As well as receiving five members of the Keating family via Freemantle Prison, Australia is also home to some family that voluntarily chose to leave the cold and wet behind and instead embrace deadly spiders and scorching heat.
A generation of £10 poms settled in South Australia in the 1950’s and 60’s, including my aunt and her husband. We hadn’t seen each other in over twenty years, but there was instant recognition in the Adelaide airport arrivals hall. I think my eyebrows might have been a giveaway.
It was dark when we arrived and we couldn’t see much of Adelaide, but the cool June evening made it feel like being back at home. In some ways we were, being welcomed in and given a comfortable bed for the week.
We were staying in a northern suburb of Adelaide, perfectly positioned for a drive around the surrounding hills.
The Whispering Wall was built in 1902, curving 140 metres across the face of the Barossa reservoir. I won’t go into the science of sound waves, because I can’t, but if you stand at one end of the wall then you can hear perfectly somebody else whispering at the other end. I think this might be where the name comes from.
We tried various combinations of the family at different ends of the wall, just to make sure it was still working. We tried whispering more quietly each time, and every time we were amazed at the clarity of the sound travelling along the wall.
Not content with seeing a big wall, the kids were now keen to climb a big horse. Luckily, we knew where to find one. The Toy Factory at Gumeracha will kindly let you climb to the top of their giant rocking horse in exchange for $2 dollars. This seemed fair enough and the kids scampered to the top.
The people running the giant horse attraction aren’t daft though, and so they’ve set up a café on site, which made a very reasonable lunch stop. Kiera paid a quick visit to the animal enclosure, but beat a hasty retreat when she saw some emus approaching. I can’t say I blame her. Emus don’t appear very trustworthy to me either.
Aside from giant horses, the Adelaide hills were beautiful. We weren’t that far from the strip malls that seem to line every highway around town, but it felt like we’d stepped back into a more pleasant era. Rolling green hills, fields of brown sheep and gum trees.
We passed through several small villages that looked as though they’d be a good place to while away a few quiet years. Williamstown looked a perfect spot for sitting on a veranda, escaping the summer heat, enjoying a nice cup of tea. Or maybe I’m just getting old.
This corner of South Australia was once home to many immigrants from Germany. Most of the Germanic town names were wiped from the map during World War One, but Hahndorf is an exception. A small slice of Prussia in the middle of South Australia.
We had Sunday lunch at the Hanhdorf Inn, mostly because I was fancying sausages and mash, with a touch of sauerkraut and mustard thrown in for good measure. We got slightly lost in the Sunday crowds and the service was a bit slow, but I didn’t mind waiting with my pint of beer, surrounded by wood paneling and mounted deer heads.
Being in Hahndorf, surrounded by sights from Europe, somehow made me feel slightly closer to home for a few hours. It was a real culture shock to leave town and suddenly emerge back into Australia.
St Kilda Adventure Playground
No family trip would be complete without finding the best local playground. We have developed a sixth sense on this trip, but set off with relatively low expectations down a dead-end road to a playground in St Kilda, just north of Port Adelaide.
The facilities at St Kilda were overwhelming and the kids didn’t know where to start. This place must have cost a lot of money to build, yet the location was unusual, being a long way from the nearest residential areas, and it was practically empty every day we visited. I suspect there are crowds in the summer, setting up barbecues in the shade, but at the start of winter it was fairly desolate.
The kids don’t really seem to care whether somewhere is busy or not, and St Kilda nudged into their top four playgrounds of the trip so far – the others being in Christchurch (Margaret Mahy), Wellington (Avalon Park), and Perth (Kings Park).
I’m planning to write a book when we get home with full details of all the best parks and playgrounds visited in New Zealand and Australia – please drop me an e-mail if you’d like to reserve a copy in advance (!).
Best Curry in Australia
I may be proved wrong on this one, but we topped off our visit to Adelaide with what must surely be the best Indian restaurant in Australia.
The kids were starving by 5.20pm, so we patiently waited in the street for the doors of Jasmine to open up at 5.30pm. I told the kids it would be worth the wait. This was based on the fact that Jasmine was the best Indian restaurant in Adelaide according to our good old friend, Trip Advisor.
The head chef was a sprightly 84 years-old according to the restaurants website, so I had high hopes for some good home cooking. The menu was short, with around ten dishes to choose from. In my experience this is an excellent sign, a restaurant knowing what it wants to cook, and focusing on quality rather than quantity.
Jasmine was a treat for us and a definite step up from cheese sandwiches. The food was stunning and we were clearly keeping good company. The restaurant’s display cabinet showed at least a dozen autographed cricket bats from touring teams that have passed through. We had the England team of Graham Gooch and Michael Atherton, a touring West Indies side, plus quite a few visits from the Indian cricket team themselves.
We’re leaving the safety of our family home in Adelaide before we start to put down permanent roots, and heading for a drive along the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne. I keep hearing that it’s only an eight-hour drive, but we’ll stretch it across a few days given that we’re not in any hurry.