Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Farmer Wants a Wife

Perhaps a couple of days cycling through isolated farming and pastoral land with three guys was enough. Judith joined us for this weekend, and after a short soiree along the last 10km - all downhill - of the Riesling Trail, we left Clare and headed north-east to Burra. On an isolated dirt road, upon seeing Jude ride past, a local farmer stopped his tractor and combine harvester to jump out and "inspect his crop".

Penwortham to Burra to Mt Bryan East
2 days: 118km
Nick, Graham, Jude and myself

This didn't escape the notice of Jude, who was much impressed. He was a little older, granted, but as we rode on we wondered upon his riches and the vastness of his estate, contemplating which of the various sprawling farm homes would be his. As luck would have it, the Mawson Trail route took us straight past his house, it was clear to all that this is the house he was preparing for this new wife. Jude was in awe, it was hard not to be really. A sprawling house, almost ready to move in. Partly furnished, all it needed was a woman's touch. This was fate, there was just no doubt, the shoes the farmer left as gift were the perfect size. Also of note was the car parked in the shade under a nearby tree.

We drove up Friday night and stayed at a Heysen Hut - the old Mt Bryan East School. Nick slept in his campervan with Nicole and the kids, whilst Graham, Jude and I discussed the merits of sleeping in the building when the last comment left in the log book was from the previous weekend and commented on the appetite for human flesh the local field mice had. Well possibly it was me who was driving that conversation, but I had my mouse-proof tent handy which would ensure a sound nights sleep.

The following morning we were awoken to a windy morning with glorious sunrise colours. As we nibbled on our breakfast and played frisbee with Nick's kids, Olivia, 8 and Noah, 6, Graham busied himself wrapping his new bike in several metres of bubble wrap. Effectively protected against the hard metals of the other bikes in the trailer, we left my car at the hut and drove in the campervan down to Penwortham, just south of Clare, where we had ended our ride last month. With Graham, Nick and Nicole up front, Judith and myself discussed the finer points of an assignment which we set for Noah and Olivia. As we rode back to Burra, where they were set to spend the day with Nicole in Burra which would involve a look-in to the various op shops. The point system decided, each child selectively interpreted the list to their own liking. Noah was off to find a gun, preferably a working one, as they posed no danger, indeed, as Jude and I were sternly told, it was the bullets that were harmful. It was remiss of us though, as upon completion of their assignment the following day, it became clear to both children that we had been negligent in finding suitable rewards. Opps. Isn't the fun of it the reward?

The first day was tough, although we all took some delight in the roo racing we participated in, thankfully on a long downhill run from Camels Hump Range. So a big roo can easily bounce along at between 35-38km/h. I suggest you file that one away somewhere for it's possible use at a quiz night one day, you just never know.

Nearing Burra, we were met by Noah, Olivia and Nicole on their bikes. "Did anyone fall off?" asked Noah as we rode into town. "No," I replied. "Not even Graham?" Noah responded, clearly concerned that the bubble wrapping effort may have been in vain. Jude led the way to a apple wine place in Burra she had earlier seen advertised. We had expected to see it on the outskirts of Burra as we rode in from the southern side. As it turned out it was only about 150m from the trail, but not directly accessible from the trail, so we had to ride all the way into town, past our intended campsite on the outskirts, down to the main street, then back up a ridiculous hill the winery. And we had to do all this with the 4.30pm closing time looming. As we staggered in to the tasting area, I lingered outside for a moment to empty my water bottle over my head. Confronted with a selection of apple wines and liqueurs, each of us pleaded for a glass of water first. After a very interesting chat and the purchase of several bottles of wine and liqueur, we rode back to our campsite. We camped in an organic orchard grove on the southern outskirts of the town, belonging to a friend of Nick and Nicole. On site was some running water, a nice little caravan, and a huge stack of hay bales that provided much welcome shade in the setting sun. After a wash under the tap, we walked into town to dine at The White Cedars, the local Indonesian restaurant.

While Noah set his sights on conquering the huge plate of noodles before him, the rest of us shared our meals. It was all top food, I was particularly impressed with the gora gora (was that the name?). It was such a good meal, we forgot to take the photos of it we had planned.

To top off the fantastic meal, I think we all slept very well Saturday night. Sunday morning we were able to ride out of Burra early, a good thing given the predicted 33 degree temperature. Riding past Mokota Conservation Park we thought perhaps it more likely that this land had been donated as a conservation park rather than sought out, it looked to be nothing more than a treeless paddock atop a hill. No I lie, we could see two trees in the vast 450 hectares. Upon coming across the main entrance though, we could not have been more wrong. It was a conservation area for the native grasses, which had been extensive throughout this area prior to the devastation caused by agriculture.
It [Mokota Conservation Park] was proclaimed to protect the Lomandra multiflora ssp. dura / Lomandra effusa tussock grassland. It is one of the largest remaining examples of an open grassy vegetation community, which used to cover more than one million hectares of temperate Australia. Currently, this vegetation type covers less than 0.3% of the original extent due to clearance for agriculture.

After a lunch in the shade of some sparse but welcome trees, we climbed White Hill Road to the western extreme of the Mawson Trail. The view was amazing, and was a favourite spot of the weekend, this remote fringe pastoral land beyond Goyder's Line reminded us of the Flinders, with wide flat stony creekbeds, red rocks, winding roads and dramatic hills. After a long climb we enjoyed a long downhill ride, and Graham and Nick found a nice log to sit on under the shade of a small tree. Here after a long rest, as we rode off I glanced back to check we hadn't left anything. A handy little habit. I found myself a new camera, which I was much pleased with. Coincidentally, later on Graham discovered he lost his, so reluctantly I conceded it seemed fate was at play here and he should have this new found camera to replace his lost one.

Exiting the trail near Mt Bryan East, we rode back to the hut and car. The shade was a welcome relief, and the very cool water from the shaded water tank even better. After dissecting a few finer points of the ride, including how much further we could have ridden in the heat, we exchanged some words about team members finding other's lost possessions and then Graham re-wrapped his bike in bubble wrap for the trip home. Discussions ensued about our plans for the next weekend ride, and the special guest appearance by Ibex Bob on Saturday, which we deemed a success, may be the modus operandi of the next few rides as the campsites are fewer and far between. We certainly enjoyed the ease of our car plans this time around, last month had been a bit of a schmozzle, and it was good to not have to drive Saturday night or Sunday morning, and less driving around in general thanks in part to the car trailer.

Sitting kerbside back in Burra, we ate our ice creams, well two for Jude, not having been able to decide which might have been better. Back at the orchard we checked on how the kids had gone in their assignment. They had managed to find the Superhero book (2 points), a war item (a helicopter that had seen active service), a nine digit number (ISBN) and the biggest scorer, a pair of crutches.

Some more photos to come from Nick and Graham... Thanks for Jude for her 4 award winning photos.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Mawson Trail
Saturday Sunday
21/2/2009 22/2/2009
Penwortham to Burra Burra to Mt Bryan East
Distance 55.7km 52.9km
Start Time 10.43am 8.58am
End Time 5.19pm 3.18pm
Moving Duration 3h41m 3h57m
Stationary Duration 2h53m 2h22m
Moving Average 15.1km/h 13.4km/h
Overall Average 8.5km/h 8.4km/h
Max Speed 38.5km/h 40.6km/h
Oodometer 55.7km 108.6km

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