Acclimatising in Adelaide

Perfect–only a 100 meters walk to the sandy beach, and from the desk in the living room, which I had immediately occupied with my laptop, I could see the sea between the Melrose-Place-like houses. In the meantime, my wife had taken care of a family pack of M&M peanuts, a present from the landlords. The place where we stay for the next four weeks and prepare for the road trip is beautifully located, but the interior is somewhat outdated. Next to our heart-shaped pale pink bathtub from a prestigious sounding brand Saint-Tropez, the floor coverings through the apartment were extra thick, and you sink deeply into them. Maybe it was to insulate? Not ideal for yoga or HIIT training. The walls were thin and made of wood. The windows were single glazed and therefore did not insulate well. It got hot quickly and then cold again, which is not ideal by European standards but perhaps desirable for Adelaidians–a Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.

After putting the suitcase away, our first activity was a walk through the area to find a place to eat and then shopping. The houses in the neighbourhood are predominantly low-rise and have individual styles. A mix of Old Colonial (until 1840), Federation architecture (until 1915), Californian Bungalow style, alternating with modern, minimalist blocks with stainless steel, plastered white walls and a maximum of two floors. Some with artificial grass, others with the entire outdoor area (garden) covered with stone slabs. No green, nothing. The people seem to be fond of tidiness. The greenery in most other back yards and on the streets is beautiful, with striking Callistemon trees (Bottle Brush) and giant Norfolk Island pines along the beach on the promenade. Massive 20 meters high Christmas trees in front of your door.

One day, as we made our way to the bookshop, I used the self-cleaning public toilet you can find everywhere in the city. Usually, not an exciting experience to mention, but this toilet feels like you’re boarding an actual spaceship. While entering, a Robocop voice guides you through the speaker and kindly informs you that you have 10 minutes to take care of your affairs. The announcement was followed by funky Jazz music while I relieved myself. Not bad and indeed relaxing.

The Broadway Kiosk is a beach cafe next to this futuristic toilet unit, with a top view over the beach, a favourite for breakfast or lunch. I went to the counter and ordered: “A large coffee with some milk please”. The girl gave me a glazed look, probably due to my funny accent, so I repeated my order. “What kind of coffee do you like? We have flat white, latte, Macchiato, Affogato, Americano, Cappuccino, short black, long black”. I asked, somewhat irritated, “how do you call a normal coffee? Just coffee?!” “You mean a long black perhaps?” “Right, that should be the one. With a dash of milk, please.” I figured that I need to work on my terminology. Anyway, we found helpful literature for the trip to accompany us; two Lonely Planet editions, ‘Australia’ and ‘Australia’s best trips–38 amazing road trips’.

Lush gardens

The botanical gardens are ideal for a stroll and a lovely lunch by one of the ponds. After finding a shady spot at Cafe Fibonacci, I chose a vegetarian pasty, and we shared a large salad. The park was quiet, with the buzz of the CBD in the background. A bit of peace from the city. Many beautiful plants and giant trees, including the Wollemi Pine. This exciting find, 120 km northwest of Sydney, shows how little we know about the plant world. The pine was only discovered in 1994 in Wollemi National Park, NSW. Botanists from Australia and beyond have identified the pine as a living fossil because it was only previously known from the fossils of leaves, cones, and tiny pollen grains described as the prehistoric genus Dilwynites. Massive Eucalyptus and Bottle trees, pines, Wheel of Fires, Osage Oranges, Acacias, giant figs, and overgrown trails. Just impressive and so different to the trees you find in, for example, Berlin. Turtles inhabited the pond where we were having lunch. A population of Murray River turtles regularly surfaced. While we leisurely wandered through the park after lunch, nine weddings took place on that day. A sign at the park entrance alerted us to avoid photo-bombing.

Kaurna country

I noticed that we encountered quite a few Aboriginal people in the city centre. The Kaurna are the original people of Adelaide and the Adelaide Plains. The area now occupied by the city and parklands–called the Kaurna Tarntanya (red kangaroo place)–was the heart of Kaurna country. Before 1836 it was an open grassy plain with patches of trees and shrubs resulting from hundreds of generations of skilful land management.

But I get a slightly uneasy feeling of pity when I sometimes see Aboriginal people sitting aimlessly on the streets and in the parks. Their clothes are occasionally filthy, and a few are in a haze of alcohol or something like that. I assume they form a minority, but then I wonder why the relationship with these people is troubled and what the Australian government does about it. I don’t think it just depends on the government’s efforts, though. The community and also businesses will have their share too. You see the Aboriginal flag everywhere, mostly on government buildings and usually next to the Australian one: two horizontal stripes, black and red, and a large yellow circle in the centre. The Aboriginal flag was born in July 1971, at a land rights meeting at Tarntanyangga (Victoria Square), in Adelaide. Created as a symbol of unity and national identity and designed to catch the eye. I’m keen to experience more about this topic during our trip.

Several administrative matters, such as an SA driver’s license, were also on the list. We took the bus on our way to the government agency Service SA. Here we waited on our turn until a lady behind plastic protective glass with a face mask and a plant spray full of disinfectant helped us. The EU-driver’s licenses, passports, Airbnb printout and Medicare card, which we requested during the hotel quarantine, did their job to identify us. After some formalities and a photo-shooting, we stood outside. Too easy.

After the success of the driver’s licenses, we went shopping in Westfield Marion and had lunch at an IndoChin diner. Opposite us sat a Rheinland bakery and the Aldi. I didn’t expect that here. Germans were among the first European settlers to arrive as pioneers in Australia after colonisation. About 10,000 migrated during the gold rush in the 1850s. There is even a village in the hills of Adelaide called Hahndorf. A contemporary town proud of its German heritage. Well, in case we miss ‘home’, we know where to go.

Project 4wd

We started the search by checking five cars that I found on carsales.com.au. They were at typical car dealerships. A 2000 Toyota Rav4 was so rickety, Juliane wondered if it could survive the ride at all. I had the car shortlisted because of the competitive price, which is not the best criteria. The test drive confirmed her suspicion. Another vehicle, a Subaru Forester, had been given a ‘new’ second-hand engine, so the total kilometres on the speedometer remained a rough indication. The lights on the dashboard did not always work well, and at the bottom of the car, I could see that it was a lot in the Outback (read; mud). We finally tried another Rav4 from 2007, and that went fine.

At another dealer, ‘Adelaides Best Car Deals’ a few yards away, we had a look at an old Toyota Prado from 1998. This car was big, looked like it could take a beating, and the price was competitive. However, the vehicle’s interior was extraordinarily repellent, and when I looked under the four-ton truck, I saw a greasy layer of oil everywhere—a definite deal-breaker. I made a comment about the car’s condition to the fat salesman, and all he could say was “but it’s a Toyota!” as if it were some magic word, which made my scepticism disappear like snow in the sun. Interesting that during the conversations with the dealers, I learned nothing substantive about the cars. They talk a lot about nothing, relying entirely on their blue eyes. Anyway, you are, of course, fully responsible for having the vehicle checked for defects. We ordered a mobile RAA mechanic (a kind of Wegenwacht in the Netherlands or ADAC in Germany), and he went to the dealer to inspect the car. Despite the 2007 Rav4 looking and driving sound, it wasn’t roadworthy (among many other things, there was Valve Train Noise audible). It seems that when buying your wheels at the dealership around the corner, you may encounter some surprises.

So the search for a trustworthy 4wd continued, and we still had a lot to explore in this fine coastal city.

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