So I have finally found some time to sit down and regale you with what I have been up to since I arrived in Australia some 10 days ago. I am currently living it up in Adelaide with my godfather and his family which has been amazing. Given it is my first time backpacking - and backpacking alone at that - it has been so comforting to have somewhere to call home while I settle in to the Aussie lifestyle (which as it turns out is not so different to English life, except for good weather and better wine). I have to confess I really scoffed at the idea of it being 'winter' here, having seen on the weather that the Adelaide winter is often about 17 degrees this time of year but it has been bloody chilly since I arrived! Having packed almost no warm clothing (it's Australia for crying out loud!) I have pretty much lived in the only two jumpers I brought with me. Often worn one on top of the other while I huddle with the dog by the fire in the lounge.
Aside from the hurricane style winds and rains that accompanied my first three days here the weather has been fairly decent considering this is the coldest winter Adelaide has seen in decades. It was quite a balmy 20 degrees (only one jumper required) this weekend at the coast, where I went to my godfamily's beach house in Carrickalinga (which has to be the best name for a seaside town in the world, ever). I saw my first kangaroo on the way down which was really exciting, followed my my first sight of kangaroo roadkill, which was only slightly less exciting. My GF took me out on his boat for some 'touristing' and some fishing, which is one of the highlights of the trip so far. We found a whole load of sealions sleeping on the rocks on the cliffs (I really wish I hadn't asked about the great white sharks at this point as sealions and seals are literally their bread and butter, and as my GF cheerfully told me, they do indeed come this close to the shore and yes they are still around this time of year). We also went fishing for snook (best name for a fish ever?) and caught one, at which point my triumph withered away into yelps of DON'T GET IT NEAR ME! as it flopped about in my GF's hands. Squid are very popular here and are often served BBQ'd with salt and pepper (why, god, why?) and we (my GF) caught three, including one that inked everywhere. You have never truly seen it all until you have watched a squiggly slimy creature shoot mucus-y ropey black snot all over the back of a pristine white boat. Ick. The best bit of the trip for me was when we found a pod of wild dolphins (infinitely more successful at catching squid than yours truly) and played with them for a good 15 mins. They came up very close to use and even swam along side us under the bow. I have never seen anything like it! The fear of great white sharks dissolved as I found myself hanging off the front of the bow to watch these beautiful creatures play. It was truly a magical moment!
Adelaide itself is reknown for being very beautiful, which is very true in some parts (alas not in the main shopping street of Rundle Mall, which looks like the place 60's architecture came to die). Its Saturday Market is a fantastic hub of local life and character, and I had a lovely Malaysian meal with my GF and his wife down in the China town area. The River Torrens runs through the city, and it's catchment creek thingys are all over suburbia - the parks all have these gorgeous streams which makes walking the dog totally idyllic. Architecture aside, the shopping in Adelaide is pretty good and though I haven't really bought anything yet (what with saving my dollars for food and shelter and all) it has been lovely to see the Aussie fashions and whatnot. I have also realised that one of the benefits of being a literature student (or indeed anyone who loves reading) is that wherever you are in the world, you can feel totally and utterly at home in a good book shop. I like to visit the books if I get a wave of homesickness! A nerdy but comforting Mecca - and Borders even has a little Paperchase which was way more exciting than it should have been. :)
Adelaide also has the Adelaide Hills on its doorstep and my GF's wife and I went up to Hahndorf in said hills this week. Hanhdorf is a popular tourist trap as it is an old German settlement. It is pretty and would be quaint if there weren't signs screaming about bratwurst and other German wares, because as we all know, bratwurst was designed to be a hilarious word, and not in any way cute or charming. The village looks more North American than anything I have ever seen in Germany! We found the most incredible shop at the very end of the main street called Chocolate at No. 5 (like Chanel!) and I had the single best coffee I have ever had! In the UK an iced latte is just milky coffee with a couple of ice cubes, but I was presented with a tall glass decorated with frozen melted chocolate, filled with gorgeous coffee and topped with ice cream! I am starting to like this country rather a lot.
We also went for an amazing organic lunch and then an amazing glass of vino (Australia has seduced me with its Reisling wines!) and we went out to Mount Lofty viewing platform to view the view. You could see everything! Truly beautiful (even in the rain) and so expansive. Australia is so BIG. You just don't realise when you look on a globe because it is so removed from all the other big countries, but it is huge.
So what next? Well I have decided to completely reverse my original route since I don't want to be cold and wet any longer than I have to, so I am now heading up towards Darwin next. I am taking the Ghan Railway up to Alice Springs on Wednesday - it is a 24 hour train journey through the outback and it is meant to be one of the most breath taking train journeys you can take. I am thinking of it as the Orient Express of Oz, though I will of course be slumming it in coach as opposed to living it up in the private suites (which cost about $3000 compared to my super awesome deal of $149!). I am staying in Alice Springs for about 5 days and I am hoping to get out to Uluru (Ayers Rock) for a day as it is meant to be stunning. I am then jumping on the Ghan again for another 24 hours up to Katherine, then Darwin. Got about a week in Darwin where I am hoping to get to Kakadu National Park to see some crocodiles and whatnot, then flying to Cairns on 20th Sept for who knows how long. They money will be pretty thin on the ground by then so I am planning to get a job in Cairns and stay there for a while. It's reputation as the party town of the north makes me nostalgic for my own party toon of the north so I have a feeling I am going to fit in just fine. :)
Just want to end by thanking some folks. First of all, Ma, Pa and Sis for being incredibly supportive and very good at emailing. Second of all, to all you lovely folk who wrote me plane letters - I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are all warm, kind and hilarious people and I will cherish those letters forever. And finally, and most importantly, I dedicate this blog (not much to offer but I have made them cupcakes!) to my godfamily for being so welcoming and so kind - you have put me up for two weeks and you have made my first taste of Australia really wonderful. It means the world to me.
That's all for now folks. Oodles of love to you all back home xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
PS - to all who were concerned, they DO have crumpets here and they are HUGE. at this rate i will be emigrating here. :) xx
PPS - photos to follow soon hopefully!