South Australia 18 to 26 March 2011

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April 11th 2011
Published: April 11th 2011
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Well I finally got into the driver’s seat but only because our journey was going to be extremely long, travelling from Victoria into South Australia heading for Mannum on the Murray River. The Murray is the third longest navigable river in the world, after the Amazon and Nile and spans three states - Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia where we were hoping to see it. Back to my driving, well the road was dead straight for miles so it was very easy with an automatic car and cruise control………. All you had to do was keep on the road which was just as well as I had not driven for many months in fact not since I left work in July last year (how time flies). The driving was OK but I do miss my own little car though which I left with daughter number 2, Kerry in the UK (hope she is taking care of it!!). As we headed across the border into South Australia you would not be aware of it apart from a small sign on the side of the road requesting that you discard any fruit or vegetables you carried into the roadside bin provided, just the same as when we crossed from New South Wales into Victoria a while ago. We did have quite a few apples but Paul managed to eat most of them in the car before we got to the disposable bins - definitely had his ‘five’ today. We stopped in Bordertown (believe it or not just over the border) and had coffee and a picnic lunch by the riverside. Whilst we were eating the Overlander train passed noisily through the town. The Melbourne to Adelaide train commenced service in 1887, pioneering inter-capital rail travel, although it is still cheaper and quicker to fly which we find quite strange. Next to the railway line was the Bordertown Wildlife Park which is famous for its colony of white kangaroos, which are not albino but a genetic strain of the Western Grey kangaroo. In 1980 a big white kangaroo was captured on a property near the SA/NSW border and brought to the park. He went on to become the founding father of the white kangaroo colony that has grown to become a tourist feature in the town. The first white joey was born in 1984, followed by a second two years later. From there the breeding program has taken off with around 50 having been bred at the park over the years. We continued on our journey following a huge pipeline running along the side of the road and across the countryside for mile after mile (k after k). It was a long journey but we finally arrived on the banks of the Murray River which curls across eastern South Australia roads and which we had to cross to get to Mannum our next stop. Dating back to the late 19th century, a culture of free, 24 hour, winch-driven ferries has evolved to shunt vehicles across the water. Our car was guided onto the punts by the local ferryman who locked safety gates into position before taking us across the river and we were the only ones on the ferry crossing. There are about 11 ferries in operation along the Murray River each manned by these ferrymen and all free of charge. When we drove off the ferry on the other side we noticed that the information centre was located just by the exit so we called in to enquire about accommodation. They said to try the caravan site next to the ferry which also had various cabins which overlooked the river itself. They had only one ‘budget’ cabin remaining as it was the weekend and they were fully booked but we decided the location was good so we took this and it was not too bad!. Later we walked down to the Murray and noticed that the river had broken the banks in many places and areas were roped off. The huge rainfall over the last few months had seen the Murray rise dramatically and was still a couple of metres above normal levels restricting access and closing roads. Mannum where we were staying is the birthplace of the Murray River paddle-steamers, including the first ever built, the Mary Ann constructed in 1853. The next morning we decided to go on a scenic drive along the Murray and then cross on the ferry to Walker Flat which had tall ochre coloured cliffs right on the river edge and was a popular mooring spot for houseboats. We stopped at a large houseboat marina to view some of the boats on the way and spent a pleasant morning touring the area. On the way back the car was being ‘bombed’ with what we thought at first were mayflies but the swarms got thicker and thicker and then we realised it was locusts, they were everywhere. When we finally got back to the campsite it was difficult to get them off the car windscreen and the bumper was covered with dead bodies. The air was still thick with them so we remained inside for the rest of the day it was like being in the middle of a David Attenborough nature film. As it got dark the locusts did eventually disappear but later the trees around our cabin were invaded with Galah parrots who liked to roost in the trees above our cabin. These grey and pink parrots are lovely but the noise was deafening and continued well into the night. That evening there was a huge full moon as it was the nearest distance from earth for the past 18 years and with the night sky so clear we watched it reflected in the Murray River below – quite romantic!!!. The next morning a huge paddle steamer, The Murray Princess passed down the river right in front of us and it made a pretty impressive sight with its giant paddle on the back making neat ripples all the way down the river. Later we left the Murray and headed on towards the Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills somewhere I have always wanted to visit (no not just for the wine). As we entered the Valley we were surrounded by vineyards on both sides of the road and we stopped at one that we knew well (well I did) Jacobs Creek. The creek lent its name to the famous wine brand but was first discovered and surveyed by William Jacob from where it got its name. In the local aboriginal dialect it is called "Cowieaurita", meaning ‘yellow-brown water’ (which it was). We looked around the new visitor centre which outlined the history of the vineyard and the area as well as displaying many bottles of their wines. One particular display was a bottle of claret for each year since 1974 displayed in one long cabinet (although in another couple of years they will have to add an extension). A little bit of history for those of you who are interested - In the small township of Rowland Flat, Johann Gramp, a Bavarian immigrant first planted grape vines on the banks of Jacob's Creek in 1847. Apparently he missed the wine he used to drink in his homeland and decided to start growing grapes and attempt to make the wine himself but what he didn’t know was that when he planted the Barossa Valley’s first commercial vineyard along the banks of Jacob’s Creek, he was also planting the seeds of what would become a popular wine brand throughout the world and named after the creek that passed through his lands. We decided to do a short walk around the grounds as it was much too early for a wine tasting and we would do a lot of that later!!! There were several signs on the track to remain on the footpath as snakes were prevalent in the area, so we set off cautiously and soon arrived at ‘Jacobs Creek’ itself and as we did so we heard this loud rustling in the reeds on the edge of the creek - no Elaine it was not a snake it was far to loud but although we watched for ages waiting to see what would emerge nothing ever did! We did however see lots of colourful ground feeding parrots, some noisy mynah birds and a group of Blue Fairy Wrens. After wandering around some of the vines we left Jacobs Creek and drove into Tanunda the traditional German centre of the Barossa. The town and area so reminded us of our time spent in Germany in the early 1980s, particularly of the village of Lübars which was part of West Berlin bordering East Germany at that time; Lübars itself was crossed by the Berlin Wall built beyond the Tegeler Creek, no not Jacobs Creek but very similar! We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were in Australia and not Germany! The Barossa Valley is an extremely scenic area covered with vine-covered hills surrounding the charming villages of German heritage buildings, and the numerous Lutheran churches with their distinctive square spires. Lutherans fleeing religious persecution in Germany 140 years ago settled the 30km valley, and along with the vines planted ways and traditions of their homeland still cherished by their descendants and very much still in evidence today. German names predominate the area, old homes with their steeply pitched roofs and thatched barns could be straight out of a Prussian setting, and the shops still sell leiberwurst and hot apple strudel, although we did ‘just’ forgo this for some scones, jam, and cream in a local German café! The valley is home to about 50 wineries and some have remained in the same family for many generations. We decided the best way to see as many of these as possible would be to book a ‘wine tour’. We visited the information centre and they advised us that a local chap had just started doing boutique tours to some of the smaller vineyards so we decided to book this for the next day. On leaving the centre we noticed a huge sign outside saying that there was a plague of black millipedes in the area and they were harmless – we hoped that we did not come across these, it was bad enough with the locusts on the Murray! We continued on to Angaston where we were staying overnight and had to pick up directions to the accommodation from Murray Street where we met a lovely lady who gave us a key code to get into the property. We drove along a small road and on to a drive which lead to a circular entrance drive with a huge bed of roses in the centre. Surely this could not be ours, well we have never seen anything like it on our travels it was so amazing, a huge three bedroomed apartment overlooking the Barossa and all for less than we had paid for a ‘smelly’ room in Lavers Hill a few days ago, how can that be! This huge mansion was divided into three large apartments which slept 12 and had sublime views out over the Barossa Valley. As there were no other guests in the other apartments we had the whole place to ourselves including a couple of acres of gardens - we felt like royalty. We spent a lovely evening in our huge new home trying to decide which of the three double bedrooms to use…………... We had a barbeque dinner with wine overlooking the Barossa and even had a ‘glass’ of port, as a whole bottle came free with the property. The next morning our wine tour guide arrived and we picked up an Australian couple before arriving at our first cellar door, Château Tanunda an 'Icon of the Barossa Valley,' and Australia's largest château which was established in 1890. The setting was impressive with its grand blue stone building and beautifully kept surrounding gardens, which even had its own cricket oval and has played host to many World Class Cricketing Legends. We spent a delightful time sampling their various wines and wished we could have purchased some to take home to the UK. It was a shame that they do not export to the UK as we will not be able to ‘sample’ them again. We continued to our next Cellar Door, Langmeil where again we sampled some good quality wines and met some delightful people including a young couple who had adopted a vine in the vineyard and received complimentary wine each year, what a brilliant idea…… Langmeil was a family winery in the true sense of the word and they made you feel very welcome and we even had a tour of their cellars and a demonstration on the wine making processes which you do not get at most cellar doors. We travelled on to Mengler’s Hill which had a wonderful view of the Barossa Valley, a view and area we will remember for a very long time (see photo taken by our guide). We carried on to yet another boutique vineyard where we had lunch (and a little more wine) before we visited our final cellar door of the day (yes we were just standing). We enjoyed our wine tasting tour which was so different to others we had been on as we also knew a lot more about wine and the process at the end of the day. We have outlined a few basic tips for all you wine lovers like me which we generally know but tend to forget. It is often said that red wine should be served at room temperature, but this is the case only if this temperature is not above 18ºC (64ºF). Also keep in mind that some lighter reds, like Pinot Noir, can be drunk at slightly cooler temperatures so if the day is hot or you prefer such wines a little cooler you can chill the bottle in the fridge for a few minutes before serving. White wines need to be mildly chilled but don’t overdo it because freezing cold will subdue some of the aromas and flavours. For screw-cap wines, this optimal seal means there is no requirement to store bottles on their side and they can be kept upright. For cork, however, bottles should only be stored on their side; with the neck sloping slightly upwards so that the cork remains wet otherwise it increases the chance for oxidisation and damage to your wine. We were both quite ‘merry’ by the time we returned to our palatial home but on arrival we noticed black bodies all over the accommodation and yes the whole area was covered in horrid black millipedes. You could not avoid stepping on them and the ‘crunch’ sound was horrid. Apart from covering the outside of the building they also managed to invade the inside so we spent ages trying to locate them all but as soon as you thought you had got them many had returned!! The next morning we said goodbye to our lovely house and left its occupants of black millipedes setting off for the Adelaide Hills another wine region close by. We travelled again through some delightful countryside before arriving at the town of Hahndorf where we were staying overnight. Hahndorf is another pretty town and is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement established in 1839 and with a population of just 1700. The main street is lined with historical building, cafés and shops as well as a couple of German pubs. Everywhere you looked it seems that something happened on this site in the 1800s, so it was quite funny when we saw a sign on a tree outside one of the buildings saying ‘On this site in 1875, nothing happened’ – a good sense of humour (see photo). We visited a couple of vineyards in the area including one called ‘The Lanes’ overlooking the town which had wonderful views and they also supplied wine to Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, so we will be able to sample some of their wines on our return to the UK. We later walked around the village and Paul managed to get his hair cut again whilst I did some ‘window shopping’. That evening we had a delightful meal in the local ‘German pub’ before walking back to our motel. The next morning it was raining heavily as we set off for Adelaide and we could not see anything as we decended out of the Adelaide Hills into the city. We returned our rental car and got a taxi to our accommodation where we were going to stay for a few days before our flight to Western Australia. We were staying in a newly converted boutique hotel which was convenient for buses and trams but still walkable into the centre of Adelaide. The hotel was quite unusual as it had a kitchen on each of the three floors so that you could cook for yourself if you wanted to which was really useful and it also had a laundry room for guests to use. There was a self service buffet breakfast included in the price which is unusual for hotels in Oz so you could be quite self sufficient. We enjoyed the city of Adelaide which is a lot more relaxed and smaller than other Australian cities that we had visited. We walked around the city centre, the lovely Cathedral and passed theAdelaide Oval hailed as the world’s prettiest cricket ground which had a bronze statue of Sir Donald Bradman outside. We also took the tram 6km out of town to Glenelg (spelt the same both ways) which had a delightful bay and was the site of South Australia’s colonial landing. The Bay Discovery Centre depicts the social history of Glenelg from colonisation and there was an excellent exhibition on the rusty relics dredged up from the original pier that was washed away in the 1948 storms as well as some spooky old sideshow machines. The weather had improved today and we had some sunshine at last although we have just heard that the Derby river bridge on Wilsons Promotory had been washed away and many campers had to be air lifted as the only road in had closed. We had been there only about a month ago and it had been raining then, which had prevented us crossing the promotory on one of the walks we had wanted to do – perhaps just as well! Hopefully the rain would not follow us to Perth where we are flying tomorrow. The flight would take about three and a quarter hours and its weird to think that a flight that long would still see us in the same country although in a different State, Western Australia – see you there.


12th April 2011

Visit to Perth
Hi Not sure what your plans are when you hit Perth but we are staying in Doubleview, near the coast, north of the city. If you need anything or want to call in please just send us an email. Happy travelling from us house swappers
18th April 2011

Thank You
Thanks for your email and kind offer of help when we get back to Perth. We are however flying out the same day that we return the campervan to Around Australia and heading on to Broome.

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