Autumn in Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens

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!


Renaissance Shows and Medieval Fairs

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!


A Lazy Mother’s Day in the Adelaide Hills

The autumnal colours of the leaves are beautiful this time of year

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.

Red pops of colour as the leaves change
Red pops of colour as the leaves change

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.

Catching glimpses of Camelot Castle on our Sunday drive
Catching glimpses of Camelot Castle on our Sunday drive

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!

Lunch at the Lobethal Bierhaus
Lunch at the Lobethal Bierhaus
The Tasting Platter at the Lobethal Bierhaus
The Tasting Platter at the Lobethal Bierhaus

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!

Me;ba's Chocolates at Woodside - it's a tradition to go here whenever we're in the Adelaide Hills
Me;ba’s Chocolates at Woodside – it’s a tradition to go here whenever we’re in the Adelaide Hills
Chocolate honeycomb from Me;ba's - yum!
Chocolate honeycomb from Me;ba’s – yum!

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!


A Day Out At Monarto Zoo

A Day Out At Monarto Zoo
A Day Out At Monarto Zoo

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.

Monarto Zoo Visitors Centre
The Visitors Centre – home base for any day out at Monarto

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.

Meerkats at Monarto Zoo
Meerkats are one of my favourite animals – I could sit and watch them for ages!

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.

Yellow footed rock wallaby at Monarto Zoo
We were lucky to see this adorable yellow footed rock wallaby – they’re usually pretty good at hiding!

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.

The Ridge Track at Monarto Zoo
Walking through the scrub along the Ridge Track, on our way to the Waterhole to see the zebra and giraffes

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.

Feeding time at the Water Hole
Feeding time at the Water Hole

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.

Giraffe at Monarto Zoo
‘Kinky’ the giraffe at Monarto Zoo

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.

Giraffes and the Zu-loop bus at Monarto
Going on one of the guided bus tours allows you to enter the animals’ enclosures and see them up close

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.

Przewalski's horse
Przewalski’s horse

On the bus tour, you’ll see Prewalski’s horses, bison, deer, white and black rhinoceros, zebra, bongoes, ostriches, eland, waterbuck, oryx and cheetah.

Cheetah at Monarto Zoo
One of the cheetahs at Monarto Zoo

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.

Lionesses at Monarto Zoo
The lionesses enjoying a sleepy Sunday afternoon

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!


A Night of Illuminations

A Night Of Illuminations

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 surreal 'The Bureau of Comical Ecologies' projected on to the Art Gallery of South Australia
Tom Moore’s surreal ‘The Bureau of Comical Ecologies’ projected on to the Art Gallery of South Australia

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.

Roll Up Roll Up by The Electric Canvas - projections on the South Australian Museum
Roll Up Roll Up by The Electric Canvas – projections on the South Australian Museum

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.