Monday, 30 November 2015

A return to Adelaide

Thu 26 Nov Port Germein
During our stay in Port Augusta the winds blew hot from the north.  We waited until the cool change, which of course meant southerlies - headwinds.  However, since the northerly winds were also creating dangerous fire conditions, a day of trucks and headwinds was the better option.

The coastal road between Port Augusta and Adelaide is the main trucking route. Unless you specifically want to detour via the Yorke Peninsula, I'd recommend the hillier but more scenic inland route.  We rode the inland route earlier and were concerned about a large bushfire burning inland and north of Adelaide. 

Riding between November and April in Australia means riding during bushfire season.  To stay safe we need to keep tabs on fire conditions.  We use the Emergency AUS app (Australia wide coverage), follow fire authorities on twitter feed (@CFSalerts SA, @CFA_Updates VIC and @NSWRFS NSW) and because phone data can get patch we carry a battery operated radio tuned to ABC local radio.
Fire risk requires flexibility in travel planning.  If a destination has only one way in, its probably a good idea to defer your visit until autumn.

Taking the main highway was our Plan B.  It's a busy road and with the southerly headwind it was a difficult day's ride.  However, it still had some scenic rewards. On our left was the Spencer Gulf, on our right the Flinders Ranges.  The small town of Port Germein provided an afternoon tea break stop and a chance to watch a horse trainer trot on the tidal flat.

We found a campsite near Weeroona Island and marveled as the full moon rose over the range.

Fri 27 Nov Wallaroo 
At Port Pirie we left the main road to see a little of the Yorke Peninsula.
We rode to Port Broughton and then to Wallaroo. The wind remained southerly, and the wind farms on the hills suggest its like that for much of the year.

The northern end of the Yorke Peninsula is hilly wheat farming country and busy with trucks bringing in the harvest.  We found the stretch between Port Broughton and Alford to be the worst. Hills, gravelly shoulders, and bad drivers combined to make this stretch both physically difficult and emotionally draining. We were glad to arrive at Wallaroo to hotel bed & hot pizza.

Sat 28 Nov Port Wakefield 
As we rode the country near Pinery, S.A. burned on a wide front cutting off all but the main highway route into to Adelaide.  We received regular reports that the CFS were getting parts of it under control, but until we heard more our route south remained uncertain.

To keep options open, we opted for a short ride to Port Wakefield, 60km to point where we'd need to decide quiet route or main highway.

As we rode the news became more encouraging.  Fire crews were conducting mop up activities in much of fire zone and weather conditions helping fire fighting efforts.   The route via Balaclava and Gawler was open.

Sun 29 Nov Balaclava Gawler Adelaide
We avoided the main highway, but it was hardly the scenic route.  The country south of Balaclava had been severely affected by the bush fires.  Roadside vegetation was blackened and in places reduced to ash.  Wheat fields ready for harvest were reduced to clouds of red dust and drifts of charcoal.  We passed burnt out houses marked off with hazard tape with insurance assessors talking to three generations of family reduced to tears.   It was sickening.  Arriving at Mallala, the town on the other side of the fire zone, was a relief but also a reminder of what the Pinery region looked like before the fire.

We arrived in Adelaide via Gawler - the northern most train station on the suburban network.  Adelaide trains accommodate bikes fairly well (there's a designated carriage), the ticketing system works (there's a swipe card for regular users and infrequent users can buy paper tickets on the train using cash or efpos card) and there's reasonable train arrival information on the platform (I suspect is the same system used in Sydney).

We arrive in Adelaide for a couple of days before a flight to Tasmania.  Our last leg of this trip involves a few weeks on the West coast where, unfortunately, we will have to ignore our "if there's only one way in and out, don't go there" advice.  Tasmania's west coast only has one road.

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