The Trip Home

Day Eight: Oct 11 2021
Grindell's Hut to Copley 128km

8-1ItalaAwiLooking towards Itala Awi (Italowie Gorge) on the Balcanoona to Copley Road.

I was prepared for a very long day to Copley. Not only did I have the ride out to the main road, but I expected mud on the road after the rain. Both my family and the ranger had said the Copley Road was much more corrugated than the road from Blinman. And, of course, I'd have to climb over the range to get to Copley.

The ride out to the main road had dramatically improved. It took me 2.5 hours rather than four hours!  Yes, much of it was now downhill, but the primary effect of the rain was to compress all the slushy gravel in the creeks, so that it was hard to believe I was on the same "road!" There is one really steep jump-up on the way in, well in excess of 20%, and I had struggled to push the bike up that, because the point of best mechanical advantage for levering a bike up a "wall" is right where the pannier sits. I'd wondered if I should take the panniers off when I walked the bike down that slope on the way out. It certainly would have been suicidal to ride down in all the gravel. But after the rain, I was able to ease over the edge and ride down it with no slippage at all! The last three kilometres out to the road is a clay plain. That was very hard work. An hour or two earlier, and I'd have bogged down for sure.


Looking north across Italowie Creek, just west of the gorge

It was a slow ride to Nepabuna. Fortunately the road is mostly very wide, and the verges are hard, so I spent a good deal of the time sitting out there.  One thing about my narrower tyres (Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour) is that they are almost impregnable, so there were no punctures or tears from all the sharp rock.  I dosed up on ice-cream at Iga Warta and was privileged to meet Terrance Couthard and chat with him for a while. 

From Iga Warta the road improves the closer you get to Copley, and begins a long downhill run into Copley. My moving average went from not much above 7.5kmh to end up at 11.7, which is a dramatic increase given the distances involved. I hit Copley while it was still light, rather than the well after dark arrival I had been expecting.

Day 9: Oct 12 2021
Copley to Adelaide 581km

The challenge of this day, aside from its sheer distance, was how to manage the food. Unless I left very early, there would be no takeaway food places open until Spalding. And if I left early enough to get food at Hawker, nothing would be open at Copley or Leigh Creek— they are about 5km apart, leaving the limited range at the service station in Hawker. I chose a late start in order to buy breakfast at Copley Bakery, took one of their large pies for lunch, and two frozen pasties for tea. Along with my dry supplies, I then had three very comfortable meals for the day. The "day," remember, was going to be over 24 hours, so I grabbed sweet biscuits and a couple of apples at Leigh Creek IGA, and continued south.

The warm morning served me a genuine tail wind to Parachilna, followed by light "three-quarter" following breezes to Hawker.  I needed a fly net for the afternoon as the wind dropped. There are phases in a ride of this length. For the first 100km or so one is fresh and enthusiastic. Then the tiredness sets in a little. This corresponded with the last 80km into Hawker, which is predominately up hill. I had a good feed there, and topped up my water supplies. 

8panoWilpena Pound from the west, near Moralana Road

Hawker to Quorn is glorious country, even at night.  I needed to keep a close watch for roos, but had no traffic, and reasonable temperatures dropping only to about 10 degrees.  It's one of the great night rides. Three times on this night, I had a pale grey owl glide silently just over my head, using my headlight to inspect the road surface for a couple of hundred metres. They are glorious creatures. One of them swung out to a road sign, completing a sharp 180 degree turn as it landed, to give me a close inspection as I rode past.

After another good feed at Quorn I headed for Wilmington. This was phase three: here is where I begin to get sleepy. I had brought some caffeine gels with me from Adelaide, and had the equivalent of a couple strong long blacks, which mostly dealt with that problem.  Also here, the physical effects of the trip can begin to make themselves felt. I needed to massage the numbness out of my feet, something I would repeat several times before reaching home. Sometimes you can do this by shaking the feet when they are free of the pedals, but it can help to walk for a couple of hundred metres, or even to literally massage the balls of the feet by hand. I already have nerve damage here, so I need to pay attention.


I took my traditional shot of the bike at the Carrieton intersection a few km short of Quorn, observing that the airstrip was all lit up for landing. I'm not sure if they light it at night as a matter of course,  or if they were waiting for the Flying Doctor. At Quorn, instead of painting the silos, there is currently a nightly light show projected against them. It's impressive, although my camera could not do it justice.

At Wilmington, I refilled my bidons, bought real ice coffee from the 24hour vending machine shop, and headed for Melrose.  In daylight, I would use the rail trail to Melrose, but at 2am there is no traffic, so I stayed on the bitumen.  I did take the new rail trail across to Booleroo. Apart from wanting try this new trail, I expected it to be an easier ride than the still empty bitumen road across to Booleroo, which has a fair hill in the middle. I was correct about the slopes, but the surface of the trail is appalling. It is heavily corrugated! How can this be on a trail which has no vehicles... apart from extraordinarily inept engineering? It also has a number of dinky "bike-friendly" sheep grids, which are neither bike friendly nor, in my opinion, likely to slow down sheep very much. My opinion is clearly shared by at least one farmer, who had simply built a fence across the trail, blocking one of the grids.  Parts of the trail are so roughed up by stock that I rode alongside on a rough farm track in much more comfort. A bike club of 10 or 20 people hitting the Booleroo bakery would be a small bonanza, but it's not going to happen with a trail in this condition...

I turned off my lights somewhere around Appila, and headed past the Hornsby windfarm (90 windmills at a rough count) for breakfast at Jamestown. I make my own muesli with added powdered milk for breakfasts on these trips, and this time, had added crushed dark chocolate pieces. Recommended.

350kmMy GPS has a habit of dying at around 24 hours, so to play safe, I started a new record just short of Jamestown at 23 hours in. 

The point of crossing the range back to Jamestown was that after the 30km from Jamestown to Spalding, I would again be off the busy roads. This was important given that by Jamestown I'd have been riding for 24 hours or so.  It also worked well for the weather, because the following north-westerly had swung west and maybe a point south as I left Jamestown, and was back to the 40kmh levels of spring winds. The Jamestown road runs close to the Bundaleer Hills, and after an uncomfortable first 10km out of Jamestown, these hills gave me good shelter to Spalding.

From Spalding I was again on the back road through Andrews and Hilltown, and joined the Riesling Trail at Barinia Siding.  This was the occasion for one of the trip highlights, as Jan Trengove, who makes the world's best sandwiches, once again provided me with a handsome lunch.  This time she brought it out to the trail, meaning I didn't have to begin my post lunch ride up their street, which is steeper than Checker Hill!


You can see from my jersey and the puttee on my right leg that the day  was not particularly warm. I had not bothered to take my night gear off. The side winds here were so strong that I was almost blown off the Riesling Trail a couple of times, not a pleasant thought given the height of some of the embankments! I crossed my fingers at Riverton and took the potentially muddy back road to Tarlee, just missing a few showers. This route was a real relief because the Barrier Highway and Main North Road were loaded with afternoon traffic. By then, the wind was beginning to drop.

homeI had tea at Hamley Bridge and began the final run to Adelaide, arriving with the rain, just after 2am. It had taken 18.5 hours from Jamestown.

Maps: Clicking on Balcanoona-Copley will open Google Earth, allowing you to zoom in on the map. However the next files seem to be too large for Google Earth to render. If you right-click on Copley-Jamestown, or Jamestown-Adelaide, and save them to your local drive, a double click will then open them. You can then zoom into to see the routes in more detail. They will NOT open if you double click on the link on this web page.




Copyright ^Top