Wheat fields in South Australia

We had left the mighty Nullarbor plain (sounds a bit like one of those lands from Lord of the Rings, doesn’t it :-) ) behind us and entered South Australia. Famous for its cool hedonistic capital Adelaide and big in “www” (wheat, wine and wool) the main industry of the state is agriculture with more than half of the total Australian wine production coming from such fine regions as Barossa, McLaren Vale or Adelaide Hills. However, not many visitors seem to actually see and taste its beauties as it lies too far off the beaten tracks from the east and west coast.

So it was mainly only us and a bunch of retired people on the campgrounds. Does not sound too promising but was actually good fun since we made some adorable friends. Let me tell you about Julie, 87 years of age who immediately grew fond of us and told us the story of her life. All excited, with bright red lipstick smeared all over her face and a XXL sized T-shirt from Barbados, she told us about her backpacking adventures in Europe back in 1953. She has been a traveller all her life and just decided to treat herself to a trip to Marrakech (ALONE, of course!) to celebrate her 88th birthday. What an incredible person! What courage it must have taken to be a female solo backpacker in Europe just after WWII, and what BALLS does it take to go to Morocco at that age. When saying goodbye she hugged and cuddled us and (yes, she also is a granny) gave us some chocolates to nibble on for the road :-) We have been speaking a lot about this lovely lady during the last days.

But we also found ways to make friends with the campground owners and maintenance staff. Reversing your campervan slowly into your pitch and thereby knocking over the water hydrant appears to be a good start for a healthy friendship with the campground people. As by doing so I managed to start to flood the whole campground they all showed up pretty quickly. I felt incredibly sheepish, but the Aussies were super relaxed about the issue (“No worries mate, happens all the time”) and luckily were also able to fix the whole thing with the help of some mates and mateys who had also pulled up on our site. In the end we all had a good laugh about my stupidity and they sure appreciated the breakfast we brought them the next morning.

A far better way to get to know some locals was to sign up for a dive trip to the scuttled wreck of the former HMAS Hobart, a destroyer from the times of the Vietnam war. For us it was the first time to dive a wreck and it was really impressive to swim around this massive ship, to see the canons, dive through the bridge and the dining hall and open the toilet seats in the bathrooms (no kiddin’!). Just before entering the water we had a brief moment of unease (to avoid the word “horror”) when finding out that the meter long cables hanging from every diver’s leg were not some fancy wreck-diving equipment, but actually shark shields to keep them away through electromagnetic waves. Brought to mind the words from another elderly campground friend of ours: “You gotta take your chances, love. It’s the ocean – that’s where they live”. We took our chances and had an amazing time! And the crew also had a good time with us. Very happy to have had the first Austrians diving the Hobart they even took the boat for a special cruise to see seals inhabiting the coastline there.

Diving the  exHMAS HobartBig OK after the dives

They only encounter with a local that was not at all pleasent was announced to me through a terrible shriek that made my ears ring. Sitting behind the wheel I looked to my left and at once caught sight of two rather disturbing things. First, Manu exiting the (by now slowly) moving car with some kind of freestyle move and second a hairy spider the size of my hand running up the passenger seat. I brought the car to a halt and tried to focus on what to do. On one side a hyperventilating girlfriend screaming at the top of her lungs and on the other this ugly beast (maaaan, how can they become so big?) lingering in our van. The screaming attracted some Aussies who assured us that “the big ones are not dangerous”. That helped to take a decision. I smashed the thing with my shoe, but only hit it half and it ran away to hide under a seat. Some endless minutes later its whereabouts could  be identified (I felt like a Navy SEAL  hunting down Osama-Bin-Laden) and the object was eliminated. Mission accomplished.

Australian SpiderAfter elimination. Keep in mind that the body is already missing here.

By now you will have gathered that it was the locals that made our stay in the region very special. Aussies in general a very easygoing and welcoming, but in South Australia we were positively surprised every day. Furthermore, the region is also a class tourist destination with top beaches, nice coastal walks and towns with little shops and decent cafes.

Coastal walk Port ElliotA nice place to relax, Port Elliot coastal walk

Adelaide is a big city with a small town charme and lots of bars packed with young people having their afterwork drinks on streetside tables at sunset. As a premier fishing spot the whole Fleurieu peninsula does also have a fish-and-chips-shack on every corner and the stuff you get there is indeed yummy. We even allowed us to try a plate of freshly caught oysters and their taste was out of this world!

Soon we will leave for Victoria and its Great Ocean Road. Very much looking forward, but also a little bit sad to leave the South Aussies behind :-)

 

A reflection on Australia's wild, wild West
Driving the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne

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