Cold weather blues

Cold weather blues
Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide, Australia


Us, when planning the holiday: “Let’s go in winter. Then there won’t be too many people around.” Enter the worst storms in the region for 30 years. An excellent plan indeed.

We could hear the wind whistling down the corridor of the hotel last night, and the wild weather continued this morning. We hadn’t planned on driving anywhere after we arrived yesterday until it was time to go to the airport, but the weather was so bad we couldn’t face walking around all day. We drove out to Glenelg to have a look at the beach, and I wasn’t even prepared to get out of the car for a photo. If you know me, you will know this was hardcore weather.

Having very little idea of what might keep a nine year old amused (museums and art galleries were out), we took a trip to one of the visitor centres (after having recaffeinated), where the staff gave us a few ideas.

We had a wander through the Rundle Mall and I was quite taken with the four pigs. Apparently they’ve been there since 1999, and were the winning entry in a national sculpture competition when the mall was being upgraded. They are the work of South African-born and Sydney-based sculptor Marguerite Derricourt. The title of the work is “A Day Out”.

The weather had improved, so we took the car back to the hotel and grabbed beanies and rain coats before heading back out. The receptionist asked us if we were sure we wanted to go out. “Pfft,” we said, “We’re from Tasmania. This is nothing!” She was probably crossing Tasmania off her travel wish list as we bravely went outside, Kramstable in shorts as usual.

The Adelaide Central Market is in between Grote and Gouger Streets (I just wanted to write “Grote Street” somewhere. That is the best street name ever.) It was our first stop. I love the story of its first day: “On 23 January 1869 at 3.15am, a small but noisy procession of market gardeners found their way from the East End Market to the site between Gouger and Grote Streets. In only a few hours about 500 purchasers quickly bought out the entire stock of goods for sale, so that for those hurrying to the scene of activity after 6.00am, there was nothing left to buy. . . . Today the Adelaide Central Market is home to 80 stalls and is visited by more than 8 million people a year.”

We wandered round there for a while taking in the sights and smells, before heading back out onto the street. Gouger Street is home to Chinatown, but in a block full of Asian restaurants, who else but Kramstable would choose to have pizza for lunch in an Italian restaurant.

After lunch we made our way back to the Victoria Square/Tarntanyannga tram stop to catch the free tram a couple of stops closer to town. This is Adelaide’s only tram service and it runs out to Glenelg, with the main zone in the city being free to travel in. We’d seen some information about the Alpine Winter Village that was set up on the Torrens Parade Ground. The man at the visitor centre hadn’t known a lot about it, other than there was ice skating, so we thought we’d have a look. Really all that was missing was snow. And, you know, Alps. But it looked like it would be a fun little precinct to hang around in and imbibe winter beverages and eat winter food. A bit like Winterfeast. We wandered through the little market, which featured local craftspeople, and stopped for a drink in the Après Ski Lounge.

There were piles of woodchips being shovelled in all the time to try and keep the ground as dry as possible. None of us was game to try ice skating! On the way back to the city we stopped to have a look at the Boer War memorial.

Dinner tonight was at Nola, which is (among other things) “a New Orleans inspired dining bar with a focus on Creole and Cajun soul food, a curated selection of Independent and Craft Beer on our 16 taps”. We’d googled craft beer bars and this came up. It’s in a slightly hidden section of laneways off Rundle Street, so it was a bit of a walk from our hotel and ended up being a bit harder to find than we’d thought (but on the plus side, this made it one of only two days on the whole holiday I met my step target). But it was totally worth it!

Who would have thought Brussels Sprouts could be (a) a main dish and (b) edible? Everything about this place was fantastic and now I want to come back and spend a week in these laneways.

I’m looking forward to going home tomorrow. If we get there. Winds permitting. And I think I’m done with driving holidays for a while. I’d like to take some time to explore a place or two instead of rushing from town to town. I’ve loved everything we’ve seen – and I’ve really enjoyed it all – but I think next time I want a slow ride.

Kensington Road runs straight for a while

Kensington Road runs straight for a while
Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide, Australia


The weather was no better this morning than it had been yesterday. In fact, it was probably worse. The wind is horrible and we’ve seen reports of some severe damage having been done across the state. I’m beginning to think this is a consequence of us being here, because there were huge storms across central South New Zealand when we were there last year.

We left Victor Harbor (the lack of a “u” is apparently a spelling error by an early surveyor that was never corrected), a bit disappointed to have missed the activities that we’d gone there for.

Never mind. There was wine just up the road, and we set our minds to finding some wineries in McLaren Vale. Not that this is especially difficult to do. Tempting as it would have been to visit lots, we had picked out just two (I know). First up was Maxwell Wines, the attraction of which was their maze. They make the Maxwell Mead that I’ve seen in bottle shops at home, as well as a decent selection of reds and a few whites. As usual, Slabs went for the reds and I tried the whites. All of them.

We didn’t get lost in the maze, so that was a bonus!

We thought we’d call in to Goodieson Brewery on the way to Fox Creek, but they weren’t open, so that was a no go. Slabs had chosen Fox Creek because he’d had one of their wines in Hobart, and I really enjoyed their Vermentino, which is an Italian grape variety I’ve never had before. They only sell that one through their cellar door.

Once wine had been tasted and procured, it was time for the last leg of our toad trip. On to Adelaide. With visions of Paul Kelly singing “All the king’s horses, all the king’s men . . .” we set out in search of Kensington Road where, according to the song, Mr Kelly was raised and fed. On the bend.

It’s a long long road, and it does run straight for a long while before turning. There’s a roundabout there, at the bend. We drove all the way to the end of the road, which ends on top of a hill. The view of the city would have been good except for all the trees in the way!

There were no sightings of wisteria on any back verandahs, or great aunts, either insane or dead, so we said farewell to Kensington Road and went to look for our hotel. The numbering on South Terrace is interesting, to say the least, with odd and even numbers on the same time of the road. This is right up there with the 30 minute time difference and schooners actually being middies for “things that are different in SA”. Also 25 km/h roadwork and school zone speed limits, which are probably a very good idea.

We checked into the hotel. Its restaurant is being renovated so we had to go to the restaurant at the Chifley down the road, Hanuman, which was amazing. I want to stay here for a week so I can try everything on the menu.

Don’t pay the ferryman

Don’t pay the ferryman
Victor Harbor, Australia

Victor Harbor, Australia


And so the predicted bad weather came upon us like torrential rain and gale-force winds, and we were safely tucked up in a cabin at the caravan park feeling not the least bit sorry for the people in campers. It really was foul weather and we were grateful that it hit after we’d done the almost 400km drive to Meningie. Because it would have sucked to have been driving in this.

We had breakfast in a cafe the town (and the carrot, turmeric and bacon soup was very nice) before we left. I was interested in the wood carving across the road, which was by sculptor Ant Martin from the nearby(ish) town of Millicent. It’s a 6.4 meter high pelican being fed a Murray cod by two children, and is said to symbolise reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and European settlers.

And then we were off on the (relatively) short drive to Victor Harbor (no u) on the Fleurieu Peninsula. We had to cross the Murray River at Wellington East. The ferry (which is operated by the SA Government free to punters) isn’t so much a boat as a motorised bit of road that floats back and forth across the river once there are enough cars to go. In our case, three. It was a strange experience. We were on a ferry but we hadn’t left the road!

We passed through some (of many) wine districts on the way but decided not to stop. Actually we did stop in Langhorne Creek, but the winery we’d wanted to visit wasn’t open, so we kept going. We had a brief stop at Middleton Arts & Crafts before finally getting to Victor Harbor.

There’s a lot of funfair rides and attractions set up for the school holidays and Slabs and Kramstable had a go on the dodgem cars. Unfortunately due to the wind, the ferris wheel wasn’t going because that would have been cool to go up above the town. The horse-drawn tram, which is a well-known attraction of the town also wasn’t running today because of the weather, which was disappointing as that’s one of the things that Slabs had seen when he was planning the trip that had made him choose here as a stop.

We had lunch at Nino’s Cafe, which seems to be a bit of a local institution, and were glad to have arrived and ordered just before a party of 14 kids and 16 adults arrived. The pizza was really good. As was the wine. What? Right, back to the story.

Kramstable had seen a brochure for the Cheeky Ratbags Play Cafe in the tourist centre and said he wanted to go. He has been great on this trip. There hasn’t been a lot of specific kid stuff for him to do and he’s put up with being dragged around to things he hasn’t necessarily been interested in himself and has had to sit in the car for very long stretches. This part of the trip was for him with the school holiday stuff happening, and the shithouse weather has put paid to a lot of that. So we took him out to the play centre and he had an absolute ball. It was great to see him enjoying himself with absolutely no constraints (even if I did have the worst headache and had forgotten how loud kids can scream when they’re having fun).

After we checked into our hotel we went for a wander over to the SA Whale Centre, where there are some fascinating displays, including a actual whale skull that is oozing whale oil and smells quite vile. There’s a interesting 3D presentation on whales, as well as an exhibit on the work of Sea Shepherd. Kramstable had fun fossicking for fossils and pretending to be eaten by a shark.

We’d missed the last Cockle Train to Golwa, so we wandered through the town before coming back to the hotel to rest up before dinner.

I did a quick walk around the harbour and had a look at the Encounter Poles, which is a monument commemorating the meeting of Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802 in Ramindjeri Ngarridjeri Waters, presenting three worlds and three cultures, connected through wind and water.

And it was a very very nice dinner, topped off with some lovely local wine. I think I rather like South Australia.

The long and (not very) winding road

The long and (not very) winding road
Meningie, Australia

Meningie, Australia


You know what a great idea it had been to get up early and see the Twelve Apostles in the morning light? Well for the Blue Lake of Mount Gambier, this didn’t work as well. We saw the sun rise, but the lake looked less blue than it had appeared yesterday. Still there was a pretty cool effect of fog appearing to be pouring into the lake, so that made the early start worthwhile.

We also discovered that the Leg of Mutton lake, so named for its shape, was actually now called Leg of Mutton Lake Crater because, well, to be a lake I imagine having water would be a requirement.

So that’s two of the four lakes dried up since 1979.

We then began the search for a cafe open at 8am. A quick lap of the main street revealed nothing, but trusty Google found us at Cafe Melzar, carefully hidden away in a side street, which opened at 8am. We arrived at 7.57. It was the best breakfast of the trip so far (yes I did have southern fried chicken with waffles and maple syrup and it was delicious), and the best coffee. Recommended.

Today was to be the big drive through the Coorong so we wanted to be on our way as early as we could. Driving out of Mount Gambier it was kind of cool to know we were driving over the top of the Engelbrecht Cave.

We took an accidental detour into Beachport, which is a pretty little town boasting the second longest jetty in South Australia. 772 metres, but it was originally about 500 metres longer. (Port Germein has the longest one; at 1532 metres it’s still not longest jetty in Australia – that honour goes to the Busselton jetty.)

We walked to the end and back, had coffee and hit the highway again. We decided not to go to Robe, but stopped in Kingston SE for lunch. We saw the old Cape Jaffa lighthouse, which had been constructed in the 1870s and when it was decommissioned it was taken apart and reconstructed in Kingston in the 1970s. There was also a life boat from the Southship OLIVA that ran aground in the Nightingale Islands in 2011, and the lifeboat washed ashore in the Coorong two years later.

Then it was time to hit the Coorong. You can’t actually see much (anything) from the highway. I can’t remember where we went in 1979. There’s an old dirt road between the highway and the beach, and a 4WD track on the beach and I can vaguely remember driving along something like that. Unfortunately circumstances dictated that we didn’t do any of this, and so we ended up driving straight through to Meningie, on the shore of Lake Albert.

It’s a tiny town and we stayed at the caravan park. In a cabin, thankfully, after the wild weather that his us during the night. I went for a walk along the lake and was happy to see pelicans, since we missed the pelican observatory on the Coorong.

We had dinner at the restaurant that was part of the museum complex over the road. I had Coorong Mullet, which we’d seen advertised for sale at several places on the drive. It’s also called Yellow Eye Mullet and it was very tasty.

And that was it for a quiet Saturday night. Our longest drive was over and we kicked back after dinner with a couple of fantastic beers from local brewery Robe Town Brewery.

I’m on a foggy highway

I’m on a foggy highway
Mount Gambier, Australia

Mount Gambier, Australia


We had breakfast at the Surf Club on East Beach in Port Fairy. It was a magical view out to sea and the light house. After a final stop in town for some last-minute souvenirs, we began making our way to Mount Gambier.

Slabs had asked the lady at the motel what there was to see or do on the way. She said, “nothing”. It certainly looked that way. There weren’t any tourist brochures overflowing with information on place to stop on this drive, so we figured that she was right.

We did see a wind farm offering tours, and we could have called in to Portland, but we wanted to get to Mount Gambier early enough to see some things. We could see Portland from the highway. It looked like a giant port (strangely enough, given the name) and a mass of huge turbines or towers. What I didn’t get was why the highway goes so far out of its way to go close to Portland but doesn’t actually go to the town. Apparently Portland is the oldest European settlement in Victoria, and is home to a large wind farm project.

Anyway, we didn’t go there.

Driving along the Princes Highway it became very foggy, which was just like being at home. Then we got stuck in roadworks, so tantalisingly close to the South Australian border. I decided that one job I don’t ever want is to be driving the vehicle that leads all the other vehicles through the roadworks, back and forth each way, all day.

Our first stop in Mount Gambier was the tourist centre, which has a free exhibition of local history and geography, including a very cool volcano eruption that Kramstable set off over and over again. We got some ideas of what to do while we’re here, and we set off for the Engelbrecht Cave, which sounded interesting. We thought we’d be just in time for the 1 pm tour. We hadn’t set our clocks back half an hour had we?

I can just imagine the conversation of the people who set time zones, way back in the day:
“So, should South Australia be in the same time zone as the East of Australia or should they be an hour behind?”
“Gosh, that’s a tough one. I don’t know.”
“I don’t know either. It’s all so hard. Screw it. Let’s just shift them half an hour behind and then we don’t have to decide where it should be.”

We went to have lunch instead. Just quietly, my laksa was really really good.

After lunch we headed back to the Engelbrecht Cave, which is a fascinating place. It used to be owned by Johann Karl Engelbrecht, who had opened the first bacon and ham factory in Mount Gambier, as well as a distillery, which he had purchased and had sent out from Europe. Due to public health concerns about the waste from the distillery, he began using the cave as a dump for the by-products (the staining from which you can still see in the cave), as well as allowing local butchers to dump bones and meat offcuts into it. Over the years it was increasingly used as a dump and it wasn’t until the late 1970s when volunteers began to clean up the mess (which was huge by this point) and made it possible for people to go inside.

The cave is in a sinkhole, which is a common feature of the landscape around the Mount Gambier area. On the way down to the entrance, you can see a couple of solution pipes, which are are almost perfectly round holes in the ground. The cave itself really big and spreads a long way underground, including under the highway, but most of it is underwater and can only be accessed by very experienced cave divers (it takes 6 years of training to get to the level where you can go into this cave).

It’s interesting because it’s the opposite to typical limestone caves. It’s dry, not wet, and there are no stalactites and stalagmites. Instead there are holes or domes in the roof of the cave called Avens. (This is an interesting blog post about the cave if you want to know more.)

I found the whole area fascinating and, coming from an area where caves are found in very remote areas, I was blown away by the fact that this cave is under the city itself.

Our next stop was the Blue Lake, just out of town. This is the one I remember being such a vivid blue from my childhood trip here. Unfortunately, the blue colour is at its most intense in summer and about March each year it slowly returns to a grey colour. This is apparently due to the calcium carbonate crystals forming in the warmer weather and scattering blue wavelength light whereas in the colder months, everything is more evenly distributed so colour is a more normal lake colour. Today it was blue, but not brilliantly so.

Blue Lake is one of four crater lakes in the area that I remember seeing when I was here in 1979. Apparently one of them, Browne’s Lake, is now dry. We were a bit disappointed by the views in the late afternoon sun (are you detecting a theme here) but decided to come back in the morning to see if we could get a better look.

On the way back, we called into the Main Corner complex town and had a look at the art gallery and the history displays. There’s a garden in a sinkhole there too, which we’d been told to go and see, but it was all closed, so all we could do is look down into it.

It’s been an interesting day in a fascinating landscape.

Counting and running as I go

Counting and running as I go
New Norfolk, Australia

New Norfolk, Australia


In February 1979, our family packed up my father’s baby-spew green Datsun 180B (apparently the actual name of this shade is Datsun Spring Lime. Who knew.) and embarked on the biggest adventure of my life up to that point.

(Thank you Wikipedia for the image of the car.)

Our destination: Adelaide, where my father would be spending the whole year at university, and we were going with him for a two-week holiday before he packed us on the train to Melbourne (from where we’d catch a plane home) and headed off to campus life.

The trip would take us two days, and all I can remember of the planning stage was that my mother kept telling us how hot it was going to be (the 180B had the classic 480 aircon), and we saved up all our spare change so we could buy ice creams on the way. I seem to recall that Golden Gaytimes were quite the thing back then.

We’d booked a self-contained beachside unit across the road from West Beach near Glenelg. For some reason, I still have some of the paperwork and tickets from this trip, and according to the internet, the units are still there – or if it’s not the same ones, they have the same name, Sea Vista.

We travelled over on the Empress of Australia. I don’t remember much about this, or even the drive. We took the inland route rather than the Great Ocean Road, and we stopped overnight on the first day in Mount Gambier. I can remember the stunning Blue Lake we saw while we were there. I can also remember we went via the Coorong on the second day, which was exciting for me because the movie Storm Boy was filmed there, and I wondered if the kid who had been in the movie would be there and if we’d meet him. (Not surprisingly, he wasn’t and we didn’t.)

My memories are fairly hazy of the trip, but I know we went to the zoo and a marine centre, we took the tram, we went in some pedal boats on the River Torrens, we bought lollies at Darrell Lea, and we spent most mornings on the beach. Lil Sis and I befriended a cat, which inspired us (in our father’s absence) to wear our mother down about getting a cat once we were home. I can also remember quite vividly Lil Sis ‘barking’ back at a dog that barked at us, and it being completely bewildered by this.

The reason for this wander down memory lane is that in 2002 Slabs and I thought we’d do a similar trip on our honeymoon, but take the Great Ocean Road, as neither of us had been there. For reasons related to the Ansett collapse it never happened, and we did something completely different. But we always wanted to drive the Great Ocean Road, and after we fulfilled our New Zealand dream last year, we decided this would be the year.

We’re doing the trip in July rather than the September school holidays because it’s winter, so we’re hoping it will be less busy because everyone will be in Queensland to escape the cold. (Right?) We’ll have a couple of days in Bacchus Marsh first with Slabs’ family before we set off. This will include a trip to Sovereign Hill, where I vaguely remember going as part of a school trip to Victoria in primary school. (I’m yet to figure out how this happened, because I don’t know anyone before or since who has had a primary school trip to the mainland, and it seems now that school trips, at least in primary school, are pretty much things of the past. Ahhh, Camp Clayton, Port Sorell, you are the stuff dreams are made of.)

Post Great Ocean Road, we’ll go through some of the places we passed through when I was a child, so it will be interesting to see if I remember any of them. I doubt it, and expect they will have changed a lot. I have vivid memories of the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier, but suspect this is because I have one of those old off-centre square photos from the old camera (with the 126 film cartridge) I took with me, rather than an actual memory of the lake.

Today’s packing day. I’m giving my trusty Midori a break and trying out a different travel journal for this trip. That’s the one on the blog title. It’s by Mark’s, and must be the first journal I’ve ever bought that has instructions on how to use it (in Japanese). Kramstable will also be keeping a travel journal, and making a video of our trip. He’s decided not to do a travel blog this trip, so it’s all up to me.