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Grape expectations

morning tea at kangaroo creekI've been everywhere...kuitpo forest

Here we go again!

The 2009 Bicycle SA Annual Tour began on October 3 and, over the course of nine days, took participants on a ride through many of South Australia's best known wine regions. Whether the grape-oriented theme of the tour was the reason it sold out so quickly I don't know, but the 200 places were filled months ago. I bowled up to Bike SA headquarters early on the Saturday, and set about what is becoming the regular ritual of renewing an increasing number of friendships made on previous rides.

Springtime in Adelaide throws up all manner of weather permutations. I wondered, given the conditions leading up to the tour, if we'd get wet along the way. I am pleased to say that we didn't, which is even more of a joy when you consider the bucketing Adelaide's environs copped immediately the tour was over. It was certainly fresh in the mornings (would you like ice with your tent, sir?) and on occasion the wind had a cold bite, but the rain stayed away.

kangaroo creek reservoir
kangaroo creek reservoir

Through the hills to Williamstown

Riders weren't as bunched along the Linear Path as I'd expected so it made for a fun journey up to Gorge Road. Given what was to come, I was a little surprised to see people pushing their bikes up some of the hills on the path... Just getting a feel for it, I wagered. I was happy to ignore the Mawson Trail signs at Castambul wanting to send me up the hill on the dirt track. Once a year is quite enough, thank you. Instead, the tour route took us up the gentle climb around the very pretty Kangaroo Creek Reservoir, which is where we stopped for some welcome refreshments.

There was a misty drizzle to endure as we rode through the hills, but it was nothing more than a nuisance. The substantial rains over the autumn and winter had certainly greened everything up, something I would continually notice throughout the ride. The hills provided gentle undulations that helped me get into the swing of things. It was a joyous feeling to be touring again.

As we headed through Cudlee Creek, Chain of Ponds and Kersbrook, we were passed by a hundred or so buzzing Italian motor scooters. These powered bikes were enjoying their Annual Tour, the 2009 National Scooter Rally. I caught up with some of the scooterists at Williamstown, and they were having a ball. Had I not been on my mountain bike, I would have been with them, astride my 1963 Vespa 150 GL. I chatted with people I knew before wishing them well and continuing up to the caravan park, the tour's Day 1 destination.

Destination: Clare

I missed the Sunday ride due to other commitments, but by all accounts it was a good day out, if a little cool and cloudy. I met my mates at Chateau Tanunda on Monday, where they'd enjoyed a sumptuous dinner the night before, and we pushed off nice and early in the morning. We took the road/Mawson Trail to Nuriootpa, before turning left for Greenock. We travelled along the daunting Sturt Highway for a while, but it was nice and wide, and very quiet on the road. Morning tea was at Freeling. The next stage was largely downhill to Hamley Bridge and on to Stockport, and we stopped for lunch at Tarlee, in the midst of the local fair. We crossed the Mawson again at Riverton, before visiting Saddleworth as our penultimate stop for the day. On the whole, Tanunda to Auburn was a fun ride, and we made the journey in good time. After pitching tents, showering, and getting ready for Tuesday, we decided to visit the Rising Sun Hotel for a few refreshing ales.

fields of green (and yellow)
fields of green (and yellow)

On Tuesday we were scheduled to ride 62 kilometres from Auburn to Clare via Mintaro and Farrell Flat. Some decided to maximise their time in Clare by riding the 25 kilometre Riesling Trail instead. I'd never ridden through Mintaro, so I was happy to ride out that way for a look. Once we'd left the main (and quite busy) Auburn-Clare road, things got a little more interesting. The ride around Sevenhill, along the John Horrocks and Spring Gully loops, was nothing short of beautiful. The riding was relatively fast, and the scenery was the best yet. There was climbing to be done at Polish Hill before we stopped at Mintaro for morning refreshments. Next was a long straight ride out to Farrell Flat, on a road dotted with dead magpies, victims of fast cars and their own greed. We then made a left hand turn that provided a few stiff climbs (and some great views) before we dropped into Clare.

marrabel pub
marrabel pub

My friend the wind

After a good rest day, we remounted and headed for Seppletsfield. We had a quick 25 kilometre blast down the Riesling Trail back to Auburn, before heading south-eastwards toward Marrabel. South-eastwards, into a cold, biting and pretty strong wind. Progress was slow, and I think that I may have uttered the odd curse word en route. After 25 kilometres of feeling like I was going backwards, I was more than happy to turn right and head south towards Kapunda and Seppletsfield, our evening destination. We were still punching into the wind, but not quite so directly. Lunch in the pale sun of Hamilton was a welcome stop, and the scenery was lush and green. We were much faster, and I was much happier, in the afternoon and the ride through Kapunda, past Map the Miner, and onto the winery was very pleasant indeed. And it was lovely to finish the ride off with a couple of steep climbs, just in case anyone was feeling a little too smug...

The afternoon at picturesque Seppletsfield was spent sitting in the sun, enjoying the surrounds, as well as partaking of some of the local brews. Day turned to night, beer turned to wine, and another evening passed very convivially with new and old friends.


There's something about Fridays. Everything seems easier, and more fun, even when I am not caught up in the drudgery of work.

We left Seppletsfield and, before long, we were in our stride and gently managing the climbs out of town. We passed through Tanunda, Lyndoch and Williamstown, and also got a good look at the Warren Reservoir.  I enjoyed a marvellous run through Forreston and into lunch at Gumeracha, 12 kilometres or so of gentle downhill. A good feed was waiting for us at the Giant Rocking Horse.


morning tea
morning tea

Lobethal, Woodside, Oakbank and Balhannah were all part of our afternoon's ride. We didn't stop, but they seemed like nice places.

There were more climbs as we left Balhannah and took a roundabout run into Hahndorf, but they were fun (of sorts).

After arriving in Hahndorf and setting up camp, we visited a few of the attractions of the main street. We decided to settle into the Family Hotel for a debrief. And a pint. At dinner that night we were entertained by a brass band, and grateful riders wasted no time getting into the spirit of things.

Southern exposure

Saturday morning saw us leave Hahndorf and pass through some familiar territory, namely Echunga, Macclesfield and Meadows. Morning tea was in the impressive Kuitpo Forest, and after the break we enjoyed some marvellous climbs and downhills as we got ever closer to our destination.

I've ridden to McLaren Vale from Adelaide many times, but I've never ridden around the local area. Ray Merrick told me at breakfast that I was in for a treat, and he was dead right. We had to climb pretty high as we approached the town, but the views were breathtaking. For every climb, there is a descent (that's the theory anyway) and some of the drops were brilliant. I managed my highest speed on the mountain bike ever as I bombed down a section of Chapel Hill Road.

The evening bought about the much-vaunted race between our mechanics, Dave and Dave, to see who would gain the upper hand in the bike riding superiority stakes. After much huffing and puffing, Dave won.

Our last night together was spent under the big marquee, enjoying plenty of the local produce. The German theme to the evening provided an opportunity for some to dress accordingly. Quite a few riders made the effort to present themselves as Deutsche damen und herren, which added to the fun of the evening. We were entertained by Walter and his accordion, as well as our usual floorshow, and some brave riders took part in hat dances along the way... The wine flowed, the tales grew taller and I got to bed a little later that I'd expected.

Homeward bound

The first part of the ride back to Adelaide was along one of my regular routes, the veloway from McLaren Vale to (almost) the start of the descent into town at Majors Road. A little before the big drop, we were diverted west towards the coast along another sealed bike track, before stopping at morning tea. From there we headed north, hugging the coastline, the official route taking us via the railway platform at Hallett Cove (!) and along the cycle path adjacent The Cove Road.

walter gives us a song...
walter gives us a song...

Somewhere along the coastal journey, a wattlebird decided it didn't much care for one of my riding mates and persistently swooped and dive bombed him, grabbing at his jersey, for about 100 metres or so. It was funny to watch, but I'm glad it wasn't happening to me. Pesky birds.

We decided to stop for a coffee at Glenelg, eschewing the trendy (and crowded) cyclist haunts for one of our personal favourites by the marina.

After a break, we headed into the wind along the coast before turning right onto the Linear Path and heading along the Torrens back to town. There was a bit of Sunday morning bike and pedestrian traffic to manage, but it wasn't too bad. Before too long we'd arrived in the city itself, and after a quick ride up Morphett Street we arrived safely back at Bike SA.

hallett cove
hallett cove

Our ride was done and dusted.

All good things must come to an end and after eating lunch, chatting for a while and locating our bags, it was time to say farewell. After a few hugs and handshakes, it was into the car and home. Back to 'normal' life.

Another Annual Tour has come and gone. Well done to all those involved in the planning and execution of the nine-day ride. Let's hope we can all do it again in 2010.



© Copyright David Robinson, 2009

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