The Deep South (Adelaide)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I left Melbourne, finally, after stopping and saying goodbye at Stalactites. Well, that’s not quite accurate. I TRIED to leave Melbourne. But, first of all, I took two wrong turns getting to the freeway and then, for some reason, took the M1 towards Geelong instead of the M8 (mate) towards Ballarat and more importantly, Adelaide. It was a while on there before it occurred to me, so needless to say, I didn’t leave Melbourne until 4:00. The drive was uneventful, I was a little groggy at the low speed limits, but it started pouring rain and that helped. When it dried up and I was tired again I decided I was going to go a reasonable speed and stay awake. No wonder so many people die of fatigue on the highways here with low speeds, long distances, and little scenery. Anyway, I made it to Adelaide just fine and was happy to meet up with Dave again for the first time in two years just about. We would be having a good time in the week or so to come. Incidentally, these photos are out of order as I had a memory card mishap and had to recover them.

The next morning, Saturday July 7, we went out to the markets to get some supplies, not to mention lunch. Sushi, yogurt, olives, piroski, chocolate, cheese, crackers, you name it. We did a lot of eating and snacking and supply gathering. Dave and I left shortly after for his dad’s place on the Yorke Peninsula, where we stayed the night and ate even more. I made my Greek salad, we had some steaks, and also some soup, and I haven’t been that painfully full in a long time. And I haven’t even started on about the wine and beer. We all chatted for some time and then Dave and I headed out to a real country pub or two and played some pool (both crazy Aussie rules and regulation rules). The one pub, the better one, closed early because there was a band playing at the rugby oval, but we walked by and it wasn’t that interesting.

I was still stuffed when I woke up the next morning. Breakfast this time was bird’s nest, bacon, and pork chops. Pretty nice. Then Dave’s dad (Vlad) took us out around the peninsula to look around, it was a nice drive and quite interesting as a recent storm/king tide had taken all the sand and they were definitely in shock. We also passed by some seals sunning themselves and having a good time by the looks of things. We drove back to Adelaide, passing through Belinda’s hometown and actually running into her mom and grandfather walking on the street and then having Belinda’s dad accidentally run into us on the street. Ah, small towns. It was a nice stop though and we followed it up by driving some distance to a famous candy store and stocking up. On the way home, Dave and I decided we’d head out to the Flinders ranges tomorrow for a couple days in the mountains before coming back home, and got that sorted out pretty much on the fly.

So it was that Monday afternoon (the 9th) found us driving the long road up to Wilpena Pound, a circular valley surrounded by arid mountains on all sides. We arrived when the sun departed, discovering two hard and fast rules that would shape our experience in the Flinders.

1) No matter what you order in the solitary ‘pub’ of the ‘resort town’, there’s always a worse dish to try the next evening.
2) Counting sheep qualifies as entertainment in the absence of all other forms of amusement.

As you may have guessed, there was one place to get food from, it wasn’t terrific, and it also had nothing else to do but sit, eat, and drink. With a big day of driving in the bag, though, and a big day of hiking ahead the next morning, drink wasn’t really an option beyond a couple beer to help the herd of sheep along. Dave was in bed by 9:00 and me at 10:30.

The hike to St. Mary’s peak the following morning was well worth the previous night’s boredom, however. As Dave and I climbed the trail, we saw a distant mountain that looked to be the highest. However, both of us ruled it out as being St Mary’s. Too far, too steep, and Dave didn’t think it would give a good view of the pound. Still, we climbed on as the trail got steeper and steeper, using my itchy shutter finger as an excuse to catch our breath. Dave remarked often on how unusual it was that the scenery was so green and there was running water. It was beautiful to me in the mix of green with red soil and an almost cloudless blue sky. When we finally did reach the top, it was a spectacular panorama with an old river valley (I assume) that looked surreal, the pound, and the other side of the mountains, too. We took turns sitting on ledges and taking photos, had lunch, and made our way down. I lost the trail for a second en route and though I knew it was right behind us (we’d literally just passed a marker), Dave thought we should just go on and intersect the trail below. And so we went down. Eventually, I’d resigned to the fact that we’d have to rejoin the trail above us and backtrack though Dave felt it was still below us. I’d just convinced him when I noticed the trees below seemed to be spaced unusually and pointed this out. We’d found Dave’s trail below, but not after some scrapes and thorns and muttered death threats.

That night, the boredom was exasperated by the fact that the restaurant decided to stop taking orders until an hour and a half after we arrived. It seemed a poor system (better to just queue it and explain the delay when taking orders, I felt) but Dave was livid and whinged his way into a few chips… oops, I mean fries. I catch myself once in a while. We took them back to the room to kill some time and watch TV. Dinner was finally had, and wine, and finally bed. We were going to walk again the next morning, but both our knees were pretty sore from the amount of big boulders on the hike. So, home we went.

Dave had some of his own things to catch up on, so I took the next few days to go into Adelaide on a train and explore. Not much to see, I admit it, but it has a certain small-town charm that reminded me of Saskatoon. Or rather, four Saskatoons with mountains and a beach all stuck together. Belinda had friends over both those nights for dinner, Dave and I went to see Transformers (excellent!) and we visited a bit too. We went out for dinner Friday night to Dave’s dad’s for a steamboat, which is some sort of thai preparation technique using a pot with hot coals in the middle to keep it warm, and that was fun and delicious. I bought Dave and Belinda dinner in Glenelg (the beach suburb) the next night, and we worked that off by taking a trip up into the Adelaide hills early the next morning to climb to the top of Mt. Lofty. It was a short walk but a brisk pace. Calories were burnt.

By now, I was getting anxious to set out on my travels and get work somewhere in the Queensland district. So, I ran errands, posted looking for someone to split petrol in hostels, ran more errands, and booked myself for a Barossa valley tour, which meant waiting another day more than intended. Those two days were very productive and I got lots of stuff done which I won’t bore you with.

Wednesday, the Groovy Grape Barossa tour. I got picked up from the side of the highway since I wasn’t in a hostel downtown and we headed out. The group was a bit groggy at first, but slowly people warmed up. I like to think the giant rocking horse was responsible. At any rate, by the end, we were having good fun, especially Ray, a guy from India living in Melbourne. We stopped at Jacob’s Creek, which is ridiculously huge. We saw signs saying that sections of land/vine was theirs 10 minutes before coming to their cellar. But they export a LOT. We also stopped in at Vinecrest, my favourite for the day, and I bought a bottle. The wine after I did not like at all, and finally Bethany, which was decent but not great. On the way home, I got a call from mom, Mariah, and Nicole which was nice. I also had a call enquiring about a ride to Cairns and a call from Dave about dinner that night, so I was a popular man on the way home. Dave and Belinda took me out to dinner at a Mongolian restaurant called Kubla Kahn, which had a big heated plate that they cooked the food you assembled on. A neat concept and a unique place to have out last dinner together. After that, it was time to wrap things up and venture deep into the heart of the continent. 4000 km, one car (hopefully), and one iron will. Is it enough to get to Cairns? Would I have company or go it alone? Find out next time on this station.

Adelaide, Flinders, Barossa Valley Photos

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