Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Syd - Adelaide Part 2 - Barossa Valley and Gluepot Reserve

Day 3:
After a reasonable nights sleep we pack up and make our way back out towards the Barossa Valley and stop along the way to pick up step-mother-in-law (SMIL). She's all packed and ready to jump in the car. SMIL was born and raised in the Barossa and we're going to tour the sights on the way up to Waikerie and our birding tour of Birds Australia Gluepot Reserve with Peter Waanders.

Our first town feature is Lyndoch. The village is very pretty with plenty of stone buildings and it's not too crowded. We don't stop other than to photograph a couple of almost impossibly pretty little scenes we pass along the way.
Again we just pass through Tanunda but again it looks a nice little place.

We head across to Angaston and make a stop at the Sunrise Bakery for some Beesting and German Apple cake and some pasties as well as a cob loaf for our lunch tomorrow. Here we also tried Nippy's lemon drink with 25% lemon juice - quite a sharp fresh flavour. Next stop, Schultz's Butchery where we sample the twiggys and bierstichs. Very yummy. Then it's off to the cottage industries shop for some home made jams, a few parfait glasses and a very nice crocheted tea cosy covered in colourful pansy flowers for daughter 2.
We get the run down from SMIL on how things were about 50 years ago. Where the book store is now was once an electronics store and SMIL's first job as a young thing. An obligatory stop at the Angus Park shop. We thought it a bit of a tourist trap and incredibly stingy on the taste test front despite prominent signs outside spruiking the taste tests. It was just a bowl of sultanas. Pathetic. We asked to try dried nectarine. Nothing doing. "True to taste" she said. The stuff for sale not cheaper than you'd pay in the supermarket. All in all quite disappointing.

A little way out of Angaston we come to SMIL's childhood home. Now a B&B with beautiful views of the Barossa Ranges. Up the hill behind the house SMIL gives us a run down on how they lived.. here was the pigs, there was the cows. It was hard work making a living and the kids worked hard alongside the adults. The house across the road is now fairly ramshackle, but back in day the owners kept the place spick and span and would be heartbroken at how the old place is now.
We next do a loop back to Nuriootpa, where SMIL attended high school. Here is the Linke's Butchery and Bakery, but we don't need more food at the moment. SMIL directs us towards Truro and we take an impromptu turn towards Kapunda to check out the Kidman sights. Many of the buildings in the main street are Kidman buildings and the site of his first offices and the famous horse sales is there in and around the main street. We pay a visit to the information centre and pick up a Kidman trail brochure. I'm keen to see his house that he donated as a high school back in the day when there were only 50 students in the town. It is a very beautiful building and would have been a great school for such a small number, but these days it's encased in asphalt. I try to imagine what it must have been like a century ago. It appears to be used as the school library now which seems an appropriate use, but I couldn't help feeling that surely the landscaping around the building itself could be done more sympathetically to it's original purpose as a fine home and garden. I play games with a white backed magpie that simply does not want it's picture taken before we picnic in the car outside the school which is now on holidays, and partake of some bee sting. Nice, but not a patch on the bee sting they used to sell at the bakery in Mittagong years ago. Now THAT was great bee sting this one is really just a mass produced imitation of the real thing... enjoyable though.
We back track across the route to Truro and make a stop at the Barossa Olive store. Here we found a broad range of oils and olives to taste and a hospitable host. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and bought olives, oil, caramelised balsamic and dukka for our Gluepot picnic lunch tomorrow.
On to Waikerie, our first stop is a fruit stall with an honesty box. Ah, thinks I, we can give those kiwi's a run for their money with their adds spruiking the idyll of an age they claim still exists in the land of the long white cloud where people can be trusted to use the honesty box... we snap a photo and then we look more closely at the signage. .. just this morning someone didn't pay. Please note there is a video camera filming your every move. Stealing is a crime.. a wry laugh and we depart without purchase as they didn't have a combination of product that met our needs.
We take a turn around the town and along the river front area where we note a small enclosure with kangaroos and emu. We felt for the poor creatures on their bare dirt as they try to reach the green grass that grows all around their "petting prison". We locate and check in to Kirriemuir Motel. Apparently the Kirriemuir hosts a steady stream of people making their way out to Gluepot. The months throughout spring certainly keep Peter quite busy and there are no doubt others who venture out under their own steam.
The Kirriemuir is clean and comfortable, but perhaps a little tired. An odd bathroom /kitchenette arrangement that we are doubtful would be allowed in NSW. Toilet one end of room, shower the other end and sink and fridge in between. The proprietor warns us off drinking the water from sink tap or shower which comes from the river. Jugs in the fridge for drinking and these are filled from the rain water tanks out the back. There is a strip of mallee across the road with lots of flowering gums and abundant bird chatter. In the driveway a large and elderly loquat tree, which in abundant seasons supplies to the Sydney market. We make our call to Peter, our guide for the morrow to finalise departure arrangements then make our way to the local pub for dinner. Daughter and I opt for the special, which is a rib steak in native dukka. Others had schnitzel which was beautifully cooked, although noone was much pleased with the gravy applied. Our steak was lovely. Great value.

Day 4:
An early night somewhat disrupted as I feel a need to rotate the freezer blocks to ensure max coldness in the esky tomorrow.
We're up bright and early about 5 am for a 5:45 am collection by Peter. About 5:30 I sneak across to the mallee remnant to photograph a lovely sunrise.
All in Peter's car we make our way to the vehicular ferry across the Murray. As we drive out of town roos are still about. One big red bounds away before stopping and looking back to what we're up to. It's always a thrill to see roos and most especially the big reds. A little further on a group of three roos bounds along in the paddock parallel to our car so we get to enjoy them for quite a while. We're in raptures of course and as we watch one of the three manages to hurl itself smack bang into a tree. It bounces off and does a sort of back flip taking out his mate with him before sitting somewhat stunned on the ground. His mate recovers and the hops off with the other roo. Not really what you expect is it, a roo jumping head on into a tree... reminds us of a friends puppy that recently ran full bore into a tree on their property and managed to kill itself.. just not what you expect..
Our first birding stop is in the mallee before we actually reach Gluepot. Quite productive with gilbert's whistler, white fronted honeyeater, chestnut quail thrush, masked and white browed woodswallows, brown treecreepers and white winged trillers. The bird watching is made a lot easier for people by Peter's expert use of his spotting scope. He can quickly get most birds in the scope so that newbies or the elderly can have a look and not have to find the bird for themselves in their binoculars.

We move on to Gluepot itself. It's still only about 7 :40am. Peter shows us an emu's nest from which the chicks hatched about 3 weeks ago. One egg was a dud. the nest is a discrete circle from the male pecking away the leaf litter from all around the nest. Around this area we also see Grey currawong, babblers nests, numerous southern scrub robins hopping about the ground everywhere and a cranky restless fly catcher with his crest very much on display.
We adjourn to the visitor centre for morning tea and a comfort stop. Blow me down if we don't run into a birding friend from Sydney! What a pleasant surprise! They've been out here banding (that is collecting data on the birds) for a week and have had dreadful weather. Cold and windy. Not great for banding.
We press on. SMIL announces she's going to hang around the visitor's centre with her book and some snacks while we continue birding. In the period before lunch we spot Chestnut rumped thornbills, mulga parrot, white browed tree-creeper; chestnut browed babblers; collared sparrow hawk; red capped robins including a female feeding two fledged chicks; white winged choughs; feral goats - including a virile and fat billy goat. Gluepot has initiatives to control the feral goats but apparently neighbours don't, so they keep coming in. There's also a very active fox baiting program. Cats are less of a problem though they do deal with them when they discover them. It seems the country may be a tad too dry for the cats. The bores put down are being capped and the dam that supplies the visitors centre and administrative buildings is fenced to keep ferals and roos out. If the roos get access to the water they over-graze so as the intent is the manage the reserve as it was prior to white settlement, that water is isolated from the native inhabitants as much as possible.
The great birds keep on coming, with hooded robin; jacky winter; crimson chat; Australasian Hobby (a bird of prey); crested bellbird; spiny cheeked honeyeater; black eared myna (on the wing and calling). Our final stop before lunch Peter took us to a mallee fowl nest under construction in an area thick with old growth spinifex. The birds started it after the rain in April, but no follow up rain so they abandoned the nest half constructed. With recent rain it's possible the birds might spark up and finish the nest. The mallee fowl has a special organ in it's foot to tell the precise temperature of the mound and they rake litter on or off to make sure the eggs stay just right for hatching. The young hatch and receive no care whatever from their parents.
On the way back for lunch, we dip on (don't manage to find) Splendid fairy wrens, though the scenery is pretty. Peter raises the possibility of a stop for a look around a fairly distant clump of shrubs that often has good birds. Is mum up to it? Not sure. Well how about we do a quick scan with the scope and see what we find. There's a nice little bench in the shade. Looks promising. A short time later Peter declares he's got orange chats. WHAT? I NEVER thought I would ever see an orange chat. Quite rare and highly nomadic, this is a species twitchers travel great distances for the chance of seeing. And here we are we have TWO males all coloured up for breeding and hopping around here looking spectacular. Brilliant yellow and with the colour intensifying to orange on the breast. A shining black face. Stunning stunning birds.
With the excitement level running at full bore we collect SMIL and head for the bird hide to have lunch. The hide overlooks a raised watering trough. Not likely to much action at this time of day, but some grey butcherbirds are going absolutely berko the whole time. We fail to twig that there's a reason for this until eventually as lunch winds down, I notice a large bird in a nearby tree. A collared sparrowhawk! No wonder the butcherbirds are less than happy! We also see yellow plumed honeyeater here and a cute little lizard who emerges from behind the bench at the back of the hide. We pack up and move on, beginning the drive back to Waikerie. The light is deteriorating but we spot a small flock of varied sitellas, brown headed honeyeaters and the next comfort stop; more mallee ringnecks; red wattle birds and drum roll, three wild budgies!! Budgies are also very nomadic and though they can accumulate in very large flocks, these are the first wild budgies we've ever seen and like the orange chats, the first sighting this year. Neither bird is a guaranteed annual visitor so this is a special treat.
We say goodbye to Gluepot and drive back to a spot along the Murray. Here we dip on regent parrots but we do see little black and pied cormorants; little corella; yellow rosella; a darter; and pelican. Next stop is the wetland next to the vehicular ferry terminal. A dust storm is blowing up but so far it's not too bad, just a slight deterioration in visibility and we continue with our birding. We add pink eared duck; black winged stilt; black fronted dotteral; grey teal; 6 black tailed native hens (swamp chooks); and shelducks to the list for the day. Peter has us back on the ferry at the perfect timing. You can tell he runs this day trip often! He has supplied us with a site to go for mallee fowl this evening. The same place David Attenborough filmed the mallee fowl for life of birds. However we somehow manage to turn the wrong way on the highway and it wouldd too late to go rocking up now. Maybe disturb the birds and greatly annoy the owner of the reserve, so we decide to leave it for another time. A fabulous day's birding. We all agree Peter's fee was well worth every penny. No way we would have seen even a tiny fraction of what he showed us. None of the birds was obvious from the roads. Peter clearly knows Gluepot like the back of his hand. Highly recommended.
Dinner is back at the pub given the great meals they dished up last night. It's not as good tonight. Must be different staff in the kitchen, but it's OK. Home for an early night. It's been a long but wonderful day.

Day 5:
Thismorning we have decided that we will head back to Adelaide by exploring some more of the Barossa Valley. We had thought that we might go up to Burra for a quick look, but we're all a bit tired and we are sure there's more to be experienced on a leisurely wander through the valley.

It has rained overnight washing the dust of yesterday evening from the air - and all over our car. Passing showers and overcast, but we don't mind that at all. We have in mind a visit to Maggie Beer's farm shop and the Bush Garden in Nuriootpa - or Nuri - as the locals call it. As is our specialty we miss a turn to the bush garden and do a bit of wandering around out towards Penrice which although unecessary was an interesting detour. After this little jaunt we find that it is 10:15 and by the time we get over to Pheasant Farm Rd the farm shop will be opening so we go there directly. There's quite a few cars in the car park already and the staff are just opening the doors. We head in and find that all of Maggie's products are available for tasting. Pate's; savoury biscuits; sauces and chutneys; vino cottos of various flavours; fruit pastes; verjuice.. and abundance of opportunities. The difficult thing is what to buy as everything is great. The older folk aren't too keen on sitting down for a bite, but daughter and I definitely are. We order a pheasant terrine and a cheese platter and get a few sweet things for take away. Coffee or Hot Chocolate for all but me arrive first up, served in nifty Bodum double layer glasses. It is pronounced delicious and for some it is consumed with an accompaniment of hand made chocolates mmmmm. Then daughter's cheese platter arrives and we share two little loaves of bread sliced and decorated with some of the supplied Maggie's chutney or fruit paste and some of the cheddar style cheese which is the current seasonal selection. Delicious.
My pheasant terrine comes over. It is hot and wrapped in a golden roll of pastry. Sort of like a gourmet sausage roll of ample proportions. It is accompanied by a salad with a simple dressing which is nice, but the wooden cutlery supplied make it almost impossible to pick the salad up, so we largely give that a miss. The terrine was interesting, but I probably wouldn't be keen to have it again.

We buy up on the fruit pastes and the fabulous rosemary and verjuice biscuits, some chutney and off we go.

We then hunted around for the "bush garden" which is promoted in some of the tourist material. There was a cute outdoor chapel, but overall it was pretty crappy and not worth the hunting around for it. Not a sign of any emu bush at all. Just stuff you'd find in any surburban garden anywhere in Australia. There is a beautiful wattle in flower nearby and we snap some photos of that so it wasn't all bad and we did have a bit of a laugh along the way at the signs around the pond.

Next stop Greenock to buy some beer from the Barossa Brewing Company. The very cute shop front is closed during the week but the beer is available from the nearby pub. Daughter and I wander in and are enthusiastically greeted by everyone in the bar, which is just a few local blokes just getting started on a delicious looking pizza. Has to be the friendliest crew of people in a country pub we've ever struck. We buy our beers (souvenirs for our other halves) and head off feeling that Greenock and it's pub are a delightful little spot.

From Greenock we consult our map and opt to head next to Seppeltsfield Estate. Wow. Beautiful grounds, beautiful historic stone buildings on a fairly grand scale. This family had a vision and have created something very special. Nice spot for a picnic when the outdoor cafe is operating. It'd be a great spot for a wedding too. The history tours look really interesting but we've just missed one. We wander into the tasting room. There is a charge for tasting that is refunded if you buy something. We browse the other retail items and the historical displays, buy some dukkah and head off. Our intent was to visit Two Hands winery, but somehow we never make it there. Instead we mosey down a very beautiful little dirt road and are drawn into the charming little winery called Hently Farm. The tasting room is set up in some historic farm buildings that have been very tastefully rehabilitated. The setting is just gorgeous. Frogs singing in the creek. Big old gums with nesting hollows clearly accommodating some local bird couples. It's just beautiful. We're wine ignoramuses really, but that doesn't prevent a hospitable welcome and some wine education from the lovely hostess. MIL is more into the wine side of things and she buys a bottle before we head off.

We continue to just mosey around and decide to stop at Seiber Wines. As we step out of the car and walk up onto the grass outside the tasting room all we can do is look at eachother and say Wow! What a view! Beautiful gardens. It's so lovely it's a bit intimidating to head up the stairs into the tasting room at about 3:20 pm. We disturb our hostess with her grandchild and daughter in law, but we are made welcome though with a warning that they close at 4pm. Daughter comments "oh, well that's plenty of time for a quick taste". "Oh no it's not" says Val. Our hostess is Val Seiber and you'd go a long way to find a more hospitable and welcoming, down to earth and just plain fabulous hostess. Val kept us in stitches for over an hour and we really felt like friends not blow ins at a wine shop. We learnt some about the wines of course but overall we had a wonderful visit. What a treat. A definite highlight of our trip. Thanks Val!!

Getting a bit late, so we head back to MIL's place. Stop for a bit of a visit before heading back into Adelaide to grab some dinner and settle back again at Rydges South Park. Having intended to eat in the Barossa more substantially than we did, I had not spent much time researching restaurants but I remember one on North Terrace I enjoyed when in Adelaide for work. We can't find it but we spot the Balcony Restaurant at the Strathmore Hotel. We have a decided soft spot for the old heritage buildings with huge upstairs balconies. The menu looks good. Claims to have lots of awards. I wander up and sus it out. Looks good. Nice ambience. The downstairs alternative is noisy, so up we go, even though the major part of their chair lift is out of action. Most people seem to be ordering the stone grill. We on the other hand have an objection to paying to eat out and then being expected to cook our own dinner - at least at that price - so we make other selections. For some reason mum chose the steamed fish. Daughter the Suffolk Lamb Saddle and I opted for the pork belly. All very disappointing. My pork belly was downright aweful. Swimming in a sea of oil/butter. Nothing remotely resembling crisp pork skin anywhere in sight. Yuck. Very disappointing. We chalk it up to experience and head to the hotel.

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