The Caves, The Caves

The Caves, The Caves
Naracoorte, Australia

Naracoorte, Australia

I thought it would be a rather picturesque drive from Tailem Bend to Kingston SE on the way to Naracoorte. Along the coast, the sea lapping along the SA coastline, the flats, the stone cottages. Instead two hours of unrelenting low lying brown shrubs and flooded flats. It just didn’t change. Almost nothing else. Driveways to homes stretched miles off the tarmac. Everyone else fell asleep – Aidan for most of the trip. I wish I could have.

The only memory I have of Kingston SE was as a seven year old visiting Adelaide. Dad bought me a Giant Lobster pencil with the crustacean sitting on top. It was one of those souvenirs that last years. Like my map of Disneyland. For some reason I just kept it. And this time I decided it was Rosa and Aidan’s turn to keep their own Giant Lobster pencil.

Only one problem. When we eventually drove into Kingston (the AFL grand final was about to start) the lobster shop was closed. And looked like it had been for quite some time. I read about the history, and it seems it was a struggle to make a go of it. The through traffic would only be busy during the summer. Still, there were at least four cars parking in front of the deserted shop taking photos of the ever so slightly mouldering lobster.

Aidan, having just woken up, stayed in the car.

Strange town. Massive wide streets, expansive foreshore. There’s so much room here everything stretched out as much as it could. It was also deserted except for the two pubs. The opposite of a European seaside town. Jo wasn’t impressed. We spent the afternoon watching the Dockers blunder and smother either way to a 15 point loss. Terrible team to watch. I left when the Hawks stretched the lead to 31 points.

We diverted to Naracoorte, purely so Aidan could go to the Naracoorte Caves the next day. He loved it, although I still balk at having to pay $60 or a half hour tour. I would have preferred just to run riot myself through the caves.

We shot it home without too many stops. Glad we bought Aidan with us this time. He had a good time, especially considering it was not beach weather, we played board games three of the days and the Barossa is not exactly child paradise. I think they’d just prefer a week at the beach, but it had been a good while since we had a holiday, and this was a decent excuse for one.

Victor Harbor, Average Age 104

Victor Harbor, Average Age 104
Victor Harbor, Australia

Victor Harbor, Australia

We had several extra days in South Australia this time. I wasn’t sure quite what to do when planning the trip, but I’d never been to the Fleuriue Peninsula since we’d lived in Adelaide many, many years ago. Victor Harbor seemed the largest town of the lot, so I booked three nights there.

It was a sleepy town full of retired couples that looked like it lived two lives, one in summer and one out of season. I was happy for the easy nature of the town in Spring. Nice weather, but without the crowds.

We took the tram and horse to Granite Island on the first day, took a good hour walk around the island, clambered over rocks and ate our rolls. It was a leisurely few days that followed. Bit of a look around the Whale centre (tried some whale watching, no luck but they were out and about most days) and even went swimming with the weather hitting a rather balmy 23c. Absolutely freezing, but that didn’t stop Rosa. She stayed in an hour or so.

I could imagine the forshore swarming with kids in January here. There’s three huge pubs, but on a Tuesday night there was only a hanful of drinkers in them – although one still had security. The drive in bottle shop had a special ramp and entrance for motorised buggies. There was almost no graffiti in the town either – and every restaurant had pensioner nights. The Thai restaurant must have had it on a Tuesday, it was full. The Indian next door was almost empty. Even the surf shops had their music at respectable levels.

Kangaroo Island seemed another good alternative on the penninsula – but not at $180 per car and $90 per person for a 45 minute ferry ride. We had to make do with the photos of happy families walking through sunbaking seals along the beach. Looks great.

Groundhog Day via Hahndorf

Groundhog Day via Hahndorf
Hahndorf, Australia

Hahndorf, Australia

We booked a night in Hahndorf, mainly so Josefa could visit the Hahndorf Candle Store and buy one of those expensive German Pyramids or Schwibbogen decorations. Still not sure what she bought except we left the shop before she bought it, and she wouldn’t tell us how much it cost.

Hahndorf is the cultural (commercial?) heart of the German immigration experience in South Australia. They’ve left a decent mark, surviving Anglicization, planting vines and berry stores and brewing local beer.

A German guy working at a video production company we use told me Hahndorf was a like a “slap in the face” when he visited. I take that to mean it is German kitsch. Anyway, despite the cuckoo clock shops, I’ve always liked it, especially during the week when it’s not so busy.

We took a quick look up and down the shops, headed to the playground and then debated about dinner. I liked the look of the German pubs, Richard prefered the all you can eat buffet. We went for the all you can eat in the end, happy that it was “Chewsday” and the kids didn’t end up paying at all. Ate a lot, but that didn’t stop us buying a few donut pretzels at the German bakery.

Who knows what happens if we eventually get to Munich, between the Playmobil, the euro games, the marionettes and the German Christmas gifts AND the bakeries, we’d have to take out a second mortgage.

We also managed to visit BOTH the Melba Chocolate Factory (best chocolate frogs ever and, for the price, awesome chocolate) and the Giant Rocking Horse for the second time. Aidan was scared of the peacocks and we had a laugh at Rosa trying to outrun the alpacas with her feeding bucket.

Richard left us at Hahndorf and the four of us headed down to Victor Harbor.

All Aboard the Eccentric Express

All Aboard the Eccentric Express
Tanunda, Australia

Tanunda, Australia

Back to the Barossa and back to ConCentric for the second year in a row. Josefa wanted a holiday, the kids were off school, and there were games to play. This time Aidan came with us. Other than that, apart from a far quicker trip over and Richard deciding to take the plane, it felt like a carbon copy of our last visit.

Nothing had changed at the Barossa Valley Junction Motel, that’s for sure. Everything looked the same. The carriages were a little older, the grass a bit longer, but the staff, the paintings for sale on the wall, the lame kid’s carriage, the smell of sulfur, the gaming hall…it’s as if they’d closed the place down for a year and waited for us to return.

We got upgraded to a much better “carriage”. An extra room, two televisions, a mattress that didn’t curl at the edges. The kids thought it was great.

Can’t begin to tell you how eccentric this place is. Half the time the lobby is empty. Not sure how tempting this is with the wine bar, the souvenirs and the lolly shop left completely unattended (we waited for ten minutes to pay for lolly cigarettes) for shifty fingers. Anyway, the owner didn’t even put our drinks or $2 for the pool table on a tab, relying on us to pay when we had the money on us. Which, funnily enough, we did.

It was a good three days of gaming, interspersed with babysitting the kids. I took them to the Tunanda swimming pool and when Jo and I went out each day to Maggie Beer Farm or the local playgrounds as well. Beautiful weather, and the gaming room was windowless and dark, so good to get out.

By the end the place seemed deserted apart from the gaming stragglers, so not so much of a problem letting Aidan run around the place.

While the games were just a sideshow, I must say I enjoyed the ever slightly decrepit eccentricness of the Junction Motel more this year. Must be because we skipped the pricey dinners and went out to Tunanda or Nurriootpa instead. Unsure if we can make it three years in a row, and the Barossa isn’t really a kids paradise, but it’s a relaxing long weekend.