Sunday, April 14, 2013

Breakfast in Aldgate ... Colonial history in Birdwood ... welcome swallows on the Whispering Wall

Aldgate ... first stop, breakfast! Fall colors tell you this is April in South Australia.

On the Onkaparinga Scenic Drive ... Dave takes a second to upload a pic to facebook.
Next stop: Birdwood... 

Colonial architecture and autumn colors in Birdwood, South Australia...

...a town which was originally known as Blumberg.

Jacarandas changing to gold. Winter's around the corner.

The mill on Birdwood's main drag.

A little history of the tanbark mill...

Bright, sizzling sunshine. It's hot! Anyone for ice cream?

Heading out of Birdwood; next stop: Barossa Valley, and here's a vineyard already.
Actually, vines are grown in many, many regions in this state.

Next stop: the Whispering Wall on the Barossa Dam.

It's hot. That is -- H-O-T. Where did we put the hats?

The Barossa Dam ... a serious piece of engineering...

...good, high water levels on the Barossa Reservoir...

...and Welcome Swallows by the scores!

The Welcome Swallow is a tiny bird, about the size of your thumb;
they're common in almost all parts of Australia

Dave hiked the whole way across, so we could test out the whispering thing --
and they're right. Whisper on one side, and you hear perfectly on the other. 

Lola, being a sensible Mitsubishi Magna, says it's way too hot here.
Time to get out of Dodge.

A gentle reminder to the legions of international tourists visiting here:
drive on the left side in Australia. Yes, we're weird.

Next stop, the Barossa Valley. In fact -- that's the gateway to Lyndoch Hill on the left!
Wednesday: the Adelaide weather forecast was for 30 degrees, shade temperature, blue skies, light breezes. The plan: leave via Handorf and grab breakfast in Birdwood. Best laid plans usually get changed, and ours did. Roadworks rerouted us a couple of times, and by 9:15 we were hungry enough to say, "nuts, let's stop in Aldgate for brekkie, and then we can dawdle to Birdwood."

Fall colors in the area are gorgeous. We parked off one side of the main street, where the town has done fantastic things with the long, linear parking lot (carpark, if you prefer)  serving the train station. It's become a lovely garden -- and right opposite is the Aldgate Providore and Cafe. [Update: in 2016 the name changed to "The Fred Eatery" and the menu has changed. Still good, but different.]

The food was great, and the decor and theme is "Mexican cantina." So neat -- and the menu looks terrific. We do like Mexican, and we're promising ourselves at least one lunch there, very soon. Breakfast as we headed out on Wednesday? Jade had the free range eggs, Nairne bacon (98% lean) and baked tomato. Talk about healthy. Dave had the breakfast bruschetta with poached eggs, avocado, tomato, and fresh coriander (cilantro, if you prefer). Healthy, again. Great coffee, too. The staff are renovating at this time, and will be open for dinner again soon, but right now they're serving brekkie and lunch.

Suitably refueled, it was time to head for Birdwood, a town that was once known as Blumberg. See the plaque, above, for a potted history. World War I changed many things -- the face of the Australian map, for instance. Birdwood's gratest claim to fame is arguably the National Motor Musuem, which, weirdly, doesn't have its own website, but you can find a bit about it here. This time around, we didn't go into the museum -- just photographed the outside (see the photo we uploaded yesterday) -- because we did the whole thing in enormous detail only a couple of years ago. We'll show you the inside in some dedicated posts, as we go along.

We took in a bit of Colonial history, but the UV must have been sky-high. It was hot in the sun; you hugged any shade you could find and reminded yourself, it'll be winter in seven weeks. Climate change?

Heading out of "Old Blumberg," headed for the Barossa Valley, it's not long before you start to see vineyards. If fact, enormous areas of South Australia are suitable for, and devoted to, vineyarding. There are several clearly distinct wine regions: Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, McClaren Vale, Langhorn and Coonawarra are the main ones; there's also a few new ones, or minor ones, where people are trying new varieties and experiments, as the climate changes. McClaren Vale is our local wine area. From where we live right now, you can be in the Vale in about ten minutes flat. And of course, we have a bias ... to us, the McClaren Vale wines are the best. (In fact ... they actually are! We've tasted Barossa, Clare Valley and Langhorn, and the local wines are just better.)

Next stop: the Whispering Wall, on the Barossa Dam. Why? Because we've never done this before. We came close a few years ago, working our way back from the Barossa, not long before Christmas, 2008. The problem that day was, the gates were locked, the place was closed to public access on account of the Total Fire Ban ... unsurprising, because the heat was ferocious. Seems management doesn't want to take responsibility for tourists and travelers in that heat, and with the very real risk of big, big fires. (SA has been lucky lately; we haven't had a really big one in years. Which means we're overdue for one. Dang.)

The Whispering Wall is fantastic: two people stand on opposite sides of the wall and whisper, and the sound carries so perfectly, you can even hear the other person breathing! It's better than a cell phone. Amazing. Dave took the hike across the whole dam head ... Jade stopped in the middle to photograph the swallows, which flock around the dam by the scores. They're Welcome Swallows, tiny, beautiful birds about the size of your thumb ... iridescent in the sunlight. They're common in most parts of Australia ... and from what we've seen, they must eat their weight in insects every day. Thank heavens we have them!

It was a bit after noon by this time, and Lola (being a perfectly sensible Mitsubishi Magna) was clearly heard to say that it was way too hot in this neck of the woods, and it was time to get out of this part of Dodge. We listened attentively, and were aboard when she headed out ... past a sign reminding international travelers to (!) "Drive on the left in Australia." No, really? Hmm. Wonder if that has anything to do with the fact the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car down here? LOL ... yes, we're weird. We don't deny it.

So we were headed for the Barossa Valley in the early afternoon ... driving north into hot, dry, dusty country where the vineyards are a welcome splash of green. Actually, late in autumn (fall, if you like), they're changing to copper and gold, and very pretty).

Come back tomorrow to see a bit of the Barossa: Ice cream in Kapunda, onward and northward to the fantastic motel we called Base for three nights, and a lot more.

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