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2024 Mawson Trail

Mike Moynihan | Published on 4/19/2024

The Mawson Trail – an account by Mike Moynihan


BBTA member, Mike Moynihan and his wife Jo, recently returned from an attempt at tackling the Mawson.  Those planning this iconic trip will appreciate his insights.  This is his third Mawson trip.


I planned the ride with a few more stops than I had on past trips, this was to enable us to take more leisurely pace to explore the towns, take lots of photos and birdwatch, etc.  Jo has recently retired and had wanted to do the ride for some time.  There were of course some sections I could not shorten because there were no towns to stop at - eg Cradock to Quorn >80k.  BOM temperatures were stated as averaging 27 degrees during the day and although we were planning the ride in early March, there was a degree of confidence of the weather being acceptable.  Ideally, we should have planned a later departure but that would conflict with Easter and the SA school holidays.


Our first problem occurred when the bus company, Genesis, advised us they no longer operated a bus service to Leigh Creek.  We were faced with the prospect of catching the public bus to Port Augusta and obtaining private transport from there to Blinman.  Angorichina Connections offered to transport us for $450, from Port Augusta. Although this seemed expensive it was fair as it involves, car/trailer and driver for over 8 hours.  I hired a 8 seater van from Adelaide and with an ex work mate drove to Blinman and he drove back the next day. We since heard that the “Under the Mount” accommodation in Melrose do private shuttles.  I am not sure of their pricing. 


Jo and I after a good night in Blinman and set out the next day. We had a great start with lovely scenery and an easy morning.  The last 15km of the ride the temperatures reached the high 30s. It was certainly hard and energy sapping and to make matters worse, we were running low on water.  A new bush camp has been established some 8km before Wilpena where we expected to take on water. The water although looking clear although it smelled putrid.  We filtered then treated it hoping not to have to use it and pooled our remaining good water which was about 500ml.  A black cloud that had been hanging around for the last hour or so unloaded about 25 drops of rain, enough to lower the temp by 5 degrees allowing us to roll into Wilpena not having to use the water.  Incidentally, when we washed out the storage bottles and filter it was almost impossible to get the smell out.  Jo got some sodium bicarbonate from the kitchen which almost did it.  I spoke to the rangers, and they said bees are likely to be the cause as they get into the tank during the dry, searching for water and cannot get out and die.


It rained for the 2-night stay at Wilpena so the 65ks to Merna Mora were on the road.  An early start at first light proved to be the norm on our departures. The idea being to finish the ride early avoiding hot afternoons. A group of motor bike riders passed us and some 15-20 minutes later were stopped on the side of the road.  We pulled up and were told that one of the riders had been taken out by a kangaroo (there were heaps of them around) and could we do CPR? Wow!! A German couple coming the other way had also stopped and were assisting so we took our turn administering CPR. Some 20 min later a paramedic arrived attached an AED with no response.  We continued the CPR, another ambulance, SES, police on the scene and the victim was eventually pronounced dead. This delay took a couple of hours, so it was a tough ride in high temperatures to Merna Mora.


The next day was once again hot, so we dodged the trail took the road to Hawker (the same distance 65k) - although an easier ride, it was mostly into a stiff headwind. Arriving after yet another tough day we decided a plan B was a necessity. The next day was a short run of 25k to Cradock followed by the 80k to Quorn, too far with the forecast high temperatures. Angorichina Connections had recently introduced a Port Augusta weekly shuttle, Wednesdays, to/from the Flinders Rangers.  They shuttled us to Quorn. Incidentally, we were their first customers.  


From Quorn we planned half day rides staying at Wilmington, Melrose (3 nights did half days on the trails), Wirrabara, Laura and finally Jamestown. Our plan was an arrival around midday (at the latest), meaning we were up safely installed in an air-conditioned cabin/motel during the heat of the day. We should have been riding the afternoons so could not travel the original planned distance. There was no hope of us completing the ride in the allocated time.  We reluctantly caught the public bus back to Adelaide, hired a car and did the tourist thing along the South Coast and Adelaide.  A tour of the Bradman Collection and the Adelaide Oval which included a visit inside the famous scoreboard was a highlight.  Ironically, the day we left Jamestown, the heat appeared to be over, and we almost had to wear a jacket, - but the decision had been made!


Although we did not do the ride planned it was a great few weeks away. 


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