Google+ The Norris Files: September 2010


Return to Brisbane Day 15

After extracting a late checkout from the Hotel at no extra cost I packed up around midday and caught a cab to the airport for an 8 hour wait until my 8pm flight. The flight home was very bumpy with turbulence pretty much the entire trip. Somehow, even though the plane left Adelaide 10 minutes late, it arrived close to a half hour earlier than the scheduled arrival time.

In summary this has been a good trip with some fantastic scenery. While it didn't end up being the Mawson Trail ride that is was intended to be it still had many highlights. In particular the Barossa and Clare Valleys as well as the Flinders Ranges were standouts for me. I barely scratched the surface of what there is to see and do around the Flinders Ranges, so a return trip is on the cards at some point. And camper van touring was not that bad considering this was my first time traveling that way. Not having to unpack my gear and drag it into a hotel every night is a definite advantage, plus, being able to my cook dinner in the van rather than eating out was not only less expensive but perfect for those nights I couldn't be bothered going out. However, a more comfortable permanent bed and a toilet in the van, (shower not as necessary) would make the experience more comfortable, especially for extended trips.

Rawnsley Park back to Adelaide Day 14

I managed a reasonably early start today for the five plus hour, 450km drive back to Adelaide. I traveled the more direct and less scenic route via Port Augusta and the highway that parallels the Great Australian Bight. The whole trip was not pleasant at all due to the van being blown all over the road in particular along the section of highway the follows the Great Australian bight and is exposed to the crosswinds from the sea. It was a case of tightly gripping the steering wheel and correcting for the wind gusts and hoping they didn't push you across the road into the path of an oncoming car. I think the Hi-Top design of the van made it prone cross winds and feeling 'light' on the road. I doubt I would of experienced the same problem in a road car.

I arrived in Adelaide sometime after 2pm and dropped the camper-van off then caught a cab back to the Adelaide CBD and the Hotel Paringa in Hindlely Street (party central and a gross street). Tomorrow will allow a sleep in before a pm flight back to Brissie.

Wilpena Pound Day Hike; Day 13

Well, I have definitely been slack this morning. I had planned to rise early and climb to the summit of St Marys Peak. This peak is the highest peak in Wilpena Pound and is a nine hour return hike. However, general slackness, a warm bed and a cold morning ensured that I slept in instead. When I did finally rouse from the campervan I ended up driving to Wilpena Pound where the visitor centre provide track informationon walks in and around the Pound. I set out on the Old Homestead and Wangara Lookout walk which leads through the Pound Gap, past the old Hill Homestead and ascends the easy edge of the Pound and up the lookout. There, I was greeted by an impressive panoramic view of the Pound with near 360 degree views of the range that encircles it.

Descending from the lookout I elected to take a short walk across the floor of the Pound. It is impressive in scale, eerily quiet, and comes with a sense of isolation despite the close proximity of civilastion. Emus', kangaroos with joeys, feral goats and even camels (according to some people I met who claimed to have just seen some) roam the valley floor and the different types of vegetation and towering gum trees were quite spectacular. Returning to the visitor centre I grabbed a late lunch, then, headed back to the campsite to start packing  for the return journey to Adelaide the following morning.

Flinders Ranges Tour Day 12

The mornings are a little bit chilly here in the Flinders Ranges. My campsite looks up to the peaks of the southern rim of Wilpena Pound which area spectacular site of a morning and in the evening when the sun is setting. Wilpena Pound is a rock basin formed by a rim of mountain ranges. The Pound is 17km long and 8km wide and its highest point is St Marys Peak at nearly 1200m high which I hope to climb up to tomorrow.

First thing this morning I drove up to Wilpena Pound which is about 25km's from Rawnsley Park Station. The views from the road leading into Wilpena Pound are something special as they are framed by the ramparts of the Pound and the unusual red coloring in its rock formations. At the Pound I checked out the visitor center and the trail head for walks into the Pound which I plan on doing tomorrow then drove north occasionally dodging a emu or two as they scampered across the road at times with chicks in tow.

I headed for Stokes Hill Lookout where the van struggled to get up the very steep rocky access road however, it was worth the effort as the lookout provided spectacular panoramas of Wilpena Pound, Mt Patawarta, and the Druid, Chace, Elder, Heysen and Bunker Ranges. To the north the hills fade away and the vast plains of the outback become evident. Wild flowers, various colored grasses and the red rock of the hills and ranges made the view even more scenic.

From Stokes Hill Lookout I headed south back to Hawker before traveling north again via roads that disappeared into the horizon without a single bend to them. Away from these paved roads the Moralana Scenic Drive took me over 28km of heavily corrugated dirt track along the Moralana Valley floor between the south western wall of Wilpena Pound and the Elder Range. The road is entirely through private property and also forms part of the Mawson Trail. A worthwhile detour and one that absolutely lived up to its scenic name.

The Moralana Scenic Drive ends just south of Rawnsley Park so it was just a short drive back to the campsite to get ready for a day of hiking tomorrow inside the Pound.

Clare to Rawnsley Park Flinders Ranges Day 11

Today was time to travel up into the Flinders Ranges for the final few days of the trip. Leaving Clare and heading north the weather improved with every kilometre until the sky was nearly cloudless. Georgetown, Gladstone, Laura and Stone Hut came and went before I arrived at Melrose which is nestled under the shadows of Mt Remarkable and is the oldest township in the Flinders Rangers. Travelling further north the landscape started to develop that 'outback' feel and the towns like Quorn and Hawker have that little bit of the wild west about them.

After Hawker it was around 40km to Rawnsley Park Station my stop for the next few nights. After following the straight highways across what seemed liked endless plains the ragged peaks of the Flinders Ranges came into view and the south western bluff of Wilpena Pound dominated the skyline. Rawnsley Park Station is perched under these bluffs and is still a working sheep station but essentially devotes itself to tourism in the form of a caravan park as well as other accommodation options. The station is vast and surrounded by the outback so it never felt like a conventional tourist park and the accommodation is well seperated. I was given a quiet spot to park my camper van, well away from other campers close to a small stream with Rawnsley Bluff towering above the site. Tomorrow I will be checking out Wilpena Pound as well as the surrounding Flinders Ranges.

Clare Valley Tour Day 10

It was a cold overcast morning so turned the heater on in the van and had a sleep in. Truth was I was pretty tired from yesterdays ride. Around midday I packed up and drove to Sevenhill via the Father Rogalski Loop, a route which is an off track excursion from the Riesling Trail and can be driven by car. The Sevenhill Winery is the oldest winery and vineyard in the Clare Valley and has been owned and operated by the Jesuits since 1851. The winery comes complete with the beautiful old functioning St Aloysius Church (with crypt) that is surrounded by the estates vines. Walking trails meander throughout the property and numerous old ruins cross their path. I’m not big on wineries but this was a magnificent property that my camera just didn’t do justice to.

From Sevenhill the route passes through a region established by Poles now called the Polish Hill River Valley then onto the historic old town of Mintaro which is reminiscent of an English Cotswold village with blue-stone buildings, stone churches, antique stores and cottage gardens. Outside Mintaro I made a brief visit to Martindale Hall, a 19th century mansion with coach house set on 45 pastoral acres and used in the film a Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Leaving Martindale Hall I travelled to Farrell Flat through the beautiful Clare Valley with endless vivid green fields that contrasted the numerous acres of flowering sunflowers. From the tiny village of Farrell Flat I turned back towards Clare, briefly following a few of the quiet unsealed roads that I would have travelled on if I had, as planned been riding the Mawson Trail. Tomorrow I will drive the 350kms or so north to the Flinders Ranges for three nights before I head back to Adelaide and home.

Riesling Trail Clare Valley Day 9

This morning I hired a mountain bike in Clare to ride the much publicised Riesling Trail which follows the contours and curves of a former railway line and takes you through mixed farmland, natural bushland and vineyards. The trail runs between Clare and Auburn with a recent extension north of Clare to Barinia Rd. The villages of Sevenhill, Penwortham, Watervale and Leasingham are all en route with off trail excursions offered to wineries and other scenic routes. All up the trail is a 35km one way so, being a linear trail it means a 70km day of cycling.

Having driven quite a few of the scenic roads around Clare I must say I believe the trail was a disappointment. To my mind the trail or rail corridor follows probably the least spectacular route through the region and when compared to say the Otago Rail Trail, it does not rate at all. Even our own Blackbutt to Linville Rail Trail offers better scenery in parts. Maybe the edge was taken of it because I had to push into a cold headwind for 40km’s. Or maybe, it was the persistent attacks on my head from territorial magpies (see slide show for very effective magpie head protection). That being said, away from the trail by only a short distance there are roads that when travelled show of this area far better than the trail manages to.

The trail ended up taking me six hours with a break in Auburn for lunch before heading back to Clare where this evening it is quite cool. People in South Australia must really feel the cold. Ever since I arrived in Adelaide they have been rugged up like it is the middle of winter yet at times I have been getting around in shorts. I mean it is cool, even chilly at times but not freezing! I had planned on doing more riding tomorrow on a different trail however, I think I will do some more driving instead with a trip to Sevenhill and maybe follow one or two other scenic tourist routes.

Barossa Valley to Clare Day 8

The Clare Valley was only roughly 60km north from where I had been staying at Kapunda but along way I managed a few interesting detours. The small town of Riverton was my first side track off the main route, mainly because it is one of the town located on the Mawson Trail that I would have passed through if I had of been riding. Back on the main road north again Auburn and Leasingham came and went before I turned east towards Mintaro which is a tiny well preserved mid 19th century rural village well known for its slate quarries and distinctive Victorian buildings.

Leaving Mintaro I took the back route into Clare via Sevenhill. Clare is a reasonable sized rural town with a busy main street (complete with shot foxes in the back of utes). The caravan park is located on the outskirts of town in quite pretty surroundings. The main area of the park was very crowded but they found me a powered site in secluded area of the park that is quite nice but a fair hike to the amenities block.

After getting my site sorted for the next few nights I went for a drive on the Spring Gully Loop which is one of the trails of the Riesling Trail that can be driven and led me through vineyards, farms and a conservation park. Then it was back to Clare to buy groceries for the next couple of days.

Barossa Valley Day 7

A cold morning and only a few degrees overnight but the weather looked more promising this morning. Today I roughly drove the Barossa Valley Heritage Scenic Trail which starts in Greenock not far from Kapunda where I'm staying. After Greenock the drive took me through the local vine growing regions and along the apparently famous palm lined Seppeltsfield Road. From there it was into the largish town of Tanunda with a quick stop at the Tanunda Chateau (complete with cricket oval)before arriving in the tiny rural town of Bethany.

Bethany is located at the base of the Mengler Hill Range which gave great views over the northern Baaroosa Vally and is the site of one of the hill climbs in the Tour Down Under (complete with Livestrong signage on the tarmac) The Mengler Range brings you down into Angaston (where I bought my $15 heater previously) and along quiet roads through small towns such as Light Pass before arriving in Nuriootpa one of the larger towns in this area.

Barossa Valley Day 6

So first up I should mention that I haven't taken any photos today as the weather has been completely rubbish. This morning was another cloudy, drizzling day so I hung around the van until midday when there was a slight break in the weather. I took a drive out and around some of the towns in the Barossa Valley and drove through many of the well known vineyard plantations. I had decided to have lunch at Maggie Beers cafe and farm in Nuriootpa but when I arrived it was too crowded for my tastes. It started raining heavily again so I headed back to the van with the plan of doing this route again tomorrow if the weather is a little better as some of the scenery was quite special.

On another note the tap water here is foul and boiling it not only makes it taste worse but the smell it lets off when boiling is enough to make me feel light headed (or maybe that's just the gas from cooking in the van)! I think the water in this area might come from underground sources but anyway I've only managed two sips of my coffee over two days. To make matters worse when I went to fill up the vans water tanks I found the cap had been left off. Now the van is parked in a fairy secluded area with nobody close by and I don't remember leaving the cap open. So having thoughts that somebody might have put something nasty in it overnight I gave the tank a good flushing before refilling then, I went straight out and bought four litres of filtered water. No more drinking the van water for me!

Hahndorf to Barossa Valley Day 5

Overnight it rained heavily and this morning is rather damp and overcast. After a late breakfast I left Hanhdorf with no real plan in mind other than ending up in the Clare Valley. I had to retrace some of my route from yesterday as far as Birdwood before taking the scenic route through Mt Pleasant and Springton.

Outside of Mt Pleasant I followed an unpaved road lined with huge trees providing a canopy overhead while beyond stretched acres of rolling green fields. It was beautiful countryside. From there I continued on through Eden Valley with vineyards becoming more numerous as I approached the Barossa Valley.

Entering the slightly larger town Angaston I was hoping to find a Big W store to buy a portable upright heater as the camper van gets quite cold at night. No such luck but I spotted a hardware store in an old wool shed and thought I would ask them. They told me they had packed away there winter stock yesterday but never the less they led me out the back to a storeroom piled ceiling high with stock. We found the pile of heaters but the ones on top were more than what I wanted to spend, but the bloke said no worries and we dived in up to thigh deep in heaters until at the bottom of the pile we found a heater that was marked on special for 15 bucks. Perfect, and as tonight is quite cold I can say that it is heating the van very nicely.

Heading out of Angaston the scenery was in part stunning mainly due to the views being unhindered by trees or forests for the first time since leaving Adelaide. Rolling hills that had a patchwork quite of dense green unflowering sunflower crops intertwined with bursts of brilliant yellow flowering crops that were contrasted by the dark threatening sky.

Passing through Nuriootpa and arriving at Kapunda I though I had better check my GPS to see how far the Clare Valley was as it was getting close to 5pm. According to the GPS it was still 65kms away and not wanting to travel that far I started looking for a caravan park. I found one on the outskirts of Kapunda, sparsely occupied, with lots of trees. So that's were I spent the night, in a secluded part of the caravan park, I'm actually the only one in this section and the surroundings are quite nice.

Adelaide Hills Day 4

Today I took a north-south loop around the Adelaide Hills. Firstly I headed south to the town of Mt Barker with a visit to its summit. From there it was north through Woodside, Lobethal, Gumeracha and into Birdwood. Then east across to Cudlee Creek before driving south again along the Gorge Rd and back into Hahndorf for the night.

The Adelaide Hills have been very green with some great views. I didn't take many pictures today as it is quite overcast and my camera struggles in low light. Also, there are very few places along the hill roads that you can stop and take pictures and generally there are limited areas that provide expansive views of the area.

Adelaide to Hahndorf Day 3

This morning I got a taxi from the Hotel to south Adelaide to pick up the campervan from the rental place. I couldn’t get the campervan till 10am so it was a later start to the morning than I had hoped for. I scored well with the campervan, it was brand new and has never been slept in or hired out. It is a 5 speed manual with all the mod-cons and very easy to drive. It has a kitchen sink, microwave, fridge and gas hotplate. The twin bench seats and table in the back collapse down at night to form a double bed. Above, in the HiTop section of the campervan there is a ceiling area that also turns into a bed. It also comes with outdoor tables/chairs etc.

I didn’t have much of a plan today other than to head out into the Adelaide Hills area. With the help of my GPS I left Adelaide CBD on as many minor roads as I could stopping first at the hill town of Stirling. From there, I toured through more hill towns, Healthfield, Mylor, Aldgate and Bridgewater before ending up at the old German town of Hahndorf.

Hahndorf was not quite what I imagined it would be. For some reason I pictured it as being situated on the edge of a cliff with expansive views out across Adelaide. Instead the township is flat with a single very long main street with obvious German influence. I think the best way to describe it would be as a Maleny on steriods, more touristy with less of the alternative community and more of the New Farm/Newstead demographic. The entire main street is lined with restaurants, cheese shops, wine cellars and gift/craft shops. Vineyards are perched on the hilltops above the town.

One thing amount all these hill towns is that they would be spectacular in Spring and Autumn when the trees that line all their streets in would be a riot of colour rather than mostly bare as they are now. There is definitely a change in temperature now here in the Adelaide Hills, it is a bit chilly tonight. Tomorrow will be more touring through the towns in the area but I will be covering alot more area than I have today.

Adelaide CBD Day 2

At around 9am I left the Hotel and went for a brief walk along the River Torrens before heading back to the Rundle Steet Mall for breakfast. Then a walk through the city then a stroll down to south Adealide CBD before walking back to the River Torrens and a walk along both of its banks for a few kilometres. I had a quick look around the outside of the Adelaide Oval before arriving back at the Hotel for a late lunch. I will spend the afternoon sorting out how to get to the campervan hire place tomorrow and organising my route and accomodation for tomorrow night.

Brisbane to Adelaide Day 1

My flight left Brisbane at 8pm for Adelaide from a very busy Brisbane Airport. The flight down was not to bad just a bit bumpy but nothing too concerning. The flight time was 2:45hrs which was 15mins late due to a strong headwind. Virin Blue offferd me a middle exit row seat on the flight which was brilliant for the extra leg room.

I arrived at around 10:20pm Adelaide time and caught a taxi from the airport to the hotel which took me through the restraraunt/nightclub area of Adelaide which was very busy as it was a Friday night. The taxi passed a police horse patrol of eight horses in formation as they patrolled the CBD streets, apparently a routine Friday/Saturday night event here in Adealide. I doubt that you see that anywhere else in Australia, especially as the taxi had to dodge the horse poo on the main streets.

The Hotel Mecure Grosvernor is ok, I arrived just before 11pm and went to bed at 1am.

Darling Downs Tour.

Now that the Mawson Trail ride has been called off it leaves me short of a multi day ride on the Thorn Nomad to iron out any kinks in my set up/equipment before I ride the Outer Hebrides next year.

So if my work roster doesn't change I should have nine rostered days off work shortly after I get back from Adelaide. This should allow time for a multi-day bike ride and gave me the idea for a DLT or Darling Downs Tour of three or four days.

Initial planning suggests a route commencing at Spring Creek Cottages down the mountain to Killarney through Tanneymorrel and then overnight at Warwick. From Warwick I would follow the Sunflower Route to Allora, overnight there before continuing the next day through Goomburra and Freestone before spending the night at Yangan. The final day would pass through Emu Vale and Killarney before the huge climb up the mountain back to Spring Creek Cottages.

The distance would be around 170km which should mean only a 3 day ride. That would reduce the need for one of the overnight stays but it would require some rework of initial itinerary listed above. Just about all the ride will be on back country roads either paved or unpaved with very minimal riding on major roads other than short distances into townships. That's the plan, stay tuned for more details when I get back from Adelaide.

More Changes

Well its the night before I fly out for Adelaide and due to the wild South Australian weather my travel plans have changed again. I won't be taking my bike as originally planned due to the closure of many of the roads in the Flinders Ranges are still flooded and the tracks would be nothing short of a quagmire.

Regardless, the plan remains same, to take a campervan road trip from Adelaide up into the Flinders Ranges. Weather permitting I will hire a bike in the Clare Valley and ride the Riesling, Rattler, and Riverton trails with a short day trip on the Mawson Trail at some point. This ineary could change as the South Australian weather is not looking that promising for at least the first week I am down there.

It is disappointing, as these holidays were booked for the sole purpose of riding the entire Mawson Trail. I haven't given up on riding the trail but I won't be dedicating 20 or more days in holiday leave to ride the trail. Instead, the new plan is to ride the trail in sections during the multiple rostered days I have off work. This will take some planning, plus quite a few flights down to Adelaide however, I'm thinking I could do it in three sections, probably spread over one year. Time will tell.

Daisy Hill Route

I've never GPS logged my regular route around Daisy so, today I did. I have always measured it on my bikes computer at 15kms however, the GPS unit has logged the route at 14.02kms. I'm not sure how accurate this is as it also clocked my top speed at 74.5km/hr, LOL, as if!

Change of Plans

A rather large change of plans for my Mawson Trail ride/holiday. A badly timed cold left me to crook to ride so I have delayed leaving for Adelaide until the 10th September. This means I don't have enough time to ride the whole trail so a new plan was needed.

So I will be combining a self drive holiday in a campervan with some riding along the way. The plan at the moment is to drive through the Adealide Hills and through the Barossa and Clare Valleys. There is an extensive network of trails through this region so I hope to base myself closeby and do day rides throughout the area.

Then, I plan to drive up into the Flinders Ranges and do a 4 day out and back ride along the Mawson Trail. The ride will start at Rawnsley Park spending the first night at Wilpena then onto Blinman which is the end of the Mawson Trail. After overnighting it I will return via the same route to Wilpena spending the night there before returning to Rawnsley Park on the Mawson Trail. All up about 200km for this section through the Flinders which is said to be arguably the best scenery on the Mawson Trail.

These plans all depend on the weather as at present South Australia is being hit with wild weather and many of the roads/tracks I plan to ride are impassable right now. So it is probably a good thing I postponed my holiday as I could of been holed up in a campsite somewhere unable to ride anywhere until the flood waters subsided. Fingers crossed for better weather next week