Pubs and People of Palmer

Knowing that we’d be staying a few days we searched WikiCamps for a free camp site near Adelaide. My parcel that my friend was forwarding was supposed to arrive in Adelaide and also the city would have all parts and tools we would need to get the bikes ready for the famously dry and empty Red Centre of Australia. We found a free site with the comments promising a nearby pub and friendly folks in Palmer 75km from Adelaide. Now, before you scream That’s not nearby! please remember the size of Australia. It is practically round the corner! Riding across barren hills we finally saw signs of civilisation.


WikiCamps had advised to ask in the Pub for information about were to pitch the tent. Turns out these guys had just bought the pub and didn’t have a clue. Rumour has it that you can free camp anywhere among the olive trees around the local sports oval. But if we had any trouble, we were welcome to pitch in the back garden of the pub. Sweet! We settled in among the olive trees by the oval and, exhausted from the ride, soon curled up in the tent.


Water bottle lamp spreading a soft light.


We were up at dawn, ready to start our mammoth mission. The weather forecast promised sunshine till lunchtime the next day. That gave us a day and a half to ride into Adelaide and buy all the various things like engine oil and fetch my parcel. And then we still ad to come back and work on the bikes. Lots to do!


The site was safe enough so we left all our stuff bare the valuables in the tent and ode off. The ride into Adelaide takes a bit less than an hour and was an absolute thrill. Without the luggage the bikes were super light and just flying down the fun twisties.

The road leads through some quaint little villages with German names. It turns out many Germans settled here all that time ago and the locals are mighty proud of their ancestry, as they are everywhere in Australia. They are more proud to be German than I am!

In town Pippa got a new rear shoe fitted, while I went to the postie. The we rode from camping shops to hardware stores and motorcycle workshops to buy tools, parts, and equipment replacements that had worn out or broken over time. When we finally reached the supermarket to stock up on food, we were ravenous and in danger of shopping the place empty.

Back at the camp site I opened the parcel like it was Christmas. Thanks for sending it on Hannah!

Aidan cheffed up a quick lunch and then the bike maintenance began.


By sundown we were only half done and completely exhausted. So we treated ourselves to a well deserved beer in the local pub. We were welcome to use their electricity for all our gadgets and the locals left us to it. But every time we emerged to grab a drink, they stroke up a conversation. This must be the most traveler friendly town we’ve come across so far!

We chatted to a sheep shearer and his daughter who lived up by the church and offered us to pop over and have a (much needed) hot shower. The girl was about to enter jumping competitions with her pony and the man was hating the current drought as that meant thousands less sheep to shear next spring. And at $3 a sheep, that was a huge difference.

Questions about our trip, offers of workshops and help with the bikes and stories about the local area’s history kept raining in and we had a hard time getting away and to sleep. But leave we had to, as there was heaps more work to be done on the bikes before the lunchtime rains tomorrow.

We completed the work pretty successfully and the rains held off till late afternoon, when it started to drizzle.

Only one thing held us up. When Aidan tried to adjust Pippa’s chain tension, the bolt was stuck. And when it finally broke lose with a horrible clunk, it just turned ineffectively. Suspicious that we wouldn’t have the spare part we decided not to yank it all apart and have a look. What if we couldn’t put it back together, rendering the bike unrideable?

Instead Aidan made an appointment with a BMW motorcycle workshop in Adelaide to pop by on Monday. That left us an entire drizzly Sunday to kill. So we headed into the next town, Mannum, to spend the day in a cafe, making use of the free Wifi. I was busy writing blog posts but Aidan soon got stir crazy. A walk round the tiny town didn’t do it for him, so he headed back home. I stayed till the cafe closed.

On the way back to the bike I met a couple of bikers playing an outdoor piano. Sadly it was out of tune, so we got chatting. She’s into sports bikes while he rides Harleys. They used to live in Palmer and settled here now to run the local ferry service. But they can’t help themselves. They go on lots of holidays, each time getting hold of bikes somehow and riding around mountains and lakes, wishing they could live there and keep riding. Of course they left with nothing less than a sincere offer of help, should we need a workshop, a hand or a place to stay.


That night we headed to the pub again under the pretense of wanting to plug in the lap top to work on our photos. Around us mother’s day madness was mixed with Sunday dinner and the roasts were selling out fast. It was nice to see tat their newly bought business was doing so well! The staff were having a giant roast as the punters disappeared and before we knew it we were the only ones left. The pub would be closed tomorrow so they were cleaning the lines. The barman came over with a jug of the stout we’d been drinking, soon to be followed by a jug of lager and a lemonade bottle of cider to take to the tent. All for free!

Wow! What a nice guy. Most publicans would’ve kicked us out hours ago to close up. We got the hint and made moves to leave. Only to be caught up in deep conversation about bikes, cars, offroading and vehicular bush adventures till long past bedtime. The bar man showed us videos of the shenanigans he and his friends had been up to and we shared stories and experiences. Eventually the lights were switched off, the doors locked (but only after an invitation to pop over tomorrow when he’d be here a couple of hours for admin and restocking) and we stumbled off towards the tent.

On Monday it was raining a nasty spray and we were feeling the extra beers. But Aidan had to set off to Adelaide. Thinking it wasn’t too bad he left his rain gear behind. The wind soon picked up, threatening to blow Lea over. So I hid her on the walled veranda of the club house and curled up next to her writing my diary in the company of a local spider. Tree tops were flying by and a rainbow decorated the horizon all day, sometimes even doubling up.

At some point the gusts of wind reached 60-70 km/h and I went back to the tent to rescue it. It is semi-geodesic to resist wind attacks but this was just too much. A fellow camper offered to help me move it into a more wind-still area, but I was worried that unpegging it would tear it out of our hands and do more damage than good. Instead I tied it down in a spider web of every string and ratchet strap we own.

I messaged Aidan to see how it was going and to warn him to ride careful. “I’m soaked and freezing” came the message back. I was tempted to say I told you so since I’d suggested he take his rain jacket. But then I just felt sorry for him. Apparently it had chucked it down where he was. The storm and rainbow had only got stuck in this valley, which usually remains sheltered from nasty weather. When Aidan got back, the bike all fixed, he was frozen to the bones and didn’t even refuse my silly hat in an attempt to thaw out.


That evening we cooked a feast of Kangaoo steak under the roof by Lea. One of the locals we’d made friends with when he and his wife popped by walking their dogs every day came over after work. This was the worst weather they’d seen in years. Would we like to come stay in their guest room for a warm and comfy night. How super nice of them! Sadly we were quite tired and settled in now, so we declined.

But he would have none of it, offering we should at least pop over for a drink. Even when he finally left he said we were welcome to just knock on their door if we changed our mind. It was so very nice of him that we felt proper guilty for not accepting. But we were surprisingly warm and dry in our tent and wanted to pack up and set off early next day.

Normally we jump at a chance to accept such invitations to get to know the locals and local life a bit. But in this town they were raining in so hard and fast, it would take weeks to accept them all!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s