my sinuses. I think I will probably blow it out tomorrow. On the plus side, not a breath of wind today. Maybe this is why so many flies?
We had decided to go another 80 km today so started looking for a bushcamp around then and found one easily. Just before a helpful guy driving passed slowed down to ask if we needed anything. Earlier another guy slowed down to yell out his window: "You guys are mad!". The road improved at the end of the day, just as I developed a real pain in the arse (not Mike), right under my sit bones. I could no longer sit. I hope it recovers overnight!
A meteor shower was scheduled and we hoped to see it in the early hours of this morning, but it was cloudy. We woke feeling tired and a little battle weary. We have three days to get to Oodnadatta and are only supposed to be there by Monday. As we stand now, we would be there by Saturday. We can't really start getting too much ahead as we have booked into a hotel in Alice Springs and also, we tend to do this, we sort of push on when taking a break would be good. So we had 10 km to ride into William Creek and would then take the day off. As usual the minute we get on the bike, we feel like we can just keep going. It was a perfect morning, stunning sunrise and the road to ourselves. As we are travelling northwest, the corrugations really loom before you in the morning, the rising sun picks up every little pebble and throws a shadow. My butt still felt a little cross with me. We drew into William Creek and onto bitumen for a few hundred meters. The only thing here is the hotel and campsite and airstrip. People take scenic flights over Lake Eyre as the northern part cannot be seen from the track. We sat in the little park and as we could access the internet here, we checked out the weather and the campsite accomodation. There are little cabin rooms and en suite cabins as well. We thought maybe a day away from the flies was in order and went over to the hotel to book a cabin room. It is only big enough for the double bed, our panniers and most importantly a large and noisy aircon. We have to choose between running the aircon and charging stuff. Well actually we don't, we could charge our stuff by solar but that is outside and we want to be inside. The solar charging has been working really well up to now, and there always seems to be enough sun. We had a shower (complimentary towels and soap), did the laundry, and went back to the hotel for a burger (yum). We also saw the young family we chatted to yesterday at Coward Springs who camped here last night. Now we will spend the rest of the day getting very cold in our little room. Hooray! Apparently flies do bite, and we have been warned that they can nip you in the corners of your eyes and give you a nasty infection. Death to flies!
It is always strange being indoors, neither of us slept very well, not as much fresh air I guess, but so nice to have a rest from the outdoors. We woke around 05:00 and were both a little apprehensive about the day considering it was the first time we would need to carry water for three days. Throughout the trip the longest time from water point to water point would be two nights and three days, so we would leave water supply on the morning of day one and be at another water supply point on the night of the third day. We had done the calculations many times and tweeked the number according to our experience out here. We decided that 36 litres was the number. This meant carrying a water bag each in addition to our usual 23 litre maximum water total. Mike would carry a 10L bag and I would carry about 5 or 6L extra. The bags get strapped to the back of the bike. The campsite at William Creek had a desalination system in place to treat the borewater and so we did not have to do any further treatment. We wondered how we would go with the extra weight. We were already carrying a lot of extra food. We thought we might wobble out of the campground. We hoped the road was better.
We got on our way without a wobble and the road out of William Creek was as it was before (not very good), but it improved remarkably after the turnoff to Coober Pedy and was really good. It was as always a perfect morning. The dry creeks we crossed had small eucalypt trees. It had been ages since we had seen these. We passed a few groups of cows along with protective and very big bulls. We did not make eye contact. Stock roam freely here. This area falls in Anna Creek Station which is the biggest cattle station in the world. It seemed to get greener throughout the day, the area had bloomed with the recent rains/floods. It warmed up after lunch but the road stayed very good which we were happy. Long may it last; you can't believe it is the same road as we had ridden into William Creek. Otherwise though, nothing happens out here; no points of interest, the Old Ghan railway has disappeared from view completely for most of the day. The first car passed us after 3 hours of riding, which might explain the good road conditions. We had a few convoys pass as well, one group which did not slow down at all and showered us with dust and grit and another group which passed slowly and two members asked if we needed anything and had enough water.
We knew that rain was forecast for tomorrow and it grew a little overcast. Rain is a hit and miss affair up here. If you are cycling the Oodnadatta you hope for the miss! Suddenly the Ghan was back in view and after not seeing any eucalypt trees since lunchtime we came to Duff Creek where the trees threw good shade. It is a big effort to get the bikes off the road into these creek beds as the dried mud and sand is soft and the weight of the bikes just siinks them straight in. We lay in the shade for a while, then decided to move everything over the road and along a track out of the creek bed as with the possibility of rain, these creeks can fill in a few hours. This meant hauling our gear to our casmp site first and then pulling the bikes out of the creeks and along the road. It is a great little camp spot though. As there were no trees there though, it meant showering in full view of the road. The road is dead quiet but of course a 4WD drove past when I was rinsing off. We stand on an old tent ground sheet to shower so I could just grab the end off the ground and use it as a modesty screen. Mike threw a towel over my head for good measure. As the sun was setting a 4WD pulled in to camp under the old rail bridge. Who would have thought... with the whole of Outback at their disposal? Drops of rain are falling on the tent.
It rained a bit overnight, big drops that did not really wet the ground, but as we got up the rain increased. We made breakfast and ate in the tent. We set off quite early (before 07:00) into a gloomy morning. The road was pretty good for about the first 10 km, then at the turn off to Nilpinna Station it got really bad for about 8 km. The rain cleared up and we saw a road roller parked by the road with very fresh tracks leading to it. Winner! We sat on it and had our tea/coffee. About a 100m down the road we hit a freshly graded road! Fantastic! Pace picked up a lot and we sped off. After a few kilometres though the freshly graded road became a problem. The rain had fallen heavily in this area and lay in pools by the road side (can you believe it, pools of water on the Oodnadatta? Neither could we). We were following fresh tyre tracks left by a caravan that morning and the mud just completely jammed up my tyres as it built up between mudguard and tyre. Mike found a handy stick to pull the mud out but it kept happening. Eventually I could barely ride at all. We managed to get to a creek with some trees and I unpacked my bike so that Mike could adjust my rear mudguard for extra clearance. After this the road was much drier anyway as it seemed the rain was very localised.
All in all it had been an exhausting morning. We took an hour off for lunch and had a snooze. As the sun was now out it was hot and humid. The road was so quiet that we started to wonder if they had not closed it due to the mud bath behind us. Well it would become a mudbath with high vehicle use. The odd car did pass though. The road remained in good condition for the rest of the day. Nothing to see though. The landscape reminds us of Africa and it would liven things up to see a group of girafffe or something. We did see a lone bull sleeping near the road and jumped to his feet when he heard us coming. We also saw a very still lizard in the middle of the road. That was all. After Algebuckina we found a brilliant bushcamp on top of the hill with wonderful 360 degree views. We have been swarmed on by flies all day, from the time we got up this morning in the darkl and have worn flynets all day. As we got into the tent and the sun went down the mosquitos have come out in droves. It just never ends...
The road was mostly good on the short ride to Oodnadatta. There were a few sections which were very badly corrugated and the edges far too deep in gravel to ride, but overall good. Quite a few cars leaving Oodnadatta in a hurry. We found out later that yesterday was gymkhana which explains it. We saw our first dingo today on a hill alongside the track. He was being harrassed by a few crows. The Old Ghan Railway drew in very close to the track as it neared it's northern terminus in Oodnadatta. A few kilometres before the town you can turn off towards Coober Pedy. We pulled into the famous Pink Roadhouse at 11:30 and ordered two Oodna burgers with the lot. This was an amazing meal, just the right size for cycle tourists! Very friendly people at the Roadhouse too. They have a good grocery store. We are staying at the campground behind the roadhouse. We washed our cycling clothes and enjoyd the shower. We relaxed in the shade of a tree and went for a stroll around the little town. It has a nice feel to it. There is even a free camping ground in town at a picnic site, but no toilet there. The town does not have treated water but the roadhouse told us about the school which has a solar water distillor trwith a little tap. We filled up for the next three days to Marla.
We went back to the roadhouse for chips and thickshakes for dinner. The excitement on the track at the moment is that due to the wet weather it was/is closed to non-4WD and vehicles towing. Does not affect us.
We set off with our 36 L of water, day one of our last three days on the Oodnadatta Track to Marla. The road condition sign as we left the bitumen showed the road open to 4WD only, no towing. The first 25 km sped by, great road, the beautiful morning dawning all around us. We had our coffee break at this point, one 4WD drove by in the direction of Marla and two farm utes came by in the opposite direction. These farm boys sure can drive this track! They race into view and disappear into a cloud of dust but stilll have time to give us a big grin and a wave. After this things just kind of deteriorated from here on out. The road conditions were horrendous. You would hit a good patch and then it just got more and more corrugated with soft edges that we could not ride on, so you were sort of left bouncing on the corrugations until your arse wore out or your bike broke in half. We stopped for lunch around 11:30 and three cars towing caravans sped by in the same direction as us so they must have decided the road was okay for towing. The road is dry, but there are massive ruts where vehicles have done severe damage when it was wet.
We saw a lot of cows today, well bulls actually, except there was one group of cows with babies. The track passes through Todmorden Station, another big cattle station. As always, the station is unfenced so the animals wander onto the track. Then they see us and go a little crazy, running all over the place. I guess as the track is quieter further north they make more use of it in their wanderings. We still had many flies, as it was a headwind day our backs are completely covered with them taking shelter. Also, they crap all over us; the backs of our shirts have hundreds of little dots on them, it is fly poo. Eventually the road was more "bad" than anything else. Very sandy in patches with fine red dust. We had to get off and walk in bits. The only good thing in all of this was besides the vehicles I have mentioned, we saw not one other. Apart from the cowboys this morning, no other vehicles came from the opposite direction. At the lowest point of the afternoon it took us an hour to cover 7 km. Then the road improved a bit and became rideable, but we were fighting a headwind and also carrying all the water so it seemed a good idea at 70 km to call it a day.
The area is greener than we have seen and so invites just popping of the road to camp, which we did, leaning our bikes together. As we walked into the bush to have a look, we heard them fall over. Something always breaks when this happens. Sure enough, one of my 2 L bottles had almost ripped off my downtube. So that is bad. Anyway, Mike used some heavy duty cable ties to secure the bottle cage and swapped it for a lighter bottle. He also serviced my belt drive with Omo (something we have learnt on this trip to stop the squealing it makes due to dust). We were then ready to take a shower and just relax. Until I spotted that Mike's back tyre was flat. This was during Mike's shower. So now that he was clean he had to remove a very dirty back wheel and we had to find the puncture and fix it. All of the tyres were full of HUGE thorns, as are our shoes, so it was not suprising. You get a lot of thorns in the Outback. So we fixed that and then we were worried about our mattresses getting punctures tonight, so Mike got into the tent to feel around the floor with his fingers and then I was on the outside sliding my arms under the tent to take out the thorns. This did not really work so we have put down our dry bags under our mattresses for some protection. We will have to think of a better plan than this long term. So in the end there was no chance of relaxing this afternoon. Around 17:00 the two cowboys sped back along the road, one actually looked over his shoulder while going at what looked like 80 km an hour and the other smiles at us and waved. They clearly know the road better than most. As for us, we are about ready for the Oodnadatta Track to be over.
We half carried our unloaded bikes to the track this morning and packed them there. We are so nervous about the thorns. The sun is rising later so that even though we are on the bikes by 07:00 it is only really growing light. This is good as it feels like you are stealing a little daytime for free. We had camped at the 140 km track marker, that is 140 km to Marla, so the plan was to ride 70km today and the same tomorrow. We felt a little tired. The track was okay and then again got steadily worse. We were banking on this changing after the turnoff to Todmorden Station as you would think most traffic to and from happens via Oodnadatta. This was a correct assumption but after this point the road grew interesting. The best part was no corrugations. The cause - no one comes here. We saw a total of 7 vehicles all day and once again only one coming from Marla. You can kind of see why, there is nothing out here for people to see. It is only a couple of cattle stations and so if you see a cow or two you are lucky. The scenery is still beautiful, but our guess is most people drive Maree-William Creek/Oodnadatta and then turn off to drive through the Painted Desert, Coober Pedy, etc. So given that the track is not often used, it was often very rocky or at least rock strewn. This is okay for a part day on a bicycle, but trying to churn out 70 km on this stuff day after day becomes a punishment. The only way through is just to think around 08:00, "Okay, today I get to throw my body and bike at this until it is over." We would have loved to ride an extra 10 km but it was not possible. As the trip distance clicked to 70km we were at a lovely gravelly flat section by the roadside and called it a day. It was alreadt 3:00 pm!
The incident that made the day worse was that the 2L water container bolted to me left front fork parted company with said fork together with it's bracket and bolts an hour into the day. It had rattled a little this morning, but as we had checked the bolts last night after the bikes fell over and another water container came a cropper, we decided to check it at tea time. Then all of a sudden it just dropped off while I was riding. So now my brilliant Surly front fork has two holes ripped out of it where the bracket should be bolted on. It looks safe enough for now, but I still felt a little sick about it. We get to Marla and the internet tomorrow and will have to order a new fork (not the same as of course you can't get them anymore) and then probably a front rack and panniers to hold the water as there would not be another fork you could trust with this load. We don't think this was a case of equipment failure, but a casualty of the "bikes falling over affair". When something like this goes wrong it really dents morale. We are happy putting up with crap road conditions, millions of flies, no water and accept these things as part of the experience, but equipment issues just seem unfair. On the plus side the weather is definitely cooler and the fly numbers have more than halved. Happy days.
We are very aware of the night sky out here and you realise how important the moon and stars would have been for people who live on the land. We have had night after night of clear skies and we often look at the stars for ages. Last night we were too sleepy though. The moon and stars are more interesting than the sun as they change night after night and at different times of night too. It is a real bonus of a trip like this. We were so tired this morning and very apprehensive about another long day's ride. It was the last day of the Oodnadatta Track thoug,h which is pretty momentous. The road was actually really good and only had a few rocky sections so overall it was a breeze. Our bodies though were still paying the price of the last few days. We were to pass Welbourne Hill Station after about 25km and wondered if the road after that towards Marla would be overused and in worse condition. It was good though; what a relief! We took a few quite long breaks today and the track was quiet. About 5km out from Marla the road turned corrugated again and quite sandy but it was almost over.
Marla has a caravan park (with swimming pool!), fabulous roadhouse and 24 hour supermarket! You can watch road trains pull off the highway just in front of the park and there are picnic tables under trees on grass, so all in all a lot of entertainment for us! Rest day tomorrow.
We did some research and placed some online orders. We decided to purchase a new fork for my bike. The fork will probably last okay for now but who knows what will happen when we get to other big unsealed roads in NT and WA? We have ordered a Thorn fork (same make as my Nomad Mk 3 frame). We also had to work out how I could carry water on the front e.g. a front rack, and after some research have decided a Revelate Ranger frame bag looks like a good plan. It fits into the triangle of the frame. We also ordered two 3L Nalgene water bags to go inside. So this is a different system to the containers attached to the fork, but we think it will work well, and should also be safer. Mike also ordered the same Revelate frame bag in a larger size as the zip on his second Ortlieb frame bag (originally replaced under warranty in Canada) is failing again. The bags will be shippped to Alice Springs, the fork to Yulara.
We had a slight tailwind today and it is just amazing what some good bitumen combined with the wind can help you achieve. We only had morning tea after 54 km and the butter and jam sandwiches kept us fueled for the rest of the day. It was a great ride. The road has a shoulder, very narrow for the most part and rumble strips separate it from the road, but they are not difficult to ride if you end up on them. The traffic was mainly quite quiet and mostly caravanners and the odd road train. We stopped a couple of times after morning tea at designated picnic areas. We were able to get more water at a tank at Marryat Creek Picnic Area and camped a couple of kilometres after this.
We are drinking much less as it is much cooler and are camping in a great red dirt spot just off the road. On the way we passed through a few cattle stations and the road is often unfenced and has cattle grids across just like the Oodnadatta Track. The similarities end there though!
We had a couple more equipment issues today with a bolt holding one of Mike's water bottles in place under his downtube shearing off and he also found a broken stay on his front rack. He was able to repair the latter, but we will need to get some help with the former if we want to use that bottle cage mount. We seem to be able to take this in our stride more now, it helps to be on a decent road! We only have about 40km left in SA and reach NT tomorrow. We have spent 28 nights in SA.
It was a cold morning at just over 1 degC as we hopped back onto the Stuart Highway. We had a stop after about 38 km at the SA/NT border which is quite a nice spot. There is a HUGE water tank with either very little water in it or they have set the tap to a unbearably low flow so that people don't take too much. We did not need any. You can camp overnight there and there is a toilet. We stopped again at Kulgera Roadhouse. They serve the usual hot meals and there is a pub but the shop had hardly anything to buy, just soft drinks and chocolates. We ate our usual lunch of wraps with Nutella or Biscoff spread at the picinc table outside. A few travellers spoke to us about our trip.
The wind was not always as favourable as yesterday but it was mainly downhill which was a win. The road did not seem as quiet as yesterday but it was good. The rumble strips must be a SA thing as the road in the NT has only a white line. We started looking for a bush camp at the 100 km mark and found one not long after. We have 4 days available to us to get to Alice Springs and it is only 230km away, so that could be 4 days of less than 60km each or any variation of that. We are going to end up with a northerly wind by next week so we are relieved not to have to churn out long days.