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Ride of the Month: Bison, freight trains and motocross, Rocky Gully
The old song tells us you can't roller-skate in a buffalo herd, but there's nothing to stop you from mountain-biking past bison outside Monarto Safari Park in this 10km loop, as Dale Manson shares.
The Kinchina Conservation Park western carpark on Maurice Road is the starting point of a tremendous 10 kilometre mountain bike loop trail that doesn’t actually enter Kinchina but mostly follows a route flanked by the main Adelaide–Melbourne railway line on one side and Monarto Safari Park’s outside fence on the other.
This loop presents something for all mountain bike (MTB) riders, ranging from beginner riders to those who prefer more of a challenge.
Pick the right day, and the loop ride also provides a unique range of visual experiences riding beside thundering freight and grain trains heading to Melbourne or the Tailem Bend grain silos; exotic North American bison grazing the Monarto Safari Park; go-karts roaring around the Go Kart Club of SA track adjacent to the Old Princes Highway; or dirt motorbikes racing on the neighbouring South Coast Motocross Club track.
Upon leaving the Kinchina carpark, ride in a westerly direction on Maurice Road and veer right over the railway line after 100 metres.
Once across the railway line, veer left along the Lavender Trail, being careful not to veer too sharply and end up on the service track immediately beside the railway line on Australian Rail Track Corporation land.
Also, be careful not to head straight ahead after crossing the railway line, or you’ll end up back in Kinchina following the Cypress Hill Trail.
After entering the Lavender Trail through the barrier, riding becomes relatively easy apart from a few small patches of sand and rock-bars across the track.
Nevertheless, it is all manageable by novice riders if they take it slowly.
Much of the 4.5 kilometre outward stretch of this loop ride along the Lavender Trail is positioned between the Adelaide–Melbourne railway line and Zoos SA’s Monarto Safari Park.
In discussion with Monarto Safari Park director Peter Clark, it becomes obvious that being able to ride alongside the outer boundary of the world’s largest open-range wildlife safari park outside of Africa is truly a treat not many MTB riders get to enjoy.
Looking through the Safari Park fence, herds of grazing North American bison are often seen close by, as are numerous types of African grazing wildlife.
However, the Monarto Safari Park asks MTB riders not to approach their boundary fence, as the exotic wildlife contained within the Park are just that – wild – and as natural conservation populations, many are unaccustomed to humans.
Toward the end of the outward route that runs alongside the Monarto Safari Park, the trail broadens out into quite a reasonable rubble-based roadway.
It is at this point where the busy railway line really becomes apparent, and MTB riders should not be surprised to find themselves being paced by a massive freight train to the left.
The end of this 4.5 kilometre outward trail meets the Old Princes Highway, and riders must swing left to once again cross the Adelaide–Melbourne railway line as if heading back to Murray Bridge.
This is where the genuine mountain bike adventure starts for those inclined toward the excitement of single-track riding through the dense roadside scrub.
For those who may not wish to negotiate the single-track route, there are the options of riding on the bitumen shoulder of the parallel Old Princes Highway to the right or the occasional gravel vehicle service tracks that are parallel to the left.
Single-track riding through this three kilometre stretch of dense roadside scrub involves the excitement of long flowy sections at speed, banked corners and great curves on a soft loamy surface.
However, as riders speed along the single track, they should not forget to look over the fence at the two state icons of motorised sport they will pass on the left-hand side.
It will be hard to ignore the magnificent tracks of both the Go Kart Club of SA and the neighbouring South Coast Motocross Club for dirt motorbikes.
If MTB riders are fortunate, on selected weekends they may actually see the go-karts and motocross bikes in action.
After three kilometres of single-track riding through the roadside scrub, riders will come across the newly bitumenised Maurice Road on the left-hand side.
Mountain Bikes need to swing left down Maurice Road at this point, where riding will actually be on the road.
The new bitumen section only lasts for around a kilometre, which gives road bike enthusiasts great hope of Maurice Road eventually being realigned to remove dangerous corners and being fully bitumenised from end to end.
At the end of the one kilometre section of new bitumen on Maurice Road, it returns to a hard-packed rubble surface for the remaining kilometre-and-a-half ride back to the starting point at the Kinchina carpark.
Despite the Monarto Safari Park, motorised sporting complexes and scrubby areas, there still remains a considerable amount of commercial agriculture in the area.
More rides of the month
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