Friday 28th August the Great Ocean Road

it was another gloomy day, not brightened by us finding that there was no breakfast  supplied with our room  –  we wished we had drunk more of the port……  In the event we decided not to wash up the port glasses as a small protest as they had advertised themselves as providing bed and breakfast and wifi and we had experienced neither!

We drove out of Port Fairy (it used to be called Belfast), a town that had been established as a whaling port and had in a past life a thriving  export industry of wool, gold and wheat.  These glories are now behind them and the community relies on tourism and crayfish now for its living.  A very early surprise in the day was a cheese outlet   Not what I expected by the side of the road – but there it was and big business too.  The site housed a cheese museum and before 10 in the morning we were sampling cheese!  Not being able to pass this by, our purchases in hand off we went and on to the Great Ocean Road proper ……

It was still not the brightest of days with intermittent showers, but the first stop we made was at the sign that said ‘London Bridge’  it had to be done! There we found ourselves peaking over the crashing waves surrounding a huge part of the coastline that had broken away and formed a sizeable arch – London Bridge!  Despite the glares of a Japanese chap photographing his wife very seriously avec tripod and a very large lensed camera, we took our snaps and withdrew with the distinct feeling we had ruined their photo shoot and that those tripod legs would be snapping shut in irritation behind us!


We moved along and having bought some bread supplies to go with our cheese for lunch and a couple of maps from the information office in Port Campbell – to tell us what we should be looking at – we set off again along the road

Next stop was Loch Ard Gorge –  a truly incredible inlet that had borne witness to many a shipwreck. By now we were finding people – though in fairness it was only one or two – at the sights we stopped at.  To date we had had the place to ourselves!


The next stop was for the big one -the Twelve Apostles (to be frank  I could only count 9 ….) –  a really impressive sight – but shared by loads more people!  Where had the come from?  We had seen no one on the road  – and then we realised they were coming the other way!  Apparently – at a push – you can do Melbourne to the Apostles in a day!!  Mystery solved. Regrettably the weather was not great at this point, but the rain held off for us to get a good view of them, but  we did not walk down to the beach but decided to have lunch in the car instead.  To date we have been quite thorough but 86 steps down to a wet beach in the rain did not seem attractive …….

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mystreiously we then left the coast and had a very meandering drive in land.  Thank goodness for an automatic car as we twisted and turned around hillsides.  I thought it reminiscent of the Dordogne  lush green vegetation and winding roads   And then at Apollo Bay we came out onto the coast again.. The sun came out and it was glorious.   We drove along the road next to the sea as the waves crashed onto the shore  the terrain was still very much up and down and twisting and turning but now we had the sea at our shoulder all the time  – the true Ocean Road.

We passed through Lorne, Anglesea and Torquay – all quite large townships on the road and then we left the sea again and the Great Ocean Road with its shipwrecks and history was behind us and signs to Melbourne became more prominent.

We had decided to stay at Queencliff, a truly Victorian town across the bay from the Mornington Peninsula in readiness to take the ferry on Saturday morning en route  to Melbourne.  We checked in to the truly Victorian hotel who said we could have a room and shared bathroom (one bathroom between three rooms….) or we could have the small apartment across the road. We opted for the apartment.

However we did enjoy a very good meal at the hotel in front of a roaring fire!

Thursday 27th August Penola to Port Fairy

The day was a little more cheery when we left Penola but still had a greyish tinge. We drove out passing examples of the ironwork on the old buildings which we have seen in evidence since Adelaide.


Things had , however brightened when we made our first stop at Port McDonnell – we had reached the coast again. At Port McDonnell we drove out on to the headland to Northumberland Point where we found a signpost that told us we were at the furthest point ( it does not look it on the map!) of Australia and the area nearest the South Pole. There were a number of stories of shipwreck and the bravery of the locals. A particular hero seemed to be a Mr Germaine who was the lighthouse keeper. Regrettably the Fairy Penguin colony was not in evidence……. The scenery was spectacular.imageimage

after another fishy lunch, we left Port MacDonnell and our route took us away from the coast and out through vast pine forests. The trees stood very tall and thin in serried rows either side of the road. There were tracks leading into the trees and vast areas where the timber had been cleared. The main traffic coming towards us were huge timber lorries that created a strong vortex of air as they passed.

Eventually we reached the small community of Nelson (we were to see signs to Hamilton further along the road) and it was not long past here that we came to the border and crossed into the State of Victoria. It took us a little while to realise that we had also crossed a time zone which was why the sat nav was giving us such a long time to get to Port Fairy – the time had moved on 30 minutes unknown to us!!

in the gathering gloom we arrived at Port Fairy where Keith had booked accommodation ahead. Our room looked over the river where cormorants sat preening on the landing stages along the riverbank. So as to make the most of the day and to stretch our legs we decided to walk Griffiths Island a small land mass off the coast. Despite the gathering storm clouds we set out across the bridge to the island with the sound of the sea dominating our senses to our far right. There were signs warning us of the Sheerwater (a local rare bird apparently) nesting ground to our immediate right. K was very excited at the thought of seeing a Sheerwater. We did not of course hear or see a peep of them – and who blames them.  By now the wind was howling, the sea was roaring and the gathering gloom had moved on to quite dark!


We arrived at the lighthouse and then set off over the sand with the waves lapping up the beach and me wondering whether we just had not seen the notice about tides…… I quickened my pace just in case!  Our guide was arrows on poles that were fast disappearing in the darkness and I for one was very happy to see the lights of the information hut as we turned the final corner!

Back on the mainland it was  completely dark and it felt quite late although it was only about 6.30. We looked at a number of eating places, many of them Italian surprisingly, before we opted for a Thai meal which was a change to our usual fare.

Our accommodation supplied free port which I have to say we took advantage of to fend off the frustration of no wifi. My blog pages were backing up!

Wednesday 26th August – the start of our route to Melbourne

The day dawned overcast but didn’t dampen our post breakfast perambulation around the excitements of the Wightman garden which included an old Rover car, a mini International Harvester tractor of ancient lineage and an immaculate old Land Rover perfectly restored and driveable. It was an Aladdin’s cave for the motor enthusiast! Add to this old farm machinery and a collection of oil cans together with a full sized old petrol pump and you get the drift of the collection. Fruit trees, his and her work shops and the most incredible orchids were further evidence of two very interesting and skilled people. We were in awe!


Eventually we wrenched ourselves away – we could have stayed for days – with parcels for the Sydney Wightman’s and two ‘skinless’ bottles of white (unlabelled bottles of wine – our knowledge of Australian vocabulary is coming on in leaps a bounds!)  we packed the car and we were off to take the ferry across the river to head to Robe our intended lunch stop. The little ferry glided serenely across the narrow waterway and delivered its cargo of four cars safe,y to the other side  the area had the look of the Camargue – spent bulrushes swaying in the breeze and a flat landscape as far as the eye could see……

We were soon out unto what is referred to as the ‘ limestone coast’,  first driving along the Princes Highway, initially passing Lake Alexandrina and then Lake Albert and then along the long coast road of the Coorong National Park. There was very little traffic and we rumbled along with the water to our right and, what I guess we would call heathland, to our left. We came across the occasional settlement – there was a lovely old store at Salt Creek where Keith made the man’s day by buying a beanie hat. We probably drove over 100 kilometres along the coast before losing the water to a promontory and turning off to Robe where many settlers, particularly the Chinese, made land to start their long walk to the Victorian goldfields. Robe is apparently an all year round holiday destination, but there was little evidence of this from our walk along the Main Street.  Nevertheless we found s nice pit stop for a fish burger for lunch and after a short drive around we set off inland for Penola where we were to spend the night.

The road was pretty empty and the usual ramrod straight. The landscape was very flat – which was a good job for those who had taken the route many years before – it was 400 kilometres in this direction for those gold fields.
Penola is just south of Coonawarra, a big wine growing area but was an interesting little settlement. We found our accommodation very quickly and the were very efficient. In no time we had established ourselves and were heading up the road into town, despite the dark clouds gathering over head. We visited the Information Centre (housed in the old Mechanics Institute) and came away armed with the map for the Walk with History tour. It provided an excellent meander around the old town. A leading light in the town’s development was Mary Mackillop who, having started out as a governess, established the first school, became a nun and was to eventually become the first (and I think only) Australian Saint! It all got a bit sticky, I felt, around her involvement with Father Julien Tenison Woods. The guide book referred to their ‘endeavours’ ……..!

Anyway, whatever, they established the town school 1866 and the first in Australia for any child. There is now a memorial park to our Mary on the site of the stable she turned into a school and we saw the church and the site of her later purpose built school. This is on the edge of Petticoat Lane, apparently so called because of the number of women who lived there, now a preservation area. Here there were a number of original houses. We were particular taken with Sharam’s cottages. Apparently the first one was built in 1850 and the second in c. 1864 when the family outgrew the first. The second building served as more or less a dormitory from what we could see. Mr Sharam was a boot maker and Mrs Sharman, half his age when she married him, went on to have 11 children. Most of them lived to a ripe old age except one who fell off his penny farthing bicycle and died of his injuries.


As it was by now getting dark and we had been getting wet for some time ( the photograph was taken next morning for completeness) we adjourned for supper and a very good glass of the local wine and then our hostelry….,

Tuesday 25th August – a day with the Wellington Wightman’s

A bit of a lie in and then the wonderful sight of sun pouring in the window over the river as we opened the bedroom door. Two smiling faces met us for breakfast and over breakfast chats a plan for the day was identified.


First though the maps were brought out and we were able to look at our itinerary which had not been defined after the Great Ocean Road and then the Melbourne stop. It was really useful to discuss options and routes. We finally agreed on how we would approach it, maps were put and we set off on a voyage of discovery of the local area. Both Ross and Jenny were a veritable fount of information about comings and goings, properties and businesses bought and sold, enterprises entered into with great hope and then ending in the the for sale sign going up. Wellington comprises of a number of properties and the Wellington Hotel clustered around the ferry that crosses the river. In a previous life it had a Courthouse and goal when it had been one of the main routes across the area. Sadly for Wellington the bridge and later railway line was awarded to a neighbouring town further up the river and Wellington lost its status as a major staging post. Now a ferry carries any traffic that takes the Wellington Road and it is an area for water based holidays – boating, fishing and the outdoor life are obvious attractions.

Wine is a major local industry and very good it is too. We stopped off at the Bleasdale vineyard ostensibly to sea the old wooden grape press made of red gum. It was very impressive and made by a very enterprising gentleman named Mr Potts who over his life span lived 14 years on Kangaroo Island, built paddle boats and created a wine empire! In addition he had over the years two marriages and a number of children. A busy chap! The wine press was surrounded by old hand made barrels still used for making wine, port and sherry. It seemed rude not to take up the offer of a tasting and we were particularly impressed with their Pinot Gris unusual for a mainly red wine area. Managing to escape without a purchase, we continued on through the vineyards and then up and away to a landscape more akin to the Lake District, complete with old dry stone walls. It was glorious.


We had an early lunch in a bistro in a little town called Strathalbyn. Ross had a hospital appointment that we had to get him to for an eye issue. It was a very nice lunch and exceptionally reasonable in terms of price. The town has a large park area and is on an ox bow formed by the river Angas. (Thank you Miss Springate for this insight all those years ago!).

The original settlers arrived in 1839 identifying it as a good grazing area and established the town, building first the inn and then the church. Businesses grew up around and about and it began to really thrive during the gold rush of the 1850’s when it became the last town before Mount Alexandra in Victoria. Lunch over, we travelled across to Mount Barker to the hospital and dropped Ross off and picked him up an hour later.

Then, Jenny driving, we took off for the Murray River again and were fascinated by the large houseboats moored to the river bank. They were enormous!! They were also building holiday homes on stilts along the riverside. These were very exotic – with space for boats and car parking. The area was disastrously flooded in 1950. The bridge, so long awaited in Wellington, was eventually built across at this point and later a rail bridge joined it and the fate of Wellington was assured.image

After a wonderful tour of the vicinity, it was back to the Hacienda del Wightman for more ruminating, bird watching (they have a whistling kite nesting in the tree outside – much to Keith’s delight!) and Jenny’s cooking which was lovely, although we managed to resist the lovely pavlova which had been our downfall in terms of calorie intake the night before!

Ross needed to retire early to recover from the hospital procedure and Keith and I weren’t far behind as the morrow marks the start of the long drive to Melbourne.

Monday 24th August – off to the Adelaide Hills and Wellington

It was a lovely sunny day. We packed up our belongings and took off for the walk to the Avis Car Hire office to pick up our hire car. En route we stopped off at a very trendy breakfast establishment for a light repast prior to embarking on our journey which will deliver us to Melbourne on Saturday.

When we eventually found our way out of the car park (!) it proved very simple to get out of Adelaide and on to the highway. Our first stop was Hahndorf, a delightful Germanic town just outside of Adelaide. It was a treasure – a real touch of the Tyrol in the midst of the Adelaide suburbs. There were German cakes and wooden toys and all sorts of lovely things. The information office (‘manned’ by a jolly lady from Kendal) held all manner of goodies. We spent a very happy hour strolling in the winter sunshine along the Main Street looking in windows and generally poking around. Two purchases were made. First was another case – we succumbed to the fact that even off loading one or two bits along the way, we are acquiring more than we are making space for. Disaster! So another case was purchased. The second purchase was for gloves. It really is that cold at times.

Purchases stowed away we set off to meander our way to Wellington, where we were to stay a couple of nights with Tony Wightman’s parents. I have met them before but fleetingly at various functions. Keith has not met them.

Our route took us out of the suburbs and into rolling countryside. Sheep and cattle grazed. Sleek horses idled under the shade of leafy trees. Crops were growing. The grass was green. It could have been Derbyshire. Our route took us off the tarmacked road and onto a sandy track which we followed for several kilometres up and over a a hill. Before us lay hills and valleys of green as far as the eye could see. Apart from trying to avoid the pot holes in the road, it was an idyllic drive. We eventually came out onto a main road and picked up speed again. By now we were beginning to see evidence of the Adelaide Hills wine industry. Field upon field of immaculately pruned vines. I have never seen such neat vineyards and I have seen a few! We came across several signs for ‘Cellar Doors’- these were retail outlets for the wine houses.

We stopped at one to purchase some wine for our hosts and sampled their excellent soup into the bargain. We came away very happy with our repast and wine but somewhat mystified by the first aid training taking place in a side room. I had been rather unnerved by a man seen from a distance to lie down behind a pot plant and seconds later I saw a lady kneeling down beside him……. It took us a little while to identify what was going on and it seemed a slightly odd pursuit to be taking place in a wine cellar. Ho hum!

A very short time later we were arriving in Wellington to be warmly greeted by the Wightman’s – Jenny and Ross. They have a lovely house on the Murray River. We were soon inside, luggage stowed and chatting happily over wine and nibbles. We could have known them for years! It was very comfortable. We were delighted to find that Ross liked Cider, so the cider purchased at the Emu Eucalyptus Distillery was broken out and Keith and Ross ruminated on the finer points of the brew. We had dinner at the Wellingtom Hotel not a hundred yards from the house. This had few other diners but served us a good meal and we heard about local characters and gatherings. The conversation flowed, as did the wine, and it was quite a riotous assembly that returned home to ‘night caps’ and further yarns. A really lovely evening and we had obtained dispensation from an early start for the next day. No sunrise – Yeah!

Sunday 23rd August

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It was a slightly watery sun that lit up the ocean outside our room – the first sign of rain we have had since our arrival in Australia all those years ago!! After a very nice breakfast served by a lady who looked slightly unhappy to be up so early on a Sunday morning, young Glen arrived and we were soon bouncing along the road to pick Louise up. We travelled through a beautiful avenue of trees silver barked trees that were lined up like a guard of honour either side of the road with their branches meeting in the middle. It was lovely. We were then out on the coastal road with the ocean beside us.

Louise on board. our first stop was at the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery owned and run by a real character called Larry Turner and his wife Bev. We were warned that Larry came with something of a Government Health Warning! He was great fun. A real down to earth Australian running what is the last Eucalyptus still left on the island. In a few minutes we were treated to his view of his fellow councillors at a recent parliament meeting. He has just been elected councillor for Kangaroo Island.


He took us through the distilling process which basically seemed to involve setting fire to the green eucalyptus leaves and then capturing the vapour and cooling it until it becomes liquid.
The burning oven was something of a Heath Robinson affair that Larry has created over the years but it does the trick to the extent that the Government describes him of running a
‘Poisons factory’ something that makes Larry quite proud, particularly as he has set up a bar in the shop where he sells his eucalyptus oil products. The shop was a treasure trove of all sorts as well as the eucalyptus oil and its associated uses. These included emus eggs and – at the bar- cider made by a chum of his down the road. My readers will not be surprised to learn that the Gregory’s could, therefore be seen to be sampling the brew – and it was not yet 9.00 am! It’s a slippery slope! It was actually quite good so we left the place armed with this and other eucalyptus booty.

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As a side line Larry was also putting the roof over a patio area he had built some time ago for his daughter’s wedding. If I tell you that the area to be covered was in excess of the area of a small church hall, it was only half covered and they were holding a function for 200 netball players the following week. ….. You probably get the feel for Larry. He was confident he would either finish it or throw a ‘tarp’ over the remainder as he wanted to apply him self to finding some spare men to sharpen up the gathering …….. His wife looked set to do murders when we left…….

Having left Larry and Bev to ‘have a few words’ as Glen described it, we headed off to a small animal sanctuary to meet a few rescued kangaroos and kualas. The Kangaroos were much smaller than I envisaged and very tame. My favourites though we’re the kualas who seemed to be munching their way to paradise!


Lunch was at a wooden lodge village where a very nice chap from Reading served a very jolly lunch. All the others had squid, I held off. Then it was on to explore the very heavily wooded area of native vegetation called the Flinders National Park. Mr Flinders – him of the mountain range – was the first recorded white man to visit Kangaroo Island and gave his name to a number of things. It made one realise what it must have been like to clear the land for farming with no mechanical equipment to dig out the roots of the trees. Live must have been tough where some of those earlier settlers came from to ,ake this a better option.

By now the weather was quite dark and brooding and the cloud layer really thick. At the end of the national park we came to a promontory which housed the Remarkable Rocks. This is a ver interesting rock formation – whose title I feel dams it by faint praise. Had they run out of superlatives or what. Remarkable Rocks indeed……..!


Having been almost blown to bits and shivering at the Remarkable Rocks we were pleased to get back into the minibus and the warmth. However, Glen was not finished with the fresh air treatment! Within a very short space of time we came to another cliff top venue, this time with a walkway taking us down and down towards the sea. First we came to the site of two major shipwrecks where those who survived the wreck, expired trying to get through the undergrowth. – a cheery thought. Waves crashed against the rocks below us as the wind blew into our faces. Still Glen herded us on. Down and down we continued until we took a turn on the wooden walk way and the wind had stopped and we looked out through the overhand of rock onto the ocean. We had reached Admirals Rock. An amazing site which we had to admit was worth the battle with the wind and cold to get there. A smart walk back up the walkway to the mini bus and the coffee and chocolate drinkers were rewarded with their favourite beverage at the Cultural Centre. This had some really interesting displays – particularly trying to address the issue of what had happened to the indigenous population of the island. The question was posed but not answered. No-one knows. There is evidence of them 2,500 years ago but nothing later. One of life’s mysteries.

By now we were at the furthest location on the island from the ferry terminal do we started the return trip. One of the highlights of the route were the mail boxes. These comprised of anything that would safely hold mail and keep it dry for collection. All sorts of containers were on display. From rusting ‘fridges a d microwaves to sawn off oil cans and plastic containers. Fascinating!


We eventually arrived back at Penneshaw in the dark at about 6.45. The wind was really string and we joined the huddle of people in the warm waiting area. We could see the lights of the ferry as it ,are its way across from the mainland.

At 7.30 we were all on board and started on the return journey. The water was quite rough and the ferry pitched a bit as it churned its way through to the mainland. . Probably best not to have the views of daylight at this stage! Adelaide reached we were all directed to the appropriate bus to take us back to our location in the city. Sadly in the confusion our parting from Louise was rather sudden and I felt somewhat bereft that we had lost our travelling companion quickly even if she had talked of her parents as being in their dotage and it subsequently transpired they were younger than me. Sniff!

The dark trip home seemed to take an age before Hindley Road was reached, but it had been a really enjoyable weekend and we arrived back feeling we knew much more about the pioneers of Australia.

Tomorrow we leave Adelaide City for the Hills.

Saturday 22 August Kangeroo Island

When we booked The Kangaroo Island trip at home, having been rejected by the first tour company we tried because I was over 64 (harrumph – I try not to dwell on this, but do not fail to miss an opportunity to be outraged all over again!!) we had no idea what was involved. We had just heard that Kangaroo Island was a ‘must’ so we booked it.

Standing outside our apartment building, having left the majority of our luggage for safekeeping at the accommodation where we were to return on Sunday night, we were still no wiser, except that we were aware of standing outside on a dark wintry morning hoping that some sort of conveyance would arrive to carry us off. And it did!

Sure enough just after 6.30 a large coach rolls up and we were swallowed up by it, together with about 50 plus people already on the coach. Did they know any more than us? I doubt it.  Nevertheless, having picked up several more stray people loitering outside hotels and on street corners (or so it seemed), we headed for the Back Stairs Passage (?!) ferry route to Kangaroo iIsland.

Here several other buses were tipping their passengers on to the quay side where a large Sealink catamaran type ferry patiently waited while we all trundled on board. It was another collection of nations with a large showing of Chinese and, rather oddly we thought, Italian honeymoon couples! When you have Sorrento, Tuscany or Rome why would you trundle to an Island just one stop up from the Antarctic for your honeymoon?!?!

Anyways up, we cast off and after 45 minutes of very pleasant journeying, we arrived at the island where we were delighted to learn that we were two of the three passengers booked onto the two day tour of the Kangaroo Island. Our trio was completed by a very nice young lady – perfectly made up (she must have been up for hours!) – called Louise who worked in fashion retail. Our driver was Glen Wilson who we were later to learn was the great, great, great grandson of one of the pioneers of Kangaroo Island back in the 1830’s. So it was that a small, but beautifully formed group left the dockside for a two day jaunt together. It was fantastic as we had more or less a tailor made tour or would have if we had known what to tailor make, if you get my meaning. Luckily Glen knew exactly what to show us, having been born and grown up on the island, so off we went out of the harbour town of Penneshaw for the hinterland.

Talking all the time and sometimes (rather worryingly I thought) turning round to make sure we had got the point he was making, Glen steered minibus towards David Clifford, the honey mans place. Kangaroo Island is 167 Kms long and 75kms wide. It is home to 4,500 people. There are beaches all the way round and 50% of the island it is covered by native vegetation which, believe me, is quite thick!

As we drove along there were a number of dead kangaroos and wallabies along the way. They obviously frequently come to grief on the road. There are 1,300 kms of road, most of which are dirt track. Sheep farming is the main enterprise on the island. There are only three main settlements on the island although there are houses outside these but these have no mains water.

The bee factory was run commercially and the gentleman who owned it was quite a character. He has 200 hives on the island – his honey ice cream was great even though it was a bit early to try it! Next stop was to visit a seal colony, of a variety known only to Kangaroo Island who are on the endangered species list.  Seals were were almost wiped out by the Americans looking for seal skins in the past. Apparently they only breed every 18 monthsWhich makes replenishing stocks quite challenging.  They lay like large slugs on the beach recovering from their three day fishing trips in the ocean – they apparently have three days swimming and three days snoozing to recover – then it’s back swimming again. It is a bit of a seals life……..


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Next stop was to a family that take in injured or abandoned birds of pray. Incredibly there were only four of us to see them perform so we were very close to the action. All the birds were indigenous to the island. Keith was in his element as he has done a couple of falconry sessions at home and loves birds. We sat wrapped up in our blankets while the birds were put through their paces. The young man described himself as a ‘bird nerd’ and obviously loved them. He seemed to get a bit too close to those beaks for my liking!



On the way to see the Pelicans being fed, we visited the site where the first settlers to the island lived and had – of all things – a post office. Like Adelaide, the island prides itself on being host to the first free immigrants who came to the island to make a new life. I cannot imagine how hard it might have been – just clearing the ground for a start!! ApparentlyGlen, our driver’s great plus plus plus grandfather had booked his wife and two children on the trip knowing his Wilfred was pregnant with their third child and was likely to give birth en route! Excuse me, but I fear I am not made of the same stuff! All that and have to drag around in all those long dresses – I think not!

Anyway – on to the Pelicans who were fed by a chap who feeds them every night with a lot of theatricality. The Pelicans were fascinating. It is obviously an event that happens every evening – even the seagulls know their part – joining in at the appropriate places and even sitting on the chaps hat – worn for protection against such a happening!


After this amusing interlude it was back to our motel right at the other end of the island for supper at the local hotel and then home to bed – yes you have it – another 7.09 am start tomorrow. I have never seen so many sun rises!!!

Friday 21st August

The speed of the night had effected the required result and by 7.00 we had made up speed and were back on track for time and our ETA was back to 11.30.

Just time for a leisurely breakfast with a very nice lady from Adelaide, rather helpfully sporting a beautiful turquoise/green opal ring, very much of the shade I might like if I were lucky enough to have one….. (?!) She was lovely and recommended a lot of places to visit that I could not quite grasp – nevertheless I made play of making lots of notes in order that she felt helpful. She was apparently a regular Ghan traveller as she had daughters in both Darwin and Adelaide and travelled between the two locations several times a year. It all seemed very satisfactory.

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Breakfast over it was back to the blog as I was still trying to catch up from two lost days when my IPad had died, but I was nearly there. It is quite difficult to have an experience and then reflect on it, while at the same time having the next experience – if you know what I mean!

At 11.30, prompt, we pulled into Adelaide. It was an enormous goods yard, with containers and
defunct engines and general railway detritus standing around the place with grass growing around the rusting wheels and ironwork.

Eventually the doors opened and we emerged into the Adelaide sunshine.  There was general milling while people were met by friends, stowed luggage was found and taxi’s gradually cleared the area of the Ghan’s cargo of people

We found ourselves whisked the short distance to our Hindley Street apartment. We were in the centre of the student area and very close to everything it seemed. Adelaide appeared perhaps less sophisticated than Brisbane but far more so than Darwin, our two previous big city experiences in Australia so far.  Some of the buildings in Adelaide still show signs of a sort of lacy ironwork on overhead verandahs and shop fronts, evidence of an earlier era. It also seems  to have lots of bars and eating places, grazing seems to be a favourite Australian pastime.  No wonder they grow so tall!

We ventured out to find the place bustling with Friday lunchtime people. We eventually tracked down the information centre, rather unhelpfully tucked away up a side street, but very helpfully manned (that is man embracing woman) by a lovely lady who found us maps, directed us to the ‘Vroom’ (?!?) website for hire cars and even gave advice on a good opal buying place……

It would have been rude not to take up her offer to escort us to it. So we did. And now (well I will be when it is my birthday) I am to be the owner of a beautiful black opal ring courtesy of my lovely Husband. It is all sealed up to go through customs. Boo! But how lucky am I?!

After The Purchase it was back to the room for publishing the, by now more or less, up to date blog and some rest time before we ventured out on to the streets of Adelaide again. It was at this juncture that a rather serious (for me) tragedy occurred in that Air Dropping some pictures in to my blog ( serves me right for showing off!)  I lost four days diary!!!!!! I sobbed (literally!).

After blowing my nose and going to the toilet as my dear friend Lesley’s mother would have recommended, I vowed never to blog again.

However as you can see, I did eventually get back on my horse…… As it were.

Later in the afternoon, and still snivelling, we went off to find the much famed Adelaide Central Market. We found it, after visiting a most amazing map shop and then dropping in to a very upmarket hostelry (2 drinks £13), where the ‘in’ crowd of Adelaide were partaking of post working week thirst quenchers of very exotic variety. The market was excellent. Stalls of every type of food, both in its natural state and cooked, was available. We opted for a bowl of excellent Algerian lamb stew with Harissa, served by a flamboyant Algerian who wielded his mint tea pot with great panache. We got into conversation with several lovely locals. A great find and jolly evening.


We adjourned ‘home’ to pack for our two day tour of Kangaroo Island. Picking up time 6.30. On went the alarm again!

Thursday 20th August

There were clouds on the horizon! Almost the first we have seen in Australia. It was still warm enough to sit outside for breakfast and watched as birds swooped and called.  Helen has got some interesting plants…..


We were to set off for the next leg of the Ghan and the girls were to take a flight just after midday to Sydney. Our sojourn in middle Australia was nearing and end, but was a sojourn it has been!

Before we left we decided to have a walk around Helen’s ‘estate’. In addition to the indigenous trees there were some amazing plants with very odd protuberances and appendages. There was also a very well established full sized lemon tree – with giant lemons. It really must be a lot of work with a constant battle with buffel grass to keep any fires away from the house. There was evidence of a lot of hard work to keep the buffel grass at bay.  Even greater evidence of the battle with the environment was her red Massey Fergusson tractor. It was huge! Helen is not a great deal bigger than me – how she deals with that and it’s various appliances I am not quite sure but what I do know is that it makes me feel very whimpish!!

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Our stroll over, we set off for the airport – armed with two large rubbish bags. Helen does not have a dustbin collection she is too far out of town……

The girls dropped us off at the Ghan station. They have been the best travelling companions and we are looking forward to seeing them again in Sydney. We joined the gathering passengers for the train. Things were much more organised here than in Darwin and are steed luggage was whisked away. The train sat large in the sunshine awaiting its cargo of travellers. The sculpture of the afghan camel driver watched over the activity with one eye constantly on the horizon……


Having boarded the train and finding our Car Assistant cane from Sheffield we dashed off to lunch. One of our table partners proved particularly dour which made the meal quite hard wok conversationally, although very good from a food perspective. One positive outcome from the experience was that that we now know a lot more about opals – useful in that it is my birthstone and I have a birthday coming up……..

The train was not exactly thundering through the afternoon. In fact it was moving very slowly indeed – to the extent that by early evening we were running 1.5 hours late! We had whiled away the time trying to recognise the De Rose estate where we had stayed as vast swathes of the outback trundled past. We failed! It all looked very similar.

The train was not exactly thundering through the afternoon. In fact it was moving very slowly indeed – to the extent that by early evening we were running 1.5 hours late! We had whiled away the time trying to recognise the De Rose estate where we had stayed as vast swathes of the outback trundled past. We failed! It all looked very similar………

luckily for us we had different dining companions in the evening and had a jolly meal, but it was not long before I was tucked up in my top bunk and it was time for bed.  Given that the train was so behind in its travelling schedule it was quite a noisy night as we hurtled through the Australian outback as the train made up for its lost time.  The gentle rocking of the first leg of our Ghan experienced was superceded by something more like a shaking – not exactly conducive to a good nights sleep!

Wednesday 19th August

Despite the decision to lie in we were not too decadent and by 9.00 am we were having breakfast outside in the warm sunshine, looking out over Helen’s yard.

Breakfast over and washing out, we headed off to town for a bit of retail therapy. There are a number of galleries showing some amazing aboriginal art. Luckily space and beams limit the size of purchases for us, but we did find a couple of pieces that we really liked as a reminder of a wonderful few days in the area. We also had great fun helping Wendy and Sarah choose two yarn and wire sculpture creatures. They were lovely in bright colours. We can’t wait to see them !n situ in Sydney!

Sarah had identified a good place to grab a snack lunch, so we all dined royally on Mexican tortilla wraps – a new experience for me!

We then returned home with that happy glow you get when you had a bit of a purchase and for Keith and I a lazy afternoon ensued  – the first time we have stopped  since we arrived in Brisbane on the 6th August!  What a kaleidoscope of experience we have had since then.

We had a quick chat with Helen on the telephone during the afternoon.  She is still in Melbourne with, frustratingly for all concerned, still no sign of the baby that prevented her joining us on our trip! Who was to know? We are just so lucky that she has been so generous in lending us her car and home and providing the expertise and connections to enable us to have done so much during our time here. Extraordinary.

Supper was made up of the leftovers from yesterday with some interesting additions and we had a hearty last supper in Alice Springs. It was then a matter of getting the bags together again – no easy task as things seem to have expanded somewhat!! Funny that!