7 Days Bikepacking Through South Australia – Part 3

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

A couple of maps for reference.

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

Things like this make me wonder what happened to require putting a specific ‘No Trucks Up Here’ sign…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

I booked into the campsite and joined all the MTB’ers in the unpowered section over the creek. Last time we were here we were lording it up with the 4×4 campers on the powered site grass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

This morning was some extremely pretty farm tracks.

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

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

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

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

I got close up with the cherry blossom.

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

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