A family holiday. It’s been a while since we could say we had one of those. This holiday had been in the planning stages for months, and on the last Friday in September all that planning was put into action. The plan was this: drive from our home approximately 1 hour north of Albury, NSW to Adelaide where we would stay until the next Friday. Then we would travel to Cape Jaffa, near Kingston SE in a region called the “Limestone Coast” because of its abundance of limestone. Then the following Monday we would travel to Mount Gambier and stay there till the Thursday. Then we travel back home via an overnight stay in Bendigo, Victoria, to home.
Off to Adelaide we go…
This was to be by far the longest day of travel on the holiday – approximately 800km. We woke early (about 3:30am) and within 30 minutes or so we were on the road. The plan was to travel as far as we possibly could before breakfast. As it turned out we got to Moulameine before we decided we were hungry enough for breakfast. After a quick change of driver, we were off again – me eating breakfast while Rebecca drove. The drive was really nothing spectacular, through fairly flat terrain and not as much traffic as I thought there would be, until we reached Tailem Bend in South Australia. After some lunch there, we were on the road again for the last stretch into Adelaide. This involved getting over the Adelaide Hills which was steep, and winding in places, but all Freeway (called Motorway or Expressway in other parts of the world). And to make matters more interesting we had a third lane of extra slow truck traffic and some very steep descents from about the last 10km or so into Adelaide. For the steep descents into Adelaide it was not unusual for me to put the car into 3rd gear and let the engine do the braking which generally worked well unless there was extra slow car traffic in front of me (that was more common than what you might think). Then we arrived at the Tourist Park we were going to be staying at while in Adelaide, nestled in a valley about 10km from the centre of Adelaide. Before long we had the tents set up and were thinking of what to do in the days following.
Adelaide’s Natural Proximity
The next day being Sabbath (Saturday, in case you’re wondering), we decided to do some exploring of the many conservation and natural parks around Adelaide. It was quite surprising how close we were to them, and how close they were to central Adelaide. The first one was Morialta Falls and Giants Cave in the Morialta Conservation Park where I was surprised to see dry country vegetation, with steep rocky mountain sides, waterfalls, and lots and lots of walkers and runners. Where I grew up in Melbourne, Victoria, and other places we have visited or lived we never had quite that combination of contrasting elements although the Grampians in Victoria’s west was similar.
The next place we visited was a Wildflower Garden in the Black Hill Conservation Reserve, where there was a large collection of native plants suitable for the sometimes harsh and dry Australian climate. You might be tempted to think that a harsh climate can mean less variety and beauty, but the variety of plants in the Wildflower Garden showed that inspite of the harsh climate often associated with Australiam it can be a place of great floral variety and beauty. From near the Wildflower Garden we could see all the way across to the industrial area in the harbour area, and the sea beyond.
From there we went to Waterfall Gully. A very descriptive place where is is… a waterfall, in a gully. But the name doesn’t adequately describe the beauty of the place. Let me try and describe it in words before you look at the pictures. Approaching the head of the gully, the thin stream of silvery water gently cascades down the jagged rock face into a serene pool surrounded by flowering plants and reeds. Now, here are the pictures…
Eliana wanted to go to a beach, so we headed south west from Waterfall Gully to a bit south of the suburb of Glenelg where we had lunch. After lunch, while Rebecca and Eliana relaxed on the beach, I went for a walk and found myself in the rather ritzy and posh looking Glenelg, with it’s Stamford Hotel, pier, old buildings and multi-storey accommodation further along the beachfront. Along the way, I happened upon a number of groynes (no, not groins) which are basically bags of sand strategically placed along the beach to aid beach conservation. There are also some strategically placed large rocks, in similar patterns to the groynes which I assume is for the same reason – to stop sand movement. They apparently slow the movement of sand along a beach, which appears to be a big problem in Adelaide, as there is also a sand pumping system in place to return the beach sand being fed north by the water back to points along the beach further south. So the sand goes in a big “loop”- it moves north, and then is returned to a designated point by the sand pumping system and so it continuously “loops” rather than relentlessly heading north over time.
After I returned from my walk, we got in the car and headed further south to Hallet Cove Consevation Park. We had a bit of trouble finding this, but after some going back and forth, following a “bicycle way”, and meeting someone who looked remarkably like Tony Robinson (the English TV personality), we eventually found it. Hallet Cove is a bit like entering another world – the scenery is very “raw” and almost primeval and has the look of being half-finished and unrefined. A very interesting and spectacular place. Apparently it was formed by glacial activity during the Ice Age. I can’t say for sure as I wasn’t there, but some people seem quite sure that’s what it was caused by.
Eliana, our youngest daughter, is Panda crazy. That’s the best way to politely describe her. And the Adelaide Zoo has… Pandas. So our stay in Adelaide would not have been complete without visiting that zoo. But there was more than just pandas in the zoo, and it took us the best part of a full day to explore the whole zoo. From tigers, lions and giraffes to the more unusual tapir, capybara and others it was very interesting. To get there we walked to the nearest railway station from the Tourist Park and caught the train to Adelaide then walked to the zoo from there. That meant we also had to do the reverse, which amounted to about 8km of walking, not including the walking around the zoo itself.
The other zoo we visited was the Monarto Zoological Park, about 40km or so over the Adelaide Hills towards Murray Bridge. This was very different to the Adelaide Zoo, being much more “open range”, and we got to see giraffe, lions, hyenas, zebras, etc, in a more natural setting. It was there that I learned there are actually about 9 different ‘species’ of giraffe, and that the ones at the Monarto zoo were not a purebred of one species but a mixture. I’ll have to take their word for it. It was here too that I got to see a true blue live Tasmanian Devil for the first time, and I didn’t realise they were as big – about the size of a large overweight domestic cat. And, no, the Tasmanian Devil looks nothing like the Warner Brothers version. Sadly, the Tasmanian Devil in the wild is beset with a rather nasty cancerous growth which is still puzzling scientists. The growths are terminal for any devil that gets them, as eventually it makes the creature not able to eat so it starves. But there is some hope – there is an active breeding program in places like Monarto Zoo to preserve the species and hopefully be able to re-introduce “clean” Tasmanian Devils into the wild at some point in the future, I imagine after the cause of the cancerous growths is found.
Also at Monarto Zoo, is the Southern White Rhinocerous – a critically endangered species. The Northern White Rhino is already doomed as a separate sub-species as of Rhino as there are only 2 females and no males known to exist. But the Southern White Rhino’s future as a species is a little more secure as a number of zoos are actively breeding them to keep the species alive. Sadly, those that try to protect the Southern White Rhinos in the while often get killed in the line of duty as much or more so than the rhinos themselves. Kudos to those that put themselves in harm’s way to protect these magnificent creatures, but it also shows that there is a very definite dark side to human nature that greed and selfishness will cause us to hunt and kill any creature to the point of extinction, and kill those that try to protect them.
Things that run on rails
While in Adelaide, I was hoping to do some train trips around the city. I got to do that when we went to the Adelaide Zoo, but I also got to indulge my love of things that run on rails at other times. One of the days we were in Adelaide, we explored the central business district. And we also caught the Glenelg Tram from central Adelaide out to Glenelg and back. I was familiar with the Melbourne (Victoria) trams, and the Sydney Light Rail. And was somewhat surprised by the Glenelg tram. Apart from sections in central Adelaide and Glenelg, it felt much more like a high speed light railway than a tramway, travelling quite fast in places, and on it’s on dedicated right-of-way. We also went our to Outer Harbour on a Deisel Multiple Unit (thats a term than means more than 1 deisel railmotor attached together). It was also somewhat of a surprise, as I imagine railmotors as being somewhat slow to excelerate, but this was not the case. We also went on an electric train journey in Adelaide before heading back to the Tourist Park for some well-earned relaxation and dinner. I must say I was very impressed over all with Adelaide’s railways and tramways.
For photos and information about the train and tram journeys we did in Adelaide, go to my Model Trains Blog
The Adelaide Hills
To those who have never visited the Adelaide Hills, it may be that the TV News paints a picture of the Adelaide Hills being a place of bushfires. And at some times of year that will definitely be the case. But there is also a lot of less dangerous and more interesting things to experience in the Adelaide Hills. We visited Harndorf, a township and surrounds settled by German Lutherans in the 1800s. The plentiful stone buildings, which we discovered are quite common oin Adelaide and the surround hills and towns, mixed with a German Lutheran heritage and some obviously European looking buildings to create an interesting meal for the senses. And Rebecca found a cafe that had a Gluten Free Cheese Cake / Caramel Slice that was about the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted without exception.
One of the more interesting and telling quotes I found in the museum was this one in regards to Harndorf: “no policeman was needed” (Johann Christian Liebelt). Another interesting display showsedthe industriousness of the German Lutherans that emigrated to Australia: “Captain Hahn was so impressed with the hard-working nature of his passengers he negotiated on their behalf for newly surveyed land near Mount Barker. As a gesture of thanks the Lutherans named their new town Harndorf” (In Honour of Captain Harn display in Museum).
The Fleurieu Peninsula
To the south of Adelaide’s suburbs lies an area called the Fleurieu Pensinsula, a part of the state that juts out into the Southern Ocean. The name sounds French (and it probably is), but the town names are decidely un-French: Victor Harbour, Goolwa, Hindmarsh Island, to name a few. We visited each of these towns. Victor Harbour was probably the most interesting for me as it had two types of railways – a horse-drawn tramway out to Granite Island, and the Steam Ranger railway that runs on the broad guage railway between Victor Harbour and Mount Barker. The hosre-drawn tram was quite an experience. I don’t think I have ever been on a railway journey that was at such a leisurely pace (the pace of a walking horse), but it was very enjoyable in spite of the howling gale that persisted while we were there. We also got to visit the End of the Murray River – where it meets the sea, which is of interest to us as we live not far from the Murray River but a long way upstream.
We also had a look at the Goolwa Barrage, a device that crosses the Murray River near Goolwa to try to regulate the movement of salt water upstream due to the river’s flow in current times not being ample enough to keep the salt water where it belongs (the ocean). Another example of mankind trying to fix a problem we created (irrigation removing to much water and lessening the river’s flow) by using something artificial (barrages to regulate the upward movement of salt water). Of course the barrages are necessary, now, but once upon a time when the natural order of things was not being interfered with by the veracity of mankind barrages and such things weren’t needed.
To Cape Jaffa we Go
At the end of our stay in Adelaide we once again got in the car for a long drive. But the distance was not going to be anywhere near the distance of the first day of our holiday, about 200 or so km. Along the way we saw a Pink Lake, Lake Albert, and parts of the Coorong National Park. We also got to travel on a car ferry across the Murray River – not that we planned for that, but it was pleasant divesion.
After lunch we arrived at Cape Jaffa Caravan Park. As far as Caravan Parks go, Cape Jaffa has one of the best. The amenities were excellent, including a communal fire pit, large camp kitchen with billard table, fridge, stoves, etc, and great hosts. We had a very pleasant Sabbath there, arriving on the Friday afternoon and not leaving until Monday morning. There was something very serene and peaceful about the place, inspite of the rather loud wedding happening in a nearby house on the Saturday and into the night, and Eliana getting bitten on her feet by a number of mosquitos. The lack of traffic, the gentleness of the sea (due to a long reef about 8km off shore), and the general lack of urban-ness made it the perfect place for a Sabbath rest. About the only down sides to Cape Jaffa as a location is that there wasn’t that much of interest to us in the township (we don’t like fishing, or wineries), but over the whole holiday this was the place we enjoyed the most!
One of the more interesting things we found out about Cape Jaffa is that there is a reef about 8km out to sea, and at one time there was a lighthouse, complete with lighthouse keeper, out on the reef. My camera has a reasonable zoom on it so I was able to get a photo of the original structure that the lighthouse was on. There was also some lighthouse keepers cottages on the cape nearest the lighthouse. After a lighthouse was built in Robe, the one at Cape Jaffa was no longer used, and it was eventually moved to Kingston SE and set up as a museum.
The Limestone Coast
Cape Jaffa is towards the northern end of the Limestone Coast, which has it’s western edge at about Kingston SE (SE = South East) and goes all the way east to the South Australia-Victoria border. On the Sunday while were staying at Cape Jaffa, we explored Kingston SE. When we were there the township seemed tp be having a significant problem with seaweed, with piles of seaweed at least 1 metre or os high along their entire beach. But we didn’t go there for the beach. We explored it’s history by following a township history walk brochure. This revealed to us a rich history, including a narrow guage railway that ran between Kingston SE and Narracorte that has been long since gone, with little more than a commemorative plaque and the odd cutting to indicate that there was ever a railway there. The railway was completed in 1876, but as the locomotives hadn’t arrived by sea at the time the government hired out the rollingstock for use by private operators who hauled the wagons by horse until the locomotives arrived 6 months later. Once they arrived, a daily train service between Kingston SE and Narracorte was introduced.
While we were staying at Cape Jaffa we also township of Robe. Robe is an interesting little town, and we spent the Sabbath afternoon there on the beach near the centre of town. Robe is different to Cape Jaffa and Kingston SE as it has no reef to stop the waves so some of the beaches have more of a surf beach feel, although the beach closest to the town seemed quite sheltered with only fairly small waves.
On the Monday after we arrived at Cape Jaffa, we were once again travelling, this time to Mount Gambier. Along the way, between Robe and Beachport, we stopped at the Woakwine Cutting, a cutting excavated through solid rock by 2 men, because one of them needed a way to drain a swamp off his farm. Even though the 2 men had some machinery to help them, the cutting is an impressive feat being up to about 34 metres deep at it’s deepest point, and more than 1km long.
Beachport is a pretty place. Although typically beach side villages are. It has it’s share of Norfolk Pines, a jetty, some pretty rugged beaches and some interesting rock and seaside features. While passing through there, we drove a scenic drive out towards one of the headlands and found a lake nestled amongst the sand dunes, a “London Bridge” type headland, a very steep sided surf beach. After a quick toilet stop, we continued on our way.
By the time we arrived Millicent, it was about time for lunch and Eliana’s mosquito bites were causing her some grief, so we purchased some “Subway” food and while Rebecca went in search of a pharmacist to get some anti-histamines and other things to each Eliana’s mozzie bites, I went in search of the railway station. The Millicen township centre is perched on top of a rise, with the houses and railway precinct below. It wasn’t hard to find the station and I explored the station, and other infrastructure for a while before heading back to the car to continue our drive. Also at Millicent, we saw a number of old vintage cars, and noticed a rather striking looking building in the town centre.
It wasn’t long after that, that we arrived at Mount Gambier, and set up camp. And then the rains came.
I had been to Mount Gambier many years ago, when I was in my early-teens. And had never been back since. But Rebecca and Eliana had never been there. When I went there many years ago, I am pretty sure it was in summer, so the weather would have been somewhat warm. I remember exploring the township, the crater lakes, walking around one of the rims, and visiting the railway station (which was still in use at that time). I also remembered visiting the Cave Gardens in the middle of town and Sinkhole on the outskirts of town, as well as the various volcanic craters and their lakes. I got to acquaint myself with them again, and this time I was able to take photos. On the southern edge of Mount Gambier there are a number of volcanic craters, 2 of which have lakes in them – Blue Lake and Valley Lake. When I visited Mount Gambier many years ago, I remember there also being another lake – Browns Lake, but the only evidence of that lake is a nicely grassed area near Valley Lake. I guess lakes do dry out permanently sometimes.
The Cave Gardens and Sinkhole seemed about what I remembered, but the railway station is no longer used as a railway station, and the area around it is now converted to a nature reserve / playgound / art precinct / walking and cycling paths. It’s always a bit sad to see a railway station that is no longer used as a railway station, but at least it is still standing unlike some which have been totally demolished. One thing I did notice is that the Tailem Bend and Mount Gambier station buildings had a very similar style to them.
On the evening we arrived at Mount Gambier, I developed a cold, and Eliana was still suffering from here mozzie bites. We had planned to stay at Mount Gambier until Thursday morning. But as our options for further things to do due to Eliana’s mozzie bites and my cold seemed somewhat limited, we decided to cut our holiday short by one day and head for Bendigo on the Wednesday instead so we would be home on Thursday.
After we all returned home, I had 2 weeks of holidays left, and so I went on a train holiday. The write up for it can be found on my Jims Model Trains website .