Touring with Gibbo:
1/2 Lap of Oz: SA
Day 10 Cont: South to Marla.
Erldunda Roadhouse to the SA/NT is 95kms, and its probably one of the most impressive border markers in Australia... See below. Oddly the Stuart Hwy. continues to be straight... joke.
Marla is the most northern town in South Aussie. It is truly in the middle of nowhere, but quite remarkable, in that it is the most unexpected place to find a supermarket, with the obligatory Roadhouse and motel units out the back. There is beer and food as well... What more do you want? Beer... Get this, one of the local bought a dozen VB long necks.... and paid... ready for this... $75. Ouch!
This also was where the 'dynamic duo' became the 'lonesome rider' with Kog heading home via Port Augusta and the Barrier Hwy. It's a big ride on your own, with the ever present straight roads avoiding all manner of wildlife attempting suicide including skippies, cattle, emus and goats.
The SA/ NT Border... Impressive!
South of Marla... nothing....
Nothing at all... As far as the eye can see!
Day 11 Marla to Coober Pedy.
Riding south from Marla in the middle of Australia on your own isn't surprisingly a lonely experience at all.. it's a very zen experience. You really can just zone, commune with the road and the desert. I had my ipod with me and listen to some music... but this didn't last long, it just better to take it all in kilometre after kilometre. There is a power in just you the road an not much esle. Marla to Coober Pedy isnt far, about 240kms so its a very easy day in the saddle. I wanted to have a good look around Coober Pedy that day and head south the next day to Port Augusta. I had been to Lightning Ridge (a very bloody strange town) previously, and wanted to compare the two. There are commonalities, as you would expect, and obvious differences. They are both clearly in decline as the mining cost sore, especially the cost of diesel, but Coober Pedy seems to doing a better job of getting the tourist dollar. Mind you, Coober Pedy is on the only road between North and South which helps. I went to 2 mines...Tom's Working Opal Mine and the Old Timers Mine, both of which were good. By 4pm I was 'mined out' and needed a beer, which there is plenty of, as you might expect, in a mining town, just expensive.
Coober Pedy lots of old equipment and human ant hills.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Tom's Working Mine: Handle with care.
Day 12: Coober Pedy to Port Augusta
More dead straight road south of Cooper Pedy. Still a lot of not much, until you come to Lake Hart, which is worth a stop. You will see quite a lot of lakes and the salt pans left behind as the water evaporates. It's pretty impressive, with very large expanses of salt. South of Pimba, there is a hill, I kid you not, there is an actual decline...in fact there are 2. It's remarkable after nothing but flat for several hundreds of kilometers. As I went further south, it got cooler and clouds appear threatening rain, and you see your first sight on the Flinder's Ranges, bringing you into one of South Aussie's most forgettable towns... Port Augusta. This picture is as good as it gets there. What was good was catching up with my sister and her hubby, who doing another 'grey nomad' trip in their Hilux van, average speed 72kms for the trip, rather than sitting on 130kms as I had been.
My gorgeous Vulcan and Lake Hart.
Lake Hart and a lotta salt.
Port Augusta... This is as nice as it gets.
Day 13: Port Augusta to the Clare Valley
After all the straight road since we left Texas in Qld, the nice windy roads from Port Augusta down to Clare were just fantastic... and SA below the famous 'Dobson Line' is green... really green and lush. I took the road to Wilmington and the hills were just lovely, then down less traveled country roads though Murray Town and Wirrabara. It was green, overcast and dam cold. The towns look like they are all going backwards I have to say... lots of closed shops etc.. I stopped a small cafe in Wirrabara and had a pie with salad and coffee for $11... It was awesome and I was cold. Out back the ladies were working on their next batch of pies. Thoroughly recommended. On then via Georgetown to the Clare Valley and the gorgeous township of Clare. I have been to Clare many times over the years and have always loved it. The wines, the people, the valley and the atmosphere... It's all good.
Day 14: Clare.
This day was my day off in Clare, before I would be joined by Grant and Bill. Grant was riding over from Castlemaine with the smell of a good Clare red guiding his way and Bill, who had turned right at the 3 ways and gone to Darwin, was on his way to join us in Clare, riding just under 3,000kms in 4 days. Yes you are correct... wtf?????
The day was a day of rest and clothes washing and sorting out what would be good for the boys to have a peek at in the Clare in one day. There would the obligatory wineries (not too many on the bikes) and something different, I was hoping. One of the things about the Clare is that wineries change all the time. There are some creative names for wineries these days. First place goes to Good Catholic Girl in Sevenhill, closely followed by Mad Bastard north of the Clare township.... And guess what the owners/wine makers are siblings, both offspring of the late Jim Barrie.
I went out to Mintaro (definitely worth the short 20km trip), a lovely historic village and Martindale Hall, again worth a visit. It's just out of Mintaro. If you're a history buff and keen on impressive Georgian buildings, you will love it. The boys arrive late arvo, desperate for a beer (some things never change), fortunately we were staying in the Clare Hotel, so yes there was plenty of that to go around.
I found the local Information Centre extremely helpful and knowledgeable. They also have a wine tasting there every Friday evening, featuring a different local winery each week... kewl idea.
The colour of green... So healing.
Canola... Fields of yellow.
Day 15: Clare with the boys.
The weather threatened all day, but mercifully held off for us. We took the road Northwest to the Books Lookout, on the Old Blyth Road, which does give a lovely view of the surrounding area and had a look at few of of the smaller lovely old German towns. I then dragged the boys out to Mintaro and Martindale Hall, which was as impressive as the lunch we had in Mintaro, and the lovely bottle of Reisling. Then it was off to a winery (except Grant managed to get lost on the way... truly...wtf?), which was recommended by just about everyone...Shut the Gate. It doesn't make any sense to be...whatev'. This was the site of the last excessive wine drinking with Bill and I in the Clare. It was called Neagle Rock then. The wines are still as good as ever. Clare and a good wine... Just impossible to beat the marriage here.
In the arvo we stopped by the local footy ground (we walked) and watched North Clare defeat South Clare in what was a high skill game of AFL. A great arvo out. It's wonderful that a valley like the Clare can foster such great local sport... awesome!
The region surrounding the Clare Valley... gorgeous.
Martindale Hall... impressive.
Inside the building... rooms everywhere.
Day 16: Clare to Hay
This was a big day (670km) in the saddle. We started too late (blame Grant) in the wet. We also had to put up with Grant's new HD fluro wet weather gear... truly disgusting and against the 'biker code of the west'. This was the first rain of the trip, so even though it was a pretty miserable (and overly fluro) start to a long day, you can't complain about the weather on the trip. I had intended to go home via Melbourne and see my kids, but the forecast was diabolical with snow down to 600m on the Dandenongs, rain, south westerley winds..armageddon.. ah.. no thanks, I lived in Vic for 25 years... had enough of that.
The rain pretty much stopped by Renmark. The border sign to Vic was suitably pathetic, unlike the NT and SA ones. We didn't even bother stopping to take a picture.
The three amigos, SA/ Vic bordertown as I recall.
More ugly old men. It was cold.