We arrived in Adelaide, Australia after several months in Asia. The contrast was striking. Everything was super clean. The town was very modern and the roads were wide, smooth and sparsely filled. Things were also very expensive compared to Thailand or India (or even Kuala Lumpur and Singapore). I would estimate things in Australia to be 50% (at least) more costly than what things would be at in comparable locations in the USA and 300-500% more expensive than Chiang Mai, Thailand. Some things were even more than that. By the time we got to New Zealand (where we are now), things would seem cheap in comparison even though NZ is still much more costly than the USA.
The climate was also very different. It was very sunny, but far cooler and less humid than Chiang Mai. Adelaide is semi-arid, and reminded me at times of Bend, OR, but with Eucalyptus trees and the ocean close by!
Our visit was a short two days. We wanted to walk around the city, or actually, RUN around the city (it has been a recurring theme to do a running tour around whatever city we come to, getting our workout in and sightseeing in one shot). We also wanted to see the beach. Neither of us care much about seeing monuments or going to museums. We really just want to get a sense of the vibe of a given place, see the natural landscape around it and stop into any good vegetarian restaurants.
Looking at the map of the city, it seemed like biking would be a far better option than running. The weather was great and we wanted to cover a lot of ground. There were also free city bikes all over the place, including right next to our hostel. After walking around the main city area, seeing some street performers doing a variety show (and buying tickets for a comedy show later in the evening) and stopping into an organic grocer/restaurant for lunch, we decided to do our own bike tour.
It was at lunch that we stumbled into a problem ordering our coffee. Alison and I, both seasoned coffee drinkers, promptly ordered “Americanos”. The barista just stared at us, so we repeated our request to more strange looks. We then just asked for a normal drip coffee, and she looked even more confused. Someone in line then jumped in, mentioned that he owns a coffeeshop in another town and that we want a “long black”. In Australia (and New Zealand we would learn) they don’t make drip coffee. They just do espresso and it is either a “short black” (espresso), “long black” (hot water with espresso dropped into it), or a flat white (espresso with milk dropped into it). They also have lattes (same as USA).
Since we were both vegan after our experience at ENP Dogs, we ordered a tofu scramble and toasted sour-dough bread. If you look hard enough you can always find decent vegan food. Loaded up with food and coffee, we got on bikes.
Our self led bike tour took us on what Alison and I both deemed the worlds best bike path. I had previously read that Adelaide was a hotspot for cycling, with many pro teams training here during the Australian summer (European and North American winter). What I read was correct. The city was easy to bike around, with big bike lanes. There were also purpose-built bike paths. We took one about 15k outside the city all the way to the beach!
The bike lane followed a winding stream valley, with lush gum and eucalyptus trees and bright green grass and other wetland plants. We kept on the lookout for koala and other critters (all we saw were horses). It was very scenic, not busy and has plenty of twists and turns and dips under bridges to stay interesting. The beach was awesome, with fine sand and big waves. The only problem was by the time we hit the beach, our rear ends were sore from riding the cushy city bikes, and we were at risk of being late for the comedy show we bought tix for. After thinking about getting a bus or train back to town (would they allow bikes on?) we just pedalled the 15k back to our hostel even harder, and made it to the comedy show only 15 min late.
It turns out Adelaide is deemed the festival capital of Australia. During the summer and fall, there are festivals happening constantly. Music, theater, art, comedy. All types of festivals. We were there during the “Fringe Festival”. It can best be described as vaudeville fair that took over an entire portion of the town and part of the town gardens. There were massive circus tents and food vendors all over, with circus acts, comedy shows and music. Some of the shows cost $50 or more for a ticket, while others were $5.
During the day, street vendors from all over the world performed in public spaces. It was a very cool time to be in Adelaide. We saw a few street performers, went to a couple of comedy shows (one was $15 and another was $5!) and a variety act featuring a former Cirque performer who basically spent the entire show in a variety of handstands and arm balances.The day we left Adelaide was the start of another festival, WOMAD (world music Adelaide). We didn’t get to attend that but it seemed neat.
At night we stayed in a backpacker hostel. Nothing special, just a couple of bunk beds in a dorm room. The following day we picked up our rental car and plotted a course for a viewpoint outside the city, and a zoo (Cleland Wildlife Park) featuring native animals before driving further away towards wine country and the coast.
I am not a fan of all zoos. Many are too cramped and don’t appear to have the animals best interests in mind. However this zoo we went to was really good. It followed a “un zoo” concept where most of the park is made of large plots of land and the humans walk through it and the animals roam around you.
You could walk right up to wallabies and kangaroo and pet or feed them (only feeding special food they give you). They also had Koala! However the Koala were kept in a special pen. They had a certain time when you could hold the Koala, but since it was hot outside, they cancelled it so the koala could stay cool in a special pen with water pouring over the roof to keep the heat away. We just looked at them from afar which was fine with us. They know how to “chillax” (combo of “chill” and “relax”, a word Alison and I made up to connote being very relaxed).
The lookout afforded a view of the city and the ocean. We soaked it in, ate lunch we brought with us (humus, crackers and some other stuff I think), and went off on our way driving through the scenic Adelaide hills towards wine country. These roads would be awesome for bike riding.
As we drove through vineyard after vineyard we decided to stop in and do a tasting. Unlike in the USA, where many places stay open late into the evening, here, things shut down by 4-5pm. We rolled into one place, just as she was closing, but was nice enough to give us a taste and we bought a bottle for the road.
The next stretch of our journey was a three or four-day (we hadn’t decided yet) road trip all the way from Adelaide to Melbourne. The trip would follow the coast most of the way, including The Great Ocean Road, rated as one of the top drives in the world. Before we got to the Great Ocean Road, there were hundreds of kilometers to drive, some of it gorgeous, some of it boring, and all it – as we would soon learn – very rural and not at all what we expected.