A rather large motel room breakfast ( it’s amazing what you can make with a toaster and a microwave…) we started the slog from Port Augusta to Horrocks Pass. It was a gentle slope but the headwind was back and we were crawling. The hills reared ahead with green finger-like proturberances like a rumpled sheet. We finally started to climb properly and lost the majority of the wind, not moving any faster but happy to put our energy into the ascent instead of going nowhere. We weaved up the hillside past plenty of birds and sheep with lambs bounding away as we approached. The scenery seemed unusual bur beautiful and we were glad we’ve chosen this route rather than the more direct main road to Adelaide.
Reaching the top we were treated to a bit of descent and wonderful views towards Wilmington. We then started rolling through quaint villages with cafes, museums and art galleries with old fashions village stores; obviously proud of their heritage. The farmland in between was lush with sheep, grain crops and occasionally rapeseed and lots of birds shouting about our arrival.
Suddenly the squawking took on a more furious note and there was a rush of feathers above our head. We both ducked the dive bomb of black and white feathers but he came back around for another attack. It a magpie attack and for some reason these birds are known to be particularly aggressive to cyclists. Our shouts and flailing with the go pro stick did nothing to dissuade him but after a certain distance he obviously decided his job was done and he’d chased us away.
Feeling traumatised we could do nothing but stop at the next bakery (or maybe it was just the smell of meat pies) a lovely local place in Wirrabara and tucked into hot pastries and doughnuts.
A few miles down the road was the highlight of Laura’s day:a town named after her and not being allowed to stop so soon after lunch she made Stevie slow down for a photo of every sign with her name on it.
We had a gamble to make this for this evening: either carry straight on to the small village of Blyth with one pub/hotel which we hadn’t got around to contacting in advance or turn to Clare a bigger town with guaranteed accommodation but slight further today and certainly further tomorrow over the hill. We were feeling positive to as the sun set headed to Blyth. It had been a warmer day up to this point but dropped dramatically once the sun set and our back up plan of camping seemed less practical. We pushed hard through the last few bitterly cold miles almost at 120miles distance and we’re delighted to roll into the village…and then instantly heartbroken to see the hotel dark and empty.
We tried calling and tried nearby bnbs but to no avail. The options were a cool hilly 8 miles ride to Clare to then try and hunt down accommodation and food or pitching up on the sports ground and sandwiches for tea. We decided we’d gone far enough for one day and didn’t fancy the extra miles the next and it was slightly warmer in town too so got wrapped up and headed to find a pitch. A great little set up for RVs/campervans with a shelter and benches was just the ticket. We had the tent up in minutes and and cosy inside we could have heated up some food but were quite happy with a dinner of ginger nuts, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, biltong and cherry ripe chocolate bar! And early night was a good chance to catch up on sleep too!
After what was actually a very comfortable and long nights in the tent we were packed and aaya in no time and feeling vaguely surprised the cafe was open got breakfast too. We started.out and it warmed up and then…we.felt wind on our backs! We could barely believe it!
The lush countryside rolled downhill and it felt like bliss after the past few days to see the miles clock up. A brief snack just before 50miles and we were flying towards Adelaide.
A short stint on the main road certified we had made the right choice in taking the high road as it was busy with trucks and rushing traffic. Diverting off we found a steadier route into the city and were soon surrounded by the.unfamiliarity of familiar sights! McDonald’s, Subway, KFC, dominoes and even woodfired pizza all beckoned but we weren’t done yet and had a destination to get to.
The centre was wonderfully quiet but the tall building and people suddenly felt strange and confusing after so many days in open spaces. Soon into the suburbs on the other days and dodging hordes of schoolchildren at kick out time we stated to climb…and then climb some more…
A stiff slope on a narrow winding road wasn’t ideal and Laura didn’t even have time to get a photo of the “koala crossing” signs. A car slowed behind us just in time to get us passed the worst bends and we pushed to the summit. Thankfully rolling down the other side we waved to someone videoing on a phone but pushed on.
We had an very kind invitation to stay with a couple who had not only hosted the Tandem Men the original mens record holders but also Tnadme WOW who hold the women’s record! Taking a slightly convicted route through the suburbs we found out the considerate driver up the climb and the video taker were in fact our host and the hot tub and dinner were waiting!! We finally have had our tailwind day.
And it’s been a pretty momentous one!
We left the wonderful Alex and Trish very reluctantly having felt like we’d had a few days off rather than just an evening; actually relaxing and enjoying great company rather than doing jobs! They filled us full of breakfast and snacks for our lunch bag before waving us off and we headed up and down over the Adelaide hills.
The views were great and it was sheep on the road rather than koalas but we did spot a kangaroo (you’ll have to look closely at the photo!) and the bends and undulations were very welcome after so long in the Nullabor plain.
It did cost us time and energy though and when we stopped I Meadows the smell of the pie shop Alex had mentioned was too much and we could respite trying a couple from their amazing array.
Well fueled for the rest of the day we pushed on down a great descent and a slog on the flat to reach a very important point: 9000 miles, and technically only 4.5days of mileage down despite 6 days off the bike with mishaps. We are delighted!!
And on our way home!
The day wasn’t over though and we had to catch (a very short) ferry at Wellington across the river which was a welcome break. Turning up to the main road we were battered by crosswinds for a bit before turning back onto the busier road to Coonalpyn. It was dark and busy rolling in so we were glad to get to the motel. The reviews had read well and we had expected something a bit more upmarket, but it was quite a “compact” room. The pub was “lively” with live music from a bloke singing with keyboard and lots of punters getting merry. We had rushed back to the bar to order dinner before the kitchen closed, forgoing showers until later. It was all feeling a bit surrafter such a big day and then we made a big mistake ordering dinner…
It was schnitzel night and based on the size of previous schnitzel we went for one between two and a vegan salad main to share. Sadly the schnitzel was a more average size and the salad, although nutritious, was not what we felt we had earnt after 9000miles. Feeling rather put out Laura went to bed while Stevie raided the salad bar to fill up.
After filling up on cereal and toast at the motel we were on the road and ready to go. With cross tailwinds for a change the miles slipped by until second breakfast at a petrol station.
The terrain was a mix of wooly Dorset sheep and chunky Angus, Hereford and Simmental cattle interspersed with row upon row of grape vines which seemed odd. The twisty patchwork trees are full of shouting parrots and parakeets: galahs, cockatoos, rosellas and lots we don’t know. Thankfully the magpies didn’t attack today but added to the cacophony.
We made great progress with few stops and hit Naracoorte just a dusk. The campsite was on the town showground and the lady that answered the phone when we had called earlier to check they were open seemed a bit concerned, asking “what are you going to sleep in?” when we said we were on a bicycle. We explained we had a tent and she seemed to take us. The facilities were basic and after squelching across the water logged grass to near the toilet block it was a bit of a worry pitching in the dark but we managed to find a dry spot and went to find some dinner. Just starting to rain as we got back we prayed it would stay dry overnight but at least it was warm!
We did manage to stay dry…much to the campsite owner’s surprise! It seemed the site wasnt as regularly used by tents as the website implied! Waking up to the news HRH Queen Elizabeth had passed away too was very sad and a bit surreal, if anybody embodies dedication and commitment it was her.
A slow steady start packing up and a tactical Maccas (Maccy Ds) stop to fuel up and we were off. Vineyards stretched for miles but eventually gave way to more pastureland where we spotted a kangaroo hiding amongst the sheep. This gave Laura a fanastic opportunity to tell one of her few jokes:
What do you call a cross between a sheep and a kangaroo?
A wooly jumper!
*insert tumbleweed sound here*
What was meant to be a brief loo break at 30 miles somehow became a full blown bakery stop and full of pie we headed towards Mount Gambier.
On the way out Stevie needed a drink and we ended up in the second McDonald’s of the day eating big macs! With still 54miles to go and have figured out we lost 30minutes of time entering Victoria, the next state we needed to put our foot down.
The single lane road through the pine forests became more rolling and on the look out for road trains it all became a bit more stressful than we would like. Dark brown kangaroos skipped into the darkness of the forest and the full moon rose above.
Getting into Heywood we were too late for the shops so opted for pizza and chatted to the lovely staff there who were really interested in our trip. When we collected the pizzas they refunded us the money and said they were on the house! We were really grateful for such a kind gesture and the amazing pizzas certainly will keep us going. A small motel room explosion to dry the tent and we’re ready for bed!
A good night’s sleep at the motel and we made a better job of packing up this morning, eating left over pizza for breakfast.
The wind was blowing and it was bitterly cold… but it was behinds us and we had tailwinds!
Heading towards the coast the Great Ocean Highway was rolling but the wind pushed us on. We got lured into another McDonald’s stop in Warranabool but not before getting attacked by magpies again first!
Opting to push the distance and get a motel instead of camping we booked one at lunch and thus motivated us to get is as close to dark as we could. Passing lots of eucalyptus trees lining the road a very sad dead koala gave a clue there were more.
Que Laura scouring the branches from the backseat. Her search was rewarded when she spotted a ball of grey fluff wedged in the nook of a tall tree but so well camouflaged we didn’t have time to go and hunt him out.
We’ve been thankfully free of roadtrains today and even more so as the sunset and we approached Colac. About 20miles out we’d stopped briefly on the side of the road when a man pulled over advising us to take care on the busy road (it was actually one of the best yet from our perspective) and when he found out how far we had to go (20 miles out of 130) he offered to put us up for the night!
Sadly the motel was already booked and we needed to try and get as close as possible to hit Melbourne tomorrow!
Stopping a Woolworths we stocked up on dinner and breakfast (not pick a mix) and were very pleased with a massive hotel room we could fit the bike in. Stevie huddled under the aircon to warm up and we were both shattered after such a big day.
Starting late after Stevie had used the advantage of having the bike inside a motel room to change the crossover belt we made it less than half a mile up the road when Laura realised she was missed the crib sheets for the route and facilities. The compromise was Stevie went to McDonald’s and Laura scurried back down the road. A second breakfast later and we were off!
The wind was still behind us and if was a warm sunny day. Apart from a brief stop where all the cows came to watch we powered on to late lunch in Geelong. Settling down to blast through the second half of the day we started to follow some great country lanes towards the city of Melbourne. We ground to halt at the slip road to the motorway… having replanned this section on the fly a few days ago the software hadn’t picked up on it not being cycle friendly. A bit of rerouting later and a few extra miles got us on the road to Melbourne again.
It started to shower and then to rain properly and for the first time both waterproofs came out in Australia.
Our next misdemeanor came on entering the city and spotting signs for the Federation trail we wanted to take. We suspect we may have started in the wrong direction though as we were soon off route and the wrong side of the motorway…more rerouting later and we picked it up in the dark, dodging rabbits along the way. Just as we got close to the centre it ended abruptly at roadworks and we diverted again.
The rain had set in and we were getting pretty cold and miserable by this point.
We had been due to take a “punt” over the river but this was inevitable long closed when we rocked up. More replanning to find a bridge we were allowed on and Laura’s phone died just a few miles short of our destination. We were delighted to be welcomed by a sister of an old school friend of Laura’s and get warm and dry a filled with fish and chips!
Weekly mileage: 801.56
Total mileage : 9529
Kangaroo sightings : lost count