Beauty, fur seals and sunset (Fleurieu Peninsula)

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On Thursday I was feeling under the weather (I’d been struggling with a strep throat and mild fever since Wednesday morning) so P took the keys and took me out to Goolwa for a relaxing day of sightseeing. We didn’t know what to expect down there but had been told it was worth a drive. Goolwa is a river town near the mouth of the Murray River. The closer we got to the river the more the country flattened out and the wilder it seemed compared with the well-groomed wine region and coastal hills. We crossed the controversial Hindmarsh Island Bridge and followed the road past the protected fresh waters of the lakes to a lookout over the mouth of the Murray River (image above). Vast sandbanks stretched out before our eyes. Due to low water levels, the sand needs to be dredged here in order to keep the river’s mouth open.
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Our next stop was the old court house where a SALA (South Australian Living Artists) exhibition was on display. The display contained some beautiful paintings of the local area. Another nearby gallery showed the works of an artist who seemed to be combining the images of shells and people. Both displays were lovely: the first included some breathtaking pieces while the second was thought-provoking. If I had a house and wasn’t traveling for a while I’d probably buy some of the pieces we saw to hang on the wall. But the time isn’t yet right for that (and I want to use my money for travel).
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Unfortunatley, most of the town was closed due to a burst water main that had rendered the whole town dry. But the Goolwa Barrage and lock were a beautiful place to stop. We enjoyed the reflections of grasses and the lock’s fences on the dark water. A boat traveled through the lock, allowing us to see how this interesting system of water barriers works.
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But the highlight of the visit was definitely the New Zealand fur seals. We spent about an hour just standing on the barrage watching them drift around on their backs with their fins in the air. At first we thought they were rubbish drifting on the river but closer inspection showed their heads poking out. There were a couple resting on the opposite side of the lock from where we could stand and one went fishing near the fish race. The fishing seal made a confident line, swimming directly for the race. We couldn’t see it fishing but then saw it turning back away and swimming downstream. It was a beautiful experience and one for which I am grateful: to see wild animals in their element is a true blessing.
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While we had seen the ocean across from the Murray’s mouth, it still took us by surprise when we followed a road that led to a surf beach. Fog was rolling in but still the locals were pulling on full length steamer wetsuits and waxing boards. One by one they made their way out into the sea, some struggling to push through the shore breaks while others made better progress. I didn’t see any of the surfers actually catch any waves but perhaps they needed time to warm up.
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Rather than drive directly back to our cabin, P decided to look at Aldinga Beach. We’d passed signs to it in McLaren Vale for the past couple of days and curiousity had the better of him. Besides, we were so close we might as well take a look. P’s curiousity was rewarded with a stunning beach that was barricaded on the south by tall pink cliffs. Fishermen lined the beach, many using multiple rods. Their set ups showed that this was a nightly ritual and perhaps some of them would take home a fish or two. It looked peaceful and relaxing, even though I’m not a fisherman myself.
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I felt a deep sense of contentment and happiness as the sun set over the sea. It had been another fantastic day despite the strep throat and cold.


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