Mawson Trail – Nuriootpa to Kapunda

The  Mawson Trail – always different, always something unexpected, always an adventure.  We had organized by various methods to leave our cars in Kapunda and ten of us were ready to start the trail in Nuriootpa. Derek, our main support driver, took this photo of us at the start.

The first couple of kilometres were along Murray Street in Nuriootpa – there was a wide bike lane and the traffic was light.  Then we crossed the Sturt Highway and immediately we were out in the bush.  A couple of heavily-laden cyclists overtook us while we had a drink in the shade.

Mawson Trail - Di seemed very interested in all the camping equipment that the touring cyclists were carrying
Di seemed very interested in all the camping equipment that the touring cyclists were carrying

The trail turned left on to Carrara Hill Road.  We noticed that the touring cyclists were going straight ahead.  We hoped they knew where they were going but they were already too far away for us to call out.

Carrara Hill Road – photo by Desmond Brown

The track was sandy in places – Murray took a spill but was soon back on his bike.

Karen at the corner of Schultz and Carrara Hill Roads

There was a crest at Heintze Road and then a bit of a descent to the corner of Carrara Hill Road and Marble Quarry Road.  Derek, Wayne and Kenji the dog were there to meet us and check that we were all OK.

Simone and Karen were feeling tired – the track was hillier than I had remembered and the sandy terrain was challenging in places. We said goodbye to Derek and headed up another incline.

On Marble Quarry Road – photo by Derek

Soon, as we faced another hill, Simone and Karen decided they were beat. I used my satellite phone to contact Derek who luckily had enough mobile reception to know that we needed help.  Derek and Wayne were soon on the spot to give the girls a lift and transport the bikes. It’s disappointing to have to opt out of a ride, but it’s important to know when you’ve had enough.

Derek, Wayne, Karen and Simone on Marble Quarry Road

When Simone saw the next hill from the car she knew she had made the right decision. Soon we turned onto the Murphy Track.  This section had been a bit muddy last time I rode it but was in reasonably good condition on this occasion.

Rhonda and I on the Murphy Track – photo by Desmond Brown

Meanwhile it was getting towards mid-day and was around 33 degrees. There was not much shade now.  Di and I needed a food break so we stood in the shade to eat.  We didn’t dare sit down as there were some very large ants in the vicinity.

Photo by Damien Henderson

Our support drivers met us next at St John’s Catholic Cemetery about five kilometres out from Kapunda.  Some of the graves dated from the 1840s.

Photo by Karen Henley

Then we were off again on Reformatory Road.

Photo by Derek

From the top of the hill there was a lovely view towards Kapunda and an enjoyable roll down towards the Light River crossing.

Di on the Reformatory Road descent
Di on the Reformatory Road descent – photo by Desmond Brown

We were all feeling the heat and the males of the group were ahead of us. On Mary McKillop Walk they decided to head off on the Kidman (horse) Trail.  We saw Murray disappearing off to the left so I phoned Des. Fortunately there was mobile reception and soon the breakaways were back with us. The Kidman Trail sign is a bit similar to the Mawson Trail sign (well that was their story…).

View from Cameron lookout towards the Mine Chimney, which provided updraught for the boilers of the mine pumping engine.
View from Cameron lookout towards the Mine Chimney, which provided updraught for the boilers of the mine pumping engine – photo by Desmond Brown

There was one last climb, a view across to the Kapunda Mine and a welcome recovery coffee and snack at the Kapunda Bakery.

We had cycled 24.7 km and climbed 155 metres. With the heat and uneven track it had seemed like more, but that’s part of what it is to be on the Mawson Trail – always a challenge, but always worth it. A special thank you to our support drivers Derek and Wayne, who made a big contribution to such an enjoyable day.

This Strava elevation chart looks hillier than the one showing on the Mawson Trail map!

Mawson Trail – Hallett to Spalding

Kathie, Rhonda and I were staying in a cabin at Jamestown chipping away at the Mawson Trail again.  Over four days we completed the section from Hallett to Jamestown but this post is about the section between Hallett and Spalding.

Woman riding bicycle up towards the crest of the Brown Hill Range
Rhonda heading up towards the crest of the Brown Hill Range

Following our usual principle of “Why go up when you can go down?” we started our ride as close to the top of Brown Hill Range as possible, given that there weren’t many places where we could leave a couple of cars. This meant we had a short climb to the top of the range before the fun of the roll into Spalding.

woman pretending to be a wind turbine
Kathie being a wind turbine

Wind farms are a feature of this section of the trail.  Luckily it wasn’t too windy on this day.

The view as we began to descend from the Brown Hill Range
The view as we began to descend from the Brown Hill Range

After an enjoyable descent of over fifteen kilometres, we arrived at the Bundaleer Channels.  The Bundaleer Channels project began in 1898 and was aimed at building a reservoir fed by 26 kilometres of concrete lined channels.

The Bundaleer Channels aquaduct where we misread the sign and took the wrong turn
Our first aquaduct on the Bundaleer Channels

Soon we came to an aquaduct where the Bundaleer Channel water was guided over a creek. At this point we somehow missed or misread a sign and before we knew it we were no longer on the Mawson Trail. We each had a different idea about how to rectify our mistake. Eventually we followed the Spalding-Burra Road into town.

After collecting our cars from the top of the Brown Hill Range, I was keen to find out where we had gone wrong. My kind friends joined me in riding back up the channels from Spalding until we were at the aquaduct again.

The Bundaleer Channels are infamous for the South Australian bike rider’s enemy: the 3-corner-jack.  However we remained puncture-free until Kathie took a shortcut across a carpark in the town of Spalding and in those few short metres managed to pick up literally 300 3-corner-jacks in her tyres.

Literally 300 3-corner-jacks embedded in Kathie's front and back tyres
Kathie’s tyres embedded with 3-corner-jacks

It was my turn to cook that night. Kathie and Rhonda took two hours to remove all the 3-corner-jacks with tweezers. Amazingly Kathie’s tyres were still puncture free!

On the second day of riding this section, we parked again towards the top of the Brown Hill Range and rode towards Hallett.  After crossing a plain we began the climb up Woodman Road.

Taking a break on the climb up Woodman Road
Taking a break on the climb up Woodman Road
Further on up Woodman Road
Further on up Woodman Road

There was a slight dip down to Willalo Creek and then a fairly easy ride on to Hallett.

The crossing at Willalo Creek - photo by Kathie Pitman
The crossing at Willalo Creek – photo by Kathie Pitman
The Wildongoleechie Hotel offers simple accommodation for Mawson Trail riders and Heysen trail walkers
The Wildongoleechie Hotel offers simple accommodation for Mawson Trail riders and Heysen trail walkers

It was time for a celebration at the Wildongoleechie (Wild Dog) Hotel.

Simpsons Gap Bike Path

Simpsons Gap Bike Path meanders for seventeen kilometres beneath the ridges of the West MacDonnell ranges to Simpsons Gap, the first of many stunning gaps in the ranges heading west from Alice Springs.

We were holidaying with friends who liked to sleep late so there was plenty of time for a ride.  The weather was cloudy and there were a few drops of rain, but it was cool.  Derek wanted a sleep-in too so we had arranged that I would ride early from the caravan park to the start of the bike path at John Flynn’s grave and that he would pick me up from the end at Simpsons Gap.

There are lots of safe, off-road sealed paths in Alice Springs.  My ride started out alongside the dry, sandy Todd River, through the gap in the West MacDonnell ranges heading towards town. Then I turned left towards Larapinta Drive and after nine kilometres of easy, almost flat riding I came to the official start of the Simpsons Gap Bike Path.

I crossed Larapinta Drive and was immediately out in the bush. The sealed surface and gentle slopes of the path made riding easier than I had anticipated.

Simpsons Gap Bike Path

There had been a lot of rain in recent weeks so the vegetation was much more lush than you would expect.

Simpsons Gap Bike Path

It was a Saturday and quite a few road-bike riders passed me.

Approaching Simpsons Gap

Eventually I could see Simpsons Gap in the distance. When I arrived, I had to lock my bike at the car park and walk the last few hundred metres into the gorge.

The rock pool at Simpsons Gap

I was surprised to discover that I had arrived almost two hours early for our meet-up.  Luckily I was able to use my mobile by standing in front of a wi-fi signal-focussing shell. Derek agreed to meet me at the same time back at John Flynn’s Grave instead.

Seeing the ranges from the other direction on the way back made the path seem like a whole different ride. Just to top things off, the sun came out and shone on the escarpments.

The sun came out and shone on the West MacDonnell ranges on the return trip.

By the time I got back to our meeting point I had cycled 44 kilometres and climbed 186 metres.

Map and elevation chart of ride to Simpsons Gap from the Heritage Caravan Park and finishing at John Flynn's Grave Historical Reserve
Map and elevation chart of my ride to Simpsons Gap from the Heritage Caravan Park and finishing at John Flynn’s Grave Historical Reserve

Barossa Cycling on a Rainy Day

Elaine has created a 12 peak challenge this year and Menglers Hill in the Barossa was first on her list.

Ready to go - Barossa Cycling on a Rainy Day
Elaine in the middle in red with the troops lined up ready to go

We met at St Hallett winery near Tanunda.  I was not feeling up to tackling the ascent so I planned to join Murray going around the hill while the others went over the top.

We rode up St Hallett’s Road to the Barossa Rail Trail (also known as the Jack Bobridge Trail) which we followed to Bethany Road.  Then it was a steady climb up to Light Pass Road with a sudden steep section where we turned the corner.  We stayed as a group until we came to Menglers Hill Road.

Barossa cycling - The stronger riders head off up Menglers Hill Road
The stronger riders head off up Menglers Hill Road

We watched the main group head up towards Menglers Hill and then Murray and I enjoyed a roll down Light Pass Road.

Barossa Cycling in the rain - Murray on Light Pass Road
Murray on Light Pass Road

There was a light drizzle and the misty views across the valley were pretty.

Barossa Valley - view from Light Pass Road
View across the Barossa Valley from Light Pass Road

We came to where the Barossa Rail Trail crossed the road. We turned right onto the trail and began a steady but comfortable climb up towards Angaston.

The Jack Bobridge Trail (Barossa Rail Trail) between Light Pass Road and Angaston
The Jack Bobridge Trail (Barossa Rail Trail) between Light Pass Road and Angaston
Barossa Rail Trail - the rail cutting near Angaston
The rail cutting about two kilometres from Angaston

I expected the Hill riders to take a while so I left Murray at the former Angaston station and ducked into Blond Coffee for a takeaway coffee. Unfortunately the service was a little slow and I was still waiting there when the Hill riders arrived in Angaston.

Now it started to rain steadily and as we all headed quickly down the trail to Nuriootpa I set some personal records.  I was glad I had brought my cycling raincoat.

Fortunately the rain eased off somewhat on the next section from Nuriootpa to Tanunda. Brian was unlucky enough to get a puncture so we waited in Tanunda until he and Rhonda caught up.  An event called Declaration of Vintage was taking place – the main road was closed and there was a German-style oom-pah-pah band playing.

The Barossa Rail Trail - The event at Tanunda
The event at Tanunda

Rhonda found us a lovely cafe – we were very glad to dry out under the heaters while having lunch and coffee.

Tanunda - drying out under the heaters at the Courtyard Coffee House
Drying out under the heaters at the Courtyard Coffee House in Tanunda

The 12 Peak Challengers had ridden 36 kilometres and climbed 358 metres.  Murray and I had ridden 34 kilometres and climbed 162 metres.

The main Menglers Hill Ride in red with the easier variation in taken by Murray and me in blue
The main Menglers Hill Ride in red with the easier variation along Light Pass Road and up the rail trail in blue – courtesy of Strava
The successful challengers at the top of Menglers Hill - photo by Damien Henderson
The successful challengers at the top of Menglers Hill – photo by Damien Henderson
Barossa cycling - the view from Menglers Hill - photo by Damien Henderson
The view from Menglers Hill – photo by Damien Henderson

The Gawler Rivers Trail

On Australia Day we met at Dead Man’s Pass Reserve for an easy ride on the more level parts of the Gawler Rivers trail. The trail features three rivers – the North Para, South Para and Gawler Rivers. The Gawler River begins at the junction of the North Para and South Para Rivers.

We headed north up the South Para River towards the Australia Day celebrations being held in Apex park.  There were some short steep sections as the trail went under the main road and around the edge of the park.

Gawler Rivers Trail map of the not so steep sections of the trail
Gawler Rivers Trail map of the not so steep sections of the trail – courtesy of Strava

At the junction of the North and South Para rivers we took the trail to the left which followed the Gawler River.  We went under two railway bridges – the first for the line that goes on to Gawler Central and the second for the former line to Roseworthy and Kapunda.

Photo by Des Brown

The Gawler River floodplain was sunny and open.

Photo by Des Brown

We followed the trail as far as it went and then on our way back took a short detour to pass three of these:

Munitions bunkers - remnants from World War Two
Photo  by Karen Henley

We stopped to have a look and discuss what they might be. Tanya later did some research and confirmed that they are munitions bunkers left over from World War Two.  Before the Gawler bypass and the Northern Expressway were built they were just a short walk from the Gawler Airfield which was used during the war.

We returned to the junction of the rivers and this time took the trail along the North Para River.  We pedalled through a lovely forest of sugar gums

photo by Des Brown
Photo by Des Brown

and then crossed this very narrow footbridge.

We followed the trail to Clonlea Reserve and then turned back.  There was plenty of room for us at Cibo’s coffee shop in the main street of Gawler. All together we rode for sixteen kilometres.

Photo by Des Brown

If you are interested in joining relaxed social rides like this check out our Facebook Group page.

For  those interested in exploring the hillier parts of the trail, keep going past Clonlea Reserve towards Hewett to see these cliffs

and views across Gawler from the loop around Hewett.

* Featured image at top of article by Des Brown