Volcanic lakes in Aus

Volcanoes are pretty cool. I don’t really want to come across on that is angry because I hear that can be bad for your health, but I do like to find out about how quickly the geology of a landscape can change.
I am currently in Mt Gambier for work and after several trips to the town I have made it to the lakes on the edge of town. In general the local terrain is flat with lots of limestone (caving anyone?) but just on the edge of town there is a rather large hill with three rather large holes in it. The hill is a dormant volcano, and the rather large holes are three craters are the remains of where the volcano has decided to be less dormant at various points in time, most recently 4200 years ago which is pretty recent really.
Almost more interesting than the big holes is the water which fills one of the lakes. It is bright blue in summer, decidedly grey in winter and spectacular all the time.

So, with my little geek out done – here are the photos.

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Kangaroo Island Day 8 – The Last Day

The last day, and of course what felt like the longest! The day started pleasantly. The wind had dropped, patchy cloud meant it wasn’t hot, and all in all it was a lovely day to be riding a bicycle.KI Day 8 Map

After a social coffee with a fellow cycle tourist I made my way along the East-West Road to Cape Willoughby. The road itself is a lovely track through farm land, is well graded and generally a very nice ride. As the track cuts across the middle of the eastern end of island the views aren’t spectacular, but this was more than amply compensated by the experience of chasing a flock of turkeys down the road for 500metres.

At Cape Willoughby I had a light lunch before going on the light house tour which was fantastic. The national parks guide was so excited about everything, especially his pride and joy the 3m tall class 1 fresnel lens from an old light house, that it was infectious. I want a light house lens!

Anyway, after the tour I started out towards Penneshaw the end of my ride. Normally I think that the last day of a ride the hardest for mental reasons, but this time the hills were intense and I spent most of the first 20km in my lowest gear, or at most one from.

For anyone thinking about riding this road I would suggest thinking carefully before doing so because some of the steep sections really are impressively steep, irrespective of the direction you are approaching from.

I eventually made it into town, ate, swam and set myself up at the YHA for some much needed sleep and stretching. Next time I will get fit before I start a multi day ride!

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Note: The fish and chips at Penneshaw are possibly the best fish and chips in the world! make sure you get some!

Kangaroo Island Day 7 – Windy with Sand

Some helpful advice to all those people out there who make and maintain roads.

A road should have deeper sand beside it than on it.

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Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 11.18.17 AMThis morning was windy. Not just a little windy, but buffet my Macpac 4 season tent, pedal in your lowest gear downhill windy. The wind had started to build last night, but by the morning the “fresh” south easterly was probably blowing at above 60km/h on average and consequently made it a proper head wind, and even worse a cross wind. (Note: I later found out the wind had been reaching 119km/h that day)

The only good thing about thgis wind was that after about 10km of struggle-town it became a tail wind as I turned east towards Penneshaw. I know what you are thinking now. The wind gods don’t give cyclists tailwinds, but as it turned out there was another cycle tourists arriving on the island that day who was less prepared for wind and rain then I. Sometimes it is nice to be deemed less worthy…

Progress was smooth and with a tailwind and sealed roads I looked set to have a crusiy and easy day until I saw a sign with a picture of a bicycle on it. How could I resist a bicycle sign?American River

So along dirt roads and over hills I went to American River. The ride was actually rather pleasant and aside from one patch of road was good so I would recommend Red Bank Rd as a cycle route to any future travellers.American River 3 American River 4 American River 2

After a pleasant lunch I started riding out to rejoin the main road towards Penneshaw when low-and-behold a second bicycle sign presented itself. Bouyed by my previous success I followed the sign blindly through Muston and towards the main road via an unknown route.

Needless to say this road wasn’t as good. For most of the time I was riding on the right hand side of the road, or even right down in the ditch beside the road. At one point while trying to pretend my LHT was a Puglset I ended up with my front wheel 4 inches into a sand pile I was never going to pedal through.

Once I reached the highway it returned to smooth sailing for the rest of the day. the sensation of accelerating every time you take your fingers off the brakes didn’t stopped amazing me all afternoon, though it was concerning when I wanted to stop!

Browns Beach campsite is an amazing campsite with hot showers and a great shelter so cyclists, stop there!

Browns Beach cooking shelter

Browns Beach cooking shelter

Browns Beach campground has all the mod-cons including hot showers!

Browns Beach campground has all the mod-cons including hot showers!

Kangaroo Island Day 6 – Dull with Great Views

Today started with a climb, not a particularly steep climb, but a climb that persisted well beyond what felt like a reasonable amount of time. I think within the first 15 minutes I’d climbed 100m if that give you any idea of the grade I was working with.Kangaroo Island Day 6

Anyway this moorings ride along the north coast road was lovely. Once I’d reached the ridge line the road followed the ridge the ride was punctuated by sneak peaks at the magnificent coast line I was riding along and of the rolling pastures that dominate this part of the island.

The amazing views of the northern coast of Kangaroo Island that became visible every now and then.

The amazing views of the northern coast of Kangaroo Island that became visible every now and then.

Morning tea all set out and laid out. Irish breakfast tea, fruit cake and a great view.

Morning tea all set out and laid out. Irish breakfast tea, fruit cake and a great view.

By 10:30am I’d ridden a good 17km so I stopped for a break and spoilt myself with a cup of tea and some fruit cake. Riding on I descended towards Smiths Bay where I had hoped to find a nice little picnic spot. Instead I found an industrial scale Abalone Farm (complete with high fences and security cameras galore), so I pushed on to Emu Bay where I had intended to camp for the night. I arrived to find the bay looking weedy and dull, but as I made lunch it looked quite lovely. I checked out the camping facilities and was confused by the request for $15 for a gravel car park, which also allowed you to use the beach toilets several hundred metres away as a bonus, so I pushed on again.

All these jetty's have barriers so you can't easily ride your bike down them. Highly unfair me thinks.

All these jetty’s have barriers so you can’t easily ride your bike down them. Highly unfair me thinks.

KI Birds

Bird on a pole. That is all.

Bird on a pole. That is all.

The ride into Kingscote is punctuated only by salt lakes and very dry farmlands until you hit the main drag into town which is poorly maintained. Kingscote itself is an odd little place, again with some bad beaches and was even worse because it only offered bad coffee. The campsites were equally joyous and had an odd smell of of decomposing stuff.

Anyway I’ve booked the bus back to Adelaide from Cape Jervis so I’m on the home straight. 3 more days and then it is home time 😦

Kangaroo Island Day 5: A Long Day

84.4km 4h 59min 354m Ascent

61km before lunch at 12:30pm

This really long day covered almost a quarter of the island in one day.

This really long day covered almost a quarter of the island in one day.

Last night I decided on a plan for the remainder of my trip. Personally I thought it was a very clever plan as it left me time to ride back to Adelaide if need be, or it I can get my bike on a bus, time to get out to the lighthouse at the eastern end of the island.

So at 7am I was up and going. Packing up in the record time of 1hr so that I was on the road at 8am. It was a cold (15 degrees C) and still morning so my early progress was very good, but as I rode a north easterly wind picked up encouraging my belief that the gods don’t like cyclists.

Anyway I pushed on and by 10am had made it to the Cape Borda turnoff where I took a rest stop by the side of the road and stretched a little. 25km in and I knew it was going to be hard to get through the day.

As I rode on I realised just how empty the centre of the island is. I didn’t pass a single cafe all day and it was only near Parndana I saw anything noteworthy. I hadn’t planned on going into Parndana, but the thought of the general store and a hamburger and chips for lunch seemed to justify the 12km extra it would add to the day. The general store was more useful than the one at Vivonne Bay, but I still wouldn’t rely on it for too much beyond the real basics, on and the hamburger was good.

Doubling back towards the Stokes Bay turnoff I could feel my legs complaining, and felt a great sense of relief knowing the road into the Bay had been sealed in the past year, as this was the road that had got the better of Clare and I had 70km in my legs already.

It turns out the road has some seriously steep sections which well and truly required the smallest gear I have. Arriving in Stokes Bay (for anyone who hasn’t been there) i a massive disappointment as you get to a small coastal village with a rocky, bouldery beach that isn’t at all appealing. Don’t despair though because through the tunnel in the headland is an idyllic beach of white sand and crystal clear water that is truly welcome after a long day in the saddle.

To top it all off the cafe by the bay does good coffees and my Swiss friends from the previous night arrived in time for a chat. Now to stretch out the legs and watch the sun go down over the water and enjoy a campsite to myself.

Kangaroo Island Day 4: Remarkable Rocks

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Today was a rest day. Traditionally rest days involve not riding, and wherever possible as little as possible of any other activity. The only difference between today and the last few days was that I was only carrying one pannier.

To be fair it was never going to be a positively restful day, with the goal of Cape Du Coelic lighthouse and The Remarkable Rocks in mind I was always going to have a big day ahead of me.Day 4 on KI

The ride out to the cape is really the big challenge of the day. It traverses the solidified sand dunes for 16km with constant rises and the odd steep climb, add 5 days and a lack of stretching and believe me, I will feel it.

Despite this it is well and truly worth it! The light house, the archway, the seal colony and the Remarkable Rocks are as good as the names suggest.

The ride out of there is just as fun as the ride out. Just make sure you get back to the visitors centre before 3:30pm, because once the kitchen closes you will miss out on the opportunity to a get delicious and well earned hamburger with proper golden crispy chips.

I also did the ambitiously named “Platypus Walk” which has lovely signs like “walk quietly because the platypus may be in their burrows sleeping installed to cover for the fact that the walk is around some murky ponds that are pretty much all fired up. I saw an echidna though so I was pretty happy with the whole walk!

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Also at during the day I got stopped by the several times by bus drivers and tourists with comments like “Excuse me. Cyclist Man”. That made me happy!

Kangaroo Island Day 3: Vivonne Bay and Kelly Hill Caves

Well today I got up early. I mean I was up at 7 and was riding by 8:30. For anyone who knows me this is the moment to be suitably impressed!

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The first part of the day was highly uneventful. The strong winds over night had died down and it was a pleasant ride down to Vivonne Bay where I stopped to get any supplies I could find and some post cards. I ended up coming out with three post cards and a packet of shapes, so beware anyone planning a ride around KI, don’ rely on Vivonne General Store for a large range of supplies.

Moving on I took a left past the bridge and down towards the jetty and point of Vivonne Bay. The white limestone road was nearly intolerable but the view at the Bay was worth it as the rock platform, jetty and large wind driven waves made for an awesome site. I had imagined it as a very different based on a claim by Sydney Uni Researchers that it was Australia’s Best Beach, but I will have to wait to visit on a sunny day before judging.

 

After a cup of much needed tea I rode up to Kelly Hill Caves for lunch and a tour of the caves. The caves are interesting because they are formed out of calcified sand dunes rather than ex-coral reef, and I would highly recommend a stop for lunch and going on the walks around the area. The tour itself was a little lack-lustre, but the caves are interesting and the pure white shawls are worth a look.

The final stretch of the day was to West Kangaroo Island Caravan Park. This had to be the easiest section of riding of the trip, with very few hills and nice scenery to keep me interested.  Along the side of the road were little Tammar Wallabies that scampered into the bushes, Cape Barren Geese and every now and then the calls of yellow tail black cockatoos.

West KI Caravan Park itself is quite nice, with great facilities, so it was a pleasant evening.

Kangaroo Island Day 2: Seal Bay

What an awesome day! I woke up in splendid isolation at Murrays Lagoon to sunrise to the sound of birds and not much else. After fumbling around for a while I set out towards Seal Bay, with the aim of getting to Vivonne Bay for the evening. 6km of dirt and and a short section of sealed roads, and I made it to Seal Bay Cafe at 11am. A few hundred meters east of the turn off down to Seal Bay, the cafe is currently being Tyler and Melissa, two Colorado born backpackers who have taken a year off to check out Aus. Tyler and I chatted for a while and  I ordered a coffee (soy latte of course) and a bacon and egg surprise. What came out was a massive coffee and a bacon and egg burrito. It was so good I almost ordered a second!

Murray Lagoon to Seal Bay

Murray Lagoon to Seal Bay

After chatting for an hour or so I dumped my panniers and rode down to Seal Bay to check out the Australian Seal Lion Colony. I’d highly recommend doing the paid tour because it was well presented and the sea lions are amazing up close.

KI Sea Lions on the beach.

KI Sea Lions on the beach.

Australian Sea Lions in the surf.

KI Sea Lions up close, with a bull in the background and a mum and pup in the fore ground.

KI Sea Lions up close, with a bull in the background and a mum and pup in the fore ground.

Anyway riding back I noticed the wind speed had increased, and in fact was continuing to do so, but without panniers I wasn’t really aware of how much until I got back to the cafe and the winds were gusting at about 45knots. After much to-ing and fro-ing I made the “tough” decision and decided to stay put and enjoy the luxury of the Seal Bay Cafe hostel rooms for the night.

As it turns out Tyler and Melissa are both keen cyclists so a night of chatting, great food and relaxing was in store.

If anyone is heading towards KI I would seriously recommend staying with these guys!

The view from the back of the Seal Bay Cafe

The view from the back of the Seal Bay Cafe

The Seal Bay Cafe. A really easy place to hang out for an afternoon.

The Seal Bay Cafe. A really easy place to hang out for an afternoon.

Koala in the tree at the cafe.

Koala in the tree at the cafe.

Kangaroo Island Day 1: Penneshaw to Murrays Lagoon

Tired! Tell me if I am wrong, but day 3 of a cycle tour always seems to be the hardest day of a ride.

Map of day 1 on Kangaroo Island

Map of day 1 on Kangaroo Island

I made it out of Penneshaw at a good time, by which I mean the civilised time of 9:30am, and I was immediately confronted by Penneshaw Hill. According to everyone in town it is the biggest hill on the island, and judging by the fact I entered granny gear just looking at the hill I hope it is true. Despite this, and a bike loaded with 5-8days of food, I only took breaks to adjust my seat and was happy to find that my bike was well loaded for the trip. I also realised as I pedalled up the hill that most of my knee problems so far on the ride were to do with pedalling technique. For anyone new to cycle touring the most important thing to remember about pedalling is o put no force through your knees, just spin the pedals and let the bike do the work.

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Anyway, issues resolved I made good time to Prospect Hill, where Matthew Flinders climbed up high and surveyed the waters north of Kangaroo Island. Before I embarked on the steep climb I enjoyed a pleasant lunch break (sans picnic table) being ignored by tourists and backpackers alike.

From here on the going gets tougher as I entered the realm of the Three Chain Road, a 30km section of unsealed road that would take allow me to save 30-40km at the cost of limestone, sand and iron pea gravel. To my advantage the road had been graded recently so there were few corrugations, but the loose top soil had collected in every little depression resulting in lots of foot work to keep the bike vertical. I’d go so far as to say that most of tomorrows sore leg complaints will be from catching the weight of a 60kg bike and not from cycling itself.

Three Chains Road, some sections were like this, other sections were red pea gravel of deep sand.

Three Chains Road, some sections were like this, other sections were red pea gravel of deep sand.

Along the side of the road there were a few of the amazing salt lakes that are scattered across KI despite its coastal location.

Kangaroo Island is spotted with salt lakes despite the coastal location. I'd love to know how they form.

Kangaroo Island is spotted with salt lakes despite the coastal location. I’d love to know how they form.

A tree encrusted with salt.

A tree encrusted with salt.

Anyway the day ended up being very pleasant in reality, and I would recommend the Three Chain Road to any cycle tourists going to KI. Just check on the quality of the road with the locals before headings into this area.

The day ended with a coffee and fruit cake at the Murray Lagoon which is a nice enough campsite, though really it is probably just a glorified campsite.Three Chain Road 2

Kangaroo Island – An Awesome Place to Ride

What island has a really unoriginal name, is really easy to get too, and is absolutely amazing?

Well unfortunately I can’t tell you that because it is a surprisingly well kept secret, but I would strongly recommend looking at the title of this post.

As you’ve probably worked out, I recently spent 2 days riding from Adelaide to Cape Jervis and 8 days riding around Kangaroo Island camping in caravan parks and national parks and council campgrounds. Some of these campgrounds have hot showers, while some are pretty basic without water sources. The roads around Kangaroo Island are a mix of great sealed roads and unsealed roads that range from well made gravel to white limestone and sand constructions which makes the days variable and fun. Anyway that is probably enough of a summary of facts. Here is a list of links to the days of my trip each one will eventually be linked to a full description of the day and a collection of the best photos.

Day 1: Glenelg to Aldinga Beach (58km)

Day 2: Aldinga to Cape Jervis and Penneshaw (64km)

Day 3: Penneshaw to Murray Lagoon (62km)

Day 4: Murray Lagoon to Seal Bay (41km)

Day 5: Seal Bay to West KI Caravan Park (57km)

Day 6: Rest Day (Remarkable Rocks) (51km)

Day 7: West KI to Stokes Bay (85km)

Day 8: Stokes Bay to Kingscote (58km)

Day 9: Kingscote to Brown Beach (57km)

Day 10: Browns Beach to Penneshaw via Cape Willoughby (56km)

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