spending several days in Robe, I dis-Robed and left on a Friday morning, heading west along
the coast highway. I won't say that my time in Robe was
"relaxing" because I haven't relaxed much on this trip since leaving
the U.S. in early December. I'm always busy doing something: either
planning my trip, working on e-mail, updating my website, working on my digital
photos, or walking around and taking pictures. I haven't had any time,
really, to just sit around, browse through magazines or day-dream. I won't complain though, because I haven't woken up to an
alarm in almost a year and this sure beats working in an office.
leaving Robe and driving west for a few hours, I rode an old-fashioned
cable-ferry across Australia's longest river, the Murray. This was the
second time that I've seen the Murray, the first being a week earlier on a
steamboat in Echuca. I was thinking about driving into Adelaide that
afternoon but Friday afternoons aren't a good time to visit large cities, so I
decided to spend that night in the seaside resort town
of Victor Harbor and visit Adelaide on Saturday. Victor Harbor was kind of
interesting, but the best part was getting a much-needed haircut there from a
friendly, outgoing and inquisitive Pommie (i.e., a transplant from England)
for only US$7. Haircuts are really cheap in Australia -- in fact, I should come over
here to Australia more often to get my hair cut.
left: Larry the Lobster in
Kingston, South Australia.
center: "So ferry, cross the Murray..." Those of
you under 30 probably won't get this joke.
right: The pedestrian causeway to Granite Island in Victor Harbor, SA, a
seaside resort town.
The skies were overcast Saturday morning as I
crossed over a low mountain range and approached Adelaide, the
capital of South Australia and its largest city. This apparently had
been quite a week for Adelaide because a World Technology Conference had been
held here early in the week, bringing together some of the smartest people from
around the globe. Then on Wednesday, Bill Clinton made his first visit to
Adelaide and the next day, Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip visited
Adelaide. Of course, this was all just a prelude to my visit on Saturday,
the event that Adelaide was really gearing up for.
Although I'd heard of Adelaide for many years, I
didn't have any preconceptions about the city because I knew virtually nothing about
it, other than it was about the same size as Portland. I figured it was
probably just another bland city, but I felt obligated to at least take a look
at it for a few minutes before continuing on my way.
Once again, here's the
popular 1960s Aussie group The Seekers. This is I'll
Never Find Another You.
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I drove towards the city, the area reminded me of the California's Sacramento Valley
golden, rolling hills and scattered trees. With about a million people,
Adelaide's only about one-third the size of Sydney or Melbourne and it's a lot
easier to navigate around: no wild and crazy Sydney-type drivers here and
no ridiculous "hook turns" as in Melbourne.
After parking in a
garage, I walked around for what was going to be 30 minutes but ended up being
four hours because, as I discovered, Adelaide is a city of clean, tree-lined
streets, interesting buildings, and pretty parks. There's also a beautiful
river that winds through the city, a nice university, an interesting museum, and a very
lively and pleasant pedestrian shopping area several blocks long called Rundle
Mall which was jammed with shoppers, people-watchers, and street
don't hear much about Adelaide, especially if you live in the U.S., but I
thought it was far more pleasant than any other large city in Australia or New
Zealand, including Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland. In fact, its nicer than
just about any city I've visited during the last 12 months. As with
Portland, it's a large city but it has a small-town feel to it, and although I
would never admit that any city is as nice as Portland, Adelaide comes pretty
left: King William Street in
center: Buildings on Pirie Street.
right: A quaint shopping mall in Adelaide.
left: Bridge over the Torrens
River near downtown Adelaide.
center: Fountain outside the Museum of South Australia. I spent
about an hour walking through the museum, which has a great collection of
right: A "living statue." This
guy obviously needs to get outside more often.
left: Reflections in the steel orb on Rundle Mall. That's me
in the middle.
center: Adelaide is the only place I've ever seen an aerial rock
right: Back at the parking garage. I walked around Adelaide for four
hours -- it's
really a wonderful city.
left Adelaide on Saturday afternoon and drove up into the Barossa Valley, a
beautiful area near Adelaide, which has lots of vineyards and wineries,
something like the Napa Valley in California. Unfortunately though, it doesn't have many
places to stay, so I drove on into the city of Gawler, which, according to my
Australian AAA Accommodations Guide, had a motel with 104 rooms. Saturday afternoon
is usually the toughest time during the week to find a place to stay, but I was
hoping that Prasad's Gawler Motel had at least one vacant room left.
-- in fact, they had 104 vacant rooms left. Mr. Prasad's eyes lit up with
anticipation when I
walked into the lobby, then he gave me a funny look when I asked if he had any
rooms available (after eyeing the empty parking lot, I was just being polite). After checking in to my choice
of 104 rooms, I realized that it was a bit creepy to look outside and see a
virtual ghost town of empty motel rooms stretching off into the horizon.
"Jeez, what's wrong with this place?," I kept asking myself with
visions of the Bates Motel dancing in my head. I felt a little better, and
better for Mr. Prasad, when another car finally pulled in around 9 p.m.
I pored over my maps that night in the empty Gawler Motel, I noticed a place a
few hours north of town called Flinders Ranges National Park which confused me
at first, because I'd run across the Flinders name several times during the
previous week. Let's see, there was Flinders Island near Tasmania,
Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island south of Adelaide, Flinders
Street in Adelaide, and a Flinders River in some town that I'd passed through a
while back. Whoever Flinders was, he must have been one important dude (or
she must have been one important dudette).
photos of Flinders Ranges National Park in my Lonely Planet guidebook looked
intriguing, so I decided to head up there Sunday morning for an hour to check it
out -- and I'm really glad I did. In fact, I was so glad that I ended up camping there for
two nights. As I discovered, Flinders Ranges National Park is a beautiful
place on the edge of the Outback with lots of red rocks, kangaroos and,
amazingly enough, native pine trees -- one of the few places in Australia where
there are native pines.
was still during the summer so the park was mostly empty, which was rather nice. When I walked into the quiet Visitor Center, the two
attractive, young women standing behind the desk perked up. However, I attributed their enthusiasm not to my exotic
American accent, my dashing good looks, nor even to my incredibly suave
demeanor, but rather to the boredom and isolation that they’d endured
during the previous few months. They
eagerly showed me a map of the park, and when I told them that I was looking for
solitude, they suggested the Aroona Campground, about 20 miles north and in one
of the most remote parts of the park.
thanked the ladies for their time, hopped in my Camry, and headed up to Aroona
Campground, which I found an hour later after driving on miles of dirt roads and
after crossing several creeks with trickles of briny water.
Sure enough, the campground was empty, so I set up my tent and ate dinner
watching the sun set over the meadow, while kangaroos and emus wandered about --
the Australian equivalent to where "the deer and the antelope play,"
It was a very warm, quiet, and pleasant evening.
left: Heading north through
the Clare Valley on Sunday morning.
center: Quorn, a small town in the Outback, featured in the Mel
Gibson film "Gallipoli."
right: A deserted house along the old Ghan Railway, central
Australia's lifeline until it was abandoned in the 1950s.
left: The Visitor Center at
Flinders Ranges National Park. There weren't too many visitors this time
of year -- it's too darn hot, I guess.
center: The roads through the Flinders Ranges are a bit
primitive. Please don't show Hertz this picture.
right: Despite the bushflies, the Aroona campground was the
nicest place I've camped at since leaving the U.S. This is one of the few
places in Australia that has pine trees, so I felt right at home.
next morning I decided to go for a hike, so I packed my Eagle Creek daypack with
a few bagels, my two cameras (one digital and one film), and a couple quarts of water.
After I’d hiked for eight miles across the very hot and very dry Outback,
I realized that the two quarts of water weren’t nearly enough, especially
since I’d gotten … ahem… a bit lost. Of
course I don't admit that very easily, having spent six years studying geography
and mapping in college and another six years working in the Rocky Mountains as a
wilderness ranger. To be honest, it wasn’t my fault because the map wasn’t
which reminds me of Traveler’s Rule #17:
Whenever possible, blame the map.
I staggered back to the campground late that afternoon, very hot, dusty and thirsty. A
quick bucket of water over my head and two ice-cold Diet Pepsi's later, though, and I
was a new man.
I saw lots of
kookaburras at Flinders Ranges. Here's Lazy Harry singing
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hadn’t seen anyone in the quiet campground since I'd arrived the
previous afternoon, so I was surprised when a lanky guy carrying a large
backpack approached me, with my hair still dripping, and greeted me with a smile.
“I was just wondering if you were driving out tomorrow,” he asked in
an Aussie accent. When I told him
that I was, he asked me for a ride back to his car, which was parked about eight
miles away. He told me that he'd
gone backpacking for a few days and that he didn’t want to hike all the way
back to his car. I told him that I’d be happy to give him a lift to his
car the next morning. With a warm handshake, he told me that his name was
Jeff and said that he'd be back in the morning, then sauntered off to a campsite
on the far side of the campground.
enough, the next morning Jeff dropped by my campsite again, so I threw his
backpack in the back seat of my Camry and we headed out.
During our slow drive on bumpy, dusty roads, we had a pleasant
conversation. Jeff said that
he’d just finished college near Brisbane and was exploring the Outback for the
first time -- rather bravely, I thought to myself, after he told me that he’d
just bought his car second-hand for $300. Jeff
was eventually heading north to Darwin, where he’d landed a job with the
National Park service. He was a
quintessential Aussie – very cheerful, inquisitive, and thoughtful. When I dropped Jeff off at his weather-beaten car with
bald tires, he thanked me profusely and I gave him one of my travel cards and
told him to keep in touch. It was a
pleasant start to a pleasant day.
I leave Flinders Ranges National Park, I want to describe a creature that I was
introduced to here -- the fabled Australian bushfly. Bushflies don't bite, but they are very aggressive, especially around any source of moisture, such as
your eyes, lips, ears, and nose. They're especially bothersome during the
hot summer months (i.e., now), which is when they're most active. Bushflies are like the Hare Krishnas of the fly world, because they won't take
"no" for an answer. They're a little smaller than American houseflies,
but they're a whole lot more troublesome and are like a different breed.
Indeed, comparing an American housefly to an Australian bushfly is like
comparing a poodle to a wolf. Despite the pesky bushflies, though, I
enjoyed my peaceful stay at the Flinders Ranges.
And as for the name Flinders? I learned that all these
places were named for Matthew Flinders who, in 1802, was the first person to
sail completely around Australia. Good thing his name wasn't Magillicuddy.
left: I hiked for five hours through the desert one hot afternoon and saw a
few kangaroos and a lot of huge spiders with huge spider webs. This is a
view of the Flinders Ranges... before I got lost.
center: The Aroona Valley, where I camped for two nights.
right: With all the pine trees and red rocks, this area
reminded me of Zion National Park in southern Utah.
left: I've seen a lot more
emus than kangaroos on this trip so far, including a flock of six in the
center: Jeff and his $300 car.
right: Don't show Hertz this picture, either. I crossed
this creek several times and it got a lot worse than this. I only scraped
bottom twice, though.
of Killer Gum Trees
American travel author Bill Bryson wrote a wonderfully humorous book about
Australia a few years ago called “In A Sunburned Country,” and if you want a
good idea of what the Land of Oz is like, I recommend reading it.
As I discovered while wandering through a Sydney bookstore a while back,
though, Bryson’s book is called “Down Under” here in Australia – same
book but different title. I have no
idea why they changed the title here, but then I haven’t figured out a lot of
things about Australia yet.
to get off the subject of Bryson’s book, but why Australians and Americans
call the same item by different names has been a source of constant amusement
during my trip. If nothing else, it keeps my mind occupied during those long
drives around this very large country. An
obvious example of this is fuel: what
Americans call “gasoline” is what Australians call “petrol,” which I
still haven’t gotten used to saying. I
caught on a lot faster to calling paved roads “sealed” and calling dirt roads “unsealed,” calling ketchup “tomato sauce” and a flashlight a
“torch.” I guess those
alternative phrases are all fairly logical.
However, I still haven’t figured out why my favorite fast-food
restaurant, “Burger King,” is called “Hungry Jacks” here (same logo,
same Whopper, same Value Meals, but different name).
getting back to “In A Sunburned Country,” one of the passages that I
remember in that book was when Bryson discussed the snake situation here.
As he put it, of the world’s 10 deadliest snakes, all 10 live here in
Australia -- including the Taipan, which will kill you so fast that often the last
words of someone who innocently approaches a Taipan is, “Hey, look at this sna…”. End of sentence.
seemed obsessed with all the things down here that can kill you, like snakes and
some of the world’s deadliest spiders. Of
course, north of here there are crocodiles to deal with.
As I learned from Bryson’s book, freshwater crocodiles, or “freshies,"
are harmless to humans but the saltwater variety, or “salties,” are
definitely not. In fact, salties
will go out of their way to ruin your day, as the numerous tourists who get
eaten each year find out. Unfortunately,
salties are found in freshwater as well as saltwater, so the only way to be safe
from crocs, I guess, is to not go in the water… or near the water.
As I’ve learned, it’s a good idea to stay at least 10
feet back from the edge of ponds because salties can -- and will -- jump out to
snare unsuspecting tourists who stray a little too close to the water (remember
that scene in “Crocodile Dundee”?). I’ll
take that advice to heart when I visit croc country in a few weeks.
here in southern Australia though, along with the snakes and spiders, I recently
learned that I have to contend with another deadly menace and one that Bryson
didn’t mention: Red Gum Trees. Red Gums are one of the many species of eucalyptus trees in
Australia. They’re quite large
and stocky with stout, brittle branches that have a nasty habit of suddenly breaking off,
even when there’s no breeze, and crashing to the ground.
Believe it or not, several people each year in Australia are injured or
killed by Red Gum branches. In
fact, every National Park that I’ve visited so far has posted warning signs
about the Red Gums, advising visitors not to linger or camp under Red Gum trees.
spiders and snakes don’t really bother me, but I’ve gotten a bit paranoid
about the Red Gum trees, and every time I walk under one, I nervously glance
upward and quicken my pace. There
are a lot of good ways to die, but getting killed by a tree isn’t one of them.
Left: Parking (a bit
apprehensively) under a Red Gum tree in the Flinders Ranges.
8, 2002 (Coober Pedy, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Robe, Australia)
18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
Australia Trip >
March 5, 2002