From underground living to multicultural Melbourne
Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
207Trip End Jul 20, 2014
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Now that I am sitting at the ultra comfortable and relaxed YHA Apollo Bay, I am recollecting my thoughts about weeks passed. My time in Australia is coming to an end. I traveled the East, the West, the North, the South and the Center and I know I will be back for more. I want to travel Central Australia by 4x4 and revisit Tasmania, especially after reading "Deny King – King of the Wilderness" a truly remarkable man who made the south west of Tasmania his home and significantly contributed to the discovery and research of the area's flora and fauna.
So, let’s backtrack. After Alice Springs I went down south to stop at Coober Pedy for two days. Ever since reading about underground houses and opal mining, I was intrigued by Coober Pedy
The next day I walked around CP checking out some of the underground churches, opal shops, mines and of course the motel. There were plenty of bunk beds in numerous cave-like structures. The dorm was probably 20 or 30 meter deep. It was a bit surreal but at the same time fascinating. The motel is an extremely well cared for place which also organizes its own tour on which I went the next day. Yep, another tour but this one was well worth taking as we probably had the most talk active guide ever. The half-day tour went around town, the mines, the Breakaways, the moon plain, Crocodile Harry’s vast cave and the dog fence. It was a good little tour to get the low-down on Coober Pedy’s history and some of its inhabitants as well as information on flora and fauna
Since I arrived in Adelaide at 6.30am, I had no inclination of spending the day in the city so I booked yet another tour, a Barossa Valley Wine tour. Best money spent ever! Our guide/driver was easy going and knew a lot about the area, history, and the wineries and vineyards. I can’t remember the names of the wineries visited but the first one was Wolf Blass, a German winemaker who made it big in Australia.
We had a most scrumptious lunch; I got adventurous and ordered Kangaroo (I did feel guilty but since the meat was already stored in the restaurant’s cool room I figured I may as well make sure it didn’t go to waste). There was a salad and veggie bar with featured buttery pumpkin and other delectable foods. For desert I opted for the most German of things - coffee and Apple Strudel. With this, I managed to accomplish the successful integration of Australian and German cuisine into one meal. After lunch, it was a bit difficult to move around; I think we all could have done with a quick nap. But the beautiful Barossa Valley waited to be explored and so we visited 3 more wineries and passed through picturesque villages which could have been in England or Germany. Certainly a place I could live
The next day it was off to another helpx stay at Keith where the Oldfield’s awaited me. Joan picked me up in her BIG tractor and after I got changed we got busy doing what needed to be done. I stayed one week with Joan and Tim doing varied things from planting lots of native trees, to feeding the calves, playing with the cats, walking the dogs, driving cattle, fixing up calf shelters and feeding the chocks. The Oldfield farm is huge, consisting of numerous paddocks holding either crops or animals. On our day off, Cameron, a British guy on his working holiday trip around Oz and NZ, and I went south to Mt. Gambier and along the coast.
The week passed quickly and Sunday saw me off again this time on an all day bus trip from Keith to Bendigo and further to Castelmain where Peter, my next host, picked me up. Peter and Karolina and their two dogs Spider and Rex live outside Harcourt, about 30 minutes south of Bendigo on a lifestyle property. I instantly feel in love with their place. The house is all timber with big windows and wood floor and wood oven heating. It has a wrap around wooden porch on which one can while away hours reading a book or looking at the surrounding landscape. In this I saw my future property. Karolina, who is a landscape architect, has a healthy looking veggie garden that provides their daily food since both are mainly vegetarians (with an occasional carnivorous leaning)
Every morning around 8am I went for a 1-2 hour walk with the dogs, and then it was mowing the lawn on a little tractor, mulching young native trees, weeding and training trees. Peter has a rather ingenious approach to training his fruit trees; he puts heavy weights in form of wooden logs or rocks on branches that need to grow away from the center. We also got a huge trailer with horse poo which we spread around the young citrus, olive and fig trees. Like Joan in Keith, Karolina and Peter too have planted plenty of native Australian trees and bushes though not as many as Joan did. The Australian government provides grants and incentives to people who plant a certain number of native plants and many people seem to take advantage of this as new plantings can be seen everywhere.
I only had 4 days in Harcourt, and then it was off to Melbourne where I had to apply for my Chinese visa. In Melbourne I stayed with two of my friends I met in Beijing; first with Yinkun and her boyfriend Kingsley and then with Olivia. Being back in a big city was a bit of a shock after the Red Center and the farm stays in small towns.