Clare to Riverton (Clare and Gilbert Valleys)

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It felt good to be back on the bike after a few days off. My body felt refreshed, the niggles I was feeling had worked themselves out and the worst of the rain had eased. So I set off to follow the Riesling and Rattler Rail Trails from Clare to Riverton. For a whole day I could just ride on dedicated cycle paths without worrying about traffic.
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The Riesling Rail Trail works its way gently through the Clare Valley. Twisted old vines lined the path; their gnarly trunks and twisted fingers fully visible through their winter nakedness. This is what the valley is famous for: wine. It’s places like this that make me wish I liked to drink fermented grapes but I just don’t like the taste so I looked with my eyes, not with my lips.
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Seven Hills is one of the oldest and largest wineries in the valley and even I (who does not like wine) have heard of it. The impressive property has strong Jesuit origins and still hosts Jesuit retreats and meetings. On a quiet winter’s day when there was noone around, I found it a peaceful place and took time out for contemplation while cycling through.
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As I rode slowly along the Riesling Trail, I found myself stopping to look at the small things. Like the way patches of moss clung to rocks and shone an almost fleuro green. Or the lush soft growth of clovers in hard black rock. And the apple buds that are starting to bloom on old trees.
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Along with the beautiful old twisted gums that dotted the path, these small sights made for beautiful and restful riding.
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The Riesling Trail joined the Rattler Trail in Auburn. The contrast between the two trails was immediately evident. While the Riesling Trail meandered through bushland and vines, the Rattler passed through open green dairy and sheep pastures. Where the Riesling Trail had a solid compacted surface that was a pleasure to ride on, the Rattler’s surface was deceptively boggy and soft. I also encountered some illegal electric fences strung across the Rattler, one of which was almost invisible to the eye and the others of which didn’t have handles to open them with. A farmer has clearly been leaving them up after moving his cattle instead of packing the fences away.
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The lush farmland was pretty to ride through. Cattle mooed and sheep baaed as I rode by. Lambs wobbled along on their long skinny legs, tails swishing as they went while their mothers carried heavy woollen coats as they blindly took off away from my passing. I was surrounded by green with the odd field of yellow.
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I passed a large pine tree at about the same time as the wind and drizzle started to pick up. As fortune would have it, it was also lunch time. So I took shelter under the low slung branches and cooked up a small feast. The tree’s thick fronds had acted like a roof and I was grateful to have somewhere dry to sit.
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And then I was back out in the weather to enjoy the rural views for the final few kilometres to Riverton. The caravan park here at Riverton was packed last night. A caravan club has descended on this small town for a rally. It took me by surprise to see the whole caravan park filled to the brim. And with all these people who clearly knew each other. The average age of the caravaners was probably 60-65 with one member celebrating her 85th birthday (there was no way anyone could miss overhearing the nearby conversations). They took up th only dry place in the park for happy hour but vacated and all returned to their respective homes on wheels at about 6pm. I am still fascinated by the caravaners’ habit of going indoors at 6pm every night for dinner and the news at their dining tables when there is a sky full of stars or a campfire to be enjoyed. Perhaps another couple of months mingling with the gray nomads will help me understand them a little more. Or perhaps they will remain forever a mystery. All I can say is that while they mean well, their comments about how dangerous cycle touring is, how it looks like hard work and how cold it must be in my tent do get a bit boring after a while. I need to come up with some witty responses 😉

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