I arrived in Adelaide after a two-day drive from Melbourne, stopping for a night cap on route near Bordertown. I ended up just finding a spot next to a swamp in the middle of a forest to camp in, and arrived just at dusk to the sound of a thousand galahs perched above me, all competing for the loudest squark. I remember that it was a surreal night sitting in total darkness alone in the forest, whilst sipping a Little Creatures Pale Ale and watching Family Guy on the laptop off the back of the car. The car was also being very strange, and was tanking through litres of coolant over course of the journey… hmmm, odd.
Adelaide is home to a very good friend of mine, who I had worked with at the puma project at Parque Machía in Bolivia, Steph Cole. Her family had very generously offered for me to stay with them at their beautiful place up in the hills in Belair, and when I arrived they handed me over keys to my very own self-contained granny flat attached to the house - the set up was too good to be true. What's more, Steph had taken the whole week off work and had put together plans for an awesome itinerary for us both. After a quick cuppa we headed out to the Cleland Wildlife Park (http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/clelandwildlife/About_Cleland), where Steph works as a zookeeper, and I was treated to the full VIP backstage tour of the park, complete with a complimentary Koala bear hold and a wicked souvenir photo. Ah, the advantages of having friends in the wildlife sector. It was all the more special because I got to see loads of native animals I had missed out on so far, like hairy-noised wombats, and a Tasmania devil who properly came up to see us to say hi - this is my new favourite creature I think; their temperament and the way they move about is just so entertaining. That night we sat on Brighton beach, had a swim in the ocean, and watched the sun set on the water with a beer and some fish and chips - perfect.
The next few days were festival time, and we had tickets for both WOMADelaide (world music festival) and the Future Music Festival. The former had a wicked vibe about it, with fantastic stalls and some great acts, most of whom I'd never heard of before. The highlights were definitely an extraordinary trio from the Ukraine called DakhaBrakha, whose music was just spellbinding live, and a harpist/pianist called Joanna Newsom. We hung out with a whole bunch of Steph's friends that day, who were lovely, and then moved on to another group of friends for the Future Music Festival the next day. The line-up for this one was full of big names, like Mark Ronson and the Chemical Brothers, but again it was the smaller names that punched above their weight, like MGMT and the really talented young Aussie group called Tame Impala. Before I left Steph made me a mix tape (CD) for the car, along with the Tame Impala album, which became the anthem of the Nullarbor road trip, and will be forever associated with it in my memory.
On my last day in Adelaide we drove to the stunning McClaren Vale winemaking region to check out some wineries. We had planned to take the Cakmobile, but after making a quick stop on route I noticed something dripping off the bottom of the sump - I refer you to the earlier mysterious disappearance of coolant.This was a worrying development, since I was due to drive over 3000kms over the next week to Perth, but in the end it turned out to be just a hose that had perished, and Steph's family mechanic sorted it out that day. Meanwhile we had a wicked day out burning around the vineyards in Steph's car, tasting wine, eating tapas, and seeking out the finest Shiraz and Rieslings in town. When we got back to Adelaide, we picked up Laura (my friend from Sydney) at the airport, and the Cakmobile, and had one last night out. Steph had done well. I had had one of the best experiences of my whole trip in plucky little Adelaide, a city that is often the butt of jokes made by the residents of Perth, Melbourne and Sydney… well more fool them, because they don't know what they're missing.