Dashing through the scrub to the Barossa
Note: This is an idea that I've been toying with for a while. I was wondering if there was any worth in highlighting potential roads where people could take their cars, and what they could expect to see. At the bottom of this article is a link to a food article on FoodTribe, for somewhere to eat at the destination. If you have a road that is a particular favourite in your country or state, feel free to share.
When staying in South Australia, there’s the typical GPS way to drive out to the renown wine region of the Barossa Valley. It involves highways, speed averaging zones and stretches of highway that involve quite a lot of trucks. There’s no real way to completely avoid the veins of road that the larger freight mules use, but there is one stretch of road to use for getting to the Barossa, which should prove a a little more enjoyable.
Humbug Scrub Road is a stretch of bitumen that will give a contrast of scenarios, serving to test out any little engines that could - or large engines that can.
In terms of scenery, this stretch of road offers little more than scrub, some more scrub, and if you’re lucky, a bit of foliage too. This is not some picturesque coastal run that you might see in a car advert, but what the road offers is a small stretch that will reward your versatility as a driver.
Once exiting the roundabout that junctions the small town of One Tree Hill with nearby Kersbrook, and descending down Humbug Scrub Road, you are introduced with a kind hand, the tarmac curling in long sweeping bends and dipping up and down in a gentle roll, like being in a small rowboat caught in the ripples of the wake of a larger yacht.
Then the gates of the Para Wirra Reserve come into view, and the scenery clusters around you, snaring you in its trap. Passing the gates from this point onward, there is a single, solid line painted down the middle of the road preventing U-turns and overtaking. The area is zoned for 80km/h (50mph), so even if you could overtake, the authorities may express some concern for any attempts to do so.
In my base-level Golf with 92kW, a surge of overtaking shunt is in short supply - even in the "Sport" mode.
The scrub suffered great damage from the Sampson Flat bushfire in 2015, but its resilience is proven four years later in the regrowth that has occurred. Eucalypts still wear the scars of heat, but still stand proud with tiny strands of regeneration protruding from their various boughs.
With bushfires currently raging on the east of Australia, I send my hopes for everyone's safety.
But as you drive, all there is to focus upon is the sharp darts left and right that the road serves for your enjoyment. Blind turns can sometimes hide a sharper-than-expected curve in the road, with one particular corner, on the day of my drive, wearing the telltale signs of an enthusiastic driver who had overcooked their turn and left elevenses on the road - and on the dirt immediately off the asphalt.
And into the fence.
It isn’t all sharp twists and turns, either. The stretch of road will also open up and present you with lush straightaways, allowing drivers to mentally rest for a moment before moving onto the next Act.
Pick your time of day to travel this road. Toward the end of the day, the warmth from the road will be inviting to local animals, particularly kangaroos, causing them to loiter at the roadside. It goes without saying that these animals will undoubtedly.... Mess. Up. Your. Car.
The final Act of this little stretch of road is a brief descent into the gorge and over the South Para River, with the road falling sharply and curving around with bad camber. It’s a sharp decline, albeit not as daunting as any infamous corkscrews on racetracks. But even at the posted 80km/h limit, it can lift your innards into your chest, if taken with the requisite spirit.
The photo does little to convey the steepness of the hill.
Climbing out of the gorge is a brief (if a little blind) affair, needing drivers to be mindful of oncoming traffic, those drivers also battling the inertia of their car in their own descent. The torque in the little Golf manages to haul itself up the hill, but there is a distinct need to keep the revs near the peak torque output.
But, as if offering a final “thank you” to drivers for giving the brief length of tarmac a shot, Humbug Scrub Road and Para Wirra Road presents a simple bend before giving to a nice portion of straight road that plunges deeply before gently curving upwards to help gently slow the vehicle after the dive.
There’s an easy series of sweeping left-rights before eventually easing off to the T-junction at the end - like a roller coaster easing back into terminus.
There are many other ways to get to the Barossa wine region in South Australia, and many are equally as fun as this stretch of road. On Humbug Scrub road, be particularly mindful of the signs that offer a suggested speed for the turns, as sometimes this is the only hint you’ll have of the sharpness of the corner. Blind turns can catch you out if you're not familiar with the road.
Without having first-hand experience with such a vehicle, I feel that a roadster like a Miata/MX-5 or a Lotus Elise would best capture the fun of this particular road, although that isn’t to say anything larger wouldn’t have a blast. There will be some moments where you’ll wrestle if you’re in a heavier beast, though.
While you’re in the Barossa, perhaps take a little time to visit Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop and Eatery, if you’re wanting a meal.