Hawker and Burra

March 2020
The plan was to ride to Leigh Creek, and return, over three days, a 1,000km round trip. The weather had other ideas, with 30+km east and south-east winds forecast for the weekend. These autumn winds were not expected to drop at night, which ruled out what is often an opportunity to make up a bit of time. In the end I put in about 800km on a modified course.


Getting out of Adelaide is always unpleasant. The three main roads north are increasingly busy. I've been taking the Stuart O'Grady Bikeway up to the Two Wells Road and then cutting through to Roseworthy College on the back roads. This eventually brings me via Hamley Bridge to Tarlee, past the worst of the Main North Road traffic.  Sometimes taking a short cut doesn't work. This little sandhill was hard work! (Leak Road)

From Tarlee it's a short trip to Riverton. The Main North Road is a little quieter by then, as is the Barrier Highway, although I'd stay off it on a Friday afternoon!  From Riverton the Rattler and Riesling Trails provide a quiet path into Clare. This photo is a just south of Clare. It's scrappy remnant vegetation and weed species, but always a meditative ride.


We're 16km north of Clare on the RM Williams Way for this photo. You can see the dust of a year with too little rain. There were few occasions where the wind was not kicking up an unpleasant haze.


Spalding has a small park which is a boon to touring cyclists. In the late afternoon 10 year old boys were playing in country innocence, swinging and singing songs together. It was a small moment of paradise.


The dusk at Bundaleer, still dusty. Still with howling wind behind me.


Memorial Park in Jamestown is a great stopping place for water, and for putting on cold weather gear. Just past the sign here, as I entered the town, the caravan park was packed and I could hear a swimming carnival beyond it. It must have been freezing. And now, in corona virus lock-down a few weeks later later, its a bit unimaginable. 07-Carrieton

I topped up my water at Orroroo and slept in the picnic area further north in Carieton after 294km. The wind had become stronger, and at one stage, still south of Orroroo, I could hear an odd hiss over my headphones. I turned off the sound to discover that I was next to a bare paddock with singing sand tumbling along in the wind.08-clearcarrieton


Next morning, I left Carieton around 6 while it was still dark. In this unusually clear moment, you can see that graziers with bush country still have some cover left.10-towardscraddock


But where people are on grassland, or have tried to crop, there is nothing left at all.




Ngadjuri truth telling!


The Catholic church at Craddock. The green is deceptive; there has been a thunderstorm through here, but only the roadsides have any green. The dust in the air is tells the true story of how things are. I had breakfast on the tables outside the pub. Everything needed holding down, or it would blow away or blow over, even half full water bottles! To call Craddock a town is an exageration. What is startling about it is that people seem to be living here in semi-permanent caravans on some of the old town blocks, which indicates a real poverty to me.


I have not seen furrows like this since the 1967 drought, when I asked my father why he was circling the paddock and digging a single furrow. He told me it stopped stuff blowing away, which was observably not true! Later I realised that perhaps the furrows catch some of the seed for when it finally rains. There is a mountain range at the back of this photo, but the dust has mostly blotted it out. I could feel the grit in my teeth.


This is a ruin from earlier years. We still don't live with the land, only upon it. If you click for the larger photo, you will see the lines of bare sand with the remains of grass between them. This is where the land has been grazed down to dust as the farmer hopes against hope for more rain. The lines are the tracks where the sheep have walked and walked, plucking out every last scrap. 

Wearing a head scarf and a padded winter gilet midmorning!  I am about to turn south from Hawker, into the wind. It was still only 15 degrees, despite being a sunny day- you can see a blob of sunscreen under my glasses.

It was clear that although I would get a fast ride for the 150km up to Leigh Creek, courtesy of the tail wind, that coming back would be a very slow ride indeed. The Hawker to Quorn road, heading southwards, at least heads in a south west direction which gave me some respite from the wind. Every time the road veered closer to south, or the wind shifted more south than east, my speed dropped to a crawl.

This hillside is just north of Kanyaka.  The stock reshape the landscape as they cut tracks along the contour.  The bush is just about eaten out.


I always take a shot of my bike here... so here 'tis. I hoped to make the Quorn IGA before it closed on Saturday afternoon, but it was not to be, courtesy of the wind.  The proprietor of the Quandong Cafe, already shut for half an hour, but standing outside talking with a friend, made me the best ham and tomato sandwich I've had for a long time. Her generosity saved me from having my stale jam sandwiches for lunch. (They made a welcome tea, much later.) 


I think a pipe has sprung a leak. The old tree is loving it!

The tree above is south of Quorn as I was heading for Melrose where my wife was spending a quilting weekend. Despite the forecast, the wind dropped about the time I arrived at Wilmington and I took a pleasant ride down the bitumen and then the rail trail into the Diocesan Centre. After a short stop here, I continued down to Georgetown to camp for the night. It's my home country through here, and with the wind mostly down, it was a treat of old memories with no traffic on the road. 

Getting somewhere to sleep on these long trips with their uncertain timetables is always a bit difficult.  Usually it means stopping well after dark, which means you can find yourself on anthills or burrs. Or sharing the space with a non-sharing bull! The old habit of firebreaks is not so common in agricultural land, so hopping over a fence (and apologising later, if needed) doesn't work so well. The best place seems to be out of sight in a small town. But towns have their own problems.  

Spalding has a nice little rotunda in the park. And the night time sprinklers are used to wash it out on a daily basis. Hawker has signs up everywhere forbidding camping, and they have big sprinklers in the park. I've slept in the shade areas well away from the water, but it's under full lights so that you get covered in bugs and anyone passing through sees you. 

My old town of Gladstone has No Camping signs everywhere in the main street, it's fully lit, and there's nothing to hide behind.  It's an odd approach to things for a small town- although I get that Hawker has a lot more traffic in tourist times. By contrast, Georgetown, with its clean toilets and hot shower welcomes roadside camping. It simply encourages you to buy a pie or a coffee at the little local shop just up the street. So I slept in the picnic area there, off the road, with a couple of camper vans in the car park alongside.


It's Sunday, now. I've headed on to Gulnare, the wind still seems not too bad, and I'm wondering if the forecast change is coming in early. So at Gulnare I've headed east to Spalding, where I can head south if that easterly wind comes up again, or can keep heading southeasterly over to Burra.

This is well watered country, still. This creek was unimaginable up on our limestone ridge, even though we had flat land below. I realise now that we had the remains of a creek like this in our third paddock, but we'd already done so much damage that it was just a nuisance in wet years. 


Gender is fluid!  (Click the photo.) This is the Morgan Whyalla pipeline (old and new) between Gulnare and Spalding.


Bundaleer Resevoir24-spaldingrailbridge

After Spalding I headed on east to Burra. The old railway bridge is one of my favourite views through here.


Closer to Booborowie now. This was a mighty shed in its day.  The current owners are still into big sheds. I reckon we could have fitted our farmhouse and all our sheds into their implement shed!

I'd forgotten this was wind-farm territory. I'd allowed an extra hour over what you'd expect for getting to Burra, but took another hour again!

27-tenyears     28-tenbefore

It was ten years since I rode through here and  I remembered taking a photo of this old house.  You can see the difference ten years has made to the old ruin.


The Midnight Oil house. This is just north of Burra on the Barrier Highway. It's not a road to be riding mid Sunday afternoon as traffic is returning to Adelaide from the weekend away.

I bought a decent meal in Burra and had a rest for 45 minutes or so before setting out on the last leg home via the World's End Highway.


This very unhappy bull is fenced in on the other side of the road from all the other cattle.  The Heysen Trail runs through here; I just hope the cocky never gets confused about which paddock he puts the bulls in!


World's End Wesleyan Methodist Church.


Nothing of us lasts forever.  The old church is full of sheep shit, and one day it'll all fall down.




Burra Creek runs across the road here.  Back in the hills there is a water hole called Thirty Pound Pool, apparently because of a fish once caught there. Out here, it's dry and beat up, and a bit depressing.

The ride on home from here continues down to Eudunda, and there is a back road to Truro, which I took. I risked a 5km run on the Sturt Highway down to Stockwell, and then went on the back roads to Nuriootpa, and then home on the Barossa bike path.  I'd been up 23 hours by the time I made home.

Copyright ^Top