Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dawn at Milang, Breakfast at Clayton Bay, English 'dry stone walls' at Callington, then -- lions and zebras and bison, oh my!

Dawn rises over the wetlands at Milang, South Australia...
...and when we're staying over in Milang the day begins with a photo assignment --
You get up when the first flush of dawn colors appears in the sky, and...
...walk right across the empty main road outside the Milang Lakes Motel...
...and there's the wetlands, and the rising sun.
On this trip the sky was clear, which doesn't make for a brilliant dawn, so --
-- the challenge was to "get creative" with the shots, and... 
...make the most of everything we had to work with. In the end we wound up with so many good shots --
-- the hardest thing was paring them down to a scant handful to upload here!
The weltlands were alive with birds that morning -- 
-- and not one of them came close enough to photograph! So we said  "nuts" and --
-- went right back over to Clayton Bay, pronto, on another assignment: breakfast!
Sails at Clayton Bay is a marvelous cafe-restaurant, and
-- they're situated right there on the waterfront...
--serving the best breakfast you can imagine. This hit the spot. Yum!
Clayton Bay: "you are here." You can actually read the history on the board here, seen at full size.
Looks like a great day to be out on the water. Boats were launching e very few minutes --
-- from the boatramp right alongside the jetty, while...
...pelicans fished for their own breakfast along the riverbank.
But we have a date with lions and zebras, so it's already time to get out of Dodge!
Halfway over to Monarto, we stopped on Callington Road to capture a photogenic landscape. 
The Callington area is a picturebook landscape. It must be lovely in winter, when it's green. Must come back!
Callington would very likely have been settled originally by folks from the UK, because --
check out their "dry stone walls." These are commonplace ... in England's north-east, that is.
Art meets nature. Eucalypt trees shed their bank, not their leaves --
and when they do, sometimes you get an effect like abstract painting. Pretty!
At last -- welcome to Monaro Wildlife Park ... not a 'zoo' as we generally think of them.
Drive right up to the gates and inside. Buy tickets at the kiosk to the right there.
It's actually quite expensive; but then again, it must cost a fortune to run this place. So...
Walking up from the huge "parking pasture" you enter the wildlife park itself right here.
The way in is through the shop. Yep, we'll be stopping there on the way out.
Check out the giraffe skeleton. Wow. There's also a lot more skeletons: next post!
Monarto is home not only to African wildlife, but to endangered species from other continents.
These are Przewalski's horses, and here's what Wikipedia says of them: "Dzungarian horse is a rare and
endangered subspecies of wild horse native to the steppes of central Asia."
And the good news is, they thrive -- and breed! -- at Monarto in South Australia.
Likewise, America bison thrive here -- though they must wonder what happened to the grass.
Seriously, Monarto is a series of massive paddocks in which grazing animals run almost totally free,
and the fact is, they graze simply out the land. Now...
... if Monarto were four times the size, staff could afford to move the stock from one paddock to another,
rotating herds around so the recently-grazed paddock could lie fallow and recover. Alas,
 there's no such luxury, so these animals may run free, but they're fed fro the back of a truck.
The zebras thrive at Monarto, and breed readily in this environment.
And Monarto contributes to the world-wide breeding program which is right now
rescuing the white rhino, bringing it back from the thin edge of extinction.
Grant's gazelles run free ... and the dead giveaway that these are in Australia is
hopping along the fence at upper left! Yep -- kangaroos also abound in these paddocks.
Can't see him clearly? Check out this picture at large size!
Then, it's on to the lion enclosure...
Lions! This is what you wanted to see, right?
We have some great pictures, which we'll be uploading in the next post!

It's been ten years since we last visited Monarto, and we were surprised by the changes. It's much more developed than we recall, and one of the best changes is that they now have a very excellent shuttle bus "service" running round and around inside the park. The bus stops at various points adjacent to the viewing areas for giraffes or lions or whatever, and you can get on and off said bus as often as you like, so you could spend as long as you wanted in a certain place.

The park is 2,500 acres, which sounds like a lot, but if Monarto has one problem it's that it's about 25% as big as it really needed to be, if it were going to remain lush and green. True, it'll be greener in wintertime, but herds of antelope, bison and so on will graze out the paddocks. In the end, the stock will be "fed off the back of a truck." (Which, yes, is also true of local domestic animals -- cattle, sheep, horses, alpacas. Even camels, if you're sharp-eyed.)

It's very good to see species which are endangered in other lands doing well here. One can hope that in future the conditions may be right for returning the great-great-grand-offspring of these creatures to the wild.

The sun shone, we hopped off the bus here and there, and we came home with so many terrific photos, it was a major challenge to pare them down to a comparative handful for blogging. We're also going to cover Monarto in at least two posts, so --

Next time: lions, giraffes and a lot more!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Aldgate for a Spanish brunch, Mount Lofty lights up with fall colors, and the sun sets over Clayton Bay

First order of priority: breakfast! Aldgate Providore and Cafe in, uh, Aldgate.
The Aldgate Providore is a Spanish-themed cafe-restaurant with great food. Dave orders up a fine breakfast --
-- and spectacular coffee! Suitably refueled, we're off to --
-- catch the fall colors at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden on a cool, calm morning in late March.
March is the beginning of fall ... in Australia, of course. Oak trees know about this ... ripe acorns prove it.
Eurtopean and North American trees are glorious in this season.

The Mount Lofty Botanic Garden is 100% irrigated from storm water catchment. The lake at the heart of the park
is actually the catchment area, from which the water is pumped in all directions.

The park is situated high in the hills -- cooler even on very hot days. March can be astonishing hot,
but on this autumn day it was cool and nice.

The "bog garden" is a duck pond at the very lowest point of the park...
...and home to many plants that look utterly alien.
The view over the water catchment lake from the far side...
...where glory vines are changing color in honor of the season.
Only "imported" trees change color in the fall. There isn't a single Australian native that does it.

Follow the paths through and around some really beautiful old trees on yor way back to the parking lot (or
car park, if you want it in the native Aussie), and then you're on your way...
After checking into the Milang Lakes Motel by Lake Alexandrina, we went directly over to
Clayton Bay ... always wanted to photograph the sunset from there. Let's show you why...
Clayton Bay is an area as well as a town. Here's what Wikipedia says about it: "Clayton Bay is a small town on the River Murray in South Australia. The town is located opposite the north-east tip of Hindmarsh Island, 87 kilometres by road from Adelaide or 12 kilometres upriver from Goolwa." So there, now you know.

That's the marina in the middle of the shot. The town stretches off to your right.
Silver gulls are the most common seagulls you'll see in South Australia -- but far from the only ones.
You'll see silver gulls on every beach in the state, and along most of the rivers in any proximity to the sea.
Clayton Bay is home to a very active boatie community -- it has a busy marina (see the above picture).

The sun is almost down now. We sat on a bench on a bluff right above the water, waiting for the moment...

Digital cameras hate these lighting conditions. Shots captured on the automatic settings are
invariably poor. So -- switch to full manual right about now.
A flight of ducks heading back up to Lake Alexandrina for the evening, and...
Photography meets art! A rare, utterly perfect shot.
And here's why we've always wanted to photograph the sunset from Clayton Bay. Wow.
Taken at almost the same moment as the shot above -- this image doesn't use any of the camera's
filters or arty techniques. All "normal light" shots were done on full manual ...
...and the sun was gone in another minute. Next? Dinner, please!
Dave gets creative with a signboard beside the jetty. Wow -- what an effect!

We'd gone out for three days on this trip, so we had time to dawdle, no reason to hurry over anything. Only one thing was time sensitive: Monarto Wildlife Park, which closes its gates at about 4:00pm, so you need to get there early-ish. This was reserved for the second day of the excursion, so on the first day we could afford to meander... and we did!

On many of these trips we'll start out with breakfast in Aldgate. There's a couple of places we know there that are terrific for brunch. A favorite is the Aldgate Providore and Cafe, which is a Spanish-themed cafe-restaurant with very different, and very good, food ... and extremely good coffee.

From there, we circuited Mount Lofty a little way ... and in true meandering fashion, stopped again. The Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens is one of our favorite places, especially in fall. The park changes so much from season to season ... see it in this post, in all its summer green, in 2013. Caching the fall colors just right is not easy. Too early, and you see nothing; too late, and the trees will be stripped by a high wind.

March can be very hot in South Australia. In other years it's been over 100 degrees Fahrenheit on this date, but this year we were lucky. The weather was cool, a little overcast, with skies clearing as the day progressed. Nice.

From the botanic park, we headed directly to Milang to check in at the Milang Lakes motel. Didn't take photos on this occasion, because we've photographed Milang so often already. If you'd like to fill in the blank, see this post: Milang and Lake Alexandrina -- wetlands, sailboats, big skies and a lot of history. That shows all, tells all.

And as soon as we'd unloaded the car we went directly to Clayton Bay to do something we'd always wanted to do: photograph the sunset from there. These pictures show why!

Then it was back to the motel for supper and a quiet night's sleep. In the morning, we planned to photograph dawn over the wetlands, as we always do, before heading over to Monarto for a date with lions, giraffes, antelope, rhino, zebras, meerkats! Couldn't wait for this ... and we'll start the Monarto pictures in the next post. There's quite a lot, so it'll take two posts to cover even some of them.
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