Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Bits and Pieces Between South Australia and Victoria.

Murray Mouth. Or Motor Mouth.
Happy snaps at the Murray River Mouth.
Leaving Rapid Bay wasn't difficult: at the end of two days drive would be the most amazing wine district and better still, the Flick'n'Al Show (groovers we'd met at Daly River).  I'm not sure what I was more excited about... But first there were about 600 kilometers to get through, so strap yourselves in.
Murray River ferry.
First of all,  I love South Australia. It appeals to me on so many levels; as a farm girl, a beach chick, wine gourmand, Upper Middle Bogan. The list goes on. I'm also well read and I like a bit of arty farty stuff.  But the Coorong? Storm Boy? Did I miss something? This was the next stop for the night and every person I mentioned this to immediately oohed and aahed.
Coorong bush.
Of course, the plight of the Murray Basin runs deep with me and I love a restored paddle steamer. Crossing the Murray via ferry was cool, and there was a certain desolate beauty about the Coorong, but I was glad we hadn't built a trip around it. Apparently if you get over the dunes into one of the campgrounds next to the open beach then it is worthwhile, but we stayed next to the inlet and the windy weather ruffled up the water like an old sheet that's been on the line for a few weeks. We were the only ones in our camp ground and it was a lovely spot to watch the sun go down and the flocks of sea birds come and go. But it wasn't awe-inspiring for me. In fact I'm filing it in the same category as the Pinnacles: useful in a conversational way. For example: "Oh yes, I've been to the Pinnacles. We met up with Kate and Wills there, they're so busy you know but we managed to fit each other in..." etc etc.
Coorong Inlet.

Coorong birds... Peter Weir must have spent a lot of time here.
Coorong pelican colony.
After one night we moved on to Robe, the polar opposite of the Coorong with its cafes and boutiques, each one offering some or other wine to taste. The beach is long and sandy, the headland rocky and the fishing apparently legendary.We splashed out on staying at the Big4 (($60 per night) and used every possible facility available- heated indoor pool, jumping pillow, camp kitchen (for hide and seek) and the playground.

Ho hum.

The next day was a BIG day though. After an hours drive we would be in the Coonawarra wine district, home of Big Reds and scene of one of the Best Day's of My pre-Trying to Be Responsible Life. I had drunk my way through a wine tour with some great friends back in my mid twenties. Oh life was grand- no kids, no mortgage, and no need to worry about which wine I was tasting : " I'll have a go at No 8 thanks! I believe it's the Peenott Nwaah" Snigger snigger. Needless to say the day ended with a bus full of guffawing twenty-somethings who'd made wine purchases based on the type of bag the bottle came in rather than taste, because let's face it, we stopped tasting at the second winery. I believe a bottle of port I'd bought at the 6th winery served as a doorstop for about eight years. Anyhoo, I digress. This time with kids in tow and a serious red wine buff at the helm, it actually was all about how it tasted (more ho hum).
We went to Brands Laira (delicious wines across the board), Rymill (nice wines and the fishponds filled with carp out the front were winners for the kids), Wynns (good cheese platter) and Katnook (great wines). The Riddoch Highway cuts through the middle of the wine region, making it incredibly easy to navigate your way around. This would be our last go at a wine region, and with the vines full of those green leaves and little grapes starting to form, it was all quite romantic. Queue tired creatures in the back of the car and a stop at the IGA for biscuits in an effort to get to Hamilton and FlicknAls without a complete riot.

Quite possibly the worst timed visit ever, FlicknAl were in the middle of selling their house and  had an inspection the day after we arrived. But they were just as excited to see us and with Marguerite's head about to explode with anticipation, it was a lovely reunion. With complete understanding we were set up in the shed and the children were given strict instructions to touch ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!
Caesar and the Great Life Vest Tantrum.
We exited the clean zone of their property and made our way down to Portland. Fiela and Al had left early in the morning to go fishing, and Flick, the kids and I made our way down later to enjoy the hot day at the beach. Flick had packed an amazing lunch of deliciousness and truly, it was a beautiful day. The boys caught 56 flathead so they were beside themselves. So were the kids who on return, finally had a free run of the house and the baskets of toys kept around for FlicknAls granchildren.
Marguerite and Mac, FlicknAl's harassed dog.
What followed were days of good food, great wine and best of all, excellent company. The weather had made an atrocious turn for the worst though and by the time we finally hauled our much fatter backsides into the car to leave for the Grampians, I'm sure these hospitable, beautiful people were silently thanking every God they knew. I'm surprised I kept it together when we left; being with these two felt like being home, and with our entry into Victoria, New South Wales so close I could almost smell the waratahs, homesickness returned again. With only a few weeks left of this epic adventure, the thrill of setting up the camper AGAIN had lost its shine a bit.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Rapid Bay

Rapid Bay. Home of Many Squid. Site of Enormous Cliffs. Place of Strange Caravanning Folk. This place has got it all especially if you’re after some culinary delights in a beautiful setting whilst weird neighbours get loose around you. 
Rapid Bay as seen from the hills above.

The coastline coming from Adelaide down the Fleurieu Peninsula is stunning- rolling hills either stop abruptly as enormous cliffs our meander gently down to the sea to end in beautiful beaches. The land is so fertile it almost smacks you in the face as you whiz past, and coming down the valley into Rapid Bay was gobsmacking to say the least. The campground is grassy and on one side is a gigantic cliff  whilst on the other is a gigantic cliff (and dismantled mine) with a jetty.
Beautiful Rapid Bay looking north.

We picked a spot amongst the Norfolk pines and set about our usual business. Enter Doug and Brigitta whose pointed questions on where we’d come from, how and why bordered on the invasive, but always keen to make another friend both Fiela and I took it all as simply friendliness. Until they invited themselves over, sat down with a drink and proceeded to rant at each other and us over the ethnicity of the average school dux (wtf??) and why taking your kids out of school for a holiday “absolutely ruins them.” As my eyes narrowed and steam started to escape my ears, Fiela cleverly stood up and said “Well we’ve got things to do, the kids… you know. Oh and I’ve got to go and have a fish.” Exit stage left. Leaving me holding the bigots. Enter Feral Children Screaming and suddenly Doug and Brigitta retreated to their caravan, only to hang about the edges of our camp again when the kids were occupied eating. Which turned out to be quite lucky.
Fiela fishing pain free.

Fiela did go out for a fish and caught a couple of squid. However, the weather had turned cold, and on his return to shore realised that actually, if you cycle for 36km towing 30+ kgs over hilly terrain (four days prior) and then get really cold while you sit in the same position for a few hours, your body will probably not like that so much. Luckily his friend Andrew was working back at a hospital in Adelaide, Doug and Brigitta jumped at the chance to be in on some drama and offered to watch over the camper, we bundled the kids into the car in their pyjamas, Fiela hobbled into the passenger seat and we drove all the way back to the city to work out why he was in such incredible pain. Turns out, when you get past 45 years of age, you’re not actually 27 anymore: you might need to do some stretches from time to time so your muscles don’t seize up especially after irregular exercise. We spent the night at the Blythes again, (who’d only just put fresh sheets back on the bed), and drove back to Rapid Bay the next day with a fully functioning Fiela. Crisis over.
Fleurieu tractors at the boat ramp.
The next day I decided to try and catch the squid, which I did. Just one. Fiela went out 20 minutes later and returned in half an hour with 15. Fishing Fail. Fiela’s rightful status as Master and Commander of the Kayak had been restored. He did this a few times and I’m officially over squid and the many ways you can cook it (even stuffed with risotto and baked in a tomato sauce).

We drove over to Victor Harbor (a 19th Centruy spelling error!) 50kms away on the other side of the peninsula. It’s a lovely town, and we caught the horse drawn tram over to the little island. This was one of the hottest days we’d had since travelling through Outback Queensland, and we drove up to Port Elliot for a swim in its absolutely freezing waters. It was like being in Camps Bay, RSA, all over again.
The Victor Harbor Tram drawn by poor Misty, who was probably ready to walk straight into the sea after Marguerite 'encouraged' her to go faster for the entirety of the 25 minute trip.

In other strange caravanning times, one old mate parked his van within 10 metres of us, despite there being acres and acres of spare choose-your-own camp spot space. Marguerite was constantly high on sugar due to her friendship with a little girl over the way who had an unsupervised source of lollies at her disposal and therefore Marguerite’s. One dude slept in his car with his cat and her 5 kittens, and the rest of people we met here were from Victor Harbor. It was all a bit strange.

We bid farewell to the beautiful scenery of Rapid Bay and its various occupants after five days or so and moved on ready for some solitary time away from the crazies.
Rapid Bay sunset.

Uyshuis sunset.

Friday, 12 December 2014


It was with almost unparalleled excitement that we left Clare en route to Adelaide via the Hills, to stay with an old friend of Fiela’s. Apparently there was an entire downstairs area at our disposal, with a bathroom of our own! Oh my, I was going to implode with excitement.
Adelaide Hills anyone?

Before this though we drove through the beautiful Adelaide Hills, stopping off at Hahndorff for lunch at a suitably German pub with an even more suitable menu of variations on the German pork and potatoes theme. We met up with Andrew who endeared himself pretty quickly, what with icecream suggestions for the kids, Harrisons smoked salmon for me and German beer for Fiela.
Blurry photo of Adelaide city centre.

On we drove through those winding hills to Belair, an established suburb up high on the ridge around Adelaide and met the Blythe’s in full, yet another wonderfully accommodating family happy to welcome dirty camping types on to their front driveway, even going so far as to let us into the house! After the kids reacquainted themselves with the joy of ABC4Kids and we’d all eaten enough for five families, not two, we slept under a roof enclosed by solid walls for the first time in six months. It felt wonderful and strange all at the same time, but when I took five steps in the middle of the night and was in a bathroom, decidedly much more on the wonderful side of the spectrum.

We stayed here long enough to eat and drink ourselves silly with the Blythes, drive the dog and cats to distraction and confirm for the Blythe children that yes, they really didn’t want any little brothers or sisters hanging around.

Barossa Valley Steam Train. We lost Caesar to this for about an hour.
From here we took a day trip into the Adelaide Hills, stopping in at Shaw&Smith for the classiest wine tasting I think I’ve ever done (awesome wines!) and whilst we had a few other wineries we wanted to look at, the wine guy here recommended one we’d never heard of, Pikes&Joyce as a nice spot for lunch. Off we drove, through more picture postcard villages, vines and winding roads till at the top of a hill near Lenswood, overlooking the Adelaide Hill wine district was a cellar door and restaurant that has settled into the Top 5 of Excellent Uyshuis Winefarm Experiences (if you’ve been reading since the Margaret River, you’ll know this is quite a feat!). The wines are great and not outrageously expensive, the view is great and the tasting platter was sublime. These guys are relative new comers (the building had only been refitted in the last six months) but they are producing a quality ‘winery’ experience. Look to it     Radelaide-ians, this place is awesome.
Tasting platter at Pikes&Joyce. Mmm Yummy!

Another day was spent driving through Adelaide city itself (this took three minutes). We stopped off at the beach and had some pretty amazing calamari overlooking an extremely windy Glenelg.

Another day trip was spent in the Eden and Barossa Valleys. First stop was Penfolds where Fiela was promptly lost amongst the shiraz and cabernet sauvignons for half an hour or so, then for my own little slice of paradise- Maggie Beer’s Farmstall. The lady herself was there, even opening the door for me (OK, she was opening it for someone behind me but I’m taking it nonetheless) which was possibly the second best thing there. Do you want to know what the most interesting thing about her global domination shopfront filled with her own beautiful albeit expensive produce is? Her husband’s collection of rare pheasants out the back. My demigod had been demystified and I was hungry for anything  but quince paste and pate, so we headed to Saltram’s for a lovely lunch. Just to make sure, we stopped at Yalumba for a quick taste of their wines. Yep, they’re still uniformly shithouse.
Mr Beer's Golden Phesant things.
Where all the quince for the paste comes from. No prizes for guessing what's fertilising these trees.

More weird pheasanty things.

Packing up at the Blythe’s was pretty hard to do. The comforts of static walls, friendly conversation and great food is hard to give up, especially as you stare down the barrel of warm showers in the cold wind and going back to a kitchen the size of a doormat. I was definitely feeling a bit set-up fatigued, even after our relaxing sojourn at Belair. And I knew it was justified when even Fiela the Never Fail voiced his reluctance at moving on. We only had seven weeks left and homesickness was setting in for everyone. But we got on with it and did move on to a pretty spectacular spot: the Fleurieau  Peninsula.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Clare Valley

After hanging around on the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas for weeks and babysitting as my fishing rod holding husband had fun catching the odd fish, I was definitely ready for some non-fishing times. This was increased ever more by the purchase of yet another ‘fishing’ implement- a blue swimmer crab ‘rake’ which was then used extensively at Ardrossan on the Eastern side of Yorkes. I believe we ate leftovers that night.
Idyllic Clare Valley winery.
Poor Fiela, he made up for it by sourcing some local oysters for $7 a dozen, then driving me to the Clare and a valley bursting with wineries. Aah, my hero!
Clare Valley Racecourse Camping.

Wikicamps led us to the Clare Valley Racecourse, where for $20 a night you could camp anywhere on the grounds (just look out for the massive sprinklers which come on somewhere in the middle of the night) get electricity, warm showers and toilets while you look out over the vineyards and green lawn. Best of all we were there alone, with a few caravans arriving during our stay but camping waaaay over there. The weather was beautiful, warm and sunny.
Riesling Trail action.

The Riesling Trail is a bike path traversing the length of the Clare Valley and is apparently the best way to get a real feel for the area. Wineries are within jumping distance of the trail making it even more desirable, even though we’d have to bike a few kilometres along country roads through vines and farms to get to it. We hired a kiddie carrier to transport our kiddies and set off one cool dry day.
More than anything, travelling around in Spring is beautiful if only for the roses.

Skillogalee gardens.
The funny thing about most tourist maps is that they’re really quite shithouse. We didn’t get lost on the way, but we almost called the whole thing off before we even hit the Riesling Trail after some steep hill climbs, me with just one gear (since my bike has taken an absolute flogging being transported on the back of the camper) and Fiela towing in excess of 30 kilograms with the kiddie carrier. Anyhoo, we finally hit the Trail and it is lovely- the gradient is incredibly gentle and the scenery is gorgeous with rolling hills of vines in every direction. I was feeling pretty thirsty already; it could have been the pesticides in the air or maybe last night’s oyster and wine fest, either way it was time to taste!
Life on the road is tough! 
We stopped in at Tim Adams and did a quick tasting before heading to Skillogalee. It’s off the Trail and up some pretty steep hills, but it has one of the prettiest cellar door and restaurant’s around. We were treated like royalty having been the entertainment for diners while we puffed our way up to the winery. The food was excellent, the gardens beautiful and the wine great. So great we hung around, wondering whether that guy in the ute would mind ferrying us and our bikes home. But alas, back on we got and rode back to camp.
Skillogalee artichokes.

Made it! Skillogalee for lunch.
Exhaustion set in when we did get home and realised we’d just cycled 36 kilometres either with one gear or towing the kids. I expected to be completely stiff the next day but apart from a few small aches we were fine.
All worn out after riding around all day...

We did a few other tastings around the place at Jim Barry, Knappstein and Mr Micks, it was all pretty good and we came away with the car and camper full of wine once again. One thing’s for sure: wine areas are definitely the nemesis of our budget!

Tandem naughty corner action...
...followed by some Papa loving.

Outside Mr Micks in Clare.

More Tantrum Games.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Innes National Park

At the bottom of the Yorke Peninsula is the beautiful Innes National Park. We booked ourselves into a National Park campsite  for a few days and braced ourselves for unparalleled beauty, spectacular scenery and pristine beaches.  Oh we braced ourselves, but not only for the reasons stated above.
An emu with her chicks. Most mothers had around nine emu chicks.
We stayed at Pondalowie Bay in an empty campground next to the fishing village. Fibro houses line the dunes and as their owners die, the shacks are bulldozed as per National Parks instructions. We spoke to one of the owners and it’s sad for them- some of the shacks have been in the family for generations, plus they’re all perched on an awesome spot overlooking protected-from-the-elements Pondalowie Bay. Cray fisherman still operate out of here and had the weather been warmer and the kayak off the roof of the camper, we could have dined on rock lobster for dinner.
The 1904 wreck of the "Ethel", one of 20 wrecks along this part of the coast.

Anyway, the park is beautiful, with surf breaks and protected white sandy coves and blue blue water. While we were there it was also pretty windy. Did I say pretty? I meant Armageddon-like.

We knew the forecast was for a bit of high winds, but I didn’t expect this. I suppose I should have, being just a stone’s throw from Antartica. The winds got up past 50kms an hour. At one point during the night as the wind and rain lashed our flimsy camper, I turned to Fiela and asked when exactly he thought we should get in the car and wait the night out without the threat of a roof literally falling down around our ears. The roof was swinging from side to side while strange and frightening noises kept squealing out from the camper. The added weight of the kayak on top didn’t help and when I look at the struts holding up the roof I’m certain they’re not straight anymore. Obviously we survived without incident. But that sleepless night is now part of the Uyshuis Yardstick, when a windy night will be prefaced with “It’s not as bad as that night in Innes NP…”
Dolphin Bay in Innes National Park. Who'd know we almost blew away last night?
I’ve harped on a bit about weather lately and I’m reminded of a conversation we had all the way back on Ningaloo Reef with a family doing a three month trip in a camper similar to ours. They were from Melbourne and would be investing in a caravan on their return home. There was a little bit of derision around the campfire: afterall we were three groups, all with campertrailers. Why would you go the soft option and get four hard caravan walls? “Because we live in Victoria, not Queensland.” came the definitive response. I was starting to see what he meant. We’d had some lovely sunny, calm, warm days, but we’d also had torrential rain, cold, unbelievable winds and everything in between since hitting the southern coast of Australia.

And we weren’t even in the weather vortex of Victoria yet, but supposedly still in the temperate climes of South Australia. Sigh, life with just a bit of canvas and fibreglass separating us from the outside world would have to continue on for a little while longer.

More emu chicks.

Fun in the cold waters of Dolphin Bay.

Dolphin Bay explorer.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Point Turton and the Bragging Grounds

Crossing over the top of the Eyre Peninsula we rounded the Spencer Gulf, past Port Augusta and made a stop at Port Germein, half way to our destination, Point Turton. On the map of course it looked like a stone’s throw, but on actually setting out and counting out the kilometres, it became clear that South Australia is a bloody big state, even if it looks tiny compared to Western Australia.  We were heading to the Yorke Peninsula, or God’s Own Country as espoused by the Braggs. Apparently it is here that the fish “flock like the salmon of Capistrano and the beer flows like wine”(Lloyd Christmas Dumb and Dumber). The Braggs also talked up Port Germein, but my guess is they weren’t camped next to the bogans from Adelaide when they were here last. Oh, and the blue swimmer crabs were probably plentiful too.
Port Germein Jetty.
Port Germein has a very long jetty (over 1.5kms) and the blue swimmer crabs are so keen to end up in a chilli sauce or cooked with lemon that they just walk into your net and you can hoist them up and cook them in the caravan park’s purpose built crab cooking kitchen. Oh, didn’t you know? The crab season actually starts next week. Of course it f*&%ing does. This is the Uyshuis, where the ‘season’ is always next week.
View from Port Germein to the southern Flinders Ranges.

We didn’t catch any crabs despite walking for hours to get out to the jetty and get some, but we were treated to a delightfully nasal rendition of “If Youse Kids Don’t Go to F*^&ing Sleep I’m Going to Come In There and F*&^ing Smash Youse All” until about 10pm. Interspersed with wafts of cigarette smoke and belched Jim Beam and Coke can fumes. Mmm, good times.
Port Germein playground.
Port Germein playground. 
So we decided against a second or third night and headed straight down into Yorkes, passing through Moonta (a Cornish town selling Cornish Pasties), Broughton (a beautiful little fishing town) and through Minlaton (more Tim Winton country) until we got to Point Turton and its caravan park. Unbeknownst to us there was some particular caravanning pensioner association’s biannual fishing competition on, so not only was the campground almost full, but it was also full of well meaning but actually really annoying people. Example: “Did you know your child has his helmet still on?” “Yes, he’s going for a ride on his bike.” “Oh, make sure he keeps his helmet on.” etc etc.
Yorkes lighthouse.

Agriculture meets Aquaculture.
Having said all this, we still liked it. Yorkes has that wonderful agrarian romanticism about it, with some salty seafaring activities thrown in as well. Mr Bragg was so kind as to put Fiela out of his almost suicidal state (after fishing for three days straight and catching bugger all) by organising him a ticket out on a boat with one of the local professional fisherman. Enter Kim, the man who helped to realise my husband’s dreams by taking him off the coast of Point Turton and landing 170 King George Whiting in one day. Kim is also a fairly shrewd businessman and canny enough to recognise a fishing nut when he sees one. My beloved (in scenes akin to the Great Lime Farm Sales Pitch of 2013) came back with facts and figures on how awesome it would be to have a professional fishing boat and live on the Yorke Peninsula. Specifically Kim’s boat. This went on for a few days.
Point Turton Caravan Park over looking the water, the Uyshuis in the foreground.

We had dinner that night at the tavern overlooking the bay with Kim and his beautiful wife, and for the first time in months felt like we were part of a community greater than the one on our particular campsite. The folks at the Tavern on Turton are friendly, the food is pretty good and they have an awesome kids’ room. Of course being there with Yorkes Royalty helped us to feel like we had stepped into an extension of our own friendship circle. It also helped that we dropped the Bragg brand around a bit; we missed their smiling faces even more on hearing about their antics in their natural environment.
Galah at the beach.

The local copper was also incredibly friendly, enquiring about our missing number plate, cracked windscreen and dented back bumper bar and being only slightly menacing as opposed to outright hostile in working out who we were and how we came to be on Yorkes. We drove away without any tickets but a booking in Adelaide to get the windscreen fixed.
Point Turton jetty.

Little coves, white beaches, clear blue water, golden grain fields, lonely roads and people who wave if they drive past you. Yes, the Yorke Peninsula is pretty awesome.