Rainforest for Rehab

29 12 2008


It’s no secret the Adelaide Botanic Gardens were founded on land adjacent to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, at the eastern end of North Terrace, as a therapeutic resource for patient convalescence, but it’s probably far less-known that Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide second largest hospital, has something similar, if on a smaller scale.


The hospital, a teaching institution complimenting Flinders University, which crowns the hill at Bedford Park, was opened in 1976. The core buildings’ square planform (conceptually the same layout as the university’s main buildings) have open courtyard areas at their hearts. Thirty-three years on, one of these contains a fully-grown and developed artificial rainforest.


Bricked walkways and picnic areas circle an artificial hill, from which waterfalls flow between towering trees, broadleaf plants and palm fronds, a haven for ducks and other birds which on any day entertain patients, staff and visitors with their antics. Often the only sound from the outside world will be the infrequent beat of the air ambulance approaching the landing pad.


The garden is easily accessed from the main entrance and all visitors are welcome. Walk in from the bus exchange, go up the broad stairs to Level 2, pick up a snack at the coffee shop, and you’ll find the door to the garden just beyond the elevator shafts.


It’s a pleasant place to kill an hour waiting for that connection, to read a magazine or have a coffee, and it’s a marvelous reminder that even large-scale urban development does not necessarily have to shut out the natural world.





Breaking trail at Belair

22 12 2008

On October 6th, 2008, a new trail was opened up at Belair National Park, and it’s a beauty. It leads from the grove of cherry trees on the appropriately named Cherry Plantation Road, over the new bridge which spans the wetlands, and heads off to an “avenue” of sequoias which very few people (us included) even knew was there! You had to be prepared for bushwhacking, not bushwalking, to reach this part of the park, until this trail went through…


It’s been marvelously prepared and is still like new at the time of this writing (Christmas week, 2008). You’re walking an easy gradient, on freshly-graded gravel, surrounded by ferns, native trees and bushes … also bramble vines by the gajillions. (They were imported into this country and spread like a weed. They also have heavy crops of sweet, flavorful fruit. We’ll be be “brambling” in March or so, which is autumn, or fall, in Aus!)


Click on the above image to retrieve a large-size, printable map. We searched far and wide for an onlinemap that was good enough to actually be read, and at the same time had enough features to be worth the bother of downloading it … no joy. So, here is a scan from the interior of Belair National Park’s own giveaway brochure. They’re free at the gate … they’re also copyright, and this is fully acknowledged here. The map is presented as a service to readers (and an exhortation to the park to make an online version available, so that we could link to it). To reach the new trail, start at Karka Pavilion, walk Cherry Plantation Road to the gate, go through the gate and look for the new bridge, which will be on your left. Cross the bridge and follow your nose — getting lost is impossible…


The trail is walkable for most people. The very frail will find a couple of the little slopes hard going, but the good news is, the raked-gravel surface is so even, if a helpful friend or rellie wouldn’t mind giving a hand with a wheelchair, no part of the new trail is inaccessible to all…


The woodland is remarkably beautiful and — which is astonishing at this time of year — lush! It’s wonderful to see such green at Christmas. However, park rangers must be looking at the same growth and wringing their hands, because this is what makes for a nightmare bushfire season, around about February, when the heat has really kicked in, and all this has dried out to tinder…


You might not see a lot of birds in the bush, but you’ll certainly hear them. In fact, you could be looking right at them and not see them — some of the most beautiful (and loudest!) voices issue from birds about the size of your thumb! Settle down quietly and watch for a while, and you can hope to see the most exquisite wrens and thornbills, black cockatoos and many kinds of parrots, not to mention —


Belair is the absolute BEST place to look for koalas. There’s nothing like seeing these little guys in the wild. Seeing them in a zoo is fine as a tourist attraction, but the truth is, the thrill is in hiking a woodland trail, watching the trees, and seeing a face looking back at you! The koalas in Belair National Park are 100% wild. No one “cares” for them — these are absolutely wild animals …


…though the fact is, they’re so darned cute, you could be forgiven for thinking they were pets! They’re like little pandas … like soft toys. The day these pictures were taken (December 17, 2008), we saw seven different koalas … also two emus, plus lizards, and so many kinds of birds.


The end of this particular trail is the avenue of sequoias. Where else in the world will you see sequoias and koalas about fifty yards apart? The trees are thriving in the South Australian climate — which is a lot like the California climate: hot and dry, with about the same amount of rainfall in the three months of winter. These trees were planted in 1962, and they’re already tall. They’re not the only sequoias in the park, nor even the biggest, but they’re beautiful and flourishing:


The trees were planted as a war memorial, and on the day we photographed them, a message had been left, tucked behind a rock, at the base of the memorial stone. It was a special, personal memorial to the crew of a Lancaster bomber of 100 Squadron, who “lost their lives returning home” one night in November, 1943. We returned this memorial carefully to its place, where it had sat since November 11th, five or so weeks before. We can think of no better place for it to be: the peace in this place is beyond description.


Many thanks to all those who worked to open up this new trail. It’s a wonderful addition to an already wonderful park.

Celtica 2008: Traditional music, dance and dining combine at Port Adelaide

17 12 2008


Port Adelaide Celtica Festival

Launched in 2005, Port Adelaide’s “Celtica Festival” has grown every year, from humble beginnings as a three-hour free concert and art exhibition at the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre (on Commercial Road), to a three day event, on the first weekend in December, centred on Hart’s Mill Waterfront and the adjoining Port Adelaide TAFE college. Entry remains free, and each year tens of thousands of people experience this amazing cultural milleiu overlooking the Port River.


Thematically, the festival is a celebration of all things “Celtic,” being the ethnicity of far-Western Europe, the lands associated with the Ancient Celts and celebrated by those who claim modern Celtic roots: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Mann, Britany, Galicia, and the millions of people around the world descended from the immigrants from these regions, who took their distinctive cultural suite as far afield as Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.


The 2008 event featured over twenty different performances by musicians and dancers from local, interstate and international environments, a two-day free concert featuring the best of traditional and modern-interpretaion (folk-rock) Celtic music. Acts included Sycamore Road, Akoustic Oddysey, Red Cat, Eilean Mor, Senor Cabrales, Spiral Dance and Claymore. Dancers included An Ghillie Mor (highland sword dancers) and the Border Celts (morris team). Where else in the world but Australia might you find the Irish bodhran and Scottish bagpipes played together with the Aboriginal dijeridoo? The result is truly amazing.



Along with the music at the central stage there were music and dance workshops in the TAFE college and nearby hall, and the waterfront itself was home to the “Art at the Hart” artists’ marketplace, featuring arts and crafts from local producers. The events have been run together for the last three years.



Several Port hotels also provided live music venues over the event weekend, expanding the scope once again. The Festival has grown amazingly and shows every sign of becoming one of Adelaide’s, and Australia’s, most important musical and cultural events.



Picture credits: All photos this post by Mike Adamson.

For further information regarding Celtica:
contact Suzanne Laslett care of the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre, 66 Commercial Rd., Port Adelaide, SA. Ph: (08) 8405 6560

Next stop: Carrickalinga!

7 12 2008

South Australia is full of these surprises. Imagine a sleepy country town on the coast, miles from anywhere, set amid farmland … and then the road turns right (or at least west), and out of the blue you’re on a beach like this, and — better yet — you have the whole place to yourself:


If this were Europe, you wouldn’t be able to see the beach for tourists, umbrellas, rugs and picnic baskets. Quick — count the sunbathers at Carrickalinga. Yep, you’re right: 0. And yet this beachfront community boats holiday homes for rental that are absolutely five-star, and just back up the road from the empty white beach is the town itself, where you’ll find local shopping, bakeries, a restaurant or two:


Carrickalinga is an easy drive south down the coast from Adelaide. Pass right by Silver Sands and keep going until you see this sign:


…and then it’s your own personal beach (!), a holiday home to rent, utter peace and quiet — fishing, beachcombing, boating, snorkeling. Just a short drive north you’ll be right back in “wine country,” in McClaren Vale, and much closer at hand, in five minutes you can be in Normanville or Yankalilla — country towns where you’ll find some excellent restaurants as well as a good supply of local charm.

A tropical paradise in the midst of the city

5 12 2008

Tucked away in a corner of downtown that you might not even notice is one of Adelaide’s jewels. The Adelaide Botanic Gardens is a snippet from a tropical rainforest, in the midst of the city. Through the gates and into the shade of massive trees — some of which were planted over 150 years ago — and you can forget you’re in the city at all.


In 1855, 41 acres of land (16 hectares) were set aside for a park, and the Botanic Gardens opened in 1857. The design is said to have been influenced by Kew Gardens in London, and also by the gardens of Versailles.


According to the Garden’s excellent website (http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/botanicgardens/adelaide.html) “over 1.3 million people visit each year.” Of this number, around twenty-five thousand visitors are school students. Many visitors are locals, including office and retail workers who take their lunch break there each day. And of course, if you’re visiting Adelaide from overseas, the Botanic Gardens are a must-see.


You’ll be astonished that this tranquility … this marvellous collection of rare plants … this apparent rainforest … exists just off North Terrace, literally in the shadow of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Massive old trees stop the road noise, and you can barely hear the traffic, though you know the city is bustling close by.


The Palm House (above) is a joy to behold — a piece of history. It’s a Victorian design, imported from Bremen in Germany in 1875, and so far as we know, it’s utterly unique. Nothing else exactly like it in the world…


At least some of the flora on display inside are from Madagascar, and the interior of the Palm House is so tranquil, you could stay an hour.

The Gardens offer much more than this: collections, displays, conservatories, museums, lakes, walks, pavilions, rose gardens … and a fully licensed restaurant. To top it off, admission is free, the bus stops right outside, and the Gardens are open seven days!

Birds Way Down Under

4 12 2008

Greetings all! Dave here. I just thought I’d tell you I’m NOT Jade. She is a professional writer and all the posts up till now have been from her. I’ve been told that I need to do a post, and take my turn at keeping this blog up do date, so…

I thought I’d show you pictures of some common and not-so-common birds that you will see when you visit South Aus. Now, some of these may seem fairly exotic to you, but also remember, some of these flyin’ buggas are regarded as pests in rural areas.

Personally, I think they are very pretty. And, after all, they were here first!

Many of the pics were taken in the backyard, or in a nearby national park; you don’t have to go far to see the birdses.

Let’s start with the standard galah. A galah is a type of Australian cockatoo and in the US I believe it’s called a “Rose-Breasted Cockatoo”. These blokes like to “play silly buggers” and clown around. In fact they are sometimes called “The Clown Parrot” down here. Calling someone a “silly galah” is a way of telling them they’ve done something stupid or ridiculous!

You’ll see galahs all over Australia, not just down here in South Aus. Here’s a few shots:




Now we come to the Sulfur Crested Cockatoos. These are BIG boys! Weighing over a kilo, wingspan of 3 feet. Big beaks, big claws, and a flock of them will shred an almond tree as you watch. And they are very intelligent and very friendly.

You will see these blokes everywhere.




Another South Aus parrot you’ll see everywhere is a Rainbow Lorikeet. Fast and colourful — you’ll have fun trying to photograph these little, bright missiles:




If you get out bushwalking, you’ll see many parrots that you won’t see in the suburbs. Black Cockatoos, Eastern Rosellas, Long-Billed Corellas, and Little Corellas just to name a few.

Here’s a couple of shots of some Eastern Rosellas that you could see in the woodlands around Adelaide:



There are hundreds of new birds down here for you to see. So grab an Aussie bird book, some binoculars, a good camera, and come on down and enjoy the colourful display of local birds.

Top of the world … or at least Mount Lofty!

28 11 2008

For the best view of the city of Adelaide … and a great lunch at a terrific cafe-restaurant! — it’s got to be┬áMount Lofty Summit. This is the highest point in the Mount Lofty Ranges, which rear above the city like castle walls…


The view at night is glorious, as you’d imagine. It’s an easy drive up from the Crafers “park and ride,” and you emerge into a network of wind-blown carparks with national parks all around, and an amazing view at any time of the day:


The rotunda-style building features a great place to dine on one side, and a well-stocked gift shop on the other. Soft toys, teeshirts, books … yes, and postcards!


Even on a hot day, it can be cool(ish) on the summit of Mount Lofty, and it’s almost always windy. On a winter’s day, be sure to take a jacket. The wind can be very strong and surprisingly cold. But having said that, the stronger the wind, the clearer the air … and what a view! And when you’re chilly enough, go right back inside for coffee…