ADELAIDE, THE HOTTEST PLACE ON EARTH.×

 
Here are the ingredients.

One Danish man

 

Three Australians

Four Bikes

Unlimited innocent questions about Australian places and culture

The Tour Down Under

726.9km

Hot Weather

It began rather inconspicuously. A ride for Pas Normal, our newest addition to the store, at the regular Saturday 7 am set off. No changes here, just a quick BG Hills loop that began innocuously enough, but finished fast. Maybe it was the hot weather, the previous night, maybe it’s nothing, but 30 faces left that day on one of the larger group rides in memory and many were of those faces were red by the return. Adelaide was a mere glint in our eyes.

Kasper Anker, our intrepid Danish traveller, all the way from Copenhagen and the Pas Normal Studios came in hot, fresh off the international time-travelling tube and straight into 70 something kilometres of sweaty humidity, a far cry from the minus 2 back home; which often makes one wonder about the slim fit and lightness of a brand that feels so perfect in warmer climates. No matter, we were appreciative now.

If Kasper had simply made the ride off the back of an international flight, he would’ve gained some new friends, instead we decided to throw him in the back of a van and drive across the Victorian countryside and show him some award-winning Australiana.

Several false starts as a result of celebrating his arrival the night before puts us on the clock. Cam’s preference for early starts and “getting k’s under our belts” barely hid our frustrations, albeit for opposite reasons. But Kasper’s disappearance wasn’t something we were prepared for. Collectively the group had about 3 hours sleep, and Kasper was undoubtedly still searching for local time. The hotel phone rang out, his mobile was going unanswered. Where was this guy? Surely he wasn’t broken already. Had Melbourne been too much? Was he lost? We hadn’t seen him since midnight when he’d performed a perfect ‘Danish’ exit. It was nice knowing you Kasper Anker. Thanks for the memories.

 

“Oh hey guys” he says with a smile and sunglasses on as he nonchalantly walks out of the hotel, “I was awake and then I wasn’t,” in perfect English but with just enough accent that gives the game away.

Melbourne gives way to surrounding suburbs, then the roads break free of civilisation. Less pretty, edge towns feel like the bricks and mortar embodiment of a lobotomy, not really here, not really there, just limbo. The van careens through until the familiar country names start to pop up.

The uniquely Australian and indigenous names of towns and roads and creek beds go by. They may be our normal, but they make us who we are, and the curious and innocent Kasper asks, “what is that Australian instrument? The diggerlidoo?”

He almost gets it right. He’s close, but you can bet we won’t be calling it anything else for the rest of the week.

“What’s a Grampian?” he asks a few more kilometres down the road.

It’s a good question. A large wooden ship? A whale’s vagina? Surely it’s one of these things.

“It’s a national park and mountain range” someone says, pointing to the horizon as Werner continues to sleep, looking for anything to make up for the night’s debauchery. If he were a cat, he used several lives last night.

“Ahhh, you’re a bunch of Grampians” Kasper follows up with faux frustration.

We laugh and Werner’s back, a groggy smile on his face and the stereo plays Australian rock classics I’m not entirely sure is for Kasper’s benefit, but we sing along to Great Southern Land, How to Make Gravy and Down Under anyway. A few minutes later we skid into the carpark of the Giant Koala. This is not an opportunity to be missed.

A 14-metre monstrosity of kitsch and reminder of the heady days of Australian road travel. When big things reigned supreme and the Leyland Brothers and the Bush Tucker Man and Alby Mangels were celebrated Aussie icons. We stock up on drinks from the generously titled general store and pour one out for simpler, pre-internet times. They are missed.

The Caddy is eating up the miles. We push on and arrive at the next town.

“Horse Ham”, Kasper says

Horsham is what he means, and we burst into laughter; we cannot get enough of this.

It’s Sunday in Horsham and in the land that time forgot, not much is open, save for a few bakeries that are all oddly enough, recipients of every pastry award under the sun. There isn’t a bakery out here that doesn’t sell the best vanilla slice in Australia.

So, what are we to do, but get some first prize pies and pasties?

“Ohh, dese guys are so award-winning aren’t dey?” Kasper says, as we look up at their window, full of ridiculously specific awards from various country shows and gatherings.

Change of driver, full tank of petrol, we get out of Horse Ham and head for the border expecting to see the town whose namesake represents this crossing of the states

Bordertown has no business calling itself that, it’s not even close. At 35 degrees and as dry as a bone, we firebomb the place in disgust, watching the countryside explode in flames in our rear-view mirror. Nothing remains, but lesson learnt.

Without a particularly tall skyline Adelaide doesn’t so much appear as it does creep. Before you know it, you’re amongst the wide streets and the myriad manhole covers that dot the city. Honestly, if anyone can provide a suitable answer as to why there are so many manhole and drainage covers, sometimes 5 or six in quick succession or logic to their placement, in Adelaide a prize is on its way.

We finish with a burnout and handbrake turn into the hotel. The entire staff gathers to applaud and cheer our spectacular arrival, it’s quite a site. Actually, we sheepishly park the van out front, assemble the bikes and find our rooms.

Cam and Kasper hit Mt Lofty to acclimatise, while Werner and I find the Exeter the most appealing part of the afternoon. With so many variations of Coopers on tap, new interstate glass volumes to come to terms with and extreme temperatures goading us to try them all, we come to one particular agreement; we will ride tomorrow.

 

And ride we do.

In hindsight this was the ride of the week. A full squad of Pas Normal Studios kits would put a smile on any brand ambassador and Kasper was no different. Dressed in bunch of colours and spread across the various ranges, the incongruity of a Danish cycling brand perfectly cut and designed for extreme Australian weather is not lost on any of us, but wholeheartedly appreciated as we ascend the outskirts of Adelaide which by 9 am is showing as 30 degrees on our computers.

 
We go up and up, just as the temperature does. Our bidons are far from cold already but descend and cruise further away from the city, quickly becoming countryside reminiscent of the Tour Down Under. The roads have a televisual familiarity to them and just as we’re talking about that, we turn the corner.
“JC, you’re gonna love this one,” Cam says with obvious schadenfreude.
Checkers Hill. Apparently, Richie Porte does it in the big ring. Who cares? It’s a piece of shit and I have no time for stories of professional cycling bravado, I want it done and I want it done now. Yet, like any climb, big or small, once it’s done, you always feel like you could do it again, or faster. In the end it’s kind of fun and we regroup at the top and prepare for a superfast descent.
 
 
Literally another award-winning bakery in a small town not far from Checkers Hill gives us a quick break from the heat. We hit the road and tap out a rhythm as we head toward the half way point. The roads here are awesome and I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to visit when it’s not a loop of the sun, yet the surrounding farmland and vineyards clearly enjoy the contrasts of geography and weather. We’ll drink to that later. Right now I’ve just refilled my bidon with cold water from the supermarket and not 5 kilometres down the road, you could boil tea with it. Our PNS peloton of sorts is now a scene of unzipped jerseys flapping with the brisk speed, the temp on screen dances with 40 degrees and the descent offers very little respite except perhaps for the sensation of a hair dryer blowing straight into your mouth.
 
We’re on Gorge Road which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s more pock marked than a teenager and while it signifies the approach home, it is by no means close. This is no cigar.
 
Trucks from the new dam speed to and from the site, unawares of the damage they’re doing to the road. Slowly but surely suburban sprawl appears, and we start a steady descent into Adelaide, but the sun blazes and burns. Kasper’s seeking shade at every traffic light, the water I just poured into my own dry mouth may as well have been a kettle and the road drags. And drags. When did Adelaide get so big? Where’s the hotel. Our group splinters and we turn into the drive as four. The Exeter beckons.
 
 
“Award winning food” Kasper points out a restaurant emblazoned with bright stickers screaming their recent successes. It’s funny how a bakery in the middle of nowhere can celebrate their wins, but a restaurant in a city taking the same liberty feels reason enough to avoid.
Walking by a Bendigo bank, Kasper makes another Australian word salad and starts calling it the ‘Ben Dingo’ bank. Whether playing for laughs, messing it up or both, we’re all very much enjoying his Australian-isms. He’s developed this amazing habit of saying ‘thanks mate’ at every conceivable opportunity. In many ways he highlights just how often we say it, but hearing him say it, followed by “no worries mate” is a constant win, his ‘mate’ hitting the right twang after only 4 days in the country. We’re very proud.
 
 
Over the next few days we ascend and descend into and out of the hills. This is a great city for riding. No more than 5 kilometres to the hills and beautiful national parks and bush settings. You can descend down stupidly quick roads to the sea and trace the shape of the state all the way back into town. It’s a wonderful place to be.
We’re busting to find a kangaroo for Kasper. Unbelievably we’ve seen a bunch of Koalas and unfortunately an even bigger number of roadkill. We point at cows and camels, dogs and llamas in various paddocks telling him “there’s one”, “ooh that’s a rare one”. It hilarious in a kind of you had to be there way, but this relationship has been built on Kasper’s beautiful fish out of water take on Australia, we’re not stopping now.
 
 
 
The TDU village beckons and we bump into familiar faces and see even more. The teams are nearby and if you want to fan out, you can gate crash the Hilton or the various pops ups that scatter the town. We eat like kings, we drink some more, and we plan the following days’ ride as if it’s not going to be a thousand degrees.
We part ways at the Adelaide airport. “See you in Copenhagen you Ben Dingos” Kasper says approaching security.
 
 
 
We have a bit more time to kill and there’s no better way to say goodbye to Adelaide than with a Pale Ale.
What a Grampian!! Thanks for the memories.