Testing our wheels to Rapid Bay, unwelcome news, a special dish for Elaine – and some friendly emus!
Friday 20th March 2020. With our base at Sue Mac’s re-established, it was time to try and resolve the question of our return flight(s) to the UK. We were nine and a half hours ahead of London time, so the best we could do this morning was what the agent (Travel Trolley) had originally suggested: send them an email at least 72 hours before our flight to confirm arrangements. Then all we could do was wait.
Linc and Lyn’s generosity had put a car at our disposal, so today we could tick off the last place on my personal family history list: Rapid Bay. Seventy years ago, my parents had a rare opportunity to visit a nearby beach when one of my Dad’s work colleagues offered them a lift in his vehicle. The journey was only a few kilometres, not much further than our route today, but walking there in 1950 would have been a huge ask. The Bay is not large, featuring not one but two jettys and a stretch of sand and shingle, but it also has a place in South Australian history. In 1836 it was the first part of the mainland on which British sailors landed prior to Holdfast Bay (Glenelg), where Colonel Light chose the spot to build Adelaide.
The older jetty was built for shipping to take away limestone ore from a quarry close to the shore, but mining ceased there toward the end of the twentieth century.
The jetty fell into disrepair, and a second one was built alongside for the principal use of fishermen. Today it is a popular spot for catching squid, as evidenced by the inky black marks on the concrete slab surface. We were told this by a guy hoping to catch some from the two lines he had already cast. When we spoke he had only managed to catch two leatherjackets, full of bones and therefore thrown back. I hope we changed his luck.
Trailing across to the opposite side of the Bay we were drawn toward a huge cave in the cliff. By the look of the graffiti inside it was clearly a popular place, but mindful of stories about people getting caught by high tides, we didn’t linger.
Instead we returned to the car before stopping again only a short way along the road out of Rapid Bay. I’d spotted something that looked familiar on the way in, and wanted to make a closer inspection.
Going to the cinema in 1950 was easy enough if you lived in a town or city. Often there were multiple choices of ‘picture house’. But in the country? Smaller communities often used multi-purpose halls to set up a projector and screen for specific occasions, and the Veales had evidently enjoyed such an experience at Rapid Bay because my mother wrote about it in one of her letters. Lillian Cole had also confirmed the existence of such a hall at Rapid Bay in a letter sent to me a few years ago – with a photo of the building that had also served time as a village school. This was what I’d recognised. No Dolby sound or Cinemascope – but it must have made marvellous escapism at the time.
I was finding the Jackaroo easier to handle now, and so we decided to drive twenty minutes up the road and do some shopping at Yankalilla (or “Yank” as it’s known locally). We’d been invited back to Linc’s tonight for a special supper, and needed extra supplies. What we hadn’t banked on was an extra surprise:
An email pinged its arrival on my phone as we put our shopping in the car. Emirates had just cancelled our return flights, suggesting we contact our travel agent to make alternative arrangements. This I did (by email again) as soon as we got back to Sue Mac’s.
We needed a diversion. I found one just a short walk away. To wind the narrative back a little, it had been just a week ago that Elaine and I saw our first wild kangaroo. This time yesterday we had seen another as a graphic illustration on the wall above the Adelaide Arcade. It had been paired up in a coat of arms with another native Australian animal: an emu. And two of these enormous birds were apparently living in a field across the road. So we went to meet them.
Let me explain something here. This is a sizeable field that contains a small number of sheep, as well as two emus, so these were not wild. We had spotted one or both birds while driving past, but we were curious what they might be like close up. Were they timid creatures? Did they spit? (Oh, sorry – that’s llamas…) Our verdict: Not timid. They appeared as curious about us as we were about them. Oh, and one of them had a sheep as a minder. Honest – best pals. Don’t they have gorgeous eyes?
To the Cape for supper. This one had been promised for months, and it was in Elaine’s honour – crayfish. Linc is a keen fisherman, and has been known to catch the little critters when out in a friend’s boat. He let this slip in an email last year, and as Elaine is keen on eating shellfish, he’d promised to keep one in the freezer until our visit here. While the rest of us ‘made do’ with sausages and potato salad, Elaine tucked in to her own special plateful, washed down with something chilled and alcoholic.
At 6.30 pm local time it would be 9.00 am in London, and there was a reasonable chance of being able to speak to a travel agent and follow up on my earlier emails. The phone conversation was reassuring. While someone would investigate all options and get back to me within twenty-four hours, the initial reaction was that they could re-route us on the same day next week, probably by making an extra connection at Perth.
But as Big Sister Sue had already told me, the situation was changing by the hour, not just by the day. We slept easier that night, unaware how much worse the situation would get.
Hot deals on the Market, new rules on the bus, and the keys to the Jackaroo!
While the Sydney version had been quiet and disappointing, Adelaide’s was seemingly bigger and better in every way. Focused around food, the stalls were packed with colourful and quality displays of unusual and exotic fruit, pastries, meat and vegetables, cheese and yoghurt – with some tempting cafés serving breakfast. We lingered longer than expected, spoiled for choice before settling for an English-style fry-up with HP Sauce… Wisely, we kept to half-portions, as we’d learned that full Aussie plates were not calorie-controlled.
Our reluctant exit took us through the Chinese area next door, where Elaine spotted a jewellery stall. After a thorough investigation, and a battle negotiating a neurotic credit card machine, she walked away with a silver chain costing us/me 17 Aussie dollars (c £8.50).
The shady side of King William Street saw us returning to Elder Park and a fresher breeze by the river – but not before Elaine seized an opportunity to add another yoga demonstration to her portfolio. (This one’s called “Warrior”)
Beer o’clock comes early on hot days. The walk since breakfast had been both scenic and beneficial for our health, but other facilities beckoned, so we returned to the bustling streets that sprung south of North Terrace.
This attractive building (Beehive Corner) stands at the westerly end of Rundle Mall, near to the Paringa. We wanted to stay close to the motel, as we would need to return there by 2.30 to collect our bags. Remembering a street bar we’d used on our last visit, we strode up the Mall and had the undivided attention of two bartenders mourning a quiet day.
We stopped briefly in K-Mart (Australia’s bargain department store), then continued our browsing in the more attractive and historic Adelaide Arcade.
This was a place I’d spotted on our last visit, but time had been too short. Note the animals forming part of the heraldic crest above the portico. (Questions may be asked later) The Arcade has been around since 1885, and while it has survived the ravages of time pretty well (and a serious fire), it still maintains a distinctly classy appearance. That’s despite being split into two levels with some major re-designs at some point in the twentieth century.
But time was pressing, so we returned to the Paringa to wheel our bags back to the cooler waiting area of Franklin Street Bus Station.
Boarding the Sealink bus to Cape Jervis was our first proper introduction to restrictions resulting from the spread of the coronavirus. Passengers had to keep their distance. Every other seat had a cross taped on it, and we were told we must all sit individually, by the windows. So, I sat behind Elaine. No worries – it seemed like a novel idea, and gave us each a good view of the scenery for our two-hour trip.
Our driver Tony told us there would be only four stops during the journey to the Kangaroo Island Ferry Terminal at the Cape – the fourth one being ours. These were all scheduled around individual bookings, either to pick up or drop off. I was impressed with the whole business, relaxing into a comfortable leather seat where I could forget about driving and appreciate my surroundings. We followed the coast south and onto the Fleurieu Peninsula, through townships like Yankalilla and Normanville with which we already felt familiar. Then we passed Sue Mac’s place at Delamere before descending to the Cape.
Our stop was outside the Cape Jervis Tavern, chosen because the due time (5.30 pm) coincided with the Community Club being open. The regular Thursday night session would bring Sue Mac, Lyn and Linc, and Lillian and Alan Cole together, and we could meet them at the Clubhouse, two minutes’ walk from the Tavern. It was another perfectly executed plan – we’d only wheeled our bags about fifty metres when we spotted Lyn approaching in their car. As we flagged her down, Linc pulled up from the opposite direction in their older car – a 4WD, fondly known as “The Jackaroo”.
Here was another example of Aussie generosity: knowing we only had a rental car for a week, yet we’d be staying at Delamere for another few days, Linc had kindly offered to lend us the Jackaroo. It would give us some independence, as otherwise we would be reliant on Sue Mac for transport in an area where a car was essential. Tonight, all we had to do was put our bags in the back and drive to Sue’s.
It felt good to be with our friends again, and to be welcomed by familiar smiling faces – our adopted home community. It also helped to sit down to a nourishing meal of home-cooked chicken carbonara, washed down with a glass or two of wine, and catch up on the news. The charity lawnmower racing had been held while we were in Sydney, although not everything had gone as expected. Sue had to slip away for part of the evening for an inquest, as she was part of the organising committee.
We were getting to know a wider circle of the locals – Lorraine, Kay, Robert and Moira – and now two more faces we’d not met before. Wally and his wife Alvie had driven all the way from Alice Springs, in the very heart of Australia. The thousand-mile journey would be pretty punishing for most of us, but while this couple were both reputed to be in their nineties(!), they took it in their stride. Wally is a retired road-train driver, accustomed to hauling huge loads across the country over many years, and he had a host of stories to tell about his experiences.
But now it was my turn to focus on driving again. After the well-lit hall where we made our farewells, the car park seemed pitch-black. We found the Jackaroo from memory of where Linc had left it earlier, and Elaine and I climbed inside. It was still black as pitch until Elaine found the light-switch above our heads. This was just the first of several hurdles we’d to negotiate before we found ourselves back safely on the road. Turning on the ignition was straightforward enough – it was, after all, in the same place as all the other vehicles I’d driven. But certain things were different: a) it was a diesel vehicle, b) it had a manual gearbox while I’d got used to driving automatics, and c) Linc had left it in gear. It didn’t help that my feet had now completely forgotten what to do when faced with three pedals. Which one was the clutch again?
Having mastered reverse gear and found the headlights, I did eventually manage to point us in the right direction. Driving that switchback road with all its inclines and swooping descents, but without the assistance of streetlights, was an adventure in itself, so it was with some relief that we reached Sue Mac’s house unscathed around twenty minutes later. Re-united with our belongings, as well as with Lizzie and Kato, it felt just like home.
Barangaroo on The Rocks, a social encounter, changes of plan – and freaks on the street…
Wednesday 18th March 2020. It’s back to Adelaide today – but there’s a snag: Our return flight has been put back a little (not for the first time), and transferred to another airline. As a result, we’ve had to cancel the shuttle bus that should have met us at the airport. We’ll have to rely on a public bus to get us into the CBD instead, but at this end we do have a private shuttle arranged to take us to Sydney’s airport, for a similar charge as we’d have had to pay to sufficiently top-up our Opal cards.
Our journey would start from the hotel at 3.30, leaving us a few hours to kill. There’s a relatively new attraction opened near the Harbour Bridge, and with a name like “Barangaroo” it had to be worth investigating. The walk there took a familiar path, although we only found the entrance after seeking help from a guy who worked there. The Barangaroo Reserve is a green and pleasant stretch of parkland celebrating Sydney’s indigenous heritage. We began by watching a short movie concerning aboriginal culture handed down to present inhabitants. But not a didgeridoo in sight. Instead, we wandered along a path at the edge of the harbour until we saw a small group of people posing for photographs in front of The Bridge. They hailed from South Africa, but had the same gregarious nature as the Aussies. Somehow Elaine was inspired to pose too – displaying her yoga skills at balancing on one leg. (I’m told it’s actually called “The Tree”.)
The heat was rising, so we sought the shady side of the street to find our way across to The Rocks, and to the Italian restaurant where we had been serenaded on Sunday night. This time we enjoyed a pizza, but also a conversation with a fellow diner whose cruise around the coast of Australia had just been cut short. She would be flying back to Oregon tomorrow, another victim of cancellations caused by the spreading coronavirus. Her news made us grateful that (so far) our own plans were proceeding much as planned.
Our final destination in Sydney was a tram journey away down George Street. We got off at Chinatown and walked a short way to a large indoor space called Paddy’s Markets that (to us) seemed disappointingly quiet, with many stalls closed. Some of the stallholders were voicing concerns about their businesses if something called “self-isolation” took off, but there were still plenty of fruit, vegetables, clothing and souvenirs on offer. Then curiously we saw our Blackpool neighbours from last night. Their plans had also been changed. Bali was off, and their travel agent had advised them to return straight to the UK by the first available flight. Oh dear…
Returning to the Woolbrokers to meet our airport transport, we had plenty to think about. Up until this morning our “trip of a lifetime” had been exactly that. Now it appeared threatened by an early curtailment. But with the rest of our belongings hundreds of miles away in Delamere, we had little choice than to continue with our plans until we were reunited with our luggage. Neither Emirates nor our own travel agent had made contact with alternative advice, and I was due to email them on Friday to confirm our return journey at their own request. All we could do was to stick to our itinerary until then, and hope for the best.
So, then we had another surprise.
Sometimes the unexpected brings good news. Upon arriving at the airport we had to find the check-in desk for Virgin Australia, as we had been unable to use the online service when our booked flight had been transferred from TigerAir. The girl at the desk was cheery and helpful – and then offered to put our (overweight) bags in the hold, free of charge! Ker-ching… The experience got even better on board, with a bright and chatty flight attendant handing out complimentary savoury snacks with a glass (or two) of wine. Well done Virgin Australia!
And farewell to Sydney.
The flight had left late, and arrived in Adelaide around 8.30 pm. We found ourselves running for a bus and caught it just in time, dropping off in the heart of the CBD with a short walk to our final motel of the trip: the Adelaide Paringa.
With dusk falling rapidly, we were surprised at the warmth of the air. It almost felt oppressive, and after another conversation through a door intercom, we were relieved to reach our room and turn on the air conditioning. It was an upgrade on the Woolbrokers, but we would only have the one night to enjoy the comfort. And after depositing our bags there, our immediate need was alcoholic. Where might we find a cold beer?
I’d chosen the Paringa for its central location as much as its price. We were on Hindley Street, just off King William Street with Rundle Mall opposite. Our first impressions of the city at night were a little off-putting. A group of teenage boys were crossing the road as we arrived, one of them barefoot, and the words that leapt to mind were “street urchins”. All the shops were shut, very few people about, and we found ourselves walking back up Hindley Street to a bar just round the corner from our motel.
This had the quaint English-style name of “The Little Pub”, but there was very little resemblance to anything we’d seen at home – especially in these temperatures. Elaine found a table outside while I ordered the beers, and when I brought them out to her, she was already being chatted up by one of three men at the next table. “Anyone gives you any trouble, I’ll sort them out for you. There’s a lot of freaks round Hindley Street.” He spotted the beer in our glasses. “West End? That’s shit beer, mate.”
A toast to all the freaks of Hindley Street, then. It was small comfort to see “The Little Pub” was just across the road from the Police Station. So, we stuck to just one beer each and legged it back to our room as quickly as dignity allowed.
Crossing the Harbour, Manly pursuits raise the temperature – and something is going viral…
Tuesday 17th March 2020. St Patrick’s Day. But one like no other in history. Last night we heard the first nervous twitches about the growing threat of a coronavirus. Our airline (Emirates) sent an email, assuring customers of their vigilance and flexibility. Family members reported of a situation at home that was “changing by the hour”, and then news broke from Ireland: all their pubs and bars were now shut. Hey, this thing might just be getting serious…
But this was to be our last full day in Sydney, and after carefully considering her list, Elaine decided we should go to Manly. Several reasons for this: a) more than one person had recommended we go there, b) it would involve a ferry crossing of the harbour, thus providing a different perspective, and c) as it was some distance away, it would be best to have the maximum amount of time at our disposal to explore. So back to Circular Wharf we went.
We were lucky enough to be just in time to board a fast ferry, and find a sheltered spot at the rear of the boat. It gave me the opportunity to capture a view of the Opera House that we could only get from the seaward side, then the ferry speeded up on its twenty-minute voyage.
The approach into Manly Cove was picturesque to say the least. A mini headland flanked the bay with sundry pleasure craft anchored all around, and the ferry slowed its approach to a much smaller wharf than we had left a short while ago. The atmosphere was consciously laid-back – the Manly trademark, as we were to discover.
I’d studied a map before we arrived, so I knew Manly straddled a narrow neck of land leading to a higher point known as North Head. Our focus was the main beach on the opposite side from the wharf, and after the cool wind buffeting our ferry, we were experiencing genuine heat for the first time since arriving in Sydney. Once we’d reached the end of the pedestrianised shopping street, a place serving ice cream had already caught our eye, plus another serving iced coffees. As for the beach, well – yes. Bigger and better than Bondi!
Our energy already felt sapped by the unexpected higher temperature, so we sat for a while, taking in the hustle and bustle of a busy promenade. We were lucky to find a seat, and once there I set about the technical demands of trying to photograph the surfing community among others.
Elaine decided it was time for a change. Leaving me to play photographer, she went back into the shopping centre and reappeared wearing a new T-shirt. The clouds were thinning, the wind dropping, and the bikinis self-evident. What a contrast to Bondi Beach, where wet-suits were all the rage – and I don’t just mean the surfers…
We did take a gentle stroll along the sweep of the bay, followed by a leisurely amble back to the ferry wharf. The purpose of this was to find something to eat. Elaine had checked out some street food vendors when we’d alighted off the boat, and it looked perfect for a shared punnet of mixed salad that we could take away and enjoy at a bench in the sunshine.
Each of us found the fare on offer very tasty – but then Elaine spotted something even tastier: some topless hunky men…
Manly has a lot of water-based clubs – surfing, sailing, rowing, swimming etc – and it seems likely this lot were a club act. They soon put their man-boobs away and entered the water to swim out to a boat moored about a hundred metres offshore. Where they went after that, I have no idea. Was this some training with the Olympics in mind?
Our own interests were more leisurely, involving ice cream, another T-shirt (for me) and Happy Hour. This last spent at a bar near to where we’d spotted the hunky guys (in case they returned). They didn’t.
The nice thing about sipping cold beer in warm sunshine is that it gives you an opportunity to think. We worked out that, if we caught the fast ferry back again by around 5.30, we could get back to Darling Harbour in time for another leisurely drink at last night’s bar and enjoy their Happy Hour… (No, we’re not alcoholics. We just like people-watching. Honest!)
Regretfully, we left Manly behind with fond memories. The sunshine and the pace of life seemed to have seeped into our psyches, and this part of our adventure had indeed been about relaxing Aussie style. What a g’day.
Now here’s a coincidence: when you travel halfway across the world for a trip of a lifetime, you don’t expect to bump into one of your neighbours. That’s not exactly what happened here, but it’s pretty close. There we were, sitting at the bar in Darling Harbour as planned, when Elaine overheard what sounded like a Lancashire accent from a table behind her. Her inquisitive nature got the better of her, and she struck up a conversation.
We learned the couple came from Blackpool, around twenty miles away from where we lived. Even more unusual, the guy used to live in our home town of Longridge! It was by talking to them that we learned more about the growing threat of the coronavirus.
Their own holiday had taken in Perth and Melbourne, and they were shortly heading to Bali, but were concerned that new travel restrictions might curtail their plans. The latest news we heard was of five deaths in Australia from a disease originating in China. Five! How did that compare to deaths from crossing the road – or normal influenza? Surely this whole thing was being blown out of proportion. No need to lose sleep over rumours like that!
We were soon to re-consider…
Clocking the QVB, braving the waves of Bondi, oriental smiles – and a Very Happy Hour!
Monday 16th March 2020. Next on the list: The weather’s windy and more rain is forecast – so let’s go to the beach… Really? Remember, this section of the epic adventure was under Elaine’s governance, and Bondi Beach sat at Number 3 of the iconic spots she had down as a ‘must-see’. The research had been done yesterday while passing through Circular Wharf. “Is there a bus, and where do we catch it?” The answer was “No worries… Number 333 goes from the end of the block here.”
So, our second day started much like our first. We walked across the Pyrmont Bridge, braving the winds that were at least pushing the clouds away. (Brollies were unlikely to cut it, even if we did catch some of the wet stuff.)
A diversion beckoned on the way to the bus. Our route yesterday had taken us past a magnificent looking building next to the stop where we boarded a tram to Circular Wharf. While we had no intention of doing the same today, the Queen Victoria Building (or QVB, as it is known locally) looked to be worth a peek inside.
Occupying an entire city block, the QVB houses over 180 of Sydney’s finest fashion boutiques, jewellery shops, cafés and restaurants. It’s been there since 1898, and is as splendid inside as its exterior.
You can see its appeal from the above. There are two sections like this, separated by the area under the central dome, and above each half hangs an elaborate timepiece. The detail and the mechanical animations are best observed from each of the upper balconies, but this will give you an idea of the scale and elaborate nature of one of them, known as the Great Australian Clock.
We arrived at Circular Wharf just in time to wave goodbye to a Bondi Bus, but only had a ten-minute wait before another showed up. The skyscrapers were soon left behind as we drove east through the suburbs for thirty minutes, thankful that the rain had not yet put in an appearance.
I’d like to say Bondi lived up to expectations, but let’s face it, the expectations (mine) were not set very high. The weather was not on its best behaviour, it was the start of autumn, and neither of us had brought a surf board. But it was a nice stretch of beach.
Not as pale and fine-grained as Glenelg, the sand was still appealing, while it appeared the water could still draw a few keen surfers.
But the beach interlude was necessarily brief, as neither of us had remembered to bring the factor 50 or even a towel, so we browsed the few shops opposite the promenade instead. Which was when the rain appeared with a vengeance.
Shivering in the shelter of a café serving coffee with cheese and ham panini’s, we decided we’d seen all we needed to of Bondi, and made a dash for the next bus back to the CBD. The rain did its damage just before we boarded the 333, and drifted on elsewhere to find more victims – leaving us half an hour or so to dry out and then ponder our route into Chinatown.
We alighted at Hyde Park (no, not that one) and headed south and west until my mental compass and the proliferation of oriental symbols told us we’d reached our destination.
Exploration of an indoor market kept us occupied for at least an hour, especially the assortment of Asian ‘street food’ on offer, but we eventually settled on an authentic Chinese family-run restaurant. The friendly smiles won us over – as well as the temptation of dishes of duck and beef, with noodles and proper China tea. Filling? Tick. Tasty? Tick. Doggy bag? Sadly, no.
We wandered north again, in the direction of Darling Harbour. There’s a Chinese Friendship Garden here – all very feng shui and lovely, but there’s a charge to go in and only half an hour until they close – maybe another time. Instead we continued through Tumbalong Park, which combines grassy lawns with fountains and unusual water features. Suitable for adults and children alike, it is a popular area for public relaxation, and with the wind and rain now a distant memory, we did as others were doing. Watch the water flow this way. Open the gate. Now the water flows that way. Close this one. R-e-l-a-x.
A female voice carried across the air in song. Somewhere nearby a girl strummed a guitar, soothing the whole of Darling Harbour with her melodies. We walked on, taking in the ambience by daylight – so different from the firework spectacle two nights ago. Almost every bar was indulging in Happy Hour, and we found a seat with a view at one with a longer hour than others. White wine at $5 a (large) glass… Dusk was not deterred by the occasional flurry of rain, and neither was our female songstress. Maybe just one more?
Sydney’s iconic landscape, splashing out on the Rocks – and a sweet serenade…
Sunday 15th March 2020. A new city. A new place to wake up in the morning. We were getting used to this transient life – and loving it. Living out of a suitcase was the new norm, even if there was still more packed into it than we actually needed… Our stay at the Woolbrokers included breakfast, but nothing on the scale of the Glenelg Motel. It was a help-yourself scenario: cereal, fruit and toast, washed down with juice or a hot drink. A dining room with many more tables than guests (two other couples about to finish when we came down), but a surprising volume of really useful tourist leaflets and magazines available in the adjoining hall. I pounced on a handful so that we could plan our day properly.
We were staying just to the left of Darling Harbour on the plan above, which covers most of the iconic locations for which Sydney is known. Elaine had a list of preferences to work on, and right at the top were the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge – conveniently close together. How to get there? With our Opal cards already devalued by the journey from the airport, we were conscious of the need to use public transport (including ferries) sparingly – at least until we could see how our budget was stretching. On with the comfortable shoes then.
Our route took us across the Pyrmont Bridge to George Street, in the centre of the CBD, where we caught the tram to Circular Wharf. It was only three stops up the line, so an ideal opportunity to see what impact that made via Opal, and hasten our journey to the hot spots at the same time. A scan of our cards on the platform as we got out indicated we’d used a little over two dollar’s worth… Better.
We were now in the thick of it. The hustle and bustle that surrounds any city tourist spot was all around us. Five sets of wharves for the operation of the ferries met an overhead train station, a bus terminus and our own Light Rail stop. The sweep of the harbour held a huge cruise ship (Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth) at berth, and in the far distance beyond stood the famous bridge. Concrete and glass office blocks towered above us, behind and to the right, hiding our view of Elaine’s first objective.
Our first glimpse of what Linc calls “that building with the funny roof” immediately made me reach for the camera. Everyone else was doing the same, or showing off with an iPhone.
What to do first? Perhaps go on a tour inside (ideal if the promised rain showed up), or make the most of the sunshine that warmed our shoulders. We decided to check out what an Opera House tour involved, but three hours of our day plus the $49 ticket price each seemed a tad over-exuberant. Instead we had a quick peek in the foyer and moved on.
That roof is what draws everyone’s attention – rightly so. Clive James once likened the Opera House to ‘a portable typewriter full of oyster shells’, but what would he know? Its architect, Jørn Utzon, designed the shells as sections of a sphere, and constructing them in the late 1950’s proved difficult and expensive. That held up completion of the building until 1966, during which Utzon fell out with the politicians holding the purse strings. His designs for the interior were not used, and he left the country in disgust – never to return. But his legacy was as spectacular close-up as I expected.
Okay – no more documentary stuff. Having circled the whole thing once, we made our way to the Royal Botanic Gardens – or, at least, we walked along the side of them by the harbour’s edge. I was fascinated by what appeared to be a giant chandelier, sitting atop a floating dock across the water.
I wonder what it’s for? Maybe it’s an Aussie version of a posh lighthouse… STOP PRESS: Wait – I have a guide book that tells me this is the site of an outdoor opera, where “a giant chandelier shimmers over the harbour stage with 10,000 Swarovski crystals”. I knew I should have packed my tuxedo.
We were distracted by a first flurry of rain. Out came the brolly from the backpack for the first time, and we sheltered briefly near a coffee bar at the far end of the gardens. Deciding that standing with a hot drink during a rain shower in Sydney was not a good look, Elaine elected to walk on into the Gardens and try for a cold beer somewhere by the harbour. It doesn’t take much to persuade me of how good some of my wife’s ideas might be, but we took the scenic route.
The Gardens cover about 30 hectares (the guide books tell me), with 9,000 plant species. I didn’t feel inclined to count them myself, but there were a heck of a lot, including some very impressive bamboo.
Try getting lost in that lot. Personally, I was more impressed with the trees. I am unaware of the particular variety, but this one (below) was truly awesome. (Yes, that’s Elaine in the centre!)
Another feature of the Gardens I found unusual was the number of these white birds I so nearly tripped over. Almost as common as British pigeons, and similar in habit, they are often described by Aussies as bin chickens, tip turkeys or dumpster divers – which says a lot about their occupation. Their proper name is the Australian White Ibis.
We walked back through the Elizabeth II Gate, bypassed the building with the funny roof, and were just a hundred metres away from the high-end shops and bars of Circular Wharf when the rain made a come-back. This was no light shower, and Elaine curiously found an excuse for investigating a large Ugg store to check out the new line in fur-lined boots, plus their over-priced T-shirts. But the rain did ease eventually, and left us with the opportunity to sit awhile over two (over-priced) cold beers. Mind you, it was a good view.
Our exercise continued past the busy wharves to where a group of people were enjoying music (of a sort) and the antics of three colourful characters – one of whom was persuading a sound out of something I am reliably informed was a didgeridoo. Elaine offered to show him what else he could do with it, but he declined.
Alas, such exertion was not for us, as Elaine does suffer from vertigo, and we could see what was involved from afar… (see those ants below).
No, all we wanted to do was walk across it – which is easier said than done. We had to ask directions how to reach road level, then do a bit of climbing up a million steps (who’s counting?) until we found ourselves in the middle of a wedding celebration.
A photographer was capturing some portraits of a bride and her retinue with that icon in the background – so I did my bit too! After all, how often do you really get the chance to see five girls that can stop traffic?
But not to be distracted, we pressed on and finally found ourselves at The Bridge. Aside from its impressive size, we didn’t really need to be at the top of it to have some spectacular views.
Our bridge expedition was limited to just after the second set of ‘pylons’ that form the bridge supports, where we turned back. Rain was still threatening, and tummies were rumbling…
Target for tonight was a Bavarian themed restaurant in The Rocks, the Munich Brauhaus. We found a table in a corner under cover – which was just as well, the rain doing another encore within ten minutes of us ordering a plateful of barbecued rack of ribs and some German lager. Was it delicious? Does an aborigine come from Australia?
Dessert followed further up The Rocks at an Italian restaurant – strawberry cheesecake – where we were serenaded in style by a harpist and a guitarist.
Well and truly chilled, but pleasantly full, we ambled back to the Woolbrokers via Pyrmont Bridge and Darling Harbour.
Sydney was looking very good indeed, and we’d covered over 23,000 steps (ten miles) to prove it. Pass the footbath…
Of trees, museums and excess baggage – plus a unique welcome from Sydney…
Saturday 14th March 2020. “Did the chainsaw wake you?” said Sue Mac as I entered the kitchen a little after 7 am. It hadn’t – one of the fringe benefits of wearing ear plugs. If Elaine’s snoring couldn’t disturb my sleep, what chance for a chainsaw?
It turned out the strong winds over the last twenty-four hours had done some damage to one of Sue’s trees, bringing part of it down over the main road. The hazard to ferry traffic had brought out a couple of the local “firies” (volunteer firemen) in the early hours, and they had used a chainsaw to clear the debris. After breakfast we inspected the tree, finding that part had fallen inside Sue’s fence. There was no damage to her property, thankfully, as that might have restricted Lizzie’s freedom. But as they say in these parts – “no worries”.
We were unable to contribute anything useful in the way of lumberjack skills, and said our farewells mid-morning as we set off for the ninety-minute journey along the coast back to Glenelg. The wind eased aside for the return of warm sunshine, while the forecast for our stay in Sydney was mainly for rain. Would it dampen our spirits? Not a chance! Especially now that we had become better at roo-spotting. Linc had told us to look to our left as we went through a place called Myponga, and sure enough – hundreds of kangaroos squatted near the roadside by the reservoir there. Somehow it felt like we were becoming ‘honorary locals’ – familiar with our surroundings, the driving, and engaging in open friendliness with strangers. There was much more to come, but it would not be without a few stumbles along the path…
We parked up on the Anzac Highway, a few metres from a familiar bakery in Glenelg, at around 11.30. We needed to return the rental car by 2 pm, so that left us plenty of time for lunch, and for one last box to be ticked on my mental ‘to do’ list. Big Sister Susan had preceded my trip twenty years earlier, travelling with her daughter Joanne and our father’s younger sister Pat. Their own visit had not included Keith, but they had toured the Fleurieu Peninsula and stayed a few days in Glenelg. According to Pat in particular, the museum here was a ‘must-see’, and this was our objective today.
Housed in what was the original town hall, the exterior was currently being renovated under scaffolding, but the building remained open for visitors. It sits at the seaward end of Moseley Square, and the museum occupies the whole of the upper floor. Here we learned of the aboriginal history for the area we had visited over the last ten days, and of the background story to why the Old Gum Tree is such an historical landmark. There were audio-visual displays and original artefacts, nuggets of information that revealed how South Australia was colonised and developed – and some often bizarre information relating to twentieth century Glenelg with its social and historic influence at the centre of the area known as Holdfast Bay.
Did I say we had plenty of time? Not enough, in fact. We had our lunch afterwards in the café below, then squeezed in a quick visit to Jetty Road for a lipstick (!) before realising we had about twenty minutes left to get the car back to Richmond Road, and fill it up with petrol…
I’m not shy of taking on a challenge, and this was one of our own making, but it didn’t help morale once we noticed (too late) a place selling cheap petrol. Then insult was added to injury when our last opportunity was over-priced – but (no worries) we did roll up outside East Coast Rentals bang on time. A smiling Lauren was there to greet us again, sending us off on the airport shuttle bus with a wave while we congratulated ourselves at still being able to stick to our long-planned schedule.
Let me take a moment to explain a little about this part of our adventure. For me, the main purpose of travelling across the world as far as it was possible to go, was to follow the path taken by my parents. I wanted to see the places they had been, with the exception of the two-day stopover they had experienced at Fremantle and Perth in Western Australia. When planning the trip six months earlier, I was very happy to go along with Elaine’s desire to include some time in Sydney. She wanted to see for herself those iconic images of Australia that are so familiar through the TV screens and glossy magazines – and why not? So, we agreed that our three-week stay should include four days and nights in the State Capital of New South Wales – a mere diversion of around 900 miles from Adelaide.
Alas, pride comes before a flight on Tigerair. Our two small carry-on bags didn’t cut it for weight. One of us (I won’t say who) had packed enough for a small (female) army, and we bravely accepted a financial penalty for our sins. What were the chances of escaping a similar penalty on our return? I’ll leave you to guess…
But at least this no-frills airline got us in the air on time, and we enjoyed a flight lasting less than two hours before catching a glimpse of the magnificent harbour as we came in to land.
The next challenge was to find our way to Darling Harbour, the area we planned to make our home until Wednesday. The airport is linked to the city centre (CBD) by a slick and expensive rail system. I say that because Sydney’s public transport is best experienced with their equivalent of London’s Oyster card – purchasing a pre-paid card up front, then scanning in and out at each stop en route. Unsure of how much travelling we might have ahead of us, we bought the minimum level card ($35 each), only to have half of it debited immediately – taking us barely two thirds of the way to our hotel! (Future travellers beware.)
Having reached Sydney’s Central Station, we next had a short hop on the Light Rail (Tram) service to a stop called Convention. Research had shown this to be a few hundred yards away from our accommodation, but it failed to tell me how difficult it would be finding where to board the tram after arriving at the Station. We went round in circles for a while, following contradictory signage, before realising the tracks set into the cobbles outside the main entrance were practically the only clue we were going to get. (Future travellers beware).
We disembarked only a couple of dollars lighter, but immediately faced another concern: While the forecasted rain failed to show up, it was now dark, and standing between us and where I estimated we’d find our hotel was a huge multi-storey car park. Which way should we go?
We followed some fellow passengers to the roadside, but was it left or right? For answer, we asked a taxi driver busy cleaning his windscreen. “Which way to Pyrmont Street, please?” He looked up and considered the question for a moment. “Pyrmont Street? Oh, jump in. I’ll take you.” Ah. We politely explained that we didn’t need a taxi. We just wanted directions. “No, no,” he said. “No worries. I’ll take you. Jump in.”
Still unsure we were doing the right thing, we stowed our bags and jumped in. He moved off, drove round two corners, and we were on Pyrmont Street – but in the wrong direction. I had a mental map of the area in my head, and told him we needed to be pointing south, not north. No worries. We did a U-turn and headed south, stopping again practically outside the front door of the Woolbrokers Hotel in less than a minute. Our Samaritan taxi driver had been as good as his word, just helping out a couple of Brit tourists – and earning our undying gratitude and respect. Would that ever happen in Manchester? I hope so.
Accessing the hotel after hours was our next challenge. Standing in the closed doorway with luggage of their own was another young couple. The guy was already on his phone (as a sign instructed us to do) to obtain a secure code for a small cabinet containing their key (and ours). He was the first to inform us of the growing impact of the corona virus: his airline had just cancelled their flight to Amsterdam, and he needed to try and find an alternative.
Hmmm… a sign of things to come? For the moment, we were just happy to carry on with our itinerary – even if this particular bolthole was a little on the Spartan side. The Woolbrokers is an old (even historic) building, and in dire need of an upgrade. But our room was clean enough, and had a bathroom with another huge shower on the other side of a small hallway. The lighting in this cramped aperture was set to economy (in other words “off” 99% of the time), but we managed by propping the bathroom door open.
Excited by the prospect of being so close to some of Sydney’s best highlights, we left our bags and went out again to explore. Following a woman up a flight of steps in what seemed like the right direction, we found ourselves walking on a raised walkway next to a busy road on one side, with towering concrete structures on the other – but then there came a gap, and suddenly the whole of Darling Harbour opened up before us. It was a glittering hubbub of activity – neon lights casting reflections across the water, bars and restaurants heaving with tourists and locals alike, and small boats bobbing up and down at expensive moorings. Reaching the top of a stairway leading down into this glamorous spectacle, we were startled by a small explosion in the middle of the harbour. It marked the beginning of a ten-minute spectacle of fireworks lighting up the sky. We were told afterwards this event happened every Saturday night at 9 pm – but for us, it was simply a brilliant welcome to our break in Sydney.
A turning point, and the World’s Best View from a Loo!
Friday 13th March 2020. Unlucky for some, they say… But today I felt extremely lucky. Being welcomed into the community here had a lot to do with that. Last night we were introduced to so many smiling faces, several belonging to people who had once been migrants themselves, and they could relate to my mother’s story. It was Mollie and Eric Veale who had been the unlucky ones, and the residents here today had every sympathy that, for them, the dream had not materialised.
Our plans for today were also discussed, and as Saturday would see us heading back to the airport for the next leg of our adventure, it made sense to enjoy a gentler pace. That was the sensible conclusion (for one of us) after an evening enjoying alcohol at the equivalent of £1.50 a glass. (I’ll say nothing more, as one of us was conscious of driving 7 kilometres on an unlit, unfamiliar road…)
Chilling out at Sue Mac’s that morning brought an incident that was totally unexpected – but hugely welcome: Cats are intelligent creatures, and Kato is no exception. His experience of the new visitors had so far been limited to a cautious bit of physical contact from the male half. The female was curiously distant, and Kato wasn’t happy about that. ‘Treat humans carefully but equally’ his mum had taught him, so there was no way she was going to miss out on his charms. Seeing her sitting on a kitchen chair with an empty lap was the perfect opportunity, so – Gotcha!
Friday afternoon would see the Barringtons at the Cape looking after the grandies (grandchildren to non-Aussies). But Linc had an idea to temporarily escape from these duties. Last night the conversation had somehow turned to lavatories. Or was it to spectacular scenery? (For some reason I forget) Anyway, an idea for an unusual excursion had come to mind, so Linc had suggested we call round at his house and let Lyn take sole charge of the little ones while he took us ‘off piste’ in his 4 x 4.
We headed back up the road, past the Coles’ house on the hill, and turned off to the right – into ‘Veale country’ near what had once been the Talisker silver and lead mine. Now we were into serious dirt tracks, threading our way to the southern coast past a steep gorge on one side, and rolling hillsides on the other.
A couple of gates barred our way, but with typical ex-police sagacity, Linc shrugged aside any caution – he knew the chances of arrest were as likely as finding a kangaroo in his sideboard. So, we went on almost as far as the cliff edge without spotting anyone else on two legs.
The wind was gusting strongly, straight off the sea. Kangaroo Island was almost hidden in low cloud. We could not have picked a worse weather day for what Linc had in mind, but he had promised us something unique.
Here on the cliffs sat a couple of tin shacks that served as toilets for local workers. Their particular appeal lay in that they had no door, and looked out over the sea. Truly, each was “a loo with a view”!
We inspected one of them very carefully. It was fortunate the wind was coming off the sea, otherwise edging down the path on such a steep slope would have been too dangerous. As it was, it needed a strong nerve to take these photos!
Yes, that bucket needed emptying… and my written inspection will reflect that, but I can testify that the view is indeed spectacular (or it would be on a better day). See for yourself, and that’s Kangaroo Island in the distance, while the water in between is called ‘Backstairs Passage’…
It was a relief to return to the relative safety of the Barrington household, where Lyn was bravely holding the fort. On the way we took a sneaky peak at preparations for tomorrow’s big charity event at Cape Jervis: Lawnmower racing.
Linc’s son Mark and his wife were part of the organising committee for this new venture, hence they’d had to deposit the rest of their brood (four-year-old Reuben and three-year-old Madeleine) with Lyn. We rescued her just as Madeleine flooded the bathroom, prompting a call for mum Lauren to return to base with a change of clothing.
Back at Sue Mac’s we had one last task to consider: how to re-jig our luggage so that we could put all we needed into two small bags. Tomorrow we would be travelling a good bit lighter – to Sydney!
The Cole historians, a glimpse of the past, club hospitality – and elusive kangaroos!
Thursday 12th March 2020. Probably the most rewarding day of my visit, when I would see for myself where my parents lived seventy years ago. And yet there would be little to see that could be recognised, if it were not for the priceless input of one particular couple – Lillian and Alan Cole.
We met with Linc at the Coles’ house, perched on the slope of the hill that looks out over the Cape and Kangaroo Island. Both cars were required as there would be five of us on the tour, with our guides split between the two. Both are now in their eighties, while Alan is the senior and has difficulty walking. His long years farming and working outdoors have resulted in skin cancer, but there’s not much that will stop this tough guy from doing what he wants to do!
Alan and Lillian have a passion for local history, and they were both teenagers in 1950. Their knowledge of the area during the four brief months my parents spent here is personal and invaluable. Alan had copies of aerial photographs taken in that year, and he copied them for me. While they are not coloured, they do clearly show the huge extent of the dense scrub that covered most of the terrain south of Delamere, much of it personally cleared by Alan for arable pasture.
But before the History, let’s start with the Geography lesson: we are in (or on) an area known as the Fleurieu Peninsula – that portion of land about forty miles south of Adelaide that juts out to sea like a sore thumb. To take that same analogy, Cape Jervis is at the very tip of the thumb nail, while Delamere is just above the knuckle. If you were to spread out your right hand, for example, looking at the back of it, Adelaide would be at the start of your first finger, and Victor Harbor at the base of your thumb, but at the farthest point from your fingers. Got it? Good!
Two roads converge at Delamere. The northerly one (from Adelaide) passes through it on the way to Cape Jervis for the ferry, while the southerly one (Range Road) starts out from Victor Harbor. The area we were about to venture into lies to the south of Range Road, and below are two maps to illustrate the subject of my interest. On the right is Alan Cole’s 1950 aerial photo, which I have supplemented to highlight the same roads as on the present-day map so far as they existed then. Three sites of personal interest are also indicated.
Our trek into the Delamere wilderness began at the western extension of Range Road, with Alan explaining how much of the open land we saw had been covered in dense vegetation like the smaller sections we were about to pass through.
Much of the roads we drove on were dirt tracks, little changed since 1950, but where we still met scrub, Lillian explained how they used to clear the acacia undergrowth regularly, as tinder dry conditions could so easily aggravate bush fires.
(Lillian leading the way)
It was a journey like no other for me. On the one hand, part of my brain was comfortable enough driving the car with Lillian at my side and Elaine in the back, following behind Linc and Alan. But another part felt detached, sensing a kind of spirituality from my surroundings. We stopped on occasions, while I got out of my car and sat with Alan, listening while he or Lillian pointed out features, or described how many of the trees we were looking at had been planted personally by them both. The numbers, and the acres, were vast. It was hard for my non-Aussie brain to take in how this land had been transformed over a relatively short period of time. And yet I felt an undeniable connection. As we reached the site where my parents and sister once lived, there was one unmistakeable feature that grounded me, and that seemed to have been left in isolation as a tribute to the little family that made it their home in 1950.
Two photos taken by father and son from almost the same place. The one in black & white is marked on the back as “just outside our front gate”.
The aerial shot (above) is a screenshot from Google, but have a look at this wider shot (below) from Alan Cole’s 1950 version, and note the amount of scrub surrounding the Veale house.
Another homestead now sits on the spot where the Veale family lived…
But apart from the stone-edged beds, there is little to resemble what it used to look like seventy years ago, even if this rear view (below) is from a different angle.
Seventy years ago, my mother and sister went for a walk down the lane at the side of their house and discovered they had a pair of Swedish farmers for neighbours – the Jacobsons. Lillian also got to know them, and it was there that she once met my mother. She didn’t remember her surname, but when asked by Linc if she ever came across any Poms in the area in 1950, she recalled a lady from Manchester who walked with a limp. Peter Jacobson died not long after the Veale family left, but Helga stayed on for several years before moving to the Adelaide area to be nearer her daughter. We have to assume she took the famous sideboard with her, as nothing remains of the original farmhouse. We drove down to the site, and while there were several buildings and signs of habitation, the only occupant we found there was a goat tethered to a small fruit tree who had nothing to say for himself…
Our excursion concluded with a drive along Three Bridges Road – Lillian pointing out the structures built over small creeks, as we wouldn’t otherwise have noticed what we were passing over. There is nothing to see now of the saw mill where my father worked for Joe Hooper, but then this would have only been a temporary structure, dismantled and moved from site to site as required. But the distances between features brought home how isolated mum and dad must have felt. On the night of the rainstorm in particular, it is easy to understand how my dad would have had to remain under cover as best he could, rather than try to walk home.
We split up from Linc, Alan and Lillian outside the Delamere General Store, turning onto the main road in the direction of Yankalilla and Adelaide. Elaine had been patient during my morning of nostalgia, and it was high time we had a look at something other than scrub, fields and acacia.
Linc had recommended we check out Second Valley, being a place on the northern coastline with the ubiquitous fishing jetty, a bit of beach and a café.
We’d gone about ten minutes up the road now from Sue Mac’s place, and it felt good to have a closer look at the other attractions in our neighbourhood. At this point there is no coastal road, and we had to take a small quiet road off the main through route, but at the end of it was a tiny parking area with very few other vehicles, some public toilets and a café/shop. Walking along the jetty, we found a couple of ladies sitting on canvas chairs, enjoying a picnic while their menfolk were line-fishing. One couple was from Essex, enjoying their last few days before flying home. The conversation quickly turned to our observation about the absence of kangaroos, and one of the guys assured us if we continued up the road to Normanville we would find a golf resort – where the number of roos outnumbered the bunkers.
A quick spot of lunch at the café, and we were off again on our quest. In one sense the guy was right: we did find the golf resort – but of kangaroos there was not even a paw-print. Ho-hum.
So we carried on to the beach at Normanville. Another jetty, some kids bathing in the sea, and ice cream for our dessert.
There was no chance of us taking a dip – at least not today – but at least we knew a little more about where we might want to visit again upon our return from Sydney. For now, we had a twenty-minute drive back to Sue Mac’s, time to freshen up and get changed before our next outing: to the Cape again and an evening at the Community Social Club.
The club was built a little over twenty years ago, and contains a large function hall, bar and kitchen as well as gym facilities and a small library – which also boasts two books authored by yours truly. It was a pleasant surprise to walk in and meet not only Lillian and Alan, Linc and Lyn, but also several others who had read my books and enjoyed them. I felt like a minor celebrity!
We were just taking in the rules regarding food and drink (anything alcoholic $3, while tonight’s speciality of a steak sandwich would cost us $8), when the conversation turned to our present disappointment over the absence of kangaroos. “What?” said Linc. “We’ve got some of the buggers just round the corner right now! Come on. I’ll show you!”
And he was right. We rushed outside and piled into Linc’s car. I barely had time to fasten my seatbelt before he turned a corner and… there was one sat on its own at the end of a cul-de-sac. We slowed down and approached carefully while it lifted its head and viewed us warily. Beyond the land was undeveloped, and a few yards distant were another half dozen kangaroos, all staring back at me as I cautiously climbed out of the car with my camera. Would they stay still? Not for long…
Returning from our successful safari (thanks to Linc), we relaxed around the table with Sue Mac, the Barringtons and the Coles. The steak sandwiches were HUGE, filled with what might pass in the UK as an all-day breakfast – minus the sausage and egg – inside a toasted bun the size of a saucer. The interest in history continued, Lillian showing us just one volume of her collations on local history, while I shared some more of the original souvenirs of 1950 Australia that I’d brought to show them.
On the day that, seventy years ago, marked Mum and Dad’s first full day in Delamere, I felt well-satisfied with my own first impressions. I hoped they were still there, sitting on my shoulder and smiling at how history had turned out.
A special anniversary, and meeting old friends for the first time…
Wednesday 11th March 2020. Another anniversary: Seventy years to the day that the Veale family arrived in Delamere, South Australia – our own destination today. If all went to plan, we would finally get to meet at least two of the people I had been corresponding with over the last five years. It could get emotional…
But first we had more personal needs. Despite the excellent meal served at our hotel last night, no breakfast was on offer. Were we even hungry? Well, yes – surprisingly. But maybe it was simply the call of the coffee pot I felt drawn to. At any length we put our research last night to the test and found a café open a short way down the street. They did a mean toasted cheese and ham croissant (with coffee) that satisfied our needs admirably, and then we had time to explore a little more of the seafront.
It was clear that Victor Harbor had a wide range of facilities for both tourists and residents. We found children’s play areas, picnic benches, volleyball pitches, bowling greens, tennis courts and even croquet lawns. The latter were particularly popular with the wrinklies…
Walking back to the causeway, we were just in time to see our four-legged friends start their working day.
Returning to the hotel to collect our bags and to check-out, we managed to find manager Andrew and have a chat. We mentioned the one thing that had started to bug us both about our Australian experience so far: the absence of live kangaroos. He assured us they did exist, and that there were several places where they congregated in large numbers. There was also a wildlife park just outside Victor Harbor, featuring purely Australian animals and birds etc, so if all else failed…?
But the clock was ticking, and we had around a forty-minute drive to reach Delamere, so the Three Bears were coaxed back into their transport, and we prepared for the next leg of our journey. Seventy years ago, Hurtle drove his truck from Keith to Delamere in a single day, with all the Veale’s and their belongings on board. The terrain from Victor Harbor towards Delamere is of rolling hills and open countryside. There are dense patches of gum trees, stringy bark and even pines dotted all around. The countryside was almost lush with greenery, a distinct contrast to the Keith area, and I could imagine my mother’s excitement building at the prospect of living somewhere like this. She would have seen the coast for the first time in months, and maybe licked her lips at the possibility of including fish in her diet. But of course, seventy years have had an impact, and I already knew that in 1950, the trees were a lot denser than we were seeing today, and bitumen road surfaces almost certainly ended at Victor Harbor.
Our new home at Delamere
We were to stay with Sue McFarlane, who lives just half a mile from the General Store at Delamere. Sue Mac (as she is known) was widowed a few short years ago, and now lives with a dog and a cat (Lizzie and Kato respectively). For the next three nights she’d also got us, until we flew to Sydney for a few days, and then (bless her) we’d be back for another week (or so we planned). Her home lies off the main road between Yankalilla and the Cape, a single storey dwelling, surrounded by about thirty acres of planted shrubs, trees and grassland.
It felt like we already knew each other – Sue is a warm and chatty lady (she can talk even more than Elaine), almost exactly the same age as my sister, and she came over here from London in 1959 as a teenager. She has three daughters and other family members scattered over Australia, and has worked on farms and as a nurse. She is a talented seamstress, and takes a keen interest in the local community, including its history. This explained why she took note of my original enquiries (via Linc), and as she had a double bedroom going spare, why she volunteered to take us in. There was just one potential problem: the cat.
Kato is a beautiful male Russian Blue. Elaine is a lovely female Lancastrian – who developed a fear of cats after being scratched quite badly as a child. I have witnessed that fear first hand on several occasions, so we mentally braced ourselves for a potential showdown. Should we have brought a tent instead? The good news was that Kato is a house cat, and not allowed outside. He had also been banned from our bedroom (although he kept forgetting). For the moment, a truce had been declared, and instead Lizzie got started immediately with training me how to play tug and throw her amazing assortment of toys around the garden for the next hour.
Gracious as our hostess was, she declared she would not be cooking dinner tonight. Instead, we were all invited to a fish and chip supper at Linc’s, seven kilometres down the road at Cape Jervis. We all piled into our rental car (now devoid of bears) and followed Sue’s directions. The road was quiet, as is generally the case until traffic for the Kangaroo Island ferry briefly forms. Stunning vistas of rolling hillsides appeared on either side, until the tip of the peninsula suddenly opened up before us and we descended steeply to more level ground.
Mr and Mrs Lincoln Barrington live in a small community overlooking Kangaroo Island. Their low-level house sits on a corner plot two minutes from the ferry terminal, with a pleasant lawned garden and large open driveway. As we pulled up outside a huge double detached garage, Linc and Lyn were ready for us. Hands were shaken, hugs exchanged, and shoulders slapped warmly. We’d been friends for a long time (it feels that way), but this was the first time we’d met.
Much of the house is given over to another (integral) garage that doubles as the grandchildren’s playroom, and as a barbecue area with a large dining table. The latter was its present function, as Linc produced some litres of white wine to accompany a long-promised supper of home-cooked fish (caught by Linc) with chips and tinned mushy peas. Verdict: Oh, so much better than Glenelg!
The Veale’s were back in Delamere, and it was a lovely, lengthy evening with special friends.
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