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McLaren Vale, SA

Thursday 22 Oct - Sunday 1 Nov 1998

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Thu 22nd Oct

The reason for visiting the Barossa again was to restock the "cellar" with Bethany chardonnay. The lady at the winery was most impressed that we had driven so far to buy more wine.

We set off on the road through the eastern edge of the hills passing through Springton.

This is the site of Herbig's Tree House where a german settler and his wife had lived for five years, and produced three of their sixteen children. The tree is an ancient red gum with a space about 3 metres (10 feet) high between the many giant roots. The tree is still alive 130 years later and was presumably very old when the Herbigs used it for free accommodation.

Herbig went on the be a successful feed merchant and pillar of the Lutheran Church with a big house and all the trappings which just goes to show what a little capitalism can do!.

We visited Mount Pleasant and Mount Torrens, which are obviously dormitory towns for people who work in Adelaide, and Lobethal, which is noted in the tourist guides but which we found to be a very ordinary semi-rural town.

Missing Hahndorf by a hairs breadth, we drove south towards McLaren Vale.

The countryside through Brigdewater and Aldgate and on to Echunga is quite beautiful with rolling hills, verdant fields and stunning views.

We followed the Onkaparinga River valley all the way down from Lobethal to Kangarilla, which is just east of McLaren Vale. On the way into town we passed McLaren Flat which is only a short distance from McLaren Vale and which has an agricultural show next Saturday showing how the tourist industry and the agricultural industries can share an area without really overlapping.

Fri 23rd Oct

Getting no response to telephone calls, we drove to the Rodger's place in Willunga. The welcome was effusive and genuine. We lunched and dined before returning to McLaren Vale.

The contrast between the last visit in February and now is astounding. In February, everything was dry and brown and water was scarce and hoarded.

Today there is tall green grass everywhere, tanks are full and it rains at night.

Sat 24th Oct

We had planned to visit the McLaren Flat Agricultural Show but it was so hot that we veged out at Willunga.

Sun 25th Oct

We had decided to participate in the last SA Nature Conservation Society walk of the season at Spring Road Native Forest. Guided walks were being conducted throughout the morning.

Completing our domestic chores, we set out just in time to catch the last guide at noon. Unfortunately, we had not put our clocks on for daylight saving and we arrived at 1 o'clock.

We did the walk anyway and spent a pleasant afternoon in an ancient stringybark forest which had never seen the axe or the chain saw. The birds and wildflowers added to the enjoyment of the day.

While others were picnicking beside their cars, we had lunch in great comfort in the Motley, eating home cooked corned beef, drinking tea, and listening to Mozart.

Mon 26th Oct

Needing to re-stock with Sticky White, we visited Woodstock Winery and spent a pleasant half hour tasting and talking to the lady behind the bar. She had spent time in a campervan and was really impressed with the Motley.

Because she had mentioned Sellicks Beach, we decided to take a look. The weather was not kind with intermittent rain so we just stopped, looked out the windows and left. As Sydneysiders, we are really spoilt for beaches and it is usually disappointing visiting other beaches, as it was today.

Tue 27th Oct

Up at sparrowfart to drop Jean at Willunga and then take the Motley for its routine 10,000km service in Adelaide.

Wed 28th Oct

Today we went into Adelaide.

We travelled into town by "fast" electric train. While it was cheap, and the parking was easy, is was mindnumbingly slow.

Our purpose was to see an exhibition of British painting at the South Australian Art Gallery. The theme is "This Other Eden" and the paintings, which are from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Centre for British Art, span three centuries. It was interesting to see the development of the national style over that time but not many, perhaps only one, of the paintings will stick in the mind.

Thu 29th Oct

We had morning tea at Horseshoe Bay near Pt Elliot and lunch at the Goolwa barrage. The barrage has a total of 145 boards out giving a flow of 30,000 megalitres/day (9,000 million US gallons per day). The prediction of the peak here of 60,000 megalitres/day (18,000 million US gallons per day) has recently been revised downwards to 30,000 megalitres/day (9,000 million US gallons per day). Either the flood is stretching out in time in an unprecedented way, or the upstream users are taking much more than expected, or the prediction process is much less precise than I had assumed. One would have thought with all the past experience of the behaviour of the river during flood, including more than fifty years of recorded measurements of river heights and flows, that the predictions would be pretty spot on.

photo of pelicans feeding

With so much water going through the barrage the Pelicans were having a feast. Every dive seemed to result in a catch. Presumably the fish are stunned by their involuntary trip through the cascade and are easy prey.

Fri 30th Oct

I spent the day doing some repairs to Joy's garden irrigation system. Because it was not in full working order, Joy was watering all her garden plants with a hose when she could have been just turning taps on and off.

In the evening we went to the opening of a new restaurant in Mclaren Vale called RedHeads. It was so bad that I have written a separate critical review.

Sat 31st Oct
photo of morris men dancing

We visited the Bushing Festival at Kay's Amery Winery. There were many vendors of all kinds of crafts from makers of relish to makers of clothing and costume jewelry.

The main attraction was the wine tasting. The 1996 Block 6 Shiraz has been released and it is as good as the 1995 we tasted in March. I spoke to Cud Kay who was the son of one of the founding Kay brothers and winemaker here from 1948 to 1970. He gave all the credit for the great wine to his son, Colin, who is the winemaker now.

Lunch was of roast potatoes with bacon and sour cream sold by Murphy, an protestant emigrant from Belfast who came to Australia with his catholic wife in 1972 to escape the troubles. He is an enthusiastic admirer of the extraordinary freedom most of us take for granted in Australia today. His wife would rather be in Ireland.

Sun 1st Nov
Today is the Bushing Festival marked by a parade through the town. As such things go, it was pretty good. For us, the highlight was a float by one of the town's cafes with a band playing passable good jazz and the mock patrons of the mock cafe on the truck including Whoopy Goldberg, Michael Jackson and Christopher Skase

We visited the fair, drank too much wine and spent too much money and had a thoroughly good time.

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Created by Robin Chalmers on Fri, 23 Oct, 1998
Last revised 01.01.2005