Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Yorke Peninsula and Innes National Park

Not far west from Adelaide you will come across the Yorke Peninsula.... Not the Cape York Peninsula, but the Yorke Peninsula. Since we had already done Cape York, New York and York UK, we figured we had to keep up the York work and check out the Yorke! The Yorke Peninsula is very different to the one up north, very dry land ensconced in a beautiful southern shoreline. Throughout the peninsula you will find plenty of small towns connected via a web of roads. Most of the roads are sealed, however plenty of dirt roads still exist.

One thing that amazed us with this place was how quiet it was compared to a lot of other coastal regions we have travelled. It is quite easy to make your way to a bit of coastline, not too far from one of the small towns and have it all to yourself. The council does however charge a $10 a night bush camping fee in many places.

You'll also find a whole heap of emus out bush in South Australia, one morning we were driving along "Happy Valley Road" on a cruisy 80ks, kicking up a heap of dust behind us. As we approach a crest I let off the speed just in case of other vehicles or wildlife only to be greeted with a massive flock of emu's screaming away from us through a paddock, streaking in and out in confusion and chaos. Those things either had a mad fear of the troopy, or the dust, not sure which, but the whole situation reminded me of the T-Rex chasing the little dinosaurs in the first Jurassic Park!

On the south west of the peninsula you will find Innes National Park (The emus here are a little more accustomed to humans and cars!). Here you will find something for everyone, bushwalks, swimming, snorkelling, surfing boating, fishing, culture and history. We didn't do so, but it is even possible to camp in multiple locations within the park. Like us, it is possible to have a cram packed day full of all sorts of adventures or you can camp here and easily stretch it out over a week.

If you care to take a stroll through the Inneston historic walk you can venture around some buildings of the old township of Inneston. A few cottages have been restored and are able to be rented out as holiday units. Nearby you'll find a huge salt lake by the old cricket grounds!
Further along you will find West Cape Lighthouse, which also happens to have quite a stunning beach near the carpark and a little further along will bring you to Pandalowie Bay, a renown surfing beach of South Australia.

Royston Head hiking trail was the highlight walk for us. At 4ks return this is a nice sized walk, a few larger trails are available along with many more shorter ones. Once you reach the end of Royston Head you are rewarded with spectacular overhead views of some magnificent looking shoreline. Sadly you are going to need some really serious gear, or a boat to reach the beach! This was still a great fun walk and the photos just do not give the views any justice whatsoever.

The last place within Innes for Jeni and I to visit was a place known as China Man's Hat, a sheltered beach with a reef and an island that looks a little like a hat you could imagine a bloke from China wearing. We saw a nice variety of beautiful fish happily doing there thing, along with some beautiful coral and marine life. Not long after we jumped in the clouds stole away the late arvo sun and the water became quite cold, it was at this moment we realised we were swimming as far south as we had yet and that the next land mass south of us was Antarctica! Brrr! 

After a great snorkel we continued up the west coast of the Yorke Peninsula. A really nice place we stayed at was Barker Rocks (North West of Minlaton), would highly recommend checking out this free camp site. The site itself is not too flash, but it is close to the ocean and would be a great place to snorkel, swim or fish. We only stayed one night, but was keen for a snorkel if the weather gods had behaved a little better than they did.

The Yorke Peninsula is a great place to head out if you like the water. Keep in mind in can get a bit cold, so be prepared. We also found this peninsula really quiet, even on a weekend. A top destination for anyone from the Adelaide location and not worth skipping thinking "It's just another peninsula". We both cannot wait to come back to the Yorke Peninsula and spend a little more time enjoying its beauty!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Adelaide the green city

I normally prefer the bush than the beat, however I found myself liking Adelaide. It is rated one of the greenest cities in the world, and the inner city is surrounded by 29 different park lands separating the inner city from the outer suburbs. Adelaide is also home to the first solar powered bus in the world.

Cameron and I visited Adelaide in mid February. There are many places all through Adelaide upon which bikes are loaned out for FREE. It is and initiative of the government. All you have to do is leave your I.D with them and away you go. We found out about a man named Stewart who runs free bike tours around the city every Friday providing it is not too hot or wet. You can find him on Facebook by looking up "Adelaide Free Bike Tours". Even though we could have hired the bike from the caravan park where we were staying, we decided that the best way to learn about the city would be from a local.

We rode around for about two hours. This was a big deal because I have a healthy respect for the road traffic which is why I don't usually ride, but in South Australia the laws favour bike riders. Vehicles must stay 1m away from bikes on 60km/h roads or 1.5m if the speed is higher. Riders also have the advantage of being allowed to ride on the footpath!

As we rode we learnt how Adelaide was a planned city, and how the idea for the gardens were started way back in the 19th century. The council have had ups and downs over the years with pollution, drought, and building damns for water to get it to look as beautiful as it does today. There was a time period where workers were in short supply so they got the inmates from the gaol to work and tend them.

Today there is a variety of 29 different parks. After the ride we went for a walk through the botanic garden. Here there is a greenhouse which simulates growing conditions of rainforests. As we walked through, we found what was left of the Amorphophallus Titanum or “The corpse flower” given the name because it smells like rotting flesh. These flowers typically only flower once in a decade although sometimes every 3 years. The flower can reach 3m tall but only stays open some where between 12-48 hours before it closes again. It had opened 2 weeks prior to our visit, but when it did thousands of people had lined up to take a whiff. It was the second flower to bloom in Adelaide within a month, the first being at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden.

There is much artwork to admire around the city too. A similar vibe to Melbourne with large artworks on building walls. The council provides scaffolding for when the artwork is being done. Some of the paintings are long term, and some of the them are seasonal and change with the many different festivals. There are other paintings that are permanent but ever changing because other artists add parts over the top to the artwork. I can't remember many names of the artists, but one I remember is Toy Soldiers.

Another reason Adelaide is known as a green city is because of the use of space, and the amount that is recycled. There are apartment buildings with herbs and planter boxes on the walls of the buildings, and many cafes are doing the same, sourcing the herbs from the walls of the buildings. One such place that Stewart showed us, a mural had been made using only materials that had been found at the site. He also told us of the use of space in empty buildings. The council has given permission for temporary use of the building space until it is filled. Some such temporary uses include pop-up shops or cafes where they can build a client base, until they find somewhere more permanent to go, or to see if the business will work. I think some cities have much to learn from Adelaide.

The wonderful smells that emerged while riding through the city was tempting for lunch and afterwards we went to the International food court. There was so much variety, and many people there so it must be good! We settled for a Japanese Ramen soup, then afterwards found a place to enjoy a bubble ice tea. YUM! At some point in the day Stewart had mentioned a favourite pub of his called The Elephant British Pub. We stumbled across this at the end of the day while walking to the bus stop so of course quenched our thirst with a Guiness.

We were only in Adelaide for two nights and normally I would think this is too long in a city, but I feel Adelaide has much more to offer so we will be back. Perhaps we will base ourselves here for a period of time in the future, but for now we are on a mission to the west.

- Jeni

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The interstate trifecta: Some pretty flowers, wine and fresh produce.

As we continued west and got closer to the Victorian border we found ourselves entering a fruit fly quarantine zone. This is a security checkpoint where you need to dispose of all your fresh produce to minimise the chance of spreading fruitfly. Whoops, we weren't ready for this! We pulled over and chowed down on the last of our fresh produce, all we had to chuck was a single lonesome banana. I would highly recommend, if you are travelling to places known for fresh produce, to browse over this site here: just to double check quarantine laws for where you are headed. See after throwing out our fresh produce we thought we'd just stock up in Mildura, this could have been a big mistake if we didn't double check the next quarantine zone, it wasn't far away!
There is heaps of fresh produce in Mildura and some really nice looking roadside produce stalls, but not long after you cross into South Australia you will come across another check point. You can try to get special certificates that allow you to transfer fresh produce, however we thought it would be best to just gun through and stock up after the next quarantine zone. So that we did! We skimmed through Mildura, which is on the Victorian side of the Murray river which was full of house boats and continued to South Australia.
The South Australian quarantine zone was much more heavily enforced than the previous one with quarantine officers that search your vehicle, best to be complient too as there are some heavy fines! Once the security check is over a big Dunlop structure across the road welcomes you to the Riverlands section of South Australia!

The Riverlands is quite interesting country, driving through here was the first time I felt I the scenery was completely new and unique to anything I had seen on this particular trip. Red dusty dirt beside beautiful green crops, small red cliffs and winding green rivers. Along this road are some amazing free bush camps, look for the ones by the rivers and you will not be disappointed! We spent a night at a place called Plush's Bend, which you can see to the left and it was quiet and tranquil. 

Rows of rose
Near Plush's Bend is Ruston's Roses, which is Australia's largest rose garden. I personally am not the biggest rose fan, but this place was well worth the look around. Entry is only $4 per person. Jeni and I strolled through the gardens, enjoying the scent of the blooming flowers while checking out some of the other interesting plants and sculptures on site. Another thing that always excites Jeni was the fruit trees that surrounded the place. We never asked, but I'm pretty sure they don't mind if you help yourself to a bit of fruit while you wonder as beneath the trees many fallen fruit turns to insect feed! Indoors there is also an assortment of unusual gifts for purchase and also a collection of old cars, my personal favourite being the Zeta! After our stroll we enjoyed spearmint milkshakes and some of the nicest scones we've eaten.

As we continued into Berri we found ourselves in another wine tasting area. We had driven through so many vineyards on this trip, maybe we noticed them more because of our recent Hunter Valley wine tasting adventure, but we couldn't resist them any longer! Berri Estates would be our first wine tasting destination in South Australia, turns out this place is one of the largest wineries in the southern hemisphere! We tasted a few wines and decided to grab a bottle of the Oomoo Cab Sav and one of the William Hardy Shiraz... But we ended up with a dozen of the Shiraz. Maybe Michael, the cellar door bloke was just a good salesman, but with the option of $20 for a single bottle or a case of a dozen of the exact same wine just cleanskin for $60 there wasn't really a choice. I mean, each bottle of the great drop worked out cheaper than a schooner up the pub! We're not wine'os I swear!

Next up we set off for 919, I was pretty keen to check this place out from the brochure I had seen alone. A picture of the two owners fishing for wine between their vines, check it out on their website. When we pulled up, between the Tempranillo and Durif vines, Jenny (No, not Jeni from Trooprock, Jenny from 919!) greeted us with a wave and a big smile and escorted us to the cellar door. When we walked in we discovered the cellar door was connected to the winery, so while we tasted wines and had a yarn with the woman behind 919 we got to watch the man behind the company work on the wines! My favourite would have been the Tempranillo, Jeni's the Durif, however we ended up grabbing a bottle of something completely different, a white wine in fact! This wine was the their Apera Pale Dry. Tasting this wine was a whole adventure on it's own as it's such an unusual wine. I found it had a nutty after taste with a bit of a cheesy creaminess, whilst Jeni was tasting maple. Jenny suggested apple and immediately I could taste it on the tip of my tongue, just so many flavours going
around and round! I'd highly recommend checking this place out just to try this wine alone! Afterwards we tasted their Classic Topaque, which we agreed was a nice tasting dessert style wine, but then ended up talking about the Apera again! On our way out Jenny was nice enough to give us some information on free camping and the direction we were headed. All in all I really liked 919, we felt welcome to be in their winery and enjoyed sharing a yarn.

We tried to fit in another winery afterwards, but we let time slip a little too much and had to call it a day. We ended up camping by the river at Berri, it's a little bush camp close to town and costs $5 a night for a vehicle. The grass by the river is really soft and is a nice change from a lot of the dustiness in the area. It's also a nice place to crack a bottle of wine and relax as the sun sets, we had 14 bottles sitting in the troopy so figured it would be a good idea to help minimise carrying weight!

One last thing for this post, we have decided to release some awesome Trooprock merchandise! Find out more by clicking here!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


Further down the Sturt highway you'll find yourself in a town called Hay and this place is flat, very flat! Driving through the countryside around Hay you will notice it is flat as far as the eye can see and because of this, a World War 2 prisoner of war camp was established here. Hay is a lovely small town and a great place to visit without draining your bank account. At the Information Centre you can rent a bike, for free, to check out this quaint town. We grabbed a pair of bikes and set off to the north side of town to find the Dunera Museum.
The Dunera Museum is the old historic railway, a couple of carriages have been refurbished with information on the old PoW camps. This place is full of a lot of great information, however most of it is reading text and photos of old memorabelia that is housed in other museums and collections. Some of the stories about German and Austrian Jews along with other people being sent over to Australia for safety and then ending up here are quite interesting. They were all an integral part of building the foundation of the area, even if the Japanese did get a bit unruly and incite chaos.
Afterwards we jumped back on our bikes and did a bit of a lap around town. We rode past the old Gaol then checked out a park on the south side by the river. A collection of sculptures were placed around the town which you can check out here.
All in all Hay is a great little town with vast culture, if you are into Aussie history and museums you could quite easily spend a whole day or even two here in Hay!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Gundagai, Wagga Wagga and an old Brewery

Gundagai, what a cool name, it's got gun in it and dagai! 
When we arrived in Gundagai we drove up a hill to look out over the small town. Interestingly there is a long bridge over the top of grassland. Turns out the original town was placed on the same level the bridge was over and during a big flood it got washed away!
Within the Information Centre is a "Marble Master
piece" which is a minature building made up of 20,948 individual pieces of marble. This Marble Masterpiece was constructed by a bloke named Frank Rusconi, he was born in Aus, then as a young fella shipped over to Switzerland, begun work in Italy in the marble trade then eventually returned to Australia to prove there was a great marble industry here too. There is also a statue of "Dad and Dave, Mum and Mabel" which is from an old Aussie radio show.
We continued on to Wagga Wagga, where we discovered the Gumi (Goo-me) Races were on. Gumi's are rafts constructed by the entrants, the means of floatation must be at least 80% inflatable inner tubes and they must be manually propelled. The race commences from a bridge in town and finishes at the "Wagga Beach" where market like festivities take place. There are also several different classes. We watched a few of these races and it was interesting to see the variety of Gumi's entering the race. Some had fallen to peices before reaching the finish line, others powered on with fit young military boys peddling away and some others were equipped with water cannons to blast the onlookers with water.
We decided we'd check out some more of Wagga Wagga and headed over to the RAAF museum. This place is free to get into and also has some cool old planes sitting out front. Wagga Wagga has a very rich military background and the aviation side of it is awesome. The bloke who greeted us here was heaps enthusiastic and was ex RAAF. Plenty of info on the both world wars could be found inside, however my favourite story was one about a fellow who landed two planes. Something happened and one plane crashed down into another in the air, everyone bailed out and parachuted to safety (allegedly one of the parachutist's harness fell off, but he grabbed it "by the ropes" and landed safely!) the bloke still on board managed to land the two planes in a nearby feild. The locals saw this feat as heroic, however the RAAF disciplined him. The airman went on to fight in both world wars, but sadly lost his life when he was cycling to work one day and he ended up beneath a bus. I just love all aspects of this story! Be a bad arse, kick enemy butt, and live every day like it's your oh shit, BUS!
Before moving on from Wagga Wagga we decided to check out the Botanic Gardens. Another free place to wonder around, the gardens have a variety of lovely plants and also a little zoo. I was quite fascinated with there varied collection of birds, in particular their pheasents. Jeni loved the rose gardens. Gotta admit they did smell nice. There is also a mini train and little train stations, museum and cafe at the gardens, however they were not open during our visiting times.

After leaving Wagga Wagga we found this interesting looking old Brewery, called Lincoln's Oakbank Brewery, in a town called Narrandera. A collection of birds could be seen atop the place nesting and watching over passerbys. It appears as though some construction is happening here and will be interesting to see what happens with the place in the future.