(That would be South Australia)
Hi everyone, Nancy and I are now in Murray Bridge, SA.
Our original intent was to wait a couple more days to send another chapter in the “Oh, We Don’t Have a Long Enough Trip to do Everything We Want to do Adventure” (OWDHLETEWW for short – or if we worked for the government). You would think with a 9 week trip, that would be plenty of time for a voyage of discovery. You would be wrong. Oy!
Starting tomorrow morning we will be spending 29 hours on the Indian Pacific train from Adelaide to Sydney. I figured I would have heaps of time to compose, edit, rewrite, have it proofed by the crack fact checkers… but no, we just learned there ain’t no WiFi on said choo choo so we better send this soon.
Where the heck is Murray Bridge, you ask. And why are we here? Well, we needed someplace to stay and a country pub an hour from Adelaide seemed as good a place as any. Right on the Murray River, it seems too.
That is Nancy waving to you from the veranda outside our room in this 105 year old typical Aussie country town public house. It was built before colour film hence the b&w.
Oops, it seems I have kangarooed forward and must now hop back to where I left off last time.
Where was I? Oh yes, Australia, as you may know, has many wine regions. The Margaret River south of Perth is one of the best. (They disregard ‘one of’ in their descriptions!).
We boarded a van with a few other couples and Aidan, our rock & roll viticultural guide for this very formal day with the fine and formal organisation.
By the 2nd stop, the group loosened up a bit
as we learned to savor the grape.
The tour included stops at an olive oil/balsamic vinegar producer & a proud patriotic chocolateria.
We hit about 5 wineries and had some excellent vino. They certainly know what they are doing here. There are 131 of them in Margaret River now. The industry started here 50 years ago.
The last stop of the day was a very nice brewery to balance things out.
From MR we went to the seaside town of Albany (pronounced aaalbany). A lovely little place with a huge performing arts center that certainly does not fit the town’s atmosphere
One of Albany’s distinctions is it was the last Australian soil touched by many of the ANZACS (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) – WW1 and 2’s soldiers on their way to Africa and Europe. It also features in the history of the colony here as a landing point for emigres and convicts as well as a whaling station.
There is a bit of the area called the Valley of the Giants where the largest gum trees in the world hang out (Tingles). While big , these fellas though have sensitive (awww…) and shallow roots. So to keep the curious from tramping the ground, the park people erected a tree walk in the canopy. Well, we certainly could not bypass that!
We next ambled our way to Perth. It was a beautiful drive through grape, hay, avocado, sheep and cow paddock areas. Lots of ranchers have signs on the road selling horse, pony, steer and sheep poo for $2 a bag. I can see how you collect most of that but Sheep? Those pellets are tiny and free range. The rancher must have a son he does not like!
This is an amazingly HUGE country! It is the size of the continental US and has a population of 25 million. Compare that to California- population of 40 million by itself! Western Australia is 6 times the area of California! I use CA as an example here because Nancy and I routinely drive through that (now tiny) state. I’ve always considered CA a big place. Not anymore! Driving for hours without seeing a town and only a few cars is just plain weird.
Perth is a fun city. We only had a short time there so did the HoHo bus tour and walked around a bit.
Early the next morning we jumped on the flying kangaroo known as Qantas and headed to Melbourne. We love Melbourne!
It is a very diverse and cosmopolitan city but seems like a small town. There are little neighbourhoods each with their own vibe, broad boulevards with electric trams running up and down, smaller streets – some with those sneakily quiet trams and tiny alleys all with something to draw you in.
On the ride, we learned another Captain Cook story. It seems one day in the 60s the Melbourne city Council read that Jimbo’s cottage in England was coming up for sale. They jumped on it to celebrate the bicentennial of him bumping into Australia (& more importantly to keep Sydney from buying it! Funny thing is, he never came to this area but did land in the future Sydney!).
Well, they had it disassembled, all the bricks individually numbered, shipped over and rebuilt precisely. Then they found out is was his parent’s house and most likely never stayed there!
(As an aside, he also related that there is a school of thought that Cook and the Endeavor are the prototypes for Captain Kirk and the Enterprise!)
The Melbourne food and coffee scene is world class. The little neighborhood cafe near our apartment is called Proud Mary. They have 2 locations- here and in NE Portland, OR! They also conduct 2 hour coffee making workshops.
Melbourne is pretty easy to navigate via the tram system. We also did a lot of walking.
We kept seeing signs (literally) reminding us that the next day was what would be my Mother’s 93rd birthday
So in homage to her we had to hit a local and massive landmark Italian bakery/ cafe – Brunetti.
We needed (on separate visits) some cookies and my favorite pastry (she loved them too happily), Sfogiatelle. Good thing a lot of Italians emigrated to Melbourne- they are a huge presence.
The graffiti alleys are very popular as well
After we left Melbourne we drove to and on the world renowned Great Ocean Road towards Adelaide. This is a 151 mile route that usually hugs the coast but sometimes goes inland as well.
Bells Beach was our first stop. This beach is reputed by the locals to be the best surfing site in the world. I reckon a lot of Hawaiian, Californians and Sydney types amongst others would disagree. There were a lot of guys out there having fun though.
Along this road is also a huge chocolate factory
Further along the coast is the iconic area known as the 12 Apostles- which is funny since not only are there not 12 but even before some eroded away, there were never 12 of these stacks. The original English name was the Sow and Piglets. They are spectacular though – especially at 6am, right Nance?
There used to be a stack called London Bridge. In 1990 though, the section attached to the bluff fell into the water. Nobody was hurt but 2 tourists were stranded on the outer section for a few hours. Now it is called London Arch
The town of Anglesea is quite small but they do have a distinction – kangaroos on their golf course! This is quite the attraction it seems.
Australia is well known for the only in Australia flora and fauna. Roos and Emus you have now seen in this travel tale. But there are many others including the elusive (usually) Koala (NOT a bear). I say usually since Nancy found a couple.
I found one too but nowhere near as cute
Australia is also well known for kitschy Big roadside attractions. It all started with the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour NSW. (We are not going there). Well, we did experience the Big Lobster and the Big Rocking Horse!
At some point early in the trip in NZ, I somehow deleted ALL the music from my phone. So, we had to rely on Nancy’s playlist but there is only so much Joni Mitchell any one man can take! Good thing I downloaded a bunch of NPR podcasts!!! How I Built This is fascinating and kept us going through some of the Great Empty (I do not know if this is a real name for it, but it should be.)
Well, now you are up to date except I have to revise for you our location. We are now in Adelaide preparing to board that train tomorrow morning. Our hotel happens to be on Hindley Street. Big deal except we live on Hindley Lane. Weird, huh?
That is all we have for now. Lots of love from Nancy and Chris