We’re in the final days of autumn here in Australia. The trees are slowly losing their leaves as the air turns from crisp to chill. One of the things I wanted to do before the season ended was to explore Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, and see for myself the glorious reds, browns, oranges and golds of the autumnal leaves before winter stole them away for another year.
The Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, tucked away in the Adelaide Hills, are only a thirty minute drive out of Adelaide. On the way there, as I drove through the townships of the Adelaide Hills, I caught glimpses of
gorgeous trees in vibrant reds and yellows and my anticipation heightened. I had decided to go at just the right time!
After parking in the Upper Carpark (free to park on Sundays, and not as full as the Lower Carpark) I didn’t pick up a map of the Botanic Gardens and decided to wander instead in search of colourful leaves. The day was perfect for walking along the sometimes steep paths, and there were moments when there was nobody else around where I could stand still, and appreciate the beauty of nature.
By the time I made my way down the hill to the Main Lake, I had not been disappointed. There were flashes of colour everywhere in amongst the evergreen trees. Coming across the Duck Lake was the showpiece of the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, with the colours of the foliage reflected in the lake.
After an hour of wandering around the Rhododendron and West Asian Gullies, it came time to make the hike back up to the carpark, which tested my fitness after what was a relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
As it’s spread over more than 90 hectares, there is still a great deal more of the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens that I’ve yet to explore. Hopefully, as I keep my resolution to travel more locally during this year, I can return over the next few months to explore the other paths through the garden. I hear the camellias and magnolias are beautiful in August!
I love to travel, however over the years my idea of travelling has been warped to mean overseas. And since I currently average one of these big trips a year, after I come home from one, it could be twelve months of waiting and anticipation before I leave for the next one.
Life is about having adventures, and adventures shouldn’t be limited to once a year. However this is the holding pattern I’ve fallen into. I tell myself excuses: I need to wait until my friends are available to go on a road trip; I’ll see that exhibition next month, when I have more time but this leads to an unadventurous life.
There’s so much on at the moment that I should be out experiencing. It’s History Month in my hometown, which means that all of the grand nineteenth century mansions throw open their doors to the public. There’s an Impressionist exhibition on at the Art Gallery, featuring works on loan from the Musée d’Orsay. And it’s that lovely time in autumn when the weather’s cooling down and the leaves are starting to change from green into gorgeous reds, yellows and browns.
Instead of spending my free time exploring, I’m being a homebody, staying in and binge watching the life of Mary, Queen of Scots and her time at French court in Reign.
If I was overseas travelling, I wouldn’t have this problem. I’d go exploring by myself without a second thought. That’s just what you do when travelling solo. So why can’t I adopt this mindset when I’m at home?
Last weekend, I decided to make a start on changing my mindset, and took myself on a road trip to the Gumeracha Medieval Fair. I first heard about the fair about three years ago, and as each year has passed I have been more determined to go. This year, after asking everyone I knew if they were interested in going and coming up short, I psyched myself in to my travelling mindset, packed my bag for the day, and went for the forty minute drive to Gumeracha.
I didn’t know what to expect from the fair. How big was it? What was it like? Would everyone there be in costume? Would I stand out if I was there by myself? Would I get there, spend ten minutes wandering around, and then feel like leaving again?
I needn’t have worried. I ended up spending five hours at the fair, most of them watching the mock battles at the Combat Arena. There were plenty of performances and demonstrations. Not only were there three swordplay groups, there was also an Armouring a Knight presentation, and the Skills at Arms (unfortunately the scheduled joust was unable to take place which is a shame. It’s on my bucket list to watch a joust in real life!).
The fair sprawled along Federation Park, with many different areas to explore, including a Viking area, an Artisan area, and an area especially for children. Some people embraced the occasion and dressed up in medieval costume, and I almost convinced myself to buy a cloak from one of the clothing stalls (maybe next year)!
Once I was there, I didn’t worry at all that I was by myself. It just didn’t matter. I’m looking forward to going next year – and in the meantime push myself to go on many other adventures!
The last few weekends have been grey and chilly as we head towards winter. But this weekend the sun was out, and the temperature was hovering around a lovely twenty degrees making it the ideal day for a Sunday drive through the Adelaide Hills.
And perfect timing, too, since it’s Mother’s Day! To celebrate, I spent the day with Mum and Dad exploring the windy roads of the Adelaide Hills.
My parents are avid photographers, and so much of the time was spent pulling over to the side of the road and jumping out of the car for photo ops as we tried to capture the changing colours of the vineyards, apple orchards, and autumnal trees on the side of the road. We even passed Camelot Castle peeking out from behind the trees that lined the side of the road.
We managed to snag one of the last tables at the Lobethal Bierhaus, and tucked in to a warm loaf of sliced bread, and mains of pulled pork and venison as Mum and I sipped on the local Lenswood LOBO apple cider and watched as Dad worked his way through the tasting platter of eight beers that were each brewed on site (I don’t usually like the taste of beer, but even I liked the spiced Christmas ale!). We would have loved to have stayed for dessert, but we were too full!
A visit to the Adelaide Hills is never complete without stopping in at Melba’s Chocolate Factory at Woodside. Everyone else must have had the same idea, as the shop was full of people buying chocolate with their mums. The chocolate shop has rooms where you can wander in and watch the chocolates, lollies and other treats being made – and taste some samples!
It was a lovely lazy day and although we didn’t really do much, it was relaxing taking photos, eating great food, and most importantly, spending time with Mum.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mums out there – hopefully your day was just as relaxing!
Early on a Saturday morning, I met up with a group of friends and we drove just over ninety minutes south of Adelaide to the coastal town of Cape Jervis. Our plan was to walk the first section of the Heysen Trail, a long distance hiking trail named in honour of Hans Heysen, a famous German-born South Australian artist. Leaving one car at the Kangaroo Island ferry terminal, we drove the other into Deep Creek conservation park to the Cobbler Hill campground so that we could walk from the fifteen kilometres from the campground to Cape Jervis, and then drive back to collect the other car.
As we left the Cobbler Hill Campground, signs warned of a steep descent, and it wasn’t long before we told ourselves we had made the right decision to walk to Cape Jervis instead of beginning there and walking towards Cobbler Hill Campground. The ground sloped sharply downwards, and when we came across some stairs, we had enough trouble walking down them – climbing up when going the other way would have been an exhausting way to end the walk!
The landscape soon took its revenge on us, however, as we climbed up and down a series of rolling hills. The scenery was spectacular though – the deep blue waters of the Backstairs Passage with Kangaroo Island hazy in the distance was our constant view as we walked through farmland past grazing sheep and cattle.
Both Blowhole Beach and Fishery Beach were opportunities for us to catch our breath and gaze at the white sands, turquoise water and rugged cliff faces that formed the coastline. We were lucky enough to see a dolphin as well as a pod of seals!
By the end of the walk I was exhausted – we had underestimated how long the walk was going to take! What we had originally envisaged as being a two to three hour walk ended up being a six hour trek. I kept my eye out for the Sealink ferry as it made its way back and forth between Cape Jervis on the mainland and Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island, knowing that the bigger the ferry appeared to be the closer I was getting to the end of the walk. It kept my motivation up for the final three kilometres of the walk as we trudged through sandhills, the harsh rays of the afternoon sun beating down on us.
Since we had done the walk in reverse (it’s intended for people to begin at Cape Jervis and finish at Cobbler Hill), it wasn’t until we saw the Trail sign at the very end that we realised how far we had actually walked.
On the way back to Adelaide we stopped in at Yankalilla Bakery to re-fuelWe managed to recover by stopping in at the Yankalilla Bakery for Cornish pasties and chocolate donuts to re-fuel before making our way back to Adelaide.
Open from April to October the Heysen Trail covers 1200 kilometres in total, making our sixteen kilometres seem insignificant! Though if the rest of the scenery along the trail is as picturesque as the walk from Cobbler Hill to Cape Jervis was, then it might be worth the effort to explore a few more sections of it.
It’s usually a spur of the moment decision to visit Monarto Zoo. It starts with an hour-long road trip through the Adelaide Hills along the South Eastern Freeway, past rolling hills and farmland, and ends with finding yourself at the gates of one of the largest open range zoos in the world.
Just arriving at the visitor’s centre carpark feels like an adventure in itself – the speed limit in to the park is set at 30km/h, and gives you plenty of time to spot wild kangaroos and emus stalking their way through the bushland as you make your way towards the carpark.
Once you reach the visitor’s centre, there are two ways of exploring the zoo – you can either hop on a free bus that drives you through the exhibits, or if you’re feeling energetic, there are over ten kilometres of walking trails that take you through the zoo.
We decided to tackle the trails.
Right outside the Visitor’s Centre you’ll find a mob of meerkats. Meerkats are one of those animals that I could spend all day watching as they scurry and dig and stand up on their hind legs when something captures their attention.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend all day with the meerkats – we had an entire zoo to explore!
Walking away from the visitors centre, we came across the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby enclosure. Usually when we come through here, we don’t glimpse the timid wallabies but today we were lucky and saw two basking in the wintry sun.
Close by are the chimpanzees, who come right up close to you in their undercover playground, which is where they tend to hang out. The success of Monarto’s chimpanzee breeding program means that there’s often young adventurous infants playing, though today the most recent addition to the troupe was cuddled up with its mum, hidden from view.
From there we took the Ridge Trail, walking through the mallee scrub, where we stopped at various lookouts to gaze at herds of black rhinoceros, zebra, Indian antelope, scimitar-horned oryx.
It’s a peaceful walk – most families who come to the zoo opt to take the bus around the zoo so there’s generally not too many people around – and it’s pretty cool to look out and feel like you’re in the wild.
At the end of the walking trail, we came out on to the Water Hole – an area containing ostrich, Chapman’s zebra and Australia’s biggest herd of giraffe.
Arriving just in time for the keeper talk, we were introduced to ‘Kinky’ – a giraffe who was born at the zoo but because her mother sat down to deliver her instead of standing, she was born with a broken veterbrae, thus giving her a kink in her neck.
We took the Creek Track back to the Visitors Centre, narrowly missing being crashed in to by two emus dashing across the path (emus and kangaroos roam around the zoo).
After lunch at the on-site cafe, we queued for the Zu-loop shuttle bus. Besides the driver, a zoo volunteer also comes onboard to provide commentary on the history of the zoo and trivia about the animals it houses as well as the conservation programs they undertake to ensure the survival of the animals.
Doing the bus tour around Monarto Zoo always makes me feel like I’m about to enter Jurassic Park – the bus draws close to a gate, and waits for it to open, and before you know it you’re inside the animal’s enclosure. If the animals are feeling curious, they’ll come right up to the bus.
On the bus tour, you’ll see Prewalski’s horses, bison, deer, white and black rhinoceros, zebra, bongoes, ostriches, eland, waterbuck, oryx and cheetah.
There are bus stops along the way to get a closer view of the animals – including at the Water Hole to see the giraffes, and the Boma to get up close and personal with a rhino (and maybe have a chance to pat one!).
To see the carnivores, you’ll need to get off at Windana, the furthest away of all the bus stops, and either view the hyenas, African painted dogs, and lions and lionesses from the viewing platform, or by taking a separate bus through their enclosures.
Ryan captured our visit on video – he’s just invested in one thing he thought he’d never buy – a selfie stick – and tried it out for the first time during our zoo trip.
Zoos are important for animal conservation and the work they do with breeding programs to protect animals under threat from extinction. Because of this (and the opportunity for a lifetime of ‘free’ zoo visits!), I purchased a Zoos SA Lifetime Membership on my thirtieth birthday, so I could support the zoos in the work that they do in ensuring these endangered animals will thrive and be around for many generations to come.
It’s always a good day out at Monarto Zoo – I get to have the feeling of going on a safari without straying too far from home!
It was getting close to 10PM, the summer air had cooled and I pulled my scarf closer around me as we joined the people gathered in front of the Art Gallery of South Australia.
The normally brown facade was changing. A blue bird perched itself on a rock, peered at us, and then flew off, disappearing in to the black. Fish swam into view, before jumping and diving their way around the building. Waves of ocean were quickly dispersed by blades of green grass. A stegosaurus appeared out of nowhere.
Tom Moore’s ‘The Bureau of Comical Ecologies’ is just one of the many projections on display as part of the Adelaide Fringe Illuminations. A free event held as part of the Fringe, the projected ‘Illuminations’ are displayed on buildings along Adelaide’s North Terrace, and just add to the fun of being in Adelaide right now.
South Australia is known as ‘The Festival State’, and at this time of year, Adelaide plays host to so many festivals that we call it ‘Mad March’. It all begins in February, with the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere. But we don’t stop there. We cram the rest of February and all of March full with even more festivals: the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, the Clipsal 500 car race, the world music festival WOMAD, and the Adelaide Cup to name a few. You find yourself going to two shows every night and needing a rest by the time April comes around!
We stood and watched the Art Gallery animated projection as it finished its cycle, and then moved on to the next beautifully lit up building along North Terrace, dodging pedalos ferrying people between Fringe shows, and stopping to listen to a Scottish bagpiper on the way.
Ever since I went to the Sound and Light Show at Château de Blois I’ve been fascinated about how projections like these can transform these beautiful buildings from something I’m used to seeing every day to amazing works of art. In just one hundred metres, you could see portrayals of Aboriginal culture, learn about the treasures of the State Library, discover the surreal ecology on the Art Gallery of South Australia, and be entranced by the circus montages on both the South Australian Museum and Bonython Hall.
You could even try it out for yourself, with a station set up to give passers-by three minutes to try creating their own works of projected art!
The Fringe Illuminations is on from February 12 – 28 2016 from 8:30PM – 1:30AM.
It’s Proclamation Day here in South Australia – the day when South Australia was proclaimed as a British province on the 28th December 1836. As it’s South Australia’s 178th birthday, I thought I would bring you a list of twelve places and things that come to mind when I think about good old SA (in random order, of course!):
Cruising down the River Torrens in the Popeye
A Very Special Thing when we were little was to go for a ride on the Popeye. The river boats leave from Elder Park and travel to the Weir before turning around and cruising to the Adelaide Zoo. There is a fleet of three Popeye boats, and the sight of them cruising down the Torrens never fails to bring back memories of my childhood. Make sure you hop on one when you’re next in Adelaide!
Climbing Mount Lofty
Laugh if you want about the poorly named Mount Lofty Ranges that hem in the city of Adelaide. While there are plenty of loftier mountains, standing at the top of Mt Lofty gives you a good view over the city out to the Gulf of St Vincent. Whether you drive or ride your bike up the winding Adelaide Hills roads, or leave your car at Waterfall Gully and walk the 3kms up to the top (harder than it sounds – the trail gets steeper the closer you get to the top), Mount Lofty gives you one of the best views over Adelaide.
Chilling out in the wine country
Wine drinkers are spoilt for choice in South Australia. Right on our doorstep we have three wine regions: the Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. Between one and two hours’ drive out from Adelaide, spending a day cellar door hopping is a relaxing way to pass the weekend. And the wine is world class – I often find South Australian wines listed in the wine lists at overseas restaurants (I laughed when I saw a Chateau Reynella on the wine list at the Olde Hansa restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia – it brought home to me just how good South Australian wine really is!).
Mad March: The Festival Month
One of SA’s taglines is The Festival State. We like our festivals so much that we decided to put as many as we could into one month and give ourselves the other eleven months to recuperate. If you’re in Adelaide in March, you’ll find yourself spending most of your nights out at the Adelaide Fringe Festival (second only to the Edinburgh Fringe). On the nights you’re not checking out comedians, street performers, dance performances and visual artists, you can get your fill of world music at WOMAdelaide. Right alongside the Fringe is the Adelaide Festival of Arts, which includes one of my favourite festivals: Adelaide Writer’s Week, a free event where both Australian and international authors, poets and journalists descend on the Pioneer Women’s Gardens to talk about their projects and industries. We have a public holiday in March to watch the horses racing for the Adelaide Cup. Then, right at the end of the month, we complain about how the set up of the Clipsal 500 track has made travelling to Adelaide’s eastern suburbs a whole lot more difficult. They don’t call it Mad March for nothing!
The Green Gridded Capital City
Navigating while in overseas metropolises can be painful, especially when I’m used to good old Adelaide’s grid-like street layout. The city is extremely walkable, and there are free buses and trams to get you around the inner city. Our CBD is surrounded by parklands, with Victoria Square and other green areas dotted throughout the grid, all purposely planned by the men who originally designed the city’s layout in the 1800s. It means that we never feel like we’re walking around in a concrete jungle – a green space is never more than 500m away.
Our quirky monuments
We have a lot of statues and sculptures around the CBD. But the one that garners the fiercest loyalty are the Rundle Mall Balls. While they perhaps don’t look like anything special to a tourist’s eyes, this shiny structure has been a fixture in the Mall, and an easy landmark if you need to specify a location to meet up with your friends!
Starting the Christmas Season with the Credit Union Christmas Pageant and the Magic Cave
2014 was the first year that I can ever remember missing out on watching the Christmas Pageant (I was traipsing around Paris, climbing the Arc de Triomphe and checking out the Galeries Lafayette on Christmas Pageant Day). Every year, the Credit Unions of South Australia put on the biggest Christmas Pageant in the Southern Hemisphere, containing over sixty floats of fairy tale characters, marching bands and Christmas carolers. Father Christmas, his sleigh pulled by twelve animatronic reindeer, pauses on the steps of David Jones department store to announce the beginning of the Christmas season, wish everyone peace and goodwill, and to open the Magic Cave, where for the next six weeks children will queue to tell him their Christmas wish lists. For everyone’s safety, a permanent blue line is painted on the streets of Adelaide that marks the line all children (and adults) must keep behind while the pageant is on. Now when I’m overseas, if I see a blue line painted on the road, it reminds me of the Christmas Pageant!
Watching the game at the newly revamped Adelaide Oval
Over the past few years the Adelaide Oval has undergone renovations to improve its facilities. So most people liken the new grandstand to an alien spaceship, but it is known as one of the best cricket grounds in the world. Whether you watch cricket in the summer or AFL in the winter, choose to sit in the grandstand or out in the open on the hill, make sure to enjoy the atmosphere.
The Wild Life on Kangaroo Island
The guidebooks are right about this one. If you’re visiting South Australia, make the effort to drive down to Kangaroo Island and spend a few days there. There are strange rock formations (Remarkable Rocks, Admiral’s Arch), limestone stalactites and stalagmites at Kelly Hill Caves and of course wildlife (pelican feedings and little ‘fairy’ penguins in Kingscote; sleepy sea lions at Seal Bay; kangaroos, koalas and emus at Flinders Chase). And all the fun of running up and down a giant sand dune at Little Sahara.
Living the Miner’s Life in the Copper Triangle
I grew up in the Copper Triangle towns of Kadina, Moonta and Wallaroo (affectionately called Australia’s Little Cornwall). Due to this upbringing, I compare every Cornish pasty I eat in the UK to the ones I consumed at the Cornish Kitchen, Australian-Cornish copper mining practices to their Anglo equivalent and can’t go past a maypole without memories of wanting to dance around it at the Kernewek Lowender Cornish Festival. Living in coastal towns, I also filled my childhood with long summer days at the beach, swimming within the supposedly shark-proof netting and catching garfish, whiting and Tommy Ruffs off of the Moonta Bay jetty.
Receiving 10 cents back for recycling cans and plastic bottles
All recyclable cans, bottles and cartons bought in South Australia can earn you cash if you take them to a recycling depot. While it doesn’t seem like much at 10 cents per item, it certainly adds up. It’s a great initiative that encourages recycling and it’s something that I’ve taken for granted – when overseas I find it hard to even find a designated recycling bin and feel guilty about throwing recyclable goods in the trash.
South Aussie Food and Drink
One thing we South Aussies take seriously is our food, with Adelaide boasting more restaurants per person than any other Australian capital city. While I’m a bit of a Schnitzel Queen (and why not when it’s on the menu in some form at almost every pub and restaurant in the state?), there’s a few specialities that are uniquely South Australian. How many of these have you tried? Try them – they’re all awesome (except for the pie floater – I’ve never been game enough to try one of those!)
Christmas is a time full of family and tradition. I love how our family gathers together to celebrate each year. Here’s what a typical Christmas looks like for me:
We tend to gather at my parent’s house on Christmas Eve for a carols sing along. The Vision Australia’s Carols By Candlelight, which is televised from the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne, has been a tradition ever since I can remember. We joke that Dennis Walter and one of my uncles could be twins, get up and dance around the house to the kid’s entertainment, and sing our hearts out to Deck the Halls, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Jerusalem.
Christmas Day is divided in to four parts for us: Preparation, Gift Giving, Lunch, and After Lunch.
Christmas lunch is the big meal of the day, and we usually have several members of the extended family over. To get ready for their arrival, the morning is a flurry of last-minute cleaning, putting out table decorations, and cooking.
By the time the family starts arriving, the preparations are mostly done and we can sit down, catch up, and exchange presents.
Depending on how hot it is (Christmas Day temperatures tend to hover anywhere between 20 – 35 degrees Celsius), we have turkey, chicken, and kebabs cooked on the barbecue, as well as salads. We always eat so much that dessert – gingerbread, mince pies, chocolate truffles, fruit and cheese platters and my Mum’s famous fruit salad ice cream – often comes out in lieu of tea around 6pm!
The rest of the day is spent in a food coma, chatting and playing games. This year my uncle brought over Cards Against Humanity – it’s an inappropriately hilarious game, and it suddenly seems like everyone I know either owns it, has played it, or knows someone who has played it!
Boxing Day is a quiet day in our house – still full from lunch the day before, it is a day for sleeping and lazing around, before the end of the year and returning back to work sets in.
Do you have any Christmas traditions? Share them in the comments!