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Trip Report Eating our way across South Australia

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September 5-20, 2009

Gaining weight certainly wasn’t my intention when I planned this trip, but that’s what happened. Almost without exception, every morsel we ate, be it a simple bratwurst or a splash out meal, was well prepared and delicious.

We’re not foodies by any stretch, but there’s no denying that we like to eat. This journey inadvertently became about the food and the wine, so I suggest you not read this on an empty stomach.

I found planning this trip difficult, as there seemed so many interesting places to visit in South Australia. The posters here and on Trip Advisor were an invaluable resource and I thank those of you who patiently helped me sort things out. I took a lot of your suggestions to heart and you’ll no doubt recognize many of them here. As my spouse so eloquently put it, “You did good”.

As many regulars know, we’re American expatriates currently living in Perth. Our intent is to see as much of Australia as we can while we’re here, and we’ve been interested in South Australia for some time, so we set off to see our neighbors. All prices shown are in Australian dollars.

Our itinerary:

Barossa Valley – three nights
Clare Valley – two nights
Coober Pedy – two nights
Flinders Ranges – three nights
McLaren Vale – four nights
Adelaide – one night

Our transportation: Air

The best deal and most convenient scheduling I could find was through Jetstar, who operate a once daily direct flight from Perth to Adelaide. I have no issues with Jetstar at the airport or in the air, but I have beaucoup issues with their call center in Malaysia. Suffice to say, Jetstar works well as long as you don’t need to contact them by phone.

Our tickets were $204 each return, which included 20 kg of checked baggage each, up to 10 kg of cabin baggage each and a $12 charge to use a credit card to book the tickets online; strange, but true. We took our own snacks and our own headphones, and I scoured their fare rules so there’d be no unpleasant surprises.

Check in was fast and easy. Security screening was a breeze. Liquids were a non issue; those restrictions don’t apply on Australian domestic flights. No getting barked at by surly TSA employees, no having to remove our shoes and practically strip. It was refreshing; a tiny reminder of what traveling was like before all the drama.

Our flight left 60 minutes late due to the headwind which delayed the incoming flight, but we only arrived 15 minutes behind schedule for the same reason; a tail wind that shortened our flight to a mere two hours, eleven minutes.

The 1.5 hour time change between Perth and Adelaide threw us for a loop. First time we’ve run into a partial hour time change; it felt strange.

Our transportation: Car

I’d done the usual exhaustive research trying to find the best deal on a car rental, and ended up booking with both Europecar and Budget, planning to decide which to go with once we arrived. Europecar wanted $776.83 for a Group C Hyundai Accent sedan with unlimited miles, plus a fee for using a credit card and a charge for an additional driver. They have a $3,300 excess, and their policy against driving on unsealed roads seemed a bit unreasonable.

Budget wanted $776.89 for a Group B Toyota Yaris hatchback with unlimited miles, a $2,750 excess, no charge for using a credit card or for an additional driver, and they permit driving on formed gravel roads. I’d booked using a coupon code which offered a free upgrade to a Group C car, but as it was based upon availability, we wouldn’t know until we arrived if we’d get it. The upgrade was to be the deciding factor, as we didn’t want to spend two weeks in a tiny hatchback. We checked with Budget first, the upgrade was available, so we went with them. We told them where we’d be driving, and were notified of their policy against driving between dusk and dawn north of Port Augusta (except within town). No problem. We walked to the Europecar counter and asked them to cancel our booking. With some excellent directions from Monique at the Budget counter, we were on our way to the Barossa Valley in our Toyota Corolla sedan.

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    Thank you John, I'm nothing if not detailed. Here you go:

    Our lodging – Barossa Valley, Casa Rossa - $185 per night.

    htttp://www.stayz.com.au/13288

    This is a lovely three bedroom cottage located on the outskirts of Lyndoch. It’s nestled in the country, overlooking a small vineyard. It’s comfortable, peaceful and secluded, and we were quite happy there. It has the longest hallway I’ve ever seen, and a pink toilet, tub and sink. Hmmmm…

    Breakfast provisions were provided; wood smoked bacon, eggs, tomatoes, bread, milk, juice, etc. They also left us a nice bottle of red wine and a chocolate cake. We were off to a good start.

    We were met at the cottage by caretaker Dennis, whom we asked for a dinner suggestion, as we were famished. He suggested the Lord Lyndoch steakhouse (aka the Black Pepper Cellar Restaurant) and even called to make a reservation for us.

    http://www.lordlyndoch.com/cellar.asp

    Dinner was excellent. Bill had the 300 gram Cape Grim tenderloin fillet with mashed potatoes and peppercorn sauce ($32). I had the parmesan crusted chicken breast on linguine tossed in garlic butter and sun dried tomatoes ($29). The food fest had begun.

    It was here that we had our first taste of damper bread, in the form of piping hot rolls served with butter. With the first bite, our eyes closed and we moaned in unison. Fantastic! I asked the waitress what they were; I caught the words ‘damper’, ‘tin’ and ‘Adelaide’, but not much else. I’ve since learned that damper bread is similar to soda bread, and the secret seems to be in the baking. I’d love to know where to buy it or how to bake it, so Aussies, please do tell.

    A couple of glasses of wine each and we were content (total $86).

    Day 1 – Barossa Valley

    Our time in the Barossa was limited, so we were up early and on our way to Tanunda, which incidentally, I have no idea how to pronounce. The vines were beginning to bud and we were surprised at how incredibly green it was. Apparently, we were in Jacob’s Creek territory, as their signs were everywhere, seeming to lay claim to most of the countryside. We had to wait for the Visitor’s Center to open, and had no luck finding an open café for a coffee on this Sunday morning.

    When Tanunda finally woke up, we collected a map and plotted our course. I had a list of wineries suggested by Fodorites and TA members, so that’s where we began. We visited Peter Lehmann and Langmeil, liking several of their wines, but limiting ourselves to one purchase per winery, as we’d just gotten started. Then it was on to Seppeltsfield, which has an impressive grand entrance along an avenue of date palms. Even more impressive were their fortified wines. We really had to reign ourselves in here…sampling fortified wines is dangerous business; even more so because they have so many good ones. It was hard to choose just one, but we ended up purchasing a bottle of their Para Grand, taking solace in the fact that we can probably find their wines locally, and/or order online (one of the many advantages of living in Australia!).

    We made a stop at the Seppelt mausoleum, not because we’re interested in dead people, but because it looked like a beautiful spot. It was - the views were great from up there.

    http://www.seppeltsfieldroad.com/

    Funny thing about those mausoleums….we saw many signs alongside SA roads pointing out mausoleums. They weren’t all mausoleums of course, most of them were memorials. It became a game, pointing out every mausoleum sign we came across, especially on the long drive days.

    We needed food, so we sought out the much acclaimed Maggie Beer Farm. The place was packed; a cooking demonstration was about to begin, it was Father’s Day, chaos reigned. It took us a few minutes to sort out how this place worked, but we eventually got the gist. We placed our order; the roasted red pepper pate picnic basket for me and the pea, verjuice and mint vegetable pate picnic basket for Bill ($13.50 each). Each basket came with a small tub of soft cheese (gruth), a small tub of chutney, a small tub of cous-cous salad (freekah) and two white rolls (described as wood oven bread). There wasn’t enough bread for the pate, so we ordered four more rolls ($2.80). We dined on the patio, too busy indoors, and we pretty much froze our butts off.

    Several people had raved about Maggie Beer as a place not to miss, but frankly, we just didn’t get it. The food was okay, nothing great, and certainly not what I considered good value. I can’t help but think we’d have liked it more if the food wasn’t served refrigerator cold and if it was presented as a platter, rather than in tiny plastic tubs. And some of that damper bread would have been perfect. Perhaps we’re just not pate people, but the whole Maggie Beer experience left us a bit perplexed.

    http://www.maggiebeer.com.au/farmshop/

    As we worked our way to Penfolds, we came across a police barricade. The cops were pulling everyone over and administering breathalyzers. Uh-oh, this can’t be good. Bill dutifully blew into the little tube with far too much gusto in my opinion. It took an awfully long time for the numbers to register, during which I had visions of being carted off to jail. The cop looked at the meter, then asked Bill if he’d been drinking, to which he cheerfully said “yes, sir”. We were waved through, crisis averted, thankful that we’d had the presence of mind to share our wine samples, and had even forced ourselves to tip a few into the spittoon, shameful waste that it was.

    We sauntered into Penfolds and put the fear of god into all the patrons by telling them the cops were blocking the exit and there was no escape. Penfolds makes one of our favorite ports of all time, Grandfather, but we found the winery a bit pretentious for our tastes. Many of their wines are expensive, and they were selling Grandfather for $25 more than our local bottle shop. We didn’t stay long.

    We were wined out, so we popped into the Angas Park shop in Angeston for a look see. They sell all manner of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate, but strangely enough, we left empty handed.

    We then sought out Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park, 12 km southeast of Tanunda. I’d found it online while researching SA and was anxious to check out the trails. We walked the Stringybark hike, an easy 1.75 mile loop. I loved this walk….we saw grazing kangaroos, a lizard-like thing that hissed at us (a skink?), wildflowers and some trees we’ve not seen in WA. It was a really nice stroll, and I found myself wishing we had time to explore the park in earnest.

    http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/sanpr/kaiserstuhl/visit.html

    Dinner that night was at the Lord Lyndoch again, this time in their bistro, as the steakhouse is only open on Friday and Saturday nights. We were lucky to get a table, as we’d not booked and the place was hopping. Bill had the Chicken Parmigiana, touted as ‘the best parmi in the Barossa’ ($18.50, and it was pretty darn good). I had the pumpkin soup ($7.50). No damper bread this time, must be just for the steakhouse. Bummer.

    We had fun finding our cottage in the dark - it was pitch black. We caught a glimpse of some furry brown animal standing on its hind feet as we rounded a bend - no idea what it was, but we were definitely intrigued…

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    Fabulous. I appreciate the minutiae as it helps in the planning / assessment of taking up and doing things that you have done.And I know that you took a lot of advice in planning this trip so all the better .

    Pity about Maggie Beer . I think the farm is a victim of her high profile from TV and books . I enjoy eating her products and especially her ice cream ( passionfruit and the lemon !!) but I agree that a chaotic setting on a cold and busy weekend is not ideal.

    The furry animal was likely a wallaby - or a giant Barosssa rat .lol

    Looking forward to the next instalment .

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    Great report, Mel! Thank you - looking forward to the rest, especially Coober Pedy.
    In 1966, we drove down from Darwin to Adelaide, in a tiny VW Beetle, with "lay-back" seats as our home (not even a tent!) . At that time, there were no tarred roads, just lots of dirt and rock and bulldust. Wonderful trip, and Coober Pedy still is a highlight for me. eg Sign on the drive in theatre -" no utes admitted with explosives in the back", the man with a set of opal teeth, and the thrill of "noodling" and finding an opalised shell.
    Am sure you enjoyed it too.

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    Hi Carrabella -

    Coober Pedy was the highlight of this trip for me - it's the most unique place I've ever visited and I'm really glad we decided to go for it and not be discouraged by the long trek.

    I can't imagine making that drive on dirt roads in a Beetle though - you're tougher than I am.

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    Day 2 – Barossa Valley

    We drove towards Williamstown to visit the Whispering Wall (a RalphR suggestion). It was wet and gloomy, but we didn’t care. Bill walked across the dam, and while waiting for him to reach the other side, I suddenly heard footsteps, which startled me because I was alone. I swung around to see who was behind me, but no one was there. A few seconds later I heard “Mel, can you hear me”? Freaky! Bill was some 140 meters away on the opposite side of the dam, yet he sounded as if he were right next to me, and the footsteps I’d heard were his!

    http://barossa-whispering-wall.biznz.net/

    When we finished playing at the dam, we attempted to locate Warren Conservation Park, which according to my internet research offers four walk trails and ‘the best views of the Barossa’. We stopped at the Mt Crawford Forest Information center to get a map and directions, and were told that Warren Conservation Park is only accessible via a rough unsealed road. We canned that idea and took the walk suggestion offered by a helpful forest service employee instead. We were soon walking the Tower Hill Track in Mt Crawford Forest, which is part of the Heyson Track, a 1,200 km trail that traverses some of the most scenic areas of South Australia.

    http://www.heysentrail.asn.au/heysen_trail/

    Despite the wet weather, mud and abundance of sheep poop, we enjoyed this walk. I found it interesting that the soil is full of gold specks. When we reached the top, the potential views were completely obscured by low fog. It was so green it was surreal, and I felt as if we were in the Scottish Highlands rather than on a hill in South Australia. We got rained on more than once and the mozzies had a good munch. This would have been an excellent walk on a dry clear day, but you can’t have everything (2.5 miles return). We’d been told SA was having the wettest winter they’d had in years and I was beginning to believe it.

    We backtracked to Williamstown and worked our way to Tanunda where we called in at Jacob’s Creek. We’re not fans of Jacob’s Creek; we consumed plenty of their low range export plunk when we lived on Sumatra and didn’t have much choice. There’s probably at least one bottle of Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay still making the rounds in our old neighborhood, looking for someone desperate enough to drink it.

    That said, we were curious about the winery and wanted to give them a fair shake. They have a massive range of wines. We sampled a bit, and rather liked their Orlando 10 year old tawny and their sparkling pinot, so into the trunk it went.

    The next winery on our list was Grant Burge….lovely winery, great wines, another bottle into the trunk.

    Time for food. We sought out 1918 Bistro and Grill in Tanunda (suggested by someone here or on TA, sorry, my memory is pitiful). While walking up the street toward the restaurant we passed a bakery emanating a mouth watering aroma of grilled wurst. We decided then and there if the menu at 1918 didn’t appeal we’d check out the bakery, which is how we ended up at Die Barossa Wurst Haus and Bakery, noshing on grilled bratwurst with cheese, sauerkraut and mustard on homemade rolls ($9 each). Excellent. And that’s high praise from someone who normally eschews meat. The wurst was so good that we decided to give the chocolate cake a whirl, sharing a piece over flat whites ($13.50 total). The flat whites were perfect, the cake unfortunately, looked better than it tasted.

    Our next stop was Two Hands winery, which was suggested to us by a helpful young man at Jacob’s Creek, who’d quizzed Bill about the oil industry in WA between pours. Being devoted fans of shiraz, he thought we might like to make a side-by-side comparison of shiraz from McLaren Vale, Barossa and Coonawarra, which is exactly what we did, giving Two Hands two thumbs up for their Gnarly Dudes Barossa Valley Shiraz, and not just because we liked the name. The young woman who poured for us at Two Hands gave us some suggestions for places to visit in the Clare and Adelaide Hills, which is how our wish list kept growing.

    Our last winery of the day was Rockford Wines, where we discovered yet another lovely tawny and empathized with a couple from South Africa trying to figure out how to ship all their wine back home. Been there.

    Back at the cottage we shared a pre-dinner glass of wine on the patio with the mozzies and the birds.

    Dinner that night was at the…you guessed it….Lord Lyndoch Bistro, where Bill had a ½ order of grilled whiting ($15.50) and I stuck with the pumpkin soup ($7.50). Still good.

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    Hi Mel!

    Add me to the list of people enjoying your report!

    RalphR -- after this last installment, shouldn't you have said you want to go back in the WURST way? <ducking!
    Sorry, I couldn't resist!

    I think JohnFitz hit the nail on the head with Maggie Beer; gotton to be too big of an operation, too commercial.

    I laughed out loud (and commiserated with Bill) at your description of being stopped by the cops and given a test - the same exact thing happened to me in Southern France!

    We'd done the same thing, shared a few pours, I'd sipped, being the driver, and it was the weirdest thing - we came around a corner in this very very rural area and there were about 5 police cars blocking the road! Turns out it was some holiday we didn't even know about and so several villages' cops pooled together for a sting operation!

    I passed the test, but it was a few tense moments there, trying to recall how many sips, and realizing I didn't even know the French limit anyway!

    Melodie

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    Hi Melodie -

    The limit in Australia is .05%, half of that in most states in the US, so one needs to be very careful in wine country.... One of the benefits of being a passenger was that I could swill at will.

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    Day 3 – Barossa & Clare

    We left our lovely cottage behind and drove to the Lyndoch Lavender farm, home to some 90 varieties of lavender, most of which flower in November. There was plenty to see even this early in the season, so we strolled the grounds and purchased some bath salts for my lavender loving mom.

    We exited the lavender farm via a back road which led us through the incredibly green countryside alive with gorgeous brightly colored parrots (Rainbow Lorikeets…I think).

    While visiting Rockford the previous day, Bill’s interest had been piqued in a neighboring winery, Villa Tinto (‘House of Red’), so we popped in for a tasting. It didn’t appear to be open, but a rather hairy barrel-chested, beret wearing gentleman pruning the vines invited us into the cellar.

    Turns out he was the owner, Alberto Di Palma, and we spent the next 90 minutes being entertained by this chatty Argentinean who regaled us with story after story as we sampled our way through his fantastic reds. What a character! He knew Robert Mondavi, who has been credited with introducing Napa Valley wines to the world.

    This visit was the highlight of our time in the Barossa and a perfect example of what we enjoy most about family owned wineries; meeting the people who make the wine, sharing their passion for a good drop, and getting a tiny peek at the inner workings of their business. Fantastic stop, lovely wine, delightful host.

    http://www.villatinto.com.au/

    Die Barossa Wurst Haus was calling us back, so we had an encore lunch of bratwurst, followed by another perfect flat white.

    We left Tanunda via A20, Sturt Highway and A32. First there were vines as far as the eyes could see, then green rolling hills, then the sudden appearance of field after field of bright yellow canola – what a contrast! I couldn’t get enough of the canola fields; I drove Bill to distraction repeatedly asking him to pull over so I could try to capture those vibrant yellow fields with my Canon.

    The ruins of old stone buildings began to appear and we passed through Tarlee in the blink of an eye; we got a kick out of the sign announcing “That was Tarlee” mere seconds after we entered the one horse ‘town’.

    Just past Tarlee we picked up B82 headed north. The landscape was dotted with farms and acres of flowering canola alternating with other mysterious crops, looking suspiciously like a yellow and green patchwork quilt.

    We arrived in Clare 90 minutes after leaving Tanunda, located our digs, dropped off our gear, and immediately headed to Burra, another must see place someone had mentioned. It was a pretty drive through wide open country. We stopped to photograph an unusual swath of canola, and lest you think I have a weird canola fetish, there was another woman trying to capture the same scene. (I’ll post a link to some photos when I finish plowing through the hundreds that I took).

    Once in Burra we drove the Heritage Trail (Tourist Drive 16), and made a quick stop at the Burra open cut copper mine; quick, because it was fiercely cold and windy. We drove past the scabby old railroad station and generally poked around the sleepy historic town, which we found interesting in a dilapidated kind of way.

    http://www.visitburra.com/

    Back in Clare we had just enough time for one winery, so we popped into Knappstein, where we promptly fell in love with their 2005 Yertabulti Shiraz.

    Our lodging – Clare Valley – Edilillie Vineyard, $170 per night

    http://www.edilillie.com.au/

    This three bedroom old stone cottage is located about 2 km from Clare, completely secluded and surrounded by vineyards. Some might consider it a character cottage, complete with creaky wood floors, lethargic plumbing and crumbling masonry. We found it rough around the edges yet oddly endearing. We were leery at first, but the place sort of grew on us. It was god awful cold though, and the lone reverse cycle unit in the lounge wasn’t much help, so we took refuge in the coziest room in the house, the master bedroom.

    We never met the owners as they didn’t come around and we had no idea where they lived. We left the money we owed on a kitchen counter as they gave us no instructions on how to pay the balance. It was just us, the sheep and entirely too many millipedes.

    Generous breakfast provisions were provided, way more than we could possibly eat – two loaves of bread, gobs of fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt, coffee, etc.

    We sat on the porch, bundled up in our fleece jackets and hats, sipping chilled Langmeil Live Wire Riesling while watching the sun set over the vineyard. Yep, this place was definitely growing on us, warts and all.

    Dinner that night was at Clare Asian Cuisine. Extremely slow service, but really good food – Tom Yam soup and green chicken curry for Bill, basil chicken for me ($50 total).

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    Flinders Ranges would be an excellent choice Margo, but late October might be getting rather hot, so it really depends on your heat tolerance. I'm a hot weather wimp, so take that with a grain of salt. I much prefer hiking when it's very cool (and Flinders is all about hiking - some great hikes there).

    Flinders was Bill's favorite. I placed Coober slightly ahead just because it was so incredibly unique.

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    Day 4 - Clare valley

    We only had one full day to explore the Clare Valley, so we’d plotted our course with the map we’d picked up the previous day at the Visitor’s Center. The wineries in the valley extend from Auburn in the south to beyond Stanley Flat in the north, past Clare. There are fewer wineries than in the Barossa and for the most part they’re readily accessible from the main road.

    Clare felt like more of a real town than the towns in the Barossa, and overall we found it not as pretty and less interesting.

    We drove south towards Auburn, planning to work our way back north to Clare. Our first stop was Taylor’s, a large winery that we had completely to ourselves. We were now in Riesling country, but we preferred their Shiraz and pinot noir. Our next stop was Annie’s Lane, which is huge; 1,300 acres. We were a bit shocked as we crested the hill and got our first glimpse of their sprawling operation. Once again, we were won over by their Shiraz, in this case their 2005 Copper Trail. It seemed as if we were spending more and more per bottle of wine as the trip progressed. Funny how that works.

    Then it was off to Skillogalee, which had been recommended by RalphR, Bokhara2 and others here and on TA. With so many endorsements, it had to be good, so we began with a tasting and asked if they could fit us in for lunch. We don’t usually make restaurant bookings when we travel, but our strategy is to turn up early, which almost always gets us a table. Today was no exception.

    Bill ordered the Burra eye fillet with Skillogalee cabernet glaze, pea and potato mash and broccolini ($33), accompanied with a glass of Take Two Shiraz Cabernet. He’d ordered medium rare, but was given medium well. He didn’t want to make a fuss, but I encouraged him to send it back, which he did and was happy he had, as he said it was perfect the second time around. His meal was so nicely presented that I felt compelled to photograph it!

    I had the parsnip and capsicum soup ($10.50) with roll and butter washed down with their lovely 2006 Chardonnay.

    We were given some tasty pappadoms with herbs to munch on while we waited for our meal.

    For dessert we shared a slice of their Rich Chocolate Whisky cake with Raspberry Coulis and Double Cream ($11.90).

    The recommendations were spot on, the food was excellent and we really enjoyed our time at Skillogalee ($69 total for meal and drinks). Thanks guys!

    http://www.skillogalee.com.au/our_restaurant

    We figured we needed some exercise, so we drove to Spring Gully Conservation Park to explore. We found a nice network of trails and plenty of trees and wildflowers which sent me on another photo snapping frenzy. We walked the Wyman’s Hike and the Cascades Trail, making a 2.5 mile loop through the park. It was really pretty through here.

    We were getting wined out, but decided we’d make one last winery stop before we called it day, so we worked our way to Sevenhill Cellars, the oldest winery in the Clare Valley, established by the Jesuits. The grounds are beautiful and they offer guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    https://www.sevenhill.com.au/

    We visited their museum and underground cellar, had a tasting, but didn’t stay long as they were busy and the ladies were a bit brusque, probably tried of dealing with tourists all day. My favorite part of this stop was meeting Frontignac, the cellar door cat, who was sleeping in an old wine barrel filled with straw. Apparently he was abandoned 14 years ago and had taken up residence in the winery.

    After watching the sun set over the vineyard with the sheep bleating in the distance, we had dinner at Bentley’s Hotel pub. It was Schnitzel Night, so Bill had the Chicken Schnitzel with chips and salad (a bargain at $9.90) and I had the vegetarian spinach ricotta ($13.90). It never ceases to amaze me how good the food is in Australian pubs.

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    Thanks, Mel, for such an informative, well-written report. Me, I'm sitting here castigating myself for never having written that Bali trip report that I fear I promised when you were still living in Indonesia.

    I recall it being said that the Barossa was populated by German Lutherans escaping from the Catholics, while the Clare became the home of German Catholics escaping from the Lutherans. If so, there's a certain irony in the fact that they both ended up in roughly the same neck of the woods, making wine.

    More clearly I recall reading that the colonial governor of South Australia frequently petitioned the Colonial Office in London to send more self-reliant, hardworking German emigrants in his direction (presumably at the expense of his own compatriots).

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    I was wondering where that report was Neil.

    Perhaps we liked the Barossa so much because Bill comes from a long line of German Lutherans. There's some German in my woodpile too, and my maiden name is a dead giveaway. I guess there's a reason Bill calls me a 'stubborn old kraut'.

    I'd read about the German influence before we left, but I was still surprised at how pervasive it was. We were in heaven with all the German food which we even found way down in Victor Harbor on the Fleurieu Peninsula. And of course Bill was pleasantly surprised to find his favorite German brew on tap in Hahndorf.

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    Day 5 – On the road to Coober Pedy

    We had a long drive ahead of us, so we were up with the birds and on the road by 7:30 am. We wanted to reach Coober Pedy well before dark given the restrictions spelled out by Budget, and because it just made sense.

    I’d estimated the drive to Coober at 730 kilometers, approximately 8.5 hours. The gloom had finally dissipated and we were treated to a bright sunny day. We gassed up and got on B82 headed north. The plan was to cross over to A1 at Brinkworth, but thanks to my poor navigation skills, we missed the turn and had to cross over at Redhill via Koolunga instead. Oops.

    We passed field after field of canola (yep, those again), and the countryside was flat as a pancake. Or perhaps I should say flat as a pikelet. Other than the odd passing car there was virtually no traffic, just the long road ahead, acre after acre of agricultural land and those strange mausoleum signs.

    As we neared Port Augusta the topography gradually changed; the foothills of the Flinders Ranges could be seen to our right and we got a glimpse of what was in store later in the trip. The Spencer Gulf appeared on our left and the Eyre Peninsula was visible on the other side of the gulf. The landscape suddenly became arid and a passing train kicked up the dust creating a mini sandstorm, giving us a preview of what was to come.

    We drove by Mt Remarkable National park and were it not for the gulf, I’d have thought we were in Wyoming.

    We passed a curious sign advising us that we were entering a Total Dry Zone, prohibiting alcohol in public places. We arrived in Port Augusta, considerably bigger than I’d expected, two hours after leaving Clare (268 km). We gassed up again; I was determined not to repeat our country WA near empty gas tank experience of a few years back.

    From Port Augusta we picked up A87 and settled in for the 537 kilometer trek north. It was almost eerie the way the landscape became barren immediately after we left town.

    The drive was slightly more interesting than I expected; there’d be a whole lot of nothing, then sudden pockets of scrub and trees, then more nothing. There were no flowers to speak of, just miles and miles of red dirt, faded green shrubs, and the occasional blast of trees. It was strangely pretty, but just looking at the landscape made me thirsty.

    Kangaroo carcasses littered the roadside and dry salt lakes began to appear, looking a lot like snow in the desert.

    After Pimba, a truck stop not a town, the landscape became even more desolate and there was nothing taller than the highway kilometer markers to look at; it was completely featureless for quite a stretch.

    We made a loo stop at the Lake Hart rest area; or so we thought. Instead we found a waterless lake and no facilities. This could prove to be an uncomfortable drive without so much as a tree to duck behind and god forbid….snakes. I settled for taking a few photos and was immediately swarmed by flies. Bill stayed in the car and laughed.

    Just when we thought we’d left civilization behind, we saw a sign for a B&B. Huh? Out here?

    There was little traffic, but we did have to pass the occasional road train. I’d tense up every time I sensed Bill was ready to hit the gas; those road trains are intimidating; the mirages didn’t help either.

    We stopped in Glendambo, which proclaimed it was home to 30 humans, 22,500 sheep, and 2,000,000 flies (approx). I believe it. We gassed up again and I finally got that much needed loo stop.

    We’d hooked up our MP3 as soon as we left Clare; we didn’t have to change the FM transmitter to a different radio station once during the entire 805 km journey (it seems I underestimated a wee bit). That’s never happened before, and it confirmed what we suspected, that we really were in the middle of nowhere.

    Apparently A87 isn’t just a road, but sections of it are also used as an emergency airstrip for the Royal Flying Doctors.

    One hundred kilometers south of Coober Pedy the landscape became even more desolate….not so much as a bush….the only thing out here was parched red dirt and rocks.

    We arrived in Coober Pedy just before 3 pm, some 7.5 hours after leaving Clare, and well within our dusk curfew.

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    Mel: Still enjoying the report! It's bringing back more memories of our trip - like the section of the Stuart Hwy (A87) that doubles as a landing strip, complete with white hash marks either end. Now I remember timing the interval between seeing oncoming vehicles - think it was up to 20 minutes. Don't recall that many flies - but we were there in early August. Glad you liked Skillogalee.

    I'll get it right this time: I want to go back in the WURST way!

    Looking forward to your impressions of Coober Pedy.

    Ralph

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    From the moment we got there I knew this town was unlike any we’d ever seen. My first impression was that there was nothing there other than a few shops, a couple of restaurants and a bank. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized all the air vents I saw poking through the sandstone lumps had homes and businesses under them.

    Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center, conveniently located on the road into town. We picked up a map, checked our e-mail (30 minutes a day free for visitors) and arranged a tour for the next day. We’d hoped to find a tour that included sunset at the Breakaways, but apparently the only company offering the sunset option had a sick driver. The woman who helped us said that all of the tours are pretty similar, so we booked the afternoon tour with Stuart Range for the following day ($50 each).

    Our lodging – Coober Pedy – The Underground Motel, $100 per night

    http://www.theundergroundmotel.com.au/

    This was the first underground motel built in Coober Pedy, yet it’s only been around since 1984. Like all dugouts in Coober, it’s not really underground, but actually dug into the side of a sandstone hill.

    When we checked in, the owner asked what our plans were; we told him we’d booked an afternoon tour with Stuart Range. He whipped out a town map and proceeded to design a self-guided tour for us to take in the morning, pointing out areas that he knew weren’t covered in our particular tour. He also made a restaurant recommendation, told us where to get the best coffee in town and suggested we visit the Umoona museum that evening, as it was open until 7 and although it was a stop on our tour, he knew we’d not have time to see it in depth. Wow, great service!

    We were given room #3, one of only six standard rooms in the entire motel. There are two family suites located below the motel, dug into a lower sandstone hill.

    Our room was tiny, I mean tiny, but it was spotless and had everything we needed. There was a double bed, which was a bit of a squish after our king, a desk, a small TV and fan mounted overhead, a bench for luggage, an itsy bitsy bathroom and, well, that’s about it. The room was accessed through a short tiled hallway which also connected to the other five standard rooms and the communal kitchen. The hallway contained a few tables and chairs, enabling guests to spill out from their rooms if they needed more space. Due to the close quarters and the acoustics you could hear your neighbor sneeze, and the morning a guest burned the toast, everyone in the dugout could smell it.

    It felt like a cave, and I could see how it might bother a claustrophobic, but we didn’t have any issues. In fact, we both thoroughly enjoyed the place. It was plenty dark and the night light in the bathroom really came in handy.

    We were fortunate to have quiet neighbors and we all seemed to be early risers, most wanting to get out early for a tour or needing to get back on the road. It would have been difficult to sleep in anyway; once one guest was up, we all were. It was almost like sharing a wing in a house with several strangers; plenty of privacy in your own bedroom, but communal living areas.

    There was a porch swing on the verandah along with a few sets of tables and chairs. Most guests would spend the early evenings on the patio sipping wine, exchanging adventures, etc. It was really enjoyable, and I highly recommend this motel.

    After getting settled, we took our host’s advice and went to the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum, which of course is also a dugout. We spent quite a bit of time here, learning about the discovery of opals, the history of Coober Pedy, Aboriginal heritage, etc. We ended up in the shop, ogling the opals and learning about the industry from a 19 year old who’d lived in Coober her whole life and whose dad was in the business. We asked her how hot it got in the summer and she claimed that it reached 56c 14 years ago. Yikes, no thank you!

    http://www.umoonaopalmine.com.au/

    I’d scoped out some restaurants prior to our visit and I’d run across Tom and Mary’s Greek Taverna which gets excellent reviews, so that’s where we decided to have dinner. Being unfamiliar with Greek food we decided to share several dishes to see what we liked. We ordered a large Greek Salad which came with huge chunks of feta cheese, olives, cucumbers, red onion, capsicum and tomato doused in olive oil and oregano ($13.50) – excellent. We also had the Saganaki Kefalogaviera, a plate of roasted Kefalogaviera cheese topped with oregano and olive oil, which the waitress explained was similar to tasty cheese ($13). It was fantastic! We also ordered a chicken gyro ($7.50), which was good, but paled in comparison to the salad and cheese. Two thumbs up for Tom and Mary’s ($34 total).

    We then retreated to our comfy motel where we sipped some of Alberto’s Villa Tinto 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon on the verandah while gazing at the bizarre world around us.

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    Hi Again Mel!

    Yes, you're right about being careful with the alcohol limit when wine tasting - I know the limit in Australia having been to the Barossa and Hunter, but in France when I got caught up in the "sting" we just happened to see a wine shop on the way to our B&B and stopped on the way. Once they nabbed us I realized I had no clue what the limit was!

    Taking pictures of food -- can't wait to see. I do it too, and yesterday on Oprah she had the Divine Diva herself, Barbara Streisand, who'd been on vacation in Spain, and showed pictures she took of food!

    Melodie

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    Day 6 – Coober Pedy

    The wind howled through the ceiling vents all night. Surprisingly, we were up by six; it was so dark in the cave we figured we’d sleep later than usual. We had some toast in the communal kitchen but we can’t stomach Nescafe, so we drove to town to look for a proper cup of coffee. We’d been told that John’s Pizza has the best coffee in town, but they weren’t open yet, so we went to the Desert Cave Hotel and got caffeinated at the underground Crystal Café instead. Afterwards we explored their underground opal interpretive center and located their underground bar, planning to return that evening, but completely forgetting to.

    http://www.desertcave.com.au/

    The wind had kicked up a willywilly (whirlwind) and the air was thick with dust. We drove to the Old Timers Mine for their 9:30 am free mining demo, which basically consisted of owner Trevor and his barking site manager Max firing up an old blower machine, which sucks up rocks and clumps of earth, blows off the loose bits, then drops the remainder into a basket. The blower machine is a Coober Pedy invention, a mining staple and the town’s icon.

    We opted to take the self-guided opal mine, dugout and museum tour ($10 each). We donned hard hats and spent the next hour or so exploring. Those hard hats came in handy; they saved us from knocking ourselves unconscious several times. Those early miners must have been midgets. It was a fun stop and we learned quite a bit about Coober Pedy and dugout life.

    http://www.oldtimersmine.com/

    We had lunch at John’s Pizza Bar and Restaurant, sharing a Mediterranean pizza ($18) and trying out that famous coffee ($7 for two flat whites) – both were good.

    We popped into the food/liquor store and witnessed an altercation between the clerk and an Aboriginal couple. They were trying to buy beer and the clerk insisted they had to buy food….the Aboriginals were loud, wild haired and grubby, including the kid they had with them. They charged in, created a scene and then just as quickly disappeared.

    It was so windy and dusty that I had to remove my contacts and go with my coke bottle glasses for our afternoon tour. There was a full coaster bus of us, 22 in all, but this didn’t detract from the tour one bit.

    Our guide Andy was also an opal miner, so he was full of stories. He took us on a town tour first, pointing out the only two grassed areas in all of Coober Pedy, the high school grounds and the football field. We made the rounds, visiting the police station, learning about how an unhappy resident tried to blow it up, etc. He explained that Coober Pedy’s water comes from a bore and has to be desalinated and that it doesn’t come cheap. He took us by several dugouts and explained how they’re constructed, the importance of air shaft placement in keeping the dugouts at a steady 25c year round, etc. He showed us a dugout garage and some creative looking dugout homes. He explained that it’s illegal to get a mining permit in town, but people have been known to get a building permit and then covertly mine under the guise of building a dugout, which they never finish and eventually abandon.

    I was amazed at how many dugouts there were, as they’re not immediately apparent to the casual observer. Andy suggested we drive through a residential area before leaving town, but we didn’t have enough time.

    Andy told us that the Aboriginals we saw on the streets were the ‘visible minority’. He explained that the town provides housing for the homeless Aboriginals, but most refuse to live there due to their superstitions about living underground. They’re also offered housing at the mission, but because alcohol is forbidden, not many take up the offer, instead choosing to live in tents. I’d been waiting for the opportunity to tactfully ask someone about the Aboriginals we’d seen sitting along the roadside, weaving through town, loitering at the ATM (causing us to avoid it) and raging at us at the gas station, but thanks to Andy I didn’t have to.

    After the town tour we were taken to the Umoona museum, where we watched a film and learned that opals in Coober Pedy were discovered in 1915 by a 14 year old, Willie Hutchinson. Andy then took us into the Umoona mine, where he demonstrated the use of explosives and humorously walked us through the blasting process. We also visited a dugout home and were awed at the ingenuity and the art involved in building it. The whole concept of living underground is just so foreign, but it’s all about surviving the inhospitable climate and makes complete sense. It would certainly take some getting used to though!

    Our next stop was the underground Serbian Orthodox church. A round boring machine was used to dig the church into the hillside making it entirely different from the dugouts we’d seen. The artwork hand carved into the stone by a man who volunteered his talents was truly amazing.

    Andy next took us through the opal fields, a desolate place to be sure, completely devoid of any life. He took us to an area where a huge brick of opal had been unearthed, subsequently resulting in a mad rush. The field had been mined to within an inch of its life, not so much as a square foot seemed intact. As a contrast, he took us to a field where testing had indicated no veins of opal, thereby it was completely untouched. He also showed us the noodling fields, where tourists and the general public are allowed to search for opals.

    We then drove out to the Breakaways, which is located about 33 km north of Coober Pedy. We’d briefly considered driving ourselves out here, but I’m glad we didn’t, the roads are unsealed and pretty rough. I’d seen photographs, but I was still caught off guard at the unexpected beauty of these colorful hills that appear in the middle of nowhere. On the way back to town we stopped at the Dog Fence and the Moon Plain, before our last stop of the day at the Coober Pedy golf course, which looked very similar to the golf course we had in Saudi Arabia. No grass, just sand. Apparently Coober Pedy’s golf course is the only one in the world to have reciprocal rights with St Andrews.

    It was a fascinating day. The temps reached 38c; we were covered in dust after our 4 ½ hour tour and need a wash. There were some flies, but they weren’t too bad; the wind kept them at bay for the most part.

    We had an encore dinner at Tom and Mary’s Greek Taverna that evening. Another shared Greek Salad and two orders of that lovely roasted Kefalogaviera, resulting in serious cheese overload. Oink, oink.

    Another hour or so relaxing on the hotel verandah and our stay in Coober Pedy drew to a close.

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    Melodie, facinating description of Coober Pedy. The sleeping in a tiny space with the wind howling in the air vent PLUS 38C are serious deterrents IMHO but we still want to go there! Pretty unique. Thanks for the great description.
    Sally in Seattle

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    Day 7 - On the road to Flinders Ranges

    No liquids for me, as we had another long drive day ahead. We got an early start and were on the road by 7:30 am, next stop Glendambo, 252 km.

    We’d discovered on our way up to Coober Pedy from Port Augusta that most of the rest stops don’t have toilets, so I’ve compiled a list of places that do, just in case anyone reading this is planning a trip up that way:

    1) Ranges View rest stop, 61 km north of Port Augusta
    2) Truck stop at Pimba, 174 km north of Port Augusta, 113 km south of Glendambo
    3) Glendambo, 285 km north of Port Augusta, 252 km south of Coober Pedy
    4) Rest stop, 180 km south of Coober Pedy

    That’s it! There’s nothing else, not even a tree to duck behind in some areas.

    For the first few hours we had a nice tailwind, so we made good time. We stopped for gas and a rest in Glendambo, where we encountered two huge bus loads of kids headed to Darwin. Ugh, I wouldn’t want to make that trip. The petrol station was overrun with kids buying drinks and using the facilities, so we waited awhile for it to clear out.

    A short time later we were back amongst the road trains and oddly enough, a lone insane bicyclist...why anyone would want to bike through the Outback, let alone by himself, is beyond me.

    Our tailwind became a cross wind and we were soon driving into a dust cloud. It was seriously blowy and the dust seemed to be suspended in the air, causing a thick haze.

    In five hours we’d reached Port Augusta. We bought gas, ate lunch and picked up some provisions as we were clueless as to the shopping/food situation in the Flinders Ranges.

    Within an hour we were on the road again, taking B83 towards Quorn and Hawker, passing the Pichi Pichi Railway. Hills appeared, then disappeared, then appeared again. The road became curvy, no more driving straight ahead as we had all morning. The countryside was green and dotted with wildflowers. It was nice to have something to look at again.

    Ninety minutes after leaving Port Augusta, we were pulling into Rawnsley Park Station, which was in the grips of the same dust storm we’d been driving through most of the day. The air was thick with dust and the views completely obscured. We had no idea what the Flinders Ranges looked like.

    Our lodging – Flinders Ranges – Rawnsley Park Station - $112 per night

    http://www.rawnsleypark.com.au/

    Rawnsley Park and Wilpena Pound Resort are the closest lodging options to Wilpena Pound, the jewel of Flinders Ranges National Park. We stayed in unit #25, one of several holiday units which face Rawnsley Bluff and Wilpena Pound. These are studios, with queen bed, flat screen TV (two channels), small dining and sitting area, kitchenette, good sized bathroom and surprisingly large closets. The studios are housed in modular units that don’t look like much from the outside, but ours was clean and comfortable, and we really enjoyed our stay.

    The dust was pretty awful. We had dust in our noses and mouths just from unloading the car. I had to remove my contacts and flush my eyes with water. We were in for a long few days if this nonsense kept up.

    We spent the afternoon reading and sipping Shiraz, as it was just too gross to venture out.

    Rawnsley Park has a restaurant, The Woolshed. It’s the only food option for many kilometers, unless you count the small shop at the caravan park. We’d booked a table for all three nights of our stay when we checked in and we planned to self cater or wing it for our other meals. The Woolshed is open for lunch from 12-2 pm and for dinner from 6-8 pm. If you want to eat, you need to book.

    Our first meal at the Woolshed was a bit disappointing. Bill had the 350 gram T-Bone with roasted potatoes and salad ($34). I had the special, which was a roasted capsicum filled with rice and dahl, roasted potatoes and salad ($27). Bill was pleased with his meal, but mine, well…..it tasted okay, but really, $27 for half a capsicum stuffed with rice and lentils, some overcooked potatoes and a few pieces of lettuce for $27? I wasn’t impressed.

    The restaurant was very busy; in addition to the guests booked into the restaurant, they were trying to feed a bus load of 90 Flight Centre Managers on the deck, in the sand and the wind. All the staff seemed crazed and flustered. When we paid, the cashier had no idea what we had or what it cost, we had to tell her. She also charged our credit card in US dollars instead of Australian dollars, (DCC) a practice that gets my blood up every time. We explained to her we’d like to pay in Australian dollars and told her she just had to rerun the charge and push a different button. She was new and confused; she called in another employee to assist but he just wanted to argue the point with us. They were slammed, so we didn’t press the issue, we gave up and left. It all seemed very bush league and disorganized.

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    Day 8 – Flinders Ranges

    Something miraculous happened during the night; we woke to a beautiful, completely dust free, cool sunny day; the nicest of the last three, according to our neighbors. We could finally see our surroundings and they were lovely.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilpena_Pound

    We’d scoured the leaflet in our room which described the various hikes on the station. It looked as if we could spend weeks here just exploring the tracks. For some unknown reason, we decided to tackle the Rawnsley Bluff walk, a 12.6 km hike to the top of, you guessed it, Rawnsley Bluff. The hike was rated difficult in the leaflet, which should have tipped me off, but in my excitement to get out and explore this beautiful area, I must have overlooked that bit.

    The trailhead starts on the station, just a short drive from the holiday units. The sign at the beginning of the trail indicates the trail is moderate, with some steep inclines, and that an average level of fitness is required. No problem for a couple of old fart hiking fools, right?

    The hike began innocently enough as they so often do…I put my fly net on 30 minutes into the walk as the buggers were driving me bonkers. The trail follows the creek bed and then leads up the foothills of the main range of the Flinders, the Bonney Sandstone. About three kilometers into the hike it gets ugly, turning into a serious climb; the kind where you have to pull yourself over boulders using both hands, grasping at whatever you can find for balance, trees, rocks, your spouse’s leg, whatever. The trail eventually levels out (sort of) and forks right to the Rawnsley Bluff summit and left to the Wilpena Pound lookout. We took the longer route to the bluff first, the trail leading us through bush after bush of wattle, and soaked up the fabulous views from the summit overlooking the Chace Range. We then backtracked and took the trail to the Wilpena overlook, basking in the view down through the center of Wilpena Pound, until some fool broke the magic by whipping out his cell phone. Some people…

    This is not an easy hike by any means, but the views are so worth it. By the time we reached the car park we were covered in flies – I’m beginning to think the fly is the national bird of Australia. It took us 4.5 hours to walk both forks of the track (6.75 miles), one third of which was very difficult, both ways.

    After a shower we drove to Wilpena Pound, 15-20 km north of Rawnsley Park, hoping to get a walking map for the following day. There’s a kiosk with an honesty pay station as you enter Flinders Ranges National Park. The information board indicates you need only pay the $8 daily fee if you plan to camp or use the services of the park. There’s no charge if you plan to drive on to Parachilna or Blinman.

    We bypassed the kiosk as we just wanted to pick up a walking map; we didn’t plan to stay long. We continued into the park and followed the signs to Wilpena Pound Resort, stopping at the information center. Here we learned that park passes can be purchased for $8 a week, whereas as if paid at the National Park kiosk, it’s $8 a day. Strange. We purchased a pass, but were unable to collect a map; it seems the information center is owned by the resort and the National Park Service is stingy with the maps so they didn’t have any.

    Wilpena Pound Resort was hopping on this beautiful Sunday. We drove around just to check the place out, as we’d considered staying here. It was quite busy and we saw several cases of beer leaving the resort shop in the arms of young men, so we were glad we’d chosen Rawnsley Park, which seemed downright sedate in comparison. The resort is in a fabulous heavily treed location, right at the doorstep of Wilpena Pound.

    We briefly considered driving on to Parachilna and Blinman, but were told it’s a half day drive to make the full loop; some sections of the road are unsealed and rough.

    We left Wilpena Pound and continued driving north, no destination in mind, just enjoying the scenery. It was pretty and serene and we saw several kangaroos and emus about. We eventually backtracked and returned to Rawnsley Park. On a whim we checked with reception and lo’ and behold they had the walking map we’d been looking for at Wilpena Pound. We were now free to plot our course for the next day, assuming we could get out of bed in the morning.

    We sat on the bench outside our room, sipping wine, listening to the birds and watching the sun set over Rawnsley Bluff. Gorgeous.

    It was back to The Woolshed that evening for dinner. Bill had a salmon and feta pizza, which he said was okay, nothing special ($19). I had the balsamic onion feta tart with roasted potatoes and salad ($29), which consisted of two pieces of feta and a small a pile of onions on a pastry crust. The potatoes were noticeably absent and once again the salad was just a few pieces of lettuce. What there was of it tasted okay, but once again I was disappointed and felt as if I’d been fleeced.

    The restaurant atmosphere was much calmer this time around, no bus loads of hungry people, just a handful of us in the restaurant. We didn't bother with the credit card this time, we just paid cash.

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    Sigh, Melodie, you are going where I have wanted to go for sooooooo long, Wilpena Pound (even though there is no snorkeling there LOL). I didn't know about Rawnsley Park and just assumed one stayed in the Resort, nice to know the difference (although the Woolshed sounds not that great.) Keep the trip report coming, I want to hear it all!
    Sally in Seattle
    p.s. great info in the loo report--interesting that some service places d/n have toilets. Wonder where the workers went..well, better not know.

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    Hi Sally -

    I'd read that the Woolshed is much better than the restaurant at Wilpena Pound. The food was good, but it certainly wasn't good value. I realize they're out there in the middle of nowhere, but Coober Pedy was seriously in the boondocks and the food there was surprising good and inexpensive.

    I guess you'll just have to go back, so you can visit the Flinders Ranges...

    I meant to mention earlier that I'd never heard of Flinders Ranges until RalphR clued me in, so if you're still reading this, thanks again Ralph!

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    Day 9 – Flinders Ranges

    We were on our way to Wilpena Pound by 7:30 am. We’d given serious consideration to hiking St Mary’s Peak, one of the most difficult hikes in the national park, but after the climb the day before, well….let’s just say we had a change of heart. We’d been told at the information center that the hike to St Mary’s Peak was similar to that of Rawnsley Bluff, but harder and longer; the most direct route (outside trail) is 14.6 km, six hours return, the loop route (inside trail) is 21.5 km, nine hours return. We’d also discovered that similar to Uluru, the Aboriginals would prefer that visitors not climb it.

    As we neared the turnoff to Wilpena, we saw a few kangaroos approaching at an angle to our left. I warned Bill, and sure enough, they tore across the field and crossed the road directly in front of us. We also saw two emus walking in the middle of the road; and the remnants of a kangaroo alongside a pile of broken glass; apparently someone hadn’t been quite so lucky.

    All was quiet at Wilpena Pound on this Monday morning. There were very few people around, a stark contrast from the previous day.

    We parked and set out on the Wangara Lookout hike, which begins at the bushwalking trailhead behind the information center. The first ~1½ miles is on a road; the resort runs a shuttle to and from the trailhead along here. The road follows Wilpena Creek through a forest of gum trees, pines and acacias. It’s really pretty, and for awhile we had it completely to ourselves.

    We finally reached the trailhead and walked to Hills Homestead, before continuing to the lower and upper Wangara Lookouts, where we were rewarded with some nice views into Wilpena Pound. It was perfect walking weather, sunny and cool.

    After soaking up the scenery we returned to Hills Homestead and walked a bit of the 18.8 km Bridle Gap hike, which leads through the floor of Wilpena Pound and forms part of the Heyson Trail. The portion we walked was completely level and slightly boring, not much to look at other than trees, plenty of pesky flies though.

    We returned to the information center via the elevated 4x4 track that runs parallel to the road we walked in on. The views were better up here; the track eventually petered out and rejoined the main access road. Total walk time, 3:45, 8.3 miles.

    It was close to noon, so we opted to have lunch at the resort’s bistro, Poddy Dodgers. While waiting for it to open, we watched the birds dive into the swimming pool and drink from the water spigot; free entertainment. I made the mistake of trying to check my e-mail on the PIE Internet kiosk in the bistro. What a joke. Twelve dollars an hour and so slow it burned up $2 just to access Hotmail, and then froze up before I could open anything. I might as well have put my money into a pokey.

    We were impressed with our lunch, both ordering a chicken wrap ($9.50 each). Simple, fresh and tasty.

    http://www.wilpenapound.com.au/resort/

    Our next stop was the Arkaroo Rock hike, which begins 17 km south of Wilpena on Hawker Road. We donned our fly nets right away, as it was seriously buggy out here. I don’t know why, but we expected an easy stroll. This was not to be; the path was rocky and there were some fairly steep bits. The trail leads to Aboriginal rock paintings, and to be quite honest, they weren’t anything to get excited about. The walk itself was very pretty; we saw lots of lizards and I kept expecting a snake to slither by, but fortunately we didn’t see any of those. This is an exposed trail that’s probably miserable on a hot day, but it wasn’t hot, just really dusty. It took us about an hour to walk the three kilometer, two mile loop, giving us a total 10.4 miles for the day.

    More wine on the bench outside our holiday unit, chatting with the neighbors, watching the birds and gazing at Rawnsley Bluff.

    We had our last dinner at The Woolshed, which finally redeemed itself. A shared Greek salad ($14); a pizza loaded with ham, salami, mushrooms and olives for Bill ($19), and a bowl of sweet potato and ginger soup for me ($9). And of course a few of those damper rolls, which I could have eaten an entire basket of, given the chance. It was the best meal we had there.

    As we walked back to our room after dinner, we gazed at the stars and the incredibly clear view of the Milky Way, and wished we had a few more days to explore this beautiful part of South Australia.

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    Day 10 - On the road to McLaren Vale

    As we packed the car to leave Rawnsley Park, we noticed all of our neighbors doing the same. We’d befriended the folks on either side of us, both couples from Sydney who’d driven to SA and were working their way towards Adelaide. We’d also met a nice couple from the Eyre Peninsula at dinner one night, and we felt as if we’d met more Australians in our three days at the Flinders Ranges than we had during our year in WA!

    We said goodbye to the ladies at reception, both of whom had been very friendly and helpful during our stay. We liked this place and found it hard to leave.

    It was another beautiful day, and we were on the road by 8:30 am, bound for McLaren Vale, which I’d estimated at 464 km, seven hours.

    We drove towards Hawker via B83 and then picked up B80 south to Craddock and Orroroo. There were no other cars on the road here, just us. As we drove through the sleepy town of Craddock, I remembered someone here or on TA mentioning the Craddock Hotel as a classic old pub. Sure enough, there it was, closed of course, but rather obvious in a town that only consisted of a stone hotel and two stone churches.

    After Craddock there was nothing to look at but flat dry countryside. The landscape became greener as we neared Orroroo with its acres and acres of mysterious crops. We made a stop in Orroroo and I saw something I’ve never seen before. A bulletin board mounted in the ladies room covered with paper towels on which appreciative users had written thank you notes to the town for providing such clean facilities.

    Orroroo looked like a nice little town, but we passed through it in a flash, picking up B56 to Peterborough, where a steam model train welcomes visitors to the town. Peterborough is home to the Steamtown Heritage Center and a Motorcycle museum among other things.

    http://www.peterboroughsa.com.au/tourism.php.

    The landscape became even greener past Whyte Yarcowie; lots of farmland, historic homesteads and a wind farm to the west. We saw very few other cars through here and noticed that the sheep were all tinted red from the red dirt. We eventually entered the town of Hallett, “town of wool, wheat and Wilkins”. I’m not sure what the Wilkins reference is about, but I suspect it has something to do with sheep. Hallett is on the Limestone Coast, which I’d not realized until I just now looked it up.

    We passed Mt Bryan and entered Burra, which we found much more interesting the second time around; perhaps because the sun was shining and there wasn’t an ice cold wind. We passed a café cleverly named The Cook ‘a Burra, and made another pit stop before continuing on A32 to Gawler, once again surrounded by those fields of flowering canola.

    We entered the Gilbert Valley, which incidentally, runs parallel to the Clare Valley, stopping at a catholic church perched on a hillside near Saddleworth so I could take some snaps. We wandered through the cemetery and were surprised to see headstones dating back to 1869.

    We’d seen countless beautiful stone churches since our arrival in SA; the whole state was covered in them, not just Adelaide, the City of Churches.

    The sheep gradually lost their red sheen and olive groves began to appear. We were hungry, so we stopped in Gawler. We grabbed the first parking spot we could find, which just happened to be in front of a café, which is how we ended up dining at Viva Café on Victory. It turned out to be a good choice. Bill had the Greek salad, which was three times the size of the one we’d shared at The Woolshed the previous night and a wee bit less expensive at $12.95. I had a massive bowl of pumpkin soup ($6.95) served with bread, neither of which I could finish. I’m not sure how we found the room, but we managed flat whites after the meal ($3.20 each). Good, fast, inexpensive and friendly.

    Back in the car, we located A20 and watched the price of gas drop the closer we got to Adelaide. We turned on A13 (John Rice Ave) which took us right through town; surely there’s a better way of getting through this sprawling city. There was loads of truck traffic, it was busy and congested and A13 just kept going and going and going…

    As we sat through light after light and passed shop after shop, working our way through the urban sprawl of Adelaide, I couldn’t help but notice how different it is from Perth. It seems to have more shops, more restaurants, more gas stations, more variety, more everything. I saw more fast food outlets in 30 minutes than I’ve seen in all of Perth (not that that’s a good thing). Perhaps everything in Adelaide is on this one street??

    We finally broke free of the congestion after the M2 turnoff, and we were soon in the hills; it was pretty and green again. The Gulf of St Vincent made an appearance and wineries began to pop up around Reyanella.

    We arrived in McLaren Vale 474 kilometers and 7 ½ hours after leaving Rawnsley Park; my estimate was pretty darn close.

    We called into the Visitor’s Center (very nice by the way) to collect a map and were soon on our way to our cottage.

    Our lodging – McLaren Flat, Black Rabbit Cottage - $160 per night

    http://www.stayz.com.au/30871

    This is restored heritage listed cottage located in McLaren Flat, a 10-15 minute drive from the town of McLaren Vale. It’s a lovely stone cottage, nestled amongst a vineyard and a well tended garden. It felt like a labyrinth at first, with its many doors and rooms leading to other rooms because of the addition. It’s spacious and comfortable, with three bedrooms, a large kitchen, two living areas and a huge modern bathroom. The cottage is rimmed with several outdoor seating areas from which to sip wine and watch the sun go down over the vines. Other than a funky smell in the kitchen, of which we never found the source, and entirely too many millipedes and earwigs, we were very comfortable here.

    We were greeted at the cottage by Jess, the friendly dog who lives down the road with the owners.

    We had just enough time to visit one winery before 5 pm, so we chose the closest Hugo Wines, just up the road, where we were well looked after by Pam. In between wine pours, she gave us some pointers on where to eat and what to do in the area. She even called Jetstar and Adelaide Airport security screening on our behalf to enquire about their policy on liquids, as we’d yet to figure out how we were going to get all the wine we’d accumulated back to Perth. With her considerable help, we determined that we could carry up to five liters each of unopened wine on board, as long as it didn’t exceed the 10 kg cabin baggage limit. She offered to ship our wine to Perth, even though most of it had come from other wineries. Wow!

    We left Hugo with three bottles of wine and relief at having solved our little wine problem.

    We chilled out on the verandah, sipping Hugo 2004 Reserve Shiraz, watching the sun set over the vines, listening to the birds and admiring the lovely garden. Pure bliss.

    Dinner that night was at The Barn, a Pam recommendation. As usual, we didn’t have a booking, but we went early and had no trouble getting a table.

    We shared the Barn’s salt crusted house made bread, okay, but uninspired, just a dense white bread with some salt on top.

    Bill ordered the Wagyu Beef San Choy Bau, “premium Wagyu beef mince served with baby cos lettuce hearts, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, fried shallots, fresh chili and pine nuts” ($21.90). His meal was served on a large rectangular platter with a pile of greens, two Chinese porcelain soup spoons, one each with fried onions and pine nuts, and a small bowl of seasoned Wagyu beef. I would have taken a photo, but I’d left my camera behind. It was very pretty, more plate than food, but Bill said it was good, just a wee bit salty.

    I ordered the “chicken breast, oven baked and rested on sweet potato rounds, topped with a sage, prunes, cream and white wine sauce” ($23.90), which turned out to be chicken on the bone over three pieces of sweet potato, two spears of asparagus and a splash of the most heavenly sauce. Who knew prunes could be so good?

    It was a lovely meal in a cozy restaurant, if just a wee bit she-she for the likes of us. Dinner with one glass each of black bubbles (sparkling Shiraz) came to $63.

    The restaurant was very busy when we left, and this was a Tuesday; we were glad we’d gone early.

    Before returning to the cottage, we popped into Coles, which we were surprised to learn stays open until 9 pm, as stores in WA close at 5 pm sharp. We were equally surprised to find an Internet café which stayed open until 8:30 ($5 an hour). Cool.

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    Hi Mel,
    Wonderful report - thanks for making the effort to include all those details that make it interesting and very helpful for the legion of us following, vicariously and/or with our own itchy feet sometime soon.

    I was holding my breath about Skilogalee ... how often do you refer someone to to something or someone, only to have them have the one-in-a-million disastrous experience? Glad they're still doing it well. Nice people.

    I'm with Bill: I want my beef just dead - not carbon dated!
    Looking forward to the next instalments.
    Cheers
    Bokhara

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    Thank you Bokhara2!

    Day 11 – McLaren Vale

    It was so dark in the cottage that I thought we were back in our Coober Pedy cave. The wind howled throughout the night so it was no surprise when we drew the curtains and were met with a gloomy wet day.

    We had no specific plan, so we pottered along Tourist Route 60 hoping to find a winery that opened before 10 am, which is how we discovered Kay Brothers Amery. Lucky for us, owner Colin Kay was pouring the wine; we spent well over an hour chatting with him about anything and everything. It was both educational and entertaining, and once again we felt fortunate to have met and chatted up the winemaker. The wines were good too; we left with a 2006 Shiraz and a lovely tawny.

    Our next stop was Rosemount, a huge sprawling monolith of a winery that screamed mass production. We were a bit overwhelmed by the numerous ranges of wine and the myriad regions. We sampled some of the Show Reserve range, bought a bottle of 2005 Shiraz and left a bit bewildered.

    We had lunch at the Blessed Cheese in McLaren Vale, a recommendation from a TA member, and a good one at that. I had the Thai chicken coconut milk soup with rice, which was out of this world ($8.50). Bill opted for the baked Alexandrina ricotta smoked salmon and chive tart with fennel and orange salad ($16), which he said was very good, but he couldn’t seem to keep his spoon out of my soup. We also had very good flat whites.

    We next popped into Yummy Nuts, a few doors down from Blessed Cheese on the main road. They carry all manner of snacks, nuts, candy, baking goods, etc. The proprietor was very friendly and helpful, offering us plenty of samples, which naturally led to a few purchases.

    Then it was off to Chapel Hill, a winery suggested either here or on TA; I can’t remember which and I’m too lazy to look it up, sorry. We had a nice visit with the gentleman pouring the wine and met a young Canadian couple, living and playing Lacrosse in Adelaide. We also took a peek at their on site retreat and guest house, both look very inviting.

    http://www.theretreatatchapelhillwinery.com.au/accommodation/guest_house/

    We were getting seriously wine tasted out, so we drove to Maslin Beach, which I just this minute learned is South Australia’s first official nude beach. We didn’t see any naked people; in fact we saw very little of anything as there was a low fog that obscured our views.

    We returned to the cottage, took a nice long walk, and just hung out. There was really no safe place to walk, so we kept to the road, which was deserted. When we reached the busier road above the cottage, we turned back, not wanting to risk our lives in the name of exercise.

    As we approached the cottage, the owner from down the road was making her way up to see us. She suddenly shouted something about an accident, turned tail and fled back to her house, kicking poor Jess in the process, climbed into her car and sped away. Okay…. Apparently a car on the road above the cottage, the one we’d just been on a few minutes beforehand, had careened off the road at the turn and gone into the ditch, barely missing a tree. I didn’t hear or see a thing, but evidently she did. The driver, whom they suspect had been drinking (you think?) was fine. I don’t think his car fared as well.

    Dinner that evening was at Magnums in the McLaren Vale Hotel. In an effort to recapture that fantastic soup I’d had for lunch, Bill ordered the Laksa, Malaysian coconut curry soup with Asian vegetables and noodles ($18.50). I opted for the tomato and spring vegetable soup ($7.90) and an order of bruschetta ($6). Our meals included a trip to the salad and vegetable bar, which I’m glad we passed on because our soup bowls were big enough to swim in. They say we have huge orders in the US, but I’ve never seen such a massive bowl of soup in my life…unless you count the one I had in Gawler. Good lord. The food was surprisingly good, but there was just too much of it.

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    Day 12 – McLaren Vale

    We couldn’t seem to take a step in the cottage without crunching a millipede or an earwig, so I slept in my socks, not wanting that unpleasant squish on my bare feet should I get up during the night.

    It was another wet gloomy day, but we’re all weather types, so we drove up to the Onkaparinga River National Park, which we’d scoped out the day before while at Chapel Hill Winery which is right next door (and a belated thanks to stormbird for the Chapel Hill suggestion). We perused their information board and decided to take the two hour, four kilometer Hardy’s Scrub Hike, which begins at Gate 11 on Chapel Hill Road, so it was back in the car to seek out the trailhead.

    http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/sanpr/onkaparinganp/index.html

    What a great walk! It’s marked moderate, but it’s really very easy, with only one hilly section. The trail leads through native pine woodlands and intersects the Wine Dam Track. We had perfect walking weather, overcast but dry. We saw a huge number of millipedes, which seemed to just sort of ooze out of the ground in piles. We also saw lots of tiny delicate wild orchids and gobs of other wildflowers. We thoroughly enjoyed this loop, which took us 90 minutes to walk, primarily because I kept stopping to photograph the wildflowers (just over three miles).

    Our first winery of the day was Samuel’s Gorge, suggested by Jacinta, owner of the Black Rabbit Cottage. The winery is situated in a gorgeous spot and specializes in Grenache, Shiraz and Tempranillo. We were caught off guard by their lovely 2008 Tempranillo, a wine we didn’t think we liked, so into the rolling wine cellar it went.

    http://www.gorge.com.au/

    Upon learning of our weakness for fortifieds, the wine pourer at Chapel Hill the previous day suggested we visit Settlement Winery, so off we went.

    Here we go again. Settlement offered seemingly endless tasting options, so we had to pick and choose, share and tip. Yet it’s here that my notes get a little difficult to read, so I have to wonder if we tipped enough! Suffice to say we loved their wine and purchased a bottle each of their Red Dingo late harvest Cabernet, Liqueur Muscat and Black Pedro (black sherry). Good stuff.

    http://www.thesettlementwineco.com.au/

    It was getting on towards lunch, and lord knows we needed something in our stomachs. Settlement has an enticing pizza and platter menu, but we had our hearts set on a fancy meal at the Currant Shed at Hoffman’s Winery, which had come highly recommended by a TA member, so we took a pass.

    Naturally we turned up at Hoffman’s early and without reservations. We visited the cellar door first, to ask if they could fit us in for lunch and to see what we might want a glass of with our meal if they could. Once again our strategy paid off, and we got a table. While wine tasting we learned about the history of the winery and former currant shed and were told the restaurant had two chefs. I mentioned that it had come highly recommended and that we were anxious to try it. I believe our wine was poured by owner Peter Hoffman himself, who reminded me of an old English professor; perhaps because the cellar door had the feel of a personal library, where one would sit back and have a brandy in a deep leather chair. I felt as if I were in someone’s home; it felt very personal.

    http://www.hoffmannswine.com.au/currantShed.php

    As for the restaurant, oh my god….

    We shared one of their entrée specials; herb crepes filled with chicken and buttered leeks in provolone, served on a bed of sautéed baby spinach with slivered almonds ($16). It was absolutely fantastic…I’ve never seen Bill get so excited about a plate of food. For my main, I had another entrée, the potato and almond pancakes with buttered leeks, spring peas and a Stilton sauce ($14), also fantastic, and almost too pretty to eat. Bill had the bacon wrapped filet mignon on mashed potatoes, sautéed champignons and peas topped with Shiraz jus ($31), which he said was the best of the trip.

    For dessert we shared the chocolate fudge mousse sandwiched between chocolate sable biscuits and salted caramel cashews ($12.50) accompanied with flat whites.

    The entire meal was gobsmackingly good and looked like something right out of Master Chef. My dear husband, never one to wax poetic or linger over a meal, actually used the word ‘phenomenal’ to describe the relaxing two hours we spent at Hoffman’s (total $94.50).

    We made our utter satisfaction known to the Hoffman’s, both of whom met us when we paid our bill. They wanted to know what we thought and where we’d learned of their restaurant. They seemed genuinely pleased that we’d so thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

    After lunch we collected our wine from the cottage and returned to Hugo’s, where we bought some more Shiraz and took Pam up on her kind offer to ship our wine to Perth for us ($20 to ship a case, which arrived in Perth five days later).

    Our last stop of the day was Wirra Wirra winery, another TA member suggestion, where we were greeted with an imposing post and rail fence (Woodhenge) that I couldn’t help but photograph. The wines weren’t too shabby either and we left with a bottle of their small volume release Sparrows Lodge 2007 Mourvedre, made from a grape I thought I didn't like. Who knew?

    http://www.wirrawirra.com/default.aspx

    Then it was back to the cottage for some serious relaxation.

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    Day 13 – McLaren Vale

    We’d allowed three full days in McLaren Vale so we could spend a day exploring the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, specifically Deep Creek Conservation Park.

    Our hopes for a pretty day were realized and we were on the road by 7:30 am, taking B23 towards Yankalilla. We were soon zipping along squiggly roads, surrounded by vibrant green rolling hills and heavily treed countryside, reminded of Tasmania and New Zealand. The descent into the pretty little town of Yankalilla was particularly scenic, and I found myself wishing we had a few extra days to spend here. We were surprised to find yet more wineries; this country definitely has no shortage of those; wine drinkers really are spoiled for choice.

    We passed a business named Seagull Droppings...I sure hope it wasn’t a restaurant…

    Cliffs appeared to our left and we were suddenly surrounded by towering Norfolk pines as we approached the coast. We stopped at the Yankalilla Bay overlook noticing that the beaches we’d seen thus far weren’t very pretty. We passed a wind farm and reached our turnoff at Delamere, deciding instead to continue on to Cape Jervis first, as it was only another 10 kilometers further. We stopped at the ferry overlook and watched the 9 am ferry push off towards Kangaroo Island. Cape Jervis was windy, just like the tip of every other coastal landmass I’d ever visited, and rather cold.

    We backtracked to Delamere and located the tree lined road to the park headquarters for Deep Creek Conservation Park, where we perused the information board for walk options. We paid the $8 park fee at an honesty station and settled on the 5.5 kilometer, three hour Aaron Creek Circuit hike which begins at the car park on Blow Hole Road and intersects the Heyson Trail.

    This began as a gentle walk (don’t they all?) through impossibly green pasture and gum trees with distant ocean views. We were watched by four kangaroos from afar and we walked under a tree full of Rainbow Lorikeets, their cacophony of shrieks piercing our eardrums. The walk became more rugged with a steep descent toward the creek, and a steep ascent back up. The shores of the creek were lined with more arum lilies than I’ve ever seen in one place, some with blooms bigger than my outstretched hands.

    We’d not yet seen a snake and I was looking forward to telling all we’d had a snake free visit to SA, but it was not to be. Bill drew to a halt on the path ahead of me and calmly announced “snake” as the creepy black thing slithered off into the bush. This is precisely why I prefer that he walk in front, to clear the spider webs and patrol for snakes.

    The loop rejoined the path through the pasture and this is where we had our first ever Magpie swooping incident. We were walking along, minding our own business when this crazed bird appears from the trees and swoops down at us screeching like mad. The deranged thing came back a second and third time. While I ducked, Bill flailed his hiking stick in the air; the bird retreated and flew back to its nest, leaving our heads and eyes intact.

    Despite the snake and the psychotic bird, we both enjoyed the hike, which took us about two hours to complete.

    We returned to Delamere and picked up B37, where we drove the 50 km to Victor Harbor, yet another pretty drive with green rolling pastures as far as the eyes can see, winding roads, plenty of trees and ocean views.

    We were both surprised at the size of Victor Harbor; I don’t know why, but I was expecting a tiny town, not a thriving community of some 12,000 people.

    Someone on TA had mentioned the Beach House Café as a good place for Indian food, so I popped into the Visitor’s Center to ask about it. The woman who helped me confirmed that it’s a great place to eat, but she thought it was only open for dinner, which she then verified by phone. Thanks to the friendly helpful staff it was here that I learned quite by accident that there were whales near shore off Basham’s Beach, for which I got directions.

    We walked through town looking for somewhere to eat lunch. I noticed Café Bavaria; it seems the German influence we’d discovered in the Barossa was alive and well down here too. Die Wursthaus in Tanunda still fresh in our minds; we both opted for the bratwurst ($8.50), and received a massive brat on a toasted bun with grilled onions and mustard – really tasty. The chocolate Bavarian cake in the display case looked so good that we had to share a piece of that too, over lattes this time ($10.90 total). Man it was good….airy fresh cream layered between light as a feather chocolate cake….I almost got stabbed with Bill’s fork as we fought over the last bite.

    Back on the main road through town we turned on Port Elliot Road and located Basham’s Beach, between Port Elliot and Middleton. We walked to the beach and immediately saw 3-4 whales frolicking about 50 meters off shore. Very cool. We watched for quite a while, then backtracked to Victor Harbor Road and began working our way back to McLaren Vale. We passed vineyards galore, a cheese company, a berry farm, walking tracks…there was just so much left to do, but no more time! The view coming over the hill on our approach to Willunga was absolutely gorgeous; acre after acre of green, green, green, pastures and vineyards, all seeming to fall into the sea. WOW.

    Jacinta had made a 6:00 pm dinner booking for us at Russell’s, a hugely popular pizza joint in Willunga only open on Friday and Saturday nights. We were told we’d have to vacate our table by 7:30. No problem. Willunga is tiny, but we had a devil of a time finding the place, stopping to ask directions twice. It’s tucked between two businesses on the main road, almost invisible behind a rustic fence, impossible to see until you’re right on top of it.

    We wandered into the kitchen, by mistake we thought, but no, this is where we found the only menu, the blackboard overhead. We must have looked completely lost, because one of the girls making pizza explained we were to order and pay here, and then be seated.

    This was like no other restaurant I’d ever been in and I couldn’t help but feel underfoot as we perused the menu in the kitchen, workers milling around us making crust, chopping vegetables, etc. We ordered, and then walked from the kitchen outside to a patio, barely missing the roaring fire on the ground in the center, past a wood fire oven and into a shed, which apparently served as the dining area. Quirky.

    Russell’s makes life simple by offering a handful of pizza options, a few entrees and desserts and two types of wine, red and white; cleanskins both. They’re also BYO, charging $7 a head for what appeared to be unlimited consumption, judging by the eskys full of beer we saw coming into the restaurant.

    We shared a large Napoli pizza ($27) and had a glass of mystery red wine ($7 each). The pizza was good, but we’d wished we’d ordered an entrée too, as we could have used a bit more food.

    One last check of our e-mail and then it was back to the cottage for our last night in McLaren Vale.

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    Mel: continuing to enjoy your report - glad you liked the Flinders Ranges. We didn't have any dust or fly-related issues when we visited the park in early Aug 06. It was downright frigid on the top of St Marys Peak. A few weeks makes a big difference apparently. As I said before, we were happy staying at the Wilpena Pound Resort - the food was decent and we had no problem with drunken or noisy guests. Too bad you missed having a drink at the Craddock Hotel - I hope it was closed because of the time of day, not because it was out of business.

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    JohnFitz -

    Yep, definitely a magpie.

    Hi Ralph -

    Yes, the Craddock Hotel was closed because of the time of day. We'd have stopped otherwise.

    I really liked what I saw of Wilpena Pound Resort. It's quite a bit more expensive than Rawnsley Peak (unless you stay in the RP Eco Lodges that is!). WP rooms range from $97.50-$110 PER PERSON per night, whereas Rawnsley Peak's holiday units were $112 per room. I peeked into one of WP's rooms and they looked nice - they were just refurbished earlier this year.

    Wilpena Pound Resort is in a fantastic location and I probably would have enjoyed staying there too, but we sort of liked being off the beaten track at RP surrounded by like minded old farts.

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    Day 14 – On the road to Adelaide

    We’d washed a load of clothes the day before, hanging them out to dry as the cottage didn’t have a dryer. Naturally, it rained during the night, so we bundled the wet clothes in a bag and hoped we’d find a coin-op laundry somewhere along the way.

    We bid farewell to our cozy cottage and left McLaren Vale just before 9 am, bound for the Willunga farmers market, which had come highly recommended by fellow Fodorite JohnFitz. And what a wonderful suggestion it was, I loved it! Families were out wandering amongst the stalls of bedding plants, fresh produce and bread, local almonds, dips and dressings, honey, seafood, etc. There was a kid trying play the didgeridoo for tips, a stall or two selling food and coffee; the atmosphere was fun and festive and it smelled heavenly. Oh how I’d love to have a farmers market like this near my home where I could do my weekly shopping! We bought cheese kranskeys with grilled onions from a food stall ($7 each – power breakfast) and stood munching our dogs, sauce dripping down to our elbows, watching the world go by. We then stopped at an alfresco café, a more comfortable way to people watch while sipping flat whites.

    I learned a little bit about the local almond market from a man selling almonds and I just had to buy some of his salt and vinegar flavor – really good.

    It was great fun, thank you JohnFitz!

    We were in no hurry to get to Adelaide, so we took the advice of Lizzy101, taking A13 towards Mt Compass then following the back roads to Strathalbyn. We drove through Nangeta, a country town surrounded by vineyards, and on to Ashbourne. This was a pretty drive, past olive groves and orchards, trees and meadows. It was really peaceful back here, my kind of place. As we drove through Strathalbyn, we noticed a coin-op laundry right on the main road – perfect – so we tossed our wet clothes into a huge commercial dryer, chatted up a miner from Roxby Downs and were good to go in 10 minutes. We continued towards Mt Barker, and sat back to enjoy the scenic drive to Hahndorf. We stopped at Beerenberg Strawberry Farm and I went nuts in their shop, buying all sorts of jams and condiments to take home.

    http://www.beerenberg.com.au/

    Before we knew it, we were entering Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German town. The streets were lined with tourists on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. I wanted to explore, but the crowds were a turn off, so Bill wasn’t as keen. He wanted to wait in the car and read, but I was able to lure him out with the promise of German food. We’d barely turned the corner onto the main road when we spotted the Hahndorf Inn, and saw huge platters of pork knuckle and sausages being served at outdoor tables. Bill was sold the minute he saw the big HB (Hofbrau beer), so we claimed an outdoor table, ordered a Munchner Hefeweiss, and the Trio of Wursts, a plate of Bockwurst, Bratwurst and Weisswurst with traditional German potato salad, sauerkraut and a German pretzel ($26.90), which we shared. While we waited for our food, we watched platter after heaping platter make its way to waiting customers, most of whom were Asian. I couldn’t believe the piles of pork being consumed; it was serious pig carnage. I was tempted to ask one of the customers if I could photograph his heaping pile of sausages, knuckle and all manner of pig, but I couldn’t bring myself to, so I gawked instead. Check out this link for some photos:

    http://www.hahndorfinn.com.au/The_Hahndorf_Inn_Hotel/Restaurant.html

    After a beer, Bill was feeling better about the whole touristy Hahndorf thing, so he was easily talked into walking down the street to investigate a place that had caught my chocoholic eye on the drive in, Chocolate #5.

    Well…….

    As we stood at the display case, eyeballing the goods and toying with the idea of having a flat white, the gentleman behind the counter told us the shop specializes in hot chocolate made from real melted Belgian chocolate. That was all it took; I immediately ordered the dark chocolate, Bill opted for the milk. We were going to call it good until a brownie in the display case called out to us, so we decided to share one ($15.30 total).

    OH MY GOD. From the first sip of that decadent hot chocolate I knew I’d never had anything so good in my life. It was absolutely fantastic, sex in a cup. Bill had the same reaction, and we got more than a few sideways glances from customers who heard our moans of pleasure. Then we dug into the brownie and moaned yet some more…..it was out of this world delicious, I kid you not. We practically licked the plate and were really tempted to order another one, but good sense prevailed, or was it my tight jeans?

    We haven’t stopped talking about Chocolate #5 since that day; it was fabulous!

    http://www.chocolateno5.com.au/

    Completely and utterly sated, we waddled out of Hahndorf and detoured to Woodside, to sample the sparkling pinot noir at the Bird and Hand winery, on the recommendation of the young woman at Two Hands in the Barossa. She was right, it was lovely. We noticed that the vines were still naked, an indication of the cooler climate here than in McLaren Vale.

    We then backtracked a bit and located the Mt Lofty Scenic Drive which led us by cherry orchards and eventually up the skinny arse road to the Mt Lofty summit. We saw a few koala crossing signs, so I began to search for koalas high in the trees. At Mt Lofty we paid our $2 to park, and then went to check out the views of the city, but it was too hazy; difficult to see.

    We poked around the top a bit, wishing we had time to take a hike, but I wanted to make one last stop before 5pm, the much acclaimed Haigh’s Chocolates.

    On our descent from Mt Lofty I spotted a koala high in a tree, so we pulled over to take a closer look, a bit dangerous on this busy, steep road. As we continued our descent from the hills into the city of Adelaide, we both commented on how much hillier and prettier they are than the Perth Hills. We followed Greenhill Road towards Glenelg to locate our hotel and the Glenelg branch of Haigh’s, when we just happened to drive right by the Haigh’s Visitor’s Center and shop. How convenient! It was too late for their tour, but we poked around the store for a bit and bought a few things. It was good, but certainly not worth the $98.50 per kilo price tag! Teuscher has nothing to worry about.

    We got turned around trying to locate our hotel, my fault again, but we finally made it, tired after our long day.

    Our lodging – Comfort Inn Haven Marina - $135 per night, free parking

    http://www.haveninn.com.au/

    I’d selected this hotel because it’s close to the airport and relatively inexpensive. I didn’t find out until after I booked that it’s spitting distance from a Haigh’s shop. Honest.

    I suspected the hotel would be noisy as it fronts a busy road, so I’d requested a quiet room in the back, which they honored. It was a basic motel room, but clean and perfectly adequate with plenty of space and helpful staff.

    After getting settled we walked down to and along Marina Pier and a really ugly seaweed covered beach. Adelaide may have the hills, but Perth has the beaches!

    http://www.marinapier.com.au/main.html

    We took a long walk and watched the sun go down. There were lots of people milling about and this looked like a popular spot with plenty of bars, restaurants, shops, etc.

    The hotel gave us free drink coupons for their café when we checked in, which is how we ended up dining at Quattro that evening. Potato leek soup with grilled bread for me ($8.90), “seared scallops, double cheddar béchamel and wilted spinach with zested rocket served in a buttered puff case” for Bill ($27.90). Mine was good, Bill’s not so much.

    Day 15 – Going home

    We were up with the birds and off to catch our 8 am flight to Perth. We had no troubles finding the airport, reaching it by 6:15 am. Jetstar had no issues with the four bottles of wine we had in our carry on bags and surprisingly, we’d not gained much weight during our trip (ahem, our check on luggage that is).

    We did a final mileage check; we’d driven 3,257 kilometers during our two weeks in South Australia.

    We were checked in and sitting in Cocolat by 6:40 am, sipping lattes and hot chocolate with chili while grazing on chocolate blueberry muffins. Good, but not nearly as good as Chocolate #5!

    http://www.cocolat.com.au/airport.html

    Alas, our trip was over. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves; everyone was so helpful and friendly. We returned to WA a bit jealous of SA and its beautiful green rolling hills, its German influence and products, its fantastic food and chocolate, its seemingly endless shopping opportunities, extended hours and lower prices. Heck, even the Adelaide Airport was much nicer than Perth’s and it had a chocolate cafe! But, I’m still convinced we have the best beaches.

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    I really should be in bed by now! But I kept reading and reading...

    I really enjoyed your trip report, thank you. What a wonderful journey!

    Those swirly canola fields were something! Lots and lots of great pics.

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    This has been an excellent report and thankyou so much .Enjoyed it all . Lovely photos , especially of the flowers.

    So pleased you got to Willunga Market .It has in part been made popular by Gaye Bilson of Berowa Waters fame who lives there and encouraged it ,I believe . The pics are just as I recall it .

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    I have so enjoyed this report - thank you, thank you. What a wonderful opportunity you have to live in Australia for a while. Good to see that you and your husband are taking full advantage of that opportunity. What part of the country will you be going to next??

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    Thank you both.

    Bgale - We're considering a 7-8 day trip north of Perth in November. We thought we'd drive as far as Monkey Mia and then work our way back down, making stops in Geraldton, Kalbarri National Park, etc. It really depends on the weather though - we may wimp out and head back down south instead.

    We'd also like to travel way up north to Broome and the far north of WA, but we'll have to leave that until next winter, when the weather's tolerable - we're hot weather weenies.

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    Oh, can't wait for your report re: Broome. I recently read two Di Morrissey books (Kimberley Sun and Tears of the Moon) about the pearl industry in Broome and found it fascinating. I have added that area of the country to my list of places to visit on my next trip to Australia. Unfortunately, that next trip may not happen for a couple of years but I'm planning!!

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    Heavy sigh, Mel, what a wonderful trip and so well described, I felt like I was there! Lovely, lovely pictures as well, those flowers were heavenly. Do you or your husband have "issues" with pollen and did it bother you if so? I wonder if all those canola flowers would be troublesome. You did such an amazing range of activities, combining large quantities of calories with lots of activities. It is probably a good thing that you don't live there because of the high temptation factor! I hope you get to the north of Perth and get to see the stromatolites in Shark Bay, a real bucket list item for me. If you don't know what stromatolites are, check out this link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stromatolite

    If you do know what they are, you have to go see them, and revel in their ancestors' contribution to our atmosphere. I got very excited when I saw some in the Natural History Museum in Sydney. Anyway, back to the topic at hand: your lovely trip report. THANKS!
    Sally in Seattle, just returned from Grandbabyland (otherwise known as east of Los Angeles)

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    Thanks again - I hope my long winded report can help others planning a visit to the area. It was indeed more calorie laden than usual and we're both now paying the price.

    Sally, we both have the odd allergy problem, but usually only in Colorado... neither of us has yet to have a problem in WA or SA. We might have been bothered if we'd been rolling in the canola, but I settled for looking at it!

    I've just this minute arrived in Colorado after 22 hours of plane time, so it's off to bed for me.

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    Hi Mel!

    Congratulations on a wonderful trip report. You did a GREAT job!

    I've printed it out and will probably refer to it as a reference from time to time. I learned about places I hadn't been, got to vicariously experience meals without gaining any weight in the process! A win-win all the way!

    Best,

    Melodie
    Certified Aussie Specialist

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    Thank you Melodie. I'm beginning to think the extra pounds are with me for life. I've never been to Seattle Sally (just through the airport once or twice) but love the coffee.

    We've got black ice here in Colorado this morning. I love the cold, but I sure don't miss driving in this stuff.

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    Thank you for such a detailed and delightful trip report - and so pleased that you had a worthwhile time here in South Australia.

    I have been buried in trying to finish my thesis so not reading a lot of these or going out much.

    However today has been so gloriously warm and sunny that we headed to a nursery in the hills and then stopped at Chocolate #5 - mmm - what more can I say.
    I don't actually eat much chocolate - but my other family members did very well - and my cupcake with a tiny bit of chocolate sauce was wonderful - and it is such a friendly, attractive and restful place.

    So - thank you for recommending somewhere to a local resident.

    I hope you have good time planing the Broome trip - as one who grew up in Western Australia- I love Broome and those big white sand beaches with rolling surf - sigh.
    Have also enjoyed a summer driving trip from S.A. as far north as Monkey Mia - not for those who can't tolerate heat.

    Happy travels to you when you return to Australia.

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    love_travel_Aus -

    I'm glad to hear you enjoyed Chocolate #5 - absolute nirvana for chocoholics like myself! I guess its a good thing we don't have one in Perth...

    We're having unusually cold temps here in Colorado at the moment - teens and 20's (F), so I'll probably go into heat shock when I get back to Perth.

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    Hi Melodie, just dropped in to the Aussie board and skimmed over your report as soon as I saw the title. We live just around the corner from Hoffman's and my mum and dad stayed at Black Rabbit Cottage a few months ago! It is a beautiful part of the world and great to hear that view expressed by someone who isn't biased by living here! Thanks for visiting and glad you enjoyed.

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    I'm jealous that you live so close to all that fabulous food and wine ozgirl!

    BTW, it's just Mel. Melodie is wlzmatilida, we're both fans of OZ & NZ, and we share a similar name.

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