I woke at ridiculous o’clock with the moon still high in the sky and the sun at least an hour from rising. I don’t now why I woke so early but I felt awake and ready to face the day. So that’s exactly what I did. By the time I packed camp the sun was awake (as my grandchildren would say) and I was riding my bike down to the ferry to cross back into Morgan and hit the road. I had a little drama with my extra water container: it sprung a leak so I could only carry the 1.8L my biddons hold (the shop wasn’t open yet to buy extra water). And that’s why, once I passed this sign, I was committed to riding all the way to Burra. My longest day yet on this trip. Unkown territory. An adventure.
After my time in the Murraylands, the saltbush plains took me by surprise. They are so flat and endless. I had become accustomed to seeing the Murray River cutting a deep gash through the land. But here, away from her path, there were no read cliffs or lines of trees signifying the river’s destructive yet life-giving liquid. There was only saltbush and lots of it.
I love this type of country. The places so arid and harsh that no one in their right mind would want to live here. These places inspire in me a sense of awe. Awe at nature, at the people who explored and settled the lands, and at the people who call it home today. The saltbush plains were alive with life though – sheep, kangaroos, birds and even an emu. I got very excited when I saw the emu running towards the horizon; I am sure you could all here me squeeling like a toddler while pointing and calling out “Emu! It’s an emu!”
And then there was the randomness that sparsely populated areas seem to inspire. Like yesterday’s toilet in the tree along the Murray, I wonder what inspired people to start throwing their shoes into this tree. While I’m sure it’s technically litering, I think it’s very cool and funny.
The landscape today was very Outback Australia. There were windmills, red dirt, endless horizons and farmers on dirtbikes not wearing helmets. Out on the road, most of the vehicles were travelers towing caravans or camper trailers moving around the countryside like gypsies. I suspect most are grey nomads living that second great Australian dream that comes in retirement after the first dream (the home they own) is sold or paid off. I wonder what they make of the landscape they are whizzing through? I know that I certainly am seeing it differently now that I’m only traveling at 15kph (9mph).
I feel content as I pedal my way across the saltbush plains. There’s something magical about being so small in such a big space. I can’t even begin to explain the crazy wanderings of my mind in those pleasurable hours of riding in a straight line. There was singing (something I should only do when no one is near because I sing like a crow), conversations I wish I’d had, laughter and occassional mutterings about whatever was passing through my mind at that moment. No doubt I will get used to these things as I continue my adventure.
For 60km (40 miles) I rolled slowly across the saltbush plains and then, like a mirage in the desert, I saw hills rising in the distance. I am not traveling with a map and don’t research the next stretch of my ride beyond checking which roads to take. So I was not expecting to see the hills; nor did I know I would have to ride just past them to get to Burra. Actually, what I have discovered tonight when I loaded my route into Google Maps is that I actually was riding up one long hill all day long.
With the hills came more cultivated farming practices. Gone were the flocks of sheep grazing wildly amongst the saltbush. Here sheep grazed on pastures and fields were ploughed, either to grow crops or to improve the pasture for the sheep.
And so I found something new for my eyes and mind to explore. Something different to stir up stories and dreams i my mind. Change and movement: two things my soul craves and loves. Change from riverland flats to saltbush plains to cultivated farm land. A joyous experience to live and one to celebrate.
I did reach those hills in the distance. And I climbed the first range with strength despite this being my longest day in the saddle with a fully loaded bike. Perhaps it was the casual and easy attitude I took to the ride. Or the regular stops. Or maybe it was the noodles with chicken, pumpkin and spinach that I cooked for lunch just an hour earlier. Whatever it was, the small hills just disappeared under my wheels and I was soon arriving at the Burra Caravan Park and Campground where I will stay for two to three nights. There’s a lot to see and do here in this town, and I know it will inspire me to do some good creative work in my day job.