MARCH 9 & 10 – AT SEA
After leaving Sydney last night we headed south and then west towards Adelaide. The coastline was often in view along the way. As we passed Melbourne, Tasmania was off to the south. I’d love to go there someday, to see if the island lives up to it’s exotic name.
MARCH 11 – ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA (Maiden Call)
Adelaide is the capital of Southern Australia and is neatly laid out with wide boulevards and parks galore. It is the only territory that was specifically designated for free immigrant colonization. The first arrivals were English, but the “bavarian-like” hilly terrain also attracted German settlers. We rented a car today and Steve adapted quite quickly again to driving on the left. He still hasn’t mastered the whole “blinker vs. windshield wiper” conundrum that plagued him in New Zealand, and he really doesn’t appreciate me telling all of you about this mental deficiency (again).
It was unseasonably cool. Yippee! Gorgeously sunny and about 70F. Our destination was the Cleland Wildlife Park about 20 miles west of Adelaide. It came highly recommended by some Aussies on board, although they looked at me funny when I said I was PSYCHED to see a kangaroo in the flesh! To them, the kangaroo is a nuisance on the roads, like our white tailed deer and moose in Maine. If you hit one, your car is totaled. This was going to be our only chance to see indigenous animals in a “quasi” natural habitat. Why? First of all, most Australian marsupials are nocturnal because the heat is so brutal during the day. And, we did not have the time to penetrate the bush to see them on this trip. I’ll take what I can get… so off we went.
I got to scratch a kangaroo behind the ears and pet wallabies! How cool is that! These animals live in a fluffy version of Club Med, waiting for foreigners to ohh and ahh while feeding them pellets of approved food in a large open field. In the wild, these guys can be nasty. If they feel threatened and kick you, chances are you will not live to tell the story. We also got to see Koalas, although they were sacked out. Most people tack on “Bear”, after “Koala”, but they are not. The people at Cleland are constantly correcting this misnomer with patient well worn sighs. They are marsupials. Another highlight was the Tasmanian Devil. We also saw more brilliantly colored parrots feeding babies. The Dingos were sleeping and we only got to see one. It looked like a cross between a german shepherd and a wolf.
And wouldn’t you know it… just after we left the Park, two HUGE kangaroos bounded across the road about 10 feet in front of us. At high noon no less! They stopped on the opposite side to taunt us (I swear they were laughing) and leapt off into the woods.
We meandered back towards Adelaide on deserted country roads with lots of twists and turns to see how close we could get to knocking off the side view mirror. Once back in town we had time to wander through an outdoor pedestrian mall where we came across the delightful Pig Sculpture pictured below.
There is one more heart quickening piece of drama to share…
The last Cunard shuttle bus back to the ship left downtown Adelaide at 4:45 PM. We were on it with only one other passenger. “All Aboard” was at 5:30. The ship leaves at 6 PM. We had plenty of time to get there… or did we? The bus driver commented on the “thicker then usual” traffic as he thrummed the steering wheel with his beefy fingers. Then, he said he’d never seen it this slow, as anxious sweat popped out at his hairline. 5:30 crept by… 5:45 came and went. We secretly delighted in the knowledge that three passengers had the power to delay the Queen’s departure. As we inched towards the port on the cusp of 6 PM, we realized that all the vehicles were funneling towards the ship to see it leave. A few minutes later, a police escort roared up on a motorcycle and motioned for the bus to follow him into oncoming traffic! With lights flashing and siren blaring, the cop forced motorists off the road so we could pass. The picture proof is attached below. The bus driver asked Steve to shoot video with his phone. This would certainly elevate his status with the guys back at the depot.
We boarded the ship at 6:23PM, pumped up with self importance, as the gangway was lifted inches behind us. Thousands of spectators once again lined the shore and pleasure boats cruised with us as we left the harbor. All in all, a delightful day, and an excellent story to tell over dinner.