[/b]Don't wait or worry about tomorrow, just keep focused on what's happening today. -excerpt from Be A Dreamer
Since our last entry, Nadine and I had spent over a week in Cairns and the surrounding area enjoying some much needed warm weather. We are now in Melbourne and home of the Australian Football League Grand Final. Our Super Bowl. We flew from Cairns to Adelaide.
With several days in Adelaide, we explored multiple sites within the city center. Two of our favorite spots were Haigh's Factory and the Sushi King, both food related. Sushi King became a home away from hostel home by the fact that we ate there three times over 5 days. "Why eat sushi before going to South East Asia?" The sushi here was good and inexpensive. Plus, if you buy 3 rolls, you receive a free drink! Need I say more?
Secondly, probably one of our most anticipated activities was a tour of the Haigh's Chocolate Factory. This tour had a huge circle in our guidebook. We lined up like all of the other female chocolate afficionados and listened to our host talk about production of the coco bean while our minds were wandering to the free chocolate we were going to be tasting. I must admit that I personally dreamed of having a diving board on the edge of a pool of chocolate that we could optionally jump into at the end of the tour to most completely enjoy the warm liquid chocolate. The pool and diving board were unfortunately absent, but the free chocolate wasn't. We savored each bite as if we were professional chocolate judges. "Yes Nadine, that was a much more quality chocolate than that Hersheys bar we tried yesterday." To further our chocolate judging abilities, we bought several chocolate bars and truffles and sat outside carefully tasting each one. Our final decision, they were ALL great. Haigh's chocolate is not sold abroad, they use no advertising, no celebrity endorsers, just word of mouth over blog entries like this. Thus, we had to send a small box of pure joy for our parents. If you live close to Odessa or Omaha, you might consider visiting our parents to check on them and make sure they are doing alright and if, maybe, by some chance, they have some quality Australian chocolate lying around.
The one activity we were definitely going to participate in was visiting the wineries of the Barossa Valley, a valley renowned for its wine. After a few days exploring Adelaide, we set out north. Luckily, our bus driver notified us along the way of a wine and gourment food festival, creatively called Gourmet, coinciding with our visit to the valley. He let us know that the little hostel we wanted to stay at had been full 5 days ago. He suggested we try the Caravan Park in Tununda. Right on cue, we got the very last short trailer in the park, high living standards for any resident of New Mexico.
Once lodging had taken care of itself, we began walking towards Para Road, home of 4 wineries within walking or staggering distance, depending on your wine capacity. You can imagine us two backpackers sauntering on into the first winery with our t-shirt and zip-off pants and thinking to ourselves, "can we really just walk in and try all of the free wine we want?" As we saddled up to the testing bar, I casually looked at the list of wines we were able to taste, and calmly asked to try their finest Shiraz wine. And just like that, the girl handed me a glass with wine, and it was free. At that point, we both started quickly tasting several white, rose, and red wines and commenting to each other and the girl behind the bar how well you could truly savour that oak, vanilla, or fruity flavor in the wine. At the end of the bar was a large spittoon, to spit out all of the wine not pleasing to your own personal palate. Personally, how foolish was it to actually use the spittoon. After our last winery visit, we had the task of walking home in the cool stiff breeze in our aforementioned t-shirts, but feeling quite warm, chattering and laughing all the way down to our miniature mobile home at the caravan park. This is a walk the locals must see daily and call by a specific name, there goes the Para Road walk, those two.
As any traveler has while traveling, they have bright ideas from time to time, and yes, we both had one suggesting that we rent bikes and visit wineries outside the confines of walking. The next morning, after checking out of our short mobile home, we rented our mountain bikes with semi-flat tires and ungreased chains, and set off to our first winery on the map. The combination of our bikes less than robust condition, hills, and having had 4 winery tours under our belt the previous day, riding proved to be difficult. But being the adventerous and thrifty travellers we are, we continued on across paved and dirt roads, fields full of sheep, until we reached our first goal, the winery. We continued this track until the end of the early afternoon. We had visited another 5 wineries and had 4 bottles of savoury wine in our backpack. We had a long ride back with similar conditions as the previous day, lots of laughing, joking, smiling, all while on top of a bike and riding along the main intercity road. We reached our bags safely, boarded the bus, and headed back to Adelaide. The entire Barossa Valley wine tasting tour proved to be a great grape of a time, or as best as I can remember.
A goal we've had on this around the world trip is to volunteer and give back in some way for all that we have been receiving along the way. Nadine researched organizations, contacted people, and finally set up a volunteer experience on Kangaroo Island. We were volunteering with WWOOF as wwoofers. WWOOF is an acroynm for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. In a wwoofing situation, we as a couple, volunteered our services, manual labor usually, for half a day while our hosts provided us with food and a place to stay. We were fortunate enough to set up a wwoofing experience with Dean and Judy Johnson from American River on Kangaroo Island. We jumped on a bus down to the coast, hopped a ferry, rode on another shuttle, and we were there, at Muston Heights B@B. Dean welcomed us at the gate and drove us up the winding driveway past wallabies to their cozy little home. We were to be up the next morning ready for some work.
Next morning, we readied ourselves for a day of work. At the very early hour of 8:30 (5 in the afternoon local Texas time), we started our first half day of work. I kept busy outside mowing grass and pulling weeds, while Nadine did some gardening and inside cleaning. For us, it was great to be helping someone out, but more importantly, meeting authentic Aussies in their native environment of home and their farm. After we finished our morning work, we had time to visit the thriving town of American River, which is not actually on a river, but an inlet of the sea. The town is named after a few Americans built a boat on this inlet 200 years ago. After mailing two bottles of wine back to the States, we hiked a nice, lenghty nature trail back to the Muston Heights B&B.
Next day we worked the entire day mowing, cleaning, and setting some rock down for their garden so we could earn a full day to explore Kangaroo Island the next day.
Our destination on our free day was Kangaroo Island and all of its furry treasures and some not so furry. Originally Kangaroo Island earned its name from a large number of British and French sailors who found an overwhelming number of kangaroos on the island.
Reaching further back in history, the word kangaroo is an Aboriginal word. When Captain Cook initially interacted with the Aboriginals, he asked what the name of the hopping marsupial was, he misunderstood their response. They answered kangaroo. From then on, the British called the kangaroo, a, well, kangaroo. The word kangaroo in the Aboriginal language doesn't refer to the animal, but actually means "I don't know." Thus, when the Aboriginals were asked what that animal was, they said "I don't know," and the explorers took it to be the name for the kangaroo. They really messed that one up. That takes us back to an important lesson, communication is the key.
With a day to spare and a car at our disposal, Nadine and I immediately drove halfway through idyllic red ochre roads to a Koala Park. It was here that we walked around staring at the groggy koalas hanging out in the eucalyptus trees. We counted 10 in total, Nadine spotting 9 of them. That was an impressive sight. We continued on to Flinders Chase National Park. We were walking up to the Visitors Center looking at a sign that told you to remember to know your license plate number for your park pass, when I spotted a small, red kangaroo just chillin' in the sun. He blended right into the scenery! He did not seem disturbed by our presence, so we snapped a few pics and stared at him for a while in disbelief.
"John, are there really kangaroos on Kangaroo Island?"
I'm holding up The Remarkables
From the rangers station, we drove down to Admiral's Arch seal colony. Here we found hundreds of New Zealand seals, I do hope they have their visas in order, lying on the beach, swimming, eating and fighting. All the while, the tide was coming in with huge waves crashing against the rocks. This time of the season, the seals have just given birth a couple of months ago and baby seals are suckling.
Up the coast is the location of the Remarkables. A set of rocks that shot up from the ocean as magma and have taken on some unique forms from erosion over thousands of years. This place rendered several great photo opportunities.
Time dictated we return to American River before the sun came down and we would be more likely to hit something in the Johnson's car. At the end of the day, we had seen some koalas, a porcupine, kangaroo, 2 tiger snakes (very poisonous, Nadine shouldn't have been playing with them), large lizard, and hundreds of humans.
Our hosts Judy and Dean are some great people and have had some great life experiences. Both are close to my parents age and keep a very busy work schedule farming, cleaning, flying, cooking, maintaining a B&B, washing, and everything in between. Dean also flies planes. On a weekly basis he flies back and forth between Adelaide and Kangaroo Island. Over our time with them, Judy put together some great meals. During the evening, we sat around the fire laughing, talking, and watching tv. There was an English version of the Amazing Race that had travelled to Kangaroo Island and Dean helped fly a few teams around the island and across to the mainland. There were also feautured just a month ago on a television show called, Postcards. It's a show that features interesting parts of Southern Australia. http://www.postcards.sa.com.au/ Click on the title Kangaroo Island Flights and that is there place.
The entire experience of working, sharing, and being with them as a wwoofer was very rewarding. We would do it again in a heartbeat. When it came time to return to Adelaide, we had the unique opportunity of going by Dean's plane. The flight over afforded a fantastic view of Kangaroo Island and the coast line. Dean allowed me to take control of the plane for a bit and maintain the plane level with the horizon. It was also at this point that Dean took control of the plane back and performed a little roller coaster move, pull back on the controls and following it with a dip of the plane which left Nadine screaming and also blaming me for that maneuver.
Answers to last weeks questions
1) Cyclones only happen in the Southern hemisphere while hurricanes take place in the Northern hemisphere. 1A) Makes you wonder why Iowa State is called the Cyclones. I know Nate must be scratching is head about that one.
2) Nadine and I actually saw one of these in the wild recently.
Questions for this week
1) How many of the worlds most deadliest snakes are found in Australia?
2) How many of these did Nadine and I see so far in Australia?
Photos will be added to this entry shortly.