Oct 24-28 Eyre Peninsula to Adelaide
Ceduna & Elliston
The Nullarbor crossing officially ends at the small town of Ceduna which sits at the top of the Eyre Peninsula in the state of South Australia. We treat ourselves to “dinner out,” pizza, cappuccinos, and gelato at “Bills”. It was all great ...but double capps after 9 pm are a really bad idea for anyone wanting to sleep.
On our trip down the peninsula we stop to see”Murphy’s Haystacks.” These are huge rock formations just sitting out there in a farmer’s field. The farmer in question has defined a path out to them, but otherwise, the surrounding fields are in active use for growing hay and grazing animals. This results in a terrible lot of flies – just terrible. Never seen it that bad.
We also saw some of Steve’s favourite stumpy-tailed lizards on the path – obviously not doing their job with the flies. This one was very grumpy when Steve tried to "pose" him for a photo.
Otherwise, continued on down to Elliston where we’ve decided to stay for a couple days. The town has it’s own version of the Great Ocean Road – a loop here that we drove several times because the scenery is so spectacular – rugged, craggy, cliffs disintegrating into the surging sea. There is an expression here that is printed on signs in these kinds of places – Your Safety is Our Concern, But YOUR Responsibility.
There are no guardrails or fences at these places – it is your own lookout and too often the cliffs we are standing on are seriously undercut by erosion – just hanging out there.
That said, the local surfers are fearless, scrambling down the cliffs and into the swells. There have been lots of shark attacks in this general area. We see a playful sea lion surfing with the fellows ...looks harmless, but one of the surfers told us that they make him nervous because sea lions are stalked by sharks and you never know what is behind them. We sit out on the cliffs watching the surfers and sea lions ...thankfully nothing more exciting than that.
Hungry, we make our way back into Elliston and come on a bakery with locals lined-up out the door – always a good sign. We’ve learned to look for these bakeries in small towns – the food is fresh and delicious and cheap. But if you want the local specialty, hot meat pie, you have to show up early enough in the lunch hour because once they are gone, there are no more till the next day.
Lincoln to Cowell
Woke up early to blue skies – was on the road by 7am. On the way south to Port Lincoln we stop in at Coffin Bay National Park. This is a park of sand dunes – rolling monsters that go on forever. The park is a Mecca for 4WD enthusiasts.
We drove down to the two areas that are accessible to 2WD – Point Avoid and Yankee Bay. Yankee Bay was no big whoop, but Point Avoid is pretty spectacular. It is obvious that at one time in the not-to-distant past Golden Island, just offshore, was connected to the mainland because there is a land bridge “just” below the water. This means the incoming waves crash onto the rocky ledge between the two bodies of land ...making a spectacular show of breaking waves and white foaming surf.
The water here is a unique aqua green – leaning much more towards the green. The beaches are of lovely pure white sand. Unfortunately, today it was mostly a case of “looking from afar” because the wind was something fierce again. You couldn’t walk without fear of being blown over, literally, and the sand was being blown into your eyes.
We are still dreaming of walking on that perfect white sand beach, sun warming our shoulders, shells worth bending over for ....walking forever. Perhaps our memories have rosied up with time, but it seems that on our last trip to Australia, down the east coast, there were many such beaches.
Port Lincoln is a pretty seaside town on the very tip of the Eyre Peninsula. Have lunch at Subway then hit the road again, making it to Cowell for the night. At the campsite we take advantage of the “campers kitchen” to sit across the table from each other. Most caravan parks have these. They have a barbeque or grill, tables, etc. Some have other amenities like toasters and fridges and microwaves. The amenities are variable.
We use them to read, work on our photos, write on the laptop, etc. Gives us a lot more room to spread out in than the campervan. In this particular kitchen there two features that will make it stick out in my memory:
Mt. Remarkable National Park
Today we travelled up the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula from Cowell to Port Augusta at the northern end, then turned south to Adelaide.
Along the way we stopped at Mt. Remarkable National Park outside of Wilmington to see Alligator Gorge. This gorge is only a few feet wide at its narrowest. You could easily touch both sides with your hands. Of course that wasn’t the whole gorge, just one small section. The gorge wasn’t actually that exciting but the route to and from was well worth it because the Flinders Range, through which we passed presents as a series of soft green velvet folds.
The road up to Mt. Remarkable National Park was also interesting – a steep, winding track that follows the contours of the rolling hills. There are masses of tall trees with puffs of foliage at the top, narrow green leaves, very limp and droopy looking. The cool thing though is at the top of the trees are what I believe I read are seed pods – bursting forth in a golden orange colour – so the trees look like they are on fire. The drive up to the park has zillions of them, massed on the lush green hillsides.
The walk down into Alligator Gorge is steep and takes about 2 hours with lots of hopping from stone to stone across the creek at the bottom. While Steve did that I went to the Gorge Lookout – a 20-minute walk. It was nice. Didn’t spot any wildlife but lots of very huge ants hard at work. It occurred to me that if one slipped, fell, and passed out, they would be all over one in minutes. Not a nice thought.
From Alligator Gorge we continued on to Port Germein to see the longest jetty in Australia ...or somewhere. Every port town has a jetty and they always have some kind of claim or another in respect to its length or construction or age.
We didn’t actually go out of our way just to see the jetty. We were hungry and it was only one km off the highway.
These small towns all have such an abandoned feel to them. There are well-kept houses, carefully tended gardens ...but never anyone about. This town had a lovely park with beautiful flowers in well-tended beds – no weeds, lovely playground – but not a soul around. No children in the playground, no one sweeping their walk or fixing their roof or shopping in the stores – most of which are closed tight.
There is a hotel – with a sign declaring lunch and dinner served ...but locked up, drapes drawn. Most business are closed up, boards over windows or if there is stock in the windows, they are shut up tight. So if they are not open on a Thursday afternoon at 2:00, when are they open? It is a mystery to us.
There did appear to be a small cafe open near the jetty. When we went in there was a fellow manning the counter, a couple of travelers eating lunch. He offered hot pies and sandwiches. We each had a pie and a cappuccino – they were all good – total bill for this tasty lunch - $8.80 for the two of us.
Proceeded down the coast to Adelaide where we are staying for next couple of nights.
Took the bus into Adelaide this morning - $6.60 for a day ticket. Once in town there is a free downtown bus system, just like Perth. Here there are two buses traveling two different loops called the City Loop and the Bee Line.
The City Loop takes in the Museum, State Library, Art Gallery, Central Markets, and other major attractions like the Botanical Gardens and Zoo. The Bee Line takes in many of the same sites plus connects with the railway, tram line, and services to the airport. Just sitting on the bus and looking out the window or walking the streets is a real joy in this town. They have done a very good job of preserving their historical buildings. A fellow was telling me that when the building itself proves to be too "rotten" to keep, they preserve the facade, building in behind it. Makes for an interesting streetscape.
We set out this morning to see the museum, art gallery, migration museum, and central market. First stop, however, is the visitor centre where they inundated us with more brochures. Most of these we left there as we have too much expensive paper already. Australians have really embraced the idea of being ecologically conscientious, using fabric bags instead of plastic but I've never seen a country for giving out such massive quantities of high-gloss, heavy-weight, full-colour, brochures, guides, and magazines.
Every one-horse town has their own multi-page booklet, extolling the virtues of their jetty, their beach, and their cultural life. The elegant, persuasive prose is tucked in among some really creative photography and multitudinous advertisements for local business. Having reviewed many of these brochures, then visited these wonderlands ....well, the marketing teams should get Pulitzer prizes for creative fiction based on some very thin “attractions”.
So, on to the museum. Adelaide has placed most of its significant public institutions in historical buildings along the main thoroughfare, North Terrace. Very easy to access and in most cases, free admission.
The museum is very nicely done. Particularly enjoyed the Aboriginal Cultures Gallery. There was the "to be expected" display cases full of artifacts - boomerangs and spears and didgis and feather head dresses and medicine man/woman stuff. But more interesting to me was a collection of short movies, many made a very long time ago that explored subjects as diverse as funerals and football, relationships and kinship, celebrations and rituals, etc. Some of these were clearly as “observed by” the filmmaker but many did attempt to interview aboriginal subjects and let them present their own point of view.
We’ve seen quite a few of these representations of aboriginal culture in state-sponsored museums now and they all seem to put a lot of effort into showing the positive aspects of aboriginal culture. What is never mentioned, however, is the removal of aboriginal children from their families or the wholesale slaughter of aboriginals. Never a word about the dark side of the black/white interface.
Another gallery explored the lifework of an Australian geologist and explorer by name of Mawson. This fellow was revered for the work he did within Australia to identify the different kinds of rock formations and date them ...but what really seemed to have captured the imagination of the world was his exploration within Antarctica.
It is a harrowing tale really, with himself and two colleagues plunging out into the Antarctic wilderness. One of them fell down a crevasse with a sledge and his dogs ...and that was it for him. The other one fell ill and died. That just left Mawson, with very little of his original equipment. What he had, he modified to make do and struggled back to base camp alone. When he got there he discovered that the boat that was going to pick him and his colleagues up and take them back to Australia had been forced by the winter freeze-up to leave and he would now have to spend another year in Antarctica before he could return to civilization.
In another area of this gallery there is a film that documents the ocean voyage over to Antarctica and life at base camp. It is amazing footage of the ship breaking through the ice, rolling about on monster waves. At one point, on calmer seas, the explorers launch a bi-plane on floats to explore and film inland. It’s an epic adventure, with the plane struggling to take off over the frozen white caps, then being all but destroyed when they try to winch it back onboard at the end of its voyage. Looks for all the world like a bunch of boys just having fun, but of course under the conditions they were in, it was all deadly serious.
The museum has galleries full of lots of other stuff of course - mammals, birds, dinosaurs, rocks, etc. Ancient Egypt is well represented with mummified heads, feet, hands and whole bodies. There is a huge gallery devoted to South Pacific cultures which I barely glanced at.
One gallery that was really interesting showed how opals are formed. Australia is apparently the only place in the world where opals have been formed by the pressure exerted on shells, bones, even trees. I didn’t know that.
Finally finished there after 1pm so went into the Museum cafe for lunch. Incredible chicken sandwiches in toasted focaccia bread, wedge fries and cappuccinos. Lovely presentation and setting - $26 for an elegant lunch for two.
We've gotten totally hooked on these wedges - fat potato slices, coated and seasoned and deep fried. To compound the sinfulness, they are served with dipping bowls of sour cream and sweet chili sauce. We first discovered them at the AFL final in Broome and there've been a few more since then.
So, on to the art gallery. Here there were lots of paintings by Europeans – primarily Brits, who painted South Australia scenes. These were very interesting. I was so taken with two of them that I purchased prints to bring home.
There were lots of portraits and lots of religious themes. All interesting. There was a section of aboriginal art and another of “modern art.” Display cases were full of both old and modern glass art. There were some very interesting silver pieces. A number of these were highly elaborate presentation pieces - all with distinctly Australian touches – kangaroos and emus and aboriginals throwing spears were common themes worked into the chalices.
There was some interesting fabric art and some modern installations – a group of ravens in a circle caught my fancy. In another room they were screening a short 30 minute movie called Love. The film maker/editor had gone to exhaustive effort to find and splice together scenes out of famous Hollywood movies.
As the movie played a crowd of women slowly gathered, riveted by the presentation. The movie begins with boy meets girl and protestations of eternal love. It progresses to men wanting to marry women complete with promises of undying love, devotion and wedding rings. It moves to sex. Then the men call the women whores. The women fight back – ineffectually. Then the men want them again. But once they get them back into bed they call them whores and beat them. The women fight back – but this time they are smarter, they use guns and the final scenes are of women shooting the men they love.
Sounds inane, but it is a riveting presentation. No one moved a muscle or left a moment early.
So ....came out of the art gallery just as it was turning 5 pm and too late for the Migration Museum. This museum has apparently gathered the stories of immigrants to South Australia and I think it would have been a good one, but too late and tomorrow we move on.
So then we were off to the Central Markets. We’d heard these are an institution in Adelaide and I’d say that was true. They were packed. These are essentially food markets ...wonderful, heavenly food. Produce of all descriptions, bakeries, coffee beans, spice shops, cheese, pasta and sauces, sausages and chickens and butchers. All fresh and fabulous.
We picked up a snack for the ride home. Steve got a raisin pastry and I got something called a chocolate/fruit/nut bar. This was amazingly good and was just as described – chocolate, biscuit, dried fruit, and nuts all glued together into a square. Served up in the traditional brown bag. It is common to see people walking on the street, or on the buses, nibbling away at the pies or sweets in the little brown bags.
So, caught the bus back “home”. It’s been a busy day and we will be on our way in the morning towards Kangaroo Island.