The Trip Up

Day One: October 4, 2021
Adelaide to Jamestown 229km

The forecast was for high winds and up to 8 mils of rain. I left Adelaide around half past midnight, guessing from the BOM radar that this was my best bet to avoid the showers coming through.  I took my old commuting route out to Elizabeth, crossed out to Andrew’s Road, which is shorter than going to the Stuart O'Grady Bikeway, and then travelled up Wingate Road to Wasleys. There is a short dry weather only road through to Mudla Wirra Road and Hamley Bridge, but I avoided that due to the showers.  

mudlawirraThe photo shows the bike still very clean, despite being on the gravel road between Wasley and Hamley Bridge. This would soon change! The thing about this route north is that it brings a rider across from Hamley Bridge via Stockport, and into Tarlee, without any need to be on Main North Road, which has  high traffic volumes.

From Tarlee I took "Old Main Road South", which avoids 15km of Main North Road and the Barrier Highway and delivers you into Riverton. I wanted to test this route for my return trip, where I expected to be very tired, and would not want to be on the main highways!  There was one last shower of rain, only five minutes, and the surface turned to sticky slush within 30 seconds. It's the only time I've ever had a chain slipping on the rear cassette; the links were full of mud. You can enlarge the map of this alternate route here.2-oldmainsouth

In Riverton, there is a tap behind the public toilets, which is much beloved of cyclists, because there is no need to try to manoeuvre bidons under basin taps to get water. I was able to use this to wash the worst of the muck off the bike, although a good deal remained on the rims and frame until I soaked it off back in Adelaide.

It was then a simple matter of following the Rattler and Riesling trails to Clare. (I went into the IGA at Auburn and bought a shoe brush which I used to scrub any loose dry mud off the bike before going into my motel at Jamestown.) 

My friend Dave Williamson ran out on the Riesling Trail to meet me, accompanied by a young kelpie who could have left us both in his dust. Dave helped me with a more complete chain clean and oil at Clare, and then ran a good deal of the way out to the old Barinia siding with me.

From Barinia, I continued on White Horse Road, and then the Hilltown Road down into Andrews, and hence to Spalding. This meant Spalding was my first taste of the highways I had been avoiding.  The traffic was heavy... four wheel drives and caravans by the hundred, because it was the last day of a long weekend.  I made Jamestown in 16.25 hours , 16.3kmh moving average, with a moving time of 14.03, and a moving/stationary ratio of .86, which is pretty good touring.

The Railway Hotel was once again a good stopping point.  My room had the aircon placed so it would blow into the wardrobe if you left the door opwn, so I was able to wash my shirt (very stinky after being under a rain jacket until about 2pm), and other clothes, roll them in the towels, and then hang them in their very own warming cabinet. All dry for the morning.

Day Two: October 5 2021
Jamestown to Hawker 160km

The lie of the land means Jamestown-Hawker is the fastest way north. (Coming south it is easier to ride via Quorn to Gladstone.) The shorter 160 km made for an easier day, and the wind remained west to west-south-west. There was no rain. I left at 7.15 and took around 9.5 hours moving time to get into Hawker.

I stopped at Orroroo, where I bought a couple more 1 litre water bottles, and day food for the next couple of days. Orroroo IGA has a good selection of food; Hawker and Blinman have much less choice.

I had a couple of empty 1 litre Gatorade bottles in my panniers, which I now filled and strapped to the top of the carrier.  They are heavy duty plastic and won't crush. I put the new, very light, plastic bottles in the panniers. With my 3 bidons this gave me 5.8 litres capacity. 5 Litres is enough for 24 hours at this time of year. Orroroo to Hawker is only 100km, and you can get water at Carrieton, and at the Craddock pub, I guess, but the Orroroo water is filtered, so I filled the lot up.


This is part of the community mural at Carrieton. You can see I have changed from octopus straps to the orange variety, which I found much better to use.

I stopped in Carrieton for lunch around 1.40, and then continued onto the old railway town of Eurelia. My grandfather's favourite joke was that the engine man would hang out of the locomotive as they entered the station and bellow, "You're a liar!"  And the guard at the other end would yell, "You really are." It was never a big town, and there's very little left apart from the old hall and a couple of houses. 2-eurelia


There was still sufficient traffic on this road that people behind me often had to slow down for oncoming traffic. It’s measure of the politeness and awareness of country drivers that no one tried to squeeze past... and a pity that folk don’t take that sensibility home to the city.

When I rode up here in March 2020, the area was in deep drought.  The photo below is from that time, showing the single furrow people had cut into bare paddock in the hope of retaining some seed. 

furrows2020The next photo shows the results of that furrowing. There has been some germination in the furrows, but much of the surface remains scalded.


2-hawkerrangeThis photo was taken about 12km south of Hawker. When I came up in March last year, I was barely able to be see this range because of the dust storm.

Day Three: October 6 2021
Hawker to  Blinman 110km

Since it’s only 110km to Blinman, I decided to make a late start and arrived at Teague’s shop at 8.00 as it opened, and grabbed some very nice sandwiches for a later lunch. The trip up was its usual glorious Flinders parade of views.

3-CreekOne of the many creeks. This one runs into Price Creek just south of the Elder lookout.

But around Wilpena Pound the forecast 40km plus head wind came up. This reduced me to walking pace on occasions, and was one of the more drying winds I’ve experienced. Early October should mean that 5 litres of  water is plenty for 24 hours. I had 5.8 and used all but a litre of it over 12 hours. It took 4 hours longer than expected to get to Blinman. At the Blinman pub, I bought another 1.5 litre bottle of water given that I had 150km of gravel the next day.

3-upalinnaLooking south from Huck's Lookout after the 4km climb from Upalinna Station.

The pub insisted I could not take my bike into the room, which will definitely encourage touring cyclists to stay away. If you have that policy, tell people when they book “a bloke and a bike,” or have a lockup cage for them, or a cleaning fee if they leave mess! The bike is the cyclist's suitcase, so the pub policy means taking all the bags off and carting them inside. Ironically, it's on the panniers that most of the loose dust is sitting and will get onto things!

Day Four: October 7 2021
Blinman to Balcanoona 126km

I didn’t sleep well, so I got up early and left at 3.45am, heading for Balcanoona, where I’d told the ranger I’d let her know when I went past. As a result, I didn't see much of the range. There was little wind during the morning until well after dawn, which was a most welcome turn of events.  It's also basically downhill for something like 80km of the trip out to Balcanoona, also welcome!  The road surface to Balcanoona is currently in pretty good condition. There is no deep sand, and plenty of width to avoid the corrugations. My moving average of 13.7kmh sounds slow, but gravel can be much, much worse.

4-grazingWhat grazing does to the land. Photo taken about 75km east of Blinman. 


I made Balcanoona with 4 hours of clear daylight left, plus perhaps an hour of gathering dusk. It should have been enough to continue into Grindell's Hut, but given that my folk were away for the day, and given that I was really tired after my poor night's sleep, I decided to stay at the old shearer's quarters at the ranger station.

At around 3am, I wandered out to the toilets. I could hear roos thumping around in the dark. There’s not been a decent rain in over 5 years so they come in for the green shoots on the trees the ranger has on trickle irrigation. Suddenly I could hear what seemed to be heavy rubbing on the roof of the toilets, like some kind of giant possum crawling across the roof on its belly. Then... silence.  Later, in daylight, it became clear what I was hearing. There is a little tin shelter alongside the old stone building which houses the toilets, and just next to it, the pipe sweats. It’s an ideal salt lick, and even provides a few drops of water on occasion! Why go all the way back to the creek? I assume my visitor had been having a good itch on the tin.

Day Five: Ocober 8 2021
Balcanoona to Grindell's Hut 26.6km

Grindell’s Hut is about 17 km in off the main road, and that turn off is 10km from Balcanoona. The whole trip took five hours, four of which were the last 17km. The track begins heavily corrugated, and spends much of its time in creek beds. There are quite a few steep jump-ups.  I needed to walk the bike up 6 of these, but it’s the creek beds which are the killer. For fat tyres, or even 2¼ mountain bike tyres it would be much easier. But for my 35mil heavy touring tyres, the road was hard work. I travelled at around walking pace most of the time and often had to gently ease over dykes, and around large rocks in the wheel ruts. The moving average was only 7kmh. Crossing to the other side of the track, a favourite strategy on a bike on these roads, was frequently out of the question because the centre mound was deep, slushy gravel which either brought me to a complete halt, or tried to toss me off. It succeeded on one occasion. 


 A very rough road in... which will become worse, as much of it is creek bed!



An unusually good section of road!



Grindell’s Hut itself has all round panoramic views to die for... ironic, since Grindell killed his son-in-law.  Sian, the ranger at Balcanoona, said December will be six years since the last decent rains. I could still hear “water birds,” finches, on the way in at one point. I have no idea where the water was, there was no sign of greenery, but there will have been a small rock hole with a bit of sill over the top.  There are plenty of finches at the hut, living off the tanks, and you can also see the greener spots in the creek where water is obviously not too far down.

Maps: These files will open in Google Earth, if you have it installed. Jamestown, Hawker, Blinman, Balcanoona, Grindell's Hut. You can then zoom into to see the routes in more detail.

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