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Cycling in the Adelaide area and Adelaide to Melbourne odyssey, 2012

Part 1  -- Is this the bike trip to hell? I hope not, but it might be!!!

My route map                 Here is a detailed interactive route map

adelaide to Melbourne coast route

As has become usual, i have traveled to Adelaide during the tour down under bike race to see some friends and family as well as to see some of the race and to ride around the Adelaide hills. Watching the race from the roadside is a bit dull as they all zoom past so fast. So the real fun is riding to and from the race locations as a reason to venture into new areas and discover new bakeries.

The first ride was a charity cancer ride organized by the police, who do a great job, but they were annoyed that i gave them a false phone number and email address to avoid getting junk mail and junk text messages. It seems the police don't like being given false identification, even for a fun event!!!!

Then i went to Moonta to visit my brother, before a supposedly easy ride to the first race finish at Clare. But the wind was fierce and it was 44C in the non-existent shade and i did not reach the finish line until an hour after the professionals finished. I continued south to Auburn along the Riesling bicycle rail-trail, where I stayed the night. Next day i rode south to Woodside and stayed with Jeff and Lyn. On the way i visited the township of Cambrai out in the Murray plains, resulting in a long climb back up to the hilltops, so it was another long day, with pleasant riding in the morning but a strong headwind in the afternoon. I was beginning to hate the wind.

Eventually i rode south to Willunga, briefly watching a race stage on the way, to enjoy lunch with Anne as the race passed through town 5 times. Then, feeling enthusiastic i returned to Adelaide the long hard, hot way through the hills. It was a pleasant route, but I wore myself out as the temperature was again near 40 C.

Now it was time to depart on the coastal route to Melbourne, although it was a hot day again. After crossing the hills, i reached the Murray river at Wellington and crossed on the ferry. But then i realised that there were no shops to refill my empty water bottle on the eastern side of the river, so I asked a houseowner for some water, hoping to survive the next 40 km. This was a disaster as i now had a headwind, was already tired, and it was very hot. I soon used up all my water and the last 20km was pure torture and i was completely exhausted when i arrived at Meningie. This was the wrong way to start a cycle tour!

Next day i was smarter, I carried extra water. It was interesting to ride along beside the Coorong at first, but it continues for some 80 Km and eventually became a little monotonous. At a rest stop a German tourist looked at my bike and declared it was bad as it has small wheels. He apparently ran a bike shop in Germany, but clearly did not understand the basic physics of wheels. It is not the wheel diameter which makes a bike fast. If that was true, formula 1 race cars would all have big tractor wheels to go fast. Don't buy a bike from that silly man! It was another long day of 150 km to reach Kingston, made harder by a brisk afternoon headwind. Next morning I hoped for a change in the wind direction but there was a brutally strong headwind instead. This was going to be a REALLY tough day, and it was. So i only covered 100 km all day and am now in Beachport, a town some 80 km short of my planned stopover. And the weather report shows more strong headwinds predicted for the next few days. Does hell really have permanent headwinds?

So to the many friends who said my plan to ride to Melbourne was crazy, i now completely agree that you were right. But that doesn't mean i can cancel the plan now, as i try to regain enough strength to battle another day of brutal headwinds. I may need much longer than a week to reach Melbourne, and perhaps even a train or bus as well!

Oh well, good plans are so boring. At least bad plans keep you awake.

Avoid the brutal headwind.

Part 2     -- Yet more headwind

After my stop at Beachport, there was still a fierce headwind next day, but i had no option but to fight my way on via Millicent to Mt Gambier, where i was pleased of the chance to be distracted from cycling while i checked out the interesting geology of the volcanic craters that form the famous Blue Lake. As i read the inscriptions on several monuments i realised that the rocks from which the monuments were made were much more interesting than the trivial historical inscriptions. At Mt Gambier the monuments are made from carefully cut slabs of coarsely vesicular volcanic glass, formed during a catastrophic steam explosion as water reacted with the hot magma. But the rocks were not described or explained. I remembered that none of the previous monuments i had seen mentioned the rock type, although they were made from fossil rich limestone and coarsely porphyritic dark granite. How sad that these interesting rocks were ignored and not mentioned on the inscriptions. Now i must stop at all the monuments to examine the rock types instead of reading the inscriptions.

To try and avoid the headwind i used the inland road eastwards from Mt Gambier, although this meant i bypassed Portland. The roadside trees and forests shielded me from much of the headwind, at least until i reached the coastline again. The afternoon headwinds along the coast were again strong as i rode very slowly past a wind farm of some 30 generators. I was learning to be fearful of such wind farms, as they are sure signs that the area is very windy and probably a bad place to go cycling. Rather than fight the afternoon strong headwind, I stopped in a tiny village which was little more than a pub and a cosy backpacker lodge which had been the local schoolhouse in past years.

Next morning the wind had eased a little and despite it, i made reasonable progress and reached Warrnambool, which is about the western end of the great ocean road. Now i had to deal with the tourist traffic along the picturesque coastline cliffs. It was like happy hour at the chocolate factory with crammed parking lots, many tourist buses and buzzing sightseeing helicopters everywhere. I ignored almost all of the tourist stops and continued to the peaceful village of Princetown to stay for the night.

The next challenge was to cross the Otway ranges. There were some long climbs, but the wind was gentle and i was sheltered by tall forests and the riding was pleasant. Here i met Stanley from Taiwan, who had ridden his bike from Perth. He was carrying much camping gear and his bike was necessarily very heavy, I was glad to be riding with only a very light load of about 10Kg.

For a while it seemed the wind would prevent me from reaching Melbourne, but i am now in Apollo Bay, about 150 km from the Melbourne region and i should reach there tomorrow after riding the most interesting section of the great ocean road as it closely follows he coastline.

Maybe my ride was not so crazy after all. But the wind certainly made it more of a challenge than i expected.

Even crazy plans can succeed. Don't be afraid to be crazy!!

Part 3 -- The wind changes at last!

After a night at the seaside holiday town of Apollo Bay, I found the most enjoyable part of the Great Ocean Road next morning. It was a monday so the weekend traffic had gone and I had a serene and scenic, windless ride along the coastal highway all morning. This was the cycling ecstasy I had been hoping for. As i reached the seaside resort of Torquay some 110 Km away, there was a sudden rainstorm as the cold westerly weather arrived. To avoid the rain I immediately turned onto the footpath under the nearest verandah, which was a fish shop, so I enjoyed fish and chips for lunch while the brief storm abated. Then I had a fierce and fun tailwind for the last 40 Km to the ferry terminal at Queenscliff. This was the tailwind I had hoped for in vain for the previous 7 days! Rather than deal with the traffic to cross Melbourne and reach the south-eastern suburbs, I caught the ferry across the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.

In Melbourne I caught up with many friends and enjoyed pleasant meals and coffee and discussions, with only a little cycling. But on one short cycling excursion my gears became jammed, which disabled my cycling somewhat. On saturday I visited the Queen Victoria market in downtown Melbourne, where there is a wide range of goods and foodstuffs for sale. While buying some coffee, the shop attendant noticed my quirky bright yellow T-shirt, so I pointed out my fluorescent yellow socks also. Together with my pink striped shorts, she thought she had seen a clown, so I acted the part while she took a photo and everyone nearby was greatly amused. Hey, cyclists should all wear bright colours for visibility - and it is certainly my normality! Sadly, she forgot to email me the photo! After a partial repair of my bicycle gear lever I rode across Melbourne and on towards the airport for my "winged bicycle" return to Darwin. But once again my gears jammed and I stopped at an auto parts store and bought some spray-lube to drench the gears, which fixed them. But now the cruel wind had turned against me again and the last few kilometers to the airport were very difficult as the fierce cross and headwinds blew me about mercilessly. Because of this i was glad to be ending my trip as I folded my bike for the check-in and return journey. After a 4 hour flight I was back in the tropics and reassembled my bike and enjoyed a gentle warm evening tailwind back to my home after 2000Km of cycling. It was diabolical that after my long and distant journey, some of the best cycling was actually right here in my home town!

Just east of Apollo bay, I found the cycling "pot of gold" here beneath the rainbow.

Apollo bay

Cycling can be enjoyable and there were many times during my journey which were pleasant. Although headwinds are inevitable at times, perhaps even too much of the time, you just have to persevere, because somewhere up ahead there is bound to be a piece of cycling ecstasy that makes it all worthwhile.

Here is an interactive route map for my travels around the Adelaide hills region:

And here is a detailed interactive route map for the travel from Adelaide to Melbourne, via the coastal route and Great Ocean Road.