Monday, July 20, 2009

Days of Wine and Roses, and Dingos, and Kangaroos, and Wedge Tail Eagles, and the long roads of central Australia

If you're still reading after that title, you will get an idea of what we did on the last holiday. We made it back to Ferny Creek on Saturday night, and everyone is getting settled back in school. I picked 2 Wpg friends up at the airport today, and they are figuring out their trip around Australia. So we'll only see them for a day or two now, and more when they get back.

The wine and roses were in the Barossa Valley, which we experienced with Lesley, one of our new friends from the bus tour to Alice Springs. Lesley, an Australian who lived in the Canadian arctic and on Vancouver Island for many years, welcomed us to her new home north of Adelaide. Lucky for us... it's just on the edge of the Barossa Valley, so we were able to visit 3 wineries (Burge, St Hallam, and Orlando at Jacob's Creek). Lesley had scones for us on our arrival (yes, once again I managed to get lost, so we were late getting to those fresh scones), took us to Maggie Beer's for a cooking demo and tasting, and served a picnic lunch (quite late in the day because I got lost on the way to Lesley's) on the grounds of the Orlando info centre at Jacob's Creek.

From the Barossa, we drove up to Mildura, home to more vineyards, including Lindeman's and Wolf Blass and orange and olive groves amongst other farms. The farms are green thanks to irrigation from the Murray River, which was actually flooded in a few places, due to the huge rains they'd had the week before. That river winds a very sinuous path through northern Victoria and southern NSW. Yes, I know Australia is in drought, but the storms that hit Adelaide when we were there were intense, and there's more water than we expected in the Murray.

In Adelaide, we walked on the beach (Brighton and Sea Cliff) in between rain storms. At the Brighton pier, we met a local "oldie", who warned us away from his little terrier blend because the dog was grumpy. Grumpiness was due to the fact that the man wouldn't let the dog jump off the pier. Apparently this is normal for the dog, but because of the stormy weather, the man didn't want to climb down the ladder (I'm guessing it was at least 7 metres to the water from the top of the pier) to retrieve the dog. So the dog marched back down the pier, dissing everyone with his grumpy face, wearing his winter coat! All he wanted to do was jump from the pier.

Mildura led us homewards, back to Ferny Creek. But I've started at the end of our adventure, so I should move us to the beginning, which started with a drive to Adelaide 3 weeks ago (had to leave a few days later than we planned because the starter motor on the car broke), and then a tour group up into the centre of Australia.

What we managed to see probably is about 1/10 (or less) of central Australia. Alice Springs and Adelaide are about 1500 km apart, and it's another 1500 or so on to Darwin. Now we wish we had somehow managed to get ourselves up to Darwin, but we'll have to save that for another time.

We joined a group of exchange teachers and local Adelaidian (if there's such a word!) Australians on a bus tour up to Alice Springs via Woomera, Coober Pedy, Yulara (the resort that is home to Ulurua and Kata Tjuta), King's Canyon and King's Creek Station, and ultimately, Alice Springs. Our bus drivers/hosts were David and Sonia Camilleri who operate Banksia Tours. They've spent years in central Australia, so were able to offer their knowledge and lore. They provided meals, or the Exchange Teachers group organized meals in the more "urban" settings, and our accommodation varied from a caravan park in Woomera, to an underground hostel in Coober Pedy, to tenting in Yulara and King's Creek Station, to a motel in Alice Springs. From Alice we went back to Adelaide, where we stayed at the home of another exchange teacher, from Sidney BC, a very generous offer on her part. That gave us time to visit a few galleries and museums in Adelaide, and check out the Central Market for the second time -- specifically, eat at the Asian food stalls of the Central Market. From Adelaide we went on to Lesley's... see above... now you're going in a circle.

I'm going to talk about our experiences on each leg of the trip, but thought I should quickly get this message out to let you all know we are back in FC, safe and sound.

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