Early winter ride to the Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Hamish on ski
Departure from Apollo Bay, to rendezvous with my brother Noel on his Yamaha FJ1200 at Hamilton in the western district of Victoria for a week or so of riding in  South Australia, including the Flinders Ranges.  I’m riding a 2008 BMW R1200GS which I’ve had from new, and which ticked over 200,000kms late last year.
Approaching the southern end of the Flinders Ranges on day two. Noel had just pulled over to remove the remains of his speedo cable which had disconnected and destroyed itself.
Going north into the Flinders Ranges as the late afternoon light took on its golden glow was a rewarding combination of time and place.
The southern hills of the Flinders Ranges came into view as the sun neared the horizon. The low angle light of late afternoon brings everything out in stark relief with intense colours and long shadows.
Red soil, the hardy bush grasses, saltbush plains, the foothills of the Flinders Ranges on the horizon and a windmill, all bathed in the late afternoon light. This was part of that afternoon’s answer to the question, why do we ride.
Thirty kms out of Hawker. Warmth still rising from the road and soil even though it was early winter, with the air cooling rapidly as the sun’s warmth faded. We often stop just to sense all that is around us in quietness.
Between Hawker and Wilpena Pound we stopped to enjoy the serenity. When we arrived at Wilpena resort,  having had to dodge roos coming at us from the left and right of the road  on the 5km road into the resort (they just don’t let up after dark) we apparently rode past an unlit sign off to the side which might have helped us avoid our fate which was to unwittingly enter the caravan park and camping ground maze. It was heavily timbered, there were only curving roads which followed no pattern, and there were no signs. The sun had long set so we had no western glow to guide us, Wilpena is not in the GPS list of places, and there was no moon. So we rode around and around, totally lost, seeing only tents and caravans, until we finally had to swallow our pride and ask directions. It was a weird feeling of disorientation after successfully navigating 590kms to get there, to be totally lost in such a confined area. But don’t worry, Wilpena Resort is now in the GPS.
GS 6 July 17 edit 4-10pm
The mighty GS cooling down after the day’s ride of 590kms from Pinnaroo to Wilpena Pound. We rode from Hawker to Wilpena after sunset, and it was Rooroulette all the way. Noel and I slowed down to 50-60kph and were mighty pleased we had excellent driving lights this time.  On our last trip to SA we got caught out well and truly by the dark (a series of closed garages and no fuel, but that’s another story) and had to ride from Burra to Waikerie in the dark, with headlights not much better than a torch. It was true roo and emu country. Countless sightings that night. Tonight I rode in the lead, the time honoured ‘Roo Boy’ position, as Noel would have it.  I had to brake on dozens of occasions as roos came out from the left and right, solo and in groups. Only one warranted max braking and he missed my front wheel by a couple of metres. After a most welcome hot dinner at the Wilpena Pound Resort dining room, Noel and I unpacked in our room, and then rugged up and rode 2-3kms out to the resort airstrip – because it was a very dark place on this moonless night. It’s in a bit of a valley, surrounded by horizon silhouettes of the rocky peaks of the Flinders. This silhouetted range is Wilpena Pound. I took the Nikon out and Noel brought the tripod. We were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Milky Way as we stood in the absolute quietness, the air perfectly still and getting colder by the minute (it was 6C by the time we rode back to the resort). We stayed there long enough to see the view of the Milky Way change quite markedly as it faded on one horizon and intensified on the other. Paradoxically, staring for a while into the Milky Way makes me feel both insignificant and wonderful.
Version 2
In addition to capturing the Milky Way, this photo on the lower left shows the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighbouring galaxy – a bonus I didn’t see/recognise until I downloaded the photo and was so informed by a passing astronomer.  The mountainous horizon is the northern ridge of Wilpena Pound.
Adjusting the settings on the Nikon D810 at the Wilpena airstrip on a cold, dark and wonderful night (Noel took this).
After an early morning departure from Wilpena, en route to Blinman, we were unexpectedly rewarded with 30-40kms of great ocean road quality bitumen winding through the hills. The roo population meant that we travelled at a lowish speed enjoying the scenery and stopping frequently to enjoy views such as this.
The mighty GS in one of its natural habitats.
In the northern Flinders Ranges, we had 120kms of dirt roads from Copley to Arkaroola. This was a good stretch.
A lot of loose gravel and corrugations were encountered. We didn’t see much traffic.
So inviting.
Late afternoon arrival at Arkaroola.
We had to ride along a valley in the shadows for the first 5kms or so of our early morning departure. It was cool.
Noel and I are brothers, we are close, and we enjoy riding together. This photo was taken after riding out of Wilpena along the valley of the shadow of cold still air and turning south where for the first time that day we had the sun on our backs. This photo seems to capture something of the camaraderie of being on the road together.
Noel and I estimate that while riding to and from Arkaroola, we saw more than 100 roos crossing the road at an inconvenient time i.e. right in front of us. There were also scores of emus, always in a hurry it seems. On the eastern edge of the Flinders Ranges we encountered a lot of goats. I also came a cross a few brumbies, and one pair of donkeys.  In terms of wild life close calls – we both had a few. I came too close for comfort to a small roo en route Hawker to Arkaroola. Then on the way to Arkaroola I narrowly missed a family of goats when I was going down hill on thick loose gravel where control was reduced. My closest encounter was on departure from Arkaroola, in flattish country east of the hills, when a large roo I didn’t see came across the road at an angle towards me. It was a dirt road, I had been doing about 80kph and I applied max braking relying on the ABS which gave me the best possible braking in the circumstances. Fortunately it was a flat section of road. I believed I was going to hit this one and braced. He kept up his speed and I reckon I missed him by a metre. As he passed in front of me his head was at the same level as mine. I’m confident that given my speed (80kph washing off fast to a slower speed) I would’ve walked away had I hit him, but the bike may have finished the trip on a truck. I love my ABS brakes. Noel had a close call with a wedge tailed eagle which was having a meal on some road kill. It got airborne as he approached, then circled back to the food in front of Noel – he ducked his head down onto his tank bag believing it would hit the screen. They missed each other. He also had a few roo encounters similar to mine.
Version 2
Typical northern Flinders Ranges terrain with the road crossing a series of ridges, valleys and creeks.
Fortunately most creek crossings at this time of year are dry.
We rode on a lot of this going through creek-bed crossings. The GS moved around a lot under power on gravel such as this, but never uncomfortably.
A damp creek crossing.
A wet creek crossing.  It’s a tribute to the mighty Nikon that this raging torrent with the force of approximately two runaway freight trains, could be made to appear so still and unthreatening.


Get the weight back, pick a line, look ahead and wind the throttle on.
Noel on the Yamaha FJ1200 playing in a creek crossing puddle. The speed and splash seems to be a direct result of him being aware the manoeuvre was being photographed. He emerged covered in muddy water with his engine steaming away. I invited him to have 3-4 more runs at progressively higher speeds to see if I could get a ‘really good shot’. But he declined.
Dry creek bed. In a deluge, the creeks flood and rocks such as this become the concealed creek bed beneath the water – staying upright would be a challenge in moving water over such a surface.
GS and road kill
This is the road to Parachilna (visible in the distance) once out of the Flinders Ranges. Noel took this photo with his Nikon P900. At the time I had slowed down to ride past a dead roo with a large wedge tailed eagle having a feed. It reluctantly got just airborne and settled back on to the road when I gave it wide berth. When Noel rode past the same eagle and road kill a short time later (at a higher speed), it got airborne and  instead of retreating to safety either side of the road or by climbing, it nearly collected him. He ducked down with the chin of his helmet on his tank bag hoping to shield behind the small windscreen. A near miss.
Not so shiny now. But it’s good honest dirt.
Parachilna Gorge is in those hills in the background. This is the T-intersection of the road from Blinman with the Outback Highway (Hawker to Leigh Creek and points north). I had a close encounter with a group of emus on this road. Noel rode a fair way behind me to avoid eating too much of my dust.
At Parachilna, the pub is renowned for its quandong pie. The quandong is a wild peach which for some reason seems to have resisted domestication and commercial exploitation. It is neither sweet nor tart, has lovely texture and flavour, but is still worth only about 30% of what the pub charged for it. But as it was Noel’s shout, I didn’t lose any sleep over the price.
80kms north of Adelaide on the last Saturday of our ride, after dark and in the rain, Noel noticed a grinding sound/feeling under load. He correctly diagnosed it as a sprocket carrier bearing (which is in the rear wheel). It was a slow ride into Adelaide with Noel in front waiting for his back wheel to lock up, as we crawled along at speed which required me to put my hazard lights on when traffic approached from behind. Fortunately we made it to Kym & Jo’s house where we and our bikes were accommodated in style, and on Monday Noel was able to buy a replacement bearing and we were under way (in heavy rain, but at least in daylight) around midday.
The offending bearing.
We took the long road back home via the Coorong. This was dusk on a cold and wet night in Kingston in the south east of South Australia, where we spent our last night of the ride. What a contrast to the northern Flinders Ranges.
About 75kms from Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. My home territory. I take a photo from this spot just about every time I ride this stretch of road. Today it was blowing a gale, and my window was brief if I wanted to keep the Nikon dry.
Missing the second shadow.  The GOR on the approach to Pt Campbell from the west. I had a coffee and huge chocolate brownie in front of the fire at Forage on the Foreshore, looking out over the bay with a strengthening cold sou’ westerly whipping it up. Wasn’t fussed that I didn’t have the wetsuit and goggles with me.
Between storm clouds there was sunshine. This was taken looking SW from the car park at Peterborough. The sea has the texture and colour of a rich oil painting. Makes me want to break out the old palette and oils for a bit of variety from taking photos.
I wasn’t faintly moved to take a photo of anything today, until I got to the Bay of Islands near Peterborough. The rocks reminded me of those moored ships off Newcastle, but the rocks are so much more impressive.
Tucked away safe and sound with the other toys, looking as if it has been nowhere at all in recent times. I rode from Lavers Hill in the dark – a slow ride given the wildlife in the Otways. It was 10C in the lounge room at Cawood St when I first arrived. No prizes for guessing the first task! The fire was quickly lit and the house soon warmed up.  Another top ride with Noel Edwin.

I also used to enjoy finishing a lengthy trip (weeks or a month or so) in a light aircraft, and putting it back in the hangar or on its tie-downs in a paddock basically exactly where I found it at the start of the trip.

In both cases, once it is parked, unpacked and secured at the end of a trip, and about to be left alone until the next trip, there is a feeling of deep appreciation for the inanimate object, for the  machine that has served me so reliably and taken me to such wonderful places, and finally delivered me back in one piece to exactly where it started. I pull up short of talking to machines, and patting engine cowlings or fuel tanks is in the same category. But before returning to the life less exciting while such machines remain parked,  I find that I linger and admire the machine that has been with me through whatever the adventure was, and count myself most fortunate to have had my horizons extended in such a manner. Somehow the experiences the machine has given me are imprinted in it, and it will forever remind me vividly of them. This is one of the reasons I cannot see myself ever parting with the GS.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s