Flinders Ranges By Bike – Day 2 – Deep in the Ranges Now

DAY TWO of the Flinders Ranges by Bike.

Wilpena Pound to Willow Springs,  approx ~40 k.

A short biking day, or so we thought ! so time for photos, a short walk and coffee of course – Wilpena Tourist office makes a mean brew. Our camping gear was packed and Dave reckons it will get to Willow Springs well before us. We got on the bikes with high expectations of a great day exploring the country by bike.

Bikes on fence
FRBB Bikes ready and waiting. Wilpena Pound.

Caffeine fuelled, we pedalled down to the Cazneaux Tree – made famous and named after the photographer who exhibited a photo of this River Red Gum, entitled “ The Spirit of Endurance’ in 1937 at an International Exhibition.

Cazneaux Tree
FRBB Cazneaux Tree, near Wilpena Pound.

Our enthusiasm for biking on dirt after 9 kilometres of the main bitumen highway meant we missed a crucial turn off! Those small FRBB signs are hard to see when you’re blasting down the road, keeping an eye out for rocky bits and the other eye out for Kangaroos. So we added a further 15 k, to our days total. From this point on, we kept a close watch on the Garmin working out the kilometres to the next turn-off.

Farm Track
FRBB On the right track now

The farm track was easy riding as it wound though bush and then up into Dr Seuss country with tufts of greenery dotted randomly over red dirt hills. Our upwind progress surprised a few kangaroos, they either stayed still and pretended we couldn’t see them or bounded away gracefully at an enviable speed over rough ground.

The power of water
FRBB The power of water

The Appealinna Ruins provided a tumble of flat split rocks to sit on for lunch. Enough of the walls remained for us to work out the layout of the houses, and seemed to speak of the hope and heartbreak of the early white settlers. A sparse landscape with a big sky, would have offered many of the now familiar starry nights, but living through the drought in the 1880’s must have been devastating.

Appealinna ruins
FRBB The Appealinna ruins – a quick sketch.

A tail wind pushes at our backs as we bike over flat pastoral land, grassy areas and many dry boulder strewn riverbeds before we cross the main road and head down between low hills to Willow Springs Station.

Radio Transceiver
FRBB Communication system, not so long ago.

Nestled next to the Bunkers Conservation Range, Willow Springs is a working sheep station, home to 4 generations of the Reynolds family. Famous for SkyTrek ( a 4wd challenge ) it also holds great appeal for bush walkers, photographers and artists. And mountain bikers. It was long on our must see and do list.

It was also great to finally met Carmel, who was so helpful and encouraging when I started preplanning this trip. She is definitely the go-to person. We even scored a hut for one night (minimum stay is three nights) as there was one night spare between bookings. Lucky us.

Overseers Hut Willow Springs
FRBB The Overseers Hut at Willow Springs

It was lovely to walk around, explore and stretch our legs, basking in the late afternoon light and warmth. Our one night of luxury was appreciated, although we weren’t saddle sore yet, the next day was going to be our longest and a good nights sleep was a definite bonus.

Only 140 k to go.

Read More – Day 3…..

Flinders Ranges By Bike – Day 3 – The Longest Day

DAY THREE on the Flinders Ranges By Bike.

Willow Springs to Gum Creek Station. Approx 75 k.

It’s our longest day here on the Flinders Ranges ride and we feel a little anxious at what lies ahead. Our bike panniers and backpack are heavy with water, as the next refill is, well, 75 sweaty kilometres away. The gentle gradient becomes steeper and the rocks, rockier as we head away from the station. The view from the ridge is spectacular. The distant hills a violet blue, the sky above a clear cobalt blue and the promise of heat presses on us.

 

Looking toward Loves Mine Range in Flinders Range
FRBB – Willow Springs station, looking toward Loves Mine Range

Our technical skills are put to the test on the station 4wd track, which is incredibly rocky in places. Speed, we discover can overcome a lot ! The up and down though watercourses continued to Skull rock, but we find the final walk around a rocky cliff is too slippery in our clips, so we turn back without seeing the Skull. Another time. The heat increases and with little wind, the flies clamber over my glasses and up my nose. With two hands needed, when hitting the rocky patches at speed, there is no way you can wave them off.

Loves Mine Range in Flinders Range
FRBB Coming down from the Loves Mine Range

The route skirts the Loves Mine Range with its intriguing name and all those up and downs that have gradually taken us up hill come to an end, as we head nor-east and downhill. The loose treacherous rocks give way to compact dirt. Yah. Speed rips the flies from our faces, but they discover the wind eddy and simply ride our backs. No getting away from these little beggars.

We are now back in the Flinders National Park and a gusty wind head develops giving us a tough time biking,  the scrubby bushes offer no shelter as the wind blows uninterrupted across this now flat country. The ranges which barely reach 1000 meters above sea level are too far away now to have an impact on the winds fierceness.

Spider Nests
FRBB Are any spiders still at home?

We become lost at a dry river bed that shows signs of recently being flooded; when we can’t find the expected FRBB sign. There are many car tire tracks in the silt, but no obvious route and after biking up and down some of them; we have to rely on map reading and dead reckoning. Probably should have brought the compass!

We stay in the riverbed and pop up the bank now and again to see if there is a track nearby. After a hard slog in the sand, we do come across a promising track and get back on the bikes hoping for a FRBB sign. We are relieved to find one a few kilometres on. It is a high water use day.

Guide Hut in Flinders Ranges
FRBB Guide Hut, perfect for lunch without flies.

Guide Hut, is a late lunch stop and a welcome respite from the wind, the sun and the flies. This hut was fully restored by the Friends of the Flinders Rangers, www.friendsof flindersrangers.org.au    – a volunteer organisation. We offer big thanks for their effort. Eating without flies is wonderful. Even if it’s just Hardtack, (cheese & pita).

The blustery head wind continues to batter us, as we follow the dusty river along large open paddocks on a 4wd track before we cross at Yakipena. It was thirsty and tiring work to maintain even a resemblance of pace.

From a small ridge, there’s a view of Mt Emily – a hill really – before a descent to another little dry creek. It’s late afternoon and we’ve been riding for many hours, pushing into a fierce headwind, so the uphill gradient and small rises test our stamina and thighs. We resort to an emergency sugar hit. Chocolate never tasted so good.

Gum Creek Station
FRBB The road into Gum Creek Station

Empty sheep yards are a welcome sign that we only have about 8 K to go before dropping down to the Gum Creek station homestead. The head wind also drops, adding to our relief of the end in sight.

We met up with Jane our welcoming host. To our relief, our bags were here in the Woolshed. “ Would you like to stay in the Woolshed, rather than tent”? Another lovely offer and of course the novelty of the woolshed won. Although shearing was over, the camp beds were still up, and the smell of lanolin still lingered. We brewed tea for two in a huge kettle meant for 20 and explored.

Gum Creek Woolshed Interior
FRBB Camping in the woodshed for the night.

We discover that reading in bed; with head torches attracts far too much large flying nightlife, the woolshed being large and open. It’s the only time I used my New Zealand Sandfly head net. In the dark, we listen to what might be cats or possums screeching, the woolshed creak and nameless things rustling, before sleep claims us.

Only 95 k to go.

Read More – Day 4…..

Flinders Ranges By Bike – Day 1 – To The Sacred Canyon!

Rawnsley Park to Wilpena Pound, anti-clockwise via Sacred Canyon.  Approx ~ 53 K.

Reception staff took away our car and camper for safe keeping and gave us, a loan UHF for keeping safe.  It was amazing and a bit daunting to realise that for the next five days, it was just us, the bike, under pedal power in this big country. The paper map provided, states in huge letters: “Warning, plan carefully before riding the Flinders Ranges By Bike trail”. Yes, we had planned, but were we fit enough? The Sacred Canyon beckoned.

The route took us toward the distant Chace Range on a well-formed dirt road, it was easy going with no wind, and those small fears were fast evaporating. The Pugilist Hill lookout beckoned; a steep bike up that soon became a strenuous walk and push for the last 100 meters but the reward was stunning.

Looking toward Wilpena Pound
FRBB Looking toward Wilpena Pound.

It felt as if our worldly worries were slowly dissipating in the peace and the stillness. And the next turn-off, took us onto some lovely single track, where we could smell eucalyptus and damp earth as we biked along the riverbed. Could it get better?

As the sun rose, it was getting hotter. Shady spots were rare in the scrubby pastoral country and judging by the poo, it’s where the local kangaroos and sheep hung out. If we wanted shade, we had to stand in it. I was sure we would smell the poo all day as it clogged up our cleats.

Another turn of the track.
FRBB Heading toward Wilpena Pound.

We began to get worried about our water supplies as we biked past skeletons or parts of, and kept our eyes out for snakes as the low scrubby country continued to evolve, with small cliffs of red dirt, sage green bushes and surprising patches of green grass.

Our idyll was not to last. We joined with a dirt road at about the 20 k mark that led to the Sacred Canyon and discovered that it is a popular spot with day-trippers. A short walk down the dry riverbed, past indigenous symbols (the circular ones mean waterhole) and hidden within ancient waterworn rock walls, was the waterhole.

Scared Canyon quick sketch
FRBB Scared Canyon quick sketch.

A sign tells us that the local Adnyamathanha people believe that the engravings were not made by people but were created for them by ancestral beings during the dreaming.

Our bike route continued on the Sacred Canyon access road – a wide road, that rolls up and down, on and on through a thick cypress pine forest. It was busy and the dust thrown up by fast traffic stayed in the air, the odd stone pinged our bikes making 13 k seem very long indeed.

Wilpena Pound
FRBB Wilpena Pound

After hitting the main bitumen road, we turned toward Wilpena Pound, the late afternoon light intensifying the red ochre of the jagged cliffs against the fading blue sky. I learnt that Wilpena means ‘place of bent fingers’ and it’s believed that this references the pound’s resemblance to a cupped hand. The resort lies at the only entrance to this enclosed valley, and the gorge is a great walk. It was also Kangaroo time, and surprisingly easy to get up close and personal with Skippy.

Wildlife at Wilpena Pound
FRBB The not so wild life

Our two bags of food and camping gear had been transferred (for a fee) and now we wondered if it had arrived. But Dave (a local to the country) found us and we had dinner accompanied by noisy birds and another starry night, glimpsed through the trees.

Our campsite at Wilpena Pound.
FRBB Campsite at Wilpena Pound.

Getting into bed, we were both delighted to find there were no sore muscles but the mattresses did seem a bit thin, for this hard ground. Only 190 kilometres to go!

Read More – Day 2

 

Flinders Ranges By Bike (FRBB) South Australia – Introduction

The Flinders Ranges by Bike (FRBB) is a fantastic five-day mountain bike ride in the Australian Outback.

 

FRBB -Gum trees can drop branches at anytime
FRBB -Only place to prop the bike up, but Gum trees can drop branches at anytime !

You can of course bike the FRBB in four days or less depending on your fitness and speed or blitz the 210 k route non-stop as part of an annual race.

We wanted to take our time, take photos, draw and really immerse ourselves in this 540 million-year-old, awe-inspiring landscape. To try and define what the allure of the outback meant for us and why we kept returning.

The Mawson Trail
FRBB The Mawson Trail – for those who bike and walk the Flinders Ranges

The Flinders Ranges is the largest mountain chain in Australia and the FRBB track would take us though a very tiny loop, but one that promised jagged escarpments, ancient gorges, gum lined river beds, rich red dirt and wildlife. It also promised outback remoteness and the challenges that come with that.

The Flinders Rangers By Bike, trail we were told is in part – bitumen road, dirt road, station 4wd and some lovely single track; it also follows part of Australia’s most famous cycle trail – The Mawson. But how rideable is it –  easy, technical, demanding ?

Rawnsley Park – our start and end camp for the FRBB.

Bush Camping at Rawnsley Park
Bush Camping at Rawnsley Park, Flinders Rangers.

We did a final sort of our gear and wondered if we had prepared for all eventualities – bike breakdowns, sunstroke, no water en-route, thorns that would pierce an armoured tank, no cell reception, unpredictable kangaroos and emu’s plus of course Aussies famous venomous snakes, spiders and things that bite, sting and suck.

We went to sleep under a vast starry nightscape. It was clear and cold and boded well for bike riding the next day. It was also deeply quiet, our ears strained to hear beyond our breathing.

Read More – Day 1

Primetime Jazz Playlist – 15th June 2016 Feat. Wayne Shorter

Introduction

Featuring 3 tracks from the classic Wayne Shorter Blue Note Records LP “Juju”. A cracking track from The Adelaide Big Band begins the show with new releases from across the globe including new Big Band releases in the first half an hour. New music from Rattle Records from New Zealand is always a treat and we have a release from Rodger Fox Big Band that showcases the excellent music coming from New Zealand. We have Australian avant garde Jazz covered with a track from 1966 featuring Bernie McGann & Kim Patterson.

The Playlist Featuring Wayne Shorter

  1. Adelaide Big Band – Eleanor Rigby (feat. Ian Begley & Matt Crago)
  2. The Rodger Fox Big Band – Matakana (2016 X Rattle Records)
  3. Gerard Presencer and the Danish Radio Big Band – Devils Larder (2016 Groove Travels Edition Records)
  4. Scottish National Jazz Orchestra – Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love (Featuring Kurt Elling & Tommy Smith) (2014 American Adventure Spartacus Records)
  5. Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra – Where do we go from here (2016 Fiddes vs Tinkler Rattle Records)
  6. Steffen Kuehn – Leap of Faith (2016 Leap of Faith Stefrecords)
  7. Susie Arioli – Loverboy (2016 Spring Spectra Musique)
  8. Norbert Stein & Pata Messengers – Information From The Birds (2016 Friends & Dragons Pata Music)
  9. Marty Elkins – Garbage Can Blues (2016 Walkin’ By The River Nagel Heyer Records)
  10. John Daversa – Good Day Sunshine (2016 Music of the Beatles BFMJazz)
  11. Andrew McAnsh – Illustrations – Part 2 (2016 Illustrations Self Release)
  12. Trevor Giancola – Punjab (2015 Fundamental Duplium Records)
  13. Peter Eldridge – Mind To Fly (2016 Disappearing Day Sunnyside Records)
  14. Wayne Shorter – Yes Or No (1964 Juju Blue Note RVG)
  15. Wayne Shorter – Juju (1964 Juju Blue Note RVG)
  16. Wayne Shorter – Deluge (1964 Juju Blue Note RVG)
  17. Bernie McGann with Kim Paterson – Rhythm-A-Ning (1966 1966 (The Australasian Jazz Avant Garde) Sarang Bang Records)
  18. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Moanin’ (1959 Moanin’ Blue Note Records)