Adelaide and South Australia (Part 1)

October 4, 2019
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I’M writing a book about Australia now. (Actually, I’ve been working on it for two years.)

This year, I decided to make another trip over there to spend more time in some of the places that I hadn’t properly visited before. I decided to stop over in Melbourne and then fly to Adelaide. And then go from Adelaide to Brisbane, and from Brisbane to Canberra.

And from Canberra to the skifields of Thredbo and Perisher, which I’ve just blogged about.

This post is about Adelaide, the charming capital of South Australia, sometimes called the ‘city of churches’. like this one (St Peter’s):

In fact magnificent public buildings of every kind are a feature of downtown Adelaide, most of them constructed out of local sandstone.

Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Photo by K. Lindstrom, CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Adelaide’s also a city of parks. The inner city actually sits, in several chunks, in the middle of a vast parkland that includes an artificial lake, created on the Karrawirra Parri (River Torrens) by a weir. Since 1935, motor launches called Popeyes have taken people on cruses up and down the lake. The Popeyes also serve as floating stages for performances.

Perhaps because Australia is mostly hot and dry, its inhabitants make a really big thing of parks and gardens, in ways that remind me of the Middle East.

Downtown Adelaide and its Parklands. Map data ©2019 Google, Imagery ©2019 Google, CNES/Airbus, Landsat/Copernicus, Maxar Technologies. North at top here, and in the maps in the current post.

Adelaide was founded on the 28th of December 1836.

The location of Adelaide resembles Los Angeles. That is to say, Adelaide fills a coastal plain running inland from the sea toward a range of hills called the Adelaide Hills. As in Los Angeles, the city centre is halfway between the sea and the hills.

In 1836, the future downtown was an oasis nourished by the Karrawirra Parri, which meanders down from the Adelaide Hills. There is a port, Port Adelaide, northwest of the city centre; and a beach resort suburb called Glenelg to the southwest. Glenelg is served by a tram that runs from the city centre. The tram’s a modern one: but I think a tram to the seaside is still a pretty old-fashioned experience!

The tramway finishes its run at an impressive plaza just behind the beach. You know you’ve arrived. Sunset is the best time, as the sun goes down over the water.

The plaza where the Glenelg Tram terminates, at sunset. The overhead wire is for the tram.

Here’s a short video I made, of a pelican taking off from the beach at Glenelg.

Unusually, perhaps, Adelaide’s city centre has kept an oasis-like character to the present day, even in the face of all of the pressures of urbanisation.

And there are more nature-parks in the Adelaide Hills, and along the coast.

This map shows the state of South Australia within Australia as a whole. The large lakes inland are actually dried-up most of the time. Nearly all of South Australia is a desert, apart from the south-east where Adelaide is.

South Australia, in Australia as a whole. Map by TUBS, CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Karrawarra Parri is a small river. The south-eastern part of South Australia is also moistened by a much larger river called the Murray, which begins in the extreme south-east of Australia near the skifields and flows through three states.

The Murray is Australia’s longest river (2,508 km). It’s the river that’s most important for irrigation in Australia. And like most rivers used heavily for irrigation, it also suffers a wide variety of ecological and pollution problems.

The Murray empties out into the sea via Lake Alexandrina, about sixty-odd kilometres south-east of Adelaide.

While I was in South Australia, I spent some of my time in Adelaide and the rest of the time exploring the Adelaide Hills and the towns, nature reserves and countryside further to the east. Here is a map that shows some key places where I went.

Adelaide and environs. Map data ©2019 Google. Some place-names added for this post.

This map shows the location of Adelaide in relation to the bays and inlets of south-eastern South Australia, and also the locations of some of the places I visited (or failed to visit) in the course of my trip to South Australia this year.

That is to say, places like Kangaroo Island (which I never got to), the Murray River, Lake Alexandrina, Hahndorf, Port Ellot, the Fleurieu Peninsula, Deep Creek, and Raukkan. It doesn’t show the location of the Barossa Valley, a famous wine-growing region which I did manage to get to. The Barossa Valley is just north-east of Elizabeth.

Getting There

I did my bookings through an app called Edreams. That turned into a nightmare! I was confirmed on Edreams and not on Jetstar. I had luggage on Edreams, and no luggage allowance on Jet Star.

Warning: do not make the same mistake as me!

I discovered a very cheap airline called Tiger Air. But what you save on minimum ticket prices with some of these cheap airlines, you lose on hefty luggage charges. So be warned about that. Not being able to access Tiger Air through Edreams at all didn’t help, either.

An app I did find a bit more generally useful was

I left New Zealand on July 3rd for Sydney. And then for Melbourne by Greyhound bus, which I’d always wanted to do, in preference to flying. I ended up staying in Tullamarine, near the airport. Though ‘near’ is a relative expression in Melbourne’s sprawling outer suburbs. There wasn’t much public transport and so I needed to be able to get a taxi of some kind.

I eventually made it to Adelaide with very little sleep. That was because Uber didn’t work on my phone in Melbourne, even after I changed my login and credit card details on the computer. I was literally stranded. In the morning, I got up three hours early at 4am to walk to the airport through the dismal suburban streets, dragging my heavy suitcase on its little wheels all the way.

(After this debacle I bought an Australian sim card plus 35GB of data for A$50, which was very cheap compared to some countries. This improved my communications, but I still wasn’t able to get Uber to work. I met other people who had the same problem.)

I checked in early on Saturday to my Airbnb, just north of downtown Adelaide in an area known as Prospect, to try and recover.

Settling In

As I made my way to my Airbnb place on the bus, a friendly middle-aged woman walked me to my house- I was amazed at just how friendly the people were in Adelaide. Her house, where she lived with her daughter, was partly owned by a housing trust; they would not have been able to afford it otherwise.

South Australia should be studied closely for the way it’s managed to preserve housing affordability, much more so than a lot of other places where there obviously isn’t the political will to do so.

Coastal real estate at Port Elliot. Qualifying first home buyers don’t need to raise a deposit, either.

The lady showed me the inside of her house. It had walls of thick stone, which helped to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter. She had no money to do it up but had a large garden with fruit trees and vegetables which she spent a lot of her time in.

She said it was very expensive to renovate these sorts of buildings. She recommended that I have a coffee at the Adelaide Central Market — Adelaide’s amazing old-fashioned public market, open in the central city since 1869 — and she would see me there if I did. We didn’t manage to catch up there. But I did see her later on on the bus and said hello.

Adelaide Central Market

Here’s a video of the Market.

I wish I’d been able to stay at the place of the lady I met instead of my Airbnb! Because, it turned out that the owner of my Airbnb house and his girlfriend could afford renovations and were actually doing work on the place! They were putting in a new shower door and a separate toilet- all while having all 3 rooms full. They nearly showed my rooms to friends while I was sleeping in it.

While I was out, they painted, put door stops in my room, and left the door unlocked. Hammering continued until midnight. They were very nice people and would take you and pick you up from the airport. However, that did not work for me, I gave them a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. The TV in my room was an ornament, too.

As it turned out, I would not generally have very good Airbnb experiences in Australia, I am a host in New Zealand and simply would not do what was done to me: I would not get away with it.

The neighbourhood I was in was an old one; one of the first suburbs to be built outside the city’s core, which is surrounded by the world-famous parklands.

I ran into one or two locals who had grown up in the neighbourhood and been there all their lives; but it was changing. It was up and coming and people were building high rises and subdividing. The larger sections were disappearing.

To be continued . . .

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