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  • Writer's pictureNick Elsey

Adelaide and the Barossa Valley

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

10 Feb 2002 - Driving to Adelaide

You get to see an awful lot of this view

We wave a fond farewell to the Wongary Cottages and hit the road for Adelaide. We have approximately 350 miles to get there, but at this point we can do this kind of mileage in our sleep. First stop, just a couple of miles out from the cottages, are the Naracoorte Caves, a collection of limestone holes in the ground, full of prehistoric fossils and dripping stalactites. I do a bit of spelunking while Lynn hangs out in the visitor's centre, trying to warm up.

It's a long drive to Adelaide and very hypnotic. The picture on the right say's it all - this is the most exciting thing I could find to photograph for hours. The scenery is picturesque, but there is sure a lot of it!

Sunshine! Yes - for the first time in what seems like ages, we get treated to blue skies and blazing sunshine. Whoo hoo! Adelaide here we come! One of the things that we find very amusing is the inordinate number of tiny towns along the way. Every 20 or 30 miles or so, you'll see a sign with something to the effect of -

Welcome to Beltbuckle

A tidy town

Population 13¼

You then drive past a general store, one house and a farm (and if it's a slightly larger town, a gas station and a grain silo), and then 200 yards later you pass the farewell sign:

Thanks for visiting Beltbuckle (not that you really intended to)

A tidy town

Population 13 (the cat died)

The question is - why do they bother? It must cost the state a fortune in signposts alone.

We stop off in the town of Keith (a virtual metropolis) and pick up a couple of sandwiches for lunch. While waiting for the delicacies to be constructed I glance over the newspapers and notice that Princess Margaret has died. Do you think that this will become one of those seminal moments in life where everyone can say where they were when Kennedy was shot and now, when princess Margaret died? I hope so, 'cos I will surely be able to remember where I was.


Lynn writes...'Food, glorious food' You never know what you will find in an Aussie sandwich. A roll, sparingly labeled “chicken,” might also include beet, hard-boiled egg, tomato, lettuce, cheese and butter but never mayonnaise. A “Mexican” included slices of grilled eggplant, onions and red peppers, with a bit of cheese and smattering of flavorful aioli, all served on a Turkish roll. Tuna gets paired with shredded carrots, fresh tomatoes and cucumber. No mayonnaise in sight. Fillings seem to get a bit gooey-er the further west you go. Breads range from your standard sliced stuff to the ever-popular focaccia and soft baguettes. The one consistent factor is size — enormous.


A water mill. Pretentious wine tasters to be found inside

Just shy of Adelaide we stop of in the town of Bridgewater (cunningly named after the historic bridge that they built over the river's water). Highlights included an old mill with a huge water wheel that is now a restaurant & wine tasting room, full of some rather pretentious wine tasting types. Lynn and I sup a glass or two, standing next to a rather crass American who's announcing to anyone within earshot that he's over from the states on a multi-month wine tasting tour. He swills and spits his wine into a nearby bucket and we're tempted to swill and spit our wine onto his shoes.

We've got ourselves booked into the Saville Park Suites in Adelaide, having picked the place primarily on the strength of the sister apartments in Melbourne, which looked quite swanky (at least from the lobby). Unfortunately, the suites turn out to be in Adelaide's red light district, appear to be habituated by druggies and the touring grunge-rock bands and worse yet, the room is awful.

Five minutes after checking in, we check right back out again, and high tail it over to the Old Lion Apartments, which is where we stayed last time we were were here. We're welcomed back like long lost friends. After dumping our stuff (which somehow now seems to take about ½ hour, even though we left the states with two suitcases - I think our luggage is breeding) we head into Adelaide for a bit of a recon.

Last time we were in Aus in '98, Adelaide was by far our favorite city, while Sydney was a big disappointment. Since we have conversely loved Syney this time around, we're interested to see what our first reaction will be to Adelaide now. The answer is....'errr....don't think so'. The city's not terrible, but we have an immediate negative reason to it. Perhaps it's the fact that the weather isn't as nice this time around, or that we got off to a bad start, but the city just seems so much more grungy and run down than Sydney or Melbourne.

However, the day finishes off on a high note. Lynn is researching an article she'll be writing from a U.K. wine magazine, and as part of this we are to eat at Ying Chow (114 Gouger Street) in Adelaide's China town. Now, for those of you that know me know that I love Chinese food - indeed I used to average 4 meals a week. Needless to say I have eaten a lot of Chinese & Asian meals and consider myself a bit of a connoisseur on the matter. I have to say that this meal was, by far, the best Chinese food I've ever tasted! I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. If you ever find yourself in this city (and you should if you have the chance - it has a lot going for it) - you must go to Ying Chow and have the 'E-Shand chicken'.!!!! For the celibate readers, this is as good as life is going to get for you.

11 Feb 2002 - Adelaide day 1

Queen Vic in her square

Sunshine! We wake to a bright sunny day! Hey, Adelaide isn't all that bad after all. Lynn has a long list of wine bars, restaurants and wine stores to poke around in for her article, so we split up today and go our own way.

Lynn drops me in the middle of Victoria Square (aptly named for the statue of Queen Victoria in the middle of it). I'm optimistically dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt, but it's still pretty chilly in the shade. I pick a direction and walk briskly, trying to outrun the cold breeze.

By some spooky coincidence, I turn a corner end up just down the road from the Saville Road Suites, location of yesterday's check-in-debacle. As I walk out of the red light district, I'm struck by the incongruity of it all. Every so often you'll pass a fancy 5 star hotel, with a massage parlour and an adult book store on either side. You have to wonder which came first - the porn or the hotels.

Museum of South Australia

My next stop is the Museum of South Australia. I'm usually a sucker for this kind of thing and can happily spend hours poking around the exhibits, but I find this building strangely unfulfilling. It's gets off to a good start, with a collection of dolphin & whale skeletons in the foyer (you can even ogle them while taking a tea break in the cafe), but after that, it gets strangely obsessed with all things Aboriginal. Now, I realise that the Aboriginal culture is an important part of Australian life and history and any self-respecting Aussie museum most devote some floor space to it, but there should be so much more than this! A small placard tells me that this museum has over 1 million vertebrate animal specimens alone in it's collection, and yet over 50% of this rather small museum is given over to displays of Aboriginal artefacts, culture, etc. Interesting though these are, frankly, after you've seen one pointy spear, you've seen them all.

Torrens River

I bail after an hour or so and head over to the Adelaide Zoo, strolling beside the delightful Torrens Lake River on the way. Adelaide and Canberra are unique among the Australian cities in that they were actually designed from scratch, rather than grown amorphously from a bunch of convict's huts. While Canberra exhibits a striking resemblance to Washington, D.C. in it's layout, I'm less sure what Mr. William Light (the designer) had in mind for Adelaide. The layout is a bit drunkard to be honest. However, one of the better ideas of Mr. Light has was to surround the immediate downtown area with a series or parks and botanical gardens (which was awfully nice of him). The Melbourne Zoo can be found on the banks of the river in one of these very same parks.

A Macaw, desperately trying to avoid extinction

I must admit I have a wonderful time in the zoo. I always feel a little guilty in these places, especially in a zoo such as Adelaide's which has a very limited amount of real estate to play with, resulting in some of the larger primates and big cats locked into way too small enclosures and exhibiting heartbreaking repetitive behaviour. But then you sit and listen how the zoo is helping to save the 15 remaining species of wild macaws and you just want to give them lots of money and big hug.

Tonight Lynn is being whisked off to the Penfolds winery for a wine tasting and food gorging tour, but I've decided that Mr. Chow really needs another visit, just to make sure that last night wasn't some kind of taste bud illusion.

It wasn't!

12 Feb 2002 - Miners Cottage

Hanging out in Miners Cottage

Sometimes life is good, and then sometimes life deals you a royal flush and it just can't get any better than this. We've spent the last three days up in the Barossa Valley, staying at the Miners Cottage. For those of you that've done their homework and read our last Antipodean Journal, you'll know that we loved staying here more than anywhere else. Sometimes the old adage 'you can't go home' just isn't true - we loved it just as much, if not more, this time round than than the last.

The Barossa Valley in all its glory

I won't bore you with all the details, but needless to say, we've just spent a very relaxing three days just hanging out, checking out the local wineries and generally being the living incarnation of the word 'mellow'.

One of the highlights was a dinner party at Glen Ewin Estate, friends of the owners of Miners cottage. The evening was perfect - a long lazy evening under the stars, eating great food, drinking way too much wine and enjoying great company. Once again the Australians demonstrate their innate tendency for incredible friendliness to complete strangers.

13 Feb 2002 - Adelaide

Today we drove down from Miners Cottage (waving a fond farewell as we left) and we're staying at the Grand Apartments in North Adelaide tonight, just round the corner from the Old Lion Apartments.

Lynn is checking out the National Wine Center today, which was built at great expense and hoopla to represent the great Australian wine industry to anyone who's interested. Unfortunately, most of the visitors to this part of the world appear to be more interested in visiting the wineries, rather than the wine center, so it's become a bit of a white elephant and a money pit.

Meanwhile, while Lynn does that and checks out various restaurants and wine bars, I vegetate. Boy, what a lazy bum I was today! No energy at all - I think all this heat and wine tasting has caught up with me.

Lynn and I round off the day catching up on a bit of the local TV shows. There's one called Auction Action (or something similarly inane) where the TV station sends round a whole bunch off beefy blokes to 'fix up your house a bit' just 12 hours before it's due to be auctioned off (most houses are sold by auction in this country). The look on the owners faces when they were allowed back in to see the 'after' version were priceless. The shocking part of it was the price that the place sold for. This was a tiny little two bedroom single story 1500 sq foot Sydney suburb house, with perhaps 5000 sq feet of garden (yard) and it finally went for AUS$500,000 (US$250,000, UK£160,000). Yikes - housing in Sydney is expensive, especially when you consider that the average salary for that part of the world is about AUS$75,000 (US$38,000, UK£25,000)!

14 Feb 2002 - Adelaide Hills

Al-Ru Farm Cottage

Tonight we plan on staying at a delightful little cottage on Al-Ru Farm in the Adelaide Hills. Alan and Ruth (Al-Ru Farm - get it?), are friends of Godfrey, the owner of Miners Cottage. We stopped over here on Wednesday night on our way to Glen Ewin and liked it so much we decided to come back.

Hell, now we're really lost!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. As we leave Adelaide we pass a parking lot with a few folks crowding around some suspiciously shaped cars. This turns out to be the starting line for the Australian Solar Car race, a 2,000 km (1,250 mile) 8 day race, the main contending vehicles being purely solar powered (although there are battery and gas/electric hybrid vehicles also).

Hey mate - where's the gas cap?

The weird thing was that even though the local politicians and TV camera crews had turned out to give them a send off, almost none of the local population had. In fact, for an event that (hopefully) represents the transportation technology of tomorrow, local interest in the event was pitifully low. Still, we had fun.

The entry from the boys in blue

Our lunch pit-stop was in the town of Hahndorf, just outside Adelaide, which as the name suggests, has a distinctly Bavarian feel to it. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear that Adelaide had contracted out to the Disneyworld architects to come over and construct a Bavarian Village for them, but apparently it's the genuine article, settled by a bunch of Germans 150 years ago. If you're into the chalet and bratwurst scene, this place is for you.

However, on the upside it has to be said the restaurants serve some mighty fine import beers.

Feeling a sudden need to absorb the culture of our Deutschland brethren, I settle in to a lunch of sausage and German beer, while Lynn wanders off to find the local tourist info shop and eat something with a little less carbohydrate.

The rest of the afternoon is spent sampling a couple of the local wineries, and stopping off at the World's Largest Rocking Horse (60 feet tall no less). I'll bet there aren't many folks out there that can lay claim to that!


Nick on Sunday trading... Just when you think the Aussies have paradise nailed, you wake up on a Sunday morning and it feels like you're back in the UK 15 years ago. Just about everything is closed, except the home improvement stores. Even the shopping malls and huge chain grocery stores are closed all day Sunday!

This would be unthinkable in the states, and is almost unheard of in the UK today (except for some of the more remote villages in north Wales and the Lake District).

But down here in Australia, it's a day of rest (or home improvement), whether you like it or not. However, rather than these trading laws being imposed by the religious right (as was the case in the UK), I suspect that over here it's for a much more enlighten reason - work is much less important to folks over here and they really do want to get the day off. This working theory is backed up by the fact that most of the parks were populated by the locals firing up the 'barbie (BBQ) and getting setup for a day in the sun. No worries mate!


16 Feb 2002 - Adelaide Hills

Al-Ru Farm

Well, today we were supposed take our leave of Al-Ru Cottage and head over to stay in another cottage in the McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide, but frankly, we really can't be bothered. We like it here too much, and we've accumulated so much junk by this point that it takes 20 minutes to load up the car and unload at the other end. So - we're staying here another night instead.

But, we can't miss out on the McLaren Vale, site of some of the best wines in Australia, so after a hearty breakfast, we jump in the car and head south.

Hey! Look what I found in the garden

Once we get through Adelaide (fairly easy most of the time, a breeze during the Sunday morning desertion), our trip on south is expedited by a most unusual freeway. Unlike most freeways (or motorways) where you expect to be able to drive in both directions, this one only allows one direction at a time. It must have been built on a very tight budget, since it only has two lanes, and twice a day the direction is changed so that both lanes are either going south or north at any one time. It's quite strange when you think about it - back to back signposts; exit ramps on the wrong side of the road which double up as on ramps also; lots and lots of surveillance cameras (so that they know the last vehicle has cleared to freeway before allowing traffic on from the other end). It's enough to make your head spin. Needless to say, we made it to the wine country without being killed in a head-on accident by some illiterate tourist. The wineries were duly perused and some good buys were found.

17 Feb 2002 - Adelaide

Henley Beach, west of Adelaide

We make a lazy start out from Al-Ru Cottage and head on into town again for a night in the Grand Apartments, our last night in Adelaide (sob sob).

While Lynn spends a few hours in the afternoon exploring downtown Adelaide and the Botanical Gardens (which are apparently very picturesque), I head directly west for some time on the beach.

A mere 15 minutes later I've reached Henley Beach, and what a beach it is. Fine, white sand, tolerably warm water, very few people and mile and miles of it! After a very pleasant lunch in the sun, I go for a stroll along the beach and quite loose myself in the exercise. 30 minutes later, I find myself a long way from where I started and decided it's time to turn around and head back to the car.

Tomorrow we jump on a plane back to Sydney, en-route for the Blue Mountains, which was a big hit with us last time were were down here. Hopefully, the weather with be nice to us (it's still raining back in Sydney).

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