After 10 great days in Sydney we flew down to Adelaide on Friday afternoon, in order to start our South Australian part of the journey. We had grown quite fond of Sydney, so it was with a bit of a heavy heart that we left. It was a nice treat to have our own flat again for a while. Life in a campervan can be a bit simple, and although we generally like this way of traveling, we are rather limited on several areas. Cooking and shopping just to mention the two most obvious ones. We cannot buy much at a time, and although Alexandra is a great chef there are limits to what she can produce on two gasburners or in the camp kitchen.
In spite of that we are once again on the road in a campervan. This one is a bit bigger than our first one. When we booked our flight from Sydney to Adelaide we had not imagined that the company where we had rented our first little “Spaceship” up in Queensland, Spaceship Australia, would not have a depot in Adelaide. They have offices in Sydney and Melbourne, so we had not even checked that possibility out. We took it for granted! So when we wanted to book a spaceship from Adelaide to Melbourne we where surprised to see that this was not possible. Unless we could make a pick-up in Melbourne. But by then we had already booked our flights to Adelaide, so another solution had to be found.
And as it so often happens, the worst scenarios will prove to bring some kind of meaning... Here in South Australia it is SIGNIFICANTLY colder than up north in Queensland. It is winter. Not like in Central Europe. It’s not that bad. But it IS cold and temperatures will reach the freezing point at night. This would not have been much fun in our old “Spaceship”, as this was partly a tent attached to the rear of the car. So we are quite happy with our new “Mighty Highball” - a modified Toyota Hiace, where we are all able to sleep inside the cabin. We did, however, decide to buy us an electric heater, so that we do not get too cold at night. It cost us 20 dollars, and it only needs to last for a couple of weeks. It would have cost us at least 100 dollars to rent a similar model with the campervan.
Anton sleeps “upstairs” below the roof. Adults sleep below in the main cabin. This also means that we can put Anton to bed in due time and still have some time to sit inside and read, chat or write a blog for the website, without having to go to a camp kitchen or the like. The van even has a kitchen with microwave oven and a small sink. But even though this model is larger than the Spaceship, the Spaceship was in many ways a better and more clever solution. And it seemed bigger although it wasn’t. In all fairness, I have to say that it also took a few days to get in sync with our “Moonbat” (the name of our Spaceship). It simply takes a while until all things have a special place and you slowly find a daily routine.
Upon arrival in Adelaide we already had booked a hotel for the night in the city center. We use the Hotels.com App for iPhone and iPad, so it is never hard for us to get a quick overview of the best options in the area. Normally we try to avoid hotels here in Australia. But they have proven to be the cheaper option more than once, which seems odd. I thought that hostels would be cheaper. But I guess competition is harder for the hotels, because we have been able to make some good bargains when needed. Our hotel in Adelaide wasn’t anything fancy, but it did have a certain charm. It certainly has been a while since its heydays, but it had been renovated with great respect to the true spirit of the house, which was well over a hundred years old and without any doubt once had been a very posh hotel. Throughout Australia you will find the so called “Pub’s”, which are not to be directly compared to the pub’s we know from Ireland our the UK. They do serve alcohol, but here in Australia “Pub’s” are rather small, simple hotels, offering a drink, a meal and accommodation at a fair price. Nowadays hotels or motels are more sought after, and thus Pub’s are hardly ever fully booked. They make their main revenue from drinks and food on the ground floor, and whatever upstairs rooms might be booked for the night, just come in as a bonus. Our Adelaide hotel had without a doubt once been such a Pub, after the original hotel had closed down. But it was quite clear that the current owner was now trying to make it a classy hotel again.
We only needed to stay there for one night, and for that purpose it was more than OK. We had free WiFi Internet, flatscreen TV and breakfast buffet included in the room price, so we were happy! Saturday morning, before we went to pick up our new campervan on the outskirts of town, we went to the local food market, located in an old building in central Adelaide. So far, we have only seen quite high prices on all types of food here in Australia. And up in Queensland almost everything was even more expensive than back home in Denmark. I could not believe that this was even possible! (Unless, of course, you live in Norway where it is even more expensive!). In Sydney it wasn’t much cheaper. Only in Paddy’s Market it was possible to buy fruit and vegetable at fair prices, cheaper than the supermarkets. On the market in Adelaide they had EVERYTHING within food. And the prices were more than fair. The place reminded me a bit of the local food market in Copenhagen, “Torvehallerne”, with its numbered stalls and long hallways. But it was not as upscale and posh as Torvehallerne, which is more like delicatessen and gourmet shops. The Adelaide market is a “real” food market. Many of the stalls are run by european families, and thus we found italian, spanish, french and even german stalls with a broad variety of local country delicacies. Anton particularly enjoyed his fresh “Breze” (Pretzel). He has really been missing these since we left Munich. We had a few in Sydney at the Löwenbräu brewery, which is also run by germans, but you can never have to many good Breze. I also had one and enjoyed it very much!
Now we have entered the wine areas north of Adelaide. Right now we are in Clare Valley, apprx. 120 kilometers from Adelaide. The landscape is hilly and very green, reminding us of a blend of Italy and Ireland. Form the locals we have heard that up until just a few weeks ago, they had not had any rain for more than 9 months. So the area was dried out. But this is quite normal in this region and since then they have had a fair amount of rain, turning everything green and fresh once again. It creates some beautiful color schemes when the sun, the sky and the clouds play in contrast to the hilly landscape. And as we have winter here at the moment, it is raining regularly. So to add further to the contrasts we also have some very dark and threatening clouds in the sky. It’s just beautiful. The camera is in frequent use!
It is very obvious that the immigrants from Europe wanted to create similar surroundings to the ones they had left behind in their home countries. And all the way up until now many new buildings are designed to look like they were built back then, and they are built in sandstone with old-school techniques. It almost looks like we have entered a small “pocket” where time has been standing still. Some places would even look like a film set, if it wasn’t for the satellite dishes in the front yard or the outside walls of the house. They live in a modern world here too! In southern Australia there are still many groups of european immigrants and/or their families. Italians, Germans and of course the UK, from where the first settlers originated. These groups have settled in small communities all over the area, and many of their small towns really look like what I think the towns that they left behind in Europe must have looked like, back in the 1800’s when so many people came here. The towns and their buildings are of course all listed and must be kept and maintained as they are. Many buildings date back centuries. This doesn’t sound like much for a european, but 200 years ago there were not much civilization here in Australia. So this is really where it all started, if you do not count in the Aborigines, which can be traced back many thousands of years. But they do not live in this area.
Clare Valley is a well respected wine district, so needless to say we have been visiting a few vineyards. Including the one that just this year had their Riesling awarded as Australia's best. I remember visiting vineyards in Tuscany and having great fun doing so, but often the shops there were not manned full time, so when we arrived we would always interfere with whatever the wine maker was doing, so that he could come and let us taste. This very often made us feel like we had to buy at least a few bottles. Here in Australia all the wine makers have shops that are open full time, and they gladly let you taste everything they have to offer. No obligations, what so ever! This makes the whole experience of exploring the wine districts all the more fun and relaxed. And oftentimes they even have play areas for kids in the corner, so that the parents can taste wine and spend some money without worrying about their kids. Of course we bought a range of wines as well. Just to enjoy while we are here... We also bought local olive oil, olives and jam. “Eat local” is very much in focus here, and the producers are very proud of what they make. I understand this completely. The products are delicious!
One thing that surprised us was the fact that australian wine is much more expensive here than back in Denmark or Germany. There are two main reasons for this. First, the wine that we buy in Europe is not exactly the same as we can buy here. With exceptions, of course. But even the same bottles are cheaper in Europe. Secondly, Australia has a SKY HIGH taxation on alcohol and tobacco. In spite of that, we occasionally do get us a bottle of local wine or a six-pack of beer. We do not drink alcohol every day. So far from it. We did not do that back home either. But here in Australia it is simply too expensive anyway, so even though we enjoy a glass of wine or a beer to our dinner, we enjoy a glass of water just as much. Tobacco costs about 20 dollars for a pack of 20 cigarettes. All logos are removed and replaced by horrible color pictures of tumors, black lungs and teeth that look like they just ate a hand grenade. And finally all packs are labelled with a number to the national “Quitters Line”.
I was never a smoker and I am happy to see smoking disappear from the public areas across Europe. I am not sure it would help much to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes to the level they have done here in Australia. In Europe I believe this would just create a thriving smuggler industry across borders, but Australia is an isolated continent, and authorities are hard on organized crimes. You have to give them credit for being thorough!
It is our plan to drive a further 300 kilometers up north of Clare Valley to the area called Flinders Ranges. It is one of those rare outback areas that are easily within reach from a big city (Adelaide). So it is also a popular destination for hikers and families during the school holidays. But many city people also go there for just a weekend. We expect to spend a few days up there before returning down south towards Adelaide again, starting our drive along the south coast.