Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The view from Mount Alma -- high country, and glacial rocks at Inman Valley

Mount Alma rises high above Inman Valley, South Australia ...
...and the views are superlative in any light. Samwise Gamjee would be right at home.
Evening light over the slopes of Mount Alma -- winter, 2016. And it's cold!
Mount Alma rises high over Inman Valley on South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula, and the views from the top are superlative. Scotland, Ireland ... New Zealand and Middle Earth come to mind when you're gazing out over this countryside, especially in winter (when these images were captured), when it's green ... and cold, and windy!

In fact, Mount Alma is a cyclist's nightmare, which probably explains why so many of them ride it. Dave has ridden in a couple of times, and we'll link you from here to his cycling blog when he has the post up. But for the rest of us, it's an awesome drive in the comfort of a car. Preferably a big, powerful car! A roadside sign down at the bottom warns that this hill is not for buses, trucks and so forth. And they ain't kidding. The signage is plentiful, and it's emphatic. See below!

The road starts to rise away up Mount Alma ...
Drivers beware, and as for cyclists? Abandon hope. Unless your name is Nairo Qintana ... or Dave.
See what we mean about the signage? Pass this point on a bicycle, and it's all your own fault, right?
However you get to the top of Mount Alma --
Your reward is reaped in this kind of heaven. It's a photographer's paradise --
--so long as you remember your coat, hat, scarf, gloves, boots, thermals--
Watch out for Hobbits. There's got to be Hobbits around here. Stands to reason.
Evening light is starting to gather. Not long till sunset...
Sheep head down to the lower slopes. Perhaps they have a barn down there.
Sunset on Mount Alma...
A zoom shot into the very heart of the sunset. In fact, the hills are not really so dark. Yet.
Shadows are just starting to get long...
Not too much winter sun is left now, and when it's gone --
Just minutes later the headlights are on and it's twilight already.

Driving Mount Alma is actually very safe. The road is well marked and the local council keeps it in very good repair. We've done it in twilight, and it didn't seem to be dangerous at all.

There's also a rally event held here, one of those "time trial for sportscars" races, which explains the rubber left on the road in places. It's not local "petrol heads" at all.

Coming down from the top, the road just drops out from under you and the car really is in low gear to handle the gradient. The views on the way down are as awesome as those from the top, but you're thinking, "Hmm, better get down before it gets dark."

Having done Mount Alma at the end of the day, racing the setting sun to get photos before there just wasn't enough light, we decided to go back in the morning -- full daylight and blue skies. So here we are for "take two," a few weeks after the shots above.

It's winter -- July, 2016 -- and it might look bright and warm, but it's cold enough that after a while your bare ands don't want to move properly anymore. The pictures were worth it, though. Right now, I'm just going to shut up and let the gallery speak for itself! Here goes:

As you reach the foot of Mount Alma and run back into Inman Valley you start to see
"eccentric" granite boulders like these everywhere. How in the world did they get
into the middle of paddocks like this? They're the same kind of granite rocks you see
at Victor Harbour, and (!) Granite Island. And then --
Yes -- glaciation deposited these boulders here. And if you'd like to continue your drive through Inman Valley,
you'll see Glacier Rock itself...
To the uneducated eye it's not exactly spectacular, but geologists could get excited. Read on:
Glacial History and Inman Valley --
Selwyn's Rock ... Cambrian Kanmantoo Quartzite. Very cool. (Say that three times, fast after two double tequilas.)
Dave, your smiling tour guide, points out the formation itself...
It'd be easy to drive right past Glacier Rock, because the signage is rather circumspect, just a little thing pointing you off to the side of the road. Alas, there's no disabled access to the pool and rock at the bottom, and the stairs are steep enough to be a major challenge to anyone who's not in robust shape (see below). There's a little observation platform at the top, though, and the info boards are up there -- just beyond the cafe. Did someone say, cafe? As in, coffee? Or, perhaps, lunch?

(For picnickers, there's a picnic table just off the road at the village of Inman Valley, just a few kilometers away: look for the redbrick Memorial Hall ... good bathrooms, too, and curious local artwork.)

We did actually stop for coffee at the Rock View Cafe. And clean forgot to take pictures. The coffee was wonderful, and we'll return again another time and fill in the blanks. We've also done the picnic thing, availing ourselves of the little facility at the village of Inman Valley, and that was great too.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Mount Lofty Summit and Windy Point: best Adelaide city views

The old lighthouse on the top of Mount Lofty, South Australia ... and the sun is shining.
First priority: pick a nice day for this visit, because it can be chilly and windy up here...
They do charge for car parking at Mount Lofty, but a $2 ticket will last the whole visit.
The Summit Restaurant offers indoor and outdoor dining...
...Adelaide's Central Business District, as seen from Mount Lofty Summit -- a long zoom shot.
Can't complain about the views, while you're having coffee and lunch! 
Looking north from Mount Lofty Summit. The city is over your left shoulder right now...
"You are here" ... a visual guide to knowing what you're looking at!
An even longer zoom shot of Adelaide's CBD and parklands...
...and a wider shot, on a different--white-sky--day with very different lighting conditions.

The Ash Wednesday 1983 Memorial Placque, "In honour of all firefighters who fought the fires in South Australia"
on that day, "and especially those who gave their lives..." Golly, what memories this brings back. Shivers.
Fitting, that this should be a Sri Chinmoy Peace Summit.
On a warm day, this is a great place to picnic with incomparable views, and -- 
Watch the skies for utterly weird clouds. Or is this an alien spaceship pretending to be a cloud?!
Many people come here for the walking trails. It's a great place to hike ... word of caution:
be sure you can handle very steep trails, wear good shoes, carry water, and be snake-conscious. 
The high-tech fire lookout tower and heritage listed lighthouse, top of Mount Lofty.
Picadilly Valley as seen from the north side of the restaurant. (The info board is perfectly readable, if you view
this image at full size), and --
A wide shot of Picadilly Valley, in fine weather and morning light...
A long zoom short, showing the market gardening which is Picadilly's mainspring.
The Summit restaurant on a bright spring morning ... lunch, anyone?
The reflection in that window glass tells you exactly where you are!
The Summit Restaurant can get very busy, but we were lucky on this day...
...and the food and coffee were excellent. 
Back to the van, and ... now, will the Millennium Possum start, or ...? Phew! She did. So -- off to Windy Point
now, and more city views. (The poster features an Australian magpie and a superb fairy wren.)
The lower car park at Windy Point Lookout, on Belair Road. As the crow flies, you're about
10 or 12 K's from Mount Lofty, and just a tad bit south of due west. It's rather further by road, of course. 
An Australian magpie, and a crow, keeping an eye on picnickers at Windy Point.
Australian magpie. Don't let them fool you: meat pie and chips are NOT their
natural food. Their favorite food is salted peanuts. Really.
Adelaide's western suburbs and he Gulf St. Vincent, son from Windy Point.
Westfield Shopping Town at Marion shows clearly in this zoom shot from Windy Point.
Glenelg's highrise apartment houses and hotels, in a zoom shot from Windy Point...
Adelaide,'s CBD, from Windy Point, on a clear day in early winter, 2016. Note the cranes.
Glenelg, in a zoom shot from Windy Point on a clear day. See this at full size, check out the old
Glenelg Town Hall, just left of middle of picture. Compare with this, which appears in another post,
Glenelg on Labour Day 2011. Now, that is very neat.

The images for this post were actually gathered over several visits to these locations, but you can easily do both in the same morning, with lunch at any of the numerous cafes between. The Summit Restaurant is right there on the highest point in the Mount Lofty Ranges, and the food and coffee are great. Or you could come down around the mountain to Aldgate and find anything from marvelous pizza to full-on fine dining, then head from there to Windy Point on Belair Road.

If you're photographing the city, you need to do this in the morning, because you're looking at the sea in most of these shots ... the sun sets on the Gulf St. Vincent. Since you want the sun over your shoulder to get good pictures, head out early.

If you just want to do one of the two lookouts, you could head for Mount Lofty Summit, get some great pictures and then head down to Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, which we covered in another post right there. (If you're picnicking, the gardens also have more sheltered tables.)

There's a very good gift store adjacent to the cafe on Mount Lofty, and some extremely challenging walking trails. By contrast, Windy Point offers mainly only a gourmet restaurant -- that's extremely well reviewed. We hear good things about their cheesecake. One of these days...!

Heading out to these destinations -- be sure to pick your day. It can be cold and windy, not to mention deeply overcast. On a sparkling day with clear air, the views are spectacular. On a dull day, spritzing with rain ... well, there's definitely better places to be and, luckily, plenty of them not far away!

Next: High Country ... the view from Mount Alma. Or, "Welcome back to the shire, Samwise."

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