Home from Renmark
Day 26: Renmark to Blanchetown was a very great relief compared to the previous day. The Riverland has dips and bends which break up the wind, unlike the arrow straight road from Mildura. There is also a lot more cover in the form of orchards which come right up to the roadside. The wind had also dropped substantially, with only brief gusts above 30 kilometres per hour. This was all very welcome, after the nasty first sharp rise out of Renmark. My legs were hurting for the first time on the whole trip. Patrick Yonkers apparently says if you can’t find a hill, ride into the wind. Well, he’s right. What a day!
The river is very high. The old road into Barmera, which runs across the river flats from Kingston on Murray. is underwater for hundreds of metres in a number of places. Out on the lake that currently constitutes the river there were white caps; the wind had not disappeared. What had almost disappeared was the semi traffic going in the Adelaide direction. This is because the traditional Sturt Highway is replaced for some distance by the newer bypass through Monash. Much of the traffic also stopped at the big wineries in Berri and Kingston. Coupled with less wind noise this left me able to ride on the road and not the verge. This also made for a much easier and less painful ride for the day.
Blanchetown has a very nice caravan park which is quite at odds with the rough and ready nature of the rest of the town. It is right on the river, and was all the better because Wendy arrived an hour or so after I did!
Day 27: The last day to Adelaide continued through contrary climatic behaviour. The plains across to the Northern Mount Lofty Ranges were greener than I’ve ever seen them. If you didn’t recognise the vegetation as what is left after country is eaten out and beaten up by a century of overstocking, it would almost look inviting. Why people by little twenty or thirty acre farmlets out there is beyond my imagining.
Accommodation Hill is the name of the climb up off the plains into Truro. It looks like you are riding towards a most un-accommodating range as you approach from a distance! Closer in it begins to look less forbidding, and is actually a relatively easy climb. That said, a number of the semi’s which overtook me were not going that much faster than me!
I could see the annual rainfall level begin to rise by the mile once I was a couple of miles from the range. Cropping starts. Decent trees begin to grow. Creeks happen.
The plan was to ride up out of Truro and then just past Stockwell. At that point I could take the Point Pass Road, which runs straight down the east side of the Barossa, almost to Bethany. Unfortunately, it is now signposted as the Barossa Transport Route, and had trucks queuing at the intersection off the Sturt Highway! I compromised and took the middle road, the traditional route down through Nuriootpa to Lyndoch.
Nuri and Tanunda have dedicated bike paths. In Nuriootpa this corresponds to a verge that would stress a mountain bike. The local council should be ashamed of itself, and is obviously in two minds as to whether it has a path or not. In some places the bike logos have been bituminised over.
It is not a pleasant ride through the Barossa, as the traffic is very heavy, and the verge is extremely coarse, and sometimes not very wide. On the plus side, once you have climbed out of Truro, it is basically a downhill ride to Adelaide. Even the traffic (think Main North Road in Enfield!) cannot totally detract from the beauty of the vines at the moment.
Near Rowland Flat a quad bike chugged up through the vines to the road, towing a trailer laden with picker’s buckets. A black sheep dog sat on the boss’s lap with its eyes shining and tongue lapping in the breeze. Paradise for a dog! It’s beautiful country. There was something endearing about finding little groups of cars on the roadside as pickers worked their way across the vineyard. Very different from the plantings of the Riverland, where the vine rows are like untidy, grown out number two haircuts from machine pruning, and those which have been picked are yellow and battered from the harvester rods.
I decided that Wendy and I should have a celebratory bottle of wine, and rode into the drive through local pub, the Red Lion, in Elizabeth north. I knew I was at home. The bloke on duty did not bat an eye at my stinky lycra, and told me that the mer-lot was in the fridge with the other whites.
The ride to Blanchetown was 125 kilometres, and the last day back home was 114 kilometres. In total, I have ridden 3114 kilometres in 27 days, which is 115 km per day, or 141 kilometres per day if you take out the rest days. I now have to rejoin a world where there is a little more to do than making the requisite amount of miles for the day! I spent the night dreaming about helping a friend step out of her comfort zone. The friend, of course, is me!