Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wed 31 Oct - Meningie SA

We are walking up to an overcast and slightly milder morning, but no rain overnight.

Breakfast last day in McLaren Vale and somebody nicked our last milk from the communal fridge, perhaps 200 ml or so from a 1 liter bottle. Bottle gone.

We suspected a couple with some 3 kids who stayed in a big tent just next to this public area and who had left early in the morning before we got up. Piss poor...

Today was intended to be a slow drive south and then east to likely spend the night in a motel and in a place that we hadn't yet decided.

So, we first drove directly west to the coast to Maslin Beach, which is undeveloped and had a distinct West Australian / Perth coastal feel with the sand dunes and the sandstone behind the beach.

We had by now realised that South Australia is not much for coffee shops / seafood and fish / toilets in public areas or along the water. No coffee shop for that morning cuppa to be found at Maslin Beach.

We continued south to Aldinga Beach and Snapper Point where we eventually found a deli of sorts which proclaimed that it sold coffee. Opposite the shop on the beach side was a picnic table and bench which seemed perfect to enjoy that hot drink of choice. Not a person in sight, and great views.
Well, we got our coffee and went out again... only to see that a school bus with umpteen number of school girls in their early teens had stopped next to our intended coffee spot and starting to fill up the available space there. Big laugh. We may have to find somewhere else to sit, which we did some 5 minutes later.

We noticed that you are allowed to drive on some of the beaches here. In fact, there are proper roads and signage leading down to the beach.

Of course, rebels are everywhere and some people work around the rules and find the way to whatever they intended. We saw a fisherman by water's edge, his ute parked next to him out in the water a bit.
And btw, no loitering at night here...

At Yankalilla, we turned east to get to Victor Harbor. Along the way, we passed Glacier Rock in a lovely little village called Inman Valley. It was called Glacier Rock because you could still see the markings on the rock from moving glaciers a long time ago. All very pleasant.
We drove through Victor Harbor without stopping as we had been there before and continued to Port Elliott a bit further east.

Di has read about this nice seafood place by the water's edge at Horseshoe Bay called Flying Fish so we decided to investigate it for lunch. Much pleasant al fresco dining, with fish and seafood baskets presented in milkshake like cones.

Hans asked Di why it was called Horseshoe Bay. Di answered that it was because once upon a time, they were riding horses on the beach and the horses left horseshoe marks in the sand. She is very clever, Di...
After lunch, we walked around along the beach a bit and then took the van up the hill to behind the beach.
Again, a lovely place, with this lovely YHA accommodation that had an old croquet field converted into a small park in front of it.
Great story about how the bay ended up being called Encounter Bay.
At the point, there were these lovely big rocks and Hans had to act a fool again...
We continued east to Goolwa, where both a steam train and a steam boat / paddle steamer are working the tourist and enthusiast trade, mostly run by volunteers and supported by grants from the public.

Goolwa was a major sea and train junction once upon a time as it is the last town along the Murray River behind the Murray reaches the sea.
After a cuppa on the waterfront, we drove across the Hindmarsh Bridge (of "secret women's business" notoriety if anyone remembers this; the bridge itself is a crappy short 1 lane either way kind of bridge) to get to Murray Mouth, the site where the Murray River meets the open sea.

The water is quite shallow at the Mouth and dredging of the sea opening is continuous. It is a beautiful spot with pelicans, various seabirds, and as always fishermen present. There were also some people filming a bit further away from us.
We continue east to Wellington to take the commuting ferry across the Murray to its eastern side and then drove up to Tailem Bend.

Tailem Bend is a junction where Princes Highway and another major road meet and it is just that, a junction town with nil charm. What a sh..hole that was.
We checked the map of the Limestone Coast and noted that Meningie is not far way and roughly on the way towards the Coonawarra region which we want to go to next. So, after a quick phone call to confirm that we could get a motel room, we drove the 30 minutes or so to Meningie, a cute little town on the shore of Lake Albert. The motel is also aptly called... Motel Lake Albert.

Once we arrived, we decided to upgrade to a de-luxe room which was bigger and had a kitchenette so that we could easily make our own dinner and breakfast in the room.

Dinner was pea and ham soup as an entree and then cheese, biscuits and more wine from yesterday's McLaren Vale supply. All very nice and relaxing.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tue 30 Oct - McLaren Vale SA

We awake to another beautiful day. 33 degrees expected.

Di has made a booking with the hairdresser at 9am, which is likely to take 2 hours or so for some foils (she says she can't stand the grey hair anymore despite our grey nomad lifestyle).

Hans is left at the camp to do... washing. Oh well, it needs to be done. After the washing is on the line, Hans goes to take his morning shower when 2 burly ladies with tattoos wander into the bathroom to do the cleaning... Hmm, a bit disconcerting hearing these ladies talking and laughing loudly when you are standing all naked a metre or two away behind a low door...

Di returns with updated hair colour, more groceries and we are ready to hit the wine tasting trail.

First to Wirra Wirra, a lovely setting with a fun giant Church Block bottle at the entrance...

And a nice 6 litre bottle inside, for show and for sale.
We only tried about 5 wines but bought 2 reds and 1 muscat. Very nice place and very nice wine.

We like this message just outside Wirra Wirra's cellar door...
Wirra Wirra also has a giant post and rail fence which fascinated Hans.

Photo opportunities as well and good wine!

Then on to tourist drive number 60, a very scenic route through the hills, up to Chapel Hill and near the Onkaparinga National Park. The wineries are very close to the ocean in some places as you can see below.

More photos and then on to Olivers Taranga winery for some serious reds. Yummy and 2 more bottles purchased. We are conscious that what we buy we have to drink as they won't store in a hot van - but no real tragedy!

We decide on a lunch break in the gardens of Serafino winery and convention centre. Really beautiful but a few elements made it challenging; firstly the gardener turned on the lawn watering system which promptly sprayed the only picnic table available. No problem we head for the grass with our picnic to be then "stared at" by 3 ducks who refused to move more than 2 metres away at most. Quite cute but did feel like beggars.

Then the geese arrive in some numbers...
Lunch was still good and quite a bit of fun.

Our final winery for the day is D'arenburg and we try quite a lot of red wine, including some top bottles such as Coppermine Road Cab Sav, a 2003 Galvo Garage red blend and Dead Arm Shiraz.

They had this interesting bastard of a wine called Love Grass, with grapes from a variety of places, 14 or so. When we asked about the background to the name, we got a video spiel on an ipad from Chester, d'Arry's winemaker, about Love Grass (Chester seems to be quite a character, lying on the grass telling the viewer about Love Grass...). No, it wasn't particularly tasty...
We asked about D'arry as friends know him, but unfortunately he was not around today. He normally works 6 days a week despite being 86 years old. Nice looking restaurant adjacant to the cellar door, with great views over the vineyards...
We buy just one bottle as a treat - the 2003 Galvo Garage. Will be consumed with dinner tomorrow night.
A quick stop at Mitre 10 to purchase 2 cheap plastic folding chairs that won't kill our backs (sorry mum but your chairs are awful) and then back to the Visitors Centre for a relaxing cool drink and more blogging. Very nice.

Some 20 minutes before their closing time at the Visitor's Center, they started to... close it down. So, we drove back to nice chicken stir fry dinner on the fantastic BBQ.

It looked like rain may arrive overnight, so we moved in or put under the van as much of our gear that we could. Goodnight.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mon 29 Oct - McLaren Vale, SA

We wake up to another beautiful day and to ducks wandering our campground from the nearby creek. Feeding of bread is required...

At the end of the camp, somebody had a sense of humor and created this piece of "art"...

Today we are walking the Shiraz Trail, an old rail line converted to a walking and cycling track from the coast to Wilunga (a little town at the south end of the Vale).

Sort of the same as the Riesling Trail in Clare although this one is much shorter and also surfaced. Horses are also allowed on the trail, although we didn't see any...
McLaren Vale is even lovelier than Clare, more compact as a valley and greener. Vines everywhere you look due to the small area. Amazing to find so many of our favourite wineries within a maximum of about a 5km radius area - ok, we like shiraz...a lot.
The walk is easy going, flat and paved and a few places with shade and benches to stop. What we don't understand is that on the way, near Wilunga, they promote the "Hans Christian Andersen Memorial Reading Seat" which is basically a chair made of bent pieces of tree limbs in a paddock! What the...
With plenty of photo breaks we make the 7km to Wilunga in just under 2 hours. Stop at the Rose Garden for an apple and water.
It's warm and on the way back we stop to eat our sandwich lunch and relax. Then on to the great visitors centre for free Wifi. You could not ask for better - no cost, quick downloads and uploads, a cafe that serves good iced coffee, comfortable couches, and a lovely aspect out to hills covered with vines. Aaahhh this is the life and well deserved after 15km of walking. Life's good :-)

The Visitors Centre has a series of signposts - not that we're really that interested in going back to Stockholm but we were surprised that it got a mention.

Here is a photo of Di for no other reason that we don't have a photo of her from today (OK, OK, she looks good here too...)

After a very relaxing 1.5 hour or so, we make our way back to Lakeside Camping Ground through the Main Street of McLaren Vale, stopping at Coles for food, at BWS for wine (yes, that's correct, 1 bottle only) and the lolly shop for licorice lollies (for Hans) and English toffee (for Di).

A dip in the pool is on the cards, which was very nice indeed. Solar temperature heating which was just right at perhaps 20 degrees or so.

Di is cooking dinner on the BBQ with steak, baked potatoes and grilled vegies. Yum. Very nice.

Later in the evening, a rowdy bunch of 60+ year old blokes were congregating around the BBQ. They seem to solve all the world's problem through loud voices and liberal use of the F word. You know... "... then I told the Mitsubishi guy what he's done wrong..." kind of thing (Yes, one of them yelled that...)

"Old Men gone wild" may possibly be A Current Affair's spin on it... (those of you who have seen Chaser's War on Everything in the last couple of years will get that).

Reading in the van for an hour or so, then it's goodnight...


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sun 28 Oct - McLaren Vale SA

We were not too upset by leaving Port Augusta as it wasn't really much to it.

The local French bakery, claiming to be open 7 days including public holidays, was not open by 7.30am, so our anticipated fresh bread was not to be for breakfast.

We packed up, checked out and left for Hungry Jacks to get some breakfast as well as using their free wifi. Breakfast was greasy and crap and free wifi terminated after 30 minutes. So, we moved on to McDonalds to complete the blogging for the last 5 days.

Finally on our way south by 10am, we drove through a lot of very boring countryside. Mostly flat and scrubby. The most interesting thing we saw was a salt lake.

Of course, A1 passes through Snowtown, a place of some notoriety, and had to stop there for a photo opportunity as we did find that bank building where it all happened (bodies in the barrel case for those who don't know). Not much to the place... So we drove on.
Lunch at Port Wakefield, which had no port at all, a somewhat South Australian phenomena we have discovered, naming a place Port something where there is no port in sight. Seafood pack of average quality adjacent to the highway.
To get to McLaren Vale from the north, you have to drive through Adelaide slightly to the west of the city centre (A13). Not much to report apart from a lot of quite impressive building of flyovers in the north of the city, close to Port Adelaide.

McLaren Vale is beautiful.

The town centre is much nicer than Clare and feels more genuine, i.e. it is there for its citizen, not just a glammed up tourist and weekend destination.

We popped in at the Visitor Centre to get some maps and info about the area and the servicing lady was just delightful.

McLaren Vale Lakeside Caravan Park is fantastic. Just a few minutes away from the town centre and to get to it, you drive through vineyards on both side and a creek on one side. We find a lovely spot next to the creek where we set up camp. 3 nights here...


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sat 27 Oct - Port Augusta SA

After a cooked breakfast of hamsteak and egg, we packed up and moved out of Wilpena Pound Resort.

Before heading south to our final destination for the day, Port Augusta, we took a drive through the upper parts of Flinders Ranges.

We drove Blinman Road north and west into Brachina Gorge Road.

Magnificent landscape, with earth movements dating back 600 million years or so creating the most fascinating earth formations. All around it are the various ranges of the Flinders, which we learned were created under water in layers and then a massive meteor hit about 300km away which created a fault line in the earth.

Over time the eastern side of the fault lifted and shifted creating the ripple effect (and showing the layers of rock) that today is Flinders Ranges.

Also interesting is that the gorge road criss crosses, and sometimes runs in, the creek bed itself. In other words, after a big deluge one can find oneself totally cut off by not being able to cross the creek in either direction. Better bring food and water if staying in any of the campgrounds we saw there.
Eventually, we exited Flinders Ranges National Park on the west side and it was again all... flat.
We drove south when we suddenly saw the most beautiful brown and white big eagle nibbling on a roadkill next to the road. We stopped to take a photo, but being a shy bird of prey, it quickly took off. Very impressive bird though.

We continued south through Hawker (tiny) and Quorn (still small) and finally saw water and a settlement in the distance through all the emptiness which must be Port Augusta.

It was by then lunchtime and we were dying for some Chinese food. We found a classic hole in the wall kind of noodle place, one of those that does anything from Chinese to Thai to Japanese to Pasta etc. So we stopped there and had a few Asian dishes, which were nice enough.

After lunch, we decided to go to Big W and Woolies, by the water, before we went to check in at the motel at the back of Hotel Flinders. Parking ended up being just outside the door, by fluke. The motel is very basic Bessa Block but good enough for us for a night, and cheap at $70.

In the afternoon, we took a stroll along the foreshore and towards the 2 bridges that we saw on our way in. One bridge is a newish bridge for cars which has clearly replaced the second bridge which is now used by people fishing.

A local "identity" out on the boardwalk...

View from the car bridge...
And what has Jem done here...? And what does it all mean...? (Jem is a sometimes nickname for Jeremy)

On the other side of the bridges is Hotel Augusta where we had a cold one each while discussing the frontier and blokey feeling of the place.

On the way back, we swung by Radio Rental by the off chance that it is still open..., and it was. And they had a Belkin bluetooth keyboard, same as the one Hans forgot in Jamestown Library. The price was prohibitive though, $129, but the nice sales assistant let us have it for $100. Deal.

Back to Hotel Flinders after a quick visit to Liquorland for a bottle of vino for tonights dinner - more Chinese is likely as Port Augusta does not seem to be the fish and seafood place we thought that it would be.

So, dinner was at Golden Pearl, Chinese and hastily added, Malaysian Restaurant on Commercial St in Port Augusta. It was just as you would expect it, a big room, with Chinese junk art on the wall, run by a Chinese couple with a caucasian person to help out, in this case a humor free older lady who didn't seem too smart and with fork and spoon on the table, chopsticks on request only. We ordered 2 satay sticks as an entree and it came with a caution that it is hot...

All good fun. And a good meal of garlic prawns and mongolian chicken. We LOVE country Chinese restaurants. They are just so much fun.

On the way back to Flinders Hotel, Di decided that she wanted a glass of milk ordered from the pub. Now, this is Saturday night, around 9am. The order totally threw the heavily tattooed young man behind the counter. He dropped everything and went running around the pub in search of the holy milk. Eventually, he found a 2 liter milk and then didn't know how much to charge for the glass. Di suggested $2, and deal.

Back to the room for the night....

BTW, a somewhat lazy job of connecting the TV to the aerial...