The day began with a visit from Jack Frost. He came and painted as much of the campground white as he could in the small amount of time that the temperatures dropped to freezing. Up close the ice crystals were quite pretty and the small puddles of ice that I brushed off my tent and onto the grass were quite fun to see. Perhaps I only think this because I am from the subtropics where frosts are a mystery that happens in exotic places far away from home.
I packed my gear at a leisurely pace, making breakfast and drinking a cup of tea as I went. I enjoyed a few final conversations with Chris who also took some pics of me setting off on my bike (I should have asked her to send them to me) before we wished each other well on our respective journeys. Mine took me out of Burra through the treeless hills that surround this town on all sides. I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was the copper mine, the farmers or nature that had made the hills this way.
The locality of Hanson (it probably used to be a town but is now just a small gathering of houses) marked the turnoff from the highway to the road to Clare. This old church tucked away behind mature gums reminded me of a chappel I once visited in Holland near the villages where my parents grew up. I don’t know why because it looks totally different but perhaps it’s the way the church is now tucked behind trees. From my vantage point on the side of the road I could see the yellow flowers of a crop gone to seed all the way to the horizon.
Just 10km (6 miles) further down the road I came to Farrell Flat. This sleepy place used to be a thriving commercial centre with shops and banks and a huge town hall. When I arrived today it was silent. There was no one around and it didn’t look like any of the shop fronts were still in business. Perhaps the modern day conveniences of cars and supermarkets in the larger town of Clare some 18km (11 miles) away make this township unecessary and uncompetitive. Despite the quiet, it’s history was preserved in a number of buildings and an assortment of photographs displayed in the beautifully kept park and garden.
The road into Clare climbed and twisted a little as I wound my way over the small range that created the valley’s eastern boundary. At times I wondered whether I was still in Oz, given the rock wall fences and green landscape. The Australia bush I’ve explored in the past has been largely red, brown or yellow in colour. And rock walls certainly haven’t been a common sight. But sure enough, there were gum trees along the road and South Australian number plates on the cars and trucks that whizzed by (I rode on the shoulder whenever I heard vehicles coming from behind due to the narrow roads and the way the traffic seemed to be in a rush).
I knew the climbing was over when I saw the sign marking the start of the Clare Valley. Around the next bend row upon row of vineyards also gave me some clues as to my location. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong season to be admiring said vineyards with the vines all being bare. But their shapes are still interesting even if a little less romantic than they are in bloom. I don’t know what to expect of this place that is so much discussed in tourist brochures; especially not as I don’t drink wine.
But if nothing else, the Discovery Caravan Park at Clare is definitely making me a happy man. The tent area is more like a bush camp than a stuffy caravan park with an open grassy field dotted with huge gums. I took the opportunity to do my washing for the first time in weeks, cook up some sausages for lunch and then make my way up to the communal fireplace and picnic tables for “wine time” with the gray nomads (one of whoom gave me a cup of absolutley delicious home-made chunky beef and vegetable soup with fresh bread from the local bakery) before settling in for dinner and some time online with the whole place to myself.