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…

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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!)

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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 —

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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 …

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…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.

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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:

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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…

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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:

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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!

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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…





Hahndorf welcomes you … hope you brought an appetite!

26 11 2008

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One of the loveliest places in the hills near Adelaide (and it is near — close enough to head there for lunch!) is the town that’s described as “the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia.”

It’s Hahndorf … 28 kilometers from the city, and seeming like a great hunk of Australian history come to life. The town was named for the captain of the vessel which brought the original colonists out here from Europe. They fled to escape religious persecution and made a new life in South Australia which was so successful, Hahndorf is thriving in the twenty first century and has a wonderful future — quite an achievement, when you remember, the region was settled in the 1830s!

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The town remembers its history with a lovely little street-corner memorial garden, in which you’ll find this statue, a likeness of Captain Hahn, who was so impressed by these coloists that it was he who found them a place to settle. His choice was superb: sheltered, fertile and beautiful.

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Most people go to Hahndorf for the shopping (Main Street is a kilometer-long festival of curiosity shops, every one different, and astonishing. Want to buy an authentic cuckoo clock, or the best German sausage, or hand-made candles, or leather goods …? You’ve come to the right place here! There are also more curbside cafes, restaurants, pubs and courtyard dining areas than you could check out, if you ate at a new place twice a day for a week! The German Arms (above) is a terrific place for lunch. Imagine a real, German pub … with an Aussie twist!

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We like the outdoor dining style, though … coffee and pastries “under the vines,” watching the world go by. Hahndorf is in wine country — some of the finest in South Australia are grown and made not far away. And everyone knows (!) South Aussie wines are the best in the world. (Well, they are!)

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But the Old Mill is the place to be … especially for dinner at Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and such family celebraions. Mind you, you not only need a booking, you might need to book a couple of years in advance!

Getting to Hahndorf from Adelaide is easy: it’s a drive through some of the loveliest country on very good roads. But be sure you bring an appetite, because everywhere you turn, it’s fantastic food and wine. Want to stay overnight? There’s hotels, motels and a caravan park with cabins, any of which come highly recommended.