At home with the Sissies

18 to 25 October 2019

Wallaroo to Adelaide via Gawler, 249km

After a night in Gawler, the gateway to the Barossa Valley, we headed straight to Adelaide excited about a week at home with the Sissies – a whole week in a house with solid walls, although not, we had been forewarned, a bath!

After a swim in the pool at Elizabeth in the northern suburbs we killed some time before Anna and Michael got home from work by stopping at Port Adelaide. It seemed an appropriate place to start and one which we would have started at had we sailed into the city. We found familiar landmarks from our sailing life

and I found familiar landmarks from my former career in the red brick law courts and the many old solicitors and barristers chambers.

No sooner had we arrived at Anna and Michael’s lovely 1930s style house in the pretty suburb of Glandore than they left to go to a family wedding for the weekend and entrusted us with the care of their beloved cat, Pipkin. We managed to keep her alive and inside the house, although she was a little grumpy at not being allowed her evening jaunt in the garden.

We really liked Adelaide. It was nice to be back in a city but one small enough to feel friendly and manageable. The tram system took us quickly into the centre

where we immediately fell for its wonderful markets and Asian food courts.

Even the very centre of the city offered wonderful green spaces on the banks of the river Torrens.

Adelaide’s version of Brisbane’s Gabba, the Oval, celebrated the city’s sporting heros.

We wandered along the river and towards the Botanical Gardens passed trees full of thousands of fruit bats or flying foxes. They were enormous and noisy.

The gardens were beautifully understated and shady.

The rainforest house housed all the trees and ferns we had seen on the east coast. We just weren’t used to seeing them under a roof.

Anna and Michael live halfway between the city centre and Adelaide’s beach at Glenelg. One day we walked the 5km between the jetty at Glenelg to the jetty at Brighton through neighbouring Hove. It was like being back in Sussex. Only with more sand on the beach. And more blue sky to be honest!

With such a wonderful sweep of beach and such a seaside feel (even the sculpture was eating fish and chips!) it is no wonder that Adelaidians don’t feel the need to go much further than Glenelg on their holidays.

On Anna’s day off she joined us for a boat trip along the Port Adelaide River where even she learnt a lot about the industries that work along the river, from the fishing fleets to the cement works and power stations. We saw the huge building being built to house the Australian navy’s new submarine.

On the other side of the river Torrens Island provided an antidote to the industrial chimneys, the island is home to mangroves and samphire scrub and to the dolphins promised by the boat trip. We did see dolphins but Stefan was more content just to be back on the water.

Arriving back in Port Adelaide we got to see its grand buildings from the water, always a different perspective on a place.

Early European settlers to Adelaide might have had a similar journey up the river to the colony established in 1836. The city is rather proud that it was not founded not by convict labour but free citizens. South Australia is proud of its early and progressive democracy which gave women the vote as early as 1890. To find out more about the communities who built Adelaide and the State we headed to the Migration Museum, just ever so slightly concerned that once again Australia’s indigenous people might be written out of that history.

We needn’t have worried. This museum faced up to the ugly colonial past with an exhibition honouring the strength of the women ancestors and the ways in which, through traditional crafts, indigenous women continue to connect with them.

The exhibits went on to lay bare the reality of the European settlers’ treatment of the First Australians – the massacres, the forced assimilation, the forced separation of children from their families. It continued to describe the Federation’s treatment of other early migrant groups and its attempts to stop them from entering the country with the White Australia policy. Established in 1901, primarily to make it more difficult for the Chinese migrants to compete in the goldfields in Victoria and the Pacific Islanders to work in the sugar plantations of Queensland, it was 1973 before the policy was repealed completely.

The museum rightly celebrated Australia’s attempts to put the past right and the welcome it has subsequently given to migrants and refugees from all over the world, from the Greek refugees of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s, the children brought under the British Child Migration Scheme, the refugees from Vietnam in the 1970s and from Kosovo in 1999. For some reason, it failed to mention Australia’s continued breach of the Refugee Convention by outsourcing its asylum processing to Papua New Guinea.

We bumped into local events in the city including the end of a solar car challenge which we had seen racing along the Stuart Highway and the annual vegan festival at which Anna and I enjoyed vegan coffee, cake, cheese and ice cream!

But best of all, our week in Adelaide meant lots of opportunity to spend time with two of our favourite people, to swim with them at their local pool, taste wine together in McLaren Vale, hang out in their lush, produce filled garden, meet their friends and even have a good old Aussie barbie. Thank you, Anna and Michael, for putting us up for so long and sharing your lovely city with us.

We had started to feel really at home in Adelaide but after a week of a warm bed and solid walls it was time to get back in the tent…

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