We spent our first afternoon in Australia exploring the delights of Adelaide. We should have had the best part of 2 days but having spent half the first night awake I fell asleep about 7am to wake 4 hours later with half a day already gone by the time we got out. I had made use of my wakeful hours by both writing previous chapters of this blog and sorting out the photos but also reading about the local attractions as we now had almost double the original amount of time to spend here.
Our first stop was Tourist Information which, for some reason was hidden down a little back alley near the main shopping mall but not really where one could easily find it. I suspect many searchers never do actually locate the place. However we did manage to track it down and very helpful they were too. Armed with an overview of the city and surrounding districts as well as directions to a nice place for brunch we headed off on foot. The free city bikes would be for a later time. Whilst enjoying our meal at our window table, looking out onto part of the grassy necklace surrounding the city, much like the Stray in Harrogate (whose spring water is served in vast quantities by Emirates airline) I determined that we would need to locate the correct stop for our free bus ride around the city. I put my lack of observation skills down to tiredness as there it was, about 8 feet away, the width of the pavement from our table.
The ride took about an hour and although it is part of the municipal transport system, we were armed with our maps and guides so were able to experience our own personal bus tour. After completing the circuit and just managing to stay awake, we disembarked at the same stop and made our way to Tandanya, the Aboriginal Cultural Institute. We weren’t too sure what to expect but the main exhibit was rather surprising. Aboriginal art is quite distinctive with its frequent use of spots however the simplicity of the designs of the marsupials were a little disappointing even if very colourful! Other parts of the hall presented some much more seemingly accomplished work which we were able to admire. A piece of video art was being shown around a darkened corner where half a dozen seats had been lined up. Whilst nothing special or particularly soft they did afford sufficient comfort to facilitate a little snooze! Apologies to the artiste. On leaving, the woman at the entry desk seemed pleased that we had spent so long inside, I didn’t disillusion her.
Out of necessity our next stop was some strong coffee. I resisted the urge to suggest the nearby park where I could have just lain down and slept for several hours on the grass, or even the concrete, I was that tired. A latte and rhubarb and apple tea cake (in reality a cross between sponge pudding and crumble) seemed to do the trick and we went in search of a mobile phone card for emergency contact when we are in the outback where there is no signal, hmmm, may need to rethink that one.
We made our way into Chinatown in the evening to have a look around and then find somewhere to eat. Although it was only about 6pm the only places left open were eateries. We decided to explore most of the area as we were in no rush to eat after our delicious cakes so started checking out menus and prices. Whilst the menus were fairly standard we became quite accomplished at guessing correctly by the table coverings, formica equalled cheap, tablecloths meant expensive and wood, somewhere in-between. The other notable feature, but perhaps a reflection of the fact that we don’t go out much any more, was the huge mountains of ice cream in the cabinets, not the measly scrapings in the bottom of the tub with which I’m more familiar. We were a little surprised to see so much available as it was officially the first day of winter and everyone seemed wrapped up in their winter woollies and coats except for us although I did change out of my shorts for the evening.
We were drawn to a distinctively different menu, Mexican Chinese! We waited at the bar in this Chinese restaurant perusing the tequila menu, of which there were 14 varieties but plumped for one of the 6 types of margarita which came accompanied by chilli and lime flavoured prawn crackers. Our shared starter was nachos with hoisin duck followed by a delicious shredded beef tostada. We deliberated at length about the other main, surely it was a spell check error, it couldn’t really be crickets with the grilled goat, probably should have been rocket. But no, we had roast crickets with our grilled goat, the latter seeming adventurous enough! It is probably the only time we will have such a combination Mexican Chinese in Australia, that’s not in the guide book, as far as I know, but we can highly recommend it, it was a delicious meal, which came to less than the bar bill!
On our way back to the flat we passed yet another lovely old building, this one having been converted into a bar. It looked very welcoming through the windows so we were drawn in. The friendly bartender (everyone is friendly here) put the tennis on for us in a firelit area with a comfy sofa, very nice, so much so that we had to have a second round whilst supporting Andy through his first set against the French champion kn France with more than half the best seats empty! We still haven’t found out how he got on.
Despite best intentions Roger had to wake me at 10.30 this morning, just when we were going to get an early start to fit in our itinerary for the day. Again I’d been wide awake from about 4am, dropping back off at about 7am into a very deep slumber I was extremely reluctant to leave. We made our way back to Chinatown which also houses the main Central Market. We grabbed ourselves a full English breakfast for brunch and made a whistle-stop tour of the stands but far from doing them justice.
We were heading off on an hour bus trip to Hanhdorf and with our Greyhound leaving at 6pm time was quite limited and we would still only have 2 hours there. This is a quaint and old German town. It was settled in the late 19th Century and many of the buildings have survived with little change. The high street is now a procession of bijou boutique shops selling all sorts of food, wine, confectionery and distinctive clothes. On the way in I also spotted a charity shop, not sure which one but it didn’t matter, they may have a cheap warm jacket. After browsing the women’s rails disappointedly it occurred to me that I’d probably have more luck on the men’s side, there were 2! One was infinitely warmer than the other, more of a thick felt than fleece. Roger said it was a donkey jacket but it really isn’t and for £5 is perfect. I did need to check with the shop assistant what the Greenways-Australia stitched badge was all about. I didn’t want to be flaunting something contentious or seen wearing a restricted item. It transpires to be something to do with encouraging people to plant trees by providing them with free saplings. So at least I can answer any questions with some degree of authority that I have no idea about trees but didn’t steal the jacket!
Our walking tour map of the town showed us all the outlets providing free tastings so we decided to go up one side and back down the other patronising all these generous establishments. The chocolateir was first and we enjoyed some peach and apricot malteser-sized chocolates followed by a little handful of what looked like chocolate raisins but transpired to be honeycomb, both very welcome. Our next stop was a ‘cellar door’. This is a retail outlet for a vineyard or winery as they appeared to be called out here. For £5 we could taste about 10 wines and that fiver would be knocked off any purchase. One of the wines transpired to be the very pleasant tipple I’d had the previous night during the tennis and with our £10 knocked off the price we were very happy. We had been the only patrons for the majority of the time and had a super chat with the server who transpired to be the office manager. After the initial small talk about the wine, grapes, building etc we got onto the subject of Canada where she had travelled when her brother lived there. Bears and cougar stories ensued until she said that the animals there were much more dangerous than the indigenous species here! We had to disagree! Whilst the aforementioned can certainly do you some damage, you at least can try to fight them off whereas here, deadly deeds are carried out at no more than 2 inches from the ground (or your bottom if seated) by 2 majorly poisonous spiders, one with a vindictive streak, and an assortment of snakes to avoid at all costs all with the added element of surprise. We have been wondering about the absence of dogs in Adelaide having only seen 2 and refreshingly, no evidence of their deposits. Could it be that the domesticated variety succumb to these little perishers whereas the dingos are more wily? I don’t know but may be about to find out.
We continued on our gastronmic tour, popping in to the cheese shop where we were sucessfully duped into buying several cheeses, dips and vanilla and saffron infused pears but have no regrets. We went in search of the Harris smokehouse but they were not terribly forthcoming so we left after ascertaining that the name related to the people not the place. We couldn’t find the ice cream parlour, it appeared to be a clothes shop, so made do with the homemade fudge tasting in a confectionery shop where we also discovered the origins of all the chocolate frogs which seem to inhabit any sweet outlet. It is the emblem of the chocolate makers of Australia and whilst not especially unique to this continent it is easy to make, no tails to break off, and distinctive enough to not require decorated wrapper, so there you go, now you know.
We jumped on our return bus with merely a couple of minutes to spare and coincided with school end of day evacuation so had to stand initially but not for long. I was pleasantly surprised to hear how polite the students were as they offered seats to older ladies (but not me – yeah!) but also everyone, not just the kids, said thanks to the driver as they got off the bus by the back door. The 2 women in front of us turned to ask directions to their hotel in Adelaide and having scrutinised street maps solidly for 2 days we were able to direct them to the appropriate bus stop. They were from Sydney and impressed that we, the tourists, could help out and said how mellow and slow the pace of life was compared to their home city of Sydney. Adelaide certainly comes across as gentle and serene, no massive tourist attractions but probably very nice to live in. One guy tried to give us a hand as we consulted our street map where the road changed names and confused us momentarily. If anyone finds themselves here, don’t be disappointed, just relax and enjoy what it does have on offer, we only brushed the surface.
We are now on the overnight bus to Cadney Park, one stop north of Coober Pedy, the opal capital of Australia, not that we’ll see much of it as we’ll pass through at 5am, our stop is 7am. It is a very empty bus and we have been allocated the window seats on either side of the aisle. At this point there are only 3 other people in this 52 seater coach but one is sat behind me. An Aboriginal woman whose noisy family bade her farewell, much to our relief as we thought they were all travelling and several seemed to under the influence. The men staggering about whilst the women sat cross-legged on the cold concrete of the bus forecourt. She however, seems delightful but her only English appears to be ‘Alice Springs’ and ‘my family’ squeezed out between tears. Interestingly, although she does have some kind of MP3 player, earphones do not come as standard! and she is in full voice in accompaniment to some modern type of traditional music! even my ipod headphones aren’t blocking it out despite mistakenly pinching Ben’s good ones! This could be a long night!