Just under 3000 km separate Esperance from the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. In between? Plenty of time to lose our passports, find them, sample (more) craft beer and superb Shiraz and get lost in secondary roads.
Across the Nullarbor Plain
The Nullarbor Plain, that stretch of land full of nothing between Western Australia and South Australia, ended up being not so boring. In just over a thousand kilometres, you can find a few Roadhouses, the world’s longest golf course and one or two bends.
While the roads in Kazakhstan were blessed with pot holes, the ones in Australia come with other, more special, surprises.
Eventually, trees give way to bushes which in turn give way to… nothing. Nullarbor literally means “no tree”. But remember, this is Australia, always expect something cool just around the corner – mind you, that corner may be a long way ahead.
And before you know it, you are in South Australia, having lost 2 and half hours courtesy of a new time zone. First town, Ceduna, famous for its oysters – excellent.
After lunch, the conversation went like this:
So, what is there to do in South Australia?
Hmmm, let me see… it says here that South Australia is responsible for more than half the production of all Australian wine
Oh, well that is not too bad, is it precious?
The good days
South Australia produces so much wine, that you are likely to end up driving in between vineyards, whether you planned for it or not. From Riesling in Clare Valley to Shiraz in Barrosa Valley, this is a journey through years of winemaking tradition that will be hard to forget.
The wine tasting is free. I just want you to enjoy your time and follow your palate.
Said the loveliest lady ever as she prepared a couple of glasses for us. Two hours later, she sent us to our next stop, another winery of course. By the time we got there, it was nearly past their closing time, but they were kind enough to let us sample five of their wines. And more:
We are really sorry for rushing through the wine tasting
Oh please, don’t worry, it is our fault for coming so late in the day
Still, please take these two bottles of wine with you and enjoy them tonight
Ermmmm, thank you!!
Luckily, our camping spot was just around the corner. That night we drunk wine on mugs while we watched the sun setting over barley fields.
Happy, despite having lost my sunglasses at some point in between the Riesling and the Shiraz.
And the bad ones
Try to pack too many things in one day and you will end up missing the essence of everything. Our mantra, the one we inevitably forget every now and then.
Like trying to rush a half day visit to Adelaide, the state capital, boasting plenty of historical buildings and a stunning botanical garden. We should have spent more time there, but we were late.
Late to check out the shopping street and the central market. Late to drive to Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German settlement.
Exhausted after a day of moving a lot and living very little, we ended up having a beer at The Prancing Pony, a very cool brewery with some excellent ales.
The sofa looks comfy, does it not? So comfy it is particularly easy to drop anything in there without noticing. Like a very special bag containing our passports and a lot of cash.
With the next day came the determination of turning things around. First, a dip in the ocean to wash out our sins.
Next, a visit to Goodieson Brewery, in McLaren Vale. The good thing about small breweries – apart from the beer of course – is that with a bit of luck you will get a very personal experience. More than two hours we spent with Jeff and Mary, the founders, learning about their story and their hops. Very inspiring.
After driving back 50 km to reclaim our passports, things were already looking much better than the day before.
For dinner, cheese, smoked salmon and a bottle of shiraz – from the Barrosa Valley of course – watching a lake full of cockatoos. I could get used to this.
The beauty of secondary roads
A proper road trip finds its purpose at slow speeds. It is there, on secondary roads and gravel tracks where you can pull up for a stroll in place like this:
There are towns like Penola, which seem to be anchored in the past, with cottages full of charm and locals eager to open their doors for a chat about anything, from politics to baking and other nuisances of life. Others like Mt Gambier, hide mysteries that science is yet to explain, like why the Blue Lake is so… blue.
These less transited roads also give a chance to spot wildlife. A couple of rabbits here, an overweight koala there and a snake, sunbathing on the road after a meal. Tired of driving? Stretch your legs with a walk – the views are free.
A note on Aussies
Paula says I talk to strangers too much these days. I don’t know what it is with this country but everywhere we go, we find people willing to help or just keen to have a friendly chat. Perhaps it has something to do with the sun. Or maybe the excellent wine. The food? The stunning beaches? Everything??
Australia’s most famous coastal road and one of the most liveable cities on Earth – Melbourne