5 – 22 April 2015
This section covers Melbourne to Adelaide. It took 4½ days biking the 425k from Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road to Port Fairy – a lovely ride with hilly forests and stunning coastal views. I then headed north inland through the Grampions National Park and then west on the Wimmera highway to the coast before riding north to Adelaide through Coorong National Park – less interesting as it was mostly through open farmland and countryside riding another 7½ days and 825k to Adelaide. I had expected great weather but most days were overcast though I had limited rain – as always the few sunny days are over-represented in the pictures.
Instead of commenting everything in timely order I have written some relevant topics however the pictures shown are mostly in line with the trip timeline.
Description of itinerary
After a great week with Matt, Yael and the kids in Melbourne it was time to move on. My initial idea had been riding through Melbourne to Geelong but people told me it was an uninteresting, busy highway, so instead I rode south along the coast on the upscale Mornington Peninsula – surely better than the highway but unfortunately, the weather was not on my side. I took the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff and went on backroads to Torquay where I picked up the Great Ocean Road, which I followed for 275k to small coastal town Port Fairy – about 100k was off the coast up through the forest over some big hills while the rest was along the coast. I had one good day and some sunny hours on other days, but most of the time the weather was overcast, rainy and windy. One day where I would have had 60 k/h headwind I decided to layover as I had sufficient time to get to Port Fairy where I spent a weekend with my friend Allan and his girlfriend Mel who were down from Adelaide for a reunion with her family.
From Port Fairy I rode north to Hamilton where Nikki and Nick (Mel’s family that I met shortly at the reunion) were kind to let me stay some nights to get on top of a 39C fever, cold and painful cough that had escalated the previous days. Still ill but feeling better, I continued uphill to the Grampions where I – on a rare sunny day – did a half day hike up to the beautiful Pinnacle viewpoint overlooking the valley below. The Grampions is considered special in Victoria but to me it was a miniature of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney that I visited 5 months earlier. I had intended to ride a little further through the park but being told I had to do a 12k steep climb over a mountain and getting no better view than from the Pinnacle, I skipped it. Instead I rode around the mountains to Horsham - slightly longer and more exposed to the headwind but mostly flat so much faster and easier. From Horsham I headed west on quiet Wimmera highway to Edenhope where I stayed with Mel’s aunt Glenda, before continuing to Kingston on the coast – a fairly uninteresting long ride through remote farmland except for a few far apart small towns. From Kingston I had hoped to ride along the coast north but unfortunately the road was some kilometres inland providing no views until I passed Salt Creek after about 100k. Further north at Wellington I headed west past more open fields but as I got closer to Adelaide also a number of vineyards with lovely yellow/brown leaves on the vines. From Strathalbyn it was big rolling hills through the suburbs the last 60k to my friend Allan’s house in Adelaide.
Road quality and drivers
Back on the mainland the driver patience was low with vehicles squeezing by instead of breaking and waiting a few seconds for the oncoming traffic to pass – on the bigger roads it happened a number of times that people shouted and honked at me for no particular reason other than I was biking on the road because there was no shoulder. However, when possible I rode the more quiet backroads with limited traffic and therefore more room for vehicles to overtake.
Riding through Meningie a couple of hundred kilometres southeast of Adelaide an Aussie finally got me. Without orientation a woman flung her SUV backdoor open and the wind smashed it into me as I slowly rode behind the car - I did go far around but not enough for a big door flying open like that. I took the blow with my left arm and leg and let the heavy bike fall to avoid twisting the frame trying to hold it. She was obviously very shocked and sorry and still it was difficult to forgive because it’s symptomatic of the Aussie selfishness in traffic and arrogance towards bicyclists. She asked if there was anything she could do but didn’t seem receptive to my response; “go to the police station and insist on re-taking your driver’s license as you’re obviously incompetent in traffic and quit your day job to dedicate a year to improving bicycle conditions and safety in Australia”.
As mentioned countless times, I’m not impressed with the road quality in Australia and still I was surprised by the bad quality of of the Great Ocean Road being the most driven road in Australia. Crossing into South Australia the surface quality was generally better as they rarely use small stones but bitumen (Aussie for asphalt or pavement). However, the roads were never repaired before adding new bitumen hiding countless cracks/potholes so it was like riding a washing board. The lack of quality is hardly surprising considering the road construction worker attitude – most places only 1 of 10 work (the rest just stand around talking) though in South Australia it seems slightly better with a ratio of approx. 1:5. And for the first time I’ve experienced lights instead of people holding stop/go signs. But even that seemed impetuous as they didn’t use sensors – several times I waited for many minutes without a single vehicle coming the other way…
As mentioned above most days were overcast though I was lucky to have little rain. I had a few good days and other days with some sunny hours - and fortunately most of them were on the more beautiful stretches of the Great Ocean Road and in the Grampions where I also did the half day hike. Arriving in Australia my initial plan would have taken me to Adelaide by December/January but as people talked about 40-50C (104-122F) I’ve procrastinated – maybe a month too much as the day temperatures were down to 15-20C and the night temperatures only around 5-10C (42-50F). Slightly too cold for my liking when facing a headwind and the sun is not out. Based on the forecast I’ve seen this is also the temperatures I can expect when I soon ride to Perth through the Nullarbor desert.
In general, this stretch have been quite windy with prevalent winds from south and west. Thus, the first days riding south and west from Melbourne I had strong headwinds until I more often got a tailwind when I rode northwest on the Great Ocean Road and later north from Port Fairy. More side-/headwind riding west from Grampions to Kingston on the coast and then a pleasant tailwind heading north towards Adelaide. I think this stretch has provided the most consecutive tailwind yet on this trip around the world. I enjoyed it tremendously knowing that I’ll most likely have to fight fierce headwinds when I ride west from Adelaide to Perth.
The usual mammals and bird life but not too much of either except for the usual roadkill. The only new experience was a handful of emus – the second biggest bird in the world by height after the ostrich.
Camping and people
The Great Ocean Road was fairly desolate so there were few people to ask for camping advice and possibly stay with – consequently, I camped in forests off the road. One morning after all night rain a small tree fell on the tent - fortunately I managed to catch and remove it before anything broke.
After leaving the Great Ocean Road it was almost solely fenced farmland and despite asking countless times I was only invited to stay once (a great experience where I was also offered a delicious dinner); the rest of the times people just send me back on the road despite having lots of land.
Fortunately, I met Allan’s girlfriend Mel in Port Fairy and she was kind to set me up with several family members along the way – kind and generous people and great experiences.
Health and equipment
For the first time in more than 15 years and for the first time travelling I got ill. While in Melbourne the kids were very ill for many days and I got a cold. It stayed with me when I left but didn’t get worse until 4 days later where my tonsils got sore. Probably the kids had weakened my immune system and on top of that came a day with very changing weather and temperatures – when the sun came out I removed my long pants and woollen shirt and as I didn’t have the energy to change clothes every 5-10 minutes, I must have ended up with too little clothes on, especially as I made many stops at viewpoints. Despite spending most of the time in the apartment, it got worse over the weekend in Port Fairy with a fever close to 39C – and hindsight I shouldn’t have participated in the Saturday evening family reunion where I talked so much that I lost my voice. I had hoped to sweat the fever out riding the 90k up to Hamilton, but it seemed to have the opposite effect most likely because the biking took all the energy that my body needed to fight the fever – while I did sweat a lot (3 layers of clothes on a warm day and still I felt cold) the coughing got worse. In Hamilton I stayed with Nikki and Nick (Mel’s family from the reunion) – my plan had been to stay one night but they were kind to let me stay another night for a chance to recuperate. Biking with illness was not a good combination – I had the cold for 2 weeks and getting rid of the fever and coughing took 8-10 days, which was probably double the time it would have taken had I stayed in bed to rest. However, staying somewhere for 4-5 days is really not feasible being on a bike unless it is absolutely impossible to progress. Over the years a lot of people have asked me what I do when I get ill and I could always answer that it wasn’t relevant as didn’t get ill – well now I know.
Meeting Allan and Mel halfway to Adelaide in Port Fairy solved my tent zipper problem as Allan brought the new tent that I had forwarded to him from the USA - great not having to struggle with the broken zippers any more. It’s exactly the same tent as the last many I’ve worn down though it seems to create much more condensation than I remember from the previous tents. Either it’s some cheap replica or maybe they changed the fabric – nevertheless it’s quite annoying with a soaking wet outer tent every morning despite dry nights.
I last changed my rear tire in Vancouver so it has done around 6,000k which is slightly low for this brand used in the rear where the strain is biggest (in the front it does double that). I guessing the main reason for the low kilometres is all the problems I had in the beginning of my riding in Australia before I had a new rear wheel built in Moruya. In view of that I was happy the tire made it all the way to Adelaide especially since the kevlar has been visible for more than 500k.Under normal circumstances, I would keep the tire until I had flat tires but with the long stretch through the desolate desert coming up, it seems better to change it before leaving Adelaide.
I forwarded a lot of stuff to Allan from the US expecting to use it when I got to Adelaide e.g. new paniers, shoes, sandals, bike parts and clothes. Some things have been replaced already (gears and tent), but most of it has to wait for later when relevant – I’ll have Allan forward it to Perth or Darwin hoping I won’t need them on the long desolate stretches in between.