A brook bubbles as we pitch our tents. The landscape is lush from recent rains. The only sounds are our voices, the brook and the cars that travel down the nearby road. We’ve drive up here from L’s house in Adelaide. He’s brought his ten year old nephew. My bike came up in the back of the car too. It’s going to be a wonderful night.
After pitching camp I move three large logs that have been cut off a nearby tree. They make comfortable stools for the night. I then busy myself collecting wood so that we can enjoy the warmth and light of a fire. L and his nephew start it while I am enjoying a cup of tea in the last rays of afternoon sun. With a full moon and clear sky, it’s going to be cold tonight so the fire is most welcome.
We enjoy a sociable night by the fire eating green Thai chicken and pumpkin curry, followed by chocolate brownies. It’s certainly no hardship and I barely feel the cold as the coals and flames glow in the night. I retire relatively early and sleep soundly until morning. I wake just before the dawn. It’s wet outside but no frost has formed: yet. An hour later, as the sun rises through the trees, I notice that the water on my towel and tent are frozen. It’s a novelty for me.
It takes us all a while to get going. The good thing is that means it is already warm when I set off for the first of some 12-14 days on my bike touring South Australia. I quickly discover that the Adelaide Hills are exactly that: hilly. It’s a bit of a baptism of fire as I roll along gravel roads made soft from recent rains and climb the rolling hills. In a way it’s good to start out with a challenge because I can’t develop a false sense of security this way. And I also discover that I am fitter than I thought.
Besides, the scenery is amazing. This is pastoral country at it’s best with soft rolling hills, lush green grasses and livestock wandering around.
Not to mention the man-made structures. Wrought iron gates, stone buildings and windmills are the norm here. Stately would almost be an insulting way to describe some of the homesteads I pass, with their immaculate cottage gardens, elegant driveways and perfect stonework. The smoke coming from chimneys makes them even more inviting and I can only imagine the country cooking going on.
As I reach the final range before I drop down onto the Murray River flats, the landscape around me grows rugged. Rocks jut from the ground at all angles before I reach the final steep drop downwards. It’s as though the earth has decided to protect the lush productive Hills to the west by creating this fortress of rock. I keep looking for the Bronte sisters or Jane Austin to step out onto the road with pens in hand writing some magical story of love and woe. But it’s just me and the long smooth descent down the bitumen to Mannum where I pitch my tent in the caravan park to take advantage of the power points and cooking facilities in the camp kitchen.