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Flinders and Arkaroola


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The view from Razorback Lookout is spectacular on a blue sky day


Finally! After some long delays all my motorcycle gear had arrived. I got the chance to escape from work for a bit so I headed north to the Flinders Ranges and Arkaroola. This was the first adventure on my new Yamaha Tenere 700 and I was travelling light with the image above in my mind and a plan to travel some new roads.


The plan was to do the trip in nine days. Saturday to the following Sunday. The weather had other ideas.


The forecast for Saturday was bad so I departed on Sunday and came home the following Saturday having reversed and significantly modified my planned route. I had wanted to go up through Yunta to Wilpena but the road north out of Yunta and a few other outback roads had been closed due to heavy rain.


Day 1: Adelaide to Melrose


A few unplanned detours hidden under the distance markers


The aim was to get to Melrose while staying on dirt roads as much as possible. The aim was achieved with some minor deviations.


Farmland just north of Gawler


What I wasn’t counting on, but really should have known given the amount of rain we’ve had, was that there’d be a lot of water in creeks whose crossings would normally be bone dry. On three occasions I had to backtrack and find a way around. In the process I found out that when the roads are signposted as Dry Weather Road Only they really mean it. It didn’t take long when trying to find a way around the water to realise that the surface of these roads was incredibly slippery.


Couldn’t tell how deep this was or how firm the bottom would be so turned back


After a fuel and food stop in Clare I got back on the dirt roads and arrived in Melrose with plenty of time to set up my tent and get to the Mt Remarkable Hotel for dinner and a couple of drinks.


First time setting up my new tent


Day 2: Melrose to Wilpena


Staying off the main roads as much as possible


After breakfast at the service station and a great coffee at the local bicycle shop in Melrose, I headed straight for the nearest dirt roads. In general the roads were in great condition and cruising along in the middle of nowhere all by myself was very pleasant. I still had to concentrate but I had time to look around and see the landscape slowly change from green to red as I travelled north.


Somewhere near Carrieton


With only 180km to travel to Wilpena it was a nice easy ride. The only hiccup was my map telling me there was a road that I could take but finding out that it was gated at both ends and really didn’t resemble much of a road.


Day 3: Lookouts, gorges and old mines


The best of the Flinders Ranges


Day 3 was a big day. First stop was Razorback Lookout (pic at the top), then down into Bunyeroo Gorge and out into Brachina Gorge. This was followed by a blast up the highway and into the start of Parachilna Gorge before turning north onto the Glass Gorge loop around to Blinman.


The riding was a lot more technical and demanding than what I’d experienced so far on the trip, particularly the four wheel drive track out to Nuccaleena Mine and back. However, it must have been fun because I didn’t stop to take any good photos until I got to the old mine.


Nuccaleena Mine


By this time the temperature had warmed up into the mid 20s and muscling a 200kg motorcycle along a four wheel drive track, while fun, was hard work. A nice cold drink and a rest at the North Blinman Hotel helped cool me down before riding the nice winding bitumen road back to Wilpena. After five hours in the saddle on some challenging terrain I was ready for food, shower and bed.


Day 4: Rest Day

Before I left for this trip I’d mapped out a ride for every day I was away. By the end of Day 3 I was tired and I knew I had some big rides coming up so I decided to take a day off on the Wednesday, get some rest and do some chores. 


While there are probably nicer (certainly less busy, cheaper and with better showers) campgrounds in the Flinders, I stayed at Wilpena for a number of reasons. Fuel, food (mini IGA supermarket and the resort restaurant) and clothes washing facilities were all available in the one location. This simplified my days and allowed me to get away with travelling very light.


Tenere 700 clothes line


I did some clothes washing and then spent the rest of the afternoon bringing them into the tent when it rained and putting them back out when sun came back out. By nightfall they were dry and I was getting ready to go to Arkaroola the next day so I guess it was worth the effort.


Day 5: Wilpena to Arkaroola


Proper outback


I’ve done this drive in reverse in my four wheel drive but I was looking forward to experiencing the wide open spaces on the Tenere and I wasn’t disappointed. There were a few other vehicles going the other way (mostly four wheel drives towing camper trailers or caravans) but it was an enjoyable ride.


Somewhere out there


I’d left my tent pitched in the campground at Wilpena with all my sleeping gear in it. I’ve camped at Arkaroola before and didn’t fancy sleeping on the rocks with a thin camp mattress so I’d booked and paid for a room at the Village. This meant I was travelling even lighter which was a good thing given the ride I had planned for the following day.


The highlight at Arkaroola was a presentation on the local Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies. Since I was last in Arkaroola Village they’d built a rock platform nearby with water in the top of it and provided some food for the local wallabies. And sure enough, despite being very shy, some of them turned up to eat and drink while we learned all about them from the local expert.


Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies


Day 6: Arkaroola to Wilpena via the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park


The big one


Apart from the view from Razorback Lookout, this ride was the main reason for the trip. I’d driven the four wheel drive loop in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park before but had only completed the loop and come out the same way I went in. This time I wanted to ride half of the loop and exit the National Park going west to Copley. This was the most remote that I was going to get for the whole trip.


Surprisingly, I met a solo bike-packing cyclist coming out of the National Park as I was going in towards Grindell’s Hut. I thought I was doing a proper adventure but that put things in perspective.


Beginning the loop


What a ride! Challenging tracks, fun roads and much more. I’ll definitely do that again some day. 


The occasional set of skid marks disappearing off the side of the track, usually just over the top of a rise where the road turned a corner on the other side that you couldn’t see on the way up, was a good reminder to take it easy. It might have been OK on a light weight dirt bike but making a mistake like that on a heavy bike like mine was not going to end well.


Even though I was taking it steady I didn’t take many photos because I was too busy concentrating on the track in front of me. Once I got out the back of the National Park the roads opened up a bit and the riding became easier.



After a pie for lunch at the ‘famous’ Copley Bakery (they are good pies) I was in for a long trip down the highway to the Moralana Scenic Drive and then back to Wilpena. Unfortunately the wind had built up into a howling westerly gale by this time so I spent that part of the ride leaning into the wind and fighting to stay on the road. By the time I got to the start of the Moralana Scenic Drive rain clouds were threatening and I could see the showers blowing in rapidly. 


The scenic drive was more of a scenic race to get back to camp before it started raining. It was a race that I lost by about 20km but my riding gear kept me dry and my tent, somewhat surprisingly, had not blown away and remained dry inside.


That night it rained and blew and rained and blew. I could hear the wind gust coming down off the top of the Pound and then it would whip through the campground tree tops. Despite being tired, sleep did not come easily. I’d been hoping to go home through Yunta and Morgan but as the night went on I knew that wasn’t going to be possible. Sure enough, the next morning roads to Yunta, which had opened up during the week, were closed again.


Day 7: Wilpena to Adelaide

With the dirt roads to the south east closed and a forecast indicating more rain was on the way, I set off with a ‘flexible plan’. I was intending to get to Morgan on the sealed roads, stay overnight at the caravan park and find my way home the next day.


The reality was that the cross-winds had not abated, it was cold and I was riding through one rain shower after another. I was taking it fairly slowly but it was still hard work and not much fun. In the end I just decided to push on and get home via the shortest route possible. At least that way I’d have Sunday to recover and start cleaning all my gear before going back to work. When I left Wilpena it was 9 degrees. The highest I saw all day was 14 and it was back down to 11 degrees by the time I got home.


The trip had definitely not gone to plan but I learned a lot and it was definitely an adventure. It took me days to recover. More please.

Edited by luke29ermtb
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Fantastic write up @luke29ermtb.  

Enjoyed the read.

First time I have seen the toolbox on the OEM skid plate.

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@luke29ermtb Great writeup, thanks for sharing your part of the world with us. I sheepishly have to admit I had to look up a " bitumen road" as here in the states we call them asphalt. 😉

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"Men do not quit playing because they grow old, they grow old because they quit playing" Oliver Wendell Holmes - Mods - HDB handguards, Camel-ADV Gut guard, 1 finger clutch, The Fix pedal & Rally pipe, RR side/tail rack, RR 90nm spring & Headlight guard, Rally seat, OEM heated grips- stablemate Beta 520RS

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1 hour ago, luke29ermtb said:

@TenereTragic700 & @AZJW I replied to both your messages but my replies seem to have disappeared from the page. Did you see my replies?

Nope, haven't seen it. Strange they didn't show.


"Men do not quit playing because they grow old, they grow old because they quit playing" Oliver Wendell Holmes - Mods - HDB handguards, Camel-ADV Gut guard, 1 finger clutch, The Fix pedal & Rally pipe, RR side/tail rack, RR 90nm spring & Headlight guard, Rally seat, OEM heated grips- stablemate Beta 520RS

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On 9/28/2022 at 7:53 PM, TenereTragic700 said:

Fantastic write up @luke29ermtb.  

Enjoyed the read.

First time I have seen the toolbox on the OEM skid plate.

Glad you like it.


The bottom of the toolbox sits lower than the skid plate unfortunately. I can't imagine why they would design it that way. I ride with a fair bit of mechanical sympathy so it shouldn't be a problem. For those that ride harder, I suspect you'll rip it off as it is only held onto the skid plate by two small bolts.


I actually bought the skid plate and the toolbox from Europe as it was about $300 cheaper than buying it here in Straya.

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On 9/28/2022 at 10:52 PM, AZJW said:

@luke29ermtb Great writeup, thanks for sharing your part of the world with us. I sheepishly have to admit I had to look up a " bitumen road" as here in the states we call them asphalt. 😉

Cheers, The Flinders Ranges offer a lot of good rides on public roads and tracks and I've only scratched the surface. It is also common up there to be able to pay to ride on 4wd tracks on private property. A mate of mine did that last weekend and his Norden came back a bit worse for wear. 


We use any number of terms here for sealed roads that we've imported from various places around the world. Asphalt, tar, blacktop, bitumen, hot mix and probably more. It just depends who you're talking to.

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