Four wheels, two beaches, one gum tree – and farewell to Glenelg…
Saturday 7th March 2020. Today marked a major shift in our visit to Australia: we were to get a set of wheels… Normally, our holidays abroad wouldn’t warrant renting a car. I prefer to take a break from driving and let others do the necessary, but as already mentioned on Day Four, there was no longer a train service to Keith, so if I wanted to follow in my parents’ footsteps, I had to get behind the wheel myself.
But the long drive to Keith would be tomorrow. Today we needed to find our way to the other side of the airport to collect the SUV I booked online months ago, and explore the local sights a little more. Unlike our experience so far, not everything was to go to plan…
“Did you know you’ve got TWO vehicles booked with us?” said the girl behind the counter. We’d just arrived by bus at East Coast Car Rentals on Richmond Road. We’d congratulated ourselves on finding our way there so easily, even getting away with a free ride because the driver couldn’t change the twenty dollar note we’d offered for our fare. So news of a double booking did not go down well. Especially when the lovely Lauren followed up her announcement with “And they’re both pre-paid!”
In short, the online agent I’d used (Opodo) had b*ggered things up. Fortunately, only one payment had been taken, but it took several phone calls and signatures on documents before we were able to drive away in our gleaming white Hyundai Accent. Very soon the cock-up over booking (and insurance) was shelved at the back of my mind as I struggled with the need to remember my indicators were now on my right. And which way was it back to the motel?
Once order had been restored, we were determined to make use of our new toy and travel a little further afield. Our first destination was a neighbouring resort a few miles south, which had been recommended to us by more than one person. Google Maps helped us navigate past Glenelg’s Jetty Road until we hit the picturesque neighbourhood of Brighton, where another street of the same name gently sloped down to the sea.
It was at this point we realised the importance of understanding the local regulations over parking a car. Over the last couple of days we had noticed street signs with 2P, 3P or similar in bold letters. One of these was prominently displayed near an eminently suitable space right next to the main street cafés and boutiques. What did 2P mean? We asked the nearest shopkeeper, who told us we could “P” freely for up to two hours. What a relief…
The atmosphere was warm and friendly, hustle and bustle of the most relaxed kind, and after a brief browse up and down, we decided we’d spent enough energy to earn ourselves a good ol’ Aussie meat pie each. There was clearly a popular bakery close to the seafront, and we found a friendly guy behind the counter. Recognising our accents, he told us he once visited Britain to look up friends in Bristol. Did he enjoy it? “You bet!” As I handed over the cash, he scooped up an additional piece of sausage roll and brought all three plates over to our table in the sunshine. “Our speciality for you to try, on the house. Enjoy!” And we did.
Afterwards, we returned our empty plates, crumbs all licked-up, and thanked him for the extra portion. “I hope the English were as nice to you as you Aussies have been to us,” said Elaine sincerely. “You bet!” was the reply. Then as we were about to leave, he handed us another bag of goodies. “Something for you to have with a coffee later.” We couldn’t believe it. Inside were two ‘hot-cross-bun-flavoured’ doughnuts. Don’t you just love Aussies?
We never went back to Brighton, but this guy gave us a very good reason to want to come back to Australia. What an ambassador for both his business and his country.
We headed a little further south, but the coast road came to an abrupt end and we decided instead to turn north and seek out another recommendation: Henley Beach. Our cyclist companion Luke had particularly sung its praises, so why not?
Through neighbouring Glenelg, past the airport, we found ourselves back by the seafront in a quiet residential neighbourhood. No signs 2P or not 2P, but plenty of space, so this time we walked down onto a broad, and largely empty, swathe of sandy beach in temperatures that would have filled the equivalent anywhere back home. One of the benefits of visiting Australia at this time of year is the place is so vast that it is easy to have a football pitch-sized beach to yourself. Between us and the roadway was a very small patch of dune-like grass and scrub, and the lack of commercial units added to the general appeal, all the way to the distant jetty by the lifesavers’ clubhouse. We took off our shoes and indulged in paddling and picking up seashells.
We were ready to walk on water, so we did (on the jetty). Broad smiles on our faces at being here, we were just two out of many others enjoying the good life. Around us were people line-fishing, others just strolling in the sunshine – and three young lads cooling off by jumping into the sea. Someone had posted signs prohibiting this very act, but hadn’t turned up to police it. “No worries, mate.” Neither had we.
Another hour or so (who’s counting?) was spent taking in the scenery with the aid of a cold beer and a coffee, watching the world go by. Here’s a picture of Elaine and I showing off our new Yoga technique to the locals… (as if)
But we couldn’t let time pass by altogether. It was our last day in Glenelg, with at least one particular sight still left to visit. Returning to our motel, we made a brief detour into the nearest thing we’d seen to a housing estate. We’d come to look at a tree.
As the day drew to a close, we determined to make our last evening in this lovely part of the world as special as possible. After making a start on re-packing our cases, showering and changing, we walked back to Moseley Square via the beach. The sun was dipping lower and lower towards the distant horizon, and the light was pure gold. Crowds of people still thronged the sand and the promenade, so we joined them near the jetty and marvelled at the setting sun over the water. Could life get much better than this?
Elaine had her heart firmly set on some Vietnamese food in a restaurant she spotted previously, and it turned out to be a good choice. A busy atmosphere and tasty cuisine at good value, with more friendly Aussies at the table next to us. They were in town for the Adelaide Cup weekend (think Royal Ascot), and she was a milliner, so you can imagine where her focus lay. I’m guessing the guy had his attention on the fillies. The only thing lacking was the alcohol – so with that in mind we finished our meal and went looking for somewhere that a) didn’t have loud music playing, b) too many youngsters, or c) too few staff to provide a service. That was three venues round the Square that failed the test, so instead we walked back to the marina – and floated our boat!
The Oyster Bar met all three criteria, with a table for two and a friendly buzz. We’d settled for a glass of wine each, but Elaine soon had her eyes drawn to where two girls and an older man were sipping something resembling Guinness in a shallow cocktail glass. “Excuse me,” she said. “What is that you’re drinking?” “Here, have a sip!” said one of the girls (Aussie, of course). We learned this was an Espresso Martini, and it tasted as good as it looked. Now I should say at this point that I am aware this is NOT an Australian speciality. But our introduction to this drink DID come with an invitation to sample yet more Aussie hospitality. Somehow the drink flowed a little more freely, the chat did something similar, and I still marvel at how many of these little glasses passed our way when they cost $18 a pop… All I can say (or remember through a pleasant haze) is that Kristen, Annie and Don absolutely made our night, and once we took our leave for that short stagger back to the motel, it was the wrong side of midnight!
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