With just 26km to ride, I lit a morning campfire and knocked off four hours work while enjoying some rare winter sunshine. It felt good to have an easy start to the day and allowed me to soak up the river atmosphere. By the time I hit the road it was close to midday. I was able to ride without a jacket for the first time of this trip. These types of simple moments are such treats.
I had a choice of following the sealed road east of the river or a gravel road to its west. Today I chose the gravel option. I’m quite a fan of the road less traveled (and not only because it means there are less cars or trucks to worry about). I could see on Google Maps that Murraylands Road would take me through wilder mallee country than the highway, so it seemed like the logical choice.
I decided to slow down. Sometimes I get a bit goal oriented and feel like I have to push to get the days mileage under my belt. It’s normal for me early in an adventure. It always takes a few days to let go and relax. Knowing this is the first part of settling in. After 9km I see a fallen tree that looks comfortable to sit on and will also provide shelter from the 40kph winds so I can cook up a hot lunch. The tree does the trick and I enjoy a hot dish of tuna, noodles and Asian greens. It fills my belly with the carbs I am craving.
The country here is so vast. If I wasn’t here cycling through it at an average speed of just 14kph (9mph) I doubt I’d trully understand just how isolated and sparse this part of the world is. All I can hear is the wind, small birds twittering as I ride past saltbush shrubs and the occasional family of magpies whose territory I disturb. Kites circle above me, hunting mice and other land-based prey. I see the odd bunny rabbit; a sight we don’t see in Queensland where we only get the occasional hare.
Out of nowhere I see a dinosaur. I have to stop to take a picture and have a chuckle.
Between the vast open spaces there are patches of mallee. There’s such a contrast between the cleared farmland dotted with saltbush and the dense mallee scrub. In the open country I am exposed and small. Between the mallee trees I am protected and sheltered. If I could camp here I would have plenty of firewood and be able to pitch my tent in the natural clearings between the trees. But it’s private land and the campground in Blanchetown and a hot shower is calling me. So after another short food break I continue the final few kilometres to the Big 4 campground in Blanchetown. It’s a good call. The campground has ensuite bathrooms for campers, a fantastic BBQ area overlooking the Lock 1 on the Murray River and a comfortable rec room where I can indulge in a little television in warmth on a comfortable couch. And that’s exactly what I do after cooking myself a big pork chop on a bed of pumpkin and spinach mash topped with honey and ginger infused stewed apples.