Flinders Ride

On this trip I planned to go from Elizabeth to Hawker and then take three passes through the Flinders over a six day period. I intended to ride the Morlorlana Scenic Route, Brachina Gorge, and Parachilna Gorge, and then return to Adelaide. The weather intervened.

Day One (KML Map)
First day was Elizabeth to Laura. This is 200km via Balaklava, Blyth and Brinkworth. The day was hot with a slight northerly breeze, but rideable. Laura Caravan Park cost me $18.00 for a tent site with power, and has plenty of grass and good facilities. As a road north, the Balaklava – Blyth route misses all the traffic of Highway One, and the hills of the Clare Valley. In November there are a lot of grain trucks, but they are mostly very respectful of bikes, as is most country traffic.


At Brinkworth you can decide to head on up to Koolunga and out via Crystal Brook to Highway One, or go east and hit Main North Road− now the Horrocks Highway− north of Clare. You can cut off a few miles by taking a metal road (Angle Grove Road) just out of Brinkworth which brings you out further up the road from Clare than the bitumen does.

Day Two (Quorn KML Map)
Day Two was supposed to end at Hawker. My plan had been to ride via Orroroo which is actually 4km shorter than the main road through Wilmington and Quorn! Temperatures were forecast well above 40C and the north wind of Day One turned into a mild 30 km/h gale. I abandoned the Orroroo route in the hope of some protection from the southern Flinders on the road via Melrose and Quorn. This was a good choice, but by the time I arrived at Wilmington my water bidons felt as hot as freshly made tea and riding on into the direct head wind was obviously foolish.

Road temperature was hovering around 50. To ride the plains in this weather requires loading panniers with chilled water and stopping to get it out every 20 minutes or so. In the past I've used 5 litres of water to cover only 60km, and felt pretty wretched at the end of it. It knocks the stuffing out of you, and after a hot 200km the day before, I was not going to try it.

Exposed bidons heat up about as quickly as in a microwave oven on days like this. The problem is that they actually increase your body temperature when you are already having to work hard to shed heat. You can get sick quickly.

I took cover in the Centennial Park at the south end of Wilmington where it was only 45C in the shade, and spent the afternoon snoozing on a picnic table. The water here was soon cool after running the tap for a few seconds.

I left for Quorn around 5.30pm as the temperature was beginning to fall. The wind had dropped slightly.

There is a Dignam Stripper on display at the park. I grew up not far from Wilmington, but had no idea there was a 40 man factory making harvesters there from the 1890s to the 1930s!

Dignam Stripper at Wilmington

The second part of the trip to Quorn was much more comfortable, and I spent a recovery night in the Austral Hotel. After picking up my room key I ordered some tea and then went and had a shower. The hotelier didn't recognise me when I came back in, which indicates how rough the day had been!

The good night's sleep and shorter ride meant that I was now some 70km behind schedule next morning, instead of being in Hawker.

Day Three (Mern Mora KML File)
Day Three was forecast to be cooler with south east winds. The winds were so strong that I sometimes cruised above 40km/h on flat ground with a fully laden touring bike! On one occasion I was blown off the road, at speed, into the gravel, helped by some inattention on my part. I have no idea how that didn't bring me down— it felt like riding a rodeo bull for several seconds!  It also strengthened my feeling that cleats are a great advantage when things go wrong− you stay connected to the bike.

The Quorn - Hawker road passes through the old farm land of the 19th century which was devastated by drought, and eventually abandoned for cropping. The ruined homesteads, lonely graves, and surveyed towns that are now only a few heaps of stone make for some poignant riding.

Lonely Grave in the Flinders

The wind began to drop as I came in closer to the range around Kanyaka, and by the time I had reached Hawker was a fairly warm breeze from the north.

In winter time it must have felt like God's own country!

Hawker General Store has the world's largest steak sandwich. Between it and the service station there is a fair selection of canned food to suit an unsupported cyclist. I filled up all of my own water bottles – 9 litres−  and strapped another 3 litres of water behind the saddle, expecting to camp out for at least one night.

More.... Quorn to Mern Mora

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