IP Day 21 – Nuttbush Retreat to Melrose

Monday 11th April, 2022

107km +775m

5:29 moving,  8:56 elapsed
Avg 19.5kph  Max 51kph

Our pre-dawn strategy paid off on the west side of Port Augusta paid off. We rolled out of Nuttbush at about 5.25am, and it was pretty much a 13k warm-up to the junction with the Lincoln Highway. We were passed only by one road train (who talked to us 😊) and one car. Winning.

We switched into turbo and smashed out a 7k time trial along the Eyre Highway to the back-road turn-off. There was probably no need to up the pace as only one car went past, but that stretch of road had achieved such notoriety that we probably built it up in our minds to being worse than it actually was. That said, I’m glad we weren’t on it during morning or afternoon ‘peak hour’.

We were relieved to turn onto Caroona Rd – a 17k backroad into Port Augusta (following the IPWR route), and we stopped for a snack just before a level crossing. (Shout-out to Sylvia and Bob for the apples!) Just about sunrise.

Backroads come with their upsides and downsides, and this one’s downside was that it was as bumpy as heck for about 12k, made up for in the last few k’s by the smoothest velvet surface you could ever wish for.

We passed the former Baxter Detention Centre (only in operation for 5 years during the Howard era, and another chapter of shame in the history of how Australia has treated asylum seekers.)

With perfect timing, we arrived at a cafe just after it had opened at 7am (Trust me, I had scoped out the cafe options for our arrival into what felt like the Big Smoke.) We weren’t disappointed either – enjoying an excellent breakfast with REAL TEA (👍 from Marc) and a decent cappuccino (👍from Tracey)

We then had a bit of an errand to complete which had been a few weeks in the making – a ‘care package’ pick up at an Australia Post agency in Port Augusta North, sent by good mate Malcolm. This plan was hatched back when we were still on the Nullarbor after Marc’s Lezyne died in Balladonia. Malcolm offered to post over his spare Lezyne – exactly the same model – and built up a package of other stuff – including a spare derailleur cable, and some ‘butt cream’. (Back on the Nullarbor, with our butt issues, Marc was worried we wouldn’t make it to (a bike shop in) Adelaide on the chamois cream we were carrying.) Deciding where to send it within a realistic time frame (of both our riding and postage time) took some debate between the two M’s over Messenger. (A bit over-optimistic of them, I thought at the time, given I was dreaming of calling it quits in Adelaide.) The Australia Post agency in a corner store in Port Augusta North was open over the weekend (but only till 2pm) so that was the chosen destination, with, then, our timing in and out of the city involving parcel arrival/pick-up logistics.

As we got closer and closer to Port Augusta we had been anxiously tracking the parcel, sent from Sydney, as it, inexplicably, went on a scenic tour up to Brisbane and back through Sydney before finally setting off for SA. Last known check-in was in Adelaide, over the weekend. It ended up arriving and being scanned in Port Augusta just this morning!

Malcolm was such a sweetheart that he had packed a few bags of lollies as well, concerned that we may have had sugar-hit supply issues. We felt so bad, but, already carrying more than enough snacks, and with a 400m climb – Horrocks Pass – looming just an hour down the road, we really didn’t want to carry a few hundred grams of anything we didn’t actually need. (Remember the 32g airlite towel ‘issue’!!!) We went back into the store and asked the owner if we could donate them to the store … She was all ‘I can give them to the school kids after school! Thank you, thank you, do you want to take anything in exchange?!’, but we explained further why we didn’t want any extra weight on the bike!’ She then came out for a longer chat, so that was nice. So not exactly what Malcolm had in mind for the lollies, but we think they still ended up making some kids’ day.

Time to get going. Destination: Melrose, nearly 70km away. Relief at having left the road trains of the Eyre Highway behind was very quickly knocked on the head. Of course, any trucks headed to Adelaide would be continuing on the ‘A1’. It was now the Princes Highway- or the Augusta Highway (Google maps call it both), and it was around 9am. Bad, bad time. We had about 20km of it before the turn-off that leads up to Horrocks Pass, and it was 20km of sheer hell. The traffic was diabolical. We had close passes. Road trains. A narrow shoulder. Two oncoming overtakers who didn’t ‘GAF’ about a bike (with a bright flashing headlight) heading towards them.

I pretty much had a meltdown – sobbing, the works. My life flashed before my eyes multiple times. So this is where I absolutely TAP OFF about dangerous sections of the IPWR route that can, and in my opinion, SHOULD, be avoided. We now realise that there is a (mostly?) sealed road (Spears Creek Rd) that runs almost parallel to that section, and it joins Horrocks Pass Rd part way up. I am wishing I had done more thorough research before the ride and opted for that detour.  Bumpy and slow would be better than risking your life on that section. Timing your run to a quieter time of day/night is another option, of course, but it’s impossible to do that for every suss section – it would make you even slower than we already were.

Relief, then, at having turned off the highway to hell, also got quickly knocked on the head when we realised we were now slogging upwards and into the teeth of a stiff headwind. Torture.

Guess what, they put wind farms in windy places!

So it’s up and over the lowest bit, right?

It was actually a relief to get to the steeper parts as at least they were out of the wind.

Fun fact – go google Horrock (an early 1800s settler and explorer, and how he died (kinda sorta shot by his camel- thanks to dotwatcher Bob, yesterday, for telling us about that little bit of trivia.)

What goes up (usually, eventually) must go down, so boy did we enjoy the 7km downhill run from the top of the pass into the little town of Wilmington. How long had it been since we’d had a downhill zoom?!

Thankfully Wilmington was big enough to have a cafe. Lunchtime. Coffee. Very apt signs.

Only another 23km to Melrose, although the afternoon was heating up. Riding on Horrocks Highway (aka Main North Rd) was a lot more mellow, traffic-wise.

4k before Melrose we stopped at another Goyder’s line memorial, a rest area that also hosted another piece of … erm.. history – the Cheese Tree 🤔

Local tourism box duly ticked, we hit Melrose and made a beeline for the Over the Edge Sports bike shop/cafe, and some cold drinks.

We had booked accommodation at the pub, so as soon as we could we checked in there, had a shower, and then headed for the beer garden/patio.

He thought my helmet strap lines were hilarious. Now that he had alerted me to them, they just made me self-conscious and concerned that, despite all the sunscreen, the sun, and this whole bloody thing was aging me. Bloody wrinkles.

Rider update: Last night Willy Maykit made it. Tonight Luke/Beetlejuice and Chris/Caveman rocked in to the Opera House forecourt. The next rider was Jimbo who looks like he bivvied overnight on edge of the Walwa/Jingellic golf course – alongside the Murray River (about 70k, as the crow flies, east of Albury-Wodonga).  Scotty and Greta were along the Great Ocean Rd at Warrnambool, and Derek was in Rendelsham – still in South Australia, but only about 100k from crossing over the border into Victoria. And us…. still faffing around a few days out of Adelaide, which would be just over halfway. Somewhere between here and there was, at least, something to look forward to – the halfway mark.

[It’s been a while between posts, I know. We’ve had a bit of stuff on our plate which has completely derailed frivolous pursuits such as blogging. Nowhere near my goal of completing the write-up by the end of 2022… new goal is to get this done before 2023 Indipac starts. I’d better get my skates on.]

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