What a difference a day makes. We walked out to the car this morning and it was…chilly! Actually on the cool side! I needed long sleeves and even Steve donned a semi-layer of puff. Very pleasant to be back in the 20’s instead of the 40’s. We hit the road and headed north, aiming for Clare and seeing what we could see along the way.
Once out of the city and into the open country, the landscape was an incredible monotone. Everything was so dry, in every direction was wide, flat landscape with some rolling hills in the distance, all in sepia. Not a speck of green to be seen, not a blip of colour, just variations of the Dulux paint chart that begins with “Breadcrumb Beige” and ends with “Chocolate Soufflé Brown”. I don’t know when there could have last been rain, because everything just looked baked and parched. There was spectacular scenery in the sepia vista though and the only annoying thing was the inability to stop the car to take photos and vision out the whizzing window just really didn’t cut it. It made me hanker for the pedals again (one of the many pros of riding a bike is that we travel at a photogenic pace).
We stopped briefly at Kapunda to have a look at the memorial on the side of the road, with a huge statue of a Cornish miner from the 19th century, “Map Kernow” which is Cornish for “Son of Cornwall”. We couldn’t actually see what he looked like as a Cornish miner, being all done up in his Santa robes, but he’s there as a monument to the contribution of the Cornish miners in the Kapunda mine and other mines in South Australia in the 1800’s.
We kept on motoring and rolled into Eudunda, a little town that looks like it’s seen better days. Buildings were in dire need of TLC, the main street was a tad ragged, but it’s sure worth a visit. It has a claim to fame, some brilliant silo art and a top little park. We hauled ourselves up the hill to the lookout for a view over the town and across the hills and then made our way back down and headed for the silos for a closer look. It turns out that Eudunda is the birth place of Australia’s classic and celebrated author, Colin Thiele (he of Storm Boy fame, among many other stories and poetry). The silos had been painted in recognition of him and showed images from his stories and a book of Sun on the Stubble, which I think might have been his first, or close to his first book, written in 1961. It still amazes me how an artist can create a painting on that scale and still nail the perspective. A silo’s worth of talent right there!
I’d read there was a statue of Colin Thiele somewhere in the town, so we stopped next to a small park to look and see if we could spot it. As we were looking and pointing, to see if we had spotted either the statue or a table to park ourselves at for elevenses, a man pulled up behind us and got out of his car.
“The toilets are over there,” he said, pointing down the street.
“Thank you very much,” I said. Now, we weren’t looking for a toilet, our search was for something else entirely, but that was another example of a friendly South Australian. Two people, who looked like tourists were stopped near a park looking and pointing and so a logical deduction was they must be looking for a loo and so this nice man thought he’d help out by sending us in the right direction. Nice.
We of course then made our way down the street, so we could look like we’d followed his helpful direction, not wanting to appear rude or dismissive of his quality assistance and as we did, we spotted another park and the statue we were looking for. So, we got there in the end, with a bit of sideways help from a friendly local. We settled in for elevenses, Steve boiled the Trangia to make me a cup of tea and I went for a wander to look at the statue of Mr Thiele and the other plaques that seemed to adorn every available wall about the park. Those, it turned out, were tiles created by members of the community and children from the Primary School, depicting pieces of Eudunda history. There were some fantastic images and snippets of information created by the young ‘uns and others in the community and a great game made out of tiles, with clever instructions and a spinner built in, as well as another with a maze to work around. They were all terrific.
As I made my way back to our picnic table to join Steve for elevenses, a man and woman had arrived with their dog, to sit at another table. The woman walked past with the dog and we exchanged “Hellos”.
“It’s always nice to see a Rotty with a tail,” I said, thinking any dog would rather have its tail intact than docked and why certain breeds, like Rottweilers, seem to be victims of tail chopping.
“Yes,” she said, “and this one is so friendly too.”
She was huge, with a gorgeous, big boof head and goofy grin (the Rottweiler, not the woman) and I gave her a pat and back rub. She was excitedly sniffing this way and that (again, the Rottweiler, not the woman) and then I got her story (from the woman, not the Rottweiler).
“She’s recently had surgery and hasn’t been out of the house for six weeks. She did her anterior cruciate ligament,” the woman explained, holding up one of the dog’s back legs.
“Oh, no,” I said with a wince, “how did that happen?”
“She jumped in the sandpit and kind of just stuck and pulled it.”
At this point, her husband, still sitting at the table, added, “She needs the other one done next. Her right one. She did that one first, jumping off the deck.”
“How old is she,” I asked. They told me she was only two. “Well she’s had an eventful life for a two year old,” I said, “but I guess she’s got age on her side to help her recover.”
“That’s right,” they agreed.
“Oh,” I finally asked, “what’s her name?”
“Penny,” said the woman. “Our last name is Lane, so it had to be.”
“Perfect!” I agreed with a laugh.
Another moment of just random chatting with complete strangers, this time about an accident prone, friendly, boof headed Rottweiler that’s done two anterior cruciate ligaments and has lovely owners willing to pay the gazillions of dollars that would cost in surgery to keep her on her four legs. It reminded me of our cycling travels when, so often, complete strangers would stop for a chat and I loved it. Here it was happening again. Lovely.
Elevenses over, we bade farewell to our park buddies and Penny the Rotty and we motored on. Next was a stop in Lochiel for a look at Lake Bumbunga. This lake is salty and depending on the salinity levels, can appear white or pink or blue. During dry times, which it is at the moment, different salt formations appear. Some can appear like star fish, or when it’s windy, seed heads from different grasses blow onto the lake and salt forms around them, creating different shapes. Salt also attaches to rocks, creating patterns. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. We could walk across the surface of the lake, since it was dry, and crunch across the salt. It was like the ripply, patterned sand you might see at the beach at low tide, only this was white and hard and crunchy. Very speccy.
On we went and eventually wheeled into Clare and found our pit stop. We’d chosen this place because it’s a country club with a golf course, so Steve could play some holes right on the doorstep. After a little rest and a cuppa, we set out for an evening round of nine holes. I say “we”, but it was Steve doing the playing and I was just along for the walk and, as it turned out, to be assistant ball finder, as we searched for lost balls hidden amongst all the bark shed from the gum trees. Two lost balls and a couple of hours later, we were done and called it a day.
That was a day on the road, but we’ll call it a roaming day, since we got to explore some new places, chat to some friendly folk, discover some new things and learn some things too. We’re in Clare for a couple of nights, so tomorrow we’ll explore some more…and probably add a round on the links for Steve as well. Fore!
Thursday December 29
“Will you pipe down! Seriously, you can’t have that much to say or shout about, the day’s only just started!”
The dawn chorus was in full voice. Our room overlooks a lake and we had a gang of Corellas in the trees outside and along the edges of the lake, shouting at each other continuously as soon as the sun put in an appearance. They’re related to cockatoos, so they sure can shriek at double-digit decibels!
Well, that’s us up and ready to start the day, whether we like it or not! After a running day and a couple of roaming days, it must be time for a ride? So, ride we shall! The Riesling Trail is a cycling and walking trail that runs through the Clare Valley from Clare to Auburn, along a disused rail line. We took ourselves to Clare Valley Bike Hire and picked up a couple of bikes from the very nice man that hires bikes out of his shed and we were off along the trail. Another magic day, not a cloud in the sky, but cool enough to need some long sleeves to start with, but warm enough to be very pleasant indeed.
We pedalled along, passing vineyards and wineries, looking across to those sepia hills, this time with some colour added from rows of green vines.
It was an absolutely brilliant trail and a top ride. We’ve ridden along a few rail trails at home and on our cycle travels and this Riesling Trail is the best we’ve ever ridden on anywhere. It was so well maintained, with benches and picnic tables at spots along the trail, so lots of opportunities to stop for a break if anyone wanted. That was something we noticed on the rail paths we rode overseas, we’d ride and ride and ride and there was never a bench to stop for elevenses! Here, there were plenty of benches or tables. There were clearly marked signs pointing you into the little towns off the trail, or to the cellar doors of wineries, or to available public toilets. There were lots of information boards, all really well maintained and easy to read, with information about the area or history. It was excellent.
We happily tootled along, past vines or under trees, stopping to read some information or look across the paddocks and hills. We learnt about John Ainsworth Horrocks, a very important fella. Or, “Poor John” as I soon called him, after reading his story. He was very important because he planted the first grape vines in the Clare Valley in 1842 and he was only 21 when he arrived here from England. In 1846, he set off to explore further afield, using camels for transport. During this trip his camel unexpectedly lurched as John was loading his gun, which then discharged, severely injuring him in the hand and jaw. He survived the return journey but died three weeks later. Poor John. I guess there’s a lesson in that. Camels should come with a warning. “This camel is likely to make unexpected movements and the management would like to advise drivers not to attempt to load weapons, apply lipstick or eat soup while in control of this animal. Accident, injury or unwanted marks to the face, body or clothing may result.”
We stopped for elevenses at the site of the old Watervale Railway Station, obviously no longer there, but replaced with a nice picnic table under a shady tree, just waiting for us to perch.
There were a few other cyclists on the path and one after another they would come up behind us and breeze past with their riders pedalling along at an easy pace, but passing us at a brisk one. Are we that unfit!? How is that fella in the Hawaiian shirt passing me without so much as a warm glow of effort? Then it occurred to me…of course…that distinctive humm I heard with each person that passed us…dog tarn it and curses…e-bikes! They’ve done it to us again! We were pedalling along under our own steam and once again, we were having our egos ground into the earth by our steeds’ electric cousins! Don’t get me wrong, e-bikes are great. They get people, who might otherwise find it difficult, out and about and enjoying some two-wheeled travel, That’s great. Share the cycle love. But, when you don’t have an e-bike and every single other cyclist you meet whizzes past, even those wearing Hawaiian shirts, man it can’t half dent the ego just a little!
We turned around and headed back, taking in the warm but pleasant day, the scenery and row after row of grape vines. The Clare Valley is apparently recognised internationally as Australia’s premier riesling producing region, so maybe a lot of those vines will one day pour someone a lovely glass of white to have on a warm day. Then, a short detour off the path, with a nice clear sign to point us in the right direction and we tootled into Sevenhills for a stop at the cafe-bakery. I’d read that it had a few vegan options and Steve was ready for some lunch, so we settled into an outside table for a cuppa and a bite.
With just a few kilometres left, we cruised along, bumped across a paddock and returned our wheeled steeds to their shed after an absolutely brilliant 38 kilometres of very pleasant pedalling indeed. That, was a top day! It was great to be back to some slow travel and have some time out of the car, seeing, smelling and hearing the world around us as we travelled along. Steve rounded out the day with another nine holes of golf on our return and we once again called it a day. A super day, absolutely tip top! Tomorrow we move on to regions new, to continue our explorations. I, for one, am at least glad we are doing that with a Subaru and not a camel! Who’s with me on that?