A dawn departure from Apollo Bay on motorbikes more than up to the task, saw us in Murray Bridge with 680 effortless kms behind us by sunset. On day two we tracked north through the Barossa on as direct a track to Hawker as the winding roads could accommodate.
The GPS allowed us to stay mostly off highways on secondary roads such as this empty strip of bitumen with its colonnade of gum trees in the Wimmera region.
As my left eye was shut while taking a photo of the gum-tree lined road, I was unaware that Andrew was taking this shot. As for the protective gear, I’ve never actually been injured while taking a photo, but better safe than sorry.
In the Barossa region there must be at least as many trendy cafes as there are wineries. So we went upmarket from the motorcyclists’ traditional ‘country bakery crawl’ to trendier establishments for our morning coffee and carb loading. As we were not carrying intercoms on this trip, such stops were a welcome opportunity for a chat. Andrew Langmead rode from Apollo Bay with me on this trip. Noel Langmead, his father and my brother, was unfortunately unable to come with us as his ‘Flinders Ranges’ motorbike was temporarily unserviceable. Andrew and I have a few common interests. Andrew is, among other things, a commercial pilot, a guitarist and a keen photographer. He also rides a BMW R1200 GS motorbike (which is two years and 165,000kms younger than my 2008 model). All drone shots in this post were taken by Andrew. Of the other photos, most were taken on my Nikon, but some were taken on my iPhone 8. Image quality varies accordingly. My response to Andrew getting his motorbike licence in 2017 is recorded in an earlier post on this blog (‘Advice to Andrew upon obtaining his Motorcycle Licence), for anyone interested in that diversion: https://southernoceanblog.com/2021/10/07/advice-to-andrew/
The farming paddocks were larger and flatter as we headed north beyond Burra. For those unfamiliar with South Australia, the power pole to the right of the motorbikes is a Stobie pole. They are used to carry power lines throughout the state. They are, “An engineering solution to the state’s lack of tall, termite-resistant hardwood for poles to carry power lines and telephone wires…designed by James Cyril Stobie…”, an engineer with the Adelaide Electric Supply Company. “Stobie’s design, patented in 1924, consists of two perpendicular lengths of steel-channel section held apart by bolts, the intervening space filled with concrete which protects the steel from corrosion and gives the whole structure its unforgiving near-indestructibility.” (Source: https://sahistoryhub.history.sa.gov.au/things/stobie-poles).
The derelict sandstone farm residence is one of the iconic features of South Australian farming areas (or in some cases, former farming areas). Photographers can’t resist these ruins, especially at dawn and dusk. Had I walked across this paddock for a closer shot I would have been trespassing. So I had to settle for a shot from the fence line.
Andrew’s drone however provided a neat solution to getting a closer shot without trespassing.
It’s interesting that the trees surrounding the residence (not necessarily fruit trees) seem to survive longer than the building.
A close encounter with a roo
Around mid-afternoon on the Barrier Highway in open stubble country south of Peterborough, I saw a roo a short distance ahead and to my left on the paddock side of the wire fence. I was doing 110kph. I thought that the time the roo would take to negotiate the fence if that was his intention would be more than enough time to see me well past him before he got anywhere near the road. I was wrong.
Without pause he hopped through the fence as though it wasn’t there and picked up speed as he hopped towards the road and the point where I would be in the next instant. The distances were such that meaningful braking was not an option and I swerved to my right over the white line. The kangaroo kept hopping across the road. I was certain it was going to collide with the left side of the me and the bike. Fortunately the only other traffic on the road at the time was Andrew riding at a sensible distance behind me.
I was so sure it would hit me that I intuitively kicked out with my left leg fully intending to push it off with my boot and perhaps stay upright. My boot hit nothing but fresh air and the roo missed me – obviously passing the rear of my bike with very little space to spare. The roo was not a six footer, but his head when hopping was about my upper arm height. This sequence of events seemed to happen in an instant.
Upon reflection, attempting to the kick the roo away was probably much worse than useless. In my defence, it was intuitive. My actual roo plan has always been to brake hard in a straight line and hit it upright, to avoid swerving into solid objects beside the road. But this roo didn’t choose that scenario.
It seems that roos are where and when you find them, and there is more than one scenario for a collision with a roo. The intuitive swerve to the right probably avoided a collision on this occasion. But that it did so was good luck.
Photography is indeed all about the light. The beginning and end of each day produce a golden hour, a short time when shadows lengthen and darken and colours become brighter and richer. The closer the time is to sunrise or sunset with clear skies, the greater the number of objects and scenes which are photogenic. By sunset, compelling and beautiful photos can be taken of such otherwise mundane things as bitumen, dead grass, flat and featureless brown land and even empty roads.
A ‘golden hour’ shot of a floodway on the RM Williams Way north of Orroroo. After a deluge flooded floodways can make even good quality bitumen roads impassable.
The sun setting on a sandstone ruin on land between Cradock and Hawker, which was once thought to be arable. This location is north of Goyder’s line. I lived in South Australia for five years and ‘Goyder’s line’ was not an obsolete term, especially in rural areas.
“Goyder’s Line is a line that runs roughly east–west across South Australia and, in effect, joins places with an average annual rainfall of 10 inches (250 mm). North of Goyder’s Line, annual rainfall is usually too low to support cropping, with the land being suitable only for grazing. Related to that, the line also marks a distinct change in vegetation. To the south, it is composed mainly of mallee scrub, whilst saltbush predominates to the north of the line.” “In 1865 George Goyder, the then Surveyor-General of the colony, was asked to map the boundary between those areas that received good rainfall and those experiencing drought.” (Source of text and images:
Goyder drew his line in the 1860s after riding around the relevant areas on horseback. Satellite photos were close to a century away. I think he did a pretty good job, as assessed by the agreement between his line and a modern satellite photo showing the distribution of vegetation and desert.
Testament to the bold but misplaced optimism of those who attempted to establish farms north of Goyder’s line. Andrew got his drone airborne in record time after a bit of a dash to reach this site before the sun set. He had the drone in position to take this shot with literally less than 30 seconds to spare. You can see the sun is no longer shining on the ground around the house, and is only shining on the upper part of the west-facing walls and chimney. Moments later it was completely in shadow. Good effort Andrew.
View to the west from the side of the highway where I took the photo of the ruins while the sun was shining on them.
Andrew took this photo of the setting sun after we had taken our photos of the ruins.
As we rode away from the completed photographic mission at the farmhouse ruins, the vibrance of the evening sky sky and the beautiful silhouettes of ridge lines to our west also announced that we had a ‘roo ride’ of a bit over 10kms ahead of us. This truly is roo country. At this end of the day there was no wind, the air was warm and so were the evening colours.
A self-imposed speed limit 60kph was strictly observed on this 110kph road as we completed our day’s riding in the time between sunset and last light. 60kph gives a better chance of taking avoidance action if a roo appears, but also makes it highly likely that if a roo is hit and the rider and bike go down, the accident is likely to be survivable. I was riding in front of Andrew. My brother Noel deems this the position that carries with it the title of ‘roo boy’. I have ventured the view that the front rider stirs the roos up and the following rider has to deal with them. But I think both positions are high risk in roo country if great care is not taken, especially after sunset.
View to the north-west riding out of Hawker with the higher peaks and ridge lines of the Flinders Ranges lining the horizon around us.
A very nice landscape shot taken by Andrew at the same location.
View to the west from Elder Range Lookout just off the Flinders Ranges Way. This lookout is located about 24kms north of Hawker.
This photo was taken by Andrew at Elder Range Lookout.
Arkaroo Rock Gravel Road
The rocky range in the distance is the eastern side of the Akurra Ngami Range forming part of the mountainous circumference of Wilpena Pound in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National park. This photo was taken where the gravel road to Arkaroo Rock (between the Rawnsley Park Station and WIlpena Pound resort turnoffs from the Flinders Ranges Way) crosses one of many creeks in the area. The following five photos were taken at the same location.
I took this photo. Andrew took the immediately following photo. Spot the main difference.
Andrew took this shot after a short walk down the road from where I took the previous shot.
View down the gum tree lined creek bed. Most creek beds and waterways in the Flinders Ranges area are clearly marked by lines of gum trees growing in them.
The rugged majesty and beauty of the Flinders Ranges.
At the western end of the Arkaroo Rock gravel road located at the foot of a high and rugged east-facing mountain ridge, we heard then saw a tow plane climbing above us with a glider in tow. We saw the glider release. It climbed easily and maintained good height in the strong ridge lift of the 20+ knot wind blowing up and over the mountains. It was soaring at a distance of 30-40kms from Hawker airport. I have flown an LS4 glider with similar glide performance to the Discus B glider photographed.* The LS4 has a maximum glide ratio of 40.5:1, just slightly below that of the Discus B glide ratio which is reported as 42.5:1. This means that from the location where the photographed glider was soaring, at an altitude of 1000m above the elevation of Hawker airport (from which the tow flight may well have originated) it would be able to glide without any ridge lift or thermal assistance back to that airport. It appeared to me to be soaring at 2000m or more, which meant it could glide back to Hawker airport and arrive with a lot of height to spare. Further, as the wind was from the NE, there would have been a useful tail wind component which would have the effect of further extending the glide distance in that direction. Remarkable machines. I have assumed this tow plane took off from Hawker. There is also an airstrip near Rawnsley Park Station which is much closer to the area near Arkaroo Rock. The tow flight could have originated there.
*I identified the glider type using the Australian civil aircraft register maintained by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. The registration on the underside of one wing of the photographed glider is VH-IUN which the register records as belonging to a Discus B glider. The register states that the holder of this registration is the Adelaide Soaring Club Inc (located at Gawler which is 42kms north of Adelaide).
Hucks Lookout on the Flinders Ranges Way about 10kms north of Wilpena Pound (visible in the middle distance in the photo). It is located at the top of a winding climb up from the valley floor. The following photo and video were taken from Hucks Lookout.
These xanthorrhoea plants are common in the Flinders Ranges. They are also known as yakkas or grass trees.
This video clip taken by Andrew using the drone provides a perspective with some similarities to the view a hang glider pilot would have after taking off at this lookout.
Stokes Hill Lookout
Stokes Hill Lookout, just a couple of kms along the gravel road from Hucks Lookout. I had never visited this spot before. The terrain was harsh and the 360° views of the Flinders Ranges were wonderful.
The GS in its element at Stokes Hill Lookout. The gravel road to the lookout included a rough section of exposed rocks, loose rocks and erosion damage on a steep incline. On the GS such terrain is best ridden standing on the foot pegs and keeping up the speed to some extent to maintain momentum through the rough stuff. The bike moves around a fair bit on such sections, and standing on the pegs is a much more secure feeling and offers better control than remaining seated. The GS has a great traction control feature which prevents the back wheel turning faster under power than the front wheel when traction is lost. This can be very useful on wet sealed roads when power is applied. It can be switched off for riding on gravel, but there is also an intermediate setting which I use on the dirt which allows the back wheel to spin up just a little before the traction control kicks in. I am not an experienced dirt road rider and I find this very useful on the gravel.
The 30km ride from Blinman (the town with the highest elevation in SA) to Parachilna, a pub on the flatland west of the Flinders Ranges, is on a gravel road with lots of twists and turns as it winds down the gorge and involves frequently crossing creek beds. The scenery is spectacular.
In addition to wallabies and roos, the Parachilna Gorge is also host to wild goats. They are strong healthy looking creatures, and come in variations of black, white and brown. Yes, they can climb like a mountain goat. They are extremely well camouflaged much of the time. These photos were taken with my iPhone when we spotted a black goat on the steep wall of this ravine. The photo on the right (a detail of the photo on the left) was taken at the iPhone’s poor quality digital magnification x10. I invite you to find the goat pictured on the right in the left hand image.
The Parachilna Pub (actually, the Prairie Hotel). Recently renovated, it is very well fitted out and offers plenty to eat and drink. Andrew is in the photo chatting to a friend he bumped into here who is also a pilot, on leave from his job flying a Pilatus PC-12 with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
The unsealed road through Brachina Gorge runs for 30kms east-west across the rugged Heysen Range on the western side of the Flinders Ranges. The Brachina Gorge gravel road connects two bitumen sealed roads running north-south: the Outback Way on the western side and the Flinders Ranges Way on the eastern side. We rode it west to east. This was my first ride through the Brachina Gorge. At times the road goes along dry stony riverbeds. It’s quite rough in places.
Heading east to the Heysen Range. This section had the usual loose gravel but was nonetheless a good quality gravel road. The very active cumulo-nimbus cloud on the horizon dropped a lot of rain on the southern Flinders Ranges during this afternoon. Later that evening when we rode the 90kms down the Flinders Ranges Way back to Hawker, the roads and countryside were very wet. But fortunately the rain had stopped by then.
In amongst the hills, gorges and river crossings. This incline was a little steeper than it looks in the photo, which led me to chock the back wheel while it was parked.
My bike parked on the climb out of a river bed section of road. Andrew was negotiating the stony river bed section at this time.
Andrew riding through the river bed section of the track. (iPhone digital magnification is the reason for the poor quality of this image).
There was no running water in this wide creek bed, but there were a few puddles left over from the last rain. I’d like to see this creek bed in full flood after a deluge, but leaving the gorge by road would be a distinct problem.
Andrew coming through for a second crack at the puddles.
Andrew’s GS dripping water after splashing through a few puddles.
As we neared the end of the Brachina Gorge 30km gravel road, we could see very heavy rain falling from the large cumulo-nimbus cloud to our south.
90km roo run after dark from Brachina Gorge turnoff to Hawker
The short story of these half dozen images is that we arrived at the intersection of the Brachina Gorge gravel road and the sealed Flinders Ranges Way just before 5:45pm, with 90kms to run to Hawker (and our motel room). Sunset on this day was at 5:45pm and last light was at 6:15pm. Heavy cloud and rain to the west and south brought effective last light forward. This section of road is notorious for roos. After dark, I stopped counting the roos which caused me to take evasive action (braking and/or swerving) when I got to 25. We saw many more than 25 roos on the road verges and in the bush left and right of the road. I was riding in front of Andrew for the 90kms, but he had the good grace and common sense not to call me ‘roo boy’ even once. Roos were especially numerous around the Wilpena Pound area. We were forced to ride at 60kph for the whole 90kms, so instead of the GPS estimate of the time interval of 1:05, it actually took us an hour and a half.
We idled into Hawker around 7:15pm. The air temperature was a very comfortable 23° C. There wasn’t a breath of wind and the roads in and near the town were virtually deserted.
The dining area in the pub was pretty full, so we opted for an outdoors table in the warm night air. The day’s riding provided lots to talk about. We had good appetites. The following morning over breakfast in Hawker, we pored over weather charts and forecasts and decided that the risk of being stranded by rain and flooded creek beds if we rode from Leigh Creek to Arkaroola on the gravel road (260km round trip) was unacceptably high. So we abandoned that part of our planned ride. The decision was made to ride to Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula and home.
Kanyaka Homestead Ruins
Kanyaka Ruins between Hawker and Quorn. The story of Hugh Proby who with boldness, vision and energy sought in 1852 to establish a cattle station in this harsh country is well worth reading. He erected these buildings on the banks of Kanyaka Creek. I summarised the story at the commencement of a post on this blog early last year: https://southernoceanblog.com/2021/06/06/flinders-ranges-and-the-eyre-peninsula-south-australia/
The main building shown here is the homestead built by Proby. These ruins are concealed from the highway by undulating terrain. The sign at the turnoff to the ruins is small and easy to miss. My guess is that most if not all who come here do so on a recommendation or with a clear advance plan to do so, as the sign offers no hint or encouragement as to the nature of these fascinating and extensive ruins. Andrew’s use of the drone at the Kanyaka ruins has sparked some interest in me for the drone as a camera platform.
On the banks of Kanyaka Creek.
A very good gravel road compared to many further north in the Flinders Ranges. Despite this road obviously being graded recently, it had quite a few corrugations. They are more comfortably traversed standing on the foot pegs as shown.
Andrew had the drone following me as I rode from the ruins back to the highway. The drone was well out of his view at this point. It’s an amazing gadget. Return to the southern coast of the continent
We stayed in great comfort with Kym and Jo in Adelaide, who have been kind hosts to me on more than a few of my motorbike rides to South Australia. It was clear we had returned to civilised city life as we parked our dirty dusty bikes on clean tiles, under cover and surrounded by pot plants.
We spent our last night of the trip with Colin and Barb at Victor Harbor. Another very comfortable stay. Both bikes were housed under cover for the second time on this trip. This photo was taken at Milang on the western shores of Lake Alexandrina. I have ridden past here before without noticing what Andrew saw immediately – the name of the property. What are the odds? We knocked on the front door without success. When the Langmeads from whom I descended first came to Australia, they came to South Australia. So it would have been interesting to see if there was some connection hitherto unknown to me.
This Queenslander pulled up for a chat as we had a coffee in Milang. He’s a grey nomad with a motor home, and he and his wife have Harley-Davidson motorbikes which they carry on the back of the motorhome. The motorbikes only get used for local rides. He was doing a local fish and chip run when he spotted us. This rider belongs to and wears the colours of the Gan Ainm motorcycle brotherhood (Gold Coast chapter it appears). He said he’s a ‘Paddy’ and it’s an Irish club. I am confident that the outlaw motorcycle gang police task force in Queensland has not even heard of Gan Ainm. Good luck to them. My Dainese motorcycle jacket and pants and boots are black from top to toe. There is not a single stud. There are no badges or inscriptions. The shiniest things on my gear are zips. This chap made me feel underdressed.
Piccaninnie Ponds (S.A.), not far from Nelson (Vic)
The footpath to these remarkable ponds located just off the highway about 10kms out of Nelson.
The Piccaninnie Ponds. This is the deep one. It’s a limestone hole which has a chasm 360 feet deep (110m). The entry to this chasm is accessible just a few strokes out from the steps on this pontoon apparently. The underwater visibility can be up to 130 feet (40m). A permit is required to dive or snorkel here.
So serene. So deep.
The proximity of the ponds to the ocean beach can be seen in this image. The area of the pond with the small pontoon from which the previous photos were taken by Andrew, is on the far left of the pond complex.
The colour of the pond at the top of the image compared to one at the foot indicates clearly which is the deep one.
I find it mesmerising to look at this pond and know that it is possible to dive to 360 feet there. The water in the ponds is fresh water.
This is the sandy access to the surf beach at the end of the road to the Piccaninnie Ponds.
Special resting grass for weary motorcyclists
On a motorbike when head-nodding tiredness is felt there is no option to pull over, turn the engine off, put the head back against the head rest and have a 10 minute snooze. But had the need for such a snooze arisen, this clean, spongy soft lush grass somewhere between Portland and Warrnambool would have been the ideal spot. At the GOR turnoff from the Princes Highway a few kms east of Warrnambool, Andrew and I parted company and headed to our respective destinations, Melbourne and Apollo Bay. We rode 2692 kms together. From this point I only had a further 158kms to ride to the coast and along the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay.
The Great Ocean Road from the Bay of Martyrs to Apollo Bay
The Bay of Martyrs, just west of Peterborough.
View to the east from the point at Peterborough, adjacent to Curdies Inlet. On a rocky outcrop about 300m east of this point (in this photo, but I don’t know exactly where) the clipper Schomberg was wrecked on 26 December 1855. The rock is now known as Schomberg Rock. The Schomberg was a three-masted wooden sailing ship, 200 feet long with a beam of 45 feet, and its main mast 210 feet high. It carried 3.3 acres of sail and could accommodate 1000 passengers. It was wrecked on its maiden voyage, and all 473 passengers and 105 crew were rescued. This Schomberg shipwreck without any loss of life stands in stark contrast to Australia’s worst maritime civil disaster incident ten years earlier, the wreck of the Cataraqui (a British Barque) on a reef in a severe storm off the west coast of King Island in 1845. In that shipwreck 1 passenger and 8 crew survived, and 400 were lost.
Port Campbell beach and bay, from the GOR as it descends into the township. The Southern Ocean was uncommonly calm this day. There was a small but very clean swell breaking. I have never before seen these conditions at this location.
Port Campbell township
The bay at Port Campbell. I have done many ocean swims at this location, but never in water this calm
I pulled up on the side of the Great Ocean Road a few kms east of Lavers Hill and sat for a few minutes savouring the silence and the moist air of the cool temperate rainforest.
This powerful, reliable and brilliantly engineered machine has safely and comfortably transported me to many wonderful places over the last 13 years and 238,097 kms. The memories it evokes are rich and varied. I will never sell it.
Thanks for the company on the ride Andrew. You did well, especially off the bitumen.
We must do it again sometime, hopefully with Noel.
We will get to Arkaroola next time.
This April 2022 ride was my fifth ride on the GS to the Flinders Ranges. The earlier rides were in November 2009 (solo), June 2015 (with Noel), May 2017 (with Noel) and April 2021 (solo).