Flinders Ranges + IBA Ride
Ever since I picked up my BMW GS Adventure bike, I have had a desire to go to Lake Eyre. I had one failed attempt as part of an IBA “Heaven to Hell” ride (highest point (Charlotte Pass) to lowest point (Lake Eyre South) in less than 24 hours, but I also wanted to get out to the Flinders Ranges and Lake Eyre just to have a good look at the amazing scenery.
I had set aside some time in mid July for such a ride and when I mentioned it, a couple of people expressed an interest in coming along as well. So, three of us decided to set off down the Hume Highway and across to South Australia for an adventure for a few days.
I met Rod at the Menai Caltex and we headed down the Hume Highway to the maccas at Sutton Forest where we would meet Craig who was travelling from Newcastle.
After some breakfast and a coffee, we headed south on the Hume making good time until we peeled off at Gundagai to get a photo of the dog on the tucker box. A quick break here for a photo and stretch before heading on to Gumly Gumly for fuel and a snack.
The weather was cool but fine and very good conditions for riding.
We pressed on heading west, stopping at Hay and then a quick stop at Hells Gate for another photo opportunity. We continued through Mildura and eventually to Renmark where we stopped for the night. After organising accommodation, we were off to the Club for dinner and a beer and a chance to reflect on the day.
Friday morning and we were up early, departing Renmark in the dark with local temperatures around 2 or 3 degrees. We stopped at Burra for breakfast which was very welcome as temperatures had dropped to sub-zero in the early hours. After breakfast we had a quick look at the old mine before heading on to Peterborough and Hawker.
Our original plan was to find accommodation in the Flinders Ranges national park (for example, Rawnsley park Station, or Wilpena Pound, but following some advice from an acquaintance of Craig, we decided to stay at the Hawker Hotel and go out for the rest of the day riding through the Flinders Ranges and some gorges before returning to Hawker for Friday Night Pizza Night at the Hawker Hotel . . . washed down by a couple of cleansing ales.
Saturday morning saw us up in time to get some pie-warmer food at the Hawker service station for breakfast (nothing else open). We fuelled up and headed north past Mount Pugilist following the main gravel road up to Arkaroola. Once there, we sorted out our accommodation in the Hotel, had a light lunch and unloaded the bikes ready to explore the nearby trails. We did this for the remainder of the afternoon, returning to Arkaroola at dusk. This had been the most challenging riding so far with changing surfaces, and, as the sun got lower in the sky, plenty of kangaroos hopping out onto the road in front of us.
We took a break at the waterhole for a look around before heading back to Arkaroola for a nice dinner.
We left Arkaroola on Sunday morning to take an alternate route out where we could get to a lookout overlooking Lake Frome. The road up to the lookout was steep and challenging. Rod made it up OK however, I dumped the GSA about ⅓rd of the way up. Craig who was following me remained at the bottom of the hill wisely deciding that discretion is the better part of valour. Rod wrestled his GS back down the hill after we had finished looking around – we returned to Arkaroola to top up with fuel and hope that my GSA would stop blowing oil smoke (which it mercifully did.
We set out again heading south along the eastern end of the Gammon Ranges before cutting west on the Copley Road where is meets the Outback Highway at Copley. We stopped at Copley Caravan Park for the all-day big breakfast. A short detour out of town to check out the actual Leigh Creek before going back out the highway to head north towards Marree where we planned to stop for the night.
We stopped at Lyndhurst where the Outback Highway turns back to dirt and where the Strzelecki Track starts. We continued north, stopping at the Farina Ruins. We arrived in Marree and checked into the Marree Hotel where we enjoyed dinner and and beer and some chocolate for desert.
We departed Marree in the dark on Monday morning, heading west on the Oodnadatta Track towards Lake Eyre. Riding the track in the dark is a bit disconcerting, but we made good progress as we got used to the conditions. We could see the sun riding in the mirror before stopping for some photos on the track.
We arrived at Lake Eyre and walked down onto the lake itself – a fantastic experience that cannot be accurately depicted on film.
We doubled back to Borefield Road to head south to Roxby Downs. This road was most clay, but was a less predictable surface than the Oodnadatta Track resulting in a dinged front wheel for both Craig and I.
We stopped at Roxby Downs for a break and some breakfast. I had been running some numbers in my head and had decided that it would be possible to include an IBA ride (1,600km in less than 24 hours) for my return home. We rode south to Pimba where I collected a start docket for the beginning of the IBA ride.
Having obtained a start docket, I bid Craig and Rod farewell as they were heading back to Sydney/Newcastle via Broken Hill – I headed off toward Port Augusta wondering what the night ahead would have in store for me. I bumped into Craig and Rod briefly at Port Augusta after I had been chatting to my wife and filling her in on my revised plan.
I continued south and headed east towards Burra and Renmark. I arrived at Renmark just as the darkness had descended and the night ahead beckoned. The conditions so far had been excellent, if slightly on the cool side, but pretty comfortable overall. I arrived in Mildura feeling in pretty good shape, but with the first signs of rain appearing. I crossed the border back into NSW. The next planned stop was at Balranald where I would take on fuel and food.
By the time I had arrived at Balranald, it was evident that I would not make it through the night without some sleep. I took the chance to had a power nap (the first of three) in the cafe area of the Caltex Roadhouse, using a pile of magazines as a pillow. After about 15 minutes nap I indulged in a sausage roll and and an iced coffee before setting off again. The rain continued lightly.
I made steady progress, stopping briefly at Narrandera for fuel. By now the rain had become steady and fairly heavy. It was only a relatively short run from there to Wagga Wagga where I once again stopped for a sleep. I used some packaged firewood at the Caltex service station as a make-shift pillow and lay down in front of the window for a solid 45 minute sleep. The rain remained steady and was hardly enticing me out of my slumber to ride again.
After a snack at Wagga Wagga, the wet gloves went back on and I headed west to get to Hume Highway for an easy run back to Sydney. The rain remained steady and at one stage, the cruise control was causing the rear wheel to lose grip so that the traction control cut in and shut it off.
I figured that I would do one more fuel stop at Sutton Forest before getting home, however, it was necessary to pull into a truck rest-stop between Yass and Goulburn for one last nap. I stopped and put the side stand down, feet on pegs, and rested my head on the tank bag. I was tired and feel straight to sleep – this had the unwanted side effect of the continuing rain the land on the back of my helmet and run down my neck, so when I awoke after 15 minutes, I was nice and wet.
Arrived back at Menai Caltex at 09:48, a total of 21hours 21 minutes to travel 1,712km – this is pretty long for this distance with an overall average speed of 80.1 km/h but this did include 3 stops to sleep, and I had already been on the road for 5 ½ hours before the IBA ride attempt started. Overall, I was pretty happy with the ride – the timing of this will also get me an IBA Silver Mile eater award.
Back to planning the next ride.