Racing against the sun on the Riesling Trail

“I’ve done all of the Riesling Trail except the new bit they’ve added from Clare, heading north,” said Dave. “Let’s give it a go.”

The Riesling Trail follows a disused railway line in the beautiful Clare Valley, South Australia. As usual, we tackled it in the mid-afternoon after a day’s drive. We managed 6km through vineyards, climbing steadily. Dave posed for a photo beside a ghostly sculpture of a drover with his dog and flock of sheep.  We raced against light for the the return journey, but just before sunset, I was able to capture a the ruby trunk of a majestic gum at that witching hour for photographers.

   
   

Horse-drawn tram, sea, birds and history: Victor Harbour and Goolwa

The coastline from Victor Harbour to Goolwa is steeped in history and affords sea vistas. We crossed the causeway to Granite Island, following the tram tracks of a horse-drawn tramway. 

   
         

Lunch was pies at the Heritage Bakery, Goolwa, where the chef had a range of home-made chutneys. I chose quince. Yum.

Coorong morning and Ulysses in the afternoon

We awoke to a spectacular dawn as the sun emerged behind the sheokes and the roos grazed between them and the rose sky. At Chinamen’s Well, we took a short walk and leant how residents of Hong Kong had rushed to reports of gold in Victoria in the 1850s. To avoid a discriminatory tax by the Victorian government, they landed at Adelaide and travelled overland along the edge of the Coorong. There are archeological remnants of limestone wells skilfully built to provide fresh water. I found a fragment of porcelain (“Chinese?) and carefully replaced it after photographing it.

We spent more time exploring the salt lakes and dunes of the Coorong before crossing the Murray River by ferry at Wellington. At Strathalbyn we met members of the Fleurieu Ulysses Club out for a ride. Their bikes were lovingly cared for and wonders to behold.

   
         

Coorong Dunes Dusk Dash

“We have 26 minutes to last light,” advised Dave, after checking Willie Weather on his iPad. We’d decided spontaneously to camp for the night in the Coorong National Park, a environmentally sensitive area of dunes with a lake behind. The sign read “Ocean Beach 1.2km”. He grabbed a headlamp just in case and I grabbed a raincoat for the same reason. We charged up corduroy boards laid over the dunes, only to be greeted by ever more dunes as we reached each summit. The sound of the ocean lured us deceptively. Kangaroos gazed wisely – didn’t we know the park was theirs at this hour?

Finally we clambered up a dune and the ocean stretched below us. I took a moment to record our achievement before we repeated the exercise in reverse, straining to see the narrow track through the fading light before reaching the campsite as darkness descended. We congratulated ourselves and celebrated with pork stir fry white wine and lemon cake with ricotta.

   
     

Climbing at Mt Arapiles – for the brave, flexible and strong

“Awesome – that’s it,” encouraged the coach as the young woman squatted and hauled herself upwards, her weight taken by her arms and fingers clutching at tiny bumps in the apparently sheer rock face. Below another climber anchored her with a rope and pulley: “Keep your right arm down” reminded the trainer.

Mt Arapiles is a climber’s Mecca, with its steep piles of rock. We watched in silence, sipping our coffee but not wanting to distract the apprentice climber from her task. She looked confused when we clapped her abseiled descent – she had clearly forgotten that she had an audience.

   
         

The mountain rises abruptly from the Wimmera plain. Banksias, wattles and grass trees cluster at the base, while behind us cattle grazed, oblivious to the climber’s adrenaline rush.

Evening stroll to Horsham

We’re off with the caravan again, heading west. After passing the Giant Koala at Dadswells Bridge, we stopped for the night in a caravan park outside the Wimmera town of Horsham. This is wheat country and a stroll into town took us past businesses hiring giant grain reapers and road making equipment. A topiary name plate indicated that we had reached the margin of the town, We crossed the Wimmera river as the sun dipped towards the horizon. As we returned, the deciduous trees lining the highway caught the setting sun. It’s great to be on the road again. 

           

French soldiers commemorate 200th Anniversary of Waterloo at The Briars

Yesterday was the 200th Anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat by the allies at the battle of Waterloo. To mark this date the 21ieme regiment of French reenactment soldiers are giving a demonstration and gave a talk at The Briars, Mt Martha.

The uniforms were of wool and dyed with natural pigments such as indigo. Gaiters were high with leather buttons and took 20 minutes to put on. They had a natty backpack of hide to put their worldly possessions in, including the book to keep tab of what pay they were owed. In some campaigns, there was a shortage of boots and many were barefoot, possibly with tallow to seal out moisture.

Sometimes soldiers would sleep in their uniforms without a change or washing for six weeks, day and night. Although it was a good idea to put on a clean shirt for battle to reduce the chances of gangrene and subsequent amputation after an injury.

The guns were muzzle-loaded and could only fire three rounds a minute. The army depended on large numbers of soldiers to provide a steady stream of fire.