All good things come to an end, but why oh why does it always have to be so quickly? Just like my holiday in Australia, this three-part series of posts concludes today, but never fear! I mean it when I say I’ve left the best ’til last. Let’s get stuck right in, shall we?
After returning from Melbourne, Mia and I had a quiet couple of days, lounging in the house and reminiscing about my last trip. But there was no rest for the wicked come Saturday morning! The five of us were up and about in good time, bundling into the car once more and setting off for Cleland Wildlife Park, tucked away in the Adelaide Hills.
Cleland was a place I was desperate to visit again. I remembered it very clearly from my previous trip, and despite the rain that had hammered down all day long, I’d still had the best time. As a visitor you’re able to walk amongst the kangaroos, wallabies, emus and other native wildlife, admire the beautiful unspoilt scenery and take in lungfuls of that wonderful fresh air I know I’ve mentioned a few times already whilst writing these recaps…!
So it was with delight and nostalgia aplenty that I found myself entering the park for a second time, beneath a canopy of softly swaying gum trees.
We were blessed with yet more perfect weather (thirty degrees again!), and with splodges of suncream on our noses we began our wander through the grounds.
It didn’t take long to find someone who was keen to say hello…!
There are those out there who say I give my heart away too freely, but I challenge anyone not to fall head over heels in love with this little guy. It only took me a matter of seconds.
There’s an option to buy special feed for the animals at Cleland, which is balanced and nutritionally sound. I half-wondered whether the kangaroos and wallabies would be fed up of it as I got the bag out and offered it to this fella, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Cupboard love or not, we bonded over a bag of slightly-strange smelling food pellets, and he seemed more than happy to stick his nose right in to find more!
Would you just look at those eyelashes! No need for falsies here, oh no. My kangaroo-shaped squeeze was more than perfect already, and I think he knew it, too.
As we walked through the park, the sun rose higher in the sky, illuminating the colours of nature in a way only “real” sunlight can manage. I marvelled at bright pops of yellow from the golden wattle bush. There’s no need to look anywhere but outside for inspiration when it comes to mixing and matching colours! Cleland’s landscapes and vistas were just stunning.
And of course, there were plenty more beautiful creatures to meet, too…
Like Hallie here, quite possibly the most fabulous fuzzy-eared babe I’d ever seen!
With her soft grey coat, kind dark eyes and incredible furry ears, she definitely knew she was the belle of the ball, and quite happily munched her way through a never-ending supply of eucalyptus leaves as we were introduced.
There’s something so unusual and special about Aussie animals, particularly koalas. They have a very old and majestic look about them, and I’m convinced it’s due to the fact that Australia is an island that was (and still is!) largely uninhabited and unspoilt, meaning Hallie and her friends have been roaming for years without interruption. You get the feeling that they are more-or-less identical to how they always have been.
And the same goes for those landscapes I mentioned earlier. They’re so… real. Raw, unspoilt, and wild. Australia is such a vast place, that in comparison to somewhere like the UK where so much has been engulfed by the human footprint, there are these enormous patches of bush and scrubland that haven’t even been touched, and I like that a lot. It’s real nature, not tampered with, tidied or tarted up to make it more “accessible”. It just is the way it is.
We spent a good three or four hours at Cleland, taking in birds, marsupials, reptiles and mammals of all shapes and sizes. Bettongs, potoroos, dingoes, bilbies, pelicans, budgies, Tasmanian devils and wombats… it was impossible to pick a favourite!
Well, almost impossible. There was someone who caught my eye.
He was a pretty unlikely choice, but there was something about him that was just so groovy. Sadly, I didn’t get many pictures because he was hiding amongst the rushes, so this photo seems a bit anticlimactic, but here we go…
Enter Spoony. The spoonbill. Actually, he’s what’s known as a Royal Spoonbill, and in place of the ordinary yellow bill he’s rocking a jet black one instead. I’m not sure why I loved him so much, but there was something so unusual about that beak of his and the snowy white feathers that made my heart go pitter-patter.
I’m considering setting up the Royal Spoonbill Appreciation Society in his honour.
Saying that though, the prize for most memorable bird experience of the trip has to go to this emu. I don’t think most folks realise just how big these birds are until you’re up close and they’re feeding right out of your hand. He was almost the same height as me!
I was a little sad to wave goodbye to this special wildlife park again, but glad that we’d been greeted with much dryer and warmer weather! Thank you Cleland, we had the most marvellous time, and I can’t wait for my next visit when I return to Adelaide.
Before heading back towards the city, we took one more detour. Leaving Cleland, we drove further up into the hills. There we stopped at a small carpark and walked a short distance towards the summit of Mount Lofty. And just in time too! The entrance to the viewing plateau closed at 5pm, and we managed to sneak in at 4:55pm!
At the time, I was too busy admiring the perfect views to remember to jot down some facts and figures about Mount Lofty, but upon doing a spot of post-visit research, Wikipedia tells me that it is the highest point in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges, with panoramic views of the city and the Adelaide plains to the west, and of the Piccadilly Valley to the east.
We were blessed to enjoy golden hour and watch the sun start to set in that big Australian sky.
After spending a good few hours exploring Cleland, and then trekking to the summit of nearby Mount Lofty, the sun was beginning to disappear altogether, so we decided we’d pick up where we left off the following morning and explore the botanic gardens.
It was already quite warm when we began, and the sky was wonderfully blue and clear again, presenting the perfect opportunity to enjoy the glorious scenery and landscapes.
Adelaide seems to have an abundance of botanic gardens. When I think about London, it’s only ever Kew that springs to mind (which ironically is just down the road and yet, I still haven’t been since moving to Richmond…), but perhaps there are other, hidden ones that have evaded my knowledge. Still, I doubt we have the space in such a crowded city to make room for stretches of huge green like those at Mount Lofty.
Photoception! I’ll never tire of flower close-ups. And here I am, caught in the act!
Look at this handsome fella, isn’t he marvellous? I sincerely hope I gave him a hug after stopping to photograph those rough-and-ready textures and crazy array of branches.
As it happens, I wan’t the only one stopping to admire all the scenery and taking time to snap away with my phone…! This lake was an ideal spot to listen to the banjo frogs play their funny little pobblebonk tune, which really does sound exactly like a banjo string being plucked!
Another of Sylvester and Stella’s Australian cousins, who was all up for a bit of leftover food from yesterday’s Cleland trip, but less bothered about sharing his family history. I’m convinced I would have got more out of him if I’d been armed with my special swan food from back home! Still, it was marvellous to see a black swan up close, he was so glossy and shiny.
When the sun got too warm to do anything but lie in a shady spot in the gardens, we bid them adieu and spent the afternoon in Hahndorf. This quaint little town is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, and still looks exactly as you imagine: plenty of Bavarian architecture, beer steins and sausage shops.
Bathed in beautiful sunlight with just a slight springtime breeze in the air, it felt perfectly authentic, and we spent the rest of our time there enjoying nosing in the shops and eating ice cream as we wandered the tree-lined pathways.
The final excursion of my Adelaide trip was the famous Barossa Valley trail. This region of Adelaide, similar to McLaren Vale, is famous for its vineyards and wineries, many of which have scored international fame and have become instantly recognisable, worldwide brands.
Mia and her folks were keen to show me the boutique options though, and I was more than happy to oblige. Last time I’d visited the Valley we’d made for Jacob’s Creek, but on the list today were Saltram, Maggie Beers’ and Rockford.
En route to the first of our stops, we made a quick detour to Springton, home of the Herbig Family Tree. This unbelievable hollow red gum tree is thought to be between 300 and 500 years old, and was actually the first home of 27 year old Friedrich Herbig who arrived in South Australia in 1855. In 1858 he married 18 year-old Caroline Rattey and took her to live in the tree too, and it’s incredible to think that the first two of their sixteen children were born there!
And with that boggling fact spinning around in my brain, it was time to head for Saltram.
Probably the swankiest of the bunch, Saltram’s winery brimmed with style and class. It was easy to see why it’s such a popular venue choice for events and weddings!
The wine cellar was cool and airy, backing onto a restaurant that looked to be pretty busy when we arrived. I picked up a bottle of Riesling for my mum, which was much-appreciated and enjoyed when I arrived back in the UK!
Next stop on the tour: Maggie Beer’s.
Now, before we start, would you just look at that water? I do use filters and actions on my images, but I promise you, the lake at Maggie Beer’s really is that blue! And I can guarantee it’s not some sort of strange or dodgy chemical, because the water was teaming with little turtles, swimming about and having a lovely time. It must be Maggie’s magic touch…
I’m really glad Mia and her folks picked this winery and farm shop out for a visit. At first glance it wasn’t as swanky as Saltram, but I liked the homely feel and little nods to nature. There were chicken coops and duck pens outside which also made it feel like an authentic country farm.
And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the taste of Maggie’s burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice cream. How anything with the word “burnt” in can manage to taste so goddamn delicious, I don’t know, but it really, REALLY did.
After demolishing our ice cream, we browsed in the shop for a little while, “testing” anything we could get our hands on! Chutneys, pickles, jams and sauces… all delicious.
But if I had to choose a favourite, out of the three vineyards on the Barossa tour and the ones we’d seen previously in McLaren Vale, I don’t think it would be difficult to put Rockford at the top. It wasn’t as grand as either of the others, but there was something about its quaint size and lovely rustic, olde worlde feel that meant it won my heart easily.
Mia and Nini were big fans too… this picture is one of my favourites from the whole trip!
There’s just something special about this place, d’you know what I’m saying? I’m really glad we saved the best ’til last, and was grateful that I’d had the opportunity to “go off the beaten track” this time, and see a few places that not everyone would know about.
And that’s why you go touring with the locals…!
At the time it always feels like a cringey thing to do, but these are the photos you look back on and remember in years to come… The good old family album snaps!
I met Mia’s friend Nat the last time I visited Adelaide when the three of us were all eighteen. Back then it was games of Magic: The Gathering and ordering pizza takeaway, this time it was all grown-up and civilised with dinner out at a posh restaurant and then a drive down to the beach at Glenelg. Oh, and an ice cream too, for good measure.
It struck me that I’d almost come to the end of this series and not included a picture of Mia’s lovely boyfriend Michael anywhere! So he’s getting his own mention for being a superstar of a chap, unfortunately waylaid by far too many hours at work during my time in Adelaide, but still always turning up with a smile on his face every time he headed round to Mia’s parents’ house in the evenings. What a stellar fella! 10/10 and three cheers for Mikey.
During the last week of my stay, Mia unfortunately had to go back to work, so one afternoon I took a taxi round the corner to nearby Dover Gardens to visit Roy and Anna. An old schoolfriend of my granddad’s, Roy moved to Adelaide many years ago.
I was first introduced during my last visit, so it was lovely to catch up with them both again this time over a cup of tea in their gorgeous house, and hear plenty of stories about how my granddad and Roy got up to all kinds of mischief in their school years!
Oh, this lovely bunch…! The kindest, most welcoming, generous and warm people I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying with, and also completely mad to boot, which I just adore. Give me passion and love and real-life over stupid stoicism and restraint any day. We had hugs, tears and big laughs too, and I’ll never, ever forget what an amazing time I spent with them.
And this girlie, as she wrote in her card sent a week or so after I arrived back home, “my sister from another mister”. In many ways we’re quite different but in others so similar. I shall miss not having her in the next room when I need to tell her something, or share something hilarious, or debate the relative attractiveness of men in glossy women’s magazines.
It’s amazing to imagine we met online at the age of thirteen, and despite the unfathomable distance and ups and downs in our lives, we’ve stayed in touch ever since. And if we’ve managed so far, I can’t think that there’ll ever be a time where we don’t.
Here’s to the next visit, I say. Adelaide Trip #3 is on, and one thing’s for certain…. I’m not leaving it eight years this time. The saving starts now! I’ll be back on Australian turf sooner than you can say “can you please stop calling them pants when they’re trousers! It’s making an awkward Brit feel mighty uncomfortable!“