Adelaide, to Sydneysiders, is little more than a large country town – with suburbs. I am always amazed at how small it is. I like it, though. It is an attractive city with a well laid out grid pattern, beautiful old stone buildings, the Torrens River and LOTS of parkland. Adelaide has a huge termite problem which caused them to build in stone rather than timber from very early days in the colony. Many of these have endured and they lend a charm to Adelaide that other cities lack.
We’ve never really spent a lot of time in Adelaide, and this time was no exception. Our last visit in 2010 had us exploring sites relevant to family history. My father-in-law was born in Largs Bay, a coastal suburb, and his Le Leu and Henley forebears were pioneers of the Semaphore region and, also, O’Hallorans Hill. Semaphore is an attractive suburb, also reminiscent of a country town with its historic buildings and extraordinarily wide streets. It is worth exploring. There is a tiny, historic church at O’Hallorans Hill which was constructed with the help of Richard Henley (great great grandfather-in-law) who was an accomplished mason. Inside the church are some beautiful carvings of the Ten Commandments he did back in about 1840.
Adelaide also has a zoo and as we collect zoos, particularly those with pandas, this is where we went recently. Adelaide Zoo is small, and I wonder sometimes why we keep visiting zoos as you’d think they’d all be the same, but there is always something unique which makes the visit worthwhile. Besides the pandas, they had a great display of red-tailed glossy black cockatoos and Gang Gang cockatoos. They also had an African Grey parrot which had been confiscated by customs and was extremely sociable. It had an amazing repertoire of all the surrounding bird sounds, both captive and wild, and we entertained each other for ages! A sloth, full size hippos (not pygmies), Fennec foxes, African Wild Dogs, tree kangaroos (what a silly place to find a kangaroo!) and a wombat being taken for a walk on a leash made up some of the more unusual experiences.
Prior to our visit to the zoo, we had spent the morning at Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills. A very pretty drive and you can never have too many animal encounters! Set in huge grounds, complete with walking trails, Cleland has both captive animals such as koalas, and lots of free-ranging animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, potoroos and koalas. You can hand-feed the roos, wallabies and potoroos (which are very cute) and, despite how many times you’ve done it before, it is always fun, and amazing to see the joeys in the pouch, especially when they’re getting too big! Watch out for the Superb Fairy Wrens, they are very beautiful and their constant hopping and flitting is endearing.
The real reason we were in South Australia was to do a 7 night Murray River cruise on the P.S. Murray Princess from Mannum. We were picked up by coach at our hotel in Adelaide and transferred via a scenic drive to the boat in Mannum.
Not really knowing what to expect we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed this trip. You probably want to wait until you’re at least 45 years old as the clientele is very “senior” and it is not a party boat. It is, however, good fun with fantastic staff ( the First Mate, Warren gave a surprisingly interesting and amusing safety talk!), good food, sublime tranquility and ‘armadas’ of pelicans!
On board the atmosphere was friendly and sociable. Food was plentiful and delicious. Activities ranged from talks about local history to trivia competitions to staff entertainers. Plenty to keep us amused.
Many, many moons ago the area through which we were travelling was an inland sea, and the surrounding rocky gorges are ancient limestone deposits rich in fossils. This is an arid area now with some areas getting less than 10 inches of rain a year! The Murray is vital to life here. The cliffs provide homes for many animals including masses of swallows and, surprisingly, sulphur crested cockatoos.
On shore excursions were varied.
Swanreach: we walked to a small, boutique winery where the farmer gave an interesting talk and then we got to taste his wines. Always a popular activity. There was a small but amazingly interesting museum, complete with some very strange early farm machinery. They need some labels, though, as even the staff couldn’t tell us what the machines were!
On the walk back we detoured through the small cemetery to see what we thought were very attractive gardens. They turned out to be on the adjacent property and appeared to be a Geraldton Wax ‘farm’. There were rows upon rows of fully flowering trees that were really beautiful.
Big Bend / Sunnydale: we were taken in extraordinary vehicles to a local farm/wildlife rehabilitation centre to, ostensibly, attend a sheep shearing demonstration. After having been to the Agradome in New Zealand earlier in the year, I thought we might be bored, but Dave the farmer was interesting, informative and funny. Dave auctioned off three sheep which then had a race. Something different! Amongst others, the rehabilitation centre was home to an emu which had a congenital deformity of its beak and an ancient wombat that had outlived its usefulness at Adelaide University’s research lab. and had been marked for euthanasia.
Beware the Drop Bears!
Dave also offered a nocturnal wildlife-spotting tour (optional and extra cost of $15). This was great fun. Best to sit right at the front of the cart and choose the cart being drawn by the tractor with the two dogs in the back. They were priceless and really stole the show! If Dave spotted a rabbit (vermin) he would issue a low whistle and the dogs would explode out of the trailer and bolt after the rabbit. As for wildlife, we saw lots of roos, both greys and reds, and also an albino one. We saw a wombat running for dear life to escape the tractor and the dogs, and bound for safety down its hole. Best of all, though, was the male emu sitting on a nest guarding the eggs. Now emus are generally regarded as being a bit vicious, but Dave managed to delve beneath it, count the eggs and take one to show us (he put it back!), all without the emu batting an eyelid!
Ngaut Ngaut: I didn’t go ashore this day as I was not well 😦 but the photographer did, so that’s OK! This was a walk to, and tour of, an ancient Aboriginal site, complete with rock carvings.
Barossa Valley: unexpectedly, we met up with Dave again who took us on a great tour of the Barossa. First stop was Collingrove Homestead an historical estate built by South Australian pioneers, the Angas family. This was a beautiful old home with most of the original furniture. We then stopped for a scrumptious Devonshire tea at the South Australian Company Store.
On to the wineries – why else do you go to the Barossa? First was Chateau Tanunda, so unlike the small winery we had previously visited. Grand architecture, vast and beautiful grounds including a cricket ground! and a wine cellar reminiscent of a jig-saw puzzle I did recently.
We had lunch amongst the barrels, which sounds romantic, but it was freezing cold and we were served a cold chicken salad! This was the most disappointing meal we had all cruise.
After lunch we visited Chateau Yaldara where we encountered more extravagant architecture in a lovely setting by a river. Another wine tasting with a similar selection to Chateau Tanunda, though this time they offered a 50-year-old port tasting. It was sooooooo smooth, but unfortunately, our budget doesn’t run to that so we bought the 7-year-old port!
Murray Bridge: the Barossa trip had done me in so I stayed on board again. Not much here really except a pleasant walk and some markets.
Overall, a great little trip. I would probably recommend going in September, not July, as it would be a bit warmer, the days would be longer and … the emus might have hatched!