Three Years on the Road
Brett Davis

38. Adelaide and Kangaroo Island

Before leaving the Coorong and heading up to Meningie on Lake Albert, Karen and I stopped a half a dozen times to look at the waders and water birds that lined the shore. We saw four new birds during this time - the red necked avocet, the banded stilt, the great crested grebe and the red necked stint. Later in the day, at the caravan park, Karen saw a brown headed honey-eater as well - a good bird day!

The eighty three kilometres covered during the day had been a joy to ride with the wind at our backs. Karen and I hoped that the last two days of tailwinds signified a permanent change in the lousy weather we had endured since leaving Melbourne. On the Sydney to Cairns leg of the trip we had the wind behind us for much of the time, but now tailwinds were the exceptions, and headwinds the norm. Still, we only had ourselves to blame, as our research had shown us that the best way to cycle around Australia was anti-clockwise. Our return to Sydney from north Queensland had necessitated our current direction.

At Meningie we had yet another rest day, Karen reading for much of the time while I took off both my tyres to shorten the Mr Tuffy tyre liners and place sleeves cut from an old tube over the tyre liner ends. The electrical tape I had used previously had dried out and moved out of place. I hoped the new system would work better. Karen's tubes did not seem to be suffering from the same affliction. We spent most of the afternoon talking with our neighbours in the caravan park - a couple with a Suzuki 1000 motorbike and side-car pulling a trailer which converted into a tent, and a young couple from Christmas Island who worked in casinos.

The maintenance on my bike really paid dividends - I did not get another flat tyre until we were almost thirty kilometres out of Meningie! This time, however, it was a thorn and not the Mr Tuffy tyre liners that caused the puncture. We lunched at Tailem Bend in the rain, then caught the car ferry across the Murray River to Jervois to follow back roads to Murray Bridge. At one point along the back roads we were amazed to see a kite attack a galah and carry it away, only to be attacked itself a few moments later by four magpies, forcing it to drop the galah as it escaped!

After arriving in Murray Bridge and having two thirty cent ice-creams each at a KFC, we rode five kilometres out of town to the Avoca Dell caravan park, one of the most unique parks we would ever stay at. The owner of the caravan park was a butcher and the park office was his shop! He also had a putt-putt golf course on site - free to all caravan park residents and guests! We availed ourselves of both services, playing putt-putt in the afternoon before buying a couple of steaks for dinner - cooked with onions and tomatoes donated by the butcher.

We left Murray Bridge fairly late the next morning after birdwatching down by the river and riding to a lookout overlooking the bridge itself. We then crossed the bridge and rode through town, taking the old highway towards the distant Adelaide hills. The country was surprisingly bare and brown, with long undulations making the going slow. Karen was having a blah day, almost in dawdle mode, so our average was way down. We boiled water for a cuppa by the side of the highway just outside of Callington. The hills got shorter and steeper as we struggled on towards lunch at a rest area near Nairne, where we took advantage of a long, sunny break in an otherwise overcast day to dry out our towels, ground sheet and tent. A surprisingly difficult sixty three kilometre day ended at the Hochstein's caravan park in Hahndorf, a German theme town founded by immigrants last century. In the evening, in a typical display of defiance, Karen and I walked from our German caravan park through the German town to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

We were awakened the next morning by a strange, golden ball of warm light in the eastern sky - the first sunny morning we had seen in ages. We walked into town and spent the morning wandering up and down the main street, looking at historic hotels, bakeries, shops, galleries, the Beerenberg Farm, more shops and wine tastings, and even managed to score a couple of free cappuccinos. Finally getting into the German swing of things, we purchased some metwurst to have with lunch. We picked up heaps of tourist information about the rest of South Australia, and spent the afternoon reading the info and relaxing back at the caravan park.

One sunny day did not mean the lousy weather had finally disappeared. Rain belted down again overnight. It cleared in the morning and we rode out of Hahndorf into a cool and windy day. We warmed up going up German Town Hill, called into an old mill at Bridgewater for a brief look around, then carried on through the rest of the Adelaide Hills, taking the Old Mount Barker Road through Crafers to Mount Lofty.

In 1973 when I had first visited Adelaide, my kiwi mate Brian and I had driven through the city without realising it. Accustomed to Sydney's skyscrapers, the modest Adelaide buildings had made me think the city was a suburban business centre. It was not until we drove up to Mount Lofty and scanned the flatlands below us that we had realised we had driven right through the centre of Adelaide. On our cycling trip I had chosen the high road into Adelaide because I had wanted Karen to see the city from above. Unfortunately, Mount Lofty was closed for repair or reconstruction with a wire fence and barbed wire preventing access. However, the twelve kilometre descent of Greenhill Road from the summit made up for our disappointment.

Prior to starting this leg of the trip, a former workmate of Karen's called Linda had rung us up from her new home in the Adelaide suburb of Rose Park and offered us accommodation when we arrived in town. Karen had phoned the number she had given us from Hahndorf and spoken to Linda's husband Gary who said that although Linda was away in Sydney for a few days, the offer still stood. We duly made our way to the house when we reached Adelaide, and were soon safely ensconced in the house, drinking coffee and watching AFL - Sydney beat Richmond by a point. In the evening we shared a few beers and some red wine with Gary and watched Bram Stoker's Dracula - a really weird movie.

Our first full day in Adelaide was a veg day spent reading and relaxing around the house, but the following day we got off our butts and walked into the city to do tourist things. We visited the art gallery and saw the usual crap, visited the Festival Theatre, strolled by the Torrens River, and walked around Adelaide Oval, Light's Vision, Saint Peter's Cathedral and the Casino, ending up in the Rundle Street Mall where we shopped at camping and bicycle stores.

The Torrens River and Festival Theatre

Essential maintenance was carried out the following morning - Karen shaved her legs while I degreased, cleaned and oiled both bikes, and removed a buggered link from my chain. Gary had given us the loan of Linda's car. Having already toured the city the day before, we decided to tour the suburbs in the afternoon. With Karen navigating - always a dangerous activity - I drove to some of my old haunts - Unley (where I had lived for about a year), the Mitsubishi factory (formerly Chrysler, where I had worked for over two years), Flagstaff Hill, Brighton and Glenelg (where I used to run along the beachfront). We toured the beaches north of the Bay and drove to Port Adelaide, then back past Football Park, another haunt on weekends when the Tigers were playing the match of the day, and down Port Road to the city again. My camera arrived in the mail, supposedly fixed, and Linda arrived home in the evening, along with her two kids, Angela and Dean. The peace and quiet we had enjoyed with Gary was somewhat shattered.

Anzac Day 1996 was a showery day in Adelaide. It also marked the end of our first year on the road. We had an interesting day with the kids, but did not suffer too badly. In fact, we managed to escape twice, once in the morning when we drove to Waterfall Gully and walked around the Cleland Conservation Park, and once in the afternoon when we walked down to the nearby Victoria Park racecourse and watched the last horse race of the day from the Saint Leger stand. Sandwiched between these two outings was the Anzac Day game from the MCG with Collingwood beating Essendon.

We again visited the city the next day, taking in an Australian movie called "Cosi", visiting the Myer Centre and catching a glass elevator seven floors up the outside of one of the tallest buildings in Adelaide to get an overview of the central business district. We also booked a tour of Kangaroo Island for the following day, discovering that it was much more expensive to take our bikes on the ferry and camp once we got there, than it was to fly to the island, do a one-day bus tour and then fly back.

The following morning dawned bright and sunny. We were picked up just after seven in the morning and bussed to the airport for the flight down to Kangaroo Island. One hundred and forty five kilometres long, and up to fifty five kilometres wide, the island is the second largest Australian coastal island. It is situated sixteen kilometres from the mainland. A bus transported us to all the major scenic attractions of the island, including sea lions at Seal Bay, Vivonne Bay, the truly remarkable Remarkable Rocks, New Zealand fur seals at Admiral's Arch, then the Flinders Chase national park headquarters for a look at the usual indigenous fauna and one new bird - the crescent honeyeater.

Karen at Remarkable Rocks

After the touring had finished for the day, we had about half an hour to look around Kingscote, the island's largest town, before we flew back to Adelaide. Karen and I discussed the island, and whether the day trip had been worth it. We both agreed it had, and thanked our lucky stars that we had not ferried our bikes across to the island and spent a week or more travelling its length and breadth. Apart from a sealed road along its spine, Kangaroo Island is serviced by a network of corrugated, red dirt roads. Its scenic attractions are okay, but only a couple are worth the trip and all are a long distance apart. A day was just the right amount of time to take for a Kangaroo Island tour.

Back in Adelaide, Karen and I agreed to baby-sit the kids while Gary and Linda went to a movie. Luckily for them - and for us - the kids were little angels, but to avoid further baby-sitting we left Gary, Linda and Adelaide the next day.

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