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Adelaide Part 2, Dec-Jan, 2013/14

TUESDAY

Our first destination today was 5 Percy Street, Prospect, SA. Recognise it? Yep, the home of R.M. Williams Pty Ltd.

One of my pairs of RM's

One of my pairs of RM’s

The home of RM Williams

The home of RM Williams

Not that anything is made at that site anymore – it’s just a shop and museum now, a short but pleasant drive north of the city.

The museum was interesting and I’m glad we visited. The shop… well, somewhat surprisingly there’s a better range of the Australian-made range of clothing in the city stores we’ve visited. All the clothes here that I could see were the “Bush Outfitter” lines made in China.

RMW Shop - Stephen trying on a Bob Katter hat. Akubra's are still Australian made!

Stephen trying on a ‘Bob Katter hat’. Akubra’s are thankfully still Australian made!

Leaving the nicely air-conditioned shop, we ventured forth again, crossing town to head into the Adelaide Hills and the tourist town of Harndorf. As the name suggests there is (or at least was) a significant German population hereabouts.

The Adelaide Hills

The Adelaide Hills

The open eucalyptus forests and stands of tall dark pines give way to an oasis of elms and plane trees as you drive down the main street of Harndorf. It’s as overtly touristy as North Tamborine in Qld, or Olinda in Victoria. And there’s no where to park!

Entering Harndorf

Entering Harndorf – shady bliss!

We eventually managed to find somewhere on a backstreet that didn’t have a yellow line (indicating no parking allowed) or a time limit, and went to find a cold drink and a light lunch. Udder Delights was just the place! And they serve The Hills Cider, too! Bonus!

There’s an interesting mix of shops, galleries (I would have liked more galleries) and many, many purveyors of food – mostly local I think – and a few quirky places for added interest.

After browsing the main street, and stopping for a refreshing lemon sorbet, it was off to Mt Lofty to see the city from above.

I can definitely recommend going via the Onkaparinga Valley Road to Balhanna, then turning west/left at the sign that says Mt Lofty Tourist Drive (which Google Maps calls both Adelaide-Balhannah Road and Greenhill Road). It’s a lovely drive through country much more as I’d imagined the Adelaide Hills to be. Steep rolling hills, vineyards and orchards everywhere. The only difference was that there’s a lot more eucalyptus forest than I’d imagined. The road is not wide and often there’s no shoulder, so 60kph feels more like 80kph, so do be careful around some of those bends.

Surprises awaiting us at the summit of Mt Lofty were an echidna and a koala in the carpark, and a public drink fountain/water bubbler in the main viewing area! The water from it wasn’t even hot! There doesn’t seem to be enough drinking fountains around this city that has a reputation for getting so hot, and on a day like today (a very dry 37oC), it was certainly most appreciated.

(Side note: be prepared to drink extra water here if you come from a more humid place, which covers all of our other capital cities. ‘Dry’ might mean the heat is more bearable, but you still need to replenish the fluids being lost at what feels like the same rate. Oh, and pack some moisturiser, too.)

To commemorate Matthew Flinders, who named the Mt Lofty Ranges, there is a lovely tall obelisk known as the Flinders Column (which also provides some welcome shade) standing at the viewing platform. There are signs at the edge of the viewing area to point out notable features in the landscape. At over 710m in height (reports of the exact height varies) the view is excellent, and you can really appreciate just how flat the plain below is. In fact, the only wrinkles in the earths surface is that of the Hummock Ranges, just over 100km north-west of Adelaide at the top of Gulf St Vincent. To the south we could just make out Kangaroo Island.

Of the two round buildings seen in photos of the summit (here for example), there’s a restaurant (closed when we were there, with the shutters down) and a souvenir shop that wasn’t too tacky. Mostly the same kind of stuff you’ll find in a lot of the nicer souvenir places around abouts. I’m guessing the “locally handcrafted gifts” referred to by the various webpages and brochures about the location must be referring to some of the products with indigenous designs on them. Nothing else looked like something I couldn’t just as easily buy in Victoria.

It would have been nice to go for a walk along some of the many tracks in the area, but it was really quite hot, and we weren’t properly attired – nor did we have sufficient water with us to contemplate such things. Next time, I hope. It definitely looks worth doing.

WEDNESDAY

Fortunately it wasn’t supposed to be as hot today as the previous two days; it was predicted to be 34oC with intermittent showers. We decided to hitch a ride on the free city loop bus (the 99C) and see more of/around the city to start the day.

Waiting at the bus stop for the Free City Loop Bus

Waiting at the bus stop for the Free City Loop Bus

Alighting at the east end of North Terrace we walked to the South Australian Museum while trying to shoo away the peskily persistent flies. The buildings of the universities we passed are quite lovely, as is the museum itself.

In keeping with museum traditional (it would seem),  bones and/or dinosaurs – in this case a combination of the two – greet the visitors. Unlike at the zoo, this dinosaur didn’t move and make noises.

Entrance with requisite skeletons

Entrance with requisite skeletons

The first room on the ground floor that we entered contained what could possibly be a lifetimes work for a taxidermist – and possibly a couple of his/her apprentices, too. And ode to taxidermy, perhaps. Arranged by continent and region, it was an impressive display.

This is just a small sample – I didn’t photograph the elephant, or the lion whose tail twitched occasionally, for example.

In the old limestone building that is the east wing of the museum, we walked through to an Australian aboriginal exhibition. The lighting was quite dark in here – perhaps to discourage photography in respect of the traditions of the indigenous people? I did ask at the cloaking desk, and was advised that photography is allowed in the museum – on the proviso that you don’t use a flash.

On level 1 was a display of Pacific Island cultural artefacts. Most fearsome peoples! But very talented weavers.

Level 2 was my favourite, containing the best display of (South) Australian fauna I’ve ever seen. Instead of having crowded cases of animals grouped by Order, Family and Genus (i.e. by family trees), the displays showed a sample of fauna in a natural setting. Mammals, birds, reptiles and insects all in the one case together. Beside the animal is a number; using the interactive touchscreen panel in front of each case you can find out more about each animal in the case – and check you haven’t missed any!

It’s interesting for young and old because each display is a treasure hunt. You mightn’t be all that interested in reptiles, say, but if they’re in the case with the mammals then you’ll take more notice of them than you would otherwise.

In addition to the cases are unlabeled draws under some of the displays. Not labelling the draws was one of the best ideas someone had. Through curiosity we learn. I learnt that the first draw I opened held treasure more wonderful than gold!

A draw full of treasure! Birds eggs!

A draw full of treasure! Birds eggs!

None of the other draws were quite as good, but maybe I’m biased… here are a couple more. What do you think? There were plenty to investigate.

It’s not just about terrestrial animals; the displays showed everything from the arid interior to the coast and then underwater to the reefs then into the deep. They even have a specimen of the world’s second largest shark, a Basking Shark! Like the Whale Shark it’s a filter-feeder, but unlike the Whale Shark it’s not beautifully dappled, just simply grey and huge, covering almost the whole length of the back wall. It was getting a bit crowded for a good photograph, though, so I moved on.

The top floor, Level 3, was packed with the most exhibits; an Egyptian Mummy exhibit, an opalised fossil and dinosaur bones display (I love opals!), the traditional gem and mineral display, a travelling Mawson/Antarctica exhibition, a space suit, and rocks – or moulds or rocks from Wilpena Pound showing evidence of very ancient sea life in this part of the world.

Venturing back out into the fly-blown streets again (ok, it wasn’t that bad, but they are really pesky), we walked down to the Botanical gardens. We thought to cut through to the National Wine Centre of Australia and have a bite to eat there, but despite the brochure saying it was only closed Christmas Day and Good Friday we found that – this year at least – it was also closed on New Years Day. Oh well, so much for that. Next time perhaps.

Australian flora section (everything was very well labelled) - just next to the National Wine Centre

Australian flora section (everything was very well labelled) – just next to the National Wine Centre

Walking back into the centre of the gardens to find a cafe, we passed what will be a very nice wetlands area – when it gets some water in it – and came across the Bicentennial Conservatory which contains within it a mini ‘ tropical rainforest’.

I’m not entirely sure what everyone’s fascination is with trying to recreate tropical rainforests away from the tropics. Tropical rainforests are important because they’re biodiversity hotspots, but how many threatened or endangered plants are going to be saved in these hot houses? Are they really that representative of the real thing? Or are they just there to remind people that we have to conserve the real ones? Anyway, it’s always nice to walk through the cooling mist.

Back outside, we once more picked up the trail that leads the devoted follower to food. As you should know by now, I love a shaded path, and this one looked a beauty… but lunch was just ahead in another direction.

A beautifully shaded path

A beautifully shaded path

We didn’t know about the Museum of Economic Botany before we sat outside it to eat lunch. Intrigued by the title we decided to have a look inside – and we’re very glad we did.

Inside this marvellous building is an example of probably every plant you can possibly think of associated with agriculture and forestry. Some of the samples are real and preserved, some of them, like the fungi, are paper mache to better record shape and colour of the specimen.

Back out into the heat, it was a short stroll to the Amazon Waterlily Pavilion (which was also quite warm inside). It wasn’t the largest lily house I’ve been in, but it’s certainly quite a lovely one.

When I first learnt about London’s Crystal Palace built in the mid-1800’s I was amazed and thought it would be wonderful to see such a structure even in this day and age. The Palm House is barely a garden shed compared to that building of course, but compared to similar contemporary structures it’s reasonably large and quite grand. Being a glass house, it is notably warmer and more humid inside…and it wasn’t even a particularly hot day – for Adelaide! Actually, it felt like a pretty average summer day in Brisbane.

On our way our I stopped quickly to photograph these lovely Sacred Lotuses in the Nelumbo Pond (Nelumbo being the genus name of the Sacred Lotus) – not that I knew any of that at the time. Preparing a post for your blog can be quite educational (not to mention time consuming). The flowers are very pretty though, aren’t they?

The predicted showers had arrived and although it wasn’t much cooler immediately, by the time we’d caught the tram that night to Glenelg it had cooled noticeably. No chance at seeing the sun set over the water tonight.

Despite my fears that hardly anything would be open, Glenelg was in full swing so there were a number of places to choose for dinner. After a very nice plate of seafood we caught a tram back again. It’s only about a 30min ride. The trams are nice and new and there’s a security officer on every tram. There may only be the one line (so restaurant trams are out of the questions for now) but for what they’ve got I think they’re doing really well.

< Adelaide Part 1: Driving to Adelaide, Rundle Mall, Adelaide Central Markets, Adelaide Zoo

> Adelaide Part 3: National Motor Museum, Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, SA State Library, Haigh’s Chocolate Factory Tour, Jolley’s Boathouse Restaurant (coming soon)

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Adelaide Part 1, Dec-Jan 2013/14

After a few years of being scornful of my Victorian colleagues heading for the Gold Coast for their summer holidays, telling them that I was glad to be away from the horrible heat and humidity, not to mention crowds, I guess a few people were surprised to hear that we our summer holiday destination this year was not another mountain hide-out with lots of healthy bush walks and quite afternoons reading and enjoying the peaceful surrounds, but… Adelaide.

Yes, that's Adelaide there in the centre. In the middle of the green square. Squint a bit harder

Yes, that’s Adelaide there in the centre. In the middle of the green square.          (Squint a bit harder.)

Yes, Adelaide – the capital city of South Australia. The city that has a deserved reputation of getting extremely hot in summer and most Adeladians would probably tell you there’s not much on there.

However. We were banking on the fact that, like Melbourne, the unrelenting, sweltering (but dry) heat wouldn’t set in until mid-January, and in that optimistic frame of mind we both packed light-weight long pants and a pair of jeans and rugby tops – just incase.

As for boring… I come from Brisbane, which a lot of people (not me) describe as a large country town, and since I’d never been to Adelaide before I had a whole city to discover! And given our previous summer holiday locations – take last year at Walhalla for example – Adelaide was going to be packed full of things to see and do – as you will see.

(P.S. If you do prefer heading to the beach for your summer holiday, keep in mind there’s so much more to the Gold Coast than just Surfer’s Paradise and theme parks.)

Pigs running a muck in the mall

Pigs running a muck in Rundle mall

SUNDAY

Don’t be surprised to hear that we drove to Adelaide. It’s only about 8hrs or so. A good holiday is one where we can take the Mini with us. This time we even managed to pack lightly! Although, had we added the hiking boots and backpacks (etc) it would have been noticeably fuller, I suspect.

I hadn’t realised the towns around the northern Grampians weren’t actually in the mountains. I’d imagined that Stawell (pronounced ‘stall’) and Horsham would be nestled at the foot of the ranges, much like Dunkeld and Halls Gap are. (Mental note: stick with holidaying at Dunkeld for the Grampians.)

The Giant Koala

The Giant Koala, Dadswells Bridge, Victoria – between Stawell and Horsham

After passing the Grampians you’re in the region known as The Wimmera, and it does become a lot flatter. And drier. Some of that is because the majority of fields are of wheat about to be, or recently, harvested at this time of the year. There’s a of hay bales in the fields, too. The colour palette of the countryside is the gold of wheat, dark green of trees that line the roads and dot the fields, and the washed-out blue of the sky. Thank goodness it was only 24oC and there was sunscreen lotion handy, because the sun through the windscreen felt pretty strong.

We saw our first salt lake not far past Horsham (still in Victoria). A number of cars had pulled up at the stop beside it, for the drivers to get out and stretch their legs and take a look. As we’d just had a break in Horsham, we kept going.

A salt lake

A salt lake, just visible beyond the pipeline – this one was in SA

Like a string that was pulled taut then gently released, the road makes its way across the landscape in mostly straight lines. The railway follows beside, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right. You can spot the next town from a few kilometres away because the gain silos are the only things that stand out on the horizon – aside from communication towers, but they’re not necessarily based in town.

A communications tower. Yes, I was happily photographing anything from the passenger seat.

A communications tower. Yes, I was happily photographing anything from the passenger seat.

As you approach the border from the Victorian side, there are warnings (reminders) that you are not allowed to take any fruit or vegetables (plant matter) into South Australia, and if you’re carrying anything of the sort to use the bins provided ahead to dispose of it. As we passed the bins, I noticed that of the two, one was closed off and had a sign indicating it was ‘FULL’. I wonder why the person who was authorised to come and check and declare the bin full, wasn’t provided with the means of emptying it?

Somehow we missed the sign saying ‘Welcome to South Australia’ – maybe because I was more than half expecting a check point where we’d be stopped and asked if we were carrying fruit or vegetables illegally (which we were not). But it soon became clear that we had crossed the imaginary line because:
– the road grade is definitely better
– the speed limit increases to 110kph
– the lines in the middle of the road are separated to keep traffic travelling in different directions just that little bit further apart although they’re sharing the same strip of bitumen
– overtaking lanes become more frequent
– rest stops also seem to become more frequent
– the power poles are Stobie Poles: invented by James Cyril Stobie who worked for the Adelaide Electrical Supply Company, they’re made of steel, sometimes filled with concrete (which makes crashing into them even more terrible than a regular pole or tree, so don’t do anything stupid on the road).

Separated middle lines - not a bad idea

Separated median lines – not a bad idea

It’s all pretty plain sailing (driving) until you come to Tailem Bend, where the Princes Highway (A8) meets the Murray River.  The first sign you’ll see that you’re approaching town are the pelicans drifting on the thermals above the river. Soon you realise it’s not just a couple of pelicans, but dozens of them, all along the river. Keep scanning the skies (if you’re a passenger) and you can spot various raptors. We saw three Wedge-tailed Eagles and I believe I even spotted a Black Kite

Water tower & Pelican at Tailem Bend

As you cross the Murray Bridge, you’ll appreciate the true meaning of flood plain. This fertile area reminds me of the Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane, or Bacchus Marsh west of Melbourne.

‘Hill’ has now returned to the vocabulary, and it’s not really all that long before you find yourself winding up into the dark green Adelaide Hills. The tall pine trees mixed in with the eucalypts help make the hills feel cooler, and it’s with a sense of anticipation that you’re close to the end of the journey that you sit up and look ahead.

Housing estates by the highway in the Adelaide Hills

Housing estates by the highway in the Adelaide Hills

There are a number of signs warning that the decent from the hills is steep, and so it proved to be. Long and steep. What fun it would be on a bike, but it would take a significant effort to ride up in the first place. It rather reminds me of the approach into Wellington from the north… or was it Dunedin? There was one town that has an impressive drive in – this is longer and more impressive, even though there’s only just a glimpse of the city through a gap in the hills. It even has short-ish (500m) twin tunnels. And emergency stopping gravel banks for trucks, who aren’t allowed to go faster than 40kph on the decline.

Heysen Tunnels

Heysen Tunnels

Arrester bed for trucks who's brakes are failing on steep descent

Arrester bed for trucks whose brakes are failing on steep descent

Once you’ve passed by The Glen Osmond Tollgate (the link takes you to a short clip about the history of the tollhouse by SA Life), you’re in Adelaide! As in Victoria, it appears that ‘greater Adelaide’ is made up of dozens of little local councils. It’s one notion I still think is pretty silly – you can tell I grew up in Brisbane! ‘Greater’ Adelaide is not big, and the drive into town doesn’t take long and is quite pleasant.

After checking in and dumping our bags in our room, we wandered down the Rundle Mall, which started very conveniently about 50m from our hotel on Hindley Street. Being late-ish of a Sunday afternoon, none of the shops were open, but I assure you all the usual suspects were there. Quite surprisingly they have a very large Apple Store. Much bigger than the one we’ve been needing to visit (regrettably frequently of late) at Doncaster. And, most significantly, there’s the Haigh’s chocolate shop in the Beehive building at the corner of Rundle Mall and King William Street. The Haigh’s shop has been there since 1922!

I can’t believe that neither of us took a photo of the Beehive building. Stephen probably – quite plausibly – thought I’d be sure to take a photo of it… but alas I’ve come back without one. So here’s a photo from rundlemall.com.au. You can’t see it here, but there’s even a large bee at the top of the spike on the corner turret.

Beehive Bulding - sourced from rundlemall.com.au

Beehive Building – sourced from rundlemall.com.au

Past the end of the mall are the restaurants and cafes. Fish n chips, a cold beer, and a seat in the cool breeze was just the ticket to round out the day, and the pub at the end of Rundle St, car East Terrace, fitted the bill dry nicely. There was a surprising number of people out and about, for a Sunday night.

We walked off dinner by trying to find a supermarket open after 7pm, but it seems 5pm is closing time in the CBD. Fortunately there was one IGA that was open at 8pm on North Terrace, so we at least had breakfast supplies for the week.

Unlike the Brisbane City Council, who were dismantling their Christmas Tree in King Gorge Square as early as 27 December (they’re getting pretty grinchy in good ol’ Brissie), Adelaide’s Christmas tree in Victoria Square tree looked pretty plain during the day, but was very brightly lit with LEDs of a nighttime. Really lovely! I just wish I could find even one photo of it, however far away I was at the time. Damn. Instead here’s a link to Xenian’s webpage showing a short video of the Adelaide Christmas Tree at night in all it’s glory. They did a really top job! I’m so glad Adelaide City Council didn’t dismantle their Christmas Tree before we arrived.

MONDAY

After a late start (I was tired – and I wasn’t even the driver yesterday!) we walked a couple of blocks over to the Adelaide Central Market for breakfast and fresh food shopping.

The Market is not usually open of a Monday, but since they’ll be closed for New Years Day on Wednesday, a good number were open for business. There were plenty of fresh fruit & veg sellers, a few butchers, a couple of cheese stalls and a couple of fresh seafood places. Around the main fresh food market are permanent shops, but the majority of these were closed.

I can happily confirm that the cherries from the Adelaide hills are just as good as Victorian cherries, and cost the same price. The pink lady apples I bought, however, were definitely better.

Adelaide Zoo was our main destination for today. It was a warm day and we decided to walk along the river to get there. To get to the river we went through the Adelaide Railway Station. I learnt that it doesn’t have a name like Central Station, or North Terrace Station, because it is the only station in the city. It has 9 platforms and is the terminus for all incoming lines. The actual railway station part is below street level. When we walked down into the hallway I looked around and asked Stephen where the rest of the station was – but that’s all there is; basically just the hall and the platforms. The rest of the building that you see from street level is occupied by Adelaide Casino. Wow. What a shame. It is a lovely building though.

We could have caught one of the (3) Popeye ferries that travel between Elder Park and the Zoo, but it was faster to walk there and there was plenty of shade along the path.

The River Torrens isn’t very wide, and doesn’t flow very much. In fact, there are fountains along the river just to keep the water aerated. There are plenty of waterfowl around; Australian Wood Ducks by the score, probably at least half as many Pacific Black Ducks for good measure, numerous Dusky Moorhens and Eurasian Coots, although surprisingly few Purple Swamphens (or Pukeko, as the Maori call them). In this hot weather the ducks sit in the share of the trees along the grassy banks of the river. You can get quite close to them… don’t think I wasn’t tempted to trying catching one, but I behaved myself.

I’ve been to a few zoos (ok, so who hasn’t?) but must say I really enjoyed Adelaide Zoo. It seemed every time I turned around there was another enclosure, or it was only a short walk to the next lot – but mostly I think it was the grounds keeping that was the standout feature. Having beautiful tall trees and lots of plants everywhere – plenty of shade, especially on a hot day – is just heaven! (A couple of shared frozen drinks went down well, too.)

Of course, having lots of enclosures close together is one of the realities of keeping animals in captivity. How zoos deals with their limited space is interesting. One slightly puzzling example here is that recently one reasonable-sized corner of the grounds has been given over to robotic dinosaurs. Yes, I know there’s a link between extinction and conservation, but still, I would have thought the museum would have been better suited for this role? Or is that old-fashioned thinking now? Is this really the best use of that space?

Funi and Wang Wang, the giant pandas who are the zoo’s newest (living) star attractions have the largest and most luxurious enclosures. At the moment they don’t share quarters – there’s his side and her side, and pandas need quite a bit of room. You get treated to all manner of things when you’re representatives of an endangered species, popular with the public, and strongly encouraged to breed.

But I was pretty stoked to see some of our own native animals that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Yellow-footed Rock-Wallabies, for instance. Much smaller than what I thought they were, and so cute. And speaking of cute, I can now say I’ve seen a living Fat-tailed Dunnart and two Bilbies in the Nocturnal House. The Ghost Bats were interesting to see up close too. There were plenty of Australian birds to admire in a number of averies around, including a 2-part walk-through avery.

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Of the exotic animal enclosures I think my favourite was that of the Dusky Langurs. Imagine – using a real tree in an enclosure! Brilliant!

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We really enjoyed our day at Adelaide Zoo.

> Adelaide Part 2: Harndorf, Mt Lofty, SA Museum, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Glenelg

> Adelaide Part 3: National Motor Museum, Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, SA State Library, Haigh’s Chocolate Factory Tour, Jolley’s Boathouse Restaurant