Packraft on the Torrens River (Adelaide)

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The sun is shining and it’s a warm day. Well, the maximum temperature is meant to reach 14’C (57’F) and I have become so aclimated that I find this warm. I decide to cycle along the Linear Path to the Adelaide Hills but as soon as I reach the river I change my mind and return to the hostel to grab my packraft. I shove the raft, paddles, water and a softshell jacket all into my 30L pack with my PDF strapped to the outside and walk the 1.5km (1 mile) back to the river.
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The rowing clubs have a boat deck that is low enough to allow me to drop the boat into the water and get in without getting wet. I’ve seen a water rat swimming past me and there’s a lot of debris floating downstream from the recent heavy rains so I am not keen to have too much contact with the murky muddy water. But it’s not going to stop me getting out on it; arter-all, this is why I have carted the 5kg (11lbs) of paddling gear with me on my bike.
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The Adelaide Crows are playing an AFL match this afternoon so there are crowds of supporters descending on the Adelaide Oval to support their team. The Adelaide Oval is next to the Torrens in the city and I could hear the music, commentary and cheering from the water. It made for quite a carnival atmosphere. I do love the Southern States’ obsession with AFL, even though I personally am more a League kind of guy.
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The riverbanks are beautifully manicured and I keep expecting to coxed rowing eights to come past. There are rowing clubs here on the banks of the river but no rowers materialise. That sense off being in a foreign land returns with a rush as I paddle upstream. It’s so beautiful but the stark naked trees, green grass and people wearing scarfs makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a North American movie set.
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I watch the people using the Linear Path along the river’s edge. Cyclists pedal. Some race by in full team lycra and I realise just how silly I used to look when I was one of them. No offense to my lycra-clad friends but it actually looks very funny when there are other people riding on the same trails who look comfortable in their trousers and scarfs. I know that lycra serves a purpose but it still looks funny from the outside. Joggers move purposively while groups of pedestrians meander along holding deep conversations. The day has also brought the lovers out of the woodwork with their romantic picnics and sweet nothings on blankets in quiet corners of the park. The romantic in me is a touch jealous.
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I pass under one last bridge and the manicured lawns end and I am in a narrower channel surrounded by long grasses and gum trees. The river here flows more quickly and there are a few strainers along the banks. I make a mental note of them so that I don’t allow myself get pushed in to them on the way back.
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The current here is strong and I have to work hard to make forward progress. I struggle on for about ten minutes before I decide the effort is greater than the reward and turn the raft around. The current takes me downstream effortlessly. For the next twenty minutes the only time I need the paddle is to keep the boat facing forwards (my packraft always wants to travel downstream side-on or backwards). I unzip the spray deck and hang my legs out on the boat’s edges where they catch some sun. I love this part … drifting along lazing back watching the world from the water.
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Back in the city reach of the River Torrens I drift slowly listening to the crowd cheering as the Crows score goals in the footy match. There’s a massive television screen on the outside of the stadium and I can see it from my raft so I watch a couple of goals as I listen to the crowd’s voices rise and fall like a wave. It’s a glorious experience for my senses. Around me families, friends and couples play on the paddle boats that are available to hire as water from the fountain sprays me. I’ve only been out here for a couple of hours but it feels like much longer.
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I put out near a pretty gazebo and naked tree that must look amazing in spring. I slowly deflate the boat, pack everything back in my bag and walk into the city to buy a few groceries and listen to some buskers.

Adelaide Central Market

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There’s an explosion of colour and movement around me as I leave the rain soaked street and walk into the Adelaide Central Market. Men and women push trolleys loaded with everything from loaves of bread and sacks of potatoes to empty boxes and bags of rubbish around the narrow aisles. There’s a hubbub of people asking questions and a clink of coins as prices are paid.
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The sweet scent of fresh flowers mingles with the bitter smell of coffee. The scent of salami wafts out of delis and of course there’s that ever present smell of fresh bread. I cannot resist fresh bread. My favourite are those made in the French tradition with crusty outers and luscious soft white dough. I buy a half baguette to take with me for lunch.
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Fresh fruit and vegetables abound. It’s still morning and each marketeer’s particular style of presentation is still visible. Some stack their produce in broad flat-topped pyramids while other use wicker baskets to entice the buyer to feel like they have just been harvested by hand. My mouth waters as I gaze at the fresh selections and I buy a punnet of strawberries to eat with the half baguette.
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Fromageries prove there is cheese beyond the cheddar, mozarella and brie that are usually displayed on supermarket shelves and I spend some time selecting something to top the pizza I hope to make this week. Olives grow wild in these parts so I buy some to accompany my cheese atop the pizza I plan to make. I also buy tomato, garlic, fresh basil and mushrooms to round out the creation only to discover on my return to the backpackers that there is no oven here. But that’s not going to stop me – I believe I can still make something delicious with a frying pan and sheet of alfoil.
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The honey and soap shop tempts me with the vast array of honeys and soaps they sell. I taste a few of the honey varieties and realise just how different they can be. This is not the land of mass produced and sugar-syrup infused product but a golden land of natural flavours where the blossoms the bees fed on tickle your tastebuds. The soaps too are lovely. There’s something for everyone from those who want a treat on a budget to those who refuse to buy palm oil or prefer goats milk. I sniff the soaps but know I already have two bars in my kit and that everything I buy I will need to carry.
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Naturally, as a tourist destination, stuffed koalas and kangaroos abound. These are Australia’s answer to batik paintings, Turkish rugs and delf blue crockery. I can’t help myself and giggle at the lone Kiwi sheep sitting between the Aussie koalas and resist the temptation to make mischeif by redecorate the shelf. I was thinking about drop bears and a poor lone sheep but decided that others might not get my joke and left well enough alone.

Where past and present collide

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Something happens when we break away from the shackles of our daily grind to explore the world. It’s something bigger than the people we meet or the places we see. It happens quietly while we sleep in strange places, get soaked by rain, warmed by sunshine and wonder at the experiences we have. Travel allows us to meet ourselves in a new way. There’s no daily routine or familiar surrounds to numb ourselves to who we are. Rather, the traveler is challenged everday to respond to changing stimuli and to deal with periods of isolation from those who know us best. And this brings us greater self-awareness.

The past few days have seen a collision of my past and present. A friendship I have outgrown ended quite suddenly and explosively. And a friend from my past made contact to wish me safe travels. Both friendships were formed at a time when I was a messed up, depressed and anxious lad in my twenties. The friendship that ended did so because I now know that I create my own happiness and opportunity; there is no system or world trying to push me down. The friend who wished me well was to me as Socrates was to Dan in The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. When she contacted me I felt as though the student was finally equal to the teacher and I felt a sense of pride at how far I’ve come as we communicated on equal footing. It was as though two old friends met in the street and said hello before returning to their lives again with the knowledge that they can say hello if their paths cross again without obligation or discomfort.

The collision of past and present through two people from the same period of my life has highlighted the peace in which I now live. And today I woke feeling just a little bit lighter and happier. I know I am on the right track. My life today is exactly where it needs to be. Yes, I will face hardships and stresses in future: periods of unhappiness are as inevitable as death and taxes. But I have evolved from that troubled young man I was a decade ago. And of that achievement I am incredibly proud.

Friendship and food

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My primary reason for choosing Adelaide as a destination was to visit my friend, L. We met seven years ago when I came to visit someone I then knew, H. L was H’s mate but he and I hit it off and have been firm friends since. I have been meaning to come back to Adelaide to visit over the intervening years but it never happened. So I was excited to come here to spend time with L. And what a time we’ve had. We’ve stayed up late catching up on the years, walked his cute dog and shared meals.
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Cooking is one of my loves so I have taken over L’s kitchen to cook up some feasts. First there was a dinner of chickpea and leak soup, followed by roast chicken and pumpkin. It was such a treat to use an oven; something I don’t have access to when I camp.
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The next night I used the leftover roast chicken to make nasi goreng for dinner. This is a simple dish I learned from my mother, which was a common dinner at home. I love the sweet and salty flavours and that it can be made with any leftover meat.
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Yesterday I pumped up the country music on my phone while L was out picking up his 10 year old nephew and baked up a storm. It was cold and grey outside so baking in a warm kitchen was divine. By the time I was done, I had baked some mini lemon crumble loaves and a big chocolate chip chocolate brownie. I had also quite contendedly licked the beater, wooden spoon and mixing bowls. The sugar overload didn’t stop me from getting stuck into the finished brownie though.
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And then, last night, L and his nephew cooked me a big feast of Greek-style marinated lamb chops, chips and salad. The lamb was so tender it melted in my mouth. I think sharing food is one of the most wonderful experiences. And it’s one I’ve enjoyed immensely this week.

City to surf day

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Art is one of my favourite things so I was delighted when my friend and I traveled into town to check out the art gallery. The art gallery here in Adelaide contains a wonderful collection of classic pieces and also a few modern installations like this rope and leather one. I enjoyed the portraits and the Antipodean collection the best. Though this installation sculture really caught my eye.
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The art didn’t stop inside the gallery. Out on the street there were some lovely examples of street art that drew my eye. Especially this mural of a traveler eating ice cream, his bags and some bicycles. It’s no wonder it caught my attention and drew me in.
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After a few hours looking at art, it was time to hit the Central Markets where we made a beeline straight to my friend’s favourite cake shop and a place to buy hot chocolate. Given that choclate is one of my other favourite things, I thought this was a wonderful idea.
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I had my bike serviced while we were in the city so once it was ready I followed the Linear Path back towards my friend’s house. Karrawirra Parri (the Torrens River) is in flood and her muddy waters are flowing quickly towards the sea. Weeping natives line her banks near the city, opening to tall red gums as the river makes her way to the sea. Of course, the river starts much further upstream but I have joined her here in the city just 13.5km from the sea.
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Karrawirra Parri is still a wild river, despite her proximity to South Australia’s capital. I like the perfectly imperfect brown waters of Australia’s river systems. They show the journey the water takes after leaving the source.
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As I pass the brewery I am taken by the whimsical models on the river’s other bank. Given that I like whimsical things, I can’t help but stop to smile and giggle at the sight.
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I continue down the Linear Path, following Karrawirra Pirri past pockets of red gums, suburban homes and horses grazing in paddocks adjoining the river until I reach the sea. My timing is perfect and I watch the sun set over the water. It’s another of my favourite things: the sun setting over the sea. I kneel on the sand for a few moments taking it all in before I turn my bike around and ride back to my friend’s house, which is halfway back to the city. Being on two wheels in the crisp air taking in new places brings joy to my heart.

Flower run

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The sky is grey and the air is crisp. I feel like I’m in a foreign country, a feeling I always get when I’m in Australia’s southern states. While I was surfing in shorts and bare chest at Baffle Creek two weeks ago, I find myself out running in trousers and softshell here in Adelaide. It’s invigorating and new. Everything is different here: the architecture, the lush green grass, the scent of woodfires coming from chimneys and the deciduous trees.
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I leave my friends’ place and walk for the first ten minutes. They say that you should train the way you want to race and I have decided the best aproach for me in the Surf Coast Century is to walk the first ten minutes so I don’t get caught up with the actual runners. I walk briskly letting my body aclimatise to the chill. I enjoy this way of starting a run; it’s less stressful on my body than stepping out my door and running.
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White-backed magpies hunt for worms. I like how clean they look compared with the black ones we get in Brisbane. They stand out against the deep green grass and dark grey sky. I wonder where the boundary is between the land of the white- and black-backed magpies.
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But my favourite part of today’s run are the flowers. They bring joy to the grey skies and drizzle.
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The red flowering gums make me think of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, two characters from an Australian children’s tale. It makes me happy as I run along the trail.
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The wattles are out too. I love their sweet scent, even though they make me sneeze. The run is fantastic and by the time I return home I am warmed up and starting to feel comfortable in this new place. I don’t know what South Australia will bring but I am just going with the flow until I work it out. For now, I am loving being here with my mate and in this new place.