7 Days Bikepacking Through South Australia – Part 2

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

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

It was worth the detour. Cool rocks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you the Russian?”

“What?”

“ARE YOU THE RUSSIAN???”

“No, I’m not the Russian…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of things along the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


Bit dusty though…

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

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

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

I took a break down at this pretty billabong.

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

 

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

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

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

Two skinks crossing, mated for life remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

Correct start to the day.

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

Thanks for reading.

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