Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fleurieu Peninsula and the Limestone Coast

When we were in Brisbane, we met a delightful couple on the river ferry. They were carrying umbrellas, and I had to tease them. “What are you doing with those? It hasn’t rained here for 500 days.” An hour later, it was raining! As we left the ferry together, we started to chat and it turned out that that they were Philip and Helen, visiting from just outside Adelaide. Philip had worked as a cardiologist in UK in the 70’s, and he and Sally started to reminisce about old friends. After five minutes, we were invited to stay at their beach house in Port Willunga outside of Adelaide. And so we did!

Port Willunga is a small community on the coast near the wine region of McLaren Vale. We had a wonderful evening meeting some of their friends and hearing about life in and around Adelaide. Philip was passionate about Australian wines, and like many people our age, they were searching for a new home. They had sold their large Adelaide property since it was ‘getting too big’, and the grass tennis court required too much maintenance. Early the next morning, I flipped through plans of homes they had bid on at auction, and wondered whether this sales approach will catch on in Vancouver. As we were leaving, we exchanged email addresses and planned to meet up in Vancouver next year.

After we left, Sally and I commented on our different attitude to ‘meeting strangers’ while traveling. Since leaving Vancouver, we have started talking to many people we would not normally chat to back in Vancouver. And everyone has a fascinating story. Late one evening in Adelaide, after attending the Fringe Festival, we started to chat to a couple as we were leaving a restaurant. It turned out he was a property developer who had built some apartments we had noticed that morning at Glenelg. Within no time, they were inviting us to a party at their Adelaide Hills home the next evening in their 10 acre Heritage Garden. Unfortunately, we had to decline, since we were off to see Helen and Philip. We hope that we can be more open to meeting people we don’t know when we return home.

From Port Willunga, we went into the quaint town of Willunga for a round of golf. Fortunately, the course was using reclaimed water, so teeing up wasn’t mandatory. That’s right. On some courses in South Australia and Victoria, the ground is now so dry you have to tee up every shot in order to help preserve the fairways.

We then drove a short distance to Victor Harbour, a lovely waterfront town, and decided to stay. We found accommodation at the McCracken Golf Resort, and at dusk set out along a long causeway (which during the day is traversed by a horse drawn cart) to find penguins. We learned why you must use red lights, not white lights or camera flashes (they disorient the penguins, and cause them to regurgitate the food they have been gathering for their young), but eventually we left for a roast dinner and entertainment at the local pub.

The next morning, I rose early to play in the regular Saturday Men’s ‘Comp’ while Sally went browsing in the town. She doesn’t actually shop, since she doesn’t want to carry the extra weight! I then went on a search for a suitably raunchy Australian birthday card for a specialfriend who will be turning 60 in Vancouver. Then it was off to the Limestone Coast, in search of fishing villages and fresh craws (lobsters).

We decided to stay at Kingston, since the northern entrance to the town is dominated by a 18 metre high lobster, fondly known as Larry. (If you have read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, you’ll know that Australians have a fascination with big things.)

The next morning, after a crayfish dinner, and a visit to the local fish market to buy one for the road, we were off. With no destination in mind we drove slowly along the Limestone Coast. If you want to know why it is called the Limestone Coast, it’s quite obvious as you drive along. We stopped at Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake, only to be told that it was a shame we weren’t there a few weeks ago, when the water was really blue. (It looked pretty blue to us!)

Around 7 pm we arrived in the old town of Port Fairy. If you want to know why it is called Port Fairy….well it’s not that obvious! It was named by Captain Wishart when he anchored his cutter “Fairy” in the early 1800’s.

We pulled into an ordinary looking motel to use the internet to book accommodation for the night, only to discover that it had some marvelous contemporary two level units with giant shower heads and plasma tv’s hidden in the back. So that’s where we stayed, especially since next door was the oldest licensed hotel in Australia. Remembering that we had had dinner at the oldest licensed hotel in New Zealand, it seemed fitting that we should eat and drink there too. But beforehand, we had to wander around the town to take photographs of a very amazing sunset!

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