Adelaide is basically the Brooklyn, Masthugget and Portland, ME of Australia. Possibly Portland, OR as well, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been. There is fine eating, fine wine and even finer craft beer. Close by lies Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island, and the city itself hosts cinemas, theatres, art galleries and music venues, so there is nature and culture aplenty. It’s also the hottest capital in the world, and the on-going heat wave and the bushfires made it even hotter.
Even though there are a baker’s dozen microbreweries per person, the bulk of the beer is brewed in Australia’s largest family owned brewery, Coopers. 33 aussiebobs will get you on a guided tour of the brewery, followed by a tasting session of every beer they make. The guide, Frank, was knowledgeable and entertaining, and provided insight into the chemistry, biology and hydraulics of the brewing process. The four coloured cans can be found all over SA and NT, but that’s not always the case with some other sorts. Resisting the urge to buy a Coopers themed Hawaiian shirt*, we nevertheless left the premises with a baseball cap each, thanks to Caroline’s magic WiFi restoring fingers.
The timing was a bit off, though. Adelaide is a wonderful town; beautiful architecture, lots of venues, theatre, art, music, parks and a general atmosphere of coolness and sophistication. However, we only had one day off, and that day was hot. Not ‘oh, we’d better find some shade every now and then’ hot or ‘an ice cream or a cold beer would be nice’ hot, but ‘I’m going to be seriously ill if I don’t get inside where there’s aircon, stat!’ hot. The evenings were marginally cooler, and what we lacked in daytime sightseeing, we got back in food and brew sampling at night time. Mostly.
Adelaide is the only capital named after a queen, apparently, which is a bit of a left fielder when it comes to Australian naming convention. Mostly, they go for the obvious. Is it a bay, and someone noticed a shark? Shark Bay, obviously. Is it a rock, larger than the surrounding rocks, and also a bit round? Big Round Rock, natch. Is it an island with kangaroos? Name it Kangaroo Island, and be quick about it! Roughly two hours drive from Adelaide lies Cape Jervis. Another 45 minutes on the ferry, and you’ll be on Australia’s third largest island, Kangaroo Island.
Separated from the mainland a long time ago, the island (soon to become two, as the isthmus is a mere two km at its narrowest) has an interesting wildlife. Emus and eucalyptus provide refreshing oils, and at Seal Bay, Australian sea lions frolic on the beach, and you can get pretty close to them if the temperature allows it. It was touch and go for a while, as they close the beach when the mercury rises above 40, but we just made the cut.
After the sea lion encounter it was time for some sport in the form of kayaking (much better floating abilities than those in Sri Lanka) and swimming in the crystal clear ocean, before heading off to camp at a farm. We had encounters with three staple Aussie animals: opossum, kangaroo and koala. The ‘possum crept around the common area, looking for food scraps. The koalas were up the trees in the property, and the skippies were on the barbie, and later on our plates.
Due to its isolation, and the fact that they had to introduce koalas into an environment that lacks their natural enemies, the furry little critters are quite common on Kangaroo Island. Other than the locals at the farm, the walk through the national park provided 36 more of the dim-witted, chlamydia ridden, poop eating, lazy teddybears.
Being an island, with the open sea attacking its south coast all the way from Antarctica, there’s bound to be some dramatic coastlines, and indeed there are. The change in wind dropped the temperature drastically, and for the first time in forever, people decided to get their jumpers and jackets out. The slightly more sheltered part had another reason for the awesome coastline, though.
The Remarkables are indeed that. Similar to Kata Tjuta and Devil’s Marbles, they’re inselbergs of granite, and they’re cool as. It was heating up again, but before we left the island, we made a quick stop at Little Sahara for some sand boarding in the dunes. The heat was a bit too much and the wax was a bit too little to get in more than a couple of rides, though. And soon enough we left Kangaroo Island, all while hearing that it would be closed the next day; the heat and dryness made for too high a fire hazard to be deemed safe for visitors.
Yes, the heat wave persisted, and it had reached Barossa Valley as well. Australia’s biggest wine district, the valley is a popular destination for a day trip from Adelaide. We went for four different vineyards, from the immense Jacob’s Creek to the tiny, family owned Kies. By lunch, a bush fire had started in Adelaide Hills, making our tour guide worried she might have to either keep us in the valley or take a long detour back to the city. With two more tastings to go, us passengers were not too bothered, though. Worst case scenario, we’d be stuck in a wine valley, or arriving late and tipsy. The express way opened soon enough, so we eventually made it back into town on schedule. And therefore, we had plenty of time to grab dinner before seeing the latest** Star Wars film. A few more days, preferably in more passable weather, had been nice, but we did get a taste of Adelaide, wanting more. And that’s how one should leave them.
Our stay in Addie started with a slow but determined search for food and good beer. We got neither. A visit to a Chinese restaurant did not do anything more than a belly full and a taste bud tear. But we got to see a reunion of some sorts. 5 young women and three young men. Their joy and laughter spread out through the otherwise dull restaurant. We got to meet them later on when we finally found a place with good craft beer. Although then they were singing (I guess that cats in March would call that singing) and dancing on the bar. We had fun, the bartender did not enjoy it as much as we did.
Adelaide. What a cool city. Well, not cool as the temperature did not go below 31 degrees at any point of our short stay. 46 degrees during the day meant that we had to find indoor activities during our only day in Adelaide. So adult adulting activities it was. A nice tour at the fine Aussie owned family brewery Coopers. Frank, our cicerone and beer aficionado took us on an informative and pleasurable tour of the plant. We also got to sample some of the products. Very appreciated. We did look at the Cooper Hawaii style shirts and felt a strong “I need this. Badly” but since we are travelling very light we did not buy anything. Although I managed to repair the Internet connection for our fine Frank. Yes. I did. The computer dyslexic, the data moron solved a techie problem. Miracles do happen. So we got two caps as a thank you and left the cool brewery to bravely stroll out in the unforgiving heat. One does not walk fast, nor brisk in 46 plus. One drink a lot of water and mosey oneself from shady shelter to shady shelter.
Kangaroos, possums, sea lions and the chlamydia infested, poop-eating (but cute, very cute) little koalas. That was our main feature on Kangaroo Island. I also got to try sand-boarding. Lots of fun. Ramblin’ Rick, our bluegrass loving tourguide took god care of us. I got to experience the best loo in Australia. The indoor, outdoor loo at the Flinders Chase farm. Very cool and good fun.
We were lucky. The cut off temperature at the sea lion park was 40 degrees. We had 39,5 so we got to go to their beach and see them live. The day after our departure they locked down the island. Total fire ban and no visitors. Some groups had to cut their trip short die to that, we left according to plan. But safety above all and that is what our fine tour guides adhere to.
I finally got to visit the famous Jacobs Valley Winery. My fathers house wine. A very happy Caroline got to taste some “fojn vajn”. Around the second place our tour guide got a bit worried. A large bush fire had caused all roads back to Adelaide to be closed off. The group took a quick sip of the lovely wine offered by the Kies family winery and decided unanimously that since we had two more places to visit and that the fire did not threaten the Barossa Valley we would not worry and instead continue our tasting. The valley had plenty of little B & B’s that had a lot of unused beds. If we could not return to our hostels, hotels etc then we would stay in Barossa a bit longer. We were right not to worry. The firefighters had the fires under control in the afternoon and we could return unharmed. Although the fire was big. Several lost their homes and workplaces. Pretty scary. But with a fire and a Star Wars movie, we said good bye to Adelaide. New adventures awaited us.
*) partly due to them not accepting cash, partly due to the shirts being the lousiest material ever: cotton
**) Last, they say, but I shouldn’t be so sure