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.

Victor Harbour (Fleurieu Peninsula)

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Victor Harbour is about half an hour from our cabins at McLaren Vale. Every corner brings an exclamation at the bare vines, green hills and fields of livestock. And then we reach the final descent into town and are awestruck by the view over the harbour, Granite Island and The Bluff. Even the grey skies don’t detract from the beauty.
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We park near the causeway and walk to Granite Island. There is a horse-drawn tramway but it leaves just ahead of us and then we discover that it only travels at walking pace anyway. Our first top on the island is the penguin rescue centre where fairy penguins are cared for. The penguins all have names and the lady who fed them spoke to them as though they were family pets. These penguins will never live outside the rescue centre but they don’t seem to mind. They waddle and swim around all day long without the need to hunt for fish.
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We walked the circuit path around the island. The waves crashed on the rocks far below us on the southern side of hte island while the northern side was calm. Lichen grew in bright orange, slowly eating away at the massive granite boulders until they left amazing formations. The colours were astonishing: orange lichen, grey granite, green grass and moss, blue water, white foam and grey clouds.
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We visited the local museum where Victor Harbour’s history was proudly on display. The Aboriginal Peoples’ stories were told beside those of the whalers, sailers and government officials. A small heritage building behind the museum was set up to reeflect the way people lived in the early days of British settlement at Victor Harbour. It was interesting to see the old photos, dresses and room layouts.
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We drove over to The Bluff Where we were walked a short way along the history trail taking in the views. We read the plaques on the chairs along the path, learning stories of the people who once sat here enjoying these same views. Later, we would stop at a local cemetery to read more about the people who once walked these beaches and hills. One of the graves we saw was from someone who must have been one of the early whalers because he died before South Australia was even declared a state and before settlers officially started to arrive here. There were many grave sites that contained stones for multiple generations of the same families, telling their stories. It was an interesting way to end the day.

Food glorious food (Fleurieu Peninsula)

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The past few days have been a delight not only on my eyes but also for my tastebuds. The food here in the McClaren Vale area has been amazing. The highlight has probably been Bracegirdles. This local chocolate company have a warm and cosy cafe that sells a range of delicious cakes and chocolates. They are served with care so the customer can enjoy them at their best. Even take aways are served with a small container of cream and a strawberry accompaniement. The Chupa (top image) was a white chocolate mousse interior coated in a dark chocolate with prailene coating. It was to die for. The triple chocolate mousse slice was also absolutely delicious.
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As well as cakes and slices, Bracegirdles sells the most amazing chocolates. They are all beautiful and the flavours are crisp and clean. We had some award winning passionfruit and marshmallow chocolate as well as a salted caramel one and a finger lime flavoured one. The choc orange log was so rich even half a bar was too much to eat in one sitting but it was delicious.
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The Alexandrina Cheese Company have 80 jersey cows that produce their milk. The cows are all individually named; showing that they are not just cows but also valued members of the company. After-all, they play a critical role in providing the milk. The milk is award-winning so we decided to try an iced coffee and iced chocolate. It was as good as it sounded. The cheeses were also fantastic. The feta was creamy and not as salty as feta sometimes can be.
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Tonight we thought we’d go out to eat. But it is Friday and the whole town was booked out. It ended up working out quite well because we bought some scotch fillet steak and teamed it with salad and garlic bread. The feta from Alexandrina was fantastic in the salad and the romano cheese was a delicious topper for the potatoes. The steak we bought was so tender that we were able to cut it with butter knives (the only thing that was available in the cabins we rented).

We’ve also bought some french vanilla flavoured almonds, sherbert boiled lollies and dried fruit chocolates. And, ratehr than just scoffing them all down, we’ve been savouring them a few at a time. It’s just a shame that I have a cold and sore throat at the moment because swallowing hurts. But the pain is worth it.

Green hills and ocean views (Fleurieu Peninsula)

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“Wow! It’s so beautiful!”
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“Look at that amazing view!”
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“Oh wow! The fog rolling in looks amazing!”
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“We’ve run out of superlatives!”
I’d been told the Fleurieu Peninsula was beautiful but I wasn’t prepared for just how spectacular the views around every bend would be. I’m not cycling this week. A friend is here from Brisbane so we’ve hired a car to drive around. It is quite a luxurious experience to take side roads without worrying about how many extra kilometres the road will add or whether there will be a place to camp available.
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On Tuesday we drove along the coast from Adelaide to Deep Creek Conservation Park right down at the southern top of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Along the way we stopped at Myponga Beach and Rapid Bay, both of which were stunning. Myponga Beach is a tiny little hamlet nestled in the place where the green hills of the peninsula meet the sea. There’s nothing here except a small collection of beach shacks and a picturesque road bridge across a creek
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Rapid Bay is a larger place where an old shipping jetty is rotting into the sea next to a newer recreational jetty used by fishermen and divers. The township has no shops but it does have a school that must surely be one of the most visually stunning places of learning in the country. Green hills and boulders rise about the school and clear blue waters lap at the nearby sandy beach.
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After stopping for some pies at nearby Delaware we set up camp at Deepwater Conservation Park. The campsite was set in a grove of twisted trees that seemed like they could come alive at any moment. White-backed southern magpies warbled all night long. After spending the night sitting by a warming campfire, we woke to wallabies hopping around our tent and kookaburras sitting in trees nearby waiting to steal our breakfast.
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On Wednesday we followed the coast back the way we had come to see some places we missed on the way down. Our first stop was an old silver mine. Walking around the mine I was in awe of the hardships the miners must have endured in their quest for riches.
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As we drove, red parrots flew through the trees; their bright colours a stark contrast to the errie twisted architecture of the forest.
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We stopped at Cape Jervis where a wind farm captured our attention. From the windfarm we could look out over Cape Jervis towards Kangaroo Island. The car ferry did some amazing sharp turns to dock at the jetty. It was awesome to watch because there wasn’t much space for the pilot to make any mistakes. There’s not much at Cape Jervis other than the lighthouse, ferry terminal and start of the 1,200km long Heyson Trail walking track.
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We returned to Rapid Bay to explore the beach and cave. The cave was huge but not deep. I didn’t dare go into it too far lest some rocks fall.
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We had missed Second Valley on our way south so stopped there for a look on the way back. We were certainly not disappointed. There were a series of small rocky coves. Some had sandy beaches at the waters’ edge. I found plenty of rocks to skip along the water and we created a small soft coral display on the rocks of the various pieces we found. My friend and I both like art so it came naturally to find these pieces and line them up. Over on the jetty, a Sam Worthington film was being made. It looked like a WW1 movie; perhaps a film about Galipoli. The whole town was taken over by the actors and crew.