Along the Away

travel, dream, create, inspire, appreciate

I used to go camping a lot when I was in my twenties. I belonged to an outdoor club which had a calendar packed with weekend camping trips, multi-day backpacking walks, canyoning and lots more. I was one of the only members under 50 years old, but that was great as the members had heaps of gear and were very generous to share with those without. I couldn’t afford much so I used to be gratefully kitted out by the community. When I moved to Sydney I no longer had such an active group to go on adventures with and I lacked so much gear so my weekend adventures became more city-based.

Then a couple of birthdays ago a good group of friends bought me a tent. I’ve been wanting to go camping with it for ages but planning a weekend trip always seemed ever-elusive. Why does our heart’s desire often end up on the back burner of a busy life?

Well no longer! My friend Oceana and I decided one day to pick a far-away date in the calendar and scheduled a trip. Of course we got busy, so it was only a couple of days ahead that we started a flurry of messages to plan where, when, and survival needs. We decided a 3-hour-drive would be far enough for a one night trip, and somehow, based on that flimsiest of parameters, we settled on Barrington Tops National Park, more specifically, the private campground Ferndale Park nestled beside the Chichester River.

We left early-ish on Saturday morning and arrived in the mid-afternoon after three prolonged stops on-route (1. Three Trees Cafe at North Gosford for much-needed Pablo & Rusty coffee; 2. Anaconda to fill in the gaps of our camping gear; 3. Woolies to purchase enough food for a week’s survival in the outback. Side note – while I think of myself as being very down-to-earth and au naturel, I sometimes read back on things I write and wonder….).

When we arrived at Ferndale we stopped at the entrance where a friendly guy came out to greet us. Oceana had already emailed to let them know we were coming (they only take bookings on public holidays), but he was surprised to see us arrive so late for a one-night-only visit. We explained our mini-adventure and he good-naturedly took our camp fees and then hopped on top of his wood pile to fill a bag for us for $15.

The great first-in-first-served policy meant we were able to choose our own campsite across the 150 hectare property. There are more rustic spots on the other side of the river, but as the park was pretty quiet that weekend we opted to stay in the main campsite area which is situated along the river within sight of the amenities block.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

There were about 8 or so other groups in the main campsite area too with a mix of tents and caravans, but we had plenty of space to pick our location looking right at the river and with a feeling of privacy.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the park, waded in the cold river, sat on the pebbly-bank and read our books. It was so tranquil and relaxed, the sounds of the Aussie bush at sunset was just magic.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

There are stone-rimmed fire circles scattered around the sites so even with our newbie abilities, and armed with fire-lighters and newspaper, we were able to get our fire roaring shortly after setting up camp.

Our fire kept us cosy warm as we cooked up a fabulous veggie tofu stirfy on our borrowed gas stove. Then the marshmallows came out, which we toasted on sticks and stuck between digestive biscuits, all gooey and crunchy. We sipped peppermint tea and chatted, falling silent to listen to the cackle of the fire and the cicadas humming in the background.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

After a cosy night in our tent, I woke to the sound of the bell birds. I quietly slipped out of the tent and sat by the river to enjoy the morning energy wash over me, the cool crisp air and running water of the river was absolute bliss. I stoked up a fire and had our kettle boiling by the time Oceania joined me.

After our tea we went for a walk from the property up to Chichester Dam which was an impressive sight. We meandered along a path and took some forks in the road to explore the area, we had no map but probably covered about 6 kilometres by the time we walked back to camp.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

We made banana pancakes for brekkie under the watchful eye of some hungry Kookaburras.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

We leisurely packed up, ate our lunch sitting on the river bed and then got back in the car for the drive back to Sydney.

Yes it was short and sweet for a weekend escape, but we had a great time and enjoyed our planning and preparation just as much as our time spent in the forest – though next time I will stay longer for sure!

Despite our late return from Kangaroo Island the night before, day 6 of our one week holiday in Adelaide had us waking up early for our next adventure.

What were we going to do now? Well in my research earlier in the week I found Escapegoat Adventures, a mountain bike tour company with great ratings on Trip Advisor.
I have never mountain biked before but I have a friend who loves it and has spent more than a couple of lunch hours showing me Youtube videos. I’d always kinda wanted to try it as I love bike riding, but the wildness of mountain biking scares me a bit. I’ve always been cautious about sports that have an element of letting go and potentially getting hurt (hiking and yoga are more my thing!)

Well, sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new gives you the best experiences. I really liked all the info on Escapegoat’s website, they sounded very considerate of all rider levels including beginners so I pitched the idea to my sister and she gamely agreed to give it a try. We booked online for the 4 hour Lofty Descents tour and arranged to be picked up at our hotel.

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The only thing Jo and I had pre-planned before arriving in Adelaide was this very special experience visiting Adelaide’s two resident Giant Pandas at Adelaide Zoo. My sister had watched a TV segment about the Giant Pandas and really wanted to see them so we decided to gift each other the experience for our birthday (Twins! December birth date!)

Wang Wang and Fu Ni are the only Giant Pandas living in the Southern Henisphere! Why are they here? Well, they’re here to baby-make! That and help the international community to build scientific data and understanding of sustainable habitats for Giant Pandas. China have loaned Wang Wang and Fu Ni as part of the worldwide program to study the pandas’ nutritional requirements and reproductive biology. As the only pair of Giant Pandas in the Southern Hemisphere Wang Wang and Fu Ni had enabled a completely new set of scientific data highlighting the differences between hemispheres and how it affects pandas’ biology.

We were lucky to go when we did, a couple of months after they stopped the Panda Encounter indefinitely due to the breeding program.

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Kangaroo Island Tour

Our first adventure on our second (and last) day on Kangaroo Island was to go koala visiting. Despite the island being called after a different Australian animal, there is actually a huge koala population there. I saw more koalas here on one day than I have ever seen in my life!

Kangaroo Island Tour - KoalasKangaroo Island Tour - Koalas

We drove to the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary where we were free to wander among the eucalyptus trees at our own leisure, our heads craned backward, eyes glued upward at the tree branches. We didn’t have to go far to spot them – in fact we saw a mum and baby in a tree along the driveway!

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We had a whole week for our trip to Adelaide so we decided to spend two of the days on a trip to Kangaroo Island – I’m so glad we did as it was the highlight of our trip!

We wanted to make the most of our time so we booked to go with Adventure Tours Australia. My sister had been on a tour with them in Western Australia and had an excellent experience so we booked on the 2 day Kangaroo Island Explorer trip which cost just over $400 – and was worth every cent!

Starting bright and early on day 1 we were picked up from our hotel by a mini-bus and then transferred at the bus interchange onto a large coach to Jervis Cove where we would get the ferry to Kangaroo Island.

Kangaroo Island Ferry

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We intended to spend our third day in Adelaide making the most of the city’s free bike program, which is open to everyone, everyday. Free bikes are located all around the city at places like tourist attractions, education centres, and hotels, and can be hired for daylight hours just by providing ID. It sounded like a great way to enjoy more of the path by the River Torrens, especially as the path runs all the way from the CBD to Henley Beach via the Linear Park Trail (more information is provided on the SA Trails website and on the Bikely website).

Unfortunately, despite our grand plans it was not to be. Free bikes can’t be booked ahead, it’s first in first served so we decided we better get in early. We walked to one of the university campus bike hire locations but sadly temperature restrictions kicked in! Bikes won’t be hired out on days forecast to reach over 38 degrees. This was a disappointment as we thought we’d be able to handle the heat considering we were starting so early in the day, however it is good to have safety precautions for the Australian heat.

We decided to get the tram to Glenelg Beach and walk along the coastal path there instead of cycling. The tram was easy enough to navigate to using the Metro trip planner again. Glenelg is at the end of the line so it was obvious when we arrived – especially the fresh salty air and beach greeting as right at the tram stop.

Glenelg to Henley Beach Walk Glenelg to Henley Beach Walk

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Our second day in Adelaide began with an early morning walk along the River Torrens. We were up and out the door before 6.30am, I was eager to start the day on a healthy note as I knew it was going to end up being pretty indulgent by the end of it. It is all about balance (and easing guilt ;-)).

We headed past Rundle Mall, and over to the Elder Park Rotunda, which was erected in 1882 – making it 101 years older than me!

Walking along the Torrens River, Adelaide

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Once again I find myself doing a little belated post-holiday updating! Seems to be often the case, but that’s OK – the reminiscing is good for the soul ;-)

Over the last new year break I went on a getaway trip to Adelaide with my twin sister. While my hometown is famous for its spectacular NYE celebrations, the mega-crowds it attracts can make planning anything around town a bit of an effort, so we fancied spending the holiday out of Sydney.

We decided only a few weeks before that we’d take the trip, so I spent about a week googling ideas and asking friends for suggestions on things to do. For some reason Adelaide has a reputation for being a bit… plain. A lot of people responded with “WHY!?!?!?” when I said I was going to Adelaide for New Years. After a truly wonderful, jam packed  7 days I’m going to tell you why over the next series of blog posts! The key is to do some research ahead of time and have a rough idea of what you want to do and when. Adelaide may not be the best city to just turn up and see what’s happening – the streets are so quiet, and at times we found ourselves musing ‘where is everyone?’ in a tone on the border of FOMI (fear of missing out) and eeriness (was there an apocalypse? has the city been evacuated?)

Here’s an overview of our one week itinerary in Adelaide:

Day 1: Fly into Adelaide early, day trip to Hahndorf

Day 2: Day long Barossa Valley Wine Tour

Day 3: Tram to Glenelg Beach and a coastal walk to Henley Beach and back

Day 4 & 5: Two day tour to Kangaroo Island

Day 6: Mountain biking down Mt Lofty, picnic in the Botanic Gardens

Day 7: Panda experience at Adelaide Zoo, lunch and shopping in the city, evening flight home.

It was a jam packed week, which I’m now going to relive here, one day at a time…

So the day after Boxing Day, after a quick coffee and bagel at the domestic terminal, we left Sydney EARLY at 6:45am with Jetstar and had a good flight to Adelaide.

Airport Waiting

Compared to the Sydney comparative we were impressed how cheap and easy it is to get a bus into the city from Adelaide airport. Relying on my iPhone map app we got off the bus in the right place and found our hotel, the Grand Chancellor on Currie St. I had booked it through Webjet after comparing a few CBD alternatives, we were happy to find it clean, comfy and conveniently located.

The great thing about our early flight was that we arrived with the whole day ahead of us. In my research I’d read that the German heritage town Hahndorf is a great day trip excursion from the city and easily accessible by bus. We’d purchased a Day Trip Metroticket for the airport bus for $10, so it was a good economy to go to Hahndorf that day.

We were on our way there within an hour of checking in to the hotel using the Plan My Journey feature on the Adelaide Metro website. We spent a few minutes walking up and down the block outside our hotel trying to work out which of the three bus stops we were supposed to be at but we found it eventually. It was about a 50 minute journey and easy to know when we’d arrived – the main street is just as described.

Hahndorf town

Lots of quaint shopfronts, tree-lined footpaths, cafes with tables and chairs clustered out the front.

Hahndorf town

First order of business was coffee and scones sitting in the sun on the veranda of the Herbees Garden Café, which is a historical German house built in the 1850’s.

Cute cow milk jug, Hahndorf

We spent a couple of hours wandering down the Main Street, there are lots of stores worthy of popping into – bakeries and fudge shops, and giftware and designer boutiques.

Street art, Hahndorf

We had lunch at Café Assiette which was packed went we first wandered by. I usually can’t help myself and check online for recommendations for food and coffee when I am somewhere new. Trip Advisor reviews raved about Café Assiette so we decided to take our chances on loitering nearby for awhile – and we got lucky! The wait staff were rushed off their feet but going out of their way to make everyone happy. The food was really great (veggie pie was delicious), made even better sitting outside under the trees, listening to the live music playing next door.

Hahndorf town

We spent some time in the Hahndorf Academy art gallery and museum, a beautiful 19th century heritage building which was once a boarding school and then a maternity hospital. There is a mix of contemporary art on display as well as some rooms presenting art and artifacts from the area’s past. There is a shop with an interesting range of gifts including local art and jewellery – it is well worth a visit.

Art in Hahndorf town

It was a bright, sunny day so we stopped by one of the artisan ice cream shoppes before we hopped back on a bus to Adelaide.

Hahndorf town Hahndorf town

We finished off our first day of sightseeing with a walk through a deserted Rundle Mall (seriously, where is everyone?) which hosted a number of interesting street sculptures and Christmas decorations.

Rundle Mall