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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.