Tag Archives: Adelaide

Trip 3:Sunday, September 10

Leisurely morning–not up until 8:00. Because it was my last meal in their home, at least for this trip, Nikki and Richard created a really splendid breakfast and served it out on the terrace, so we could take advantage of the lovely weather. Then it was time to pack. Richard loaded my bag in the car, and we were off to Adelaide. Richard and Nikki had a few things they wanted to do in town, but Richard also had a couple of things he wanted me to experienced, things I had missed on previous visits to Adelaide. I happily left the day’s plans to him.

We did a bit of shopping along the pedestrian mall section of Rundle Street, where cafés and eateries appear to outnumber boutiques. No one really wanted to rush around, so after Nikki bought a few things she needed, we just ordered tea, settled at an empty table, just talked for a while. After having their carefully made plans go so terribly wrong, Nikki and Richard had been fairly stressed, but today, they were unwinding at last. Also, with Richard no longer in his outback guide role, he could relax. The conversation was both stimulating and light-hearted–and it would make it that much harder to leave.

Artwork on Rundle Street

But Richard still had those two things he wanted me to experience, and it was several hours before we had to be at the airport. First stop was the Adelaide O-Bahn, a “guided busway.” Buses pull onto the O-Bahn, and then, like a train, they are guided by the tracks. This takes buses out of city traffic, as cars can’t go on the tracks. No stop lights or competing traffic. No holding up cars when the bus stops. Nifty.

On the O-Bahn

We took a bus for the 12-kilometer/7.5-mile ride up the Torrens Gorge. Transit was smooth, swift, and safe, and the surroundings were beautifully landscaped. The bus simply pulls off when it reaches one of the stops along the route, and then pulls back on. Really brilliant concept. However, since our purpose was just using the O-Bahn, we didn’t disembark; we simply returned to our starting point.

For lunch, we enjoyed Indian food and more excellent conversation. Then we headed over to Victoria Square. I had seen the Glenelg Tram on my first visit, but just witnessed it stopping here at the square. This time, we would ride it. The tram is a classic electric tram—the last one in Adelaide. The interior is old fashioned and handsome, with abundant brass and wood and leather trim.

Glenelg Tram

The tram runs the 15 kilometers/9.3 miles from Adelaide city center to the Victorian-era, beachside town of Glenelg. The tram carried us through a trendy part of town into old suburbs, then to vintage rural areas to the seaside in a few minutes. But no time to linger in Glenelg. We had to return to Adelaide, get the car, and head for the airport.

As we drove out of the city, I wondered why I felt so much less like I was in Australia here than I did out bush. I love Australian cities, and Adelaide is a delightful place. But it’s the wild places that cling to my heart. Maybe it’s because cities are so much a part of “real life” that they don’t offer me the sense of escape that the outback does. I do realize I couldn’t live in the wilderness, but I do love the rugged beauty–and being truly “unplugged.” That said, I was quite happy with the things we’d done today.

Nikki and Richard came into the airport with me, and I bought coffee and tea, and we sat and chatted until it was time for me to head out to the boarding area. I left them hoping I’d see them again, and maybe even have new adventures. I feel blessed to have such friends.

The flight was bumpy but otherwise uneventful. It was raining as we landed in Melbourne. Judy and Geoff were waiting for me at the airport. They look great; semi-retirement clearly suits them.

They had gotten a new Land Rover since my last visit, though they assured me the one I knew was still at the house, reserved for hauling supplies for the horses and garden. We wound through Melbourne’s suburbs and out and up into the Dandenong Mountains, arriving at their lovely mountainside ranch at roughly 10:30 p.m.

The three of us enjoyed a cup of tea and talked about what we’ll do this week. Then I headed off to their delightful guestroom with its regally high brass bed. It’s good to be here again.


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Trip 3:Tuesday, September 5

Travel day.

I was up at 6:30, finished packing, had a cup of tea and a shower, and headed out the door.

Entrance to Broome Airport

Plane visible through the foliage.

The hotel provided transportation to the charming little Broome International Airport. I was amused to see flights written on a chalkboard just outside the front door–but then there aren’t a lot of flights going through Broome. I checked in and then walked the 20 feet to my gate.

The jet I boarded had a surprising amount of legroom. Sorry I can’t fly Sydney to LA with this much space! Taking off, we swiftly crossed back across the land we had taken two weeks to traverse.

Broome from the air

A lovely snack was served on the Broome to Kununurra leg of the journey (finger sandwiches with crusts trimmed off and chocolate chip, macadamia nut shortbread–could they possibly have made anything richer!), and lunch was served between Kununurra and Darwin (chicken breast and large, chilled shrimp–yum). No need to buy lunch at the airport.

The Darwin Airport is larger than Broome’s facility, but still small enough that passengers walk from their planes to the terminal. The plane was air conditioned, and after two weeks without A/C, it felt strange, and I felt more comfortable during the walk from my little Broome plane to the terminal. It is another spectacular, hot day. However, the airport was also air conditioned. I’ll adjust. The terminal was crowded, but was bright and comfortable.

The flight from Darwin to Adelaide was on a bigger jet, and it was really packed. I was a little surprised, but maybe it’s because it also goes on to Melbourne and Sydney, after dropping me off in Adelaide.

I’m sorry to be leaving this part of the country. I always feel like I’m on my way home once I leave the outback, even though I have two more weeks in Australia. However, I’m grateful for those additional two weeks, because I’m not ready to leave Australia yet.

I fell asleep almost while the plane was taking off and became conscious again forty minutes later, when beverage service came through. Below me, there was a whole lot of nowhere. The amazingly rugged landscape stretched to the horizon, with mountains, rivers, fault lines visible, but only rare signs of anything approaching civilization.

At least from up here, it’s evident that I’m somewhere specific. At most airports (unless they are little ones, like the one in Broome), it’s generally hard to tell where you are. No matter how much “personality” an airport has, in all but the smallest airports, it’s hard to feel like you’re anywhere but an airport, and all airports are in the same place—at the center of arriving and leaving. And at every airport, I’m doing the same thing, arriving, leaving, or waiting, usually with a view that consists solely of runways and airplanes.

The broad expanse of wild ruggedness below me has now turned from the brown and green of the Top End into the red of the Centre. A three-quarter moon hangs in the blue sky just to my left and forward. The fairly consistent clouds of the afternoon up north have given way to rare wisps. My view changed dramatically as we continued south, from red land to solid cloud cover. Still, from the air, even endless clouds are astonishingly beautiful. It’s one of the things I love about flying.

Then finally, partial clearing and the ocean shore, as we approached Adelaide. The pilot reported a temperature of 11˚C (roughly 52˚ F). It was 38˚C (or just over 100˚F) when I left Darwin. I’m glad I have a jacket.

The sun was just setting as we landed, which made even the airport splendid. Richard (Nikki’s husband) was waiting for me at the airport. He’d been in town for work that day, so it was quite convenient for him to pick me up. Saved me having to take a bus north.

The drive to Nuriootpa took just about an hour and 20 minutes. Nikki had dinner waiting when we arrived. Richard’s brother, Sandy, was visiting from Sydney, and the four of us dined and chatted and drank wine and chatted some more until 10:30. Then it was off to bed, to get a good night’s sleep before heading off on the next adventure.

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Thursday, September 5

Today I was on my own. I headed into Adelaide on a mid-morning train. Adelaide has changed the least of all the towns I’ve been to so far—and the changes that have been made fit in pretty well. Hence, it was all comfortingly familiar, and I had no problem finding my way around town.

I headed for the Victoria Tourist Center, to get information for my drive next week, and then headed off to pick up a few more gifts for folks back home. After that, I was free to wander and see the sights.

I headed up King William Street and around Victoria Square, then I cut down a side street and window-shopped the length of bustling Rundle Mall. I crossed to North Terrace and walked down to the Henry Ayers house. Though I’d passed it often on my previous trip, I had never toured the splendid bluestone mansion, so I took this opportunity to do so. It is said to be one of the best examples of Colonial Regency architecture in Australia. Begun around 1845 on a less ambitious scale, it was later purchased by Ayers and considerably enlarged. Ayers, who came to Australia as a nineteen-year-old law clerk, had made his money in the Burra Copper Mines. Once he was well established financially, he went into politics. He ended up being elected premier of South Australia a record seven times. He is, of course, the person for whom that iconic symbol of the outback, Ayers Rock, is named (largely because, back in the mid-1800s, what is now the Northern Territory was still considered, at least legislatively, part of South Australia).

The massive chandeliers and vaulted, hand-painted ceilings were clearly meant to impress. The antique furniture, silver, paintings, and all other items of use or decoration were all astonishingly lovely. It was not hard to imagine the grand parties, luncheons, and balls for which Ayers become known.

One dear, older lady who works at Ayers House as a docent took me in hand, as I was alone, and spent about 45 minutes showing me things in obscure corners and out-of-the-way places in the house, sharing insights about who would have been there when and what it all meant. Wonderful. Aside from enjoying the information, I’m always delighted by the enthusiasm of those who get caught up in the history and details of a place or time.

I didn’t get any photos of the imposing exterior of Ayers House, and photos weren’t permitted inside. However, I did find this video of the interior of the state dining room on the occasion of a performance by British guitarist Jonathan Prag, so at least you can get a hint of the grandeur of the place.

Leaving Ayers House, I continued down North Terrace to the beautiful Botanic Gardens. I had come for the greenery, but smiled at the connection with the place I’d just left; Ayers was Governor of the Botanic Gardens Board for 35 years. I wandered for about half an hour among the old trees, flowers, and ponds. At one pond, there were a couple of swamp hens in the water, and I noticed that the color of their orange faces matched almost exactly the color of the large carp in the pond.

I then headed back through town, stopping to buy chocolates for Louanne, Rae, and Bert. I headed for the train station and traveled out to North Haven, where I joined my friends for supper and another evening of Aussie TV.

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September 3, part 2

After an hour and a half, I began the walk back to Toddy’s. I noticed that there is a motel now on the site where we camped in Heavitree Gap, during the “flood trip” that capped my first trip to Australia. It made me a little sad to think that others will not be able to camp here, between the towering, ragged, red rocks and the banks of the Todd River.

I stopped at a small shop on the way back to Toddy’s, to buy some fruit and a sandwich for my lunch, then continued on. The office at Toddy’s closes at 1:00 pm, and they had my luggage, so I had to get back. I made it, with a little time to spare. Then, after rescuing my luggage, I sat in the sunshine and ate my sandwich, enjoying my last minutes before the airport shuttle would arrive.

Leaving is acceptable only because I find it impossible to believe I won’t be back someday. Good-bye, Alice—till next time.

Wow. Security is tighter at the tiny Alice Springs airport than it is in Chicago. They went through everything, measuring the length of my pocketknife, making me remove the lens from my camera. Seriously, how many terrorists come through Alice Springs?

The flight was pleasant, with the red land flashing past below me. Landed in Adelaide (10 minutes early), grabbed my bags, and headed outside, just in time to see Louanne coming across from the parking lot. We headed out to North Haven, where Louanne’s mom and dad, Rae and Bert, were waiting for us.

(For those of you who have read my book, Waltzing Australia, you may remember Louanne from the trip to Kangaroo Island, as well as my meeting Lou’s parents when I returned to Adelaide from the KI sojourn.)

After dinner, we spent a few hours looking through photographs of Rae and Bert’s two-year, around-Australia wonder. They saw some places I visited on my previous trip, but they also visited a lot of amazing places I haven’t seen and now want to visit. They have a 4WD Toyota Landcruiser, so they can go almost anywhere—and they did. Wow. We also looked at photos and heard tales from Louanne’s “gap year” wander around Europe. Hardly a surprise, then, that they’d welcome a wanderer into their homes, having wandered so much themselves.

The evening was spent, as it had been on my previous visit, in delightful and enthusiastic conversation. Part of the time was given over to discussing news events in Australia, along with updates on other people I met on that first visit and questions about my own travel plans. They described some of the local places they wanted to show me, and then we headed off to bed, so we’d be ready for an early start tomorrow.

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John McDouall Stuart

Back in January 2008, I introduced you to explorers Charles Sturt and James McDouall Stuart, including both in the entry to make it clear that Sturt and Stuart are two different people, not a typo. Of the two, James McDouall Stuart would become the more important—and would, in fact, open up a route to the north that would make it possible for Australia to connect to the world.

Technically, John McDouall Stuart was not the first person to cross Australia south to north. That honor belongs to the Burke and Wills expedition. But two things established Stuart as the greater explorer: he actually blazed a useful trail across the continent, and he survived his trip.

It took Stuart several years of exploring the remote regions of South Australia to find a viable route north, but by October 1861, he was ready to make the crossing. Eight months later, on July 24, 1862, he reached the Indian Ocean near present-day Darwin.

The reports and maps with which Stuart returned opened up the Northern Territory. The British Government was so impressed, it added the entire region to South Australia shortly after Stuart’s return. By 1872, the Overland Telegraph had been strung across the continent, closely following Stuart’s route. This wire stretched across the outback, from Adelaide to the Indian Ocean, linked Australia to England and the world.

The names of South Australians—from supporters of Stuart’s expeditions (Finke, Chambers) to politicians (Ayers, Todd) still dot the Northern Territory. However, South Australians felt the region was far too large to handle effectively, and the Northern Territory eventually got its own local government.

If you’d like a bit more detail on Stuart’s life and explorations, there is a good article at the Flinders Range Research web site: http://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/stuart.htm

Though Stuart returned to his native Scotland for his remaining years, his name is still strongly linked to both South Australia and the Northern Territory. The statue of Stuart shown below is in Adelaide’s Victoria Square.

John McDouall Stuart

John McDouall Stuart

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North Terrace

Adelaide’s North Terrace, one of the boundary roads of the original city planned by Colonel Light, is not the only place one finds impressive buildings in Adelaide, but it does offer one of the city’s most concentrated collections of imposing architecture. Lining this handsome, mile-long boulevard one finds Parliament House, the University of South Australia, Ayers House (the former mansion of a past governor of South Australia), the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, and more, interspersed with fountains, churches, and monuments. The architectural styles almost make North Terrace look European—except for the palm trees.

While I ran out of time on my first trip, and didn’t get a chance to visit more than a couple of these North Terrace destinations, I have had the good fortune to explore most of them on subsequent visits. The collections were excellent, and filled with “old friends” from my studies. Each place deepened the layers of information and understanding I have absorbed about Australia and its history. But on that first trip, I simply strolled along North Terrace, admiring them, as I headed for the impressive Botanic Garden. There are simply too many things to do in one trip.

The South Australian Museum

The South Australian Museum

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Rundle Mall

At the heart of every large Australian city, there is an attractive pedestrian mall—but Adelaide’s Rundle Mall was the first.

As is true of most of these pedestrian-only streets, Rundle Mall is lined with department stores, boutiques, specialty shops, book stores, and eateries (coffee shops, delicatessens, restaurants, milk bars, and food courts). When I was there, Rundle Mall was also dotted with booths and stands selling fresh fruit and cut flowers, which added to the generally festive ambiance of the place. The fruit stands in particular became favorite stops on the way back to my hotel.

Rundle Mall was a great place for people watching, as it was always filled with a mix of young and old, tourists and locals, serious shoppers and folks hanging out, just enjoying the weather, the street musicians, perhaps a cappuccino, and the general cheerful bustle.

In Rundle Mall, while some of the large department stores are newer and more modern, most of the buildings are older and exhibit more traditional architectural design—and provide a handsome backdrop for the modern art that dots the mall. The shiny orbs below are among the most commonly photographed pieces of public art in Rundle Mall—and it’s easy to see why, as it offers you both the view ahead and the reflected view behind.

Rundle Mall

Rundle Mall

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Festival City

For much of its history, Adelaide was known as the City of Churches, and indeed, there is a surprising number of impressive church buildings in the old part of the city. However, as with many of the early American colonies, this did not simply show the presence of religion, but also represented political freedom, freedom of religion, and increased civil liberties. The original settlers of Adelaide were largely British citizens breaking with the Anglican Church and German Lutherans escaping persecution, and they showed their delight in being free to worship as they wished by all building their own churches. Of course, freedom wasn’t the only reason people came—there was also the possibility of building a better life. Again, not much different from the American colonies, just farther from England. (And for those who never thought of it, there’s a really good reason the settlement of Australia started right after the American Revolution.)

More recently, Adelaide has come to be known as the Festival City. It is a city with a lively arts scene and major arts festivals. One of the city’s centerpieces is Festival Hall (pictured below), which is more modern and has more innovations than what they refer to as “that other place” (i.e., the Sydney Opera House). Though less iconic than Sydney’s dramatically sculptural harbor-side center, Adelaide’s Festival Hall is a strikingly handsome building and a splendid venue for the performing arts.

Adelaide's Festival Hall

Adelaide's Festival Hall

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Opals and Inlays

When one mentions opals, most people think immediately of precious opals, the gem-quality stones that tend to show up in pieces of jewelry. It is precious opal that possesses the flashing, shimmering colors—the opalescence—that make the stones so lovely.

While opals are found in a number of places around the world, the finest gem opals are found in Australia. Because South Australia is one of the key locations for the mining of gem-quality opals, Adelaide is pretty well supplied with jewelry stores that specialize in opals.

I talk a fair bit about opals in the book, so I won’t repeat it all here, but I did want to show you a photo of the splendid “pseudomorph”—a fossil shell formed entirely of opal—that caught my eye while I was browsing through Opal Field Gems in Adelaide. You’ll see it below, mounted in a necklace—a perfect cockle shell shape, all of opal. (Actually, there are two cockle-shaped pseudomorphs in the photo, but the one that really captured my fancy was the one in the necklace.) The gorgeous black opals that I so admired can also be seen—the ones that look like molten emeralds and sapphires mixed together.

One of the stories that didn’t make it into the book, however, is that while I was browsing through the store, it suddenly occurred to me that, with a few relatively settled days in Adelaide, I could take care of some business that had been delayed by all my wandering. While I was still on the camping trip that carried me down the rugged west coast, someone had offered me a particularly sticky candy called Milk Shake—the sort of thing that pulls fillings out. Or, in my case, an inlay. I had been trotting about the countryside now for several weeks with about half a tooth missing. Well, not entirely missing, as it was in my purse, but I wanted it where it belonged. So I asked the charming sales manager at the opal store if she could offer any recommendations. She wrote down the address of her own dentist, whose office was just a few blocks away.

I found the dentist, and his receptionist was able to arrange an appointment only a few days later. By Tuesday of the following week, my inlay was back in place. I only mention this because it has afforded me some amusement over the years. Often, people who know of Australia’s gold rush ask if I have any Australian gold in my teeth. I smile and reply that, no, I don’t, but the gold I do have is held in place with Australian glue.

Australian Opals

Australian Opals


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Into Adelaide

Thanks to the vision of Colonel William Light, Adelaide is a wonderfully laid-out city, with abundant gardens and parks, remarkably wide streets, and attractive squares every few blocks. Colonel Light chose the city’s site in 1836, and soon handsome, imposing buildings began growing up along the sweeping boulevards and amid the parks he had mandated.

Born in Malaya, Light spoke several languages and was a gifted artist. His life might best be described as unconventional, with more numerous career changes than were common at the time, a number of marriages, and a fair bit of international wandering. However, he distinguished himself in the military on numerous occasions, and most especially while attached to the illustrious Duke of Wellington. He was also very bright.

When John Hindmarsh (with whom Light had served in Egypt) became Governor of South Australia, he recommended Light for the position of Surveyor General—which led to Light’s involvement with the founding of Adelaide. In addition to determining the location of Adelaide and laying it out, Light named numerous locations in South Australia, including the Barossa Valley (which would become one of South Australia’s premier wine regions), after a valley in Spain where he had fought while in the military.

Colonel Light’s brilliance was not universally appreciated. In fact, he found himself coming under increasingly heavy criticism, which escalated into attacks. In his own defense, he wrote, “The reasons that led me to fix Adelaide where it is I do not expect to be generally understood or calmly judged of at present. My enemies, however, by disputing their validity in every particular, have done me the good service of fixing the whole of the responsibility upon me. I am perfectly willing to bear it; and I leave it to posterity, and not to them, to decide whether I am entitled to praise or blame.”

Sadly, Light did not live long enough to see his enemies’ opinions discounted. He died of tuberculosis in 1839. But even at his death, he was acknowledged as the founder of Adelaide—and his funeral procession indicated that, though his foes may have been vocal, there were hundreds who admired him. Today, pretty much everyone who visits Adelaide considers Light’s plans to have been inspired. It is a truly lovely city.

The picture below is of Victoria Square, named in early 1837 for a princess who would soon be England’s Queen. It is one of five squares Light placed in downtown Adelaide, and is the center of the city’s one-square-mile grid. Both historic and modern buildings can be seen beyond the Three Rivers Fountain, which represents the three rivers from which Adelaide gets its water.

Adelaide's Victoria Square

Adelaide's Victoria Square


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