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.

Fairy dust and wormwood

Fairy dust and wormwood
Port Fairy, Australia

Port Fairy, Australia


Today was a short distance to travel – only about 100 km from the Twelve Apostles to Port Fairy, but it took several hours because there’s so much to see on the way.

After yesterday’s disappointing viewing of the Twelve Apostles, we decided to go back early in the morning to see if we could get a better look. It was a good decision. We arrived just after 8am and, while there were a few people there, it was nothing like yesterday, the light was better and it was a completely different experience.

According to the brochure from the tourist centre, it is a “common misconception” that the view here is ancient. While the limestone around Port Campbell is dated at 15-20 million years old, the formations here were apparently only formed in the last 6000 years – and it is possible that “the evolution of a rock stack from headland to arch to stack and eventual collapse can occur in just 600 years”. And the limstone here is harder in the top than it is in the bottom layers, which is where the overhangs, aches and, eventually, stacks form.

The 12 Apostles were originally called the “Sow and Piglets”, but the locals called them the 12 Apostles and that’s the name that has stuck.

After we’d seen enough, we went into Port Campbell for breakfast. It’s a small town, breakfast was ok, and we headed off to explore the rest of the Great Ocean Road. It seems like a lot of the scenic coastline is in this area and there are several roads leading off to various lookouts along the way. The main ones we saw were The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto. The first two were especially spectacular with the waves rushing up and over the rocks. At London Bridge we read the story of how in 1990 the main arch connecting the formation to the mainland had cracked and fallen into the sea. Luckily no one had been on that bit at the time, but two people had been stuck on the marooned part and were lifted off by helicopter. I guess it just shows how quickly the coastal landscape can change!

Our final stop before heading inland was Boat Bay, which for me was perhaps the most stunning part of the whole coast and I’m glad we made the last minute decision to call in there.

We went to the Warrnambool Cheese Factory expecting great tastings and were disappointed to find all that was on offer was the same cheese we could get at home, so that was a very short stop.

We also called in to the Tower Hill Reserve outside Warrnambool, which is in the crater of a dormant volcano. This is what the website says about it:

“Tower Hill is a volcanic formation believed to have erupted about 32,000 years ago. Its formation is known as a “nested maar” and it’s the largest example of its type in Victoria. During formation, molten lava pushed its way up through the Earth’s crust and encountered a layer of water-bearing rock. Violent explosions followed creating a shallow crater which later filled with water to form the lake. Further eruptions occurred in the centre of this crater, creating the islands and cone shaped hills.”

There were some pretty cool rock formations there.

After a very brief stop, we hit the highway for Port Fairy, where we had lunch and spend an enjoyable afternoon wandering around the town and walking out to Griffiths Island where the lighthouse is. Some tradies were working in the glass, so photo opportunities were limited. All the same it was a nice walk.

We stopped for a beer at Merrijig, which is a gorgeous bar and restaurant that focuses on local produce. We were lucky enough to be able to get dinner reservation, only because we were prepared to come at 6pm. It’s a popular place! It’s fantastic that the menu changes daily according to what they can source on the day. Today the walnuts in the cheese platter came from the chef’s mum’s garden. We all had glorious meals, and loved their little quirk of selecting wines of the day from the area where the Tour de France travelled through that day.

It has been a very full day and I’ve enjoyed every moment. I feel so lucky to have been able to do this trip and am enjoying kicking back with an Otway Estate Chardonnay right now.

Cheers!

The most significant lighthouse in Australia

The most significant lighthouse in Australia
Twelve Apostles, Australia

Twelve Apostles, Australia


This morning we had breakfast at the villa, which was included in the room rate. A step (or several steps) up from the standard continental breakfast, the choices included home made muesli, porridge with stewed fruit, croissants, greek yogurt with honey and walnuts, and fruit and nut toast. It was a tough choice and even tougher to have to look out the window at the glorious views while we were eating. I could have stayed here for a week if I’d been cashed up!

After we checked out, we went for a drive up the hill to the start of Turtons Track. We decided not to do the whole loop through the forest because we wanted to check out Apollo Bay on our way to Cape Otway, so we turned back towards the Great Ocean Road.

The drive to Cape Otway was very pretty and very winding. The lady in the tourist centre at Torquay had told us about the koalas on the way, and how they’d eaten a whole load of trees to death. I was trying to imagine what this might look like. I didn’t have to wait long to find out – there were huge groups of dead trees on the way. This also explained the koala pictures on the collage postcards of the Great Ocean Road – I couldn’t figure out why there would be a random koala picture stuck in the middle of all the landscape photos. Now I know. Koala-spotting count ended up being Me: four; Slabs: two and Kramstable: zero, because he wasn’t looking.

The sign for the Cape Otway Lighthouse said it was “Australia’s most significant lighthouse”. None of us had any idea what this was supposed to mean. We got discounted entry thanks to having the Great Ocean Road app, and headed over to the lighthouse to found out more about it.

It has been operating since 1848, and you can climb up to the top and walk around the deck outside. This did nothing for my fear of heights and I was glad to go back inside again. There’s a guide at the top to make sure people aren’t tying to come up and go down at the same time (it’s more like a ladder than steps), and he asked if we had any questions.

Why yes, I said, I do. Why is it Australia’s most significant lighthouse? I suspect he’d been asked this question more that once, and he produced a map of the shipping route from Europe to Australia. He explained that every boat making the journey to Australia would, after passing through the roaring forties, turn north at this point, so every boat destined for the east coast would see this lighthouse, and for the people on the boats it would be the first time they’d seen land in many months.

There’s lots of other interesting stuff at the lightstation, including the old telegraph station, which was built to house the first submarine cable linking Tasmania and the mainland.

After we’d looked around for a while we drive back to Apollo Bay for a beer tasting and lunch at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse. For $8 we got a tasting paddle of five different beers by Prickly Moses, some of which we’d seen around the place and others which were totally new. My favourite was the Otway Stout.

Next stop was the Twelve Apostles, which was our overnight destination. The actual park area was absolutely overrun by tourists and the light wasn’t very good for photos, so we decided to come back in the morning. Even if there are heaps of people, we might get some better photos.

Our motel is in the middle of nowhere, so quiet and so unlike where we’d just been.

How’s the serenity!