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Ride of the month: Murray Bridge to Monarto Safari Park
Dale Manson guides you on a 12-kilometre road ride with some challenging hills in one direction and exhilarating speed in the other.
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Murray Bridge is fortunate to be the home of Monarto Safari Park, an iconic jewel in the crown of South Australia located a short 12-kilometre bike ride from the town’s main street.
An integral part of independent conservation group the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, the 1500-hectare safari park complements the society’s Adelaide Zoo and offers the world’s largest safari experience outside of Africa.
Riding from the centre of Murray Bridge to Monarto Safari Park is on an excellent bitumen road that contains a few significant uphills.
After visiting the park, the 12-kilometre return ride back to Murray Bridge is rewarded by a number of enjoyable fast downhill stretches.
A cycling visit to Monarto Safari Park offers the flexibility of utilising the toilet, café and gift shop facilities at the brand new visitor centre without having to pay an entrance fee.
Under the leadership of Monarto Safari Park’s innovative director, Peter Clark, the entire precinct feels refreshed in a new era where wildlife conservation is being exposed to the general community in an exciting and interactive manner.
The open-air ambience and landscaped beauty of the reception centre makes it truly worthwhile to dismount and wheel the bike into the centre to simply sit on a park bench.
At this stage, cyclists looking to pay a fee to enter the actual wildlife area of the Monarto Safari Park cannot take their bikes in and must leave them outside in the expansive carpark.
However, Mr Clark and Monarto Safari Park’s upper management are currently looking at long-term options for accommodating cyclists.
The start of this month’s ride is in Bridge Street, the centre of Murray Bridge, and turns north up Mannum Road, travelling parallel to the side of Diamond Park.
The ride then crosses the Adelaide to Melbourne railway line and passes the ecologically important Rocky Gully Wetland on the right hand side.
Just past the wetland, the bike route turns left to head up Cypress Terrace for a short distance.
The first crossroad encountered on Cypress Terrace is Rocky Gully Road and riders need to make a right-hand turn at this point to head in a northerly direction again.
Rocky Gully Road is an anomaly, as it eventually changes its name to Monarto Road.
However, prior to this, on the right-hand side, cyclists pass a motorbike haven and clubhouse operated by the Longriders Motorcycle Club.
Occasionally threatening-looking motorbike riders dressed in black leathers and riding Harley Davidsons are seen congregating at the clubhouse and riding along the road, but bystanders needn’t feel too threatened as this particular club has a peace-loving Christian ethos.
Venturing further along, also on the right-hand side of the road, is a fast-disappearing legacy of the once important Murray Bridge glasshouse horticulture industry in the form of rows of derelict glasshouses.
At the point where Rocky Gully Road then changes its name to Monarto Road, Netley Road on the left hand side leads to the Mobilong Gaol that can be seen on the far horizon.
At this point, Monarto Road gradually starts to climb, requiring a little more pedal power.
Near the top of the climb on the left hand side is an extensive 34,000 photovoltaic panel array that produces 25,600 megawatt hours of clean, green solar electricity per year to power the adjacent Murray Bridge to Onkaparinga pipeline pump station.
The Murray Bridge to Onkaparinga water pump station serves the 50-kilometre-long pipeline that eventually delivers raw River Murray water to the Mount Bold Reservoir, plus raw water to treatment plants in the Adelaide Hills areas of Kanmantoo and Balhannah.
Locals term the above-ground Murray Bridge to Onkaparinga water pipeline the “drinking straw”; cyclists can follow it directly from the pump station to the entrance of the Monarto Safari Park.
Looking to the south over the pipeline across the Monarto Safari Park precinct, cyclists can glimpse the $40 million five-star resort luxury resort being backed by generous private donor and owner of the world renowned Green Edge Cycling Team, Gerry Ryan OAM.
The new Visitor Centre is built in the similar shape to a donut, with café, toilets, administration and amenities around the roofed outer rim, with a magnificent open air core containing native trees, information signs, relaxed seating and pieces of sculpture art.
Monarto Safari Park boss, Peter Clark should be very proud of his latest achievements and the increased interest in wildlife conservation they are drawing from across the world.
After visiting Monarto Safari Park, cyclists head back to Murray Bridge by precisely the same route as they rode there.
In this direction, however, there are far more downhill runs, some at quite exciting speeds when the horses are let loose metaphorically.
If time on the way back to Murray Bridge permits, it is also worth venturing into the Rocky Gully Wetlands precinct where some of the trails can be ridden with spectacular groups of birdlife in the background.
More rides of the month
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