Having spent the last week cutting through Australia’s dusty ‘Red Centre’, you’d think we’d have been glad to reach the bright lights of Adelaide – but alas no. Being met with the usual sea of break lights that all too often blights a city, meant we soon wished to be back in the wilderness of the Outback… Fortunately, after checking into a pleasant campsite just a short walk from downtown, past the (eerie looking at night) Botanical gardens, our longing to be out in the wild soon took a backseat while we stretched our legs looking for a bite to eat. It seemed our luck was in; as we managed to source happy hour espresso martinis followed by flavoursome Bao!
Controversial pints while exploring Adelaide
Following a run in with a barista after requesting to close the door – apparently the cafe needs to be kept below 5 degrees to keep the coffee beans fresh – we were soon buzzing for adventure thanks to some Aussie trademark, velvety smooth flat white coffees. Our journey into the CBD took us along the gorgeous green banks of Karrawirra Parri river, watched on by graceful black swans past the Adelaide Oval; a large imposing stadium, famous for hosting Aussie rules football and cricket matches.
First stop was to be the crafty complex of the Jam Factory – an inspirational makers workshop just across the street from Adelaide’s Convention Centre. Not only were we able to enjoy its gallery and shop, but we’d arrived just in time to be given a personal tour of the many studios; featuring a myriad of artists busy working away on their cosmos of creations including ceramics, woodwork, metalwork and glass.
After taking in more galleries, we found ourselves at Adelaide’s famous ‘Central Market’ for lunch, which is apparently in the top 3 markets of the world – oh my days, we were in food heaven! Before a much needed disco nap, we stopped in past the Migration Museum for a sobering lesson on Australia’s colonial past, learning about the awful ‘White Australian Policy’ that sought to exclude people of non European origin (chiefly Asians), from immigrating to Australia.
That evening we tucked into some meaty goodness, in the form of $10 burgers at a local pub, washed down by so called ‘pints’ of beer, or so we thought… Despite the barman assuring me the suspiciously small glasses of beer were pints, a quick Google confirmed that shockingly Adelaide ‘pints’ are just 425 ml – equivalent to schooners in other parts of Australia – rather than 570 ml you normally receive back in Blighty. Despite the outrageously small beers and only having one full day here, we were glad we’d put in longer drives a few days earlier to make it possible – Adelaide is a gorgeous city that often gets overlooked by its bigger brothers: Melbourne and Sydney.
Sipping ancient tawny (AKA port) in the Barossa
Our next days drive was supposed to take us all the way to the legendary outback town of Broken Hill, but our plans soon changed while taking a detour via the world famous wine region of the Barossa Valley. Originally we’d solely planned to take a quick look at Jam Factory’s sister site, but soon got distracted by the neighbouring Seppeltsfield vineyard 🙂
There we checked ourselves onto the ‘Heritage tour’; one of many guided walks available. Fascinatingly we learnt of the original Polish owners plans to grow tobacco, but then jumping on the wine bandwagon back in the mid 1800s. Seppeltsfield is mostly known for their ancient tawny (aka port), including rather expensive bottles aged over 100 years – amazingly in fact, they have barrels from every year dating back to 1878 available to taste! Fortunately, not wanting to part with $150 to taste century old port, our tour gave us the opportunity to try some 27 year old, rich and delicious nectar, almost as old as Joella! Not surprisingly, we couldn’t resist grabbing a bottle of their Para Grand Tawny, before finishing our days drive in Yunta.
One last Outback adventure in Broken Hill and Silverton
An early start the next day took us to the large outback town of Broken Hill by lunchtime; home to where the worlds largest mining company: BHP (Broken Hill Proprietary) was founded. After unsophisticatedly making Vegemite sandwiches in the back of our car while parked up outside the Tourist information, we grabbed ourselves some maps and gave our legs a stretch on a self guided tour of the relatively old (by Australian standards) town and its galleries.
Next stop was Silverton, which felt far more authentically outback and rural. Pleasantly Silverton – once an old silver mining town – reminded us a little of Lightning Ridge; full of quirky artist folk and oddities. We didn’t have the urge to visit the Mad Max 2 museum (as this is where much of it was filmed), but did have a nosey around the many ruined houses and in some of the artist homes that had been set up as galleries.
Following our lengthy walking sessions we needed to regain our sugar levels, so stopped by ‘Bells Milk Bar’, after having listened to an interview with owner on rural Queensland radio a few weeks back. There we gorged ourselves on enormous, lusciously thick vanilla malt milkshakes, while feeling like we’d time travelled back to the 1950’s, thanks to the suitably retro surroundings.
Our day came to a spell-binding close atop of the nearby Desert Wilderness Sculpture Park; where the golden orange rays of the setting sun brilliantly lit up the intricately carved limestone structures. It was sad to think we were now done with the magic of the outback – Australia’s spiritual home; but did take some heart in the experiences and memories we’d had and will treasure forever. Then it was time for pot noodles and bed, back at St Pat’s Racecourse – another unexpectedly random camping spot just outside of Broken Hill, where we were guided to our ‘pitch’ in amongst the grandstands by a grumpy bloke on a quad bike.
Escaping a ‘Widow Maker’ en route back to Sydney
The next days drive needed to be a marathon 10 hour effort, in order to be back in Sydney the following day to house sit for my Uncle and Auntie. Therefore the only stop we had time for, was a toilet break at a lay-by, that had entertainingly been overtaken by a herd of intimidating goats…
As hoped, we successfully made it all the way to Dubbo that evening; an agricultural NSW town that unbeknown to us, would host a visit by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a few months later, due to the severe droughts that plagued the area. Pleasantly we arrived in time to enjoy a few schooners of flavoursome, ice cold Pacific Ales at the Old Bank pub, to celebrate International Beer Day, before picking up some $5 pizzas at Dominos.
That evening we made a choice that could have cost us our life; to spend the night at a popular lay-by just outside of Dubbo. Despite arriving late, conveniently there was a perfectly sized space for us to park up, a short walk from the toilets. Annoyingly, after having setup our beds in the back, I remembered a comment I’d read on wiki camps earlier about dangerous gum trees, nicknamed ‘Widowmakers’. This label had come about due to their habit of dropping huge limbs without warning, at times of stress e.g. droughts, causing death to anyone unwittingly situated below. It was now clear why nobody else had parked where we had! Reluctantly, we shifted our gear off the drivers seat, so I could re-park safely away from the shadows of the murderous wood that hung above us.
Morning broke, and we were glad the same couldn’t be said for the tree boughs! Glad to have survived the night plagued by nightmares of splintering shrubbery, we quickly got back on the road. Following a brief stop past Mount Victoria and Katoomba for lunch, high up in the picturesque Blue Mountains, our 2 month Outback adventure came to a close back in Sydney where it had begun, some 12,000 km earlier. It was nice to be ‘home’, welcomed by beautiful Lillie the American Staffy, and cheeky cats: Bailey and Saskia, who were all happy to see us again 🙂