Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Loosing Battle

This week's theme is technology.

To the west of the city, Adelaide is bordered by 28 km of beach.  Many of the central and southern metropolitan beaches are greatly effected by storm erosion, leaving parts of the shore with very narrow beaches and waterfront properties with very little protection.  Beach replenishment--the replacing of thousands of tons of sand by trucking, dredging or pumping--is an annual procedure in an attempt to preserve and protect the coastline.  Prior to the human settlement of the of the coastal areas, the beaches were naturally replenished.  However, as coastal development occurred, the natural process was disturbed.  In 1973, man made technological replenishment activities were implemented to protect roads and houses along the coast.  This is an ongoing process.  Each day, as I run along the coast next to sand carting vehicles and human made sand dunes, I can't help but think that this is one battle in which technology will not overcome Mother Nature.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Earlier this month when my husband saw me off on my three week trip to visit my parents he had started to grow a beard.  I was a bit shocked. After all, in the sixteen years of knowing Mark, he has never allowed for more than a couple of days of growth to occur.  You may wonder why this sudden change.  It wasn't related to my leaving, but rather to an act of solidarity with the thousands of other Australian men who grow moustaches during the month of November to help raise awareness and funds for men's health.  What began as an excuse to bring back the mo (Australian slang for moustache), has turned into a global movement.
Each November--Movember--men who wish to become a "Mo Bro" start the month with a clean shaven face.  Throughout the month they then grow a moustache.  It is important to note that it must be a moustache, and as my husband found out, beards don't count.   With their changing face men are encouraged to talk about their own health.  Friends and families show support by in the form of donations.  The culmination of the event are "Gala Partes," where Mo Bros dress up--their costumes shed light on the inspiration for their Mos (i.e. a bloke with a Sherlock Holmes style Mo will don a deerstalker cap)--celebrate in style.
If you'd like to find out more about Movember you can visit the official website.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Foot Of A Nomad

This week's photo hunt is birds.

This ferocious talon belongs to an emu.  It is fitting that the largest bird in the Australia has such a prehistoric looking foot since it has been walking the continent for over 80 million years.  If you'd like to read more about emus see my post Look At That Birdie In A Tutu.

Adelaide, My Home Town

Several weeks ago I entered a contest over at slowtravel.  The contest gave contestants an opportunity to submit a list  and photos of the top 10 things you would take a visitor to do, that cost $20 or less, within 30 miles of their front door.  This week in the site's newsletter I was announced winner of the contest.  The following is my entry.

A year and a half ago, when my husband was offered a job in Adelaide we had to pull out the map.  We knew it was located in Australia, but had no idea where.  I now know it is located on the southern coast of Australia, and I have been calling its suburb Glenelg home for over a year.   Adelaide may not make it on the highlight tour of Australia, but I have come to view it as my own little oasis in a "big sunburned country".  These are the special places that I have found and come to love, and that I would like to share not only with my personal friends and family, but also with those people I have yet to meet in the cyber world.

*AUD=Australian Dollar

1.  Adelaide Botanical Gardens
A visit to the Adelaide Botanical Gardens is more than a walk in the park.   Founded in 1855, the gates were opened to the public in 1857.  The gardens were designed with some of the great gardens of Europe, including Versailles, in mind.  Many of the original trees remain in the park today.  Visitors are treated to a variety of gardens that showcase native and exotic plants that thrive in a dry Mediterranean climate.  There are also indoor buildings where the plants of the more temperate Australian forest can be appreciated.
A free guided tour enables Visitors to distinguish the native flora of Australia, and to better understand the devastating effects that the current drought is causing on both native and introduced plant species.
After a tour around the gardens and Pavilions, visitors should stop in at the National Wine Center of Australia, located at the south-east corner of the gardens.  Here they can take the interactive Wine Discovery Journey.  After browsing the exhibits, visitors can taste local Adelaide Hill's wines for $11 AUD.

Opening Times 
Monday thru Friday 7am to sunset
Weekends 9am to sunset

Free guided walks daily at 10:30am from the Schomburgk Pavilion
National Wine Center of Australia
Wine tasting $11 AUD

North Terrace Adelaide (9.8 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take Anzac Highway east to West Terrace, turn left.   Turn right on North Terrace.
By Public Transportation-Take tram from Mosley Square to Adelaide Rail Station.   Walk east on North Terrace.


2. Adelaide Central Market
The Adelaide Central Market first opened its doors on January 23rd, 1869 at 3:15 a.m.  By 6:00 a.m. over 500 buyers had visited the vendors and all the stock was gone.  The market did not have its official opening until January 22nd, of the following year.  And it wasn't until nearly 30 years later that the first stone was laid to build a permanent home for this vegetable, fruit, fish and meat market.
Today the original facade still stands.  The Market boasts the title of Australia's largest of its kind.   It contains over 80 stalls specializing in fresh meats, seafood, cheeses, olive oils, nuts, bread and produce, as well as small goods, ethnic supplies and café foods.  The Adelaide Market is one of the few places in town where shoppers can find a wide variety of feral meats: kangaroo, wallaby, camel, emu, and crocodile.  Visitors can stroll the many aisles imbibing the pulsating sounds, vibrant colors, and wonderful smells that make the market a must see for all tourists to Adelaide.

Opening Times
Tuesdays 7am to 5:30pm
Thursdays 9am to 5:30pm
Fridays 7am to 9pm
Saturdays 7am to 3pm


Gouger St. (9.5 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take Anzac Highway east to South Terrace, turn right.  Turn left on King Williams to Victoria Square.
By Public Transportation-Take tram from Mosley Square to Victoria Square.


3. Austral Hotel
A trip to the Austral  Hotel will allow the visitor to better understand Australian Beer drinking culture.  Many tourists are surprised to find that a bar is often called a hotel, and that they probably do not have Fosters on tap.  Historically, hotels were the first structures built in newly colonized areas and they served multiple functions while the towns around them were constructed.  Today, Hotels continue to play the multi-purpose role serving alcoholic beverages and food and some provide accommodations, pokies (slot machines) and bottle shops.
Housed in a 19th century colonial building with a bar, restaurant, and bottle shop, the Austral Hotel provides a better understanding of the central role of in Australia.  The wedges, a scrumptious Australian staple,  and a local beer are a must for all first time visitors.

Opening Times
Monday to Wednesday 11:00am to 1:00am
Thursday to Saturday 11:00am to 2:00am
Sunday 11:00am to 11:00pm

Wedges and a Beer $15 AUD

205 Rundle Street  (9.4 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take Anzac Highway east to West Terrace, turn left.   Turn right on North Terrace.  Turn right on West Terrace.  Turn right on Rundle St.
By Public Transportation-Take tram to Rundle Mall.   Walk east on Rundle St.

Tel: 61 8 8223 4660

4. Belair National Park
Belair National Park is the birthplace of the national park system in South Australia--it was the first national park in SA--and was dedicated in 1891.  Located in the hills of Adelaide, the park is the perfect place for a city break, and it provides visitors with a chance to experience the Australian Bush. With several different trails to choose from visitors are able to take a bushwalk that ranges from 30 minutes to 3 hours.  Observant hikers may spot echidnas, skinks, kookaburras, koalas, kangaroos, and emus.  There are numerous picnic areas throughout the park, and many offer a gas grill free of charge for those that would like to have an Australian Barbie.  

Opening Times
Daily 8:00am to sunset (except Christmas)

$8.00 AUD per vehicle
Free if you arrive by train

Adelaide Hills  (15.3 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take Diagonal Road east.  Turn left at Sturt Road.  Turn Right at Shepherds Hill road.  Turn left at Main Road.
By Public Transportation-Take tram from Mosley Square to Goodwood Station.   Transfer to Belair train. The park is located at the last stop.

Tel: 961 80 8278 5477

5. Cleland Wildlife Park
Cleland Wildlife Park is home to some of the city's more wild inhabitants. It is a great place for visitors to become familiar with the fauna of Australia. Located in the bushland setting of the Adelaide hills ,visitors are able to walk through large enclosures feeding Kangaroos, Wallabies, Emus, Bandicoots, and Water Fowl. There is a special area where Koalas can be petted, and for an additional fee they can also be held.  Other native Australian animals-- Tasmanian Devils, Dingoes, Wombats, Echidnas, and Reptiles--are housed at the wild life park and can be observed from a distance in their recreated natural habitats.

Opening Times
Daily (except Christmas day and days of total fire ban) 9:30am to 5pm

Adult  $16 AUD
Child $9.50 AUD
Feed for animals $3.00 AUD

Mount Lofty Summit Road (17.4 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take the South Eastern Freeway east.  Exit the freeway at Crafers, turn left at the roundabout and follow Summit Road to the Cleland Wildlife Park turnoff.  The route is well marked.
By Public Transportation-Take tram from Mosley Square to Rundell Mall.  Transfer to bus 864F (stop D1 Currie Street, north side).  Transfer to bus 823 (stop 24 Crafers Ramp) and travel to last stop Cleland Wildlife Park.

Tel: (08) 8339 2444

6. Hahndorf
Settled in 1839 by Lutherans who left Prusia to escape religious persecution, Hahndorf is Australia's oldest surviving German settlement.  Visitors can stroll  down the charming tree-lined main street appreciating the original buildings and the everlasting German traditions that the town has maintained.  Stop in at the Cafe Assiette for a traditional Brautwurst lunch.
In addition to absorbing the rich cultural heritage of the town, visitors may also tour famed Australian landscape artist Hans Heysen's studio and house.    A few of his captivating paintings of the Flinders Ranges are on display.

Opening Times
Most shops
Daily 9am to 5pm
Cafe Assiette
Daily 8:30am to 8pm
The Cedars
Tuesday thru Sunday 10am to 4:30pm

Cafe Assiette
Brautwurst lunch at $11.80 AUD
Hans Heysen's House (the Cedars) $
4 AUD (guided tours additional fees)

Mount Barker Road (36 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take the South Eastern Freeway east to the Mount Barker Rd exit.  Turn left and follow signs to Hahndorf.
By Public Transportation-Take tram from Mosley Square to Rundell Mall.  Transfer to bus 864F (stop D1 Currie Street, north side).  Travel to stop 55 .

Cafe Assiette
Tel: (08) 8388 7160
The Cedars
       Tel: (08) 8388 7277

7. Haigh's Chocolate Visitor Center
Haigh's Chocolate Company was established in 1915 and is Australia's oldest chocolate manufacturer.  It continues to be family owned, though it has outgrown the original Beehive Corner Shop, located in downtown Adelaide and is now located just on the outskirts of the Central Business District.  Throughout the facility, original packaging, old machinery, and early photographs can be viewed as well as a display that shows  the company's  support and commitment to environmental causes.
A guided tour provides the rich history of the company, information on how chocolate is made, and a tour of the facility where you can see skilled craftsmen and craftswomen engaging in the delightful task of making candy by hand.  Of course, the tour ends with a sampling of Haigh's Chocolates and opportunity to buy some of the scrumptious chocolates to take home.

Opening Times
Monday thru Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm
Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm

Free Guided Tour daily 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm
Bookings essential Tel: (08) 8372 7070   Email:

154 Greenhill Road (9.3 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take Anzac Highway east to Greenhill Road turn right.
By Public Transportation-Take tram from Mosley Square to Rundell Mall.  Transfer to bus 191, 192, 195, or 196 (stop c3 King William Street, east side).  Travel to stop 1 on Unley Road.

Tel: (08) 8372 7070

8.  Port Adelaide
What was once a main gateway to Southern Australia, continues to be a working seaport.  In 1982, Port Adelaide was declared a State Heritage Area, and it is home to many impressive colonial buildings.   A self-guided tour--be sure to pick up a brochure at the tourist office-- will take visitors through the historic streets of town, allowing them to view the fine collection of nineteenth century buildings; wharf sheds, hotels, warehouses, lofts, customs buildings, banks, churches,Town Hall, and the light house.  Each of these buildings is unique in character and played an important role in the development of Southern Australia.

Opening Times
Tourist Office
Daily 9am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day)


Commercial Road (15.4 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take Tapley Hill Road north, turn left at Port Road.
By Public Transportation-Take tram from Mosley Square to Train Station.  Transfer to train Outer Harbour line to Port Adelaide.


9.  South Australian Museum
Visitors to the museum are offered the opportunity to walk through time browsing collections that cover both the cultural and natural heritage of Southern Australia.  The museum boasts the largest Aboriginal cultural exhibition in the world.  Through interactive displays, visitors are able to learn about how the many many facets of life of the different indigenous cultures of Australia--we often erre in thinking of the aboriginals as just one culture.  The outstanding collection of artifacts, video clips, and photographs leave  the visitor with a better understanding of the first inhabitants of this enthralling land.

Opening Times
Daily 10am-5pm (except Good Friday and Christmas Day)

Free tours
Monday-Friday 11am
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays 2pm & 3pm

North Terrace Adelaide (9.6 km from Glenelg)
By car-Take Anzac Highway east to West Terrace, turn left.   Turn right on North Terrace.
By Public Transportation-Take tram to Adelaide Rail Station.   Walk east on North Terrace

Tel: 61-8-8207 7500

10. Sunset @ Glenleg Jetty
The end of the 215 meter (705 foot) long jetty at Glenelg is the perfect place to watch the sunset over Holdfast Bay.  Visitors can stand on the end of the pier, enjoying a magical sunset while they contemplate the fact that the closest neighbor to the south is Antarctica, over 7,000 km  away.  On calm evenings, a dolphin or two may frolic in the water below the pier.  For those who want a bit more of an adventure, head over to Temptation Sailing at the marina.  For $24 AUD you can get a sunset cruise that is often accompanied by one or more of the many pods of dolphins that live in the bay.

Opening Times
Time varies by season

Temptation Sailing
Sunset Cruise $24 AUD

End of jetty road  (0km from Glenelg)


Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Kingdom Ruled By A Monarchy

We had arrived a couple of days early; the winter kingdom of the monarch butterfly was not open to the general public.  The sanctuary El Rosio, in Michoacan Mexico,  was adamant that visitors would not be admitted until the weekend. Fortunately, a persistent host and a few extra greenbacks convinced the caretaker of one of the much smaller sanctuaries to allow us a private entry to the sacred lands.
As we began our  adventure I couldn't help but feel honored that not only had we been granted permission to enter this enchanted forest, but, apart from our two guides, my mother and I would be alone with thousands of butterflies.  We were not permitted to make the journey by foot, my preferred mode of transportation. Instead I found myself seated upon a scrawny horse.  I know it was to charge us more, but who was I to complain; after all we had already been granted  a privilege that I had dreamed about for years.  I was able to walk part of the way by switching places with my guide, but in the end the scrawny horse turned out to be a blessing in disguise since the rough journey took over 2 hours and climbed over 3,500 feet.
As we ascended the steep slopes and went deeper into the wooded forest our guides described our surroundings and the effect that illegal logging had had on the area.  We were told how the community had come together to protect the forest, and how they would actively search out anyone who cut down trees.
The views from the trail were spectacular.  As we neared the top of the hill we were required to leave the horses and finish the journey on foot.  Suddenly the trail in front of us filled with hundreds of dancing butterflies.  I gasped in delight.  However, the true spectacle was not on the trail, but high in the branches of the surrounding tall firs.  When Jesus pointed upward, at first I thought he was showing me the size of the boughs that were gently swaying in the mid-morning breeze.  But there was no breeze, and the boughs were not heavy with pine needles. Instead, there were thousands of butterflies sitting on the branches.  Slowly they fluttered their wings, still tired from the 2,000+ journey they have just made from north of the border. Just a week earlier, the first butterflies had arrived at the sanctuary marking the beginning of the yearly The Day of the Dead celebration.  For the locals, the butterflies represent the return of their departed loved ones to the terrestrial realm.

Our guides encouraged us to lay on the ground so that we could fully appreciate our surroundings.  At first the butterflies movements were sluggish, but as the early morning sun warmed the air the slow pulsating of their wings became more rapid. Gradually the small creatures took to the sky and our surroundings came alive.  The air thick with movement which brought a gentle hum to our ears.  I have never seen a forest so alive. At first I felt as though I was intruding on a sacred ceremony, but then one of mother nature's small creatures landed on my hand, inviting me to join in the celebration of a life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tim Tams Go Global

Who can resist a layer of whipped chocolate cream sandwiched between two chocolate biscuits and dipped in chocolate fudge? Not an Australian, that's for sure!  With over 30 million packets of these chocolate bikkies sold Down Under there is no denying that Australian love their Tim Tams.  I have to admit that even I, who tends to shun processed foods, have become a fan of this Aussie Household name.
I have come to like the scrumptious munchie so much that last week I carefully packed a handbag full of Tim Tams and hand carried them with me on my long journey across the Pacific Ocean.  I wanted to share my new found love with friends and family.  You can only imagine the shock I felt when, on my first visit to an American grocery store, there at the head of isle 1 was a display of Tim Tams!!  But wait, the name was correct but the packaging different. A closer look at the package showed that the cookie was not being produced by Arnotts's. "How dare Pepperidge Farm bastardize one of "Australia's National Icons," quickly passed through my mind.  Actually, I can not comment on the quality of this American biscuit because I have yet to try them.

In Australia Tim Tams are produced by Arnott's. Over the past year I have repeatedly read and heard about Arnott's and its importance in Australian history.  After all it has been around since 1875.  Of course my shock and anger caused me to come home and investigate how and why an Australian Company came to sell out.  You can imagine my horror when I discovered that, yes, the company is originally Australian, but even after resisting a buy out by Nabisco in 1964, it succumbed to globalization in 1997 when it was acquired by Campbell Soup Company. Aren't they tricky by not including any mention of Campbell Soup on their label (yes I am one of those label readers.)  I don't need to tell you who is the parent company of Pepperidge Farm.
Oh well Mark, you better get your fill of Tim Tams while I am away, because in addition to their delicious taste, one of the reason I would buy it was because it was Australian owned, or so I thought.   As for friends and family, if I get you hooked on Tim Tams, welcome to the globalized world and now you can buy them yourselves here in the States.  But beware, they are seasonal and only available in the USA from October to March.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Here Lizard, Lizard, Lizard

The towering cliffs of Alligator Gorge and the emotional encounter with our first feral emu were left far behind, as we continued down the sandy creek bottom of  Mambray Creek in Mt. Remarkable National Park.  It was still early in the season, the longest day of the year several weeks away, but the hot sun beat down on us as we crossed the desolate landscape.  Anxious to arrive at the Hidden Gorge turn-off, Mark had left me several hundred meters behind.  I had just entered one of the few native pine forests in the canyon, when out of the corner of my eye I caught some movement.  I quickly froze and I could hear something scurrying up the tall tree.  I wondered if it could be a squirrel, even though I had yet to see one in Australia.   I couldn't think of any other animal that would be climbing a tree, and the truth be known I was relieved that it wasn't another emu--I had had my fill earlier in the morning. I cautiously left the path and began to walk, in a very large circle, around the tree.  I wanted a better view of who or what was there.  As I peeked around the trunk, I couldn't believe my eyes. I reached for my beloved camera, but  realized that Mark was carrying it.  I returned to the main path and in a low voice I called to Mark to quickly bring the camera.  Since I wasn't shrieking hysterically, he wanted to know what had piqued my interest enough for a photo.  When I informed him a I had to get a photo of a lizard he laughed and said that wasn't worth walking back for.  I assured him that this was not one of the tiny copper guys that we had seen earlier and that he really needed to return.  I think we both were in a bit of shock as we stood at the base of the tree looking at the meter long lizard hugging the tree in front of us.  I couldn't help but wonder if all Australian reptiles, especially snakes, were on steroids.

It turns out that we were looking at a lace monitor, or tree goanna, which is one of the largest lizards in the world.  It is not Australia's largest lizard--that title goes to the Perentie--but they can grow to be about 2 meters in length and weigh up to 20 kilos.  They have powerful limbs and  strong curved claws which make them versatile and they are able to run, swim and climb trees.  These carnivores can be found throughout eastern and into southeastern Australia in wooded habitats.  They are most active from September to May, and the females lay eggs in termite mounds.
We have since seen several of these grey with cream spotted lace monitors, but always in the same National Park.  However, we haven't done much hiking in the eastern part of the country.  So when hiking in the eastern/southeastern part of Australia keep your eyes open and, in the trees, you may come across one of these monster lizards.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A One Man Band

This week's theme is music.

When you look at this picture you may ask what it has to do with Australia.  Well, believe it or not this picture was taken in "the land down under" at Hahndorf, SA.  Settled in 1839 by Lutherans who left Prusia to escape religious persecution, Handorf is Australia's oldest surviving German settlement and the town continues to maintain a rich cultural heritage.  Whenever I visit the town 30 km from Adelaide there is alway accordion music being played, either in the street or one of the many German Beer Hauses.

Friday, November 13, 2009

St. Mary's Peak

On the second day of our second trip to Wilpena Pound, we finally attempted to climb St. Mary's Peak.  The first time around we were unable to bag the peak because we had my mother in tow, and as good a sport she is, I didn't think an 8 hour hike was for her.  We had originally planned to hike the trail on the first day of our second visit, but it had been pouring buckets of rain the day before and we had been advised to save it for a less rainy day.  I am glad we waited.  Not because we aren't prepared to hike in the rain--we have plenty of rain gear--it is just the ascent to the Tanderra Saddle would be very difficult in the rain.
The well marked trail, which can be hiked as a loop, begins at the Wilpena Pound Visitor Center.  I suggest hiking the loop counter clockwise so that the steepest part of the trail is tackled early in the hike--not only will you not be as tired, but that part of the trail is probably easier to ascend than descend.
Our hike began by following the track along the base of the outside of the naturally made amphitheater.  The first 4 km were fairly level, and an easy walk.  The trail then began to slowly gain elevation before it turned into a steep climb to the Tanderra Saddle.

Ascent Tanderra Saddle
As we mounted the saddle, we could see St. Mary's Peak in the distance. Unfortunately, she was shrouded in a dark rain cloud and we decided that it would be best to leave that thrill for another day.  Instead we began our return journey downhill.  I was a bit concerned that the trail would be as steep as the one we had just  scaled, and it would be difficult to navigate if it started to pour.

St. Mary's Peak
I was relieved when we turned a bend and found that rather than dropping straight to the basin floor we would be following a gentle sloping trail.  Halfway down, we had a break in the weather and we stopped for lunch.  Here we were able to observe how the oval basin of the Pound is almost completely flanked by gentle sloping mountain walls.  There is only a single gorge, Wipena Gap, that creates a natural break in the towering walls.  There are several tall peaks in this elliptical landform and St. Mary's Peak is the tallest at 1170 meters.

Return Trail To Basin

Lunch View
Our post-lunch hike continued to gently take us to the basin floor where we  walked through a sea of eucalyptus trees.  It was getting late in the afternoon, and several kangaroos were out feeding.  After about 4 hours we finally reached the gap in the wall and we followed the creek back to the Visitors Center.  We were a bit disappointed that we didn't climb the highest peak in the Flinders Ranges--the second highest in South Australia--but it gives us something to look forward to.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

National War Memorial, Adelaide
Last year on November 11, while on a free guided tour of the Adelaide Botanical Gardens, I was introduced to Remembrance Day in Australia.  Our tour began at 10:30 and shortly after our guide began to anxiously look at her watch.  At 10:55 she explained to the group of mostly foreigners how it was Poppy Day (aka Remembrance Day) and that at 11:00 we would take one minute of silence to commemorate the sacrifices of those who have died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.  Even though the guide did not explain the significance of the date or time, I have since learned that at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 there was a cease fire on the western front after more than four years of continuous warfare.  November 11th is not a public holiday in Australia but a moment of silence is observed by many.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


For most this little guy would be considered cute.  I would have to agree that, from a distance, he is.  However, when you are at an airport that has quarantine restrictions in place, and he is jumping on your bag he can bring terror into your life.
We were at the Perth Airport returning a rental car.  We had actually spent the weekend hiking in Western Australia (WA), and were dropping off the car before Mark headed into the Perth Office on Monday.  The car keys were dropped off, and Mark decided to use the facilities before jumping in a taxi.  He left me in the arrivals hall with our luggage which included a bag that contained an avocado and orange that hadn't been eaten over the weekend.  All of a sudden, out of the blue, this little beagle comes running up to me and jumps all over me and our bags.  I about pissed myself when I realized that the little guy was letting his partner know that I had some hidden produce deep in my bags.  Frantically I started to yell "Wait, wait, I've been in WA since Friday and the fruit was bought here."  Fortunately the woman accompanying the dog remained calm and looked at the tags that were still on the bag--whew... good thing I hadn't acted like my Grandma Berry, and ripped them off before even leaving the luggage retrieval area.  Anyway, Sparky got a special little treat--even though he can't distinguish SA from WA fruit--and off they headed.
When traveling interstate in Australia, it is important to note that in many situations it is illegal to transport fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, and soil across state lines and in some cases into restricted areas within states.  The quarantine is in place in an attempt to stop the spreading of fruit flies.  In many airports dogs can be seen sniffing bags.  When driving, on some roads there is just an honesty bin where you are supposed to deposit prohibited items, while at other places there is a full fledged inspection station.  Random road blocks could exist, but we have yet to find one.
I remember when there used to be road blocks between states in the United States, but that had to be over 20 years ago.  I wonder if eventually Australia will do away with such quarantines, or if they will continue?  What ever the future holds, for the time being if you are traveling in Australia make sure you are sure of local and interstate quarantine regulations so that you can avoid throwing away food or even worse facing a fine.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What's Behind The Name

A year ago I was familiar with the Qantas logo, but had never had the opportunity to fly the airline.  Since moving down under, that has all changed and I have traveled with the airline several times.  At first I found the name interesting, and wondered where it came from.  I questioned if it was an Aboriginal word?
Well it turns out that Qantas is the acronym for Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service.  The idea of the air service was born in 1919 after two wartime friends, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness,  were assigned to survey the land between Longreach in Queensland to Katherine in the Northern Territory.  It took the men 51 days to cross the 2179km of land never traversed by a motor vehicle.  The grueling trip  left the men convinced that an air service would be key in linking remote outback settlements.   Fysh later wrote, "We were convinced of the important part aircraft would eventually play in transporting mail, passengers and freight over the sparsely populated and practically roadless areas of western and northern Queensland and North Australia."  In 1921 the dream became a reality, and two war surplus planes began demonstration flights, and by 1922 a scheduled airmail service between Chaleville and Cloncurry was started.  Over the years the service began to grow and today the airline has hundreds of planes in its fleet with service across the world.
Today I will begin my long journey to my parent's home in Oregon with the airline known as the Spirt of Australia.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hidden Gorge

Hidden Gorge

Last weekend we made a second visit to Hidden Gorge in Mt. Remarkable National  Park which is in the Southern Flinders Range.  The park has several gorges.  Alligator Gorge located at the northern end of the park is probably the most famous, but Hidden Gorge is my favorite.  Hidden Gorge is located in the middle of the park and is only accessible by foot from either of the car parks at Alligator Gorge or Mambray Creek.  It is about the same distance, 7 km one way, from either entry point and from both sides it can be completed as an 18+ km loop.
In either case, I would suggest starting the hike by climbing up The Battery which is a long ridge with extensive views over the upper Spencer Gulf--it spans the distance between Alligator Gorge and Mambry Creek--and return via canyon floor so that you get the climb out of the way first and your return is a relatively flat walk.

View from The Battery

The over-all hike is rewarding with an opportunity to pass through groves of native pines, sugar-gums, and red gums.  There are also several waterholes that attract birds, 'roos, wallabies, and monitor lizards. However, the highlight of the hike has to be the remote Hidden Gorge, with its striking "sun-burned" quartzite walls.  The trail follows an ancient water course that has sliced through ancient sandstone leaving towering cliffs on both sides of the path. As you zigzag your way down the rocky creek bottom be sure to look for the rippled rocks, the remnants of tidal currents of a long ago ocean.  The return journey to the car is relatively anti-climatic after the gorge, but there are several fresh water springs along the Mambray Creek which form mini-oasises in the canyon bottom.

Canyon Wall

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance"*

This week's theme is Veterans/Military.

This Memorial Hall is run by the local Returned and Services League in Unly (Adelaide).  The Returned and Services League, aka RSL, is located throughout Australia.  Founded in 1916, it is the result of the solidarity shown by the servicemen for their mates during and after the 1914-1918 war.  The organization was originally known as the Returned Sailors Imperial League of Australia, but in 1990 the name changed to Returned & Services League of Australia. Overtime the name may have evolved, however, the philosophy remains the same  and the RSL "...exists to ensure that programs are in place for the well-being, care, compensation and commemoration of serving and ex-service Defence Force members and their dependants; and promote Government and community awareness of the need for a secure, stable and progressive Australia." (
This week the RSL, like its many comrades worldwide, will be very busy here in Australia with Remembrance Day activities.

*The title of the post is the RSL motto

Friday, November 6, 2009

First Friday

It's Friday, and this afternoon my husband will have a big grin on his face.  Not just because it is Friday, but because it is First Friday--the one day a month when alcohol and the workplace intermingle.  At 4:30 in the break room, nibblies--sausage rolls, mini-quiches, and chips--are laid out, while the wine bottles are uncorked and beer bottles snapped open.  Employees are invited to come together to socialize or take some goodies back to their desk.  You may want to note that the break-room is located on the 16th floor and has an uninterrupted view of the surrounding hills and bay, not a bad place to wind up the work week.
When my husband first started this job and got the flier announcing the Friday afternoon activity, he couldn't believe that his company would serve beer and wine to their employees at the work place.  It is not that Mark was a stranger to the mixing of work and alcohol, in fact, it is very common in Spain.  I know he misses those long lunches, where endless bottles of wine were served.  However, he didn't expect it at an American owned company here in Australia.
It turns out that drinking at the end of the work week is not uncommon in the Land Down Under.  Of course, not all companies put out the large spread that Mark is treated to once a month but often, at the end of the week, either drinks are served by the company or employees pitch in for some adult beverages.  We have read about it in books and seen it on Australian T.V. shows.  Also, on those Friday nights when I am left to wander around the streets of downtown waiting for Mark, I often peer in office windows and it is common to see workers around beer laden conference tables.
I have to wonder if this is one of those Australian cultural traditions that will hold strong or if it will go the way of the three-martini lunch.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


This morning I made my weekly trek over to my favorite coffee shop.  I don't go there for the coffee since I don't really like the coffee here in Australia.  I have turned into a tea drinker and only drink coffee twice a week: once when I make my weekly trip down to my favorite place, and when I go out with a group of friends after Yoga.  You may wonder why I go to the Broadway Kiosk if I don't like their coffee.  Well, it is one of the only cafes in Glenelg that is on the water.  It is the perfect place for storm watching, and today was a perfect day for storm watching.  As I watched the squalls race across the water, I reflected on AbodeOneThree's blog "The age of caffeinated enlightenment." which took me back to my cafe days in Spain.
In Utrera, my trip to the cafe was not a weekly event, but an integral part of my daily routine.  With literally hundreds of cafe bars in town, I was not limited to one favorite place. I had several that I loved, and each one had it's own special "toque".
The dark smokey bar, El Bosque, was conveniently located right across the street from our flat.  Since it was right smack in the middle of town, it was where the local businessmen stopped for their morning kick start.  It was also a favorite hangout for a group of local gitanos (gypsies)  who played the guitar for a living.  Often,  they stumbled in, after a long night of hard work, and boisterously described the previous night's events.  I loved sitting and listening in on their stories.  After all, this was the only way that, as an outsider, I was able to experience the clandestine scenarios that the guitaristas were describing.
Located on another centrally located Plaza was the Mercantil, a modern place owned by two brothers.  Here I never had to place an order; when I walked up they would just give me a nod, and my cortado would soon be ready.  During the warmer months of the year, the well shaded outdoor seating area was one of my favorite places to have coffee.
Across the way was the dive, Esmeralda, a very small cafe run by a husband an wife.  Neither, was able to multi-task and each coffee was made one at a time.  You were often required to bus the table if you wanted to sit down, but I preferred to belly up to the bar at this establishment.  It provided the best place to view the slow movements of the proprietors, and my presence served as a reminder that I was still waiting for my coffee.
Then there was the Ibanez, the only place in town where I could get a pastry.  Mmmmm, my weekly Friday morning treat was a flakey butter pastry filled with dark oozing chocolate.   I must have really loved my tasty treat since the Ibenez  was located right across from the local school, and all the ankle-biters and their  mother's also patronized this place.  Never mind that Spain has a law prohibiting smoking when children are present, the mothers smoked and  squawked. I may not miss the chaos and smokey haze but, oh, how I miss those Napolitanas de Chocolate.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Banrock Station

View at Banrock Station
When we were in the Murray Lands we stopped in at Banrock Station, Kingston-on-Murray.  Banrock Station is best known for its wines, but we wanted to check out the hiking trails on the property.
When we arrived at the winery, we were a bit upset that we were going to be charged to explore the area.  Unfortunately, the cashier only quote us the fees for the trails,  and didn't bother to explain why we were being charged.  I was a bit confused about why we had to pay to walk around the flood plain of the Murray river.  In the end, we reluctantly coughed up $3.00 AUD per person, and hit the medium length trail.  Normally, would have gone for the longer trail, but it would have cost us more, and we weren't allowed to take our own food.  I felt I had already paid enough and was not going to be suckered into paying any more. So off we headed down the hill to the river plain.

Vineyard Meets River Plain
The bright green of the vineyard plants sharply contrasted with the dry landscape in the far distance. About half way down the hill we came across a mean looking feral fence.  I assumed that it's purpose was to keep the 'roos and rabbits out of the vineyard. However, I had to question why I had never seen such elaborate fences at the other wineries we had visited.   We were soon on the flood plain and, where water meets the land, marshes were formed.  We were able to explore a bit of this area on a meandering boardwalk but soon were informed we would have to turn back.  The problem: we hadn't dished out the additional $2 AUD.  So we headed back to the car park.  After some heated discussion--it was about 90 degrees out--we decided to eat a quick lunch in the car (they couldn't tell us what we could and couldn't do in our car--could they?), and go back into the winery for a tasting.  We weren't crazy about the idea of giving them more money, but we were interested in learning more about their wines.

Feral Fence
Our short time with our sommelier proved to be very informational.  However, it wasn't what we had learned about the wines that we found useful but rather the information she gave us about the site.
It turns out that since the mid 1800s the human impact on the Murray River has been significant.  Early pastoral grazing led to accelerated soil erosion and the elimination of the natural floodplain grasses.  The operation of Paddle Steamers on the River meant that thousand of local trees were felled for fuel.  Irrigation has caused a massive salinity buildup.  Finally, the construction of the Lock system has destroyed the natural drying/flooding cycle of the floodplain, which has lead to the demise of the wetland ecosystem.
After almost 150 years of misuse of the river and land, Banrock Station has become an environmental pioneer, returning a small section--1100 hectares of the Murray River--to it's original state.  Structures were built to let water flow in and out of the lagoon, which hadn't happened since 1925 when a lock was built next to the property preventing water from flowing out of the lagoon.  The re-creation of the dry cycle was essential for the breeding of native plants and animals. In addition to re-establishing the natural wet and dry cycles of the wetlands to the area, planting thousands of native plants and shrubs planted, and removing all domesticated animals, native fauna, including the near extinct bilby have been reintroduced to the property. I guess that extensive feral fence wasn't to protect the vines, but rather the cute bunny-like mammal.

Healthy Wetland Marsh
As I stood and listened to all of this information I couldn't help but feel cheated once again.  If I had known all of this before the hike I wouldn't have minded paying the fee and would have gone for the longer hike.  I also would have viewed my surroundings with much more appreciation.  Oh well, you can't win them all.  On the plus side, I am now an advocate for Banrock Station wines since part of proceeds from the sale of every bottle of wine go towards funding environmental projects around the world.  Given their environment commitment I will not whine about their wine--actually due to the similar climate their wines remind me of Spanish Wines which I happen to enjoy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Race That Stops A Nation

Today, the first Tuesday in November, is the Melbourne Cup. If you have never been in Australia in November, there is probably a good chance that you have never heard about this "race that stops a nation."  This is not an exaggeration, and though it may not be a day-long interruption, you can be sure that during the race Australians of all ages and walks of life, will be glued to television screens or transistor radios during race time.  Even those who are at work will be able to participate in the festivities that range from the serving of nibblies and drinks, to workers participate in sweeps (pools). For those who are fortunate not to work on this day, many of the local restaurants, bars, and pubs are offering drinking and dining packages.  The Mebourne Cup, in fact, generates a national level of enthusiasm similar to Super Bowl Sunday in the USA.
The Cup, as it is known here in Australia, is similar in many ways to the Kentucky Derby.  However, it is older and dates back to 1861.  Both races occur in Spring; the first  Saturday in May in Kentucky and the first Tuesday in November in Melbourne.  The race day is preceded by pre-race festivities: the four day Carnival for the Cup, and the two week-long Kentucky Derby Festival.  Fashion is a high priority at both races with women in brightly colored dresses, high heels and extravagant hats, and men in suits.  While both races are large with about 24 horses participating, The Cup differs from The Derby in distance, and in track surface.  The Melbourne Cup is run over 3,200 meters (2 miles) of grass, and the Kentucky Derby covers 1.25 miles of dirt.  Also, the Melbourne Cup is a handicapped race.  This means that better horses have to carry more weight.
It is funny to think that one of the "greatest horse races" in the world is largely unheard of beyond Australia.