Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Outback Roadtrip - Adelaide Leg

The Iconic (new!) Adelaide Oval.
Do you know how many people have asked me "Why Adelaide?" and to be honest, I would ask someone the same question if they'd told me they had just driven 1800kms to Adelaide on purpose. Well, I'm going to talk about Adelaide, and some of the reasons why many people born there leave quick smart - but also some of the good things too!

Sunset at Port Adelaide.
 The registration plates in New South Wales say 'The First State.' The plates in South Australia say 'The Festival State.' You can't argue with NSW being the first state, but I will argue with the other one. I must say that SA is more like 'The Grey State,' and I'm not talking about the colour of people's houses - Adelaide could be called 'The Florida of Australia.' Everything is slower, and people have dinner REALLY early! Now, Adelaide is in a different time zone to NSW, QLD and VIC, only by 30 mins, but that 30 mins back in time feels like you're in the 1930s, and everyone is at least 30 years older than you. Positive side to this... cheap bus fares?

The Holden factory in Adelaide - soon to be closed down.
Adelaide on the River Torrens.
Adelaide is a small city compared to Melbroune and Sydney (1.2, 4 and 4.5 million respectively), but it's not really that small - twice as many people as Glasgow for instance. The first time I went to Adelaide (I drove from Sydney again... what is it with me and driving huge distances!?) was in 2002, and I blinked and missed the city centre. Sydney and Melbourne both have large CBDs, with towering office buildings, busy streets and so many people walking around and things happening. Adelaide's on the other hand is only 10 km² (but with a very large urban sprawl), 1 main shopping street (Rundle Mall), and a handful of major skyscrapers - nothing compared to Melbourne's huge erections (yes Mel, don't try so hard!). This may seem 'less' of a city, but Adelaide does have it's advantages - quieter neighbourhoods and more houses, less hustle and bustle, and just an all-round chilled-out feeling. Ok, the law allowing you to grow and smoke marijuana for personal use helps.

Semaphore and the beach in Adelaide.
Home of Aussie Rules in S.A.
The tram in Glenelg (wow a Palindrome!)
Traffic. We, as Sydneysiders, know what that means, but ask an Adelaidean, and they will have a different answer all together. In Adelaide, a traffic jam is 5 cars and a red light. The speed limit on all roads is no more than 60 kph, even on the 3 lane main roads in and out of the city, which makes it feel even slower. These roads are the product of Adelaide being a planned city. It was founded in 1836 as the first freely settled province in Australia. Built on a grid system, it works quite well, but since it's founded the city has sprawled to 1,800 km², taking in the satellite cities such as Elizabeth (home of Australia's Holden car company). So now the roads feel abandoned, like it was planned for more people, or just over-planned. It hasn't quite got the dullness of driving in Canberra (another planned Australian city, but full of politicians...), but it's right up there!

Grapes... I prefer mine in liquid form please!
as far as the eye can see...
A Lutheran church in Tununda.
Now, just outside of Adelaide is the famous Barossa Valley. Everyone's heard of it - it is THE wine region in Australia; the La Rioja of Down Under. Now NSW and VIC may say "we have wine regions too," which is true, but it's not the Barossa! Settlers first came to the Barossa in the 1840s - first British settlers, then soon after came the German settlers trying to escape religious persecution. They first started with agricultural endeavours, then soon turned to wine growing - and they didn't look back! Home to some of the world's most famous wine brands such as Penfolds, Jacob's Creek, Yalumba, Wolfblass and Peter Lehmann, the Barossa attracts so many people from around the country and overseas as well. Apart from the wine, it is such a beautiful place to drive along the small, winding roads and just enjoy the countryside. Small towns dot the Barossa, all with their own country charm. No time for wine tasting this time I'm afraid - I was the only driver, and I don't spit perfectly good wine out! I managed to pop into Tanunda and see some friends that I hadn't seen since my UK Working Holiday Visa time - wow, 8 years already!! Great to see you again Corey and Ramona (and Keo and Molly), let me know when you come to Sydney!

Jacob's Creek is no more than a trickle... sorry, but it's true!
Highway sunrise.
Sunrise in the hills.

I spent a little bit of time in Adelaide and the surrounds, but unfortunately time was short - work gets in the way. I needed to start heading back to Sydney. I decided to go via the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne, and although I'd done this drive before, I thought it would be great to revisit some lovely parts of the country. Before hitting the south coast of the country, I passed through Mount Gambier. You've probably never heard of it, and I don't blame you. It is a nice town, friendly people, quiet streets, with a little something extra - the town is actually in a region with the youngest volcanoes in Australia. When I say young, they are still extinct though. The Blue Lake is one such volcano, and is filled with the bluest water you've ever seen. Just outside the town, you park and walk up a slight incline, and there is is. No tourist shops selling souvenirs, no ticket to buy to see, it's just there - great.

My Gambier's Blue Lake.
Mt Gambier was the last place I visited in S.A., the next part of the journey took me to The Great Ocean Road and Melbourne. I'll leave that for the next post I think! Adelaide was good - a nice, relaxing time. It is good for a weekend away, quiet walks, some wine tasting, and retirement. I can't knock it too much - if you like the quieter and more convenient side of life (and what could be more convenient than a drive-thru bottle shop every second block!), then this city will make you feel right at home!

Sunsise over the Adelaide hills on the morning I left - what a lovely farewell!


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Outback Roadtrip

Outback sunset at Mundi Mundi, Silverton.
In desperate need of a break, a jumped in my car and took off - far off! This is too much to put down into 1 blog entry, so this will be the first. My plan, if you would call it that, was to drive to Adelaide via Silverton (outback NSW) to see my friend Nick for his birthday, and to see a bit of the country - both new parts and re-visited.

Broken Hill from the hill.
Filled up?
A moon in the afternoon.
4,300kms, 7 days, 3 states and 2 time zones, 1 man. Yes, these are the numbers, but what's better is the story behind it. As I couldn't wait to get away from the daily hum-drum that is life, I hit the road on Thursday afternoon on the 17th  - along with half of Sydney. Being a long weekend, everyone gets Friday and the following Monday off, so it is the great exodus of the city. Well, I knew it would be bad getting out of the city, but it has to be done - and in the end wasn't too bad. I was heading West towards the mountain, and most people were either heading North or South along the coast.

Just keep driving...
I passed through a few places before my major stop. I won't mention them all, but a cool little place worth mentioning is Orange. About 3 hours out of Sydney, it is your typical country town. Wide streets, plenty of free parking, pubs, pubs and more pubs! There is always a pub called The Federal and The Commercial in Australian country towns. While driving through town on Thursday afternoon, all I saw were girls in boots driving utes! Well, so I didn't see the boots, but they were country girls and they were driving utes, and my imagination did the rest. Orange is always good for a night out - but leave the line dancing out please!

A whole lotta nothin'!

Broken Hill 'Living Sculptures.'
Broken Hill Miner's Memorial.
Broken Hill (also known as "The Silver City," "The Capital Of The Outback," and "Oasis Of The West") is 1200kms from Sydney, so I did get a head start on Thursday afternoon, but it took till midday to reach the town (after a 5:30am start on Friday). Yes, a lot of driving - but if you want to see things in this country, you have to. Not much along the way, but dead-straight roads, and a pancake-flat landscape pocked with only a few low shrubs. The longest stretch of straight road I cam across was 50kms - no curves, corners or deviations... where else but the Australian Outback! Broken Hill is in the far North West of New South Wales, and is basically a mining town; it was found in 1883 after the discovery of silver and lead - the largest and richest in the world. Australia's huge mining company (and the world's largest), BHP (Broken Hill Propriety Company) was founded in 1885, and has since grown and diversified and now produces Australia's steel. Although in the Outback, and surrounded by arid land, Broken Hill has a population of 18,000 people, as well as green parks and gardens. The Living Sculpture display are just 11kms out of town, and are quite interesting - artist from around the world came and carved the orange stone on a hill overlooking nothing. It was just me visiting at the time - no overly excited, but some interesting rocks, and lets face it, a great view from the top!

The 'Big Bench' in Broken Hill. Harder than it looks to get up there!!
Another attraction of Broken Hill is the Miner's Memorial, on top of the 'Broken Hill.' This shows the 800 odd miners that have lost their lives in mining accidents since the mine opened. Sadly, there are many deaths - the plaques show the miner's name, age and how he died. Although mining has always been a dangerous occupation, surely some of these deaths could have been prevented with some simple safety measures - for example, 16 year old Edmund Humphreys was run over by a truck in 1893; numerous 'fell down shaft,' and even more heart attacks. On the upside, in the last 50 years the number of deaths has been cut to what used to happen every year. In one year there were more than a dozen deaths. On a happier note, on the hill you can climb and sit on a large park bench, which is to mining scale - it has been roped off, but I ignored it as I had driven so far, and let's face it, I'm not a baby who's going to cry to the council if I fell off... although it was a big drop!

The famous Silverton Hotel.
The Silverton Municipal Chambers - one of the few remaining buildings.
Just 25kms outside of Broken Hill is Silverton. Although a few people passed through the area, including aboriginals, Major Thomas Mitchell (a NSW Surveyor), the explorer Charles Sturt (who named Broken Hill), and even the famous Burke and Wills (before they died on their momentous trip from Melbourne to The Gulf Of Carpentaria), it wasn't until the 1850s that people started settling here. In 1875 silver was found, and the population boomed to 3000 people in 20 years. By 1901 the population was only 300 people, and in 1915 a New Years Day train was robbed by an Afgani man in what is called the Battle of Broken Hill. Today, the town has about 50 people - a far cry from the 3000, 10 pubs and 5 churches 100 years ago. The Silverton Hotel is the only surviving pub, and is now famous for the movies and many beer ads that were filmed here, including the 2001 movie Dirty Deeds with Bryan Brown, Toni Collette and Sam Worthington, Prescilla Queen of the Desert, and of course Mad Max 2 was filmed here, and just around the corner at the Mundi Mundi lookout.

A relic from the Mad Max movie.
Not much to look at now, the town is full of old ruins and flies. It doesnt take much imagination though to see it like it must have been. The real Wild West of Australia - guys in beards walking around with loaded revolvers, drinking in 1 of the 10 wood and corrugated iron pubs. I'm sure there were shootings over money and silver, horses, and maybe a woman or two. Last time my friend Nick came up here, he saw a guy pull up on his horse, tie it up, and go straight into the pub. He came out a few hours later, wobbled back to his horse, and went home. Where else do you see that? Before camping for the night, we headed up to the Mundi Mundi lookout to watch the bush sunset. Up on a high hill, the same place Max crashed his car, we sat there with a few beers and the dog (and about a dozen tourists), and chilled out. Sunsets are great, and even better in outback where it is just the sun and the horizon line.
Bush sunset at Mundi Mundi, Silverton.
Now, before  end this post - can anyone answer a question for me? Why are country people so NICE!! It's a good thing, don't get me wrong, but it's true! While driving on the road, guys in utes and trucks with give me the, what I call, 'reverse two finger salute.' We all know what the 2 finger salute is, but this was a quick 'G'day' while driving. Drivers would do this as they passed you on the outback roads - not tourists mind, only real country folk - I tried to initiate it, never work, so stuck to just having my hand ready to reciprocate!

Castells in Tarragona

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