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2024 South Australia Holiday

19/03/2024 – Tuesday

An inauspicious start to our holiday

We organised a 4-week holiday to SA using a combination of train, boat, coach and car travel. The rain and flooding in WA meant that the Indian Pacific train was cancelled and we could not get our car to Adelaide in time for us to pick it up.

Plan B – Fly to Adelaide with Qantas, hire a car to do the Coober Pedy trip, fly home after we return from Coober Pedy.

We booked the morning flight with Qantas, who in their wisdom, changed it to the lunch time flight and gave us no choice. Arriving at Perth Airport in plenty of time we were advised that the plane was an hour late. By the time we boarded there was a backlog of planes and we eventually took off two hours after the scheduled departure time. Should I have expected any better from Qantas – probably not.

There are night road works between the airport and Adelaide and it took us over an hour for a 7km taxi ride. By the time we got to our accommodation at Tom’s Court Hotel in Adelaide, the reception had closed but they gave us excellent instructions on using the after hours check-in. No problems there. We are on the 12th floor and our balcony looks over the burbs and out to the gulf.

After a reasonable night’s sleep and breakfast at Cafe #12, where you get 5% discount for being a Tom’s guest, we walked to Golden Wattle Park for an enjoyable morning stroll. The parklands and gardens surrounding Adelaide are really beautiful and very well maintained. Apparently Adelaide has often been described as a “city within a park.”

Tom’s Court Hotel
Balcony by Day
Balcony by Night

20/03/2024 – Wednesday

The shortest way between 2 points.

Today we decided to go to the National Wine Centre (hic). I looked up Apple Maps and found the shortest route. The only problem is that Maps didn’t show that the Adelaide Fringe finished on Sunday and that the route through the parks was closed while the stages are dismantled. After many detours and a stop for morning tea we arrived at the Wine Centre in time for lunch. The National Wine Centre is excellent and includes an interactive exhibition where you can digitally make your own wine – I guess AI is coming to my drinks too.

Next we went to the Arboretum and the Adelaide Zoo Shop before taking another meandering walk back to Tom’s. We have both done over 20,000 steps on what was supposed to be a short walk. More steps as we head to the Saracen’s Head Hotel for dinner. Dinner was excellent with good food and an excellent bottle of Chardy.

National Wine Centre
Glenelg Tram
Shag on a Rock

21/03/2024 – Thrusday

GlenelG

A cruisy day. After breakfast we took the tram to Glenelg and the winding bus route, via the airport, back to Adelaide. The public transport in Adelaide accepts credit cards when you tag on so there is no need to get a metrocard. Hopefully Perth will do something similar in the near future. We are about to find a pub for dinner.

22/03/2024 – Friday

River Walk

Another almost relaxing day. Anne and I went for separate walks when we got up at 6.00. By pure coincidence, we met each other in the Adelaide Parklands – Anne went west and I went east. We met at a bench in Golden Wattle Grove instead of at Tom’s Hotel as we had planned. A stroll to breakfast followed by a more strenuous walk to the Torrens River and the Adelaide Convention Centre. Time for a rest.

23/03/2024 – Saturday

More GlenelG

A walk around the local area to get a few snaps in the morning. After lunch we caught the Tram to Glenelg and back. We had an excellent dinner at the Rob Roy hotel.

24/04/2024 – Sunday

Travel All Over the Countryside

We were picked up by a friend from Willetton, Susan, who is living in Adelaide for 6 months. Lunch was at a local pub. Susan is an honorary Mason and the other 30 people at lunch were all members of the Masonic Lodge. After lunch we went on a 3-hour tour of the Adelaide burbs before being dropped at the Adelaide Bus Terminal where we caught the coach to the Proud Mary.

The Proud Mary goes up and back down the same path so you may see some towns mentioned several times in this blog. The same goes with our trip to Coober Pedy next week.

We boarded the PM in time for dinner, drinks and plenty of chat with fellow passengers.

25/04/2024 – Monday

Roll’n on the River

Breakfast on board (I am going to get fat with all the food I am eating on this trip), followed by a tour and some souvenir shopping in Mannum, the birthplace of the river boat trade. Here we boarded the a coach for an interesting tour of historic Mannum. Lunch was served aboard the Proud Mary as we cruised upstream to Walkers Flat.

After another delicious dinner featuring Australian food and wine we were taken on a nocturnal coach tour to see wombats (2) and Kangaroos (4). I think that the driver was more excited than the guests.

26/04/2024 – Tuesday

Murray Murray Everywhere

After breakfast we cruised to Swan Reach where we boarded a coach for a tour to Costa Brothers Almond Farm. This state of the art almond farm uses water-recycling technology to limit its direct impact on the river system which helps secure the diverse ecosystem of the river. We also visited the Swan Reach Museum which is housed in the original school building that was built in 1917. We stopped overnight at Sugar Shack. Sugar Shack is part of the River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve which is an astronomer’s paradise. The unpolluted skies and isolation from artificial light sources make the park one of the best places on earth to gaze at the stars.

27/04/2024 – Wednesday

Vistas

We awoke to one of the most unspoilt and picturesque areas of the River Murray. We were taken on an environmental discovery walk of Sugar Shack.

We visited Swan Reach and other places twice – once on our way up the Murray River to Lock 1 and again on our way back to Murray Bridge.

Swan Reach (on the way up). Swan Reach was first settled in the 1850s and was originally the largest of five sheep and cattle stations in the area. It soon became one of the first riverboat ports in South Australia and was a loading port for grain and wool. The Swan Reach Conservation Park lies in a 3,200 square kilometre area which was named the nation’s first, and the world’s 15th International Dark sky reserve in October 2019, by the International Dark-Sky Association. Measurements have shown exceptional darkness across this region and SQM readings of 21.9 are common. Simply put, this is one of the best places on earth to view the stars!

Punyelroo is best known for the Punyelroo Cave, located on the banks of the Murray River. The cave is approximately 3 kilometres in length and is the longest of the several caves located in the Murray Plains area. There is a story that an aboriginal wife was stolen at Overland Corner which is situated about 100 miles from Punyelroo in an upstream direction. The husband took to the caves at Overhead Corner and came out at this point to cut off the thief and retrieve his woman.

Manuka Cliffs – 70 years ago archaeologists found skeletal remains of a shark here. Carbon testing showed it to be over 20 million years old.

In the afternoon we were taken for a short boat ride on a tour lead by an ecologist (Proud Mary Captain) through the lagoons and inlets of Big Bend. This evening was a traditional Australian barbeque on shore followed by live Aussie entertainment around a blazing campfire. An enjoyable night was had by all.

28/04/2024 – Thursday

Ngaut Ngaut tour (220km Mark) (pronounced nort nort).

In 1929, the owner of Devon Downs Station found the skeleton of an aboriginal body in rock on Tartanga Island near the homestead. Carbon, dating showed the boy had been 12 years old when he died between 6000 and 7000 years ago. The area has many carvings and fireplaces middens, that can be seen from the walkways that have been erected throughout the conservation site.

We were taken for a guided tour of Ngaut Ngaut and our local guide gave us a lot of information about the site’s history. He was also quite vocal that the Aboriginals (or anyone else) do not own the land but the land owns them instead. He seemed quite distressed about all of the negativity that happened around the Voice Referendum.

Big Bend (227km Mark)

Big Bend is the longest single bend in the Murray River. It travels through six miles and is a full 180 degree ‘S’ bend. The area is known for its spectacular riverside cliffs, which are the tallest along the Murray River – 60 metres. The limestone cliffs are rich with millions of ocean fossils and are home to colonies of bats. Caves in the area have been continuously occupied for at least 8,000 years. Sulpher crested cockatoo’s live in the cliff faces along with fairy martens and other small birds.

The remainder of the day was spent cruising.

There is a “Captains Dinner” tonight and looking at the setup it is a pretty upmarket affair. The Captain’s dinner was a 5 course affair (my personal trainer is going to be very hard on me when she finds out how much I have eaten and drunk). It was delicious and our table was the last to leave after 10pm.

29/03/2024 – Friday

Back to the Start

We spent the day cruising back to Murray Bridge. We settled our drinks bill which was less than I expected – either the drinks are cheap or we drank less than I thought.

After docking, we said farewell to some new friends and caught the waiting coach. The coach brought us to the Stamford Hotel in Adelaide. We caught up on our washing and had a light dinner. We got to bed at 11.00 with a 5:15am start on Saturday.

30/03/2024 – Saturday

Kangaroo Island

Our alarms woke us at 5:15 and we got ready for our coach trip to Cape Jervis and ferry trip to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. KI is 600sqkm. We had a 400km tour on day 1 and a further 300km on day 2.

KI has a similar landscape to Albany in W.A. and many similar creatures, birds, kangaroos, lizards, sea lions, seals, etc. The landscape is fairly flat. Our bus driver, (Danni), who is a farmer and a former vet nurse now studying mechanical engineering, spent a lot of time telling us about the fires in 2019/20 that destroyed over half the island and killed lots of the wildlife. Before the fire there were about 13000 koalas on KI and over half of these perished during the fire. The population is estimated to be up to 8000 now. The trees show a lot of fire damage but you can see the regrowth showing that it should eventually recover.

We went to Seal Bay Conservation Park, KI Kangaroos and Koala Conservation Park where we saw and fed kangaroos, saw koalas,echidna, fairy penguins. Last stop for the day was at Flinders Chase National Park which contains the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.

We stayed overnight at the Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge which was excellent.

31/03/2024 – Sunday

More Kangaroo Island

A late pick-up 10:10 as the Mercure was half way to the first point of the day.

1st stop was the Raptor Domain where the keepers put on a good show with parrots, eagles, owls, magpies, fairy wrens and black cockatoos. I had a cockatoo rest on my arm and gave it a pat.

Next stop was at the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillary followed by lunch ( have I mentioned that I am getting fat?).

After lunch it was off to a tour of Clifford’s honey farm and an explanation of how they make their KI Honey. We also had a taste test.

Danni then drove us to Pennington Bay for a look at the cliffs and the surf. This was followed by a 7-glass wine tasting at False Cape Wines.

Finally, we were dropped at the ferry terminal at Penneshaw for the trip back to Cape Jervis on the mainland. A 2-hour bus trip back to Adelaide included a demonstration of how to get an eagle out of the bus (this was the driver’s term for a large cricket on his windscreen.)

We were dropped at the Majestic Garderns Rooftop Hotel for a few nights R&R. The Majestic is quite nice and is very close to Rundle St Mall.

01/04/2024 – Monday

Rest Day

We needed a couple of days R&R to rest Anne’s leg and hip that had become very sore with all of the steps on the boat and coaches as well as much more walking than she has been used to for some considerable time, so we declined an offer from Susan for a tour of Harndorf in the Adelaide Hills and remained around our hotel. As it was a public holiday, many of the shops and all of the businesses were shut. We did some grocery shopping, ate out and generally relaxed. We think that SA has done a great job of keeping some of its heritage buildings whilst also building some modern skyscrapers. I wish WA had done something similar. There are quite a lot of 19th century pubs and houses around Adelaide. There is talk of changing some of these to be modern establishments but I hope it doesn’t happen as they add real character to this beautiful city.

We went for a walk that included the Art Gallery. We are getting better with our directions so our walks are becoming more direct and have less meandering.

02/04/2024 – Tuesday

Another easy day

Another easy day before we head for Coober Pedy tomorrow. I went to the hotel gymnasium and Anne read and rested. In the afternoon we went for another walk before we headed to the Crown & Sceptre for dinner.

The city is preparing for the AFL Gather Round where all 18 teams play in Adelaide over the next weekend. There are posters, flags and other decorations being put up all around the city. The Gather Round is played at 3 ovals – Adelaide, Norwood and Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills so the crowds get spread about.

03/04/2024 – Wednesday

On the Road Again

We left the Majestic RTG and picked up a hire car from Avis. I had made an error with the booking and Avis were expecting us to pick it up yesterday. Fortunately, a car was still available and the check-in person gave us a refund for one day which helped to pay for the insurance. We had a choice of 2 cars; a Mitsubishi Outlander or an MG HS Vibe. I chose the MG. It is a similar length to Karen’s MG but wider. It has a turbo changed 1.5l motor, CVT, Keyless Entry and Push Button start/stop. It drives well and has plenty of zip.

We stopped at Bracegirdles for Morning Tea and then headed for Port Pirie. The GPS took us on some B roads as the A road (highway) does not go into Port Pirie. At Bute there was a painted wheat silo so we stopped for some photos.

We cruised through Port Pirie but could find little worth stopping for as it was raining slightly and it was late enough that all the local coffee shops were closed. We refilled the fuel tank and Anne took over the driving as we continued to our overnight stop of Port Augusta.

Anne passed her first 3-trailer road train and once she got an understanding of selecting when to pass and how to accelerate to get past them as quickly as possible, she got quite good at it. I even dozed while she drove.

The Comfort Inn at PA is conveniently located but the mattress was very soft. We bought frozen dinners from Foodland and heated them in the Microwave.

04/04/2024 – Thursday

Desert Country

I went for a walk before breakfast and returned in time for us to pack up before we needed to vacate the motel. After a pleasant breakfast at Archer’s Table in Port Augusta, we climbed into our MG and took the road to Coober Pedy – 560km to the north.

Driving around Port Augusta we marvelled at the number of wind turbines (aka “Hockeys”). Some of them were not turning which I suspect is a result of limited demand for electricity at this time of day rather than any other reason. PA is on the western edge of the Flinders Ranges so we got a good look at the ranges although we never ventured into them.

Heading out of PA you quickly get into desert country which has sparse, low vegetation and few hills. The only towns on the Stuart Highway between PA and Coober Pedy are Pimba and Glendambo. We turned onto the Pimba Roadhouse turnoff only to find that the town of Woomera is only a short distance (about 10km) from the turnoff. Woomera is very much a military town and it appears that there is only limited acceptance of civilians in the town. We viewed the outside of the museum (it looks like it hasn’t opened to the public for a very long time). and drove around town. There are a couple of shops, but most of the buildings appear to be defence operations and accommodation.

We filled up at Pimba at $2:45 per litre – this was actually cheaper than I expected and it was the most that we paid for petrol (the MG only uses 95 or 98 Octane) anywhere on our trip. Next stop Coober Pedy. We passed a large, salt lake near Glendambo

Anne and I shared the driving from Pimba to Coober Pedy. We arrived at the Desert Cave Hotel and checked-in. When we got into our room, which had a dodgy door lock, we discovered that the Desert Cave is an above ground motel and not the underground one we were expecting – oh well, I should have checked the website better when I was making the booking.

05/04/2024 – Friday

Underground

After a good night’s sleep we had breakfast at Desert Caves and went for a drive around CP. We drove around town and decided that there is not a lot to see. During our journey we found several underground hotels (where I should have booked) as well as the Anglican and Catholic underground churches. We took a self-guided tour of the Opal Mine which is an old mine that has been turned into a museum with various galleries showing how opal was extracted and where people lived.

Nearing sunset we went to the Big Winch 360 experience to watch the sun setting behind some hills that were supposed to change colour in a similar way to Uluru.

We had dinner at John’s Pizza Bar and Restaurant. This time we ordered pizza which was delicious and filling. We couldn’t eat all of it.

06/04/2024 – SATURDAY

Back to PA

Our Coober Pedy expedition is finished and we headed back to Port Augusta. There were lots of animals on the road and in the paddocks. The paddocks are unfenced so animals walk across and along the roads so you always need to be watchful. We saw goats, eagles, crows, cattle and sheep. There was one near miss when an emu decided to run across the road and leave its chick on the other side. We slowed down and the chick stayed where it was until we and the car behind us had passed.

We stopped at Lake Hart, (another salt lake) north of Glendambo – it should have been called “fly lake” as the flies seemed to take great delight on landing on us and generally buzzing our faces. A couple of quick pics and it was back into the car. Lunch at the Glendambo Roadhouse was one of the most forgettable meals we’ve had in a while – stale ham and cheese sandwiches. There are two service stations in Glendambo and we clearly picked the wrong one.

After that unappetising lunch it was back to the Comfort Inn in PA for another night’s sleep on the very soft mattress. Perhaps if I had paid for a room upgrade we may have had a better bed.

07/04/2024 – Sunday

Gather Round

After another breakfast at Archer’s Table (this one was not as nice as the first one – perhaps the Sunday Chef needs to work on her cooking skills) it was back in the car and we headed for Adelaide. We called in at Snowtown (the place where the bodies were stuffed in the bank vault) for morning tea. Anne and I resisted the temptation to see if we could emulate the previous murderous spree, had morning tea and kept driving. This area is also well known for the production of renewable energy via wind farms. The stage one Snowtown wind farm came on line in 2008 followed by stage 2 in 2014 to make this the biggest operating wind farm site in South Australia with a total combined capacity of 370MW.

This was the weekend of the AFL Gather Round and there were large crowds everywhere in Adelaide. We checked in for our 2nd stay at the Stamford Plaza. It is about 200m from the Adelaide Oval and there were lots of people going to and coming from the AFL matches. I returned the car to Avis and we went to the bar until it was dinner time. Dinner was at LaBoca restaurant in the Stamford and is a specialist Argentinian steakhouse. We both had delicious steaks, not shown on this menu below as these ones were well outside our price range!!

08/04/2024 – Monday

Home Again

Breakfast at the Stamford, a stroll around Adelaide (the only day of the 3 weeks we were away when it rained) and an Uber to the Airport. I booked an EV Uber and we were driving in a BYD Atto 3. We were both impressed by the spaciousness of it in the back and we will keep it on our list of potential EVs for when we a re ready to buy one towards the end of 2024.

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