03/21/2009 - 03/23/2009 85 °F
Time to travel to the only state left unvisited, South Australia.
South Australia is the fourth largest state (it is 1.5x larger than Texas), but only has 1.6 million people. In typical Australian fashion, the majority of the people live in a single city, Adelaide, which boasts a population of 1.1 million. Residents of Adelaide proudly claim that their colony was the only freely settled colony in Australia (no imported penal workers). Adelaide was a planned capital city, situated in the middle of the southern coast and near a river. Adelaide is known for its food, wine, festivals, and sporting events. We happened to arrive during Festival (a huge carnival filled with shows, food, and alcohol) and on the weekend of a V8 race (their version of NASCAR). It was unbelievable the number of people present in the city.
We arrived late in the afternoon, checked into the hostel, and set out to explore the city. Adelaide has nice wide streets and tons of shops. Walking the main strip, I was very impressed with the modern feel of the city and the cool looking buildings. One building was covered in white panels that would light up different colors to create a kaleidoscope of images. Cafes, restaurants, pubs, and clubs lined the streets, and people were spilling out of all of them. The road turned into a wide pedestrian walkway, and musicians played every 30 yards. Dawn even stopped to admire some of the artwork.
We walked the entire strip and came up to the Festival. It slightly resembled a state fair, except there were no rides and no games. Instead, there were tents advertising shows of all kinds. All forms of dancing, singing, and performing could be found. Unfortunately tickets for the events sell out quickly, and we arrived on a Saturday night. Instead we made the most of the event by picking up delicious food (a fresh-toppings pizza and hot fried donuts). The vendors also tried creative ways for you to stop at their booths for drinks. Once person had a double-decker bus that had been converted into a bar. Wine vendors poured very full glasses and would give you advice on which glass to order. In my opinion, it was the perfect carnival.
We left Festival towards closing time and made our way back down towards some of the bars. It was shoulder to shoulder trying to make it down the street. Every bar and cafe was packed. We gave up on the idea of fighting our way up to a bar and decided to make our way back to the hostel, until we ran into giant robots.
We made it back to the hostel and got some rest. We were waking up early to do another wine tour.
The Barossa Valley is one of the most famous areas for Australia wine. Shiraz is the most popular grape grown in the region, as the middle-eastern derived vine fits well into the dry climate near Adelaide. Driving out to the valley, we passed by a giant tree that used to house a family!
A married couple were too poor to live in a house, so they moved to the outskirts of town and stumbled upon this tree. They actually had 2 children while living here, and went on to have 8 total.
We made one more stop before reaching the first wine tasting at a toy shop. Australian tourist stops are often centered around ridiculously large items, like the Big Pineapple or Giant Guitar (there are over 150 such items around Australia), but we were lucky enough to get to see the Giant Rocking Horse.
We went to a couple different wineries, and the wine was excellent as expected. After getting slightly tipsy, I got grilled by two Swedes about American politics. Thankfully the conversation moved towards European Union politics as a British man began filling me in on how the EU operated. After lunch we went up to a lookout to view the Barossa Valley. It was a beautiful day, and the valley provided magnificent views.
After hitting up another couple wineries (and $150 in purchased wine later) we started making our way back to Adelaide. We went out for another night on the town and saw some very interesting people. I had wanted to go to a bar called the Stag Hotel, but it was overrun by drunken V8 fans. The race had ended, and the NASCAR-esque fans were everywhere (and every bit as redneck as typical NASCAR fans). We slowly made our way back to the hostel, keeping a safe distance from the rowdy and sunburnt crowd. Dawn and I rented a true Australian Movie, Two Hands, which was Heath Ledgers first starring role. It was pretty cool seeing a movie shot in Sydney after living there. Dawn was going on another tour tomorrow, so we both called it a night.
The next day I walked down to my office, the McDonalds, and had a productive work day. During the day I took a break and sat out in the sun along the river behind the Parliament House watching the swans and ducks swim lazily. Adelaide had really grown on me during my short stay, and would be a top choice if I had to pick one city to live in for an extended period.