Saturday June 20, 2015

Sorry. I’ve been a bit remiss. We’ve been so busy romping around beautiful South Australia that I forgot to report back. I forgot to update you. And I suspect I’ve become more forgetful than usual because of all the wine we’ve been sampling. But more on that shortly …

Our five-hour direct flight from Auckland was uneventful enough – and we were greeted by an Adelaide that was cold, cloudy and wet – much like the grotty weather (wouldn’t you know it!) we’d left behind in Godzone.

Our cheerful coach-driver, Rob, told us that Adelaide was known as the City of Churches … which explained why we saw so many of those en route from the airport to the Stamford Plaza Hotel. He also assured us that, unlike most other Aussie cities, Adelaide had not been founded by convicts … which made us feel safe that afternoon as we wandered freely around Adelaide’s elegant downtown. Some of us even headed underground through the Central Railway Station and across the nearby River Torrens for a peep at the city’s famous sports stadium, the Oval.

Next morning, once we’d been fed and watered, Rob drove us up into the Adelaide Hills, stopping first at the Mt Lofty Lookout, for some panoramic views of solid fog. (I kid you not!) We then enjoyed a guided tour of ‘Cedars Gallery’ – the house, rambling cottage-garden, and historic working studio of Australian landscape artist Sir Hans Heysen – following which we checked out the European cafes, arty-farty outlets, galleries and boutiques in the German-settled village of Hahndorf. Our afternoon ended at McLaren Vale with a visit to the Chapel Hill Winery where, because I forgot to spit, I quickly got my rieslings and shirazes muddled up with my sauvignons and pinot noirs.

Ahh (hiccup), what fun!

But wait: our wine-tasting had only just begun …

Adelaidians (if you don’t already know it) have been producing world-class wines for more than 150 years. And the endless, gently-rolling landscapes to the north of this very southern city are carpeted with vineyards (naked and minus their leaves) that stretch to the horizon, plus more classy wineries than you can shake a stick at.

Which is what we’ve been discovering these past two days as (with our second cheerful coach-driver, Neil) we’ve explored, firstly, the famous Barossa Valley, where we dropped-in on the Saltram Wine Estate and sampled some of their fruity blends (followed by a visit to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop where we came away with bags full of her delectable goodies).

Today we motored along more country roads lined with gorgeous white-barked gum-trees, passing more wall-to-wall vineyards in the equally beautiful Clare Valley, where we stopped at the famous Sevenhill Cellars for still more tasty tasting of fine vinos (followed by a fascinating tour of Burra – a quaint historic village in the middle of what was once a thriving copper-mine).

There’s lots more I could say about Adelaide, but I’ve forgotten most of it and , if you don’t mind, I’d rather go to bed. Suffice to say it’s been a truly lovely Chapter #1 of our Grand Aussie Adventure!

TOMORROW: You’re gonna be soooo envious! Come midday, we’re joining the legendary Ghan for the first leg of our 2979km train journey to Darwin. This, dear friends, is what we’ve been waiting for …

PEOPLE-NEWS: Three of our hotly sought-after Mad Midlife Awards – those ever-popular quacky yellow ducks – have already been claimed:

  • Lorene has taken away the “Revolving Door? I Can Manage a Revolving Door!” Award – by tripping and falling and whacking her head whilst going through the revolving door at the Auckland Airport’s Novotel Hotel. (One group-member down for the count … and we hadn’t even left home!)
  • Rob, our friendly Adelaide coach-driver, walked (staggered) off with our “Heavy? These Bags Aren’t Heavy!” Award ­– after tripping whilst he unloaded our luggage from underneath the coach, and falling into the gutter!
  • Garth takes home our “Hello? Hello? I’m Waterlogged” Award – for dropping his cellphone into the men’s loo yesterday. Garth bravely plucked it from the depths of the bowl, dried it off in the hand-drying machine, and reckons it’s working fine. However, no one else is all that keen to borrow the thing … (I can’t think why, can you?)

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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