Cycling the Barossa

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I loved cycling in the Barossa Valley. Smooth, off-road bike paths traversing the countryside and weaving alongside and even through vineyards, makes me a happy cyclist.

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The Jack Bobridge Path and other Barossa paths give you approximately 40 kilometres of cycling and winery fun from Gawler to Nurioopta and Angaston.

Barry and I took our trusty steads on the train from Adelaide to Gawler early one morning (okay, it wasn’t really early. Or morning.) and spent about half an hour trying to find the start of the celebrated Jack Bobridge Rail Trail cycle path. Thanks to a little information from the kind (but not completely up to speed) folk at tourist information we eventually entered the path, a kilometre or so from the start. Very poor sign posting rail trail people.

Still, it was worth it as the path took us through the valley, between fields, rather than along the busy main road. It was lovely pootling along with the smell of eucalyptus in the air.

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My favourite stretch ran between Lyndoch and Tanunda. It was the hilliest section but that also meant some really fun downhill. Which is especially fun when you’ve got a few extra kilos of tents and sleeping bags on the back. Lyndock to Tanunda is also fun because it runs right through the middle of two tasting rooms and vineyards, one of them Jacob’s Creek. Their cellar door has some nice wines which are cellar release only. They also have a lovely rammed earth wine glass and a pleasant place to rest.

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Further along in Tanunda we found a lovely little town. They have the most helpful tourist information people we’d met in South Australia (two average experiences earlier made this third time lucky). They helped me get more information on some remote camping spots in Mount Crawford Forest Reserve, how to find them, how to register and all sorts. We had our plan for the next two days.

Right next door is the incredibly helpful cycle hub. They have bike stands with a proper track pump a few tools and an inner tube vending machine. Also showers, toilets and water. All for the free use of cyclists and other folk who might be in need of a rest stop (remember this, it became very important on our trip).

The cycle path between Tanunda and the next town, Nurioopta (let’s just call it Nuri from now on, everybody else does), runs along side a main road and makes a good arterial route but not an especially pretty or peaceful tour route. Still, the campground in Nuri was lovely (Barossa Tourist Park, $30 per unpowered site – when did a patch of grass get so expensive?). We got to camp by a river, catch the late afternoon sun in the nearby park and chill out in the open air camp kitchen. And Barry got to do some work as there was WiFi and loads of electric sockets in the kitchen area (remember this, it’s important later).

In the evening we walked into the only pub in town. It was 9pm and they were just about to close but stayed open long enough to pour us each a pint. The staff were really friendly and gave us some advice about Mount Crawford. We were pleased to hear that it wasn’t going to be too hilly (Barry was tired from all that Frisbee in Adelaide). So we had our plan.

A nice end to a pleasant and not too taxing day of cycling.

The next day dawned bright and sunny and promising somewhere in the mid 20s Celsius (okay, we didn’t really see the dawn but it was bright and sunny). We headed back along the Jack Bobridge trail towards Lyndoch where we’d turn off to Mount Crawford.

Not in a hurry, we stopped for morning tea by the rammed earth wine glass. A lovely spot to chat to sheep, watch out for snakes and relax. Also a perfect spot for Barry’s inner tube to spontaneously explode. Damn.

We were about six kilometres from Tanunda and that Cycle Hub so we spent some time repairing the tube and using a crappy hand pump, which would be enough to get us back to town, get some decent PSI in the tube and on our way. Until the repair failed. So we walked back along the trail until we came to St Hallett.

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Here, I had an excellent idea. I would stay at the cellar door, with all of our stuff, strap the ‘broken’ when to my bike and Barry could cycle the short distance into Tanunda, repair it and get back to me, and we could get on our way (it was Barry’s puncture after all). It looked like a bike friendly kind of place who would be happy to have me mooching about.

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So we unloaded the panniers into the shade. It was at this point that I realised that I’d left Barry’s mini battery charger connected to one of those wondering sockets in the camp kitchen in Nuri. Oops. Barry could fix his puncture, cycle the extra half our to Nuri and then get back to me. Then we could get on our way. Or something like that.

In the meantime, it seemed only right to taste the wines at St Hallet’s and enjoy a wee glass on the grounds.

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I was right, the staff were lovely and very sympathetic. I also really enjoyed their wines, especially the reds. I loved that a glass of wine was only $5. I loved that they leant me a phone charger in case Barry called with any emergencies.

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Unfortunately, Barry didn’t have as easy a time. Changing and fitting the inner tube turned out to be more complicated that at first thought. Of course, he then had to cycle a bit further before turning back to me (sorry, Barry).

We finally got back on track, albeit quite late in the day. We got to Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre just before they closed though and managed a quick wine tasting before getting back on track. It didn’t take us long to realise that we were never going to make it to Mount Crawford before dark.

So, we set up camp just off the bike track, in some scrubland, in the vicinity of Jacob’s Creek vast grapevines, and near a handy rainwater collection tank. We’re not sure if it’s allowed to camp there or not but our forest green tent is small and well camouflaged so we spent a peaceful night among the trees.

We managed to get up early but some ongoing problems with Barry’s bike meant that we wouldn’t be able to manage a 100km day so we retraced our steps (or rolls?) to Lyndoch and then onto Gawler and the train to Adelaide. At least the sun was still shining.

We went to the beach in Glenelg instead. Barry said that was just what he was after anyway.

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