- Start: Wellington
- End: Panorama, South Adelaide
- Day distance: 124.7km
- Total distance: 2255.85km
- Average speed: 15.5km/hr
- Pedalling time: 08:00
- Total time: 09:30
- Twatty motorist count: 0!
With nothing to do in our basic cabin we were all asleep pretty early. This combined with my worry about today meant I woke up a lot in the night. I could tell it was still the small hours and refused to look to see what time it was. The boys were planning to get to Adelaide in 2 days, stopping at Mt Compass tonight and then having a shorter day to Adelaide. They were concerned about the hills and they decided that way would be with the least amount of up and down.
I had been hearing how hilly it is around Adelaide and when I asked people about it they would blow out their cheeks and say things like ‘It’s bad enough in a car, I wouldn’t want to cycle it’. We all know I’m not a fan of the hills and the Adelaide Hills sounded terrifying. I had a host lined up in South Adelaide who I had told I would be there and I didn’t want to bail out on them, although I know they would have understood.
I knew it was flat for the first 50km between Wellington and Strathalbyn, so my first goal was to get there and see how I was feeling. I got my earliest start so far at 8am to give myself the best chance. It was really nice early in the morning, I should start at this time more often, although before now it’s just been too cold.
I was feeling good and positive and I was prepared to give it my best shot to get to South Adelaide. I enjoyed the ride to Strathalbyn, I was able to maintain a good pace and by the time I arrived my average speed was 20.4kph. I was on target. I rode pretty much without stopping, only a quick one to adjust my layers.
From Strathalbyn I had 3 options. Option 1. Take the shorter route through the hills which would leave me with about 53km. I would only have to average 10kph to get there at a reasonable time. But the hills. I wasn’t sure how I would manage the hills. Would I have to get off and push? Option 2. Head south and then west for about 50km to get to Mount Compass and then head over to McLaren Vale. A really long way, over 130km but the flattest option. Option 3. Head directly west, following the same route as some people whose blog I have been using as a reference who say there is a big long climb out of Strathalbyn, over to McLaren Vale, and then north to my host. I did think if at any time I was struggling I could bail at McLaren Vale where there is a hostel.
I went into the visitor information centre and asked for some advice on the hill situation from the nice ladies in there. They were nice ladies but they didn’t really know a lot about cycling. They doubted my ability to get to McLaren Vale, which was about 50km away. I knew I could get there, I had already done that distance this morning before 10:30. But I took their advice about the hills and ruled out the most direct route.
Still undecided about which way I was going to go, I went into Woolworths and got some extra chocolate for the ride and a chocolate milk to drink. I wasted so much time in Strathalbyn, it was 11:30 when I set off again. Annoyed with myself and now doubting I would make it to my host I opted for the middle route, option 3.
In the end the route was none of my options, a complete unknown different one. When I checked the gps I had gone off onto a road between option 1 and option 3 so I had no idea what lay ahead of me. I certainly wasn’t going to turn back so I just carried on and would deal with whatever came up in front of me. As it turned out, the hills weren’t that bad at all. I was slow, and some of them were pretty steep but I managed them. I had to get up out the saddle a few times to make it up the really steep bits. The roads were a lot quieter than I was expecting and I got up to 420m without too much effort, I was hot and sweaty of course, but I did find myself thinking ‘was that it?’ Sometimes it’s good to build things up to be really bad, then they never are as bad as you think they will be, but also all that worrying is a waste of time!
After the hills there were a few bits of downhill and some flat, but I didn’t want to rest on my laurels as ‘Prospect Hill’ was coming up. It was not a hill. It was more flat which was great. I turned off onto a dirt road for about 3km which was really slow going. I struggled more on the gentle uphills on this road than I had earlier. But if I hadn’t taken that road I wouldn’t have seen a donkey hanging out with some cows.
Next came the best bit of the day. 3km of steep downhill with not a single car on the road. I whooped and yelled out into the abyss feeling like a champion! I wasn’t brave enough to just let myself go so I had the brakes on a lot, it was a bit scary at times but it was so much fun.
I arrived in McLaren Vale just after 2pm. 90k done already but still a long way to go. I was tired but I decided to go for it and cycle another 35km. I followed the Ocean to Vines rail trail for half of it. It’s a great paved trail, and it was a gentle grade but I still found it tough going. I realised I hadn’t eaten my sandwiches so had a little break to stuff them down. There was lots of stopping and starting at road crossings. I was going slow but I was tired. There were a huge group of birds, which I later found out were black cockatoos, I watched them for a while as they ripped the pine cones off the trees and threw them to the ground. The are so noisy!
I stopped at about 4pm for my first wee of the day in a toilet where someone had been in there burning stuff. Weird. As I got up out of the trees and was cycling along near the modern railway the wind was intense. I couldn’t keep any great pace as I was being blown back.
The rail trial then turns into a velo trail and goes along the motorway. It was much hillier than I expected a cycle path to be. There were lots of cyclists speeding along in the opposite direction, all with fast and light bikes, making me feel super slow. There was so much uphill, I was beginning to think I wouldn’t make it until after dark, but eventually I was rewarded with a nice big downhill and managed to make up a bit of time.
The last 5k was amongst the commuter traffic, but I was in a cycle lane for most of it and the traffic was ok. I was still doubting my ability to make it, and it was only when I had 2k left did I think I would be ok. I made it to my host just as the sun was setting.
Mark and Damiana took me in for the night, they are cousins of a friend in the UK I haven’t seen for a long time. It’s brilliant the way people are reaching out and helping me find places to stay! I was able to shower and do some laundry (it had been 9 days since I last washed my clothes). Mark cooked the most amazing roast dinner with loads of veggies and yorkshire puds! What a treat, it was perfect!
That was a big day. In hindsight I think I could have taken the shorter and hillier route and I would have been ok. But I still made it. I was so tired. Too tired to write or think. So the blog had to wait until the morning.
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