Australia adventure part 2

Well, its been a week since my last posting and tomorrow we head off back to Canada. I miss my kids, but I’m reluctant to say goodbye to this wonderful part of the world.

It has been a busy week. We arrived back in Adelaide on Monday evening, quite late after our week on the Eyre peninsula and an interesting flight from Ceduna. Arriving in the city centre, we checked  into our hotel and headed off for a late night snack at an old favourite haunt on Leigh street. Sitting in the small pub, listening to the activity on the street and the banter inside, we were once again grateful to be back in beautiful Adelaide. Sadly, an early morning start meant that we had to limit our stay at the pub and grab some much needed sleep.

The next morning, the fun began once again. It was a bit stressful picking up our rental car and negotiating our way out of the city. Driving around rural South Australia the previous week had given me some useful experience driving on the left side, but there weren’t quite so many cars as there were in Adelaide. To my happy surprise and much relief, the drive out of Adelaide was worry free and we were soon on our way to the first destination; Jamestown.

Jamestown was an interesting experience and a picturesque place in all. The only odd feature was the apparent lack of people. Walking around the town centre ( which was designed by the planner responsible for Adelaide’s Central area), there were lots of parked vehicles, but no people—-or very few. Plus, everything was closed with the exception of a couple of pubs. But you have to take the crunchy with the smooth and we plonked ourselves down at the nearest pub and soon got talking with a couple of fellows who were in South Australia to work on erecting wind turbines as part of a large renewable energy project. We discovered that the project was somewhat behind schedule and they expected to be there for a couple of more months yet. The area is ideal for wind turbines because of the almost constant wind, but it’s very difficult to erect turbines when it is windy. Hence the delay.  After sympathizing and finishing our drinks, we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Incidentally, our hotel was one of only a couple of places where you could get dinner, and it stopped being served at 8:30 p.m. Afterwards we had an interesting and amiable discussion about politics with a fellow in the bar, helped along by a couple, or maybe three glasses of bourbon. It was good fun, but in retrospect, we probably should have been more mindful of our need to get going early the next day. The following day, after Rachel had conducted some interviews and bought two new pairs of essential footwear:), we headed down the road to Burra, our next destination.

Burra was our base of operations for the following two days, and is a charming little town. Situated at roughly the top end of the Clare Valley, Burra dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when copper mining was the big industry in the area. It also had an amazing brewery with extensive underground cellars for fermentation and cooling. We stayed in what were formerly miners cottages, small, solidly built stone row housing with enough modern upgrades to make them super weekend getaway options. From Burra, we headed down through the Clare valley so Rachel could continue her research in some of the small communities that dot the landscape. It was pretty idyllic, with vineyard after vineyard and the opportunity for me to spend a couple of hours catching on reading at each stop. At the end of each day, we returned to Burra and discovered some of the hidden treasures in town. Our favourite experience was discovering the Black Sheep (Pecora Nera) Italian restaurant just down from where we were staying. The most authentic ( and delicious) Italian cuisine that I have had outside of Italy. It helped that the chef is from Rome, having relocated to South Australia ten years ago. I’m still trying to get my head around that. Rome to Burra; that must have been quite the culture shock. Anyway, the food was delicious, the service was friendly and the music was courtesy of a stack of records and a turntable. Magnificent!

The week was very busy, lots of driving, and Friday afternoon we found ourselves headed back to Adelaide to spend the weekend with some good friends. The only tricky bit was that our late departure from the Clare valley, brought about by the necessity of visiting a vineyard (We really couldn’t spend a week in one of Australia’s best wine producing regions and leave empty handed) meant that we arrived back in Adelaide right in the middle of rush hour.  Fortunately, our good experience with driving in Australia continued and we made our destination with no issues. After dropping our luggage, we promptly headed out for dinner courtesy of our good friends Clive and Les. After some excellent Mexican food, we head back to the house where we kept them up to an unreasonable hour before heading off to slumber land and dreams of Saturday morning shopping.

Okay, we got started a bit later than we had planned on Saturday, but not too late. After getting our rental car back to the drop off, we headed off to the cobblers in Adelaide Arcade to see if they could repair the handle on Rachel’s suitcase as it had come unstitched. We wouldn’t have bothered and waited until we got home, but this is the only, yes only, handle on the suitcase. Unfortunately, they weren’t equipped to deal with it, but gave us the name of another place that could. The only problem that we could see was that, having gotten rid of the rental car, it was a long walk to the other repair place. Taking a quick, though critical, look at the suitcase, we decided it would probably last and set off to get coffee and shop. So, we schlepped the darn suitcase around downtown Adelaide for about four hours and got some interesting looks. It did, however, come in handy for carrying our various purchases. Eventually tiring of the looks and walking around in the heat, we headed back to see our hosts, where we had been promised and evening with their family and friends.

The last time we were visiting Adelaide, I remember some epic evenings with the Needhams and their friends. After we left, I often looked back and wondered if my memories were not tainted a bit by nostalgia. Nope, they were epic evenings and Saturday night was just as good. A fair amount of good red wine was consumed along with some excellent food. The only thing better was the chance to catch up with some great people and have some good conversation. I ended up inviting everyone to visit us in Canada and sincerely hope they take us up on it!

The weekend ended on a high note, with us have Les and Clive to ourselves on Sunday as we did an afternoon trip up to the Barossa valley to visit a couple of vineyards. It was also a learning experience, indulging in a tasting session with people who have owned a vineyard and produced wines. Let’s just say our palates are not as well informed! The Barossa is beautiful and I’m glad we were able to get there as we had been skirting it all week with our trips to small town libraries.  I was struck once again with how similar it is to Saskatchewan in lots of ways and yet so different. Here, the location of the vineyards to some of these small towns has been an economic miracle, bringing industry related jobs and attracting much needed tourist dollars. What is noteworthy, however, is that this is not a one industry region as other forms of agriculture also thrive here. Looking at it, you can appreciate the parallels between how geography and climate have influenced the growth or decline of areas of both South Australia and Saskatchewan. Sadly, we won’t ever have the wine industry. Still, that’s a good excuse to revisit Australia!

Today is Monday and in a few short hours we will be heading back home to our family and a waiting Canadian winter. We have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be back in Australia these past two weeks, but more fortunate to have met some amazing people through Rachel’s work and having had the opportunity to reconnect with our wonderful Australian friends. I’m already looking forward to the next time we can get together

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