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Adventure Island

authorremarkable rockssunrise in kingscote

I arrived at the new Bike SA headquarters in Franklin Street early on Saturday October 4th, ready to take part in another Annual Tour. This was to be my fourth, and I was relishing the prospect of seeing the sights of  Kangaroo Island by bike.

Organisers and riders were milling around, making sure that all the necessary final preparations were made. I’d brought my gear down to be packed on Thursday which meant I was feeling pretty free and easy about the whole affair. I saw quite a few familiar faces as I waited to board the coach. We grinned like happy fools for a group photograph before waving goodbye to Adelaide

After a very pleasant drive down to the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, we arrived at Cape Jervis for the official start of the tour around lunchtime. More riders, those that had driven directly to the departure point, joined us for the ferry crossing. I met up with a couple of riding mates, Wally and Ray, two of the many friends I have made on previous Bike SA rides. We shared a few celebratory beers as we crossed Backstairs Passage on the ferry. Here we were again!.

the ferry arrives
Saturday was like a big party. No riding, just lots of meeting up with new and old friends. We set up our campsite upon arrival at the football oval before going for a bit of a walk around Penneshaw. After visiting the beach at Hog Bay, we settled into the Penneshaw Hotel for an hour or so. The evening’s meal and entertainment were to be held at the Dudley United Football Club so we wandered back into camp in time to eat. The whole group was assembled for the first time – the majority of the 200 riders were from places other than South Australia which made for lots of meeting and greeting. After the announcements we went inside to warm up a little before going to bed. It was a fresh night and we decided that a glass of red wine would help to fend off the cold.

Towards the end of the evening, the barman presented us with three half-full bottles of Kangaroo Island wine saying “You might as well finish these off”. Not being the kind of people to refuse local hospitality, we obliged. We stayed up for another hour or so, laughing, reminiscing and carrying on as if tomorrow would never come.

the good doctor at stokes bay

Hitting the Dirt

Tomorrow came.

I was feeling less than perfect when I emerged from my tent. I wasn’t as fit as I might have been, I was shaking off a slight cold and I hadn’t slept all that well. The previous evening’s excesses only amplified my frailties. I didn’t bother with the cooked breakfast.

Ray and I were taking up the off-road option while Wally chose to stay on the bitumen – a fairly short hop of 39 kilometres for the roadies. The ride out of Penneshaw took us up a pretty steep hill before we found any off-road tracks. I felt pretty ordinary and it was a great relief to get to the top. I’d expended a bit of energy though, and I was breathing heavily and sweating buckets. The ride was only a couple of kilometres old. Maybe I should have gone with Wally…

We followed Willoughby Road down to the morning refreshment stop and beyond. A beautiful downhill took riders into Cape Willoughby, providing a break for those of us that might have needed it. I don’t normally like stopping for too long when riding but I took the opportunity of joining the 45 minute guided tour of the lighthouse. I think my body appreciated it. The lighthouse tour was very interesting and the views from the top were magnificent.

We had to climb out of Cape Willoughby the same way we came in but, in truth, it wasn’t tough. The unsealed roads were gently undulating and the surface a little loose, which meant that eyes were focused on the road rather than the surroundings. We were treated to another downhill going into the lunch stop - much steeper, and a whole lot more fun, than anything we’d had earlier in the day.

The next stop on our day’s agenda was the lookout at Prospect Hill. It was well worth the climb, but I felt each of the 512 steps that took me to the summit. The 512 coming down were marginally easier.

We took the dirt into American River and made camp at ‘The Shed’. The evening meal that night was conducted in the manner of a lottery – riders eagerly awaiting the announcement of their order number, seemingly coming at random. Each call was greeted with cheers by the lucky soul who had ‘won’. As soon as the announcements regarding Monday’s riding were over, the main tent cleared. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who, for whatever reasons, felt exhausted from the day’s exertions.

Monday’s ride took us from American River to Parndana. Those of us taking the unsealed option headed south-west to Murray Lagoon before turning to the north and tracking to our destination. Just as I turned onto Timber Creek Road I noticed that the bike wasn’t performing as it should. I quick glance down confirmed what I’d thought – puncture. Ray and I enjoyed a nice 10-minute break while I removed the back wheel and replaced the tube. Michael Bridge came by in the van and asked if we needed help, which was jolly nice of him. The terrain was fairly heavily corrugated for most of the journey. I was juddering from start to finish, and I imagine those with thinner tyres would have felt the bumps even more so. I was feeling much better than I did on Sunday, and I got through the relatively short 63 kilometre ride with a smile on my dial. We’d stayed dry all day too, some of the road riders weren’t that lucky.

The third, and last, day on the dirt was the longest and best. After a dead straight and undulating ride out to the northern coast of the island, riders were rewarded with a fast four kilometre descent into Stokes Bay. I loved it, in fact I was still grinning when I ran out of road at the bottom turn and took a tiny spill. I stood up and dusted myself off, feeling a bit foolish. Ray looked at me and offered some great words of comfort and support - “Stop showing off”. Thanks mate.
at the top of constitution hill
crashing waves at admirals arch

We were treated to the beautiful sights of the northern coast, including the fabulous sea and sand of Snelling’s Beach, looking out across the Investigator Strait. The climb up Constitution Hill was, without any doubt, the toughest of the tour. It kept going and going. And going. The unsealed terrain was uneven, and the gradient was pretty healthy - at least it was constant so I knew what to expect. It was a very satisfying feeling to get to the top and take a few photos (and a well-earned breather).

In the afternoon we were reunited with the bitumen and we headed westward along the Playford Highway before turning south along the West End Highway. We were bound for Flinders Chase and the Western Kangaroo Island Caravan Park. The damage caused by the recent bushfires was evident. The amount of regrowth that we could see from the road was encouraging. It was the end of a long day, and we were fighting a stiff breeze most of the way home. I could tell I’d had a big day out. At 92 kilometres I had to stop as I felt I had nothing left to give. Five minutes and a muesli bar later, I was back on the bike and we were almost at camp. It’s amazing how quickly the body and brain can recover.
It was curry night on the tour and the approaching rest day was greeted by many with a few bottles of the local wines.

Resting Up

I didn’t get up until after 8.00 on Wednesday. It’s called the Rest Day for a reason. The previous day’s ride had tired me out and I was quite happy to have an uncharacteristic lie in. I spent the morning catching up on a few chores, and in the afternoon I went for a wander around the caravan park, looking at koalas and taking the short loop walk around the lagoon. Later I accepted a lift down to Remarkable Rocks and Admiral’s Arch. Others joined a skills session conducted by Bike Beyond. Some happily did nothing.

looking east from admirals arch

The Annual Tour Revue was held on Wednesday night and five acts had volunteered their services. We had songs, stories and poems and the eventual winner was an incarnation of The King – Peter Pelvis and the Pelvettes – who wowed the crowd with ‘It’s now or never’.

I saw a couple of wallabies as I made my way to bed. They weren’t at all bothered by my presence.

On the Road Again

Thursday was a beautiful day for a ride. No wind, gently undulating bitumen roads and a clear sky meant that the short trip to Vivonne Bay was completed by morning tea time.

We went for a walk down to the beach and the claim that Vivonne Bay is Australia’s most beautiful beach is certainly not a massive overstatement. It was lovely.

In the afternoon we were treated to a ‘birds of prey’ demonstration, presented by Vivonne Bay Eco-Adventures. Sea eagles, kestrels, owls and wedge-tailed eagles were all put through their paces by the expert handlers. Brave members of the audience were offered the opportunity of putting on the leather glove and getting up close and personal with some of the birds.

Friday’s journey from Vivonne Bay to Kingscote took riders along the South Coast and Birchmore Roads, with the opportunity of a detour to Seal Bay for those that fancied it. I’ve been to Seal Bay before, so Ray and I decided to punch on through to Kingscote. It was a great ride, pretty fast and with minimal stops. We were very early into the island’s largest town and thought it best to go straight to the camp at the footy club. Our reward for arriving so early was the chance to help the volunteers unload three trucks of equipment and luggage. We didn’t mind - it was an opportunity to exercise the upper halves of our bodies. We managed to get all that done, pitch our own tents, get showered and have lunch before two o’clock. Then it was into town for a pasty (it’s hard to walk straight past a bakery!) and some refreshments.

morning tea at prospect hill
last day convoy

Our last evening together was a frock and pirate-themed party. After Michael Bridge had clearly stated the responsibilities and requirements of all riders for Saturday’s decamp and journey back to the mainland, it was time for one final night of fun. Those going to bed early were serenaded with some cool soul and jazz tracks as they slipped off to sleep.

People were up very early on Saturday. From my tent I could hear the sounds of human activity sometime shortly after 5.00 AM. Obviously some folks desperately wanted to ensure they made the ferry.

The ride from Kingscote to Penneshaw was a nice early morning run. The three of us rode together for the first time on the tour and we enjoyed a gentle pace as we chatted and negotiated the undulations without sweat or toil. Four kilometres from Penneshaw we had to climb a long and steep bitumen road for about ten minutes. Many chose to walk, and I wasn’t going much faster than them as I passed…

The last stretch of road into Penneshaw was an unbelievable descent. I just made myself as small as possible on the bike, and let fly. What a rush!


Back at the Dudley United Football Club, we packed bikes, had lunch and started the bittersweet process of saying goodbye to friends. We shook hands, took photos and promised to email. The three of us then went and had a coffee on the beachfront.

We drifted down to the ferry and left the island at 1.30. We shared a few more beers before leaving Ray at Cape Jervis and jumping on the coach back to Adelaide. I had my head buried in a mountain biking magazine for large sections of the journey, pausing occasionally to take in the views. Wally slept.

We arrived back into Adelaide and disembarked. I found my bags and put my bike back together before placing it onto my car’s bike racks. I wished Wally all the best and then set course for home.

The Annual Tour was over.

The riding was top-notch, the level of support exceeded expectations, and the strong feeling of togetherness that was shared by the whole group was impressive. This is why I keep coming back…

Next year the Annual Tour promises a feast of riding, so make your plans now.

Keep pedalling!
the three amigos

until next year...trusty steedcape willoughby lighthouse

© Copyright David Robinson, 2008

Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author