We planned to take the scenic route from Adelaide to Melbourne rather than the busy interstate highway with its truck traffic. The coastal road is longer but much prettier, with the bonus attractions of the Coorong wetlands and Victoria’s Twelve Apostles.
It had rained in Belair and we had a cool climb to Stirling in the Adelaide hills, thawing out over lunch and catching up with communications at Stirling library. The afternoon run to Strathalbyn was pretty but cold; I think we had four waves of showers so we stayed in a pub that night just to dry out.
The weather cleared next morning though and we meandered through the vineyards to Wellington, crossing the Murray on the 24 hour ferry and continuing to Meningie. It was easy riding.
The Coorong, SA – a wet and windy one
About 20 km out of Meningie the wind picked up and light rain settled in so we camped at Parnka Point in Coorong National Park – one of the quicker set-ups in an attempt to beat the wind, cold and mozzies.
There was no chance of cooking so we ate bread rolls, cheese, jam and chocolate passed between the tents. The rain passed but the wind howled all night and I marvelled again that the tent survived.
We spotted some emus, roos and a couple of the Coorong’s famous pelicans next morning but most of the birdlife was sheltering. The Coorong’s saltwater lagoons are beautiful but the dunes do little to interrupt wind across the open water.
I hadn’t eaten much breakfast and bonked pretty badly that morning. While struggling up a gentle rise I reminded myself that I knew there’d be suffering and this was it. I recovered with half a block of chocolate followed by eggs, bacon, toast and a couple of coffees for morning tea at the Coorong Hotel Motel at Policeman Point (excellent), and we finished the day with 126 km.
Day 33 was a flattish but pleasant 160 km from Kingston SE to Mt Gambier past waterlogged flatlands (poor sheep!) which gave way to undulating farmland and pine plantations. We crossed back into Victoria on day 34 next day, with a minor Garmin issue.
We had crossed a confusion of time zones in eastern Western Australia and western South Australia; the roadhouses seemed to use whatever local time worked and the Garmin didn’t care. Nor did we, so long as we were off the road before dark.
When we crossed the SA border at Border Village I saved ride data before turning off the Garmin (Edge 500), so it updated to SA time the next morning automatically. No problem.
But when we reached Victoria we detoured off the highway to Dartmoor for coffee so I turned off the Garmin to save the battery. Unfortunately it lost the morning’s data as it updated to Victorian time when restarting.
Without much phone reception across the middle, you’re also limited in uploading to Instagram within the Strava ride time sync window too. Plan to upload at the roadhouses, if their wifi is working.
We had expected to bush camp on the way to Port Fairy but the only rest area late afternoon was a bleak little parking bay so we eventually asked some farmers loading a truck if they knew anything about the next one (they’re not sign-posted). They didn’t know but they invited us to camp in the shed and use their lunch room. Like the family east of Hyden, it was a kindness much appreciated late in the day.
Shut up legs
We topped up food supplies at Warrnambool next day and reached Port Campbell for the night, despite wind that had us down to 9 km/h at times. There’s a reason they have wind farms down here.
Wind generators reported a record during our ride; no surprise
The coastal views were spectacular though and sights like the Bay of Martyrs built expectations about the Twelve Apostles next day.
Bay of Martyrs, Great Ocean Road
It felt like hard work into a headwind again the next morning on cold legs. My legs were tired after 16 days and nearly 1800 km without a break. They wouldn’t have listened if Jens Voight himself had spoken. Remarkably though, they only screamed briefly after stopping and once that pain subsided they kept on going; not fast but still going.
We arrived at the limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles early and enjoyed looking around. It’s a beautiful coastline.
And then headed off to Lavers Hill, refuelling at both cafes in the same town. Did I mention we ate a lot?
It’s 99 km to Apollo Bay with 1611 m climbing and a beautiful ride through the Australian bush. We made it in good time and marvelled at the luxury of pitching tents on grass in a caravan park rather than sand and gravel.
Unfortunately we were nearly out of time and the weather forecast was grim. We’d planned two more days – one to Queenscliff and a final short flat 100 km to Melbourne – but the forecast for that last day was a 70 km/h headwind with hail which would mean a late finish. And Jan was flying to Sydney the next day. We had lost time to the weather in SA (no surprise that the power generators had record wind).
However we’d covered the distance anyway by taking the Great Ocean Road, so we opted for a day’s sightseeing in Melbourne instead. We even caught a little of the AFL grand final parade, despite the wind.
Overall we were lucky with the weather though, despite the wind and rain near the end. Based on the long term averages, we should have enjoyed far more tailwind, but you take your chances out there. It could have been worse.
It was a great ride. We covered nearly 3400 km in 36 days from Perth (32 riding days), averaging 104 km per riding day. We’d camped 21 nights and spent 15 in a colourful variety of pubs, caravan park cabins and roadhouse rooms.
Our bikes and gear were reliable. Jan had two punctures; I had none. I’ll post a gear list soon for the gear junkies.
Similarly, we had a first aid kit but only used some bite cream and Band-Aids.
Traffic was a big part of life on this trip but our route saved us days on the busiest highways.
Most drivers were great but there’s no question that drivers were less careful around us further east, explained perhaps by traffic density, people on holidays versus work, and maybe the type of people who tackle the Nullarbor. Do we look out for each other more carefully when help is far away?
On the western end of the Great Ocean Road one day I envied the cattle their signs -‘Give way to stock/penalties apply’. Makes you wish you were a cow.
The truckies were generally very good but Bunker, Toll and a couple of Yellow Pages operators on the Eyre Highway deserve special mention; they were excellent.
We carried most of our food, supplemented by bread and wraps for lunches and snacks and fresh fruit as available. Breakfast was usually oats (pre-weighed, with powdered milk in each satchel), with rehydrated carbs for dinner, plus some freeze-dried meals. The carbs included noodles and cous cous, with dried soups as extras and flavouring. Treats included Coles dark fruit cake and chocolate. And I made our own gorp/trailmix.
Our food parcel at Eucla
I’d phoned ahead and posted food parcels to Norseman, Eucla and Ceduna so we re-provisioned roughly weekly. And then topped up with fresh food as available, including bread at the roadhouses across the middle. They were all obliging.
Food became a preoccupation at times – partly due to hunger but partly the opportunity to hop off the bike and rest for a few minutes. It breaks up the day.
I’d read that food supplies at the remote roadhouses were scarce, expensive and unsuitable for cyclists but it wasn’t that bad. Lots of things were more expensive than your local supermarket but it didn’t look like extortion to me. And there’s plenty of stubby holders to go round.
The roadhouses cater to drivers and truckies so the menus are predictable fare of sugar, fat and salt but there’s also good eggs and bacon and steak sandwiches – easy and tasty protein to balance our carbs. At Mundrabilla, eggs and bacon on toast plus coffee for two was $29.
The packaged food supplies were minimal in places but most had something. For instance Cocklebiddy had tinned corn, sardines and beans which are heavy but at least you wouldn’t starve. At the other end of the scale, Nundroo roadhouse looked like it had been hit by locusts after hundreds of Rebels had motored through, so you can’t depend on the roadhouses.
We did notice the expense of water of course; at Nullarbor roadhouse (the least friendly), we spent $33 on five 1.5L bottles of water. But we filled up for free from the bathrooms at the roadhouses when we stayed overnight, which makes the occasional bed pretty good value.
Any questions, let me know.