On To Australia


Wednesday, March 30 : Auckland to Adelaide

We get to Melbourne right on time, then there is a sudden baggage handlers' strike. My bike just gets through before they quit, but not the bag. There is a long wait in the customs hall. A couple of Kiwi musicians provide some entertainment, as they apparently haven't checked their trumpets. Meet a couple from North Dakota who have been cycling in NZ for two months.

Melbourne airport is smoke free. Maybe this is a civilized country!

Finally get to Adelaide, 2.5 hours late. Bike makes it, but not the bag. When the bag gets to the hotel, it has obviously been searched right down to the film cans full of ball bearings. No telling what the customs people thought of all that biking stuff. I sure hope nothing got lost, though.

It's been warm in Adelaide, about 33 degrees. My first warm evening of the trip.

Adelaide seems OK. Rush hour traffic isn't bad at all. The city seems a bit like Madison, only bigger.

I can't reach the city information office, so I end up staying at the "Plaza Hotel". A real dump, but quiet and only $25.

There's a nice mall downtown, Rundle Street, but it's mostly the usual trendy "Shoppes". It would really be nice if there were some outdoor restaurants, etc. There's a good supermarket, though.

Thursday, March 31 : Adelaide

The "Plaza Hotel" was pretty bad. Very hot, no ventilation, bugs. Moved to "Hotel Adjacent Casino", just around the corner. Still a dump, not quite as cheap, but much better. There doesn't seem to be anyone in particular in charge, but all four of the desk clerks I run into agree I can leave my bike box in the luggage locker. Obviously, one should budget a bit more money for hotels in cities.

Get all the chores done early. Even get a radio license and callsign: VK5ANX. Fail to find good bike route information for the city, but trains go to Noarlunga and Gawler, so there's no problem getting out of town.

Take the tram to the beach town of Glenelg in the afternoon, just as the cold front arrives. Turns windy and cool, but the water is still quite warm. Nice beach, must get very crowded in good weather.

Holiday traffic may be pretty bad. Hopefully, most of it will be far beyond where I'm going tomorrow. Light rain after long dry spell makes roads slippery, though. Hope campgrounds have room for a tent.

Friday, April 1 : Adelaide to Noarlunga (train)

Noarlunga to Normanville 80/3598 km

A big party night in Adelaide last night--start of holiday weekend. Drunks were still wandering around at 5 AM. Lots of people about at 8 AM, probably haven't been to bed yet! (I later read in Australian Newsweek that the Hindley Street area of Adelaide, right here, has a reputation as the most dangerous, rowdy place in any city in Australia. Australian authorities bemoan the violence and crime, yet most of it is due to the fact that the bars are open 24 hours every day!)

Lots of brief showers, strong southwest wind, fast-moving clouds. High about 20. Not bad weather, though.

Train was $4 with bike, a nice way to get out of town.

Lots of traffic everywhere except the gravel farm roads. Few trucks, though. Road toward Victor Harbor very bad. Cape Jervis road not as bad, but narrower. I'll sure be glad when the Easter holidays are over.

Cycle route map is out of date. Quite a few more roads are sealed.

Most stores are closed, but a few are open. I think more will be open after today. Even the pub in Normanville is closed on this Friday night (Good Friday).

Fairly hilly, but not as bad as the Driftless Area. Gravel stretches are rough, but fairly hard.

Farm country--mostly grain, then cattle and sheep further south. Lots of water tanks. Looks like it would be easy to find a place to camp.

Caravan park in Normanville is pretty full, but there's an open area across the road where several groups are camping with tents. Tonight may be a big party night, but otherwise it's OK. Sandy, with some dunes. Right near beach. It looks like Australian caravan parks don't have kitchens, so I'd better find some stove fuel!

Saturday, April 2 : Normanville to Cape Jervis

(Ferry to Penneshaw) 37/3633 km

A cool, cloudy day. Strong sough wind, high about 20, some very light showers, but drier than yesterday. Promised clearing is slow in coming.

I find a bottle of "White Spirit" in the Normanville hardware store, the last bottle. Stove fuel is going to be essential, and I have to start using up some of this food I'm carrying around. Plenty of stores open Saturday. Good Friday seems to be when everything is closed.

Traffic to Cape Jervis is very bad, road narrow. No trucks, though. Australian drivers are no worse than Kiwis or Americans. The climb to about 300 meters is no fun with all the traffic. Otherwise the hills aren't bad. Perhaps a total of 600 meters of climbing today.

Ferries to Kangaroo Island are at 10 AM and 6 PM, so I have to wait a few hours. The smart thing would have been to hit the road at first light and catch the 10 AM boat, but I had to wait for the hardware store to open.

It looks very dry and desert-like here, no doubt due to the March dryness. (It rains mainly in the winter here.) Fire danger must be very high.

I haven't seen any kangaroos yet, but I do see one very brightly colored bird cross the road. Blue and orange(?). Almost as big as a magpie, perhaps some sort of parrot.

It starts to rain hard before the ferry reaches Penneshaw. It's completely dark when we arrive, and still raining. Fortunately, the caravan park is close to the ferry dock. By the time I set up my tent, it isn't raining hard. After wandering around in the rain and darkness for quite a while, I finally find the "center" of Penneshaw, where there is a very crowded pub serving food. Sure beats cooking in the rain. There seems to be an American women's rowing team visiting. Seems strange to hear all those American accents here.

Sunday, April 3 : Penneshaw to Kingscote 74/3707 km

Light rain last night. Today is cloudy, gloomy, and cool, but no rain. High about 20. Wind shifts to ENE in the afternoon.

There's some traffic on the main roads, but nothing compared to the mainland. Gravel roads have lots of soft sandy sections, so I won't try to ride around the island, as I had planned.

There's some bush, but mainly sheep grazing country. Almost no sheep now, and very dry. This must be a winter range.

Lots of flattened kangaroos on the road, but no live ones yet.

See large flock of pigeon-sized birds with bright pink undersides. A local woman walking along the road can't identify them. (It turns out they are Galahs, an extremely common bird in South Australia.)

Drinking water is scarce. I pay $2.50 for a 1.5 liter bottle in American River.

Halfway to Kingscote, I realize I left my clean laundry on the drying rack at the caravan park in Penneshaw. After I get to Kingscote, it costs me $20 to take a bus back in the evening to pick it up. Something to add to the morning check list.

Monday, April 4 : Kangaroo Island Bus Tour

Finally a sunny day, 25 degrees.

I get the last seat on the bus tour. $62, but worth it. It's a small bus, 20 seats, so the group isn't large. The route is Reeve's Point (Kingscote), Parndana, Kelly Hill Caves, Remarkable Rocks, Cape du Couedic, Rocky River, Vivonne Bay, Seal Bay.

Kangaroo Island

Good views of pelicans near Reeve's Point. The Kelly Hill caves are in a shallow limestone layer. It's 16 degrees inside, no water now, but usually wetter this time of year. Rain takes several months to seep down to cave. The caves were formed by collapse from below.

New Zealand fur seals at Cape du Couedic are apparently the same species as in NZ. Young seals seem to spend about 4 years at sea, so they could well cross the Tasman Sea. These seals descend from land mammals, as opposed to other seals. One difference is that they can turn their hind flippers 90 degrees to walk. They like to gorge themselves inside purse seine fishing nets, then jump out of the net before it closes. They're obviously much smarter than dolphins.

At Rocky River, there's all sorts of tame wildlife near the park headquarters: Koalas, kangaroos (very tame), emus, Cape Barren geese. Koalas are introduced to Kangaroo Island.

Vivonne Bay is mainly a base for local commercial fishing, on a pretty small scale.

The sea lion colony at Seal Bay allows only guided tours. (It's a national park.) The sea lions are very tolerant, and seem to mostly ignore humans completely. The population is just stable. The big males charge along the beach 20 meters or so, then collapse in a heap to rest. They spend 2-3 days at a time at sea feeding, then 2-3 days on shore, mostly sleeping. During mating season, males go for weeks without feeding. The ranger tells me quite a bit about fur seals, as well as the sea lions.

The tour driver is a native of Kangaroo Island. He runs a farm and drives the bus part time. Farming here depends on winter rains. Oats, barley, and hay grow in winter, harvested in spring. Sheep and cattle eat hay in summer. Things usually start to turn green in late April.

The native bush we see is very dense, but doesn't look brown like the paddocks. Obviously, it's adapted to this climate. I wonder if fires were a factor before people arrived, though there probably isn't much lightning here.

The Parndana area was settled and cleared only after the war. Australians were getting pretty desperate for usable land already. Lots of land, no water. I suppose Australia could grow enough food for a larger population, but can't rely on food and wool exports to support many more people. I later read that a group of prominent Australian scientists has concluded that Australia can't support more than about 22 million, even though the country is now producing enough food for 60 million. (There are 18 million now.)

The holiday crowds don't seem to have thinned out much. Perhaps lots of people are taking another day or so off.

Tuesday, April 5 : Kingscote to Emu Bay 28/3735 km

A warm, humid, mostly sunny day. High about 25.

An easy ride, with not much traffic, but a very narrow road at times.

Dry Lake Bed (Australia Sutro)

I stop by the vacation home of a ham I contacted several times a few years ago, VK5AMA. He never replied to my letter before the trip, though he had sent me some maps earlier, including the one I have with his place marked on it. There's no sign anyone has been there in a long time. There are no tracks, and by thumping on their sides, I determine the water tanks are nearly full. One small UHF antenna is still there, but the feedline has been cut off. Looks like Dennis has had some problems. He was certainly old when I talked to him, so for all I know he may have died. That's the problem with a hobby that attracts so many retirees. They're also the ones who have time to talk on their radios in the afternoon, when it's evening in the U.S.

There's a nice, quiet campsite at Emu Bay, though there are cottages all around. Campground is practically empty. The rain water tank is empty, and the water trucked in for the toilets is questionable, but I drink it anyway.

The "White Spirit" I bought for the stove won't burn. I thought it smelled like stove fuel, but it must be deodorized kerosene, or something. Fortunately, there's a gas cooker in the shelter.

The non-flammable stove fuel provides an excuse to get to know the family using the gas cooker. Trevor, Sue, and their three girls are from Melbourne. They travel all over Australia, sleeping under the stars, in a Land Cruiser just packed with gear. At home they run a plumbing business. They all spend the night sleeping outdoors near the shelter, in some kind of huge canvas-covered sleeping bags, which they just pull over their heads when it rains. (As it does tonight, a bit.)

Wednesday, April 6 : Emu Bay to Kingscote 20/3755 km

There's a "southerly change" during the night. Some light rain, then strong wind and lots of dust. Other than the rain and wind, it was a very quiet night. Partly cloudy during the day, but strong wind all day. Temperature seems to slowly drop, probably about 17 at sunset.

I get to Kingscote about 1 PM, so there's a long wait for the midnight ferry to Port Adelaide. There's a big crowd at the Ozone Hotel. I sure hope they're not all taking the ferry tonight!

The hardware store in Kingscote has a bottle of "Shellite", which works fine in the stove.

I spend a relaxing day at the park by the harbor, behind a shelter to get out of the wind, reading, testing the stove, cleaning the bike with the otherwise useless White Spirit. It's very cool in the wind, so now I know why the park has these shelters facing north.

Thursday, April 7 : Kingscote to Port Adelaide (ferry)

Port Adelaide to Eden Valley (Train from Dry Creek to Gawler) 62/3817 km

There are hardly any passengers on the ferry, so I'm able to stretch out on the floor and get some sleep during the 6 hour trip. The rolling of the ship makes it hard to stay on the cushions. Should have oriented myself the other way. We arrive just after dawn.

It's sunny at first, then turns cloudy and showery, but there's no heavy rain. The high is about 17, with a southwest wind.

Port Adelaide area is an industrial wasteland. My poor map makes it hard to find my way to the railway station, but I manage to find it by trying to follow the tracks. Lots of busy streets. Once on the train, two railway employees, who just happen to be in the same car, help me get a ticket. (The little station at Dry Creek didn't sell them.) One of the employees gets off at another station, gets my ticket for me, and gets back on. That was nice, as I probably couldn't have gotten off and on fast enough with the bike, and I sure wasn't going to leave the bike on the train!

The traffic is terrible in Gawler, but not too bad out of town. The cycling map doesn't show all the roads near Gawler, but it's accurate for surface type. The 300 meter climb from Gawler is very gradual. Crossing the Lofty Range here is no problem. It still looks very dry, but there are lots of vineyards. There are lots of Radiata pines around, so they must be able to survive the summer droughts.

The caravan park at Eden Valley is nice. It's sort of a park, with showers and even a kitchen. I meet a Dutch couple traveling by bicycle, who are staying here while they work nearby picking grapes. It sounds like hard work.

Friday, April 8 : Eden Valley to Nuriootpa 32/3849 km

A very cool night, but sunny morning. Beautiful day--sunny, high about 21, light SW wind.

Spend the morning doing long neglected chores, on the road by 11. Make emergency repair to shorts in Angaston. Lots of bakeries in towns. Not much traffic on back roads (via Keyneton and Penrice), but others very busy. Lots of trucks through Nuriootpa, even with the bypass.

A great ride. No big climbs, road often shaded by large gum trees. Barossa Valley is relatively green. Do they irrigate grapes?

Talk to a friendly retiree in Keyneton. He came from the UK originally, now does odd jobs and picks grapes. (I later learn that Keyneton has no water supply except rain water, and people there have been spending lots of money trucking in water due the drought.) Another native Australian retiree in Angaston lives east of Victor Harbor, and travels all around the country. Seems to know the area well.

"River" through Nuriootpa is really a sewage ditch, at least this time of year. Park along it is odiferous. Oh well, water IS pretty scarce here. Even in town, there are tanks for drinking water, because town water tastes so bad.

Saturday, April 9 : Nuriootpa to Kapunda 27/3876 km

Great weather. Sunny, about 25 degrees, west wind.

Booking for the Barossa Valley bus tour I had planned got screwed up, so I leave Nuriootpa. The camping there is poor anyway, due to traffic noise.

It's an easy ride to Kapunda, with a few easy hills, and traffic isn't bad. Farm country starts again not far from Nuriootpa.

Kapunda means something like "resting place by water." It was a copper mining town about 100 years ago. The retiree working in the museum is quite knowledgeable. It's a fairly peaceful town, compared to Nuriootpa, and not so touristy. Mainly a farm town now. Lots of hay is grown in winter.

Nice caravan park, though tent site a bit pricey at $8.50.

Wandering around town in the evening, I spot some antennas, so I knock on the door and meet John, VK5PO and his wife Debby. John is about 30, and works for a local winery as a "wine technician". He comes originally from Hawker, where I'm headed on my way to Wilpena. He calls himself a real "bush Australian". He gives me all sorts of useful information on my route up to Wilpena. He's active in all sorts of ham radio stuff, including satellites, digital communications, and computers. He has a couple computers, and lots of other equipment in a big metal shed behind the house, next to his tower. For someone without a technical background, he's really accomplished a lot in radio. He got into ham radio through CB radio. I don't know how he can afford all the equipment and support a family on $30,000 (Australian ) per year. John and I talk until well after midnight, and then John walks all the way back to the caravan park with me. Because it's the season for harvesting grapes, he's been working very long hours lately, but fortunately he doesn't have to work tomorrow.

Sunday, April 10 : Kapunda to Clare 73/3950 km

Another "southerly change" went through overnight. There's a cool, strong SW wind all day. It's partly cloudy, dry, high about 21. A nice tail wind most of the way.

Very little traffic to Saddleworth, busy from Auburn to Clare. Few trucks on Sunday. Not pleasant, but tolerable. It's a gradual climb to Clare, about 200 meters higher than Kapunda.

Mostly hay, grazing, and crop land. Some grapes after Auburn.

The hotel in Clare has rooms for $14. (You wouldn't know either hotel has rooms unless you ask.) It looks like a good night to have a roof. It would be pretty cool to sit outside all evening, and it gets dark about 6:30 now. Weather should improve in a day or so.

Clare isn't nearly as touristy as Nuriootpa, which is in the "other" wine valley, the Barossa. I'll probably spend the day here tomorrow.

Monday, April 11 : Clare (day trip) 24/3974 km

Another cool showery day. Mostly cloudy, high 15. Not much rain, though. Strong SW wind. Clare is the coldest place in SA today, must be the elevation (400 m). Today was the coldest day since November in Adelaide.

Ride south down the valley on gravel roads. Hard surface, but very rough. I stop at a couple of the wineries, but don't feel much like a longer ride due to weather and rough roads.

Vineyards often have small dams and reservoirs. I suspect grapes are irrigated with underground pipes. It's hard to believe grapes can grow all summer without rain.

There are a few other tourists around, but not many. No cyclists, of course. Except for the Dutch grape pickers at Eden Valley, I haven't seen any touring cyclists.

Tuesday, April 12 : Clare to Murraytown 120/4094 km

Another day of southerlies. Cool, mostly cloudy, rain near Clare, then mostly dry. Strong SW wind makes easy riding. Weather pattern here is completely opposite to that in Wisconsin: Lots of clouds and rain after a low passes, as next high drives cold, moist air from the south. Only when the high moves east does it clear and warm up.

A nice ride today. Traffic not bad at all. Lots of little towns with stores, etc. Dinner tonight will be beef stew, with ingredients from Gladstone. Some gradual ups and downs, but nothing bad.

Clare seems often to be cold and cloudy, according to a local in Gladstone. Perhaps small differences in elevation are important here. Rained quite a lot last night in Clare, but only a trace in Gladstone. (Gladstone is about 150 m lower, I think.) Murraytown seems higher, with a long climb before the town, and cool and cloudy there. (Dry, though.)

There are more trees here. Grazing and grain country, a little irrigation. Mt. Remarkable is visible just to the north. There's a big water pipeline just north of Clare, probably the one that carries water from the Murray river to Whyalla, and beyond. Towns are starting to look a bit more like the outback.

There are articles in the newspaper about selling off parts of national parks to cover their operating costs, and a big fight of South Australia time zone change. The current time zone, 1/2 hour earlier than the east coast, must be an old political compromise. SA business people are worried about being to far off from the east coast business, but farmers in the west don't want to wait until 10 AM for the sun to come up in the winter.

There's a nice campground with showers at the park in Murraytown. I would never have known I could camp there without the tourist book I picked up. Very basic, but OK. The woman who manages the campground warns me about the thorns, so I carefully inspect the ground before I put up my tent.

Wednesday, April 13 : Murraytown to Quorn 81/4174 km

A nice quiet campsite at Murraytown. Both tires are flat in the morning. One has multiple punctures, but I can't find the cause. I patch both, then start walking the bike down the gravel drive toward the road. The front tire immediately picks up a nasty-looking thorn, and starts to leak. Now I know the cause: "Three Cornered Jacks". The ones that caused the first flats must have fallen out again. So THOSE were the thorns the lady warned me about last night. I patch the front tire again, then CARRY the bike out to the road. Not very bright, Ellington.

I'm finally on the road by noon, my supply of tire patches seriously depleted. It's a great day for biking. Sunny, high about 20, STRONG south wind. Easy cruising at 32 kph. The road is great--almost no traffic. Just like Wisconsin!

Still grazing and grain country, but fewer farms and no irrigation. The last part is more hilly, with trees on the hills, sometimes. No drinking water in Melrose. Tap water in Wilmington is bad.

Towns look a little rougher as I head north. Quorn looks like a real frontier town. There's a nice caravan park, hopefully without thorns. Cooking dinner in the wind is a real pain, but I suppose that's the price of a great ride. At least it's dry. A high must be stalled to the west.

Thursday, April 14 : Quorn to Hawker 68/4244 km

The back tire is 20 pounds low in the morning, so I patch two more punctures. Now I ask about thorns at campsites!

Last night was mild, and the wind died about 9. Some clouds in the morning, but then a beautiful day. Sunny, high about 24. Light east wind, not a big problem.

A bit more traffic than yesterday, but still not bad at all. Flies are pretty bad when I stop midway, in cattle country. It starts to look a bit greener, but then overgrazed. I'm just about out of crop country, but grazing goes a bit further north. A lot like the southwestern US. (Grazing where there shouldn't be.) Hawker gets about 250 mm of rain per year, but more evenly distributed than in the south. (Last rain here was in February, as opposed to January further south.) Air is much drier here, starting to feel like the desert. Plenty of water in rain tanks, but bore water is bad. The caravan park proprietor in Hawker tells me you can't even grow garden vegetables or flowers with the bore water. It's OK for toilets and showers, though.

TV antennas on houses had been getting taller and taller, but they're gone now. Hawker is much too far from Adelaide. There must be a local TV repeater, though, since there are little vertical antennas.

South Australia's Dustbowl Downtown Hawker

Hawker really feels like a bit of an outback town. Pretty quiet, small, but decent stores. Hawker caravan park is very nice, but I didn't check out the other one. There's a family in the next campsite with two small children, tons of gear, and everything crammed into a little Subaru station wagon. They're going up into some of the more remote parts of the Flinders for a couple weeks.

The first sliver of the moon appears tonight. The trip begins and ends with a full moon.

Friday, April 15 : Hawker to Wilpena 58/4302 km

Another beautiful day. Mostly sunny, high about 25, moderate north wind.

Traffic about the same as yesterday. It's slow going into the wind, with a 250 m climb in the last 20 km. Small second growth pines appear in the last 15-20 km. I stop at Arkaba wool shed, a historic building and tourist attraction. There are no other visitors, so I chat with the young woman running the place. She and her husband run a sheep station nearby. It's so dry here there's nothing for sheep to eat now. She suggests bicycling is a cheap way to travel, but I point out that I'm only 20 km from today's start, and I just paid $1.50 for a bottle of orange juice. She asks me to prop up her sign out by the road when I leave. She can't do it herself, since her leg is broken, something I didn't even notice while she was sitting behind the counter.

Just as I arrive at Wilpena, I see another touring cyclist leaving, but don't stop to talk to him. He's the first I've seen on the road in Australia.

Wilpena shows the utter failure of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Everything is basically out of control due to lack of NPWS direction. There's a private resort and the campground is run by a concession. The campground is a real mess, with no designated sites, no tables, old fire rings, tire tracks and dust everywhere. The showers are OK, though, and it's cheap. The woman in the store assures me the tap water is safe to drink. I can't see much from the campground, so I have to walk up the trail to get a good look at Wilpena Pound.

The NPWS office is hardly ever staffed. Park employees couldn't care less. No one here knows anything about the hiking trails in Wilpena Pound. Hikers are responsible for having someone notify NPWS if they fail to return. NPWS employees apparently can't even be bothered to check the log book.

There are no power lines to Wilpena, so the resort has generators. I can't tell how the phones are connected.

I find a young couple just setting up in the campground, and ask them to watch my bike while I go on my overnight hike. They also agree to notify the NPWS if I don't show up Sunday.

Wilpena is at about 560 m, so it may be quite a bit cooler than Hawker at night. High pressure is finally moving. It looks like it will quickly move east now ahead of yet another "southerly change".

Saturday, April 16 : Wilpena to Cooinda Camp

A warm day, high about 26, mostly sunny until mid-afternoon, then high clouds, probably ahead of the change.

It's an easy walk through the gap into the pound. Reminds me of San Rafael Swell. Here the rock is quartzite, 500 million to 1 billion years old. Trail is an old road almost to the camp, then narrower.

On the trail without Bila, Wilpena Pound

There are quite a few other hikers on the trail. Near the start, two Swiss women are just turning back so they can go on a 4WD trip. One older guy, both knees wrapped with ace bandages, started at 6 AM to go up to St. Mary Peak, and around the loop counterclockwise, in the opposite direction I'm going. I'm taking two days to do the same distance. I also meet a Dutch couple near the campsite, on their way back out.

After dropping my gear at Cooinda Camp, I follow the trail northwest to Edeowie Gorge. Cooinda is right in the middle of the bowl of the pound, and Edeowie Gorge is one of the ways out. There's no water in the gorge where I stop, but another hiker tells me there's water further down. He also warns me about snakes, and tells me he saw 4 of them on the trail, in the direction I'm going. He asks that, if I meet a bunch of young kids on the trail, I tell them I haven't seen him. I'm curious, but don't ask why. All the way back to camp I'm wondering what's going on. Back at my campsite, I meet him again, since he's camping there, too. It turns out he's leading a sort of a scout/Outward-Bound group, and wanted them to find their way on their own. They're camping at the messy campsite I passed on the way to Edeowie Gorge.

I never did see any snakes, but now I wonder if I just didn't notice them. They don't talk about whether snakes here are poisonous or not, just whether they are "deadly". I see a pair of wedge-tailed hawks soaring above the pound, and some green parrots in the woods.

Weather is changing. Rain would mean missing the hike up St. Mary Peak tomorrow, though I could do it on a day hike from Wilpena on Monday.

My 7 liters of water and gear just fit into my pack, with the tent and sleeping bag lashed on back. It's not too uncomfortable for a 2-3 hour hike, but without a waistband I wouldn't want to carry it much longer.

Sunday, April 17 : Cooinda Camp to Wilpena

Wilpena Pound from St. Mary Peak

A mostly clear night, then high clouds most of the day. Strong west wind. Warm, high about 25.

Track is pretty rocky, especially to St. Mary Peak. Boots would help. It's well-marked, though, even to the peak. It feels like more work than it should, but I haven't been hiking.

On my way down from the peak, I meet the couple with whom I left my bike. They're from Adelaide, just starting a trip of a couple weeks in the Flinders.

Back in the Wilpena campground, I again meet the Dutch couple, Anke and Bob, who are camping nearby. They look like they're in their 50's, traveling frugally around Australia by bus.

The park definitely needs some management. Obviously, it gets very heavy use, but NPWS doesn't seem to do anything. The car camp at Wilpena, of course, is a disaster.

Monday, April 18 : Wilpena to Hawker 61/4363 km

Much cooler today, but sunny. High about 20. Wind mostly east, but variable.

It sure is good to get out of that awful Wilpena campground! The water there seems to have been bad.

I stop and hike to Arkaroo Rock, about an hour walk. Nice trail and rock art. There's not much else along today's route. Still very little traffic.

Tuesday, April 19 : Hawker

A rest day today, trying to recover from the effects (most likely) of the water at Wilpena.

Another cloudless day. Light winds, high about 22.

Wednesday, April 20 : Hawker to Quorn 71/4433 km

Cloudless, light variable winds, cool. High about 21.

I miss the turnoff to the caves, but stop at ruins of the Kanyaka sheep station and at "Death Rock". The water hole is used for stock now. Lots of flies.

There are a whole bunch of middle-aged and older motorcyclists in the caravan park in Quorn. They're taking 5 weeks to travel from Sydney to Alice Springs and back. They sure have lots of stuff. Most have trailers, and are carrying more gear than we take in a car. I visit with several of them. They seem quite civilized. All is quiet by 10 PM, and not a single car door slams.

The digestive system finally seems to be recovering from "Wilpena's Revenge".

Thursday, April 21 : Quorn to Port Augusta 46/4479 km

Another fine day. Sunny, variable winds, high about 25.

An easy ride. A little traffic, but not bad. Back roads from Stirling North to Port Augusta avoid the highway.

Shopping isn't great in Port Augusta, for a city its size. Fairly nice downtown, but lots of street people. It turns out to be a school holiday, which explains why all the kids are around.

On my way to the "Outback Museum", I again run into Anke and Bob, the Dutch couple I met in Wilpena. They're waiting for their bus to Ayer's Rock. Too late it occurs to me to invite them to get together for dinner.

In the evening, I board the train for Alice Springs. It's a nice train, with lots of room inside, thanks to the 1.6 m gauge. Quite long, at least 15 cars. Seems to cruise at about 110 kph. The tracks aren't good enough for higher speed, obviously.

There are some sealed roads going west out of Alice over 100 km, with lots of sights along the way. Might be a nice bike ride.

Friday, April 22 : Alice Springs 5/4484

Yet another fine day, a bit warmer up here. High about 27.

The train arrives in early afternoon. It's a bit late because of a medical problem with one of the passengers. We stop about 20 km from Alice to transfer him to an ambulance. There must be a helicopter in Alice, so his condition couldn't have been too bad.

Traffic is bad coming into the city, but that's to be expected. There's a decent, though cramped, caravan park about 2 km from the center. There's a nice mall downtown, complete with drunken Aboriginals. Definitely a tourist trap. High prices everywhere.

I try kangaroo for dinner at a restaurant. It's very good, lean. Tastes a lot like beef.

I stock up on groceries for 4 days in the western MacDonnell ranges. Traffic could be bad, as there aren't many places for all these tourists to go.

A bus trip to Darwin is still a possibility. I must admit, it WOULD be nice to have at least one more warm evening. But is it worth two days and nights on the bus? Maybe the coming summer in Madison will be a warm one.

Saturday, April 23 : Alice Springs to Ellery Creek 104/4588 km

Another great day. Sunny, high about 27, east wind, sometimes strong. A nice tailwind.

West MacDonnell Range

Just outside Alice, on the bike trail, I meet "Klaus". He looks at least 70, riding a custom "All German" bike with a woman's frame, 7 speed hub, drum brakes, mountain bike tires, a huge truck mirror, and a metal basket. Otherwise, he's really not carrying that much gear, especially compared to the other Germans I've seen. He rode the Oodnadatta Track (all gravel) from Adelaide, is going to Darwin, then east. He seems to have been everywhere, biking and otherwise. He knows the Grand Canyon well, and even went down Glen Canyon before it was flooded. Quite a character. Unfortunately, he's going the other way.

Bike trail to Simpson's Gap is very nice. Minimal traffic on the road after that. A bit of a climb between the Hugh River and Ellery Creek, maybe 200 m. A lot more brush near the top. Wayside at summit has trucked-in water, so I don't have to use pond water at campsite.

There's a very nice camp at Ellery Creek. Fire boxes and tables at campsites.

At dusk, I wander off to the pond to play my recorder for a while. The gorge makes for great acoustics, and it's warm here after sunset, but I feel I'm playing pretty badly. Walking back to my campsite, I meet Meg and Barry, who recognized the Bach I was playing. They say they enjoyed listening, and I tell them I worry that sometime a real professional musician will be listening. Later, when I ask what they do for a living, Meg reluctantly tells me she's a piano teacher. Oh well, that proves how well great acoustics and distance can improve the sound. Barry and Meg are driving the back roads in their 4WD from Sydney through Darwin and then east. We chat for a while by their campfire.

Lots of dingoes howling after dark, sound very close. The moon is almost full, so stargazing isn't great. Late at night, I hear a brumbie (feral horse) near my campsite.

Sunday, April 24 : Ellery Creek to Ormiston Gorge (Side trip to Glen Helen Gorge) 58/4646 km

Another clear day, a but warmer. High about 28. Wind still mostly east, calm at night. No dew last night, not very cold.

A bit more holiday traffic today. (Monday is Anzac Day.) Not bad, though. Rolling road, seems to be climbing.

Tourists here sure are curious about biking. Talked with two couples at a wayside. One of them had run into Klaus. I guess they're just not as used to seeing touring cyclists here as in New Zealand.

Glen Helen Gorge isn't that great. You have to cross the pond to hike further up. Lots of families at the pond. Resort has food and cold drinks.

There are some nice hikes at Ormiston. Great gorge. I just have time to hike a one hour loop, but the longer trails up the gorge look very nice. The campground isn't nearly as nice as at Ellery Creek, though. Water and shower are OK, but it's very crowded, and tent sites are poor. There's a noisy generator nearby for the park employees' houses, and some neighboring campers run their own until about 10 PM. It's a warm evening, with a full moon, and great gorge acoustics for recorder playing. (No comments from campers this time. No doubt they heard nothing above the roar of generators.)

Monday, April 25 : Ormiston Gorge to Ellery Creek 52/4698 km

Quite warm last night. Today is another clear, warm day, high about 28. A few little clouds. Wind northeast, but variable. At least a headwind keeps the flies away riding uphill!

Lots of holiday traffic, but still not a problem.

The Ochre pits are interesting, and easy to get to. Serpentine Chalet ruins not worth the trouble, but it looked like a nice walk up the gorge.

Tuesday, April 26 : Ellery Creek to Alice Springs 107/4805

Another mild night and warm day. High about 30. Newspaper says it's warm down south, too. Wind variable, mostly east.

On the road by 7:30 AM, beat the flies! Standley's Gorge is spectacular, but crowded with tourists.

I ride non-stop from Standley's to Alice, 47 km in under 2 hours, despite headwind and beginnings of a cold.

The "Ulysses Club", motorcyclists, are all meeting in Alice around Thursday. A few of them are at Standley's , etc., but there's plenty of room in the caravan park at 3 PM. All the men are over 50, it seems. Alice should be packed with them by Thursday, so I've booked a cheap hotel room for Thursday night.

Wednesday, April 27 : Alice Springs to Trephina Gorge 84/4889 km

Trephina Gorge campsite

A bit warmer yet, perhaps 32 degrees. Variable wind, again mostly east, sometimes strong.

It's not a hilly as west of Alice. The road is only paved one lane much of the way. There's not much traffic, but I try to get off the pavement when another car approaches so the car doesn't have to go off the pavement and raise a big cloud of dust from the shoulder. Many of the drivers don't get the message, though.

Barry and Meg pull over after passing me, and we arrange to meet a few km down the road at Coroboree Rock. It's further than I thought, but eventually I catch up with them, and we visit in the shade for a bit. I welcome the frozen box of juice they offer me from their cooler.

The camp at Trephina Gorge is very nice. There's even good well water! I offer my extra food to my neighbors, and meet Lynn and Warrick. They live on the north edge of the Snowy Mountains in NSW, work in a ski shop there in winter, and do lots of ski touring. They're off on a vacation before the start of the skiing season, walking the Larapinta Track in a few days. They're also in the area for the Ulysses Club get-together in Alice, but driving their truck now. They share their "Chateau Cardboard" with me, and we visit for a long time in the evening.

Thursday, April 28 : Trephina Gorge to Alice Springs 81/4971 km

It's not quite as warm, but otherwise just like yesterday. Nice tailwind.

A very quiet night at Trephina. No dingoes or brumbies. As usual, the crows are noisy at dawn, of course.

Last day on the road

Today is my last day on the road. It sure is nice to finish the ride cruising back into town with that great tailwind. Lynn and Warrick catch up with me just outside town, and wave as they pass.

Most of the wells I see coming into Alice have permanent lifting rigs, like they have to keep raising or lowering the pump. The ranger in Alice had to call Trephina to check on water for me before I rode out there, so water must be pretty unreliable around here.

My hotel in Alice isn't bad for $29. It would be nice to be able to open the window, though.

The Ulysses Club is much in evidence in town: All the XL T-shirts are sold out. I spend lots of money on souvenirs and gifts.

Friday and Saturday, April 29-30 : Alice Springs to Adelaide (train)

Some clouds Friday in Alice, but warm. Clear Sat. morning near Adelaide. A nice day Saturday in Adelaide.

An uneventful train trip. Not as crowded as on the way up. I hear there's talk of discontinuing passenger service. Railways are still run by the government in Australia. They seem to be run efficiently, but I suppose the passenger service loses money.

It doesn't look any greener near Adelaide than when I left, so winter rains definitely haven't arrived yet.

The University of Adelaide has a very nice campus, but it's very dead on Saturday. No doubt it's a commuter school, but classes may not be in session. Campus is very compact, but has very nice landscaping, courtyards, etc.

Right next to the university are the Botanical Gardens. A welcome escape from traffic noise!

Adelaide could be a great city for biking, if there were a good system of bike routes. But, like most cities, much of it is accessible only by busy, high-speed roads. There just aren't many quiet streets. That's too bad, because the climate, compactness, and flatness of the city could make it ideal for biking. There aren't many people riding bikes, and it's obvious why. Even Milwaukee is easier to get around in on a bike than Adelaide. Getting OUT of town is another matter, though. The trains sure make it easy to get out of Adelaide.

I wonder how Madison would appear to a stranger on a bicycle? Certainly, aside from downtown, the map shows plenty of alternates to the main streets. Getting into and out of town wouldn't be obvious, though.

I've sure had to deal with a lot of cities on this trip: Christchurch, Invercargill, Nelson, Wellington, Napier, Gisborne, Hamilton, Auckland, Adelaide. The Driftless Area will be a welcome change!


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