Saturday, April 30, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip Day 11 - (Clocks, Crays and Chinese)

The weather has turned to crap today. After having some glorious weather in Moonta, with sun shining, cloudless skies and no rain, the temperature has been steadily dropping and last night we saw the return of the rain.

Breakfast this morning was at a German bakery in Hahndorf. The interesting part of this shop was the number of clocks that the owner had. There would have to have been 50+ clocks, all with (more or less) the correct time. We spent about 45 minutes lingering over breakfast, with the boys being commandeered by the owner to assist him with odd little repair work throughout the shop. These clocks ranged in size from small to big buggers, and all of them chimed, most on the quarter hour. Lesley has been wanting one of these type of clocks for a while, but there is no way I am going to having something go off every 15 minutes in the house. She says I'll get used to it, after a while. It is times like this I like to use a phrase made famous in the film The Castle:

After a quick look at another clock shop and then on to Beerenberg (wonderful jams, sauces, marinades, etc etc), we than start back along the coast.

The areas near the two large lakes, Lake Albert and the other one, there is a profileration of salt bushes and other salt water friendly plants. Whilst the rains over the last year have helped the region you certainly wonder when the salt will finally take over and destroy the environment along the Coorong.

Lunch was at Kingston SE, made famous by one of Australia's "big" things. Don't get me wrong. I love our country's obsession with our big things, as evidenced with our stop for the Big Koala on the way to Adelaide. Before I die I will visit and photograph all of them.
Picture courtesy of Nixk Szetey. It was raining and I didn't want to get wet.
A close up of the Big Lobster

Lunch was at the restaurant called The Big Lobster. Can I just say that the food was good, but the service was brilliant. Nothing was too hard for them, and they treated the two boys as adults. I recommend a visit here for lunch, or dinner if you are in the area.

From Kingston SE it's only a short trip to our final destination for the day, Robe.

Robe is a nice seaside village that I have yet to properly appreciate, mainly becuase every time I have visited it has rained. Today was no exception. We took the opportunity of the poor weather to have a quite afternoon having a rest, and to have a break from sightseeing. The rooms that we have has a large spa and I made full use of it.

Tea tonight at the Dragon Village Chinese Restaurant. I enjoy visiting country Chinese restaurants. In all honesty I have not had a bad Chinese meal in the country. Once again the service was excellent, especially from a young waitress (I think must have been under 18, as she couldn't/didn't serve me my beer) who took our orders and ensured that the food and drinks kept coming at regular intervals. The Peking Duck was great and the boys enjoyed the Garlic Prawns and Mongolian Beef. I think we are all starting to think we have over eaten a bit this holiday. I think we'll go easy on the food in the next few days (yeah, right).

Mt Gambier tomorrow.

Adelaide Family Trip Day 10 - (Germans)

Farewell seaside town of Moonta and hello to the valleys and hills north/northeast of Adelaide. The overnight stays tonight and tomorrow are one nighters, as we move on towards the limestone coast.

First stop, for lunch, was the town of Tanunda, 70km northeast of Adelaide. Can I just say here that the road signage in Victoria is much better than in South Australia. Today's total trip time was probably about 1 hour more than it shoud have been as a combination of poor descriptions on the Googlemap printouts I had as well as poor signage meant that there was more than one occasion where we ended up taking a wrong turn. Still, the scenery of the wrong ways were nice.

I have a history with Tanunda due to the various brass band contests that have been held over, whilst I was playing with Box Hill Band. For a large number of years Tanunda hosted the South Australia Band Championships. Box Hill were South Australia B Grade Champions on 2 occasions I ventured across the border. The trips were as much about alcohol consumption the social aspects of playing as they were about competing. The venue itself was a large tin shed. The atmosphere was that of a large country fair, and encouraged drinking making merry and having a good time. These contests were amongst my favourites.

The Tanunda region was first settled by Prussian immigrants in 1842-43, and their germanic influence is still evident in many aspects of the town. Whilst the name Tanunda is not german (it is aboriginal for watering hole), the original names of the settlements where Tanunda is etsblished were Bethanien and Langmeil. The choir, or Liedertafel, seems to date back to 1861, whilst the Tanunda Town Band is claimed to be the oldest in Australia (and possibly the Southern Hemisphere).

Lunch was at the Tanunda Bakery (large brass shaped pretzel serving as the front door handle), and there was a large selection of german strudels and other assorted goodies available. We sadly went for the aussie options of pies and sausage rolls.

Next stop was in the town of Woodside, home of the Melba Chocolate Factory.  We spent some time watching chocolates being made, tasting (many) samples and buying presents to take back home. Here are some random photos of the the production of cherryripe-like chocolates and chocolate bullets.

From there it was a short drive to our final destination for the day, the town of Hahndorf. The town was settled by Prussian Lutherans in 1839 and was named after Captain Dirk Meinhetz Hahn, captain of the ship Zebra, used to transport these immigrants to Australia.

I must admit that I almost always visit Hahndorf when I travel to Adelaide. The food is fantastic, the shops are interesting, it always seems to be busy (though it's not good when it is too busy as when we were last here on Easter Saturday. All of Adelaide travelled to the hills that day.) the heritage buildings have great character and just it feels very european.

 I forgot to take photos this time around. Here are some I took from a previous trip:
Hahndorf Metwurst. Yum!

These is the entrance to the Hahndorf Pioneer Memorial Gardens (apologies for poor photography skills shown)

We ate hotdogs here Easter Saturday. The building is over 160 years old.

Another old building.
 Tea tonight was at the Hahndorf Inn, where we got stuck into The Taste of Germany Platter:
 Bockwurst, Weisswurst, Cheese Kransky and Vienna sausages, smoked Pork Kassler Chop and Pork Knuckle. Served with Rhine potato, sauerkraut, 2 pretzels and a selection of German mustards
We still had (some) room for dessert. Here is what the boys ate:
Royal Weddin zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 9 (Slow News Day)

Apologies for this very brief blog tonight. After a few days of struggle I have finally succumbed to a cold and have taken it easy today.

That's not to say we didn't spend a few hours at the beach. The weather was too nice to just sit inside all day.

The rest of the anticipated acitivites however fell by the wayside. No Rango, no museums, railways or other touristy points of interest.

Tomorrow sees us start the long, ambling journey back to Kinglake. I am glad we ventured up to Moonta. The beaches are brilliant, there are enough attractions to keep you amused for a few days and we got to stay in a very spacious and well appointed house.  Thanks again to Damien and Leigh for allowing us the use of this house for a few days.

The plan for tomorrow is that lunch is to be in Tanunda, and tomorrow night will be in Hahndorf.

Good Night all.

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 8 (Beaches, Peaches and Mines)

The start of our second week of this trip saw us venturing down to the beach at Moonta Bay in the morning for a few hours to do absolutely nothing. Blue sky, still water, cloudless (well mostly). It was brilliant. I wish I could say I had photos of the beach, but I couldn't be bothered with a camera. Hoping to have a repeat dose tomorrow.

In the afternoon we visited the Wheal Hughes Mine, a copper mine that had only shut down operations in the last 15 years. Copper has been a very important part of the economy of, not only the Moonta region, but of South Australia. At one stage South Australia had the largest copper smelting operations in the world, outside of Wales. And copper is still a significant dollar earner for the South Australian economy with BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam mine, located in Roxby Downs, about 570 km northwest of Adelaide, containing the world's fourth largest known deposit of copper (as well as significant amounts of gold, silver and uranium).

Focussing back on Moonta, and at one stage in the late 1800's more than 1750 men and boys worked as miners for the various mining companies located in and around Monta. As mentioned yesterday the old mining cottages form a significant part of the "old Moonta".

The Wheal Hughes Mine (Wheal is an old word from Cornwall meaning mine) has been operating as a tourist attraction for the last few years, and has won many awards as an attraction. Now this is not some sort of fake or faux attraction. People had worked this mine in the past and thousands of tonnes of ore had been moved to get at a significant amount of cooper. What has been left behind is a large hole, going down more than 150 metres (tourist only get to go down to a level of 55 metres) and this hole is located at the bottom of a much larger pit.

With it being a real mine, real safety equipment was provided for all tourists, including mining hat and lamp as well as an identifcation tag for each person.
Nick and Ben posing in their miner's hats
Our tour guide was a crusty, old Scottish miner called Jock, and I think the tour was made twice as entertaining and twice as imformative because of him. He certainly was able to explain complex mining operations in laymans terms, and related well to the kids in the tour.
A group photo of the tour outside the entrance to the mine.
The tour itself lasted for a bit over an hour and a half. If you ever find your way to Moonta I would strongly recommend taking the tour.  For me, I think it is important to know where your raw materials come from - not only food, but metals, minerals, energy, wood products.  Where I have an opportunity to see something like this on a holiday, I will generally go for it. It is also good educational material for the boys (even if sometimes their interest wanes).

The final bit of today's blog concerns something of absolutely no matter, but thought it interesting nonetheless. And it concerns having a "theme song" for your trip.

 I have only had one of these before in all my trips, and that was when I was in Year 11 and we had a trip to Central Australia - up by bus and back by plane. Now this was in 1987, and the eighties were a decade of weird humorous sings that made the charts. Songs like McRawhide by The Chaps in 1983 and  I Eat Cannibals by Toto (or Total, in USA) Coelo in 1982 were quite big on the charts, and yes, I owned both singles. And in 1987, this song came out by a group called The Firm:

Now to be honest I am not sure how it came about, as I think the coach captain (bus driver) almost forced this to become "our song". I think I heard it over 2 dozen times whist on that bus, but it seemed to become our official song. I cannot hear this song without thinking back to the Central Australia trip.

I mention this as I think we have adopted one, and I blame the karaoke session that the band had on Saturday night for this. And it wasn't even song by one of us. Does anyone remember this song by The Presidents of the United States (and why would you choose this as a karaoke song)?

This song was released in 1996 and was nominated for a Grammy award.

For those of you who didn't catch the profound lyrics being sung, here they are in written form:
Moving to the country
Going to eat a lot of peaches
Moving to the country
Going to eat me a lot of peaches
Moving to the country
Going to eat a lot of peaches
Moving to the country
Going to eat a lot of peaches

Peaches come from a can
They were put there by a man
In a factory downtown
If I had my little way
I'd eat peaches every day
Sun-soaking bulges in the shade

Taking little naps where the roots all twist
Squished a rotten peach in my fist
And dreamed about you, woman
I poked my finger down inside
Make a little room for it to hide
Nature's candy in my hand or can or a pie

Millions of peaches, peaches for me
Millions of peaches, peaches for free

Look out!
Flashback to Sunday morning. My brain is acting a little slow due to lack of sleep and maybe also being a bit hung over. Ben is eating peaches for breakfast and I start singing the song. The family looks at me like I'm an idiot so I show them a Youtube clip of the song. It has now become the official song for this trip. And Ben eats peaches every day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 7 (Old and New)

Today we bid farewell the capital and made our way north. Our next stop is Moonta, a seaside town with a population of about 3,000, locate on the York Peninsula.

On the way to Moonta we were able to view the comical (well to us anyway) sight of a 10km+ convoy of cars, most with either a campertrailer or boat on tow, making their way back from the Easter break from the York Penninsula toward Adelaide. This must be an annual pilgrimage as the local authorities were on hand at a couple of tricky intersections to ensure that the convoy was able to continue on its way, with minimal interuption.

Moonta and its surrounding areas appear to be made up of two distinctive areas, old and new.

Moonta was settled in 1860, and has been a copper mining settlement for much of the last 151 years. In terms of architecture this is evident by the large number of miners' cottages located in close proximity to the central retail area of Moonta. It can also be seen by the local churches, halls and other public buildings, their construction in an era where the materials used ensured that these buildings remain standing for the next 100-200 years.

Freemasons' Hall
Methodist Church
Moonta Mines Museum
School of Mines

The Freemasons' Hall (built in 1875) is the oldest hall contructed by the Freemasons in Australia.

The Methodist Church was constructed in 1865 and had seating capacity for 1,250. In 1888 a pipe organ was installed (one of the first in the state).

The School of Mines and Mines Museum building were both built in the early 1870's as part of the development of the Weal Hughes copper mine.

All pictures and information courtesy of the Moonta Progress Association website.

Moonta is now also a sought after beach/holiday residence either for the retired or for those wanting a break from city life, much like Inverloch or the Ocean Coast towns of Torquay and Lorne in Victoria.  This has meant an explosion of land development in Moonta and surrounding areas such as Moonta Bay and Port Hughes. The place where we are staying, owned by my friend Damien, is a very recently constructed two story house in a new housing estate in Port Hughes. Driving around today there are a number of subdivisions currently in the process of being developed, and it would not surprise me if the population were to increase to 5,000 or even 6,000 within 5 years.

Population increases of this size in such a short period of time can be tricky to manage properly. There are obvious infrastructure issues that need to be worked through, such as water, sewerage, roads. Local concerns need to be managed, as well as environmental issues. But the potential pay off can be enormous. The local economy seems to be booming, and tourism is providing employment and business opportunities to many people in the region. Whilst I have been here less than 24 hours, my first impressions are that locals are trying to preserve the old whilst ecouraging the new to flourish. These lessons could be learned by other communities I think.

Tomorrow we will be taking a closer look at the mines, as well as enjoying the beaches. Given that the weather will be nice and sunny I think there will be more of the latter and less of the former.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 6 (Glenelg)

ANZAC day around most of Australia would mean closed shops, dawn services, parades, and a traditional (term used in its most contrived meaning)  football match between two teams I don't care about (Interesting wiki article about the history of this match, including criticism of the way this game has been commercialised to the detriment of the tradition of ANZAC Day).

There is a section of Adelaide where the shops are open on ANZAC Day, and where (it seems) a large percentage of the local population head to (especially on a perfect Autumn Day, like today was). That place is Glenelg.

10 kilometres from the city centre along the ANZAC Highway and you reach an area that reminds me of a cross between St Kilda, Prahran and Brighton, all rolled into one. The one and only tram line in Adelaide runs from Mosley Square in Glenelg and 25 minutes later you are in the centre of Adelaide. I have used Glenelg as an accommodation base in the past, when I have attended tax seminars and have preferred to take the tram from Glenelg rather than battle the peak hour traffic (such that it is - not a patch on Melbourne's peak hours snarls).

Our trip to Glenelg was centred on The Beach House. Realising that both Ben and Nick had been very patient and (reasonably) good whilst I was blowing on my baritone  Thursday - Saturday, they needed to have some decent fun. The Beach House provides a variety of activities from mini-golf to water slides to rides to arcade games, and they tried them all. Whilst not the cheapest form of entertainment around (the water slides were $3 per ride) they were very popular with the boys (and everyone else around us), and I don't begrudge the money spent.

With dozens of eateries within a short walking distance from The Beach House the biggest problem was trying to decide what to eat (we went for the simple option of hotdogs - courtesy of Ben and Nick). There are also more icecreameries per square kilometre here than in any other part of Australia, I reckon.

The beach area of Glenelg is pristine. I'm guessing that some serious money is spent by Holdfast Bay Council each year to keep the beach in tip-top condition. Back in 2007 (or was it 2008) when I last stayed at Glenelg (in winter) I recall seeing dozens of earthmoving equipment move an enormous amount of sand around the beach area. It appears to be money well spent.

We had a walk along the pier. According to the Glenelg website the pier is 215 metres in length and was rebuilt in 1969. There would have been a few hundred people on the pier this afternoon when we were therem but it didn't feel crowded.  Here are a few happy snaps taken at the end of the pier, looking back at the Glenelg foreshore.

The large building you can see there is the Pier Hotel (Stamford Grand). A very nice place to buy a couple of beers and sit and stare out at the water.

The Beach House (apologies for the grainy photo quality)

Many people were fishing from the pier. The water is crystal clear.
We have certainly enjoyed our stay in Adelaide, although our opportunties to experience all that it has to offer was limited due to the Champships in the previous few days. Definitely worth a return visit, I think.

Tonight is our last night in Adelaide. Tomorrow we leave for the beachside town on Moonta, a couple of hours north of Adelaide.

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 5 (St Kilda)

OK, the banding activities are over for another National Championships and my time away moves into holiday phase.

Today was fairly low key, to allow for a full recovery from the previosu night's activities. The kids were, however, bursting with energy and we needed to take them somewhere to have a good run around. Denise, from my office, had suggested a large playground in St Kilda "somewhere in Adelaide, but not sure where". That's what Google Maps is for.

The location of St Kilda, is a fair way out of Adelaide, to the north of Port Adelaide on the road to Port Wakefield. The road to St Kilda did remind us of Melbourne in a couple of different ways. Firstly, St Kilda Road has a tram museum and operating tram line on it, not unlike St Kilda road in Melbourne. The trams even looked like they were the old W class trams. The area leading to St Kilda, however, actually felt like being near Werribee, as every second property seemed to be a market garden for either vegetables or flowers. It was also near the Bolivar Sewerage Treatment Works, providing the sort of frangrance one would expect from such a facility.

Lunch was at the St Kilda Beach Hotel (nothing flash, but well cooked pub food). We then visited the St Kilda Adventure Playground. A couple of thousand families also thought it was a good idea to make the trek out to St Kilda. That didn't matter though as the place was able to easily accommodate a large number of people.

Swings, slides, mazes, tunnels, flying foxes, slides, castles, pirate ships, slides, and plenty of space to run around. Plenty of opportunities for adults to become kids again, even if only for a little while.

The area surrounding the playground was picturesque, in it's own unique way. I've already mentioned the nearby sewerage plant. The beach area next to the playground would not be somewhere you would be encourages to play in the surf, mainly due to the fact there wasn't any surf, in fact not any water. It may have been a large tidal area, but during the time we where there the water's edge seemed a couple of hundred metres away:

To the north of the playground was some sort of port facility:
Apologies for the grainy photo quality
A couple of photos now of the facilities:

Castle, with slides on the other side of the hill

Pirate Ship

Overview of play area and hill with slides
Well the kids enjoyed themselves. A quite night tonight. ANZAC Day tomorrow. Lest We Forget.

PS. I am correcting and updating my previous blogs as I reread them and finding errors, as well as adding the odd photo or two.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 4 (Second)

This post is being completed the morning after, as the night before was a bit of a celebration.

Let us first recap the day's events.

Saturday morning saw the band lining up to "compete" in the street marching contest. Never has so much time been wasted by so many for so little outcome.

Street marching is a curious part of the Championships. The points awarded do not form part of the overall Championships calculations, however if you don't march you cannot be awarded the Championship. The reasoning behind the street march also doesn't make sense. The purpose of the street march, according to the various organising committees over the years is to publicly promote the Championships.


  • I have yet to come accross a member of the general public that has attended any of the performances as a result of seeing the street march.
  • It is difficult to see how or why a street march could prepare a member of the general public for the complex musical works being played by the bands later in the day.
  • If the purpose of the march is for promotion purposes why judge the bands on their marching and playing?
  • Any TV coverage of the street march will have occurred after all the brass bands have played, making the promotion pointless.
  • It is not liked by the majority of players (my assertion here, not backed up with any published facts, mainly anecdotal) and is seen as either a time wasting excerise or an interuption to "the main game".
  • It is an expensive part of the budget for a Nationals organising committee, where the money could be better spent on more effective forms of promotion (if that is what is wanted)

This rant could go on and on, but I will stop now.

If you feel that the street march should cease to be compulsory for the Nationals there is now an online petition for you to sign, here.

Footscray-Yarraville City Band do not take the march seriously, and the music that we play on the march is more for entertainment purposes. In previous marches the band has played non-marches such as Sing, Sing Sing and Single Ladies. This year we went all Saturday Night Fever and played A fifth of Beethoven. Don't remember this song? Here it is in it's original form for your enjoyment.

I was going to link to a video taken by debut documentary maker, Ben Szetey, of our street march, however the file is almost 1 gigabyte in size and would take up most of my monthly allowance of my wireless internet access. I'll upload it on my return home.

The late afternoon saw us return to the stage to play our two final pieces. The first is a major work composed by Kenneth Downie, and is a theme and variations piece on the hymn St Magnus. Here is a video of the end of the piece, performed by Yorkshire Building Society Brass Band.

The march was The Wizard by George Allen. Here it is performed by Stavenger Brass Band, from Norway.

Oh, and here is a photo of where the contest was held (Elder Hall):

With the playing out of the way it was time to hear the results. Who won?

For some reason, it always takes a good 45 minutes to add up the marks of the adjudicators. I guess they have not started using spreadsheets, or maybe even calculators.  This phenomenon seems to be at every single brass band contest I have ever played in.

Well, the moment finally arrived and the winner is .....

Kew Band.  A hearty congratulations to Mark Ford (conductor) and to the Kew Band. From all accounts they played stunningly and won every category (even the street march!).

Footscray-Yarraville City Band was awarded second place, have come second in 2 sections and third in another section.  Full results can be read here.

I think this is a brilliant result for the band. The band has had a very busy couple of months to bring this music up to scratch and it is very pleasing to know that (for the most part) our efforts have been recognised. To our musical director, Phillipa Edwards, I say thank you, and congratulations.

We celebrated well into the early hours of this morning, finishing at a Kareoke bar where we systematically butchered our way through a number of greatest hits from the sixties through to today. My highlight (lowlight?) was a guy (not from our group, mind you) dressed in a tutu and fairy wings singing what I believe to be the most depraved song ever written. The song stunned me and the fact the karoake bar had the song on their list stunned me even more (Have I become more puritanical with age?). I do not know the song's title and will not seek to track it down.  My own performance was what could only be described as a crowd pleasing rendition of the Frank Sinatra Classic New York New York:

I am now suffering from a lack of sleep and am slightly hung over. Will look to keep it pretty low key today.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 3 (Lofty Heights and Vienna Nights)

Today marks the first day of contesting for the brass bands at the Australian National Championships here in Adelaide.

For those of you unfamiliar with brass band and their crazy love for contesting here is a brief rundown on how the National Championships is conducted (and has been for as long as I remember).

All bands will play 4 pieces on stage and be adjudicated by either 2 (for A grade bands) or 1 (all other bands) adjudicators. The 4 pieces are:

  • A hymn chosen by the band (this is a traditional thing, as hymns have been played by brass bands for well over a century)
  • A test piece, chosen by the contest convenors. This is one major work, running for between 12 and 20 minutes, that all brass bands in a particular grade have to play. The purpose of this is to allow the adjudicator the ability to compare how each band plays this one piece, and mark them accordingly. The test piece is more often than not a particularly challenging piece, which is why I guess they call it a test piece - it tests the band out.
  • An "own choice" major work chosen by the band. This piece would also be about 12 to 20 minutes and, whilst challenging to the competing band, the piece chosen should allow the natural strengths of their players to show through. 
  • A march chosen by the band (bands have a traditon of marching and playing a march on stage seeks to uphold that tradition).

Brass bands are graded from A to D, based on their playing ability. Footscray-Yarraville City Band (the band I play with) are an A grade band. The test pieces for A grade are pretty darn difficult pieces to try and master.  Looking at previous test pieces in recent years we have had:

2010 - Extreme Makeover by Johan de Meij (performed here by winning band, Brisbane Excelsior)
2009 - Dove Descending by Philip Wilby (remember that name)(performed here by Kew Band in 2010)

The test piece for 2011 is another piece by Phlip Wilby titled Vienna Nights. What this piece is about is detailed in this article on brass band website In essence though it is loosly based on this piano sonata composed originally by  Mozart:

As described by the 4barsrest article the piece has some wonderful parts, interspersed with some, quite frankly, mad parts, making it a very challenging test piece for bands.

Well the day is now over and we have played 2 pieces for the Championships, Vienna Nights and a hymn, Nicaea (Holy Holy). I will leave it for others to judge how the band played, and tomorrow, when the results are announced we will now how the adjudicators scored our playing. I am, however, relieved to have played Vienna Nights, knowing that that is a very good chance that  I will never need to play it again.

There was also some sightseeing that took place before our performance. Given that I am up here in Adelaide I took the opportunity of a couple of spare hours to drive out to the Adelaide Hills for some sightseeing.

First stop was a look out on a road leading to Eagle on the Hill (or so I'm lead to believe).

Here are a couple of tourist snaps (the child blocking the view is Ben):

We then drove to Mt Lofty and had a look out over Adelaide (You can get a sense of the view by visiting this page). For Melbournians this would be the equivelent of driving to the top of Mt Dandenong and looking out over the Eastern Suburbs. For non-Kinglake residents, you can get just as good a view by driving to the Frank Thomson Reserve in Kinglake (Note Google Maps has it spelt incorrectly).

From Mt Lofty we than made a quick visit to Hahndorf (we will be returning in the second half of our holidays) for a bite to eat. Who was that doyen of the brass band world that I passed in Hahndorf and why wasn't he watching the bands perform? You have been sprung.

A busy day tomorrow. A street parade in the morning (I think I will blog about the pointlessness of this in the next couple of days), then the final two pieces are to be performed, results, and then some partying. Chances are you will not see a blog from me until sometime on Sunday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 2 (Wild Animals)

After a crap night's sleep (I don't sleep well on the first night in unfamiliar surroundings) I was feeling very tired and grouchy.  I neeeded some caffiene and we hadn't yet gone shopping for groceries, so no coffee. Luckily Oaks has a bar/cafe downstairs and I had not only a good cup of coffee, but also probably the nicest Eggs Benedict yet presented to me.

For those unfamiliar with this dish it is essentially two poached eggs on muffins with bacon (or ham) and Hollandaise sauce. Whilst not recognised in Wikipedia, I often find spinach included in this dish, adding to the dish in colour, texture and flavour. The meal provided by "mbc" turned me from a grizzly bear to a content pig in the proverbial.

After having a bit of a wander around our part of the city looking for a decent supermarket, or even a decent convenience store ($2 for an apple?!) we decided to spend a few hours visiting the Adelaide Zoo.  Now I like going to zoos, and having 2 boys who also like zoos means it's not that difficult to include a visit as part of a holiday.  During our 2007 (or was it 2008?) visit to Canberra we visited the National Zoo & Aquarium (their big cat collection is impressive, including tigers, lions, snow leopards, cheetahs, servals and cougars) and in 2009 during our Gold Coast trip we spent a morning at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (not as good as Healesville Sanctuary, in my opinion).

Australia seems to have really good zoos, and Adelaide Zoo is no exception. Located along the Torrens River, just north of the city CBD, and is spread over 6 hectares. This makes it about 1/3 of the size of Melbourne Zoo, but doesn't seem to suffer too much for the size difference. It doesn't have elephants or gorillas and it's lion enclosure is much smaller than Melbourne's, but it does have a couple of aces up its sleeve.

The first is Wang Wang and Funi the only Giant Pandas to be found in the Southern Hemisphere. The zoo is understandibly very proud of this fact and ensure that it is a "must see" part of the zoo visit, including booking viewung times to see the Pandas, using them extensively in their promotional material and making the Panda Exhibit itself a special experience.

Wang Wang and Funi. I'm not sure which one is which.

In addition to the pandas I found other unique animals to the Adelaide Zoo. There are a couple of very old flamingos (which proably wont be replaced once they die, due to tougher envorinmental controls on the exportation of these wonderful, pink birds). There were also two enormous hippos, that seemed to live the good life, spending most of their time either in the water or eating (yeah, I could do that!). The meerkats were fun to watch and there were two very amorous Aldabran Tortoises trying to make out in a very tortoise manner.
Two male hippos doing what hippos do best. Nothing.

I have now seen a flamingo in real life

Those weird brown shapes are meerkats. Lesley said it was hard to see them in the photo.

Poor weather cut our zoo trip short but I think that the next time we visit Adelaide for a holiday we will be making another visit to the Adelaide Zoo.

The band is still is gearing up for the Nationals title (a 2 1/2 rehearsal tonight) and I think we are all looking forward to getting on stage tomorrow (Friday) afternoon to play our hymn and the test piece.

Anyone not in Adelaide, you can still see us playing, online. Visit Brass Banned for live streaming. Footscray Yarraville City Band should be on at about 5:15 pm. Anyone in Adelaide, we are playing at Elder Hall, on North Terrace.

Good Night all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adelaide Family Trip - Day 1 (There and Back Again - Part 1)

Yes, I am going to turn the Fezzant Creak Rambler into a travel blog for our Adelaide trip. Coz I can.

Our annual holiday is to Adelaide this year to coincide with my participation in the National Band Championships as part of  Footscray-Yarraville City Band's tilt at being crowned Champions in A Grade (For those not familiar with brass band contesting this will require a couple of blogs just to explain the details of what, how and why brass bands compete.  Accept for the moment that they do and that for those who care, the National Band Championships is the contesting high point for the year). After the contest finishes on Saturday evening, we will spend the next week or so around the SE corner of South Australia before gradually returning home, via the Victorian coastline.

Day 1 is the big travel day, where we start in Kinglake and finish in Adelaide. 807 kilometres in total (or at least that was what was planned in Google Maps. A couple of wrong turns and poor navigation saw us add another 20km to that total). A 7:00 am start saw us leave and head for Castlemaine, as our first stop, for breakfast. A brief bite to eat at Apple Annie's Cafe (brilliant ham and cheese croissants, by the way), and then onwards to Great Western.

Now Lesley and I had visited Great Western before, in the early nineties, under different circumstances. Our holiday at the time was meant to be one full of bushwalks and hikes in the Grampians, however an unfortunate fall by me, causing a sprained ankle put paid to that idea. What else can one do when staying in Halls Gap and unable to walk great distances? Yes, we visited wineries. We had spent an afternoon in Great Western but unfortunately rushed through about 8 wineries in an afternoon, not allowing proper time to fully appreciate the area. (But drinking a fair bit - I was only 20, after all!)(Some may say nothing's changed.)
Our visit to Great Western this time around was to concentrate on the Seppelt's winery, the largest in the area, and probably the best known of the Great Western wineries.  The winery has had an interesting history, and is now owned by Australia's largest wine conglomerate, Treasury Wine Estates (formerly part of Fosters). Part of our visit included a tour through the cellars of Seppelts, where we walked through only a small fraction of the 3 kilometres of tunnels located about 10 metres under the vineyards and grounds at Seppelts.
Total storage capacity of their tanks is 22 million litres, though only about 5 million will be used for the latest vintage.

Special nook with wine for past and present politicans for the area, including former prime minister Malcome (sic) Fraser and former State Labor minister, Joe Helper.

Once back up to the cellar there was some serious (at least to start off with) wine tasting. My favourite was the Seppelt signature wine, the Sparkling Shiraz (not something I've had before, though will now be looking out for it in the shops back home), though ended up buying a couple of bottles their very drinkable Grampians Shiraz (I'm enjoying a glass or two of it whilst typing).

Lunch was then at a nearby cafe, Salingers Cafe, famous for the beehive kept inside the cafe. Apart from a couple of quick stops at Dadswell's Bridge for the Giant Koala, Bordertown for the White Kangaroos (photos below) and Murray Bridge for dinner at Red Roosters (classy), the rest of the drive to Adelaide was uneventful.
The Giant Koala. Tacky Australian landmark at its best.

For a detailed history of how the white colony of kangaroos came to be, read here.

We are staying at Oaks Embassy, on North Terrace, which is reasonably central to all our activities over the next few days. Parking here is an issue as we need to park in a public car park, next door. I can see the costs of parking spiralling upwards over the coming days (This wasn't allowed for in the budget!).

Oh well.