From the chair I’m comfortably sitting in to finally make a start on catching up with these Motorcycle Travel Diary blog posts, I look out onto lush green grass, leafy, loved ornamental trees with a borderline of low scrub in the distance. The sky is clear powder blue, the air 32 c warm and a little humid. It feels very odd given it’s June but I’m in Darwin on the second day of the Northern Territories first lockdown since Covid began. I’m grounded and grateful to be here in the home of relatives of a friend who are accustomed to generously offering lodgings and warm hospitality to travelers in the Rosie network.
Since saying goodbye to family, friends and my lovely 130 year old stone cottage in the Barossa Valley on Anzac Day to continue my Australia-wide travels, it’s been a full itinerary of now treasured travel destinations and experiences. Without bundling too much, here goes with picking up from where I left off at the end of February.
BAROSSA VALLEY VINTAGE 2021: Even though not directly involved while growing up in the Barossa, I was aware that at vintage time the industry which now produces wine from arguably Australia’s most well-known region never slept. The hum, rumble and movement of workers, tractors, trucks and now mechanical harvesters started out as a noticeable 24/7 background noise that our ears quickly adjusted to and turned to silence over the feverish weeks.
After being a part of the planting season during Spring 2020, I thoroughly enjoyed heading out at dawn to collect samples for testing and joining in on the hand picking for vintage when needed; including these magnificent old Grenache vines. Groaning with tons of fruit this year, these old vines are truly remarkable examples of how resilient this plant is. A time keeper that keeps giving for the pleasures of multiple generations.
On days in between I took on a short term position as a prep cook in the kitchen of El Estanco in Greenock; a wonderful new addition to the dining scene in the Barossa offering a delicious and varied menu with South American influences.
The camaraderie, the pace, learning about new ingredients and being with driven young owners, kitchen and front of house crew was a fabulous time and reminded me of why I love this industry.
Being vintage meant Tanunda Show time. The 108th Tanunda Show was held on Saturday 13th March this year and again was an incredible display of everything you’d expect and more from a country show. Each year the home-crafts, agrarian and culinary history of growing and cooking in the Barossa Valley is kept competitively alive in their perfectly organised sections on long tables.
Over my time in SA the Art Gallery of South Australia have offered a few exhibitions I’ve been drawn to. Clarice Beckett: The present moment was one I particularly enjoyed. Her ethereal paintings of seemingly ordinary moments felt like dream-time-travel as a viewer.
From the AGSA website: During the 1920s and 1930s Clarice Beckett surrendered to the sensory impressions of her everyday world with such intensity that the force of her painted observations created an entirely new visual language. The extreme economy of her painting tested her Australian audiences, and yet distinguished her as working at the avant-garde of international modernism.
Just prior to leaving South Australia, my close friend Fiona and I spent a few days in one of the last of the original shacks in Wye River, thankfully still firmly attached to the coastal cliffs on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria. Owned by a friend of Fiona’s mother, this delightful snapshot in time had layers of happy memories left by family and friends, visiting over many years.
Despite the cooler weather and heavily clouded skies, the view from the balcony to watch dawn break over the restrained rhythmic edges of the wild Southern Ocean was magical.
Set in the hills of the Otway Ranges just 12kms from nearby Apollo Bay, we visited Otway Herbs Nursery & Cottage Gardens. Here Judi and Ken Forrester grow a wide variety of culinary herbs from Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean as well as medicinal herbs, insect repellents and fragrant plants.
Another enjoyable day trip was to nearby Geelong where we saw the Rone in Geelong exhibition. Rone is the pen name of internationally reknown street artist based in Melbourne, Tyrone Wright. Over the past 20 years, Rone has built an exceptional reputation for large-scale wall paintings and installations that explore concepts of beauty and decay. This exhibition was the first comprehensive solo survey of the artist’s career that also included a commission which transformed one of the Gallery’s most significant rooms; a response to the architecture and history of the building, as well as the Gallery’s permanent collection.
And then the inevitable day arrived to continue what I’d set out to do more than a year prior. A couple of months ago border closures had reduced in frequency and the timing for the most comfortable time of year to travel north in Australia had begun. First overnight stop on my way to the Red Centre was the Eldo Hotel, Woomera, South Australia.
Situated in ex RAAF accommodation, the old but clean rooms are now used by travelers, mine and transport workers who also have washing to do on the road.
My second night was at the Marla Traveler’s Rest stop. A sprawling roadhouse, motel / hotel, supermarket that was a beacon in the desert as night fell across its wide and never-ending expanse. Backpackers, families, couples, singles, contractors and employees for mining and other service industries and aboriginal families all needing the same. With individual priorities, fuel, food, water, a place to wash, socialize and sleep. The needs of travelers unchanged since time began.
Being forced to stay put for a few days due to the lockdown here in the Northern Territory has given me a chance to again stop and reflect over the thousands of kilometres now past and the extraordinary country we all live in. How ancient it is and how much of a tiny blip of its history we exist in.
Stay tuned for the second part of what April delivered, which is no better example of this rich passage of time.