Another church, a welcome diversion – and more walking on water…
Tuesday 10th March 2020. Time to pack again. Living out of suitcases had not yet turned us into ‘backpackers’, but somehow we were adapting to this new lifestyle. One source of delight for me: Elaine now admitted she had brought far too many clothes with her!
Our target for breakfast this morning was a place we spotted on Sunday evening: ‘Henry & Rose’, a little café just off the Dukes Highway that boasted ‘the best coffee between Melbourne and Adelaide’. It was quite a claim. Since arriving in Oz it had not gone un-noticed that the coffee was almost always excellent. I had got used to ordering a couple of ‘Long Blacks’ with hot milk on the side, and I was keen to see how H & R measured up to the standard we met in Hahndorf.
We waited impatiently outside for the clock to tick over to 8.30. With us was another guy, who had stopped for breakfast on his way to Melbourne, having left Adelaide at 5 am. He told us a truck had overturned on the Dukes Highway some miles back, forcing a diversion that added another ten minutes to his journey. Would it affect us?
Breakfast (and coffee) did not disappoint, and afterwards we walked back towards Makin Street to see how Keith was looking during the rush hour. On the way we passed the old church my parents once attended, and where Mollie had even sung in the choir. Its doors had been firmly shut since our arrival, but now they were wide open.
A notice outside stated that the church could only be viewed by appointment, and with the public holiday closing everything else, I had resigned myself to this being just another lost opportunity. Once inside the porch we could see inside through a metal grille, but could go no further. The building is owned and maintained now by the National Trust, having ceased to operate as a place of worship for many years. It is now a museum piece, and for me it is a wonderful artefact of family nostalgia. Are those pews original? Alas, I’ll never know – but I signed the visitor’s book with gratitude.
That left me with one more task relating to my personal history. I had brought a copy of A Kangaroo In My Sideboard with me, and as it was unlikely I would ever return to Keith, I wanted to leave that book here as a mark of respect for what had happened seventy years before. The Community Library seemed the ideal choice, and so we made a brief stop there while I explained my quest to a smiling young librarian, and left satisfied I had done all that was necessary.
Back on the road again, I was beginning to actually enjoy driving in Australia, and even remembered where to find the indicators. I was not to need them for many miles, as our planned diversion to Meningie was another 65 kilometres distant. I had only two worries: 1) after speaking on the phone to Linc’s sister last night, I knew we needed to reach her house by around 11 am, and 2) what about this possible diversion? We were soon to find out.
We’d been driving for less than half an hour along the highway in the direction of Adelaide when we had to take a left earlier than planned. The road was closed in both directions, and we were diverted at a place called Tintinara. Remembering our breakfast companion’s remark about “an additional ten minutes” on his journey, I started to wonder how this might affect our ETA at Meningie. Indeed, we almost immediately lost connection with Google Maps, and after following mile after mile of quiet country roads with very few vehicles coming towards us – and nothing at all behind – it occurred to us both that we just might be lost…
I pulled over, well onto the verge this time (see Day Seven), and re-booted my phone to try and get in touch again with Google. Hallelujah! With satellite navigation re-established, we found we were exactly 35 minutes away from our destination, and it was now 10.25. The accuracy of that information can only be commended when I tell you we rolled up outside Bev and Mervyn Hill’s house at exactly 11 o’clock.
The aspect from their spacious bungalow was superb. A wide expanse of gently sloping lawn to the quiet roadway, with the reed-lined expanse of Lake Albert on the opposite side. Egrets and pelicans are a common sight over the calm waters, and the peaceful ambience of the spot is unrivalled. Our hosts came outside to greet us warmly, and we were soon sampling tea and biscuits and enjoying a chat in their kitchen.
Our destination later that day was to be the Grosvenor Hotel in Victor Harbor, which is managed by their son Andrew. Our choice of residence had been pure coincidence, mentioned to Linc month’s ago by email, when he had told us that Andrew was his nephew. Linc’s brother-in-law Mervyn had farmed all his life, and Andrew had done the same for a while, until ill health had forced Mervyn to sell up. Even now he had severe problems with his limbs, and needed ongoing medical treatment. Andrew still kept some livestock on his own small homestead near Victor, where he is married to a lawyer.
Bev and Mervyn showed us their motorhome, kept inside a huge garage and workshop, and the fruit trees behind, at the foot of which hid a ‘pet’ lizard, basking sleepily in the sunshine.
Bev was shortly to host a bridge session, so we didn’t linger too long, being anxious to reach the hotel and to explore the neighbourhood. Mervyn gave us some tips on the best onward route, using the vehicle ferry across the Murray River at Wellington, then skirting Lake Alexandrina via another sleepy spot called Milang. The final stretch took us through some truly fascinating scenery which a road sign helpfully explained as ‘Aboriginal Canoe Trees’.
Driving into the sprawling suburbs of Victor Harbor around 2.30 came as something of a culture shock. We had been out ‘in the sticks’ too long. Here were T-junctions, roundabouts, and even temporary traffic lights! There were more single-storey dwellings, but then the centre of town was largely two-storey with lots of shady verandas, many in ‘colonial’ style.
The Grosvenor (above) is particularly attractive, which is why we chose it back in October. It had a small car park at the back, already full, so we parked for a while in a 2P zone on the street and went inside. There was a charity auction going on in the dining area and reception, raising funds to support those affected by the bushfires that had devastated Kangaroo Island in the summer. Unable to check-in for the moment, we walked round to the other side and found ourselves in the main bar. It’s a shame, having to just sit around and drink a couple or four cold beers, but what can you do?
The accommodation at the Grosvenor was basic, but all that we needed. The rooms were all on the upper floor and opened out onto the shared balcony. This would be the only place we stayed where we didn’t have our own bathroom– a communal ‘Ladies’ or ‘Gents’ being available down the corridor. Next to our room was another set aside to make hot drinks, though we had no need for it. We left most of our luggage in the car, just fetching enough up the stairs (no lift!) for the one night we would be staying. Then it was time to see what else the town had to offer.
While Keith this morning had appeared a lot less like a ghost town than in the previous 36 hours, by contrast Victor Harbor seemed positively heaving. This is a seaside resort as well as a large residential area, and one of its particular highlights is Granite Island, reached by a 630 metre timber-built causeway.
Yes, that’s a tram track down the middle. It’s there because a particular attraction of this location is the horse-drawn variety. We’d arrived too late in the day to see them in action, but there were two beautiful Clydesdales berthed in a small stable near the start of the causeway, and we went to say hello.
Another couple joined us with the same intention. We heard the accent and Elaine asked if they were from England. “Yes, we are,” they said. “We’re from Nottingham originally, but we came out here fifty years ago!” Unlike so many other British settlers in Australia, these two still retained their English accents, but were just as chatty and friendly as all the Aussies we had met. Perhaps it’s something in the water?
After watching the Clydesdales get loaded up into their horsebox for a short journey to where they spent the night, we ambled across the causeway on our own two feet. We had no intentions of exploring the island tonight, as there would be a further opportunity during our stay. Granite Island is known for being inhabited by a colony of small penguins, but we didn’t spot any (apart from those below) on our brief visit.
Another couple ahead of us were being escorted by a local lady, and Elaine got chatting to her. She told us a little more about the place, and asked about our own trip. When we mentioned that our plans included a visit to Kangaroo Island, she told us she lived there. “Oh, I didn’t know people lived on it,” said Elaine, who had imagined a similar small island inhabited by kangaroos. “Well, they do!” confirmed our local lady. (More about the size of Kangaroo Island later.)
We returned to the Grosvenor, where dinner beckoned. Bev had personally recommended Elaine try the seafood platter for one, so that was what she ordered, while I settled for the pork. A well-stocked vegetable and salad bar provided Elaine with a generous-sized appetiser, while I played it a little more cautiously. That was a wise choice, as when hers arrived, Elaine’s plate was brimming with fish, prawns and fried squid… Over-faced? You could say that! (Delicious though, she tells me.)
It was all we could do to walk off our dinner afterwards by a little window-browsing around the block, checking out what Victor Harbor might be offering in the morning.
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