Sunday, July 31, 2005

Australia: Day 6

...and the saga continues...

Sunday, October 12, 2003

I woke up on my top floor room of the Adelaide Hilton for the last time. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. All was good with the world. We had had a marvelous evening the night before at the 2003 Jacob's Creek World Food Media Awards, but it was almost time for us to move on from the wonderful city of Adelaide. I showered in my gloriously large bathroom for the last time and packed everything up. I got everything ready and put it near my hotel room door. I sauntered downstairs and ordered a double short-black at the Hotel restaurant and enjoyed it while checking my e-mails at the computer at the bar. I deleted my spam and read what was worthwile before heading out to find breadfast.

I didn't stop at the Adelaide Central Market this morning. I was going to find something different. I walked off and stopped at the nearby park for a moment. There was a large group of people solemnly commemorating the one year anniversary of the Bali terrorist bombing. It was a quiet, peaceful ceremony. I felt a little out of place even though I was just watching from the fringe. I bowed my head appropriately for a couple of minutes and then quietly made my way out of the park. I walked a couple of blocks or so and encountered a promising-looking cafe. I walked in and ordered a long black (a double espresso with an equal part hot water) and a fry-up. I enjoyed a nice, leisurely breakfast and made my way back to the hotel to meet the gang in the lobby with our gear. We met our driver and bus, loaded up, and headed to the Adelaide Riverfront for the Feast for the Senses. The Feast of the Sense was a giant gathering of food, wine, and beer on in Elder Park on the River Torrens. Our group also had VIP passes which entitled us entry to the VIP tent (free beer and food!). It was a beautiful day and we had a chance to try the food of several restaurants and the wine from several local producers. Yum!

We ran into someone that we had met the night before at the Jacob's Creek World Food Media Awards. She was sort of affiliated with our group, but on the Australian end of things. The Adelaide police were offering free breathalyzer tests to anyone and she thought it could be fun. She blew way OVER drunk! She hadn't had a drink since the night before! It was probably about 1:00PM. Australia rules!!!

We eventually had to get on the bus and make our way to the airport. It was time to say goodbye to Adelaide and hello to new adventures. Adelaide airport is fairly small and the attitude is definitely more lax than most. They gave us a water and lemon cookies at the gate and we walked onto the tarmac and watched the pilot and co-pilot load our luggage into the nose of our plane...

This was my first trip on a prop-plane. It was about a 20 seater and it was quite fun. The people in the last seats could see through the pilot's windshield if the curtain was open. Small plane. Fun crew. Fun flight. We were flying south to Mount Gambier airport which is in the Limestone Coast area about half an hour's drive from Coonawarra. We flew for about an hour and a half or so (?) and landed at Mount Gambier Airport. Mt. Gambier Airport is tiny rural airport where you are greeted by a sign saying "Welcome to the Home of the Potato". Karen, our fabulous driver from the McLaren Vale, was waiting for us along with another driver. We were separating at this point. We were going to spend the next few days in Coonawarra. Although Coonawarra is physically large there are not a lot of accomodations. We had to split into three groups...Brittney, Nichole, and Trudy were to stay at Cobb and Co. Cottages in Penola...Nathan, Jordan, and Eric at the Yalumba Menzies Wine Room in Coonawarra...and Philippa, Sara, Tim, Shayn, and myself at the Kalangadoo House in Kalangadoo. None of us new where we were staying until we sort of picked randomly/drew straws at the airport.

I was really happy that I ended up as a member of the "Kalangadoo Crew". We drove for what seemed quite some time in a very rural area trying to find the Kalangadoo House. It took probably about 45 minutes to get to Kalangadoo, and then we had to find the road to Kalangadoo House. Karen eventually found the right route and it was off to Kalangadoo House. We drove past cattle, sheep, and redgums (a type of eucalyptus tree) and reached our destination. It was beautiful!!! The setting was so serene and spare. It had a sort of desolate, green beauty. The Kalangadoo House homestead was built in 1870. We were greeted at the front door by the very gracious and welcoming Antonia Batten. Antonia and her husband (along with their daughter) own Kalangadoo House. They spent a ton of money renovating the place close to its original condition and turned it into the world's most fabulous Bed and Breakfast. We were given a tour and picked our rooms. Each room also has its own bathroom (either attached or assigned). It was absolutely lovely. We had some free time until we would be picked up to go to dinner. Antonia welcomed us in the parlour with some very nice sparkling wine (I think is was Tassie...Tasmanian). We took our glasses and walked around the grounds a bit. (Unfortunately I don't have many DIGITAL pictures of Kalangadoo.) We sat in the grass and toasted each other as we listened to the cows, sheep, gallahs, and the Australian magpies as the sun very slowly lowered itself in the sky.

I walked back to the house and sat on the upstairs balcony and just took life in. Everything was perfect with the world. The sounds of the cows and sheep in the distance were soothing. The sun was starting to set. The redgum trees were illuminated in an almost surreal light interplaying with the shadows. A choir of Australian Magpies started to sing...

the most beautiful thing I've ever heard in my life. (You'll need RealPlayer to hear it.) That's just the sound of one Australian Magpie. Imagine dozens and dozens of them...while the sun is setting, the sheep and the cows providing gentle back-up bass, and the sun is setting on one of the most serene places on earth. It was surreal. Unbelievable. It was probably the most singularly relaxing and mindblowing moment in my life. That's why I'd rather be in Kalangadoo. I was at peace with nature and myself. I love the ocean and I love the mountains, but there was something absolutely special about that brief moment in my life. Life, for one brief shining moment, was utterly perfect.

Eventually Karen returned to Kalangadoo House to pick us up and drive us to the Yalumba Menzies Wine Room for dinner. We were greeted by one of Yalumba's winemakers and two other employees at the modern and beautiful Menzies Room. We were greeted with some great oysters on the halfshell with fresh lime passed by our waiter for the evening. We tasted several wines from Yalumba and then sat down to a very enjoyable and relaxing dinner. We were pretty excited to eat "family style". Three different salads were passed around and we devoured them. Everywhere we went we had been loading up on tons of cheese, red meat, etc. It was fantastic to get something a little healthier and lighter in us. We did follow it with a great steak with some fantastic local potatoes. Someone opened the front door and asked if he was on the right road to "somewhere I don't recall". He was a drunken sheepshearer looking for directions. He claimed that someone else was driving. It took about 10 minutes to get rid of him, but it just added to the fun of the evening. We played a game of "options" (an Australian wine-tasting game" and had ourselves a great time. We were each given a bottle of Menzies cab, a bag, and a nice wooden Yalumba wine-key. The Yalumba people really went out of their way to make us feel at home. The sun had finally set and it was a glorious evening.

The almost-full moon was eerily beautiful and mesmerizing on this glorious evening in Coonawarra. We said our farewells and "thank yous" and Karen drove the Kalangadoo Crew back to Kalangadoo House. I don't remember if it was this night or the next, but we almost hit a big red (a red kangaroo) with our SUV. He stopped and stared at us. It was an amazing sight. The Aussies don't think much of it (it's like Americans seeing a deer, but far more common). I tried to take a picture with my film-camera, but my batteries were low and it took too long for the flash to go off. I can still see him in my memory though. Karen dropped us off at the door of the Kalangadoo House and we retired for the evening.

What a glorious day!

To be continued...



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