This offering is all about the homeward stretch back to Sydney in readiness for Chrimbo. Hang on a minute – whaaat?! How can it be that time already? Yes, the weeks are flying by but lots of adventures still to recall and look forward to. One thing that has been interesting along the way has been the way our current political and economic situation is being viewed. “Which one is it this month?” “How’s the exchange rate looking?” “at least you got rid of the fella that needed a good comb”. There’s no defence or come back, to be honest, but at least it gives us some to laugh about. Funny, not funny.
Anyway, enough of that, this time we will mostly be considering things starting with the letter B: Beverages, By-gone times, Bugs, Broken banks, Bob’s birthplace and beautiful gardens.
I think I’ve possibly covered this ground before (sorry for the pun), but the coffee is always (well almost always) good here and the cellar doors are done to perfection. So what better way to revisit both than to explore Clare Valley which has a very fine collection of each! The caravan park was very well situated and was small but beautifully formed – by that I mean the people running it (Haley & Michael) were lovely and working hard to develop it having just taken it over earlier this year. They’d even roped in their folks to help with the cleaning, gardening etc and everywhere was very well cared for as a result. Anyway, more importantly it was within metres of the Riesling Trail which we planned to explore on the bicycles, and better still it backed onto a winery and cellar door – hurrah! Very nice it was too – Claymore Wines did a lovely tasting session and charcuterie platter hosted by the excellent Jonathan. What’s more we were the only ones in on the afternoon of our visit so we had his full and undivided attention. They are probably better known for their reds – as it’s their passion (more on that in a mo) but I stuck to the whites and pinks. The Riesling was very good indeed and if nothing else, this trip has really altered my opinion of that particular drop. I needed to rid myself of the demons of Blue Nun and the like which I had imbibed in my youth if the false pretence of being sophisiticated and which, had, as a result clouded my judgement somewhat. Anyway, that and the Chardonnay (again my view of that particular variety has changed completely to the point where I rarely order a Sav Blanc – I know! Unbelievable!) plus a nice drinkable rose made for a lovely afternoon. They even had beer for Timmo. Good work all round.
Now their passion for great reds extends beyong the grape. They really like to bring together good wine, music and football (what’s not to like as Timmo would say) so although they pride themselves on the quality of their fruit and subsequent wines, they don’t take themselves too seriously and many labels are inspired by either football or music. The football link to reds is the love of Liverpool FC by the founder of Claymore Wines who spent many years in Liverpool during which time he became a massive fan of the club. They were even appointed official sponsor in 2015 of Liverpool’s tour of Adelaide and were the ‘official wine partner of Liverpool FC in Australia’ for 3 seasons. There’s plenty of LFC memorabilia on the walls including signed shirts when the team did a winery visit and photos with Robbie Fowler – no surprise there me thinks!! Anyway, the wines are good and so was the vibe. Nice one.
We explored the Riesling Trail from Clare in the north to Riverton in the south and we even treated ourselves to an overnight in an AirBnB (don’t tell Bob) in Riverton. Not the most interesting of places but a very lovely traditional villa, a nice hotel/pub with good chat in the bar and a good cafe for breakfast. Not much more needed to be honest. The trip up to Clare was an interesting one. Our destination was Mr Mick’s which is a cellar door/tapas style eatery which is an offshoot of Tim Adams Wines. The Mr Mick brand is named after his mentor, friend and, apparently, legendary Australian winemaker K H Knappstein. It started well, then it rained and went well cold, then there was no power at the winery for a bit and then I did a tasting by candlelight, the power came back on, the food was excellent and then the sun came out. See, all good things come to those who wait.
En route there were a couple of interesting finds to share with you. A good old northern name caught my attention. Lancashire man, John Horrocks, was one of the first European settlers to arrive in the Clare Valley in 1839 at the age of 21 and it was he who established the village of Penwortham (named after his home back in England). He built the first stone building – his cottage which still stands – and lived in a hollowed out old red gum tree until it was built. On one side of its trunk he nailed up his cooking, washing and household utensils and put up a tarpaulin on 4 poles to sleep under. Definitely NOT a southern softie. The tree still stands and the irises which bloom annually under the tree are from bulbs brought by him from England. He set off to explore further afield in 1846 with his camel named Harry (the first imported to Australia) to find more pastoral land but sadly Harry lurched forward whilst Horrocks was reloading his gun (there’s scant detail about what he was shooting…) and he shot himself. He didn’t die immediately but did so 3 weeks later at just 28 years of age. He’s burried nearby his cottage under a (different) tree
The next interesting find was Sevenhill Cellars which was the first winery in the Clare Valley and which was established by Jesuits in 1851 to produce sacramental wine (tell me another one!) Today it’s an award winning cellar door (we didn’t visit it though) and there are many of the original spiritual and historical sites still standing including the very grand St Aloysius Church. It still has a centre which operates as a religious and spiritual retreat for all denominations. It’s enough to drive you to drink lol.
A number of places have provided opportunity to explore by-gone times – the advantage of which is that it’s in more recent history and so it’s so much more relatable to your own lives. We’d managed to have a good look around the town of Broken Hill where the town is literally right next to the mahoosive mine – the reason for the towns existence – and where there is a great collection of historical buildings which have changed very little in looks but lots in their use in most cases.
It made for a nice cultural tour but one site did need a bit of explanation – the Titantic monument. Now, I can easily miss a few details, but I was struggling to see a possible connection. That is until said monument was found and explained that it was a memorial to the band that continued to play on whilst the Titanic sank. Being a mining town, Broken Hill has a strong tradition of brass bands and so all the bands of the town paid for the monument in recognition of the bravery of those band players who were lost.
Another interesting example was Burra. This is a town that really uses its heritage as a tourist attraction. The idea is that you pay for a trail of the local sites and are given a key to go into each one. Now, we’re keen but not that keen so instead we satisfied ourselves with looking at the outside of the buildings but it was the sight of both the St Just Cafe and St Just Store that picqued my interest. It turns out that Burra was strong mining community mainly populated by miners from West Cornwall – namely St Just, Redruth and Camborne! On visiting the Cornish Engine house – I kid you not – it had more than a passing resemblance to East Pool Mine from my National Trust days. I showed a photo of EPM to a young lad in the NT museum there who had to admit there was a strong similarity. Those who know might see it too?
Peterborough (no not that one) was another stop along the way and afforded Timmo a whole day of excitement visiting a motorbike museum and the Steamtown museum . I decided to sit these out (I was train-ed out!) but he shared with me his top 3 favourtie facts:
1) In the 1950s, South Australia was still running three different types of gauge of railway and so any journey between SA’s major cities would require at least 8 changes of train.
2) The Ghan train was named after an Afghan who got onto the train along with his camel (like you do)
3) Concern at the high infant mortality rate cause by meningitis in South Australia prompted the first qualified female doctor – Helen Mayo – to set up a clinic in Adelaide in 1909. In addition, special mobile clinics were set up in train carriages converted for the purpose. One such baby health train was established in Peterborough in 1946 with a recorded 5,752 attendances recorded for the carriage.
Now I could go on a bit about the number of mozzie bites that I received over the course of 2 nights but I won’t. Suffice to say they drove me nuts and the only respite was cold showers, bite relief cream and plenty of wine. There, enough said. What I will report, however, is the shocking encounter with what must be termed a plague (swarm, gaggle, flock) of locusts that we were unfortunate enough to drive through en route to Mildura. I tell you it was like it was snowing there were that many. Made a right mess of the windscreen which was not improved by screen wash. If anything it made it worse. So on arrival in Mildura our first port of call was the car wash to jet wash the beggars off. We literally had to pick them out of the radiator grill and they were still squiggling around as they hit the floor. Yukkkkk. It’s obviously not that rare as the car wash had a special bug rinse as part of the options offered. I’d offer up a photo but they still make my skin crawl just thinking about it. Did I tell you about my million mozzie bites???
Now it had been our intention to visit Adelaide, but to be honest, we had been listening to the news and weather reports and there was a large area of South Australia and South Western NSW that had been hit by massive rainfall and subsequent flooding with lots of roads closed. Heading down to Adelaide and then across from there would have featured some of the worst affected areas so we decided to call it quits this time and head north. We did however visit Mildura – which had been flooded already in October – as we had booked Bob in for a service. Yes over 14,000 kms so far!! and so he needed a good check over. He was even treated to a pair of new shoes and new windscreen wipers (after those bugs no surprise there) because, as the saying goes, he’s worth it.
Having droppped him off at the garage, we jumped on the bikes and rode into town. Stopping in the main street for a coffee we were beginning to wonder what all the fuss had been about, although to be fair, we had seen evidence of flooded plains/land on our route in. After coffee we headed down to the riverside – then we understood. The river was gradually rising and expanding with the flow rate in the centre really quite alarming. There was a pumping house building which showed two previous lines where flooding had reached previously – once in 1975 and another in 1956. Although well below the 1956 level, it was highly likely that the 1975 level would be reached as one old guy we got chatting to mentioned that it had raised by about 125mm in one day! It was strange to see how far the river had breached the bank – there would certainly be no games at the Mildura tennis club for a while… Onward travel from Mildura continued to demonstrate just how much flooding had happened – and how many livlihoods may have been lost through flooded land and lost crops.
Our last stop was in the capital city of Canberra. Now, there had not been loads of encouragement for us to go to check it out, but we felt we should all the same. We are very glad we did. Ok, we were blessed with nice sunny weather which made our planned exploration by bicycle all the more do-able, but the cycle ways into the city and around Lake Burley Griffin at its centre were just fantastic. We were able to see so many of the main attractions in one hit, it was ideal and makes a great centrepiece for the city.
Our second day exploration on two wheels was to explore the Australian Botanic Gardens at the foot of Black Mountain (on the top of which it is the very impressive Telstra Tower that you can see for miles – and have no problems with phone signal!!) Before having a walk around, we were happy to meet up with a couple we had bumped into at the Heads of Bight lookout at the end of the Nullabor Plain, and who we had literally been frog hopping in terms of places stayed at just missing each other by a day – each time promising to meet for a beer! This time we managed it as they live just outside Canberra and it was great to properly catch up at last. Jan and Marian are great company and despite only having really chatted once or twice in passing before, it felt like we’d known them for ages. After a pleasant couple of hours, they had to head off to take some of their family to the airport and we took the opportunity to walk around the gardens. It boasts around 75,000 plants from over 4,300 species from all over Australia. Being an absolute numpty in terms of which plants are which, but someone who loves them anyway, it was a rare treat to be able to both see and understand what I was looking at! Many were already familiar from our travels so that was a very nice way to put a name to what we had seen.
So, that’s about where we’re at for now. We have travelled from Canberra to the coast for a couple of days before we head up to Sydney for Christmas excitement – can’t wait! However, must just mention how nice it was en route to our coastal caravan park in Gerringong to pass Albion Park – a town which is the birthplace of the very fantastic Bondi Bob. We popped into Campervans Australia to say hello to Angela and Ben – sadly Robert who we had bought Bob through was away on holiday – and to share with them just how much we have appreciated being able to do our big adventure in such a superb camper. I think they were a bit overawed by our enthusiasm and, although they are still struggling to fulfill current orders due to the ongoing supply issues, they will no doubt be ready to harness our enthusiasm when they are in a more positive marketing situaton. We will be very happy to oblige.
Next stop Father Christmas!!!
One thought on “Homeward bound (well Sydney home that is!)”
Another fantastic update, it seems strange that the weather has stymied part of your adventure. There’s been a few flakes of snow here, so everything has seemingly ground to a halt. Either that or it’s all the strikes 🤦🏼♀️😫
Look forward to seeing more Sydney photos – well, of one little chap in particular (no, not you Tim 😉)
Lots of love xxxx