Cycling Adelaide to Melbourne: Day 3 – Wellington to Salt Creek

Desperate to get out of Wellington quickly (I really did not want another Pringles luncheon), we headed out as early as we could after attempting to eat the starburst and fat-free air that was our breakfast. Since we had skipped going all the way to Meningie yesterday, today was going to be a long day if we were going to get back on schedule. Neither of us wanted to use a rest day that might be crucial later on so that we could do two under 50 km days in a row. We were going to tack on the 44.5 km we had skipped to what was meant to be a 60.6 km day and ride 105.1 km to Salt Creek.

To get down to Salt Creek we were going to have to join up with the Princes Highway on the opposite side of the Murray River from Wellington. There were no bridges in this area though. Everyone who wants to get across the river in the general vicinity of Wellington has to take a ferry across.

As we headed out, getting back on our bikes was quite the pain in our butt, literally. Our bums still had not gotten used to the feeling of being in the saddle, and we both squealed in pain as we made our way to the ferry.

Greeting a bemused looking ferry operator we took our places on board for the minute long journey across and set off. Of course though, the wind was immediately against us. Progressing forward and onto the Princes Highway we didn’t even have nice scenery to make the process less painful. The entire area was bleak and barren. We knew that the Murray River and Alexandria Lake were just a few kilometers to our right, but we couldn’t see far enough past the desert to enjoy them. By far the most exciting things we came across during the journey were the countless dead kangaroos on the side of the road (they absolutely stink!) and the Google Street View truck that drove past us about thirteen kilometers outside of Wellington.

Lis & Rich, clearly not impressed by their breakfast
Lis & Rich, clearly not impressed by their breakfast

I was pretty relieved when we reached Meningie, and not just because it was a proper country town with really good lunch and a grocery store, or because it meant that we only had sixty kilometers left in the day, but because after we left this town the scenery would be changing. From Meningie, the Princes Highway would turn onto the coast line and instead of just witnessing desert and farmland, we’d be entering the Coorong National Park and get to ride through more greenery and along the long lagoon that the Coorong is best known for.

To make it better, for the first time since we had left Adelaide we saw other cyclists! It was reassuring to find people cycling along the same roads as us, so far from home. Out here we could safely assume that any other cyclists we encountered were doing a similar trip to us whether it was Melbourne-Adelaide, Sydney-Adelaide, or even Brisbane-Adelaide for the real crazies. Initially we encountered three cyclists in matching jerseys who all waved excitedly at us. About twenty minutes later we saw another pack of cyclists in jerseys matching the three we originally saw. These guys though seemed even happier to come across us and pulled over to our side of the road for a chat. This group was full of Aussies cycling from Melbourne to Adelaide with three support vehicles, so Rich’s trailer was of great interest to them. We compared notes on where we’ve all been and where we were headed. Additionally, to say that they were a little surprised to hear that a New Yorker was riding around back country Australia would be an understatement. Apparently Americans are a rarity on these roads.

I was so jealous that they had a support crew…

Not long after we parted ways with that group we came across yet another one. There were at least a dozen people in this third set of cyclists. One member of the group even had a clown horn attached to his bike and upon noticing us started honking it as much as he could before disappearing from view. How many people were doing this ride?!

Rich and I were starting to get into a great mood. How could we not be happy to encounter other cyclists who seemed so happy and excited to see us as well?

Then the mood crashed. The Princes Highway turned onto the Coorong and the stench of rotting fished rolled in over us. It was disgusting beyond belief. Even the flies left us alone for the first time all trip; they had better smells to go after. And of course the wind was still against us, and Google had been wrong again about the elevation gain. What was supposedly going to be flat was actually incredibly hilly, and in parts very steep.

Between the hills, the smell, and the wind, and the fact that we still had about forty kilometers to go for the day, I was pretty unhappy. At about twenty kilometers out, after feeling like I was spending more time going backwards than forwards, I cracked. There was no way I was going to be able to handle cycling all the way to Melbourne like this if the wind was always going to be against us and there was more undulation than either of us had anticipated. Standing on the side of the road, I wondered out loud if we should just find a bus or a train to take us home, or even just hitchhike back.

Of course, as soon as I said that a campervan pulled up next to us, the driver asking if we were ok and needed help. For some reason, instead of saying that yes, we need help and that we’re really struggling and could she please give us a lift to the next town, I told her that we were fine, we had “just stopped for a pee break”. We thanked her for her concern as she drove off, and I was resigned to the idea that we needed to keep pushing on under our own power. As one of our ultra-running friends once told me, “you don’t give up. You keep putting one foot in front of the other until you finish. If you can keep walking, you keep on walking.”

Well, I guess the old one foot in front of the other thing applies to cycling too…

After what I can only describe as misery in the form 105.3 kilometers and 464 meters of elevation gain (a whole lot more than the 171 meter elevation gain that was advertised) we found ourselves in the tiny town of Salt Creek. Even smaller than Wellington, there was only a general store here with attached restaurant, a campsite, a few houses and a defunct oil well. Trying hard not to immediately pass out, we set up camp and had enjoyed the world’s thinnest burger patty, cooked, rather surprisingly by a young British woman. How a twenty-something Brit found herself living and working in a tiny town in middle-of-nowhere Australia is still beyond me.


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