Being tourists

You guys are so nice. You left me nice comments and sent me nice messages, and I appreciate it so much. I’m feeling better now, actually. Funny enough, the very next day I got my first temp assignment, and then today I got a call from a recruitment firm! Small victories, but the important thing is that things are finally moving forward. I have learned what true frustration tastes like, and I’d rather lick a tub full of baking soda. I’m starting to see a little sunshine behind the clouds, which makes patience so much more attainable.

Anyway, on Friday Stan insisted that I take the day off, so I did (after I applied for a couple jobs). What did I do on my day off? I did what a lot of homesick Americans would probably do: I went to Ikea! I didn’t buy anything besides a double chocolate sundae. (It tasted like slushy sweetened condensed milk… not the best sundae of my life.) Whoever invented chain stores was a genius, because the emotional, familiar aspect gets even the most skeptical consumer. When I go to Ikea, I might as well be in Draper, Utah (as long as I don’t listen to the conversations around me). I might as well be home! Pretty lame day off, I know. So then I went to the beach.

The nice thing about Adelaide is that if the temperature dips below 50° F, people start hunkering down with their scarves and tea. So I had the beach completely to myself.

But eventually even I got rained out, but I went home feeling refreshed and pretty happy. Does anyone else love rainy days when they’re sad? A sunny day when you’re sad is so mocking. A rainy day makes you feel like a good friend is empathizing.

The next day we decided on a whim (after I made us some delicious French toast) to drive down to Victor Harbor. It started as a major whaling site in the late 1800′s and, like many other poorly-planned human endeavors, the people quickly ran themselves out of product (whales), and therefore out of business, in about a hundred years. Blubber and lots of other whale parts were used for common items that are all petroleum based these days.

Anyway, it’s a really beautiful spot. It was rainy on and off, but that just gave us some pretty skies and moody light to play around with.

There’s a little island called Granite Island, aptly named for its geology. It was used a lot as a whale sighting spot. A horse-drawn rail tram still carries people out there. (It must not run in the late autumn, though.)

Some pretty scenery.

No island is complete without a pile-o-rocks with some birds on top. Put a bird on it!

Here is another cute bird. Stan tried to figure out what it was, but to no avail.

There are some cool eroded rocks. This rock looks like a seal:

Stan would like me to add that as a geologist, he is particularly talented at taking photos of rocks. I mean, look at this beauty!

Don’t you want to go there?? The water looks so inviting, but then again the next piece of land is Antarctica.

The island also has Little Penguins, and they offer penguin tours at dusk. Otherwise, you can stroll around on a self-guided walk of the island. It took us a little over an hour, I’d say. Then just as the rain picked up again, it was time for us to walk back across the causeway.

It was around 3:00 and we still hadn’t eaten lunch, so we went to see what Victor Harbor had to offer. As you may expect in a small, off-the-beaten-road town, most restaurants have stopped serving lunch, but don’t serve dinner for another couple of hours. We found a semi-deserted deli and ordered some wraps (think quesadilla)  and an enormous “small” order of “chips”. American-sized portions, my butt! Here I am waiting for the greasy goodness in all my greasy rainy goodness.

After lunch we decided we needed a little more grease, so we went and had our first Australian donuts. They weren’t bad, but they were no Banburry Cross. (Oh, what I wouldn’t do for a couple [dozen] Banburry Cross donuts right now.) Then we hung out in the park.

Although Stan is not a biologist, he is talented at taking photos of living things such as trees in addition to rocks.

Then we went to the South Australian Whale Center. The people at the desk were very super friendly, and were excited that we were from the USA. (Although the guy was a little sad that he still had to put “Adelaide” on his tourism survey form, since that’s really where we live.)

Here is Stan standing next to a Southern Right Whale skull.

Although encountering any being that size would likely cause me to soil myself, there is no real reason to be alarmed. Their throats aren’t even big enough to swallow an orange. They have baleen, which are basically big comb-shaped keratin shields that filter out their true culinary delights, which are plankton, krill, and other tiny organisms.

Here is Stan again being very frightened that the shark behind him might be able to fit its pointy head through the cage:

Fun fact: The guy who invented the shark cage, Rodney Fox, was attacked in a big way some years earlier. The shark gripped his whole left side and arm, and the only reason he lived is because he had the presence of mind to poke the shark in the eye. Can you believe that? The lady at the museum animatedly told us more details, like how he surfaced and found himself surrounded by bloody water, only to look down to see the shark surging up for another go. See above re: soiling myself. 400 or so stitches later, good as new (if you dare, Google Image “Rodney Fox”).

The lady also talked about how her husband had been bit by a shark, but it was “just a little nip”. You know, one of those love bites that pierces your diving suit and your flesh.

Lastly, I just loved this guy. He is a Port Jackson shark; endemic to Australian waters.

Sorry for the blurry picture, but I didn’t want to flash him. Aren’t his markings incredible? Stan pointed out that they look just like water ripple shadows. Evolution at its finest.

It was a great day. Just what I needed. Thanks for reading!

This post was written by Stan!

It was a pretty lazy couple of days this weekend. Aside from doing some errands and going for a run, we didn’t really plan any outings until mid afternoons. Saturday we loosely planned to drive up into the hills to watch the sunset, but the stores were closing soon and we didn’t know where to find a good vantage point. So we settled for a walk over to the 8 km2 of park lands that surround the CBD. The closest green space is Victoria Park, home of the yearly Clipsal motor race. But this time of year the bleachers are taken down and it’s just wide open with a few trees, running paths, and the tarmac.

The sky had been patchy all day, but the clouds kindly parted for us to take some pictures. Note: these are not post-processed. Who has time for that anyways.

This is the hairpin corner of the racetrack

This tree is enormous, the photo doesn’t really do it justice

Rain’s a comin’

Amanda took this beauty. We literally ran across the park to get the right cloud/tree composition.

The last bit of light

Our Sunday plans for a morning run quickly became an afternoon walk (people don’t use the word “hike” down here). We knew of a place called Waterfall Gully that was in the Adelaide Hills, but didn’t really know what to expect. The main road was very akin to Pine Crest, up Emigration Canyon for you SLCers, with a mix of million dollar homes and hippie ranch houses. Our walk up the Chambers Gully Track began with pavement but after a hundred meters or so became dirt, and then we came to the rather narrow entrance to Cleland National Park:

Foxes are bad. Seriously bad.


Did I mention that it does not seem like autumn?

Before too long, we spotted a sleepy koala in a tree, and then another, and then another. We didn’t bring the zoom lens, so this is all the koala detail you’ll get for now.

So sleepy

We spent the next half hour or so dawdling along, taking pictures and eying the trees while we enjoyed the sun shine.

After walking for a few kms, we realized that we hadn’t seen any waterfalls. The stream beds held only a trickle and definitely not enough to support a torrential waterfall. We reminded ourselves that there is no snowpack to support streams year round (I’ll save you the hydrological explanations) so only after a storm do many small waterfalls appear along the track.

Many side trails to wander about.

When we turned around to head for the car park, we hadn’t really made it to a destination, but the walk had been quite lovely and we had seen at least nine koalas. Plus it was getting dark and cold and we had a ways to go. A rather fit and friendly man in his sixties or so caught up with us. We watched a koala together as it balanced on the skinniest branch, fifty feet above the ground, and pawed for the farthest (and probably best) eucalyptus leaves. Then we ended up walking down together; saw another 20 or so koalas and talked about living in Australia (he’d been here for 15 years) and the many trails to see in Waterfall Gully. So in the weekends to come, we will probably be headed back for seemingly endless km’s of trail running and walking.

One more koala:

Time to get up.

We find ourselves with quite a bit of free time these days. My weekdays are spent job-hunting, buying us more and more stuff (finally got a vacuum!) and generally exploring. Oh and cooking. I’ve been cooking a lot AND doing the dishes, a gravy train which I’ve warned Stan might end once I find gainful employment.

So a lot of weekends we become tourists. Last weekend we visited the South Australian Museum, which had lots of cool Aboriginal artifacts and some interesting taxidermy. This weekend, we decided to take a 20-minute drive to Hahndorf, an historic German town in the Adelaide Hills.

The fall colors are out, and the streets are lined with touristy shops and restaurants. We had a German lunch of several kinds of wursts (my vegetarianism has definitely transitioned into flexitarianism down here).

Hahndorf is also home to St. Michael’s Lutheran church, which is Australia’s oldest Lutheran church with an actively worshiping congregation.

Next we went to a nearby property called The Cedars. All we previously knew was that it was a gallery of some sort, but when we got there we learned a lot from the guided tour. It turns out The Cedars was the home of Hans Heysen, an iconic German-Australian artist who became famous for his depictions of the Australian bush, particularly gum trees. He also captures light really well.

Droving into the Light, via here

His work reminded Stan of Maynard Dixon, who painted the American west.

We toured the historic Heysen house, where Hans and his wife Sally lived with their eight kids. I love stuff like that. We were by far the youngest people there, proving that we’re retired senior citizens trapped in young bodies. The house was full of his original paintings, which were really cool to see. It was also “chock a block” full of antiques and Persian rugs, which I tried not to drool on. The house’s decor hasn’t been changed since the family lived there. The kids still have family functions in the house and stay over. Pity we couldn’t take indoor photography, because there were some killer window seats, sunrooms, and wood-inlay furniture pieces. You’ll just have to go there!

A funny anecdote was that the Heysens had Anna Pavlova, the famous ballerina, over for dinner once. She loved a still life that Hans had painted for Sally, and pestered him and pestered him all throughout dinner to let her buy it. At one point she even got out her checkbook, but Hans refused because he had painted it for his wife (um, cuuuuute!). He finally convinced her to put down a deposit for a commissioned piece, which she reluctantly did. He then painted her a still life that was very similar to the one she’d wanted so badly and sent it to her, but it was almost immediately returned with a note saying that if she couldn’t have the one she wanted, she didn’t want one at all. Can you say Prima Donna!

This is his studio, which cost 400 pounds to build back in the 19-teens.

The other side featured a huge etched glass window imported from France. His studio was also full of Persian rugs, which he freely painted over. There was not a single drop of paint on any of the rugs; he was a very tidy man. But they were well worn, and you can see the holes where his easels wore through.

Sculpture work abounds on the sprawling property as well. (The property is about 130 acres- he bought out his neighbors to preserve his beloved redgums.) This is made from railroad nails.

The Heysen Sculpture Biennial was also going on, and we got to watch the artists work.

Lastly, we got to see the Model A Ford and caravan that Hans Heysen used to take to the wilderness to paint.

Looks cozy!

Here he is painting in the Flinders Ranges. I love how he’s in his suit and hat. What a gentleman.

Image via here

Thanks for indulging my touristy posts. I have a project coming up, and it involves sandpaper, wood patch, and paint, so stay tuned!