The moon is still shining brightly in the sky when I wake for a shower. I want to get an early start on the day because I have to cover 87km (50 miles) to the next camp. There’s no campsites between Kapunda and Morgan, and I’m not the kind of guy who likes to just pitch a tent between the highway and a farmer’s fence. I know some touring cyclists cover double this distance every day but I like to keep my days to about 40-50km (25-30 miles) because I find this distance allows me to relax and spend time enjoying both the sights and my afternoons in camp.
I’m on the road by 8:10am and rolling out of Kapunda into the wheat fields (I read a sign today that said the green fields of crops I have been riding through are wheat fields). The hills around Kapunda are all bare. I assume the trees here were lopped down decades ago to make way for the mass production of food for our expanding national population. There are some trees in the fields and along the roadside but most of the hills are barren but for the wheat plants. A bright yellow field stands out in the distance. I think it’s a canola farm. The colour is amazing and spreads like a small sea in a vast emerald landscape.
As I push on towards Eudunda the landscape shifts effortlessly from wheat fields to grazing country. There are still plenty of lambs in the paddocks. Some are tiny. They are demanding of their mothers; continuing to try drinking even when their mothers try to run away from me. Sheep really are silly animals.
After a steady 27km (16 mile) climb from Kapunda I reach Eudunda. The town is tiny but the local ladies have embraced the South Australian Living Artists (SALA) festival by knitting up a storm. They have made the statue of Colin Thiele and his pelican a lovely scarf and beanie to keep out the cold. Thiele was the author of a number of Australian classics including Storm Boy (hence his having a pelican with him). The bike rack where I leave my bike is covered in multi-coloured and multi-textured wool. Even the local post box didn’t escape the onslaught.
Though the star of the show was the giant ‘crocodile’ someone has fashioned out of an old stump in the local park. It made me chuckle out loud when I noticed it’s teeth glistening in the sunshine.
After Eudunda the land opened up. This is the bush as I love it. The wide open spaces, straight long roads that never seem to end and a sense of hardship inspire my imagination. I felt content as I rode through this landscape where many people say there’s nothing to see but really there are subtle changes happening all the time.
As I drew closer to the Murray I came to the saltbush plains and mallee trees that so captured my soul on the ride from Morgan to Burra a few weeks ago. Vast plains of blue-grey saltbush gave way to patches of mallee scrub that sprawled around like a drunken cowboy. A mob of emus saw me and started to run away; their feathers bouncing around like the grass skirts on those Hawaiin hoola girl dolls that people put on their dashboards. Fortunately, the emus ran away from me because sometimes when they run along the road they run into the very thing they are trying to escape and that would have been rather unpleasant.
About 15km (10 miles) from Morgan I noticed something bright just off the highway. Someone has created a fantastic interpretive display at the old Eba Railway Siding. A sign tells the story of days gone by when Eba was a thriving community of farmers and timber cutters. The story is told with wit and character. If you are ever in the area it is worth seeing. People must have been tough back in the olden days when some men resorted to living in dug out holes in the earth and eating nothing but stale bread, water and lard to fuel their bodies. Aparently this part of the world was so isolated that the children were shy. The story tells of a boy who went missing only to be found hiding in a hollow near the railway line. He was so shy he had to be coaxed back out.
Someone (possibly the person who wrote the story and created the display) has left a jar of smiley face buttons with a message on the jar “Help yourself. Have a nice day”. It’s a lovely little gesture so I left a note thanking the person for the display, story and button and leaving a link to my blog so that they might see how their efforts brought a smile to my face. I’ve pinned the button to one of my pannier bags as part of my ongoing customisation of the bright yellow Ortliebs.
I arrived at the Morgan Conservation Park just in time to enjoy an hour of sunshiine before the sun sank behind the cliffs. Rather than pitch the tent I ate some food and lazed in the sun. Does anyone recognise this place from my visit a few weeks ago? I have pitched my tent at the same site but not in behind the trees as there is no wind here tonight. Despite the long miles I rode, I had a wonderful day on the bike. There was plenty to see and smile about. Though tomorrow I will return to my usual shorter distances for a little while because I do prefer to have the afternoon off to do some sightseeing, paddling, work or study.