The Mawson Trail – Day 1

The Mawson Mega Marathon is over for 2013. I am hanging around in the rainy Adelaide Hills getting some R&R, but really I wish I was out there on the trail again. The Mawson Trail was spectacular and I can’t wait to ride it again sometime. Unfortunately for us who started the ride, South Australia received about the biggest downpour in the last 12 months, right on top of us. Many sections of the trail are un-rideable in the wet as the roads turn to sticky clay. Just over two days in and all five riders had pulled out of the ride. Here is how things unfolded for me.

Getting there 

We were fortunate enough to have legend Stevo Partridge drive our hire bus six+ hours for us from Adelaide to Blinman.  Upon arrival to Blinman we chucked our bikes together, loaded unwanted belongings back into the van, had a pub meal and then Stevo headed off back to Adelaide. Apparently there were thousands of suicidal kangaroos and emus on the Blinman – Wilpena Pound road late at night, so thanks Steve for taking time out to help us, you really are a champ and it would have been much more complicated without your help!

At the pub I asked the girl if we could have jug of water for the table and she said replied with “no, the water at Blinman is unsuitable for human consumption”. Shite. None of us had water for riding the next day! Seb, Arran and I bought the town out of 1.5L Mt Franklin bottles while Liam and Jesse proceeded to boil and cool water back at the accommodation. Little did we know that the undrinkable water would be a common theme for the next few hundred kilometers.

Friday morning saw Liam instructing us in some morning sun salutations and yoga in the middle of Blinman main road before all setting off at 7am on our 900km adventure.


Day 1 – Blinman to just bivy just past Hawker (230km, 1250vm)

The first 20km of the Mawson Trail is bitchumen before turning right onto a combination of firetrail and double track. I was just off the back of the three fast boys (Seb, Liam and Jesse) and Arran was a bit behind me, spinning it out on the SS. I set about getting comfy at my own speed and enjoying the scenery.

Wilpena Pound, with St Mary’s Peak towering above, drew closer and closer and the hours passed by. With the rising sun, temperatures began to warm and the reds and purples of the rocky formations began to glow. After riding through Bunyeroo Gorge, the road just before Wilpena Pound turned to purple gravel through some type of native pine tree. Very pretty.

Arran and I rolled into Wilpena Pound at the same time. There were lots of campers around with the 4WDs and I really wished I could have stayed and explored. Not today. Bladder empty and water bladder full (with nice filtered fresh tourist water) we set off around the base of the Pound.


The scenery as we left Wilpena Pound was by far the best of the whole ride. Majestic hills battered from years of weather. The road swapped between bitumen highway and rocky double track and back to bitumen. The fast road sections stretched on for kilometers and they were just begging for TT bars. I tucked in and got down on my forearms. Note for next year: time trial bars are a must.

My iPhone photos just don’t do justice to how spectacular the views and colours were. But imagine something like this and you get the idea:


Wilpena Pound

After Wilpena there were some rocky sections, but nothing much worse than large pebbles, so the decision to go fully rigid seemed to be paying off. On the last 20km coming into Hawker I managed to develop a gash in my tyre from a sharp rock. I stopped on the side of the road and stuck a tube in, my Stan’s was all gone. Arran rode past and spun madly off into the distance.


Flat fixed, the afternoon rolled on. The trail took one final turn off the bitumen and into a bumpy old cow paddock full of large water tanks for the cows. As I approached one of the tanks the  stupid animals freaked out and started running towards me. As recommended, I gave them a wide berth, veering off the track. Instants later I was into the dry grassy thistles resulting in an instant puncture. After speaking kind words to the cows they seemed to lose interest as I fixed my flat and got on my way.

Not even 10 mins down the road and I notice my rear wheel is sliding all over the place. I look down and sure enough it was going down fast. Grrr! By this late in the afternoon it was hot, I was hungry and the blowflies were incessant. It was so windy and the buzzing flies so thick, I didn’t have a chance in hell of hearing where the puncture hole was. I felt and checked every millimeter of the tyre before putting another one in. There thorns were just going straight through my tyres. I wanted my Stan’s back!!

I rode for a bit further, maybe not even 20 minutes, before I got a fourth flat. Now I was getting a bit more worried. No more tubes and still a bit of off-road with more damn prickles to Hawker. Nothing to do but put it in and get going. I avoided anything that looked even remotely like a plant or a large rock. I walked up over the ridge to find a guy in a big grader, clearing the trail. From there on I was treated to a smooth and dusty trail nearly all the way to Hawker. Sunset came and went on the horizon with an artistic mix of orange and purple hues.

After dusk I rolled into Hawker and dropped in at a local bike hire company. They had slime tubes, score! I was getting out some money when I confirmed they where 29″ tubes. She had never heard of a 29″wheel. Damn it! Deflated, I headed over to the pub but perked up a bit when I saw Arran’s bike out the front. We shared some stories over pizza until he headed out for some more riding. I stayed for a bit, mending all the punctures.

I left Hawker and rode into the starry night; happy about my mended tubes, pizza in my belly and warm garlic bread in my back pocket. I bivvied about two hours ride from Hawker, sheltered by a large grove of river gums. 11pm was early for bed, but I was mentally a bit frazzled following all the tyre dramas.



3 thoughts on “The Mawson Trail – Day 1

  1. AndrewGills

    WOW! I’m hoping to ride the Mawson next year and your pictures and story just make me more determined to sort out some time off work to do it. Though I won’t be doing it as quickly as you guys.

    Where did you get the bike packing kit from? I currently only have panniers but bike packing looks so much more efficient and comfortable.

    1. bethany Post author

      Thanks! It is spectacular and also quite easy terrain which means you can go a fair bit further each day than normal. We didn’t stop at any historical sites or points of interest and missed nice sections because we were riding at night – it would be lovely to tour the route over a week. I definitely recommend it!

      We got all our gear from It is a tad expensive to get it over here from Canada but worth it! It is light and much more reliable than heavy panniers which are prone to breaking after long km on dirt. I think you can get some of it from a re-seller in NZ.

      All the best!


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