Down Under Doings

Trip Start Sep 03, 2002
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Trip End Sep 27, 2003


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Flag of Australia  ,
Friday, March 28, 2003

After 5 weeks in Oz it's probably time for another update !

It has to be said that Nick was approaching our visit here with some trepidation. A country where "gourmet diner" means "we sell meat pies", where the temperatures had been in the 40's for weeks on end, the landscape ravaged by the worst bushfires in living memory and the beer is weaker than the proverbial was not exactly high on his list of dream destinations. I was somewhat keener but, given my track record, obviously concerned that anything that moves here seems to be intent on killing you (not just the meat pie cooks). My concerns were not helped when I overheard Nick on the phone enquiring about a big increase in my life assurance.

Thus far we have survived without major incident - which I'm afraid doesn't make for the most interesting reading. Nick is always much happier when we have some near death experiences to report, but I personally am happy not to be relating any disasters for a change.

THE WEATHER

Well we didn't need to worry about the heatwave, or the drought that has lasted 18 months ! Within 2 days of our arrival the heavens had opened. In South Australia the average rainfall is 250mm a year, we had 35mm each day for 4 straight days. We are thinking of new careers as "drought busters" as rain seems to be what we do best. Despite the image that most people have of Oz being a land of scorching sun, our lovely tans have faded horribly and we definitely need to score some rays soon to top them back up. Still we can't complain, it sounds like we have missed a truly horrible winter in London.

TRAVEL AND TRANSPORT

Bored with cheap motels, we finally opted to rent a campervan for the 4 months we are here. Nick had been agitating strongly for the purchase of a tent - but I think I have made it clear enough that I will NOT be sleeping on the ground with all these deadly creepy crawlies about.

For the first week we had a 4WD truck, and now we are in our trusty "Hitop Van". So far it has worked well - the vehicles have been pretty well brand new and no problems to date (fingers crossed) other than a few leaks during torrential downpours. I had thought that the limited space would be an issue - but actually it's fine which begs the question as to why exactly we needed a 4 bedroom house in London........

We have now done 6,500 kilometers, and we estimate we will probably cover a total 15,000.

SYDNEY

We did the usual tourist scene - Opera house, Bridge, Harbour Tour, Botanic Gardens, Museum of Modern Art, The Rocks, Darling Harbour, and of course some retail therapy.

After 6 months on the road I treated myself to some new underwear (JC you were right - the whites are all grey now). Nick got incredibly excited when he saw the Elle McPherson label and was muttering constantly about "returning them to their rightful owner" until a thick ear returned him back to the real world.

Overall a pleasant stay, but not exceptional. Sydney did not seem to have moved on a lot in the 10 years since I was last here, depsite a booming property market and lots of new developments.

ADELAIDE

A very pleasant city, but not overburdened with attractions. We did find a very good Indian restaurant which cheered Nick up no end.

FLINDERS RANGES

This is the area of South Australia that we had hired the 4WD for, as much of the prettiest scenery can only be seen from dirt roads or tracks that are only driveable wih 4WD. Unfortunately these roads quickly become impassable in the rain even with 4WD..........

After kicking our heels in Wilpena for a couple of days, and observing some of the most damp, bedraggled and miserable roos imaginable, we were starting to question the point of the whole year out thing. However, the sun eventually came out and the roads dried up - things were looking up again.

The Flinders Ranges area is stunning, and we did finally manage to see some exceptionally beautiful countryside - steep sided red stone gorges, amazing rock formations, and virtually no-one else. We also did the "sky trek" a 4WD track across private land that the enterprising station owner will let you drive for AUD 40 - Excellent.

We did one long walk up to St Mary's Peak and back through Wilpena Pound. Unfortunately I managed to lead us off the track on the way back - which could have had quite nasty consequences as we were miles from anywhere, no obvious navigation points, and more than half way through our water. After a panicky 20 minutes or so scouting around we fortunately found the track again and Nick has hardly mentioned it since.

KANGEROO ISLAND

Greatly hyped as one of THE tourist attractions of South Australia - we frankly found KI quite disappointing. To be fair the weather was dreadful, which did not help.

To reach KI it's a 45 minute ferry rise across the amusingly named "Backstairs Passage". This managed to keep Nick sniggering for most of the journey.

On the plus side - the Flinders Chase National Park was delightful, with some striking scenery and lots of roos, wallabies and (my first) koalas. We also saw a platypus and were able to get up close and personal with an echidna (spiny anteater and the only other egg laying mammal (montreme) - one for your next pub quiz Val).

WINE

We had a lovely time in the Barossa Valley, staying at Tanunda (laid back and mellow) and touring the various wineries. Clare Valley was also on our route and had to be done.

Especially notable was the Penfolds winery, where they had made a big effort to be informative, and had some great wines out for tasting. Unfortunately the '98 Grange is not released until 1 April - it's too far to go back now. Wolf Blass was also on the list, as well as many others (but NOT Jacobs Creek).

We purchased quite a lot of "Van Vin" which we have been steadily drinking our way through. First to go was the Tim Adams Shiraz - very spicy and a real bargain at AUD 17 per bottle. Wish we'd bought more.

MAD OZZIES

We have met some great people while we have been here - but probably the ones that made us laugh the most were Stuey, Rodney and Craig. Their status as the drunkest and most incompetent fisherman on the planet was confirmed the evening we found them fishing on a pier. Stuey's line was wrapped round a metal pole, while Rodney had not noticed that his hook was embedded in the back of Craig's head. Craig, who was on his hands and knees trying to pick up the bait he had dropped, had not noticed either.

I initially assumed that Stuey and Rodney were care workers looking after Craig, who appeared incapable of coherent speech, whilst carrying out some eco-crusade to collect all the discarded beer cans on the beach. We soon realised they were all equally incapacitated - and wholly responsible for the small mountain of emty cans (sorry - tinnies). We were incredibly impressed to meet them some 5 hours later in the pub - still standing (just) and drinking for Australia. Needless to say we felt obliged to enter into the spirit, which did not help us to enjoy the ferry crossing to KI the next day.

NEXT - on to Victoria and the big question - would our tickets for the Grand Prix be waiting for us at Poste Restante in Melbourne ??

We will try and do another update soon, and get some photos developed. Nick is quite keen to have something "more interesting" to tell - which doesn't bode well for my peace of mind.
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