What’s My Age Again? Adiós Adelaide

Wednesday 19th March
Over the course of the week I had been promoted to navigator but this was the first time I’d actually sat in the front. I was very confident on the route we were taking to Adelaide but navigating our way through a busy city with roadworks and with a map that only showed some of the roads was more challenging. Luckily as I had been to the city, my Samsung and Google maps had stored the GPS information so I could see exactly where we were and where we wanted to go.

I started directing dad to the YHA as it was on the way and seemed to make sense to drop my stuff off before continuing on to the location where we had to drop the hire car off. Almost immediately ‘Murphy’s Law’ struck as road works prevented us going down Waymouth Street and there had been no prior warning at the earlier turn off we could have taken. Then when we finally arrived at the YHA there were no car parking spaces and when we turned up the near by street were met with a garbage truck heading towards us. When we pulled over it then proceeded to take the garbage bin from behind us lift it over us and then put it back in a position which meant we were trapped so Jenny had to move it.

Abandoning the YHA idea we set out for the hire car office which we found however there were no signs for the garage. After doing one loop I ran in to the office for directions and was told it was the next left (a narrow street). About one minute before a fire engine had passed and unbeknown to us all had parked up the street we wanted. A car then almost ploud in to our side because they were impatient and didn’t realise there was a reason no one could go up the street. We therefore had to do another loop and I had to repeat the process. Third time was lucky and we entered by a different street though of course the fire engine had left by then anyway

Amy one of my friends from Adelaide had been travelling South America during both of my previous visits but we had finally arranged to meet at the Exeter Hotel at 17.00. This gave me less than two hours to my laundry done before my final trip in to the Outback and my eventual return to the UK in under 10 days.

I met Amy and it was good to catch up and to share our thoughts on travelling for a prolonged period of time. After a couple of drinks we went to another pub where I had a chicken parmigiana and I disgraced myself by having a bit of tomato ketchup on the side of my plate. I had claimed in all innocence this was for my chips but I was caught in the act when I dipped the chicken in it therefore apparently destroying an ‘Australian Classic’.

I returned to my hostel and whilst I still had a whole day I knew it was going to be busy with a late night to hopefully see some platypus. I therefore decided to pack my small bag and rucksack in preparation. It was weird knowing my time here was almost up especially when I started talking to a girl from Portugal that was about to visit most of the places I’ve been so lucky to visit. I probably won’t ever have another journey like this but having met so many people from Europe I’m looking forward to exploring the continent I’m from in a bit more detail. Weekends away to regions as different as Scandinavia and Turkey and to cities of such historical importance as Athens. Not many, if any continents can offer that.

Thursday 20th March – My Birthday
I woke up and I have to admit it didn’t really feel like I was another year older though perhaps that was partly because it was still only the 19th back in the UK. As it was my last day in Adelaide it was my last opportunity to see the parts of the city I had missed and that evening we were doing a nocturnal walk around a sanctuary to see native animals in a protected environment.

I met Dad and Jenny at their hotel before we walked along to the Botanical Gardens at the end of North Terrace. I had moaned for a number of days about how cold it had been (anything below 23 degrees now requires a jumper) however I’d forgotten just how hot Adelaide could get. Dad had already checked the time of the guided walk so we made our way to reception.

The group seemed very busy, certainly compared to Perth when there had only been 5 of us however the lady was very patient and informative and I took in more than I would have done reading signs. She explained that the climate of Adelaide is similar to that of the Mediterranean so many plants suited to that region can grow. We saw a tree called the ‘Wheel of Fire’ which I heard as ‘Ring of Fire’ but it looked quite spectacular as the flowers on the end of the branches were various shades of red and yellow.

Some of the European names given to Australian fauna and flora isn’t all that imaginative but it’s not that surprising when you consider that the botanist Joseph Banks discovered 1000 species of plants and animals in 70 days alone. It was therefore hardly surprising the ‘Bottle Tree’ had got its name because it looked like a bottle. However it also had a secret and the Aboriginals had discovered it could store water in its bark if it was squeezed. Next we saw a fig crown, a fig plant where the flower was shaped like a crown and the leaves of which felt like sandpaper.

I was enjoying the walk but it was getting very hot now and I was struggling to pay attention as there weren’t many places to escape the sun. We were shown the rose gardens and sniffed different varieties, apparently Mister Lincoln was historically the best for perfume. Some of the varities were unnamed because they are planted as part of a competition to see what can grow best in South Australia’s climate.

After walking around the gardens we sat to have lunch and made sure not to sit under the Bunya Nut Tree which drops nuts weighing 10kg. Being knocked on the head by one of them may not have been a great way to celebrate my birthday as it would have probably prematurely ended my holiday. We left the Botanical Gardens and went to the South Australian Museum first as we had an hour before there was a free tour around the South Australian Art Gallery.

There was an interesting Aboriginal display and it was the first time I’d really seen such an extensive collection in a museum. It also struck me that whilst the British Museum has collections on Egypt, Greece, and other ancient civilisations a display on the Aboriginals is shamefully lacking. Being interested in history I really can’t express just how overawed I have become by their culture. They managed the land for over 40,000 years and yet in just 200 years mostly British settlers destroyed vast areas especially in South Australia. With the federal election of the liberals in Tasmania it appears that the modern Australian government haven’t learnt the lessons and want to remove an areas UNESCO listing so they can commence logging. Unbelievable.

The display included some of the bush tucker foods I had heard about over the past few months such as Witchetty Grubs but hadn’t seen. One of the things I have been surprised about is that I didn’t have the chance to taste bush tucker foods especially when I was in the Northern Territories. The display also included a couple of paintings by Albert Namatjira one of which was on the West McDonnell Ranges. This was particularly pleasing because when I’d asked to see his paintings at the Art Gallery of NSW I was told they were in storage as they are fragile and fade easily due to being water colours.

There was also a display on native animals and I got to see some off the animals that are common especially in South Australia. I thought there may have been a deadly creatures section but if there was we couldn’t find it. Perhaps they don’t want to scare the tourists away unlike Darwin where it was almost celebrated as a way of showing how creatures had evolved to suit the landscape. It was still a good informative display though I realised it would sadly be the closest I’d get to a wombat before I left.

We left the museum and arrived at the art gallery. It seemed to be a fairly large group though we were the only non Australians, or at least the only people not living in the country. The guide was absolutely brilliant, very enthusiastic and it seemed she wanted to do her best to ensure we saw everything or at least as much as possible.

We saw an idyllic portrayal of Australia painted in 1927 which showed Australia in a Greek/Roman classical style and it was meant to represent how Australia was on the move. It was a nice painting but the landscape looked so fake an un-Australian that it looked like some type of over the top propaganda which I suppose it was intended to be. I preferred the painting called “The Breakaway” by Tom Roberts in 1891 which was also a nationalistic painting because it showed the rural hero in the outback. It looked and felt like Australia.

We also learnt that because France and the UK fell out Matthew Flanders was imprisoned on Mauritius and it was here that one of the few paintings of him was made. A painter called John Glover is believed to have been the first to paint a ‘Gum Tree’ and to understand Australian light. Prior to his paintings Australian artists seemed to continue putting English trees in to the background to make it feel familiar. There was also a painting of a wealthy looking lady called Elizabeth Soloman which at first glance didn’t look all that interesting. It was however a classic case of don’t judge a book by its cover. Whilst she was wealthy and her husband a gold merchant her father in law was Ikey Soloman. This was the real life person Charles Dickens based Fagin on in Oliver Twist and so it showed that the early settlers could overcome their convict past.

Finally despite going beyond the scheduled hour we had an opportunity to see the Dark Heart exhibition. The piece that stood out for me was entitled “someone died trying to live a life like mine”. It was a modern marble sculpture called Alex Seton and portrayed 28 empty life jackets which looked so realistic it was hard to believe they were marble. It was also a very moving piece as it made reference to 28 asylum seekers who were discovered washed up on the islands off the coast of Western Australia in 2013.

After leaving the art gallery we left to get ready for our Platypus walk and met back up an hour or so later to get some food from a cheap Malaysian restaurant dad and Jenny had stumbled across the day before. After eating we made our way to the bus stop and using the GPS on my phone was able to assure dad when I knew we’d have to get off. We then had to walk over 2kms through the Adelaide Hills which I suppose predictably weren’t flat and there were no pavements but luckily few cars.

Eventually our guide arrived and took us down in to the sanctuary and explained it had previously been known by another name and open during the day but had closed down. He seemed fairly confident we had picked a good evening and we began walking around the different lakes. There were more than I had expected and the largest lake was bigger than I expected but I suppose that means there is a bigger source of food which is why they have survived.

The time passed very quickly and soon my hopes of getting a picture in day light were fading quicker than the light. There had been a lot of false hopes which had been caused by tortoises and lots of ducks as well as some unexplained activity but no sighting. I did however see a Bandicoot which I mistook for a rock because it had lost its tail so I didn’t take a picture and only realised my error when it was to late and it had scurried away in to the undergrowth.

Soon it was dark but we continued walking around d the lake, the guide saying that the signs weren’t good as there appeared to be no evidence of platypus activity. There were a few more false alarms, which when he shone the torch were again the tortoises and eventually he had to say it was time to go. At least we had tried, but it still felt a huge disappointment especially as the indication had been they are seen more often than they are not. It had however been exciting and we’d learnt a lot so it was reminiscent of our failed tiger spotting tour in India. On the way back we saw a bettong which is another small type of kangaroo and not something I had seen before so that at least was some compensation.

I had really enjoyed the times I spent in Adelaide, the largest settlement in the area it was the business and entertainment hub of South Australia the self proclaimed ‘festival state’. It was my gateway to the West, and can be a gateway to the East, to the Centre and to the North. It has a beach to rival Bondi and has not one but three wine valleys and the oldest mountain range is within a days drive. The CBD had retained many of the older buildings and it fortunately lacked the taller skyscrapers of Sydney and Melbourne. I haven’t got a job with the Adelaide tourist board.


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