Australia 2016 Part 9:  the triple A day:  Ayers Rock to Alice Springs to Adelaide

Monday, August 1, 2016

We came in late last night and went straight to bed.  This morning we would need to get breakfast, pack our bags and be ready to leave for the airport by 8:40 AM.  Piece of cake!  We have grown accustomed to living out of our suitcases.  We haven’t been unpacking our bags at all; instead we just mine around in them until we find something clean or semi-clean to wear.  We stuffed the odds and ends back in, including a pound of red dirt from all our shoes and hats, and called ourselves good to go.

The breakfast buffet at the hotel was good, although I would have preferred self-serve coffee.   I want to drink more than they want to serve!  That’s a perennial problem for me, and not just with coffee.

We didn’t want to wait on a porter so we hauled our own bags down the stairs and through the resort.  Gone are the days when we have to lug Genene’s gear for her.  She hauled her big suitcase right down those stairs like a champ.  The AAT Kings bus to the airport was jam packed.  We put Uluru in our rearview mirror and took the 8-minute ride to the airport.  The airport at Uluru was a bit chaotic.  Apparently a flight had been canceled the night before, so there was a mad rush of people trying to escape from the big red rock.  The airport has only two gates and two metal detectors so there was a bit of a scrum to get through.  We shuffled through the line with plenty of time to spare and waited for our plane.

Today was a travel day.  Our only goal was to get to our hotel in Adelaide before the end of the day so that we could relax, regroup and get ready to head to Kangaroo Island tomorrow morning.  Unfortunately there is no direct flight from Uluru to Adelaide, so there were two plane rides today.

The flight to Alice Springs was uneventful and short.  We were only in the air about 45 minutes.  I loved the Nevil Shute book “A Town Like Alice.”  It would have been nice to spend more time here, but it was simply a transfer point for us.  It looked much the same as the desert around Uluru, at least from the air.  We were unloaded right down onto the tarmac and walked quite a distance to get into the terminal.

The airport was larger than Ayers Rock but still pretty small.  Airport security is much more relaxed here, reminiscent of the old days in the USA.  As we have gone through the gates, we have not been made to remove our shoes.  They never took our water away from us.  There are a few random checks for explosives.  Alice Springs seemed particularly relaxed.  Their perimeter fencing around the terminal was not imposing at all, and they even had an outdoor play area just off the cafe.  It seemed so much more civilized than being trapped inside a building all day, as we are in an American airport terminal.  I noticed that the outdoor play area seemed to be populated almost exclusively by aboriginal families.  I wonder if this is because they still feel a stronger connection to the land and the outdoors than a westerner does.  I enjoyed watching the kids playing and having a good time.  They were a little younger than Genene, and all of them were running and rolling around in the red dirt.  American kids of their ages would be lost in their iPads, as Genene is (and I am).

We had time for lunch in the café and a quick wash up before our next flight.  Our flight left at about 1:15 PM and was in the air for 2 hours.  We didn’t change any time zones, so we got to Adelaide at about 3:15 PM.  We immediately wished that we had packed our coats within easier reach.  It was cold and rainy.

Our driver Ian was waiting for us in baggage claim.  He had a rock-star parking spot just outside the baggage claim area. He asked if we wanted the 20 minute express tour of Adelaide.  We said, “Of course!” After all, we were leaving first thing tomorrow morning for Kangaroo Island and really would have no opportunity to see his fair city.  Ian gave a great driving tour.

He started before we even left the airport.  The Adelaide airport houses the aircraft that won the contest for the first flight from Great Britain to Australia.  In 1919, the Australian government offered a prize to the first Australians to use a British aircraft to fly from Great Britain to Australia.  There were very specific guidelines on who the crew could be, the maximum continuous hours, the check-in points, and so on.   Six airplanes entered the contest.  The winning plane, a Vickers Vimy, left Hounslow Heath at 8 am on November 12, 1919.  According to Wikipedia, It flew via Lyon, Rome, Cairo, Damascus, Basra, Karachi, Delhi, Calcutta, Akyab, the Rangoon racecourse, an unscheduled stop in Singora (Siam; due to heavy rain), Singapore, Batavia, and Surabaya, where the aircraft was bogged and had to make use of a temporary airstrip made from bamboo mats.  There were times when the mechanics had to walk on the wings to make repairs in the air.  (My job doesn’t seem so hard in comparison.)  The plane reached Darwin at 4.10 pm on December 10,  1919. The flight distance was estimated as 11,123 miles and total flying time was 135 hours 55 minutes,for an average speed of 81.9 mph. The prize money was shared between the Smith brothers who flew the plane and the two mechanics. The Smith brothers each received a knighthood.

Ian drove us through the heart of town.  Adelaide is the capital city of the state of South Australia and has about 1.3 million residents, making it the fifth most populous city in Australia.  It’s a planned city, laid out in a grid with a ring of parks.  He drove us past the War Horse Memorial, a monument to those noble animals who served their masters during WWI in Palestine and Gallipoli.  Over 39,000 horses were shipped out of Australia to serve, and at the end of the war, the government said that the horses could not be brought back due to quarantine issues.  Their riders were ordered to shoot their own mounts, a very distressing thing to have to do.  We were not able to stop to walk around the monument, but I read about it later because it aroused my curiosity.  The inscription on the base says:  “He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength:  He goeth on to meet the armed men.  He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.  Job 39: 21-22.”  Amen and amen.

Ian drove us past several of the lovely old churches, but he told us that Australians are not a religious people.  The early churches could not survive without combining.  For instance, the Presbyterians merged with the Methodists to form the United Church in Adelaide.  It’s an interesting notion that they had to put aside their theological differences to sustain their congregation.

Ian was hitting on all cylinders when he brought up water and infrastructure next.  He explained that having an adequate supply of drinking water and water for farming is an issue in Adelaide.  My ears perked up when Ian told me that they are using desalination and aquifer storage and recovery.  I must study more about that.  Maybe I can write this trip off on my taxes!

We got to our hotel, the Majestic Roof Garden Hotel.  It was a hip spot in the heart of the city, and after Ian’s Chamber of Commerce tour, I was sorry we wouldn’t get to see more of it.  We spent about an hour getting our Kangaroo Island gear together.  We were warned by our travel agent that the regional air carrier that flies to the island places strict weight limits on the baggage.  We must leave some of our gear in storage on the mainland while we go to “Australia’s Galapagos.”  We had to deal with the conversion from pounds to  kilos and get a per person allowance.  My camera gear is heavy, leaving me little room for my clothing and gear.  We had to equalize the load, so Greg and Genene’s bags got some of my stuff.

After all that ciphering, we were hungry.  We set out on the streets of Adelaide to find some grub.  We walked down Rundle Street and surveyed all the choices.  It was nice to stretch our legs after a day in the airports.  As we window-shopped, a light rain began to fall, so we selected Taj Tandoor, an Indian place.  We had seen turban-clad Sikhs dining inside and figured that was probably a good sign.   We were right.  We had a wonderful meal.  We were thrilled not to be eating airplane food or sandwiches from a resort or room service. It was a real, sit-down dinner.  The food was perfectly spiced and delicious, and the service was attentive but not intrusive.  We ate a mixed appetizer, fish curry, chicken butter masala, gosht palak, and eggplant raita.  The wine and beer flowed easily, and the warm naan hit the spot on a cool, damp night.  It’s not always easy to have conversation with our preteen daughter, who now has ideas of her own which involve pop culture that we don’t comprehend.  I know that we bore her, but on this night, we found common ground and enjoyed an excellent family dinner together.  We relaxed, talked and laughed.

After dinner, we walked around Rundle Street and found a store devoted solely to chocolate.  What could go wrong?  Genene had something called Death by Chocolate, a flourless cake.  I had a Spanish hot cocoa, which is like a hot chocolate on steroids.  It’s basically a melted candy bar.  It reminds me of the drink they had a Starbucks years ago called Chantico.  It was basically 6 ounces of melted chocolate.  Melissa Kilpatrick and I used to sneak out of the office on a tough work day and sip the nectar of the gods and return to our desks, jacked up on sugar and ready to work some more.  It was heavenly.  I don’t know why they stopped selling it because I thought it was divine.

Our bellies were full of curry and chocolate, and we ambled back to the hotel.  Tomorrow, we will begin enjoying a few days of relaxation on Kangaroo Island.  We plan to listen to the Southern Ocean, observe the wildlife, and just hang out.

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