The Barossa Valley Trail cycleway leads from Tanunda to Nooriootpa, saving me the stress of cycling the Barossa Valley Highway, which is surprisingly busy at 10am this morning. The cycle path has a fantastic surface and is flat, making for easy riding. Tall thick-trunked trees line it like a row of guards protecting me from the motorized traffic. Not just a physical protection but also a visual and audio protection. I wonder whether this is what it’s like to cycle in countries where the car isn’t God.
For the first half hour I ride past the Penfolds, Wolff Blass and Barossa Estates vineyards with their neat rows of vines. There are quite a few workers trimming vines. I think it looks like tough backbreaking work. And there are so many vines to be trimmed … It seems like an almost impossible job but I am sure it happens at this time every year.
I turn down Greenock Road in Nooriootpa thinking about lunch at the Greenock Creek Tavern where I had that amazing meal a few weeks ago. The vines start to disappear as I find myself back in green pastures where most of the trees have been felled to make way for these crops. It’s a stunning visual experience and I wonder whether the person who said that in fashion blue and green should never be seen without a colour in between has ever seen these green fields under a blue sky. Unfortunately, today is Tuesday so the Greenock Creek Tavern weren’t serving lunch. But I can report that the Greenock takeaway and general store make a very good steak sandwich with the lot.
From here I will retrace my steps back to Kapunda. I rode this road in the opposite direction a few weeks ago but it is the only option for me to get back to the Murray River for the rest of my ride east. Winter has definitely turned a corner here in South Australia. Where a few weeks ago the trees here were mostly bare, they are now all bursting with white and pink blossoms. It’s amazing how Mother Nature adapts to the changing of the seasons.
I cross a small range and find myself in sheep grazing country. It still amuses me the way the sheep run away in a frenzied panic as I ride past even though cars and trucks don’t bother them. The flight instinct is so strong. While they have learned there is no danger from big chunks of metal zooming past them, the spectre of an actual human still frightens them. I probably look like a grazier on a motorbike (albeit a very slow motorbike). Fifteen minutes later I arrive at the caravan park and pitch my tent for the night. This afternoon I will do a few hours work and rest before tomorrow’s big push back across the salt bush plains to Morgan and the Murray River.
I still don’t know how but I managed to fit my gear back into the panniers after two week off. I collected some extra books and maps during the break. I also changed my entire sleeping set up by buying a warmer sleeping bag, more comfortable sleeping pad and pillow. The new gear is also smaller and more technical than what I had so I have gained some space in my bedroom pannier. Though I did still have to donate some clothes I hadn’t worn over the past month to charity to keep the load under control. Once packed I caught the train back to Gawler where I left off my last cycle tour. The first thing I noticed was the beautiful station building.
It was a steep climb out of Gawler to the start of the Jack Bobridge Track. There were no signs to say I was on the right path and the road was a narrow shortcut that locals seem to use as a race track. I almost gave up on finding the path after about 3-4km on this dull road but then just as I was about to head down towards the Barossa Highway I spotted the tell tale blue sign and made a beeline for the track.
It was worth the effort of finding it. The new surface is flawless and the scenery suddenly opened out into pretty countryside. The track has only been open for a few months so I gave the council feedback about signage pointing to it because it’s probably an oversight.
I rolled along happily. As I dropped over a small rise into Lyndoch the green pastures gave way to vineyards. These are not small hobby wineries but massive commercial vineyards with familiar names, even to me despite my not drinking wine. Stone buildings dotted the vineyards and workers pruned vines by hand. I spent a couple of hours crusing along gently stopping to take photos.
I reached Tanunda Caravan Park early in the afternoon and decided to stop for the night. I have work to catch up on and know from my first tour of South Australia that it’s best to ease into the mileage. I pitched my tent in a lovely grassy sppot under some trees, cleaned my bike chain then walked to the township.
I walk into town to check out what’s happening and buy some groceries. It’s quaint with old style houses that have flower baskets hanging from the verandahs. The big old churches capture my attention. They are imposing. The one with the tree-lined lane leading to it makes me think of movies that I’ve seen set in Italy or France. I spend a while in the bookshop chatting with the lady there. She is very knowledgeable about books and authors. I definitely recommend a visit to her shop. I decided against buying anything though because I realised I won’t fit it in my panniers easily.
The famous Barossa Valley. That’s where I found myself yesterday morning as I rode south-west out of Greenock through massive fields of bare vines.
Some of the vines looked like they might have aged beyond use or that they were being rested. They looked like a grape vine graveyard as I rode past them. Hills rose in the distance and I could enjoy the sight of them without worrying about having to ride over them.
Gravel roads stretched out before me like orange ribbons between the vineyards. The roads were straight, as if creating bends might somehow disturb the landscape. Change of direction were made by taking right angle turns to travel along more straight roads in the new direction. All around, the scenery was spectacular and I can see why the Barossa Valley is such a popular tourist destination.
At times the road got a bit sloppy and mud caked my tyres. I got off to walk around a deep puddle in a causeway and couldn’t get enough traction to ride up the following hill. But in a beautiful place like this there’s no problem with taking a short walk.
At the top of the hill I enjoyed stunning views back over the valleys and hills I had traveled through during the morning. And before me were laid out vast green fields of grass or crops (I still don’t know what the deep green fields have in them).
My entire day was a visual feast of shapes and colours. The greens of the crops. The yellow flowers between the vines that had not yet been mowed. The red tractors mowing or spraying the fields. The orange gravel roads and the grey skies above me.
Cheeky sheep grazed between the vines or got stuck into bales of hay left to dry in the paddocks. They ran away as I rode past, bleeting loudly in their panic. The silly creatures causing me to laugh every time I saw them being their funny selves.
I enjoyed the ride. I didn’t even let a rude phone call from someone who I used to respect and whose business I will no longer support ruin my day. Instead, I brushed it off and took in the scenery I rode through. From Gawler I caught a train into Adelaide city and then followed the Linear Path back to my mate L’s place. My first proper fully loaded cycle tour was a success after 16 days and about 500km. I’ll be in Adelaide for a week working and studying so might not have much to blog about until I get moving again. But then … who knows …