I woke to the sound of birds singing and the sun shining. All my gear had dried overnight under the shelter of the marquee and I could walk around without my feet getting wet. I looked around the beer garden and thought this place must be a great place to hang out in the spring when the weather is warm but not yet hot. After packing my gear I was on the road by 8:30am and enjoying the views over the River Murray that were blocked by yesterday’s rain. It was beautiful to look out over the flats below the cliffs that I was steadily climbing. Back on the highway I stopped at the Overland Corner Cemetary where gravestones told the stories of the pioneers of this part of the world. Across the road was a view out over the hotel and river so I stopped to cook up a breakfast of eggs with zucchinni and romano cheese followed by bananas fried in butter and sugar served with custard. As I sat there the sun disappeared, a cold wind picked up and gray clouds blanketed the world.
I rugged up and set off down the road. Before long I turned off the highway towards Bamara and came to the Loch Luna and Bonney Lake. The lakes are huge and I am sure that Bourke and Wills probably would have fallen over their tongues thinking they were the mythical inland sea they sought. Small waves were lapping against the shores of Bonney Lake, making it seem a little menacing in the winter cold. I was definitely not tempted to pull out the packraft though it would be a great place to paddle on a sunny day.
In Bamera the lake looked much more beautiful due to both the jetty and being on the side where the wind was blowing from. I stopped for a rest and to imagine how many laughing people would have jumped off and swum around the jetty on warm summer days.
The Riverland where I am riding is one of Australia’s big wine and fruit growing areas. When I wasn’t riding through mallee scrub or between lakes, vines and citrus trees lined the roads. Just about everyone here works in agriculture or to support it. Fruit picking, vine pruning, potato or onion farming, wine making and automotive work seem to be the big employers. Despite the labour intensive agricultural industry, unemployment is said to be high due to the seasonal and physical nature of the work. It’s a story told over and over again across many parts of rural and regional Australia.
Fruit stalls lined the road between Bamera and Berri. Some are retail stands while others are run by growers. I happened to stop at a pretty stall run by a grower who was proud of her produce.
I bought a big bag of mandarins despite not having enough space to carry them in my panniers. So I found a new use for the touring bars and rode the final 6km to camp with the mandarins resting on the bars. I reached camp at about midday and enjoyed my first hot shower in four days. I am learning that I am not a roughing it kind of guy; I like a hot shower every few days and the comforts of a camp kitchen where I can sit comfortably at a table to write blog posts and do some work. I spent the afternoon eating lunch near the River Murray, reading a book in the sun at camp and taking an afternoon nap.