Alice to Adelaide in Six Days

Where else can you sleep under the stars, drink in an underground bar, and sit and watch the longest coal train trundle past? Australia, that’s where!

My original plan was to tour the Great Ocean Road before ending up with my relatives in Adelaide, but having been to Australia before and not gone to Uluru I forwent my initial plan and booked a trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide with Adventure Tours. I am so glad I changed my mind.

Upon arrival in Alice Springs I was picked up by a guy from Melankas, the hostel I was staying at for the night. I settled into the dorm, which I was sharing with two other girls. Two other people? It wasn’t big enough to swing a cat, let alone two other humans. Never mind, it was only for one night. After dinner and a couple of beers I went to bed early in preparation for my trip, but was abruptly awoken when my dorm companions came back sometime in the early hours- light on, chatting loudly. Obviously they didn’t know I had to be up a couple of hours later but, please, some consideration would have been nice. I tried to replace my annoyance with excitement as I remembered seeing Uluru from the plane. I managed to drift off back to sleep looking forward to the day ahead.

Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia
Uluru, Australia

Day 1

I was up at 4.30am to meet the guide, whose name was Bullfrog. Not because he was reminiscent of a bull frog, but because he had a very husky, very sexy voice. I can neither confirm nor deny this because I have never had privy to what a bull frog sounds like, or if I have I can’t remember, but I took his word for it, and relished in listening to his sexy vocalisation.


That very first morning when I met Bullfrog I knew we would be friends. He had me on his list as Gillian, and I pointed out that I prefer Gill. He said afterwards that he thought I was a bit feisty. Who me?! But I love it when I meet someone for the first time and I feel like I have known them a lot longer, that’s how it was with us. Constant banter from day one and I am very pleased to say we are still good friends today. He is just one of those people that is very easy to get along with and we hit it off straight away. He wouldn’t tell us his real name at first and we spent one night trying to guess it. Oh, the things you do in the middle of the Australian Outback! In the end he told us it was Mark. Just so you know.

Anyway, no sooner as we had said hello, we were off on a two hour drive to our first stop at Kings Canyon.

Now, I am mostly a very sociable person and like to meet new people, and so I enjoyed chatting with a lovely girl that I met on the bus. She was really nice but by the end of the first day, she was really doing my head in. She kept asking:

“Where are we going now?”

“What’s this?”

“What’s that?”

I thought: I don’t bloody know, I haven’t been here before, ask the bloody guide.


“Why is the bus stopping?”

“Because there is a f****** great big camel in the middle of road!” (Actually, I didn’t say that to her, I thought it.)

Honestly, open your bloody eyes girl. Thinking back it is rather amusing but at the time I wanted to strangle her.

When we arrived at Kings Canyon, I was a little disappointed when we found out that we couldn’t walk up to the top of the canyon, one of the three walks possible in this area, but at the same time I didn’t want to die of heat exhaustion- it was only 8 am and already 40 degrees where we stood at the bottom, 50 at the top. But, am happy to report, that we managed to do a shorter walk around the Canyon.

Kings Canyon is part of Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory. The red sandstone walls are over 100 metres high, and they stand tall on either side as you walk the trails below. There are pockets of lush vegetation but don’t expect any forests here due to the little rain and high temperatures. Nevertheless, the plants and animals have adapted very well to the extreme weather conditions.

Kings Canyon, Australia
Kings Canyon, Australia
King's Canyon, Australia
Lizard enjoying the sun’s rays, Kings Canyon, Australia

After tramping around Kings Canyon for a while we were back on the road for a 3 hour trip to Uluru. This area is right smack bang in outback desert country. The scenery is gorgeous but relentless; the red sand looks as if it should belong on another planet and, due to the high levels of iron oxide, is the reason the area is called the Red Centre.

Australia's Red Centre
The Red Centre, with Mount Connor in the background

We got to our first camp at Ayers Rock Resort, unloaded the bus and then went to the lookout point to watch the sunset over Uluru. I find every sunset amazing, but this one wasn’t as amazing as I have seen in pictures. Even Bullfrog said it wasn’t that good. But hey, not to put a downer on things, we were sitting in the middle of the Australian Outback with Uluru in the distance. No-one could complain at that. It was awesome. And to top the first day off we got to sleep in a SWAG- a typical Aussie bush sleeping bag or “Sleep With A Guide?” That guide, Bullfrog, was very funny. We laid there in our swags with the whole sky above us, stars twinkling and not a sound-just our silent admiration.

Day 2

Another 4 am start. This time to watch the sunrise. Again it wasn’t that spectacular. Come on, where were the brilliant red colours and azure skies when you need them.

The next part of the day’s itinerary was a walk around Uluru’s base. Just a short morning stroll of 9.4 km! Just the thing to wake you up.

It was only 9.30 am once we got back. That’s the thing about doing stuff like this in Australia. It’s so bloody hot during the day, that you have to start the day’s activities at “ridiculous” o’clock. But I am not complaining. I love getting out and seeing stuff, whatever time of the day it is.

Uluru looks smooth and featureless from a distance, but when you get up close and personal the face of the rock is weather beaten and there are loads of holes and gorges, springs and rock caves. Uluru is said to be over 600 million years old, and it is steeped in Aboriginal history and culture. Some places are sacred so you can’t take photos directly of the site. It is really interesting stuff and our lovely guide was very knowledgeable.

In the evening we returned to camp and had dinner, after which we had a few drinks and attempted to play the didgeridoo. I was completely rubbish- I didn’t have enough puff in me to make even the slightest sound. We had such a laugh and I realised that I had made some very good friends in that short space of time. So much so that we became inseparable for the rest of the week.

Day 3

The following morning we began our journey to South Australia. When you cross the border, the time goes forward one hour- only in Australia do they have three different time zones. So Mark drove into South Australia, then back again into the Northern Territory. Four times he drove round in a circle, just for laughs. Everyone in the car park thought we were mad. It was hilarious. You had to be there though to appreciate the madness!

We drove to Coober Pedy- a town 846 km north of Adelaide. It’s known for its “dugouts”- underground residences that keep people safe from the scorching daytime temperatures.
It’s also known as the opal capital of the world because of the quantity of opals that are mined there. Opal was found in Coober Pedy in 1915, and since then the town has been supplying most of the world’s opal.

The landscape is rather bare, with hardly any plant life. Because of the interesting terrain filmmakers have used this area to film movies such as Pitch Black and Mad Max.

We had a little tour of the town and checked into our underground motel. All the accommodation was really basic but it was so much fun, sleeping outdoors and now, underground. We had dinner and drinks at the world’s only underground bar. How cool is that?

The Town of Coober Pedy
Underground Church and Backpackers Inn, Coober Pedy
Underground Bar, Coober Pedy
Underground Bar, Coober Pedy

Day 4

Rawnsley Park Station was the next port of call- a cattle station nestled in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. On the way we stopped to look at Lake Hart, a massive salt lake forming part of the Lake Eyre Basin which covers around 1,200,000 square kilometres.

When we got to Rawnsley Park, we cracked open a couple of cold beers, and walked up the nearest hill to watch the sunset. It was awesome. We saw some kangaroos and spent a good hour up at the top watching the sun disappear behind the horizon. That night we slept outside in our swags again, even though there were comfy air-conditioned rooms. We had become true bush-men.

Day 5

After a welcome lay-in until 7am, we were on our way. We drove through the Flinders Ranges to Wilpena Pound to do some hiking. Bullfrog gave us a choice of two walks to do and we chose to do the hard one (of course)- climb Mount Ohlssen Bagge.

Hiking up Mount Ohlssen Bagge, Flinders Ranges, SA
Hiking up Mount Ohlssen Bagge, Flinders Ranges, SA

It was hard going. The terrain was very rocky and loose stones made it slippy. It was quite steep in places but it was more than worth the effort for the views at the top.
We started the walk very tentatively because Mark had told us that this is snake territory, and if we saw one we were to stand still to allow the snake to slither across our hiking boots. Like that was going to happen. We didn’t see any, but am sure the snake would have heard us a mile away and kept out of sight.

The view from the summit was spectacular overlooking the natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound. For me it was one of the highlights of the whole trip.

From there we travelled through Bunyeroo Gorge, through sweeping plains covered in native pine trees and rugged gorges, and the home to kangaroos and yellow-footed rock wallabies.

We reached our last nights accommodation in Parachilna. Mark told us how busy the roads are in this area but we soon realised he was making a joke. There are only two people that live there, and a few buildings- the Prairie Hotel, the railway station, and the airstrip. The Prairie Hotel is owned by the Fargher family, and it is famous for their Fargher lagers and their F.M.G. dish- Feral Mixed Grill made up of kangaroo fillet, emu fillet mignon, and camel sausage.

We had a few drinks at the Prairie and at 10.30pm we all congregated by the railway line. With beer in hand we waited for the coal train. Believe me, this was the highlight of our stay in Parachilna. The train travels from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta and back again, picking up and delivering the coal. And what makes it the highlight? This train is the longest coal train in the world- 3 km and it took about 8 minutes to pass. It was thrilling because we got quite close to it (maybe not such a good idea, thinking back, we had been drinking), and we squealed with delight when the train driver sounded his horn as he passed us.

The next morning we were getting ready to leave and I saw everyone running out of the hostel. The train was on its way back to Leigh Creek. We watched it go passed again. One of the guys counted the carriages-165. It is amazing to see. The simple pleasures in life are the best ones and this was definitely another highlight of the trip. Easily pleased!

Coal train passing through Parachilna

Coal train passing through Parachilna
On the way back through Parachilna
Coal train passing through Parachilna
Coal train on the way back to Leigh Creek

Day 6

We travelled further south to Clare, where we went to a winery. Interestingly, the town’s road system was designed by a draughtsman from Adelaide who had no knowledge of the local geography. There are several roads in Clare that end dead on a cliff face, and continue again at the top of the cliff. I know! Nothing to do with the winery, so back to the wine tasting. Not everyone liked their wine! What? I don’t think I understand? Are they mad? It’s wine! They kept pouring it in my glass. My love of wine has always been there, and even back then my reputation for liking it preceded me.

Things to do in Clare, SA
Clare Winery

All that wine and several sheets to the wind later, we finally arrived in Adelaide. I had such a fantastic time with everyone I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye. So we had one last night together. I spoke to Mark a few days later before he made the trip back from Adelaide to Alice Springs. He told me that the whole of central Australia was under a monsoon and all the Flinders Ranges and Alice Springs was flooded so they couldn’t get to some of the places that we had been to. I couldn’t believe how lucky we had been.

Adelaide, SA
Our last night together, Adelaide, SA

I am so glad I changed my plans and did this trip. I made some very good friends along the way, and I saw and did some amazing things in such a short amount of time. I will always remember my trip from Alice to Adelaide. The Great Ocean Road will have to wait for another time.

A little song about that little town called Parachilna for you to enjoy 🙂

Travels Round Australia-Adelaide

I arrived in Adelaide, to be greeted by Helen and Ernie at the bus station. Helen is my Mum’s cousin, who emigrated to Australia in the ‘60s. Ernie is her husband. It took about 30 minutes to get to their house, in Morphett Vale. I met Scott, their son and my 2nd or 3rd cousin (we’re still not exactly sure and we still have conversations about this!) I was so tired from the trip, all we did all day was sit in the living room chatting, drinking tea and eating cake. I finally retired to bed at 9.30pm- I really don’t know how I managed to stay awake until then, but I had a good nights’ sleep and felt so much better in the morning. The long journeys around Australia really take it out of you.

I was up early the next day to take a trip to the Barossa Valley wine region. I left at 9.30am and it took about an hour and a half to get there. On the way the tour bus stopped at the “Whispering Wall”, which is a horseshoe shaped dam. It’s known as the whispering wall because if you go to the far side and speak to the people on the other side, it sounds as if the people are standing next to you! You can hear them really clearly- apparently it’s to do with the shape of the dam.


We then drove to the first winery- The Chateau Yaldara. Founded in 1947 by a German winemaker called Hermann Thumm. The name Yaldara comes from the local aborigine word meaning “sparkling”. We had a tour around the factory to learn how the wine and port was made, and then, my favourite part, the tasting. It was lovely.


We had a lovely lunch, and afterwards I bought two bottles of McGuigans Black Label for $20, which was a bargain. But then I wondered how I was going to get them back to the UK. They never made it home- they got drunk that very same night.

Next stop was Grant Burge Winery, where we had a few more tasters.

Grant Burge Winery Source:

The last winery was Langmeil where we got to have a tour of the vineyards. We learned how to tell a young vine from an old one: the really old ones, which were over 100 years old, have old and gnarled trunks; the young ones are small and slender.

Langmeil Winery Source:

After the wineries we drove to Menglers look-out point, where we could see all the vineyards in the area, and some strange looking sculptures made of stone. The sculptures are meant to reflect environment and atmosphere of the Barossa Valley. The surrounding area is beautiful with hundreds of vines sprawling into the distance. It is quite spectacular.

Menglers Hill Look-Out Source:
Menglers Hill Look-Out

The next day we went on a tour to Hahndorf and Cleland Wildlife Park. Hahndorf is a little German town with quaint little shops, and cafes that are situated on an avenue of gorgeous trees. You could really spend all day in this charming little place.


Next was Cleland Wildlife Park, which is set in 35 hectares of bush-land, and it was the best wildlife park I had been to in Australia. The kangaroos, emus and potaroos roam around the park and you can feed them. It’s a lovely setting- nice and relaxed with animals all around you.


The following day my family took me to Belair National Park for the day. It’s only 13 km from Adelaide’s city centre, and was declared South Australia’s first national park in 1891. We drove through the park and came to a large clearing with green grass, BBQ and swings. We unpacked the cars and sat round and chatted, while the kids played football and messed about. We had a picnic lunch at 11.15 am. We didn’t realise it was so early but we were all starving. We had a great day, in the glorious sunshine, enjoying the games and food. At 3.30 pm we packed up and we were just about to leave when someone suddenly said “Is that a Koala in the tree?” Sure enough it was a cute little koala asleep in the tree above us. We never noticed all day, even when we went for ice creams directly below him.


After a fun filled time in Adelaide with my family, it was time for me to go to Perth-my final destination before I left Australia for good. I said goodbye to Helen, Ernie, and Scott, thanking them for letting me stay and for all the laughs we had. I got on the Indian Pacific train and cried my heart out. I had such an amazing time in Adelaide and didn’t want to leave. Just when I thought I had finished crying a new thought, about one of the many things that I had done in Australia, would cross my mind and set me off again. I finally pulled myself together and spent the next 36 hours on one of the great train journeys in the world.

Next Time: Fishing off Australia’s West Coast 🙂 🙂

The Start of 2015 Down Under

Cast: Me- myself; Helen- my mum’s cousin; Ernie-Helen’s husband; Scott-Helen and Ernie’s younger son; Craig-Helen and Ernie’s older son; Tanya- Craig’s wife; Amy- Craig and Tanya’s daughter; Mark- my friend; Wilson- Mark’s boyfriend

I arrived in Adelaide on Christmas morning and was greeted in the arrivals hall by my family- Helen, Ernie and Scott. It’s always nice to see them again- they make me feel like I have never been away.


On The Way
On The Way

We drove to Mount Barker and spent a few hours with Tanya’s parents to celebrate Christmas. The usual trimmings- roast turkey, roast potatoes, veggies- and a few celebratory drinks BUT with the sun shining high in the sky and not a snowflake anywhere to be seen. I was chuffed to be invited actually, even though I had told Helen I might be tired from the flight. But I was glad I went. I even got some Christmas pressies which I wasn’t expecting.

We stayed until around 3pm, said our goodbyes and made our way home where we just relaxed in front of the TV. Considering I had only had about four hours sleep on the flight I managed to stay awake until around 10 and, boy, I slept well.

I slept until 1.00pm the next day and was woken to Helen knocking on the door saying:

“Gill, it’s 1.00pm. Are you getting up soon? I’m going to bed in 8 hours!”

I could have slept some more but I knew I would feel worse so I dragged my weary backside into the shower to wake up.

Not long after Scott came by and asked if I wanted to go to see the beach.

“No, am OK.” I said.

“What?” he replied, “You’ve come all this way and DON’T want to see the beach?”

Not that I haven’t seen the beach before. I have walked up and down that beach a few times before but he was right, what was I thinking?

“OK then.” I said a little more enthusiastically. And off we went to visit Noarlunga and Christie’s Beach. The coast line along the Adelaide shore is just beautiful- huge yellow sandy beaches and perfect blue water and only relatively few people enjoying it. Mind you, you have to be careful in the perfect blue water. Only a few days previously there were helicopters shooing away a huge white pointer shark.

Scott and I get on like the proverbial house on fire. As soon as we met, way back in 2005, we hit it off straight away and even back then it felt like I had known him for ages. And I love that in someone. And when we don’t see each other for a long time- we just pick right back up where we left off-like we were continuing a conversation from yesterday. We chat, we take the piss, and we joke around. We generally have a great time together. We can talk about anything and we can chat for hours on end. (Well he mostly chats and I listen!- see even now I can joke with him).

As I have been an exercise freak since earlier in the year I was keen to do a bit of exercise when I was in Australia, so Scott suggested a hike up Mount Lofty which is 15 km east of Adelaide city centre. It was named by Matthew Flinders in 1802 as he travelled around Australia. It was also used as a navigation assistant during the WWII.

South Cleland Trails
Mount Lofty

We left home around 6.00am and arrived at the car park to meet Craig and Amy who were joining us for our hike. Before we started the climb we checked out the map which showed the different routes you could take to the top.


I said “Where are we?”

Amy burst out laughing. She pointed at the map to show me a large, red “YOU ARE HERE” sign.

She giggled “We are here!”

That was it for about 30 minutes. She couldn’t stop laughing at my lack of being observant.
The route took us upward and through some typical Australian bush-land-very steep in places but it definitely woke us up. The views over the whole of Adelaide and beyond are stunning so the effort is totally worth it.

There were lots of people out and about that morning. All going up or coming down- walking or running, doing their daily exercise. It’s a beautiful walk. I kept stopping to admire the views and take photographs of the trees and the birds. Not one person was in awe of the cockatoos and macaws that were flying from tree to tree. I guess you become blasé to your surroundings when you live somewhere. And I know I am guilty of it myself but I wish people would just stop now and again and appreciate what is around them. Smell the roses so to speak.

Back at the bottom we stopped for coffee on the way home and went back to relax before the evening’s event- Adelaide 36ers VS Townsville basketball match. I have no idea what is going on in basketball and although this was my second match I had been to-both times in Adelaide- I still asked a million questions. I am not even sure whether you say “match” or “game.” Scott was quite patient with me and answered them even though I have forgotten what he told me already. Amy got a fit of the giggles again when I asked if it had started yet.

“NO!” she laughed at my poor attempt at keeping up with the proceedings.

Adelaide 36ers vs Townsville
Adelaide 36ers vs Townsville

The following day Helen and Ernie’s friends came over so I got to stay home and drink wine all day. Happy as a pig in shit!

In my attempt to exercise whilst on holiday I went into the city one day with Scott and Craig and had a very pleasant walk along the Torrens River. On the way back we strolled through the Botanic Gardens.

I have very few pictures of my previous visits to Adelaide so I happily meandered behind the boys taking loads of photographs. We ended the day with an obligatory beer in the Austral Hotel-an establishment that had been in Adelaide for many generations and one I always visit when I am in town.

I was off to Melbourne for New Year’s Eve so I left Adelaide for three days so I could visit my friend Mark, who has been living in Taiwan for the past few years. He is originally from Adelaide but now he and his boyfriend are living in Bayswater- a little suburb outside Melbourne’s city centre.

I arrived in Melbourne just after midday and took the sky bus to the city where I caught the train to Bayswater- about an hour away. Mark and Wilson were there to greet me. It was great seeing Mark again. The last time I saw him was in 2011 when he came to Thailand for a holiday.

Mark and Wilson
Mark and Wilson

I have known Mark since 2007. I was in Australia and I did a six day tour from Alice Springs to Adelaide and he was the bus driver for the tour company. We hit it off straight away and have been friends ever since.

The first day we didn’t do much- had dinner and a few wines and a good old catch up. The next day I was supposed to get up with Mark at 6am and spend the day at work with him but during the night I had such bad toothache that I didn’t sleep very well. So I ended up staying in bed and going back to sleep. I slept until the afternoon. My toothache eased off a bit and I was glad I had stayed home because we were going into the city to watch the fireworks and I wouldn’t have been up for it if I had been up so early.

Mark and Wilson got home later in the afternoon and we had dinner and some more wine. We got ready and got on the train back into the city. It wasn’t that busy when we arrived so we wandered along Southbank watching the people waiting for the countdown. The drinks were so expensive we only had one each- I can safely say it was the most sober New Year on record.

We decided to walk to Kings Domain- another area where the fireworks could be seen easily. But when we got there we realised there were too many trees to see the whole of the city skyline, so we walked back to Southbank where we waiting amongst the ever increasing hordes of people. Southbank is one of Melbourne’s major entertainment areas with loads of bars and restaurants, a casino and an aquarium amongst other things. And on that night more than half a million people to boot.

Twelve midnight struck. Twelve ten the fireworks were over. Seriously?! We were waiting three hours for ten minutes excitement. The fireworks were good but I have seen better. We said our “Happy New Year’s” and left. AND my toothache was back with a vengeance-no alcohol to numb it. I just don’t think I was in the party mood. I was so glad when we got home considering it took over an hour to walk back to the station- normally a two minute walk. Just one more thing before I stop complaining- we got home after standing the whole way AND we had to change trains-goddammit! (Actually that’s two things!)

I swear to god I am staying in on New Year’s Eve from now on- I just find it all one big anti-climax. There are too many people and it’s so very expensive. BAH HUMBUG! (I blame it on the toothache!)

After falling into bed around 3.00am the next day we all slept late, had breakfast and took a trip out to the Dandenong Ranges-that’s more like it!

Dandenong Ranges

The Dandenong Ranges are a set of low mountain ranges around 35 km east of Melbourne. On the way we stopped at Emerald where we sat and had lunch by a little lake and a stroll through the park. The ranges are simply stunning. A rainforest of huge Mountain Ash trees which stand majestically all around you, carpeted by a thick undergrowth of ferns. The area is the remains of an extinct volcano which was last active 200 million years ago. It kind of reminded me of the steamy atmosphere in “The Lost World”- you could almost imagine crossing paths with a dinosaur or two.

We started to walk through the forest following one of the trails passing a few folk on the way. Ever since I first travelled round Australia it always amazes me that there are very few people in these places. Sure there were people walking and running through the forest but no one just sightseeing like me. That’s people being blasé again or do the tourists not know about this place? Anyway I wasn’t complaining I kind of like it when there aren’t many people around. Plus we saw a huge branch, actually we heard the crashing before we saw it, but a huge branch came crashing from above. We were alone and the only ones that saw that piece of nature in action. Crazy? Silly? Neither, just an appreciation of nature and the realisation that nature continues whether we are there or not.

We came to a sign and realised the trail looped around towards the car park and it said 4.6km. We carried on walking. The trail was easy going most of the way although there were a few steep parts-both up the way and down the way. We eventually got to another sign and it was still 2.2km to go. You know when you walk or run anywhere and when you get to your destination the distance ends up being much less than what you thought? It was like that. Finally, after 2 hours, we made it back to the car park and we found out we had actually walked 11.5km. Great exercise and a photographers candy shop. It was a fantastic day topped off with a barbeque and a few wines with Steve and Graham-two of Mark’s friends.

After a quick photographic walk along Southbank in the city the next day I flew back to Adelaide for the last few days of my holiday.

I always love going to Adelaide.

Helen and Ernie make me feel so welcome, although I have been banned until 2020. They are joking (I think). We all get on so well and we share a lot of laughs along the way. It feels like home away from home.

IMG_1618 - Copy
Helen, Scott and Ernie