It’s winter and its cold and often blowy. I’m not getting on my bike much. But I’ve promised myself that every time I go and get the mail, I’ll do it by bike. It’s a quick 6 km circuit down to the post office and back and the hills are made easy with my e-bike (no, it’s not cheating!) I ride past horses I know by name – there’s John the big grey – past the dead Norfolk island pine where there are often black cockatoos perched looking out on the view. I ride past a block of Tempranillo grape vines, stunning red in autumn but bare now. I wave at the neighbour as he drives past. “I wonder when he’s going to burn his pile” I think. His bonfire stack is looking pretty impressive now. I take a low gear detour down a sandy track, yuccas on one side, shiraz grapes on the other. At Olivers’ Road I get off the bike and take a photo of some metal paddock sculptures, careful not to electrocute myself on the live stock fence remembering how my son learned that lesson he’ll never forget when he tried to pat the horse which is today grazing in the distance and artfully framed by the paddock sculpture.
I brave the hills of Oliver’s Road. The steep gradient isn’t an issue with the e-bike, but the lack of verge and the speed of the trucks carting sand from the quarry makes this section of the ride a bit hairy. I pull over on the way down Chalk Hill and snap the vista of bare grape vines, rolling hills and clouds as fluffy as pillow stuffing.
I’m soon in Field Street and nip to the post box to grab the mail. Then I’m back on the bike onto the cycle track skirting the back of the township. I didn’t bring any money today so I can’t stop for a coffee. I ride past the ancient bare pear tree and big fig on the track. These are covered in fruit in summer as they have their roots in the water of Pedlar’s Creek. If you get here before the birds and the other locals who know about these trees you’ll snaffle a bountiful harvest.
I follow the bike track to Caffrey Street and pause here to take photos of old almond trees covered in blossom. It was the Almond Blossom Festival at Willunga last weekend even though the almond blocks have almost all gone now, replaced by vineyards. It’s a short ride now up the hill to home, past Gary’s dog which always barks ferociously and threatens to jump the fence. I used to be frightened of it but these days I yell “shut up!” pump the e-bike up to high and shoot past at speed. I’m home now, and there’s my dog, also barking with excitement that I’m back. I let her out of her yard and she does her characteristic 360s which say “see, I’m glad you’re home, I’m glad you’re home.”
Astonishingly, the net tells me there are apparently 252 bike routes in McLaren Vale, including the Official Tour Down Under route. Check out the routes here https://www.bikemap.net/en/l/2066679/. Maybe I’ll see you on my next post office run ….
Images of McLaren Vale available for purchase on Shutterstock; JM Smith portfolio