February 2012

February 4 — Nailsworth to McLaren Vale, 57.03 klms, Avg speed 13.6 kph, Cycling time 4.10 hrs; Total kms 25,750

Wow, what a 6 week break in Adelaide.  We caught up with Chris and Julia for a just over week (didn’t stop laughing, eating, drinking....), who we hadn’t seen in almost two years, Greg’s Mum Robin who we’d last seen in Perth a year ago stayed for what seemed like a very fast 7 days, Fat Cat (aka Steve) & Janine who came all the way to Adelaide to celebrate his 50th in fine style, and all sorts of people we’d met on our travels.  Andrew and June who we met at Fraser Range station at the begining of the Nullarbor, Trev & Barb with whom we shared a wet and cold Easter last year at Mt Barker Western Australia and Pete and Marie, we first met at Mt Surprise over 3 years ago.  All residents of South Australia and all generously offering their hospitality, despite Greg’s table manners.  Now we’re back on the old treddlies, two lovely house sits later, it was terribly sad saying goodbye to Dougal, the beloved pooch we’d looked after for 12 days.  We enjoyed our time in the big smoke and saw a lot of what Adelaide and its people have to offer.  Both of us agree, it’s a very agreeable place and one we could spend plenty more time in, but it’s time we moved on.  With bulging Christmas tummys and flabby un-exercised legs we make our way south.  Our route to the McLaren Vale was all along the Coast to Vine Rail Trail, all 57 klms of it, we puffed up a few hills, our hedonist life style catching up on us.  We’d been to McLaren Vale before but wanted to spend more time here as it’s an internationally acclaimed wine district with the first vines being planted by John Reynell in 1838, 2 years after the proclamation of the colony of South Australia.  It’s also a town offering beautiful scenery nestled between Mount Lofty Ranges and the beaches of Gulf St Vincent & one of our favourite towns, Willunga, can be reached via the 8km Shiraz Trail passing vineyards, wild olive groves & old gum trees.  It’s nearly grape picking time & this was evident in the camp kitchen at the Lakeside Caravan Park, the overseas pickers had arrived.  With fridges bulging with wine casks (not ours!) & assorted cooler bags, fry pans sizzling away with a variety of pasta sauces & tables crowded with laptops and language all buzzing with the excitement of earning a few Aussie dollars picking the rapidly ripening grapes.     

A bonus being in McLaren Vale is that we bumped into Marie & Pete who’d returned to the area after being away for several years.  We first met them in Qld 3 years ago & as luck would have it were staying at the same Caravan Park waiting to move back into their house at Easter.   Pete impressed us with his local knowledge and led us on a merry ride up hill and down dale through the back streets and paths of McLaren Vale.  The weather has turned and unusually for McLaren Vale we had summer rain and quite cool temperatures, certainly not what we expect in a South Australian summer.  Still it’s good to be back in our tent, we’re warm, dry and comfortable.  We have ABC radio, and the place is surrounded by vineyards, I think I will have difficulty getting His Grace to move......He’ll know it tomorrow, we have a big hill to climb.

February 8 — McLaren Vale to Normanville, 46.56 klms, Avg speed 15.9 kph, Cycling time 2.54 hrs; Total kms 25,796

It’s supposed to be summer but we had brekkie wearing our cycling jackets, still better than being hot as this morning we were riding up the Old Willunga Hill, one of the toughest 3km climbs in Adelaide and a regular showdown for the local Tour Down Under.  This climb starts off steep and doesn't seem to give any relief, however Kathy Cadel Evans & Greg Alberto Contador (he stopped twice to take photos, cheater!) battled it out with Kathy Cadel Evans taking the title of Queen of the Mountain.  ‘Ol Alberto here knew of my doubts the night before of tackling such a hill but it was pretty easy with hardly any huffing & puffing at the top.  After that it was downhill with lots of undulations surrounded by stunning scenery to the Yankalilla Bakery for a well earned coffee & carrot cake, good stuff too.  3 klms down the road we cycled into Normanville, a popular seaside place with long, sandy beaches & plenty of inshore reefs for great snorkelling, fishing & scuba diving.  We partook in none of these, it was too cold & miserable so a good time to catch up on office stuff.   Normanville’s village atmosphere appealed to us plus the fact that all the little darlings had returned to school, a perfect time to visit.  The Jetty Caravan Park was great although the manager was desperately trying to bring the grass back to life after the hordes of holiday makers had trampled it to death.  She asked if we wanted to pitch our tent on a concrete slab, we declined, she obviously felt the grass more important that the paying guest, in the end it was half grass & half dirt.  Still the camp kitchen set up was excellent, all enclosed with sofas & room to move, the pickers hadn’t arrived yet.  We’re back to saving our $1 coins for washing machines and hopefully we can get it all dry before the next rain.  Tomorrow we’ll take a ride to Carrickalinga further up the coast before finding a good cafe for our morning fix.  Tonight, as a treat for climbing the Willunga Hill non-stop I have been given cooking rights.  My broccoli pasta should fill a hole or two, we think we’ve earned it, yummm.

February 10 — Normanville to Cape Jervis then ferry over to Kangaroo Island (Penneshaw), 34.32 klms, Avg speed 11.6 kph, Cycling time 2.56 hrs; Total kms 25,831

Today’s ride was a Trifector — hills, headwinds & rain—it was miserable.   On top of that it was cold & we seemed to crawl up most of those damn hills.  Suffice to say we looked for any reason to stop so it was an early lunch at Second Valley, sheltering from the rain in a bus shelter and an hour later disappeared into the Delamere Store for coffee & a chocolate bar.  The only good bits to the day so far were free wheeling the final 5 klm decent to Cape Jervis (‘Ol Alberto proudly announcing he reached 62 kph) then sheltering for 3 hours in the warmth of the Cape Jervis Hotel for our 40 min ferry trip over to Kangaroo Island, 13 klms away.  We’d only cycled 3 hours & 34 klms today but if felt like we’d been cycling all day.  By the time we set up camp at the local caravan park at Penneshaw, showered, stuffed our faces with microwaved pasta ‘n’ pesto sauce, walked to the pub for a beer it was well after 9.30pm.  Needless to say we slept well that night.

Kangaroo Island (or ‘KI’ as the locals call it) — At 155 kilometres long and up to 55 kilometres wide, it’s the third largest island off the coast of mainland Australia.  It covers an area of 4,500 square kilometres with some 4,400 folk living here, most of them primary producers.  So it’s big, big too on tourism & surprisingly diverse with soaring cliffs, dense forest, towering sand dunes, wet lands & massive arcs of bone white beach.  Being surrounded by fertile lands & rich waters KI produces some of Australia’s finest gourmet foods, goodies such as freshly caught King George whiting, sheep’s cheese including haloumi (yum), marron, honey & wine.  Our 14 day stay is already looking way too short.

February 12 — Penneshaw to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse & return, 55.31 klms, Avg speed 14.8 kph, Cycling time 3.43 hrs; Total kms 25,886

There’s lots of minor roads on KI, most of them unsealed so our initial thoughts were to stick to the sealed roads.  But wanting to see as much of the island while here we’re testing the gravel roads today & cycling out to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, 28 klms away, 16 klms being unsealed.  The grader came through a couple of months ago so the road was pretty good & it was definitely worth the trek as the ocean backdrop to the Lighthouse was spectacular with views right across Backstairs Passage.  Cameron, the Lighthouse Guide, gave an excellent tour as well as delving into his tool box to help fix Crazy Ruby’s mudguard, too much shaking had dislodged a screw.  Heading home we detoured to Chapman River Winery, the cellar door building being a converted aircraft hanger and consequently still boasting its own aircraft strip. Apart from the wine we devoured a fantastic KI seasonal platter & quaffed an acceptable roséIt was a fast ride home, luckily mostly downhill as Crazy Ruby developed a ear splitting grinding pedal noise, I knew it was serious when ‘Ol Alberto (the cheater) declared we wouldn’t be leaving the next day. Pedal prognosis....terminal!

February 13 — Penneshaw

Q:  How to get a replacement pedal quickly when there’s no cycle shop on KI.  Solution: Buy a cheap pair for $7 from Toyworld (58 klms away) & pay $5 to Darren from Spark’s Couriers to deliver to us early the next morning.  In the meantime replacement Shimano pedals should be waiting for us at Kingscote in a couple of weeks, having been ordered from Sydney.  With an extra day in Penneshaw we enjoyed really nice coffee at The Penguin Stop Cafe and spotted loads of dolphins on the Ironstone Hill Hike in Baudin Conservation Park.  We enjoyed Penneshaw & its views, the quaint shacks overlooking Hog Bay.  Most people don’t stop at Penneshaw when they arrive by ferry, and those that do have invariably said “there’s not much in Penneshaw” but we really liked it.  There’s the regular ferry comings and goings, pretty good coffee, the Pub has the most fantastic views and whilst we didn’t eat there (amazingly!) the food looked pretty good, there are interesting buildings and the great general pace of life.

February 14 — Penneshaw to Kingscote, 58.16 klms, Avg speed 16.5 kph, Cycling time 3.30 hrs; Total kms 25,944

After several cuppas at The Penguin Stop, a chat to another touring cyclist, Peter from Holland, we left Kingscote at 10.30am with Crazy Ruby proudly sporting a new $3.50 pedal.  It was very hilly for the first 20 klms out of Penneshaw & with our late start it was humid too so after 30 klms we’d had enough & stopped for lunch.  After that the last 30 klms whizzed by as the terrain had straightened & flattened out.  Liz, a fellow cyclist, stopped her car & offered us accommodation on our return to Penneshaw via American River.  Kingscote is home to half the island’s population and is the largest town on the island.  It’s situated on the beautiful Nepean Bay, overlooking a harbour that is often studded with boats.  It’s also home to Reeves Point, the first European settlement in South Australia.  So we arrive at the caravan park in mid afternoon, set up camp and head into town to pick up supplies.  I was allowed to prepare and cook dinner tonight, a new discovery of Marion’s Thai Green Curry, a box full of all the goodies including bean sprouts, kaffir lime leaves, chillies, the whole bit. Yum!  Over the next couple of days we cycled around town to see the sights and got ourselves a bit organised as this is the last real big supply town until we get back here in about 10 days.  We weren’t planning on coming back to Kingscote but we now have to pick up Crazy Ruby’s new pedals, hopefully.  We’ve sent a food parcel to the western side of the Kangaroo Island, Greg wrestled with Telstra, again, and we confirmed the delivery of other parcels to the Victor Harbor Post Office which we expect to get to reach by about the 8th of March.

February 17 — Kingscote to Emu Bay, 16.47 klms, Avg speed 15.6 kph, Cycling time 1.03 hrs; Total kms 25,961

Only a hop, skip & jump to Emu Bay stopping at the Emu Bay Lavender Bay Cafe for 2 great cups of coffee.  We’re carrying food for the next 3 days as we’re bush camping, our first stop is here at Emu Bay with its 4 klm beach, it’s one of the most popular spots on the island with safe, clear water for swimming.  The jetty was built in 1916 and until the early 1930’s was used in the shipping of grain, stock & merchandise.  Gazing out at the azure waters from the BBQ shelter it’s hard to concentrate on web work but it’s nearly done so time for a stroll along the beach.  Tonight’s dinner of home made spag bol is a welcome treat, for the next 2 nights there’s no effort involved except opening a jar or 2.  Shudder....I think Greg is even carrying cask wine!!  Needs must.... The local Council has apparently in its wisdom sold the sea front caravan park, only to build another smaller one up the road.  Obviously built by road builders as the ground is gravel road base to ensue no one gets a good night sleep.  Greg, after a false start on some unmarked private property (the old caravan park) put the tent up on the grass just adjacent to the excellent BBQ facilities (still next to the old caravan park) and right under a street light.  It was so bright at night we didn’t need our lights to read!  His Grossness slept like a log, while I stared at the roof of the tent!  Mmmm.....

February 18 — Emu Bay to Stokes Bay, 36.92 klms, Avg speed 10.9 kph, Cycling time 3.22 hrs; Total kms 25,998

Embarrassingly low average speed today caused by steep hills, corrugations, hot weather & slippery, loamey surfaces.  Talk about tough but our fault as we chose to cut across to Stokes Bay on the unsealed North Coast Road.  Stunning views & scenery so you have to say it was worth it.  We rolled down the hill into Stokes Bay & followed the signs pointing to the ’Beach, accessed through a low & narrow headland of boulders.  In front of us was a fine, white beach surrounded by cliffs & a large rock enclosed pool, no wonder this place gets packed in the school holidays, our timing was perfect only 2 other souls on the beach.  This place is a fisherman’s paradise too so with BBQ facilities, toilets, basic camping & The Rockpool Cafe, doing a roaring trade,  it’s going to be the perfect spot to spend a couple of days.  After our coffee fix at the cafe we decided to stay for lunch & devoured salt & pepper squid & prawns with garlic & cream sauce washed down with chips, salad & very expensive beer, cos they can.  The Cafe also owns the camp site behind, it is basic with only toilets but it’s great, you can hear the waves, listen to the birds, talk rubbish to a couple of wallabies and go ooo ahh at a koala stuck up a tree.  And..there’s hardly anybody here, they’re all trying to lose money at the KI Cup in Kingscote.  The Cafe’s not going to be open tomorrow, Matt (the owner) is having an day off, he’s also going to the Cup, that’s a bugger, had he forgotten we need a daily coffee fix!

February 20 — Stokes Bay to Parndana, 24.81 klms, Avg speed 11.2 kph, Cycling time 2.12 hrs; Total kms 26,023

“Parndana”, what yah goin’ there for, there’s nothing there.  After a very slow and steep start up a recently watered road (they’re doing road works) and directly into a 30 klm/h head wind we arrive at The Heart of KI and, some may argue, the soul of the island.  Where generations of families have lived, where farmers work the land and where you will find Parndana—the ‘Scrub Gum Place’ - a typical Australian country town.  And, being part of the Soldier Settlement Scheme saw a doubling of the area of agriculture land on the island.  This area, the Heartland, provides a real spectacle in late winter/early spring when the wildflowers come out. We set up camp at the free camping area behind the Pub.  It’s still blowing a gale from the SSE and quite cool.  Greg keeps asking the locals what time of the year summer arrives.  He’d betta’ be careful someone may bop him!  We coffee at Dave’s Deli and not bad either.  After a $3 buck a head shower at the Pub we head back there for the Monday night “Special” Roast Lamb and gravy on real mashed spuds and a self serve vegetable and salad bar.  Needless to say we got our money’s worth.  We make preparation for our foray to Cape Borda the most north westerly Point on the Island.  We’re there for 3 days and the local stores don’t look too promising supplies wise.  Looks like we’ll have to feed up at the Pub again tonight.  Being a Tuesday of course, it’s Schnitzel Night!  Greg has been regaling me with what he’s going to be feasting on all day.  Anyone would think he hadn’t eaten in a while. The forecast is for a sunny day and even, crossed fingers, a tail wind.  We’ll need it as there’s over 30 klms of dirt to get to Cape Borda,,,,ripper!

February 22 — Parndana to Cape Borda, 65.74 klms, Avg speed 14.3 kph, Cycling time 4.35 hrs; Total kms 26,088

The final 17 klms to our destination today brought back horrible memories of riding across the Savannah Way into the Northern Territory 2 years ago, sand & corrugations are a cyclist’s nightmare, today was no different and it’s always such slow riding.  At least had a tailwind & bitumen for the first 36 klms plus passed lots of farms along the way, saw lots of eagles too and more plovers to poke a stick at (they’re supposed to be in short supply on the Island).  But the agony was all worth it when we opened the door to our cute accommodation for the next 3 nights—Woodward Hut-it was advertised as “KI’s most affordable heritage accommodation!  Quaint & different—it didn’t matter there was no running water as we had a fridge, stove, toaster, kettle & twin beds & a location directly next to the Lighthouse and all for $40 per night—it was a relaxing, magical 3 days as our photos will attest to.  And we dined and wined exceptionally well, gosh a fridge makes all the difference.   We stuffed our panniers with supplies from Parndana albeit limited-frozen mince, tinned toms, huge lettuce, cheese, bread, lemons, apples and the dreaded cask wine etc.  We dined on Mexican Soft Tacos for the first night and Spag Bol for the following 2 nights.  We toured, walked and soaked up the silence and isolation and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  What’s more the weather even warmed up a bit, much to Greg’s delight. 

February 25 — Cape Borda to Flinders Chase National Park, 50.90 klms, Avg speed 12.3 kph, Cycling time 3.50 hrs; Total kms 26,138

It was very sad leaving Woodward Hut, we could have stayed a week but the corrugations beckoned.  After 17 klms we turned right down another gravel road, Shackle Road and for 34 klms had no corrugations but this time extremely slippery pea gravel so not as rough, just dangerous.  Today was also hot, we think it was the hottest day we’d had on KI.  We lunched at The Chase Cafe at the Flinders Chase Tourist Office then headed 7 klms east to stay at the KI Western Caravan Park for the next 4 days, a lovely park situated on 550ha of natural bushland with loads of wallabies & great birdlife & in a great spot to explore the National Park. 

February 27 — Flinders Chase National Park to Cape du Couedic & back again, 52.17 klms, Avg speed 17.4 kph, Cycling time 2.58 hrs; Total kms 26,191

The wild, rugged Western end of Kangaroo Island is a marvel.  From the beautiful sculptures of Remarkable Rock and Admiral’s Arch to the dense bush land in the National Park—this is nature at her artistic best.  We wanted to see Cape de Couedic 22 klms away so on our trusty steeds we hopped.  What a difference it makes with no panniers, so much easier, lighter & faster except for those hills, who was that person in the Visitors Centre who said KI was flat, obviously doesn’t ride a bike.  Worth the roller coaster ride to get a taste of rugged coastal scenery, admire the 2000 hand-chiselled blocks of local limestone at the Lighthouse & check out the cute New Zealand fur seals.  A great day all around topped off with a slimming dinner of Deb mashed potato, de-hye peas, sausages, steak & rissoles ( frozen BBQ pack from the caravan park, yuk!) topped with a tomato, onion, garlic & chilli sauce.

February 28 — Flinders Chase National Park to Kelly Hill Caves & back again, 19.90 klms, Avg speed 18.00 kph, Cycling time 1.06 hrs; Total kms 26,211

Couldn’t miss a trip out to Kelly Hill Conservation Park to take a guided tour of the caves.  It was an amazing underground world of caverns, ornate cave formations & amazing limestone formations.  Greg, that adventurous spirit, was tempted to go on the Adventure Cave Tour where you crawl through an underground maze of smaller caverns virtually all day.  Funny, he declined and spent the afternoon ZZZZzzzzzing on his back, more horizontal thinking.  I got a chance to excel in the kitchen that night—pasta with a creamy, tomatoey, rosemary sauce with some awful looking BBQ’d sausages thrown in.  Considering our last decent supermarket with fresh supplies was over 2 weeks ago plus we’re now relying on food parcel delights & frozen meats from the caravan park we’re eating pretty well.  The weather has cooled again and the wind is not going to be our friend for the next week or so before we hop off the Island, so we’ll just have to grin and bear it.

February 29 — Flinders Chase National Park to Vivonne Bay, 39.05 klms, Avg speed 13.9 kph, Cycling time 2.48 hrs; Total kms 26,250

Terrible night’s sleep for me, strong winds, creaking trees above our tent, always sure one is going to fall on us.  Terrible ride today too, overcast & gusty, swirling winds.  We knew The Rustic Blue Art Gallery & Cafe would be open if the red flags were flying—yeah, they were!  We sat on the deck overlooking the gardens and wildlife waiting for our coffee & cake, it was a beautiful, relaxing place.  Vivonne Bay should have been the same, once declared the ‘best beach’ in Australia but our memories are grey skies and strong winds and with a camp ground like a gravel pit, too hard to get the pegs in.  We ended up camping on the soft bark on the kiddies play ground, rode 2 klms back to the Vivonne General Store for an early dinner and by 6.30pm dived into the tent to read.  It must have been a windy night, Greg said he didn’t sleep well..that’s a first!