Archive | February, 2012

Just another day in Adelaide: Dolphins vs. Aussie Rules

29 Feb

Today was special.

There was something on the itinerary we’d really been looking forward to – a dolphin swim. Not just a swim with dolphins , a swim with WILD dolphins. We arrived at Glenelg Marina very early in the morning. We were to sail with Temptation Sailing, the first vessel in South Australia to be given a licence to swim with and study these magnificent mammals by getting so close to them (normally you have to stay some 50 metres away from them or you risk a $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison, ouch!). We boarded the huge catamaran and managed to squeeze ourselves into wetsuits (we are getting seriously good at it). The crew explained that the dolphins we were hoping to see were wild animals, so we couldn’t touch them, and there were no guarantees we would see any (even though Temptation Sailing actually give you a partial refund if for any reason you don’t get to swim with them). We crossed our fingers and headed out into the ocean.

No sooner had we managed to read the safety information, the crew was shouting for us to get into the water (‘Swimmers in!’) because they had spotted a pod of dolphins. We all quickly slid in and held on to the ropes that were dragged behind the boat. Our snorkels and masks (which made us all look as we had just left a plastic surgery with our upper lips done) allowed us to search through the water for the dolphins. And sure enough they glided past beneath us – such an amazing experience! It was so crazy to think that the crew had done nothing at all to lure the dolphins to the boat, yet the natural inquisitive nature of the animals had meant they wanted to explore for themselves. Over the next few hours we were in and out of the water, and even got to see a couple of baby dolphins! We left feeling overwhelmed to have seen these fantastic creatures, and experienced them in their natural habitat. Definitely beats Seaworld!

Next on the itinerary was some AFL – Aussie Rules Football. We got a quick run through of the rules from a helpful local on the bus (people here are so helpful!), and had arranged to meet Mark (a huge football fan and diehard Adelaide Crows supporter) at the stadium. Mark provided us (read Owen) with a Crow’s jersey, a football (traditionally made of kangaroo skin) and a very warm welcome. A quick consolidation of those rules and a little kick around with the ball and we felt the part so took our seats in the AAMI stadium. We were there for a preseason cup in which three teams would play each other, the overall winner being crowned champions. Two of the three were Adelaide teams – the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide – with Melbourne-based Carlton completing the line-up.

Aussie rules is a great game! Very free flowing, it combines the physicality of rugby with the kicking skills of football.  Plus it’s high-scoring and the fans are awesome. We’d long been told that we were to be Crows supporters and thankfully for them we were their lucky charms – the Crows humiliated both Port Adelaide and Carlton and were dully crowned NAB Cup Champions. Boom!

To round off our day we went to see some stand up comedy, The Best of British show as part of the Adelaide Fringe. We traditionally supplied ourselves with Coopers beers (what are we going to do without it in London) and laughed a lot at the British take on Australia. The highlight of the show was from an English comedian – Bob Slayer. He arrived on stage apparently having drunk rather a lot, and proceeded to hold the audience to ransom with a blow torch. His demands? A pack of cling film and a bottle of port to be brought to the stage. He managed to negotiate the cling film, but no such luck on the port. A lucky (?) volunteer was invited on stage, and ended up being wrapped from head to toe in cling film for the amusement of the audience. This was the basis of Slayer’s whole act, but was hilariously unexpected and the crowd was in stitches.

We have another very early start tomorrow – travelling over to Kangaroo Island for our 2 day trip, so we’ll sign off and get some sleep! See you soon!

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Two Days in paradise – Kangaroo Island in photos

28 Feb

Hi everyone,

We have just returned from a two-day Adventure Tour on Kangaroo Island (‘KI’ as the locals call it), courtesy of Sealink. We are working on a informative/funny blog post about the island, however, in the meantime, we just couldn’t wait to share some of our highlights with you. So sit back, relax, and take in the the beautiful jewel that Kangaroo Island is.

But first, a few housekeeping details:

  • Kangaroo Island is the third largest island in Australia
  • Population of KI is 4,400 humans, 30,000 koalas and some 500,000 sheep
  • The island is 155km long and 55km wide
  • KI is recognised as one of the most natural islands on the planet (and voted the ‘Number 1 island in Asia Pacific’ by the National Geographic Traveller Magazine in 2008).
Now, let’s get down to business. At Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery (which is the only one in the world producing eucalyptus oil from the Narrow Leaf Mallee) we got up close and personal with ‘Evil Eye’ – a grumpy emu female who in the past killed her two male counterparts.

Seal Bay is home to 700-800 Australian Sealions, which are currently at the point of extinction (only about 15,000 of them left in Australia).

Little Sahara off the southern coast of the island is a mysterious place. No one can explain how has all the sand moved so far from the coast (which is 3km away).

At Vivonne Bay Lodge, our accommodation for the night, we were welcomed by the cutest roos and wallabies.

Before dinner we got to hang out at Australia’s best beach, Vivonne Bay. It was declared the best beach out of the 1,011 beaches in Australia by Andrew Short who was commissioned by the University of Sydney to explore the 36,000km of Australian coastline (this took him 17 years).

We visited Hanson Bay Koala Sanctuary which is full of these cute and cuddly marsupials chilling up on the trees. As they are sleepy heads by nature, Owen was more interested in a nearby wallaby. The interest was not mutual :).

We made our way to the Remarkable Rocks. 500 mil years of evolution (volcanic activity, landmass movements, water- and wind erosion) has created something truly remarkable.

Admiral’s Arch features a magnificent archway sculpted by the wind and sea where New Zealand fur seals play on the shore platform below.

So what do you think? Which one is YOUR favorite?

The perfect day: Sun, Surf, Cricket and Tchaikovsky

26 Feb

So today we finally got to go to the beach! We were up early to meet Michael, a vet student at the University of Adelaide, who had kindly offered to drive us to Middleton Beach, about an hour south of Adelaide. The drive was very picturesque, taking in vineyards and avocado farms. But the real pay off was getting down to the sapphire blue waters, lapping the perfect white sand. We had little time to take it all in, however, as we had serious matters to attend – surfing lessons!

We zipped ourselves into our fetching wetsuits, and lathered up with sun cream. Our instructors from the Sun & Surf School talked us through the fundamentals – what was the front of the board, what was the back of the board and how we should lie on it. Next we were talked through how to stand up on the water, which is the notoriously tricky part… But we didn’t hang around in the sand for too long, we were all keen to get out into the sea. The water was so refreshing, and considering it was 39 degrees today, a very welcome break from the baking sun.

To say that Owen was a surfing prodigy doesn’t really go far enough in expressing his God-given talent. Hawk-like he would spot the perfect 20-30 footer, then with the power of an Ox he would paddle. One, two, three, four. Left, right, left right. Finally, as if being lifted to the heavens by his own maker he rose to his feet. God looked down upon this gnarly ride and smiled. Ottilie was good too… The whole experience was rather exhausting though (just look how knackered we were), no wonder all surfers are so physically fit!

In the evening we headed back to the previously explored Adelaide Oval (read about our ‘behind the scenes’ tour here) to catch the final session of the Ryobi One Day Cup Final between the South Australian Redbacks and the Tasmanian Tigers. Lying on the grass under a setting sun, beer in hand… it was a great way to end the day – especially as it was free! We arrived just in time to see fallen Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, rock up at the crease for the Tassies, chasing a total of 285.

In the end it all boiled down to the last over with the Tassies looking good needing just 5 runs off 6 balls with Ponting in his 70s and his captain, George Bailey, having just made his century. Amazingly, Bailey was given out for lbw on appeal  with four balls remaining. More incredibly, with 2 runs required off 3 balls, the Redbacks held out to win the game on the last ball, becoming Ryobi One Day Cup Final champions! Couldn’t believe how good my first game of cricket was!

We headed home across the river Torrens and stumbled across another crowd of 15,000 people congregated for Santos Symphony Under the Stars – a free performance by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

We caught their version of Star Wars before an awesome firework-led finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. An amazing end to a pretty sweet day.

Discovering the heart of Australia’s wine capital

25 Feb

So, continuing on the wine theme (yesterday we learned all about the wine production process at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus, read about it here), today we have decided to put our freshly gained wine knowledge to practice so we’ve joined the Barossa Valley ‘Groovy Grape Getaways’ tour. We woke to our hottest day so far- it’s reached 42 degrees today! So what better way to spend the day than driving through the hills, past vineyard after vineyard and stopping off every now and then for a welcome glass of wine.

The ‘GGG’ tour attracted a very interesting bunch of people; a group of six Adelaide girls who have not been to the Barossa before (can you believe it? If I lived here I’d go every weekend!), a small group of visitors from Korea, a Canadian adventurer and a Swiss girl who is wrapping up her Great Ocean Road trip in Adelaide). We got on the bus and were taken through the itinerary by our lovely guide for the day, Jason. First stop: World’s biggest Rocking Horse.

The Rocking Horse is part of the Gumeracha Toy Factory and apparently is a unique structure in the world. It is built entirely of steel anchored in over 80 tonnes of concrete set in rock. At its highest point (the head) it is 18.3 metres.

Next we visited the mysterious Whispering Wall, which is quite special, but won’t whisper to you (if that’s what you were expecting :)). The Wall is the first reservoir built in South Australia, 140 metres wide, completed in 1902. Due to its arched shape the noise travels really well and provides fantastic acoustics; you can hear the person at the other end as if they were standing right next to you!

And now it was time to get down to the business; we had four wineries to get to in the Barossa Valley, which is renowned as the heartland of Australia’s wine-making capital. The region has a rich heritage of grape growing and winemaking dating back to 1842. Today, there are over 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors in the Barossa.

First on is the famous Jacob’s Creek, which it turns out is actually a real creek! The story of the winery started in 1836 by William Jacob (the assistant surveyor of Colonel William Light who ‘designed’ Adelaide) who was sent to the Barossa to survey the area. He loved it so much he actually built a home here (can’t blame him really :)).

During our visit the vineyards were beautifully bathed in the morning sunshine, and they even provided deck chairs to relax in the view. We tasted five lovely wines, from a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc to Shiraz Rose to their Reserve Shiraz and a beautifully peachy Moscato. Going through the different varieties we learnt a lot about wine flavours and tasting. A helpful tip: if your wine smells of vinegar or eggs you should ask for another bottle in the restaurant!

Kies Barossa Valley was our next stop. This is a family-owned winery (we hear this quite rare these days) that doesn’t distribute to supermarkets nor does it export. If you fancy their wine you have to come to the cellar door. And it would be worth it; their ‘Bastardo Port’ is like Christmas in a glass…

At Richmond Grove winery we had a traditional Aussie BBQ for lunch, although unfortunately nobody ‘threw another shrimp on the barbie’, but this was more than compensated for with delicious steak and sausages.

Our final winery was Seppeltsfields, one of the oldest in the region. Here we finally tasted the much heralded sparkling Shiraz – a South Australian specialty. It was delicious… apparently it’s even better with bacon and eggs in the morning! The winery is particularly noteworthy for its fortified wines and we started the afternoon with a few glasses of port. Most remarkable of all, every year since 1878  Seppeltsfields has barrelled port to be opened 100 years later. It is the only winery in the world that does this. Last year the winery opened the vintage during which the Titanic was built, 1911. This year they opened the bottles from the year in which it sank, 1912. Now if that’s not impressive I don’t know what is.

Our day concluded with a trip to the Adelaide Fringe parade, to mark the official start of the festival. The event attracted thousands of locals and the streets were packed with people eager to get a glimpse. We saw circus performers, zombies, camels and buses to name but a few of the participants. Afterwards a few of the locals took us out for a beer at a pop-up fringe venue and bar in a car park (Tuxedo Cat) – really cool idea, with crates to sit on and boxes to use as tables. As we sipped on our Little Creature pale ale and Pipsqueak cider, we learnt some new aussie phrases such as ‘fair dinkum’, a great alternative for fair enough. We go to bed once again feeling overwhelmed at the kindness and welcoming nature of the people who call Adelaide home.

Tomorrow is surfing so stay tuned!!

Day 4 in Adelaide: Learning how it’s done

24 Feb

Day four in Adelaide ended up being a real education in wine and beer production – something which Adelaide seems to do very well!

Our visit to the final of the big three South Australian universities, The University of Adelaide (read about Uni South Australia and Flinders Uni here) , took us up to the Waite Campus which offers a course in Wine Making (renowned as No.1 in Australia) and Wine Marketing (I know, we couldn’t believe it either). From studying the optimum soil conditions for grape growth, to marketing the finished product, this course has everything you could ever want to know about wine. The students do two vintages a year, also producing their own wine (choosing the style, grape variety, time of picking etc).

We were able to visit the on-campus vineyards, wine production facilities and the research lab, and all our questions were answered by Dr Kerry Wilkinson of the School of Agriculture, Food & Wine who gave us a fascinating tour. It seemed to be the ideal location to study wine, seeing as South Australia is the wine capital of Australia, producing almost a half of its wine and responsible for some 60% of Australian wine exports.

We also visited the City Campus (the second out of the four The University of Adelaide has around Adelaide), which was a beautiful mixture of old and new; buildings which had been around for some 135 years and are maintained in their original condition (even down to the same carpet pattern!), and contemporary constructions which had clearly been built with students in mind. We marvelled at ‘The Hub’, a space designed by students for students, which incorporated features such as a napping area, a skype room, small informal study spaces and kitchen facilities to prepare your own food. We found ourselves extremely jealous that these facilities had not yet extended over to the UK…

After a quick iced coffee and a bite to eat from one of the many food outlets in The Hub, we jumped headed over to Cooper’s brewery (we were keen to learn about this iconic brew).

Frank our guide supplied us all with totally fashionable Cooper’s fluorescent vests, so there was little chance of us sneaking off and helping ourselves to the beer. We were told Coopers is recognised as the largest home-brew producer in the world. The history of the brewery started in 1852 when the Coopers family moved to South Australia. Because their beers are made with only the best Australian ingredients (malt, hops, yeast etc) without the use of any additives or preservatives, it was originally intended for medicinal purposes.

After this brief history lesson we made our way through the swelteringly hot brewery (which can apparently get to 55°C in the summer!) and were informed of every stage of the production. We definitely felt we had earned our beer tasting session (which thankfully took place in a suitably air conditioned room). What we found very interesting (and unusual) is that Coopers beers are marked with a ‘best after’ date (as opposed to the generally known ‘best before’), this is due to the second fermentation process which happens after the beer has been bottled (which is why their Ales always have some sediment on the bottom of the bottle).

In true Aussie style, Frank even offered to give us a lift home – yet another example of the friendly attitude you find again and again in Adelaide.

Day 3 of touring Adelaide – cricket fans and O-Week madness

23 Feb

Day three of our Adelaide adventure and, you’ve guessed it, Adelaide is still beautiful. We started our day with a homely breakfast (nothing like coco-pops to remind you of the UK), and headed out for a tour of the cricket stadium, the Adelaide Oval.

The Adelaide Oval is widely regarded as the most picturesque Test cricket ground in the world (see for yourself here). Our guide was a true Aussie cricket fan, almost a grandfatherly figure who, it transpired, kindly gave tours as a volunteer. We learnt that decades ago the cricket association had grown trees around the grounds to stop people in the surrounding houses being able to watch the games for free – something which evidently had tickled our guide.

The highlight of the tour was being shown inside the Adelaide Oval scoreboard, which is over 100 years old. The scores are still manually hung on the board, and the staff working inside use cogs and pulleys and all sorts of old fashioned methods to change the display. It was fantastic to see such an amazing feat of engineering still fully functional a whole century later, and it really added an authentic feel to the whole place. Despite us having differing interests in cricket (Ottilie none at all, and Owen being quite a fan), we both left the tour feeling we had learnt something and enjoyed ourselves very much.

It was time to get down to business and pay the second university on our list a visit. We hopped into a taxi and had a short, 20 minute journey up to Flinders University. We were greeted by a fantastic lunch and a whole bunch of UK students to dine with. Most of the students were in Adelaide as part of an exchange, and we chatted to them about how they were enjoying their time so far. The whole thing is onYouTube so make sure you check it out!

After our chat we headed down to the orientation week (O-Week) welcome fair, which was impressive to say the least! Not only did we get FREE ice cream and candy floss, but we also had our photo taken with a giant subway (see our Facebook) and got to watch students explode water bombs over each other. The place was absolutely bustling with fun and activities for new students to get involved with, and we found ourselves being quite jealous we weren’t starting at Flinders ourselves!

The campus is set up in the hills, so although walking around was slightly exhausting, it was worth it for the spectacular views. We were able to look at some student accommodation which was either the typical halls experience we’re familiar with in the UK, or a student village made up of smaller houses with five rooms in each unit. They each had a huge balcony and a communal BBQ area, we could hardly believe this was student accommodation! Check out the Pictures and videos!

Day 2 in Adelaide – Food, arts and fairgrounds

22 Feb

So, our second day in Adelaide (read about our first day here) was a second day of perfect blue skies and mid-20s warmth beaming down on our backs. We started the morning by winding our way South to Adelaide Central Market (known as the ‘food pantry of Adelaide’), the largest fresh produce market in the Southern hemisphere – turns out everything really is just 20 minutes’ walk away! Here we met Mark Gleeson, whose run his Providore stall at the heart of the market for 21 years.


It being Shrove Tuesday, we started with a delicious pancake smothered in fruit, chocolate and cream from Mark’s own stall.  He gave us a brief history of the market – 142 years old(!) – as we devoured our festive goods before we set off for a walk around the market.  It has over 80 stalls under one roof (from meat to seafood to fruit&veg to cheeses to bakery products). The food is amazing! We tried kangaroo salami, local cheese from the Adelaide Hills, Yabbies (shellfish) – we even learned to shell them!, coffee chocolate, yoghurt and loads of local fruit. A bit like Borough Market, there are freebies all over the place and the stall holders are super friendly and passionate about their produce. Plus there’s a great sense of community amongst the stall holders, something that doesn’t seem to be unusual inAdelaide, with the locals often giving each other a knowing nod or smile. After a second run of all the stalls to stock up our fridge, we were on our way to UniSA – The University of South Australia – the biggest out of the three South Australian universities.
Sabine from the International Office welcomed us to the campus, and gave us a whistle stop tour of the impressive facilities. As the campus offers many arts, architecture and creative design courses, the uni has a lot of art spaces for either professional artists or students to display their work.
We then met with two students from the UK, Katie from South Wales and Peter from Belfast, who study at UniSA as international students. They actually had pretty similar stories – came to Adelaide temporarily on their travels but fell in love with the weather, the lifestyle and the people and decided to stay. Check out the videos on YouTube  to see their impression of student life inAdelaide!

Later we heard the same story from Peter Hall, Program Director at UniSA’s Schoolof Commerce. Peter, originally from the UK, was a real laugh and was really helpful in helping us understand how university in Australiawas different to in the UK.

Finally were shown around Medical and Nursing facilities at the CityEast campus, just a ten minute walk or free tram ride up the road. The facilities were really impressive – placing an emphasis on experiential learning, they’ve built a mock hospital at the Uni for students to practice in environments in which they’d be working a couple years down the line – as a result, UniSA have great employment outcomes – so important in the current economic climate.

To finish the day off on a more cultural note we headed down to the eastern side of the city to the Garden of Unearthly Delights. I know it sounds really dodge, but the Garden is actually the hub of Adelaide Fringe festival – the Aussie equivalent of Edinburgh which literally takes over the entire city every February-March (over 800 events). Like an old-school vaudeville fairground, the place was packed with punters queuing for shows, rides and beers (check out our short video here). After soaking up a bit of the atmosphere with a Coopers Sparkling Ale, we headed to our show.

And how was the show? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait and see… 🙂 Stay tuned.

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