As we draw closer to the majestic Flinders Ranges, memories of better times are found in little ghost towns now covered in sand. The Flinders Ranges are spectacular, and exploring by mountain bike allows you to get close to this amazing landscape. Through the Flinders, as we head further south the country begins to green up a little, and before you know it, we'll be amongst the tall eucalypts and rows of vineyards of the Clare Valley. The Riesling Trail is a purpose-built cycleway that meanders through the wineries and you'll be spoilt for choice.
Day 1: Departing Alice Springs, we head out past the airport and onto a wide, dirt road that takes us to Santa Teresa, a community nestled into the rocky range. Passing through you will see the famous white cross standing high above the town. From here, the road begins to weave its way through the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges, with spectacular rocky outcrops coming close to the track. The country begins to open up and you’ll notice the red sand as we begin to skirt the western edge of the Simpson Desert.
Low lying sand dunes run parallel to the track, peppered with desert vegetation and spinifex. Lying amongst the sand dunes is Old Andado Station, the home of bush pioneer Molly Clark, which is listed on the Heritage register and lovingly preserved in its original condition. The beauty and harshness of the surrounding country is personified in this place. We spend the night camping here at Old Andado under a blanket of stars. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: Jump on your bikes this morning as we head over the sand dune and into the second day of our adventure! Today’s adventure takes us through the Finke River Forest, the aboveground evidence of the ancient underground river system. There’s plenty of opportunities to cycle today and take in your remote surrounds. The vegetation changes quite dramatically throughout the day and you may even pass a mob of cattle lazing around a bore pump. Our stop for tonight is Mt Dare, a little place that’s great for a beer or two and to listen to the yarns of other travellers – everyone has their story to tell!
A former cattle station, the entire property was take over by National Parks and Wildlife in 1984, and the original station homestead was retained as a service to travellers. Now a hotel, Mt Dare is also fuel stop, a place to stock up supplies, and a place to camp. A new building houses the hotel and it’s a friendly place to sit and enjoy a cool drink, an ice cream and a chat. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: From Mt Dare, we make our way to Dalhousie Springs, a favourite stop for travellers crossing the Simpson Desert. Cycle part of today’s route through the open country of Witjira National Park. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a relaxing soak in the thermal hot springs that Dalhousie is famous for. The Finke River ends its long journey from the MacDonnell Ranges, northwest of Alice Springs here, on the western edge of the Simpson Desert. The Stevenson Creek carves its broad, shady corridor through the tableland country near Pedirka, looping into the park twice before joining the Macumba River, whose waters reach all the way to Lake Eyre during major floods.
This arid zone country also features dissected plateaus, called 'breakaway country' with its vast flat horizons, ragged, eroded gullies and tabletop hills. Rolling gibber downs and dense coolibah woodlands along the Finke flood plain complete the stunning exhibits of nature for all visitors to enjoy at Witjira National Park. Keep your eyes out for the unusual peeling bark of the Red Mulga. Dalhousie Springs is also home to a number of endemic species of fish, which are found nowhere else in the world.
The aquatic fauna of the thermal mound springs is of particular scientific interest. Several species of fish are unique to these springs, while other species differ slightly from their counterparts in other central Australian waterways. Over the ages, fish living in the springs have developed a tolerance of the variations in water temperature. Native mammals are often small, well camouflaged and difficult to spot. The exceptions are Dingoes, often observed out hunting, and the occasional Red Kangaroo. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: South Australia’s outback is a vast place, and you’ll learn a little more about its history today as we pass firstly the old homestead of Dalhousie Ruins, and then the old railway siding of Pedirka Ruins. While desolate, there’s a certain beauty here that captures your imagination and while you may not want to live here, it’s a special thing to pass through, especially by bicycle where you can really experience the land up close. The country becomes more open and undulating, until the long flat stretch of Fogarty’s Claypan.
You’ll start seeing pink signs becoming more frequent… and you know we’re getting closer to the famous Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta. There’s a memorial to the overland telegraph station just before we get to Oodnadatta, and then soon enough we enter the little town. At the heart of the town is the Pink Roadhouse, which is – you guessed it! – pink, including the garbage bins and the vehicles. Have a wander around town and enjoy the friendly hospitality at the roadhouse. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: The country becomes more and more open as we make our way towards Coober Pedy. Before reaching Coober Pedy, we detour to the Breakaways, a striking example of arid scenery. These flat-topped mesas display the rich, warm hues of the desert set against the clear blue sky. Cycling into Coober Pedy, notice the signs that give hints to the industry on which this town is based, opal mining. Once we reach town, you’ll be struck by the resourcefulness of local residents as they salvage all sorts of materials to build their homes into the side of the mounds. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: A free day to explore Coober Pedy! Sleep in this morning if you like, and spend the day as you please. Be fascinated by a mine tour, watch an opal cutting demonstration, shop for precious stones, and check out the other quirky things that make this town unique. Tonight’s dinner is at your own expense. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 7: We say farewell to Coober Pedy today as we continue on our way towards Coward Springs. We spend time cycling out of town this morning, making our way towards William Creek. We make a quick stop at Lake Cadibarrawirracanna, a small place that holds the record for the longest place name in Australia. From here, it’s onto the Oodnadatta Track and on our way to William Creek. With a population of around six, William Creek is as remote as they come. Cycle the last stretch into Coward Springs, and once we arrive here, take a dip in the spring tub and relax in this desert oasis. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Spend the morning riding out to Bubbler Springs and Blanche Cup Springs, and climb an ancient, extinct spring for a great view over the surrounding country. Cycle to our morning tea stop at Curdimurka, an abandoned railway siding on the Old Ghan railway line. This was once home to many fettlers who worked on the railway line between Marree (104 km east) and William Creek. On our way again, we stop at a lookout where we view Lake Eyre South. A quick stop at a sculpture park and then we reach Marree in time for lunch. After lunch, we make our way southwards, then jump on your bikes and cycle to the ghost town of Farina, where you can explore in the afternoon sun. We camp here for the night. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: From Farina, we venture into the Flinders Ranges. After 27 km on the bike this morning, our first stop is at Lyndhurst, where we will call in to see the town’s most famous resident, Talc Alf, who shares his unique insights on life and language. We continue on our way, passing by the Leigh Creek coalfields, which produces, on an almost daily basis, enough to fill a 2.8 km long train with nearly 10,000 tonnes of brown coal for the Port Augusta Power Station. Copley is a small town founded in 1891 as the railway station for the old Leigh Creek, but these days it’s more famous for the Quandong Café and its delicious selection of pies and tempting goodies.
You can have the chance to sample these for yourself (at own expense) before we continue to Leigh Creek for lunch. If it’s warm, there’s the chance to go for a dip in the Olympic sized swimming pool here. We draw nearer to the ancient landscape that is the Flinders Ranges, stopping at Blinman, a historic copper mining town that is also South Australia’s highest town. From here, it’s a 14 km mostly downhill cycle through a stunning gorge to Angorichina, our stop for the evening. Tonight we dine at one of South Australia’s outback institutions, the Prairie Hotel, with its stunning sunsets and delicious (and interesting!) cuisine. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 10: Today we cycle through some of SA’s most stunning scenery, along parts of the Mawson Trail, a long-distance cycling trail. Close to 900 km long, the trail includes little-used country roads, State forest and national park fire trails, farm access tracks and unmade or unused road reserves. The trail avoids traffic and bitumen roads and leads cyclists into the remote areas of the Ranges. You won’t be able to wipe the grin off your face as the trail takes you through stunning bushland, through dry creekbeds and amongst native pine and eucalypts.
The cycling takes us to Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre 17 km long and 7 km wide, set amongst the vibrant colours of the 800 million-year-old quartzite and limestone outcrop of the Flinders Ranges. Shaped by the weathering and uplifting of land over time, this place has strong significance to the indigenous Adnyamthanha people. Our cycling takes us to Bunyeroo Gorge, Brachina Gorge and over Razorback Lookout with its thrilling descent. Once we reach Wilpena Pound Resort, where we’ll be camping, explore the surrounds with a walk or just relax amongst the shady gum trees. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11: This morning’s ride is a gentle downhill, with native pine forest surrounding the road, and the craggy peaks of Wilpena Pound over your right shoulder. From the pick-up point, we drive through the Central Flinders Ranges, heading south towards the Southern Flinders Ranges – you’ll notice the contrast between the two! Along the way, we pass by ruins that stand as monuments to the optimism of pastoralists in greener times. The town of Hawker houses a fully operational seismograph on display in the local garage. We’ll also pass through the town of Quorn, once a thriving railway junction, and the gateway to the Flinders Ranges. We reach Melrose in time for lunch.
This afternoon is yours to explore the little town, nestled at the base of Mount Remarkable in the Southern Flinders Ranges. Behind our base in the grassy campground lies a network of purpose-built mountain bike trails, winding their way around the base of the Mount. The trails are graded according to difficulty, and riders of all mountain biking abilities, from young right up to the young at heart, will have a blast. Or, if you feel like relaxing, wander around the little town, indulge in coffee and cake at Bluey Blundstone’s Blacksmith Shop Café or the North Star Hotel, or pop in and say G’day to the friendly crew at Over the Edge Sports, a great bike shop and supplier of all sorts of goodies (including a range of gourmet chocolates!). Tonight we eat out (own expense) at one of the two pubs in town – both have great food, so the choice is yours! Includes: (B), (L).
Day 12: Stretch your legs with a walk this morning, before we say goodbye to Melrose and continue travelling on to Clare, a historic town surrounded by pastoral properties and, of course, the vineyards for which it has become famous. We spend the rest of today soaking up the history, stunning vistas and myriad delightful wineries scattered along the way as we cycle along parts of the well-known Riesling Trail. The Clare Valley's reputation for riesling inspired the naming of the Riesling Trail; a multi-use recreational trail for walking and cycling, which presently utilises 25 kilometre of a disused section of a former railway line connecting the townships of Auburn, Leasingham, Watervale, Penwortham, Sevenhill and Clare.
The trail is now an integral segment of the Mawson Trail and provides a wonderful opportunity to discover and experience the townships, soak up the history of the Clare Valley and enjoy the grandeur of its unique, unspoilt rural landscape. Lunch today is at Annie’s Lane in the heart of the Clare Valley. We camp this evening at the Clare Caravan Park, and we enjoy a meal out tonight at the Sevenhill Hotel (own expense). Includes: (B), (L).
Day 13: We continue meandering along the rest of the Riesling Trail, finishing in the town of Auburn where we stop for morning tea (at own expense). Now it’s time to really indulge, jump aboard the ROC bus to go wine tasting at selected cellar doors. Here, you’re really spoilt for choice, it really is a wine and food-lover’s paradise! After a wonderful morning of indulgence, we continue along our way towards Adelaide, stopping in Gawler for lunch (at own expense) and making our way into the city after 13 days of wonderful contrast, fantastic cycling and great company. Includes: (B).
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