Pichi Richi Train in Quorn

My last post for this trip is about another train journey. This time a step back in time.

In 1878, construction commenced on the Port Augusta and Government Gums Railway. The line was extended to Oodnadatta in 1891 and further to Alice Springs in 1929, establishing an important rail link to Central Australia.

The famous Ghan passenger train travelled this way from 1923 to 1956, and on the northern part of this route until 1980. Such a pity the Ghan doesn’t stop here now ut would be a great place to break the journey.

This historic train bring back the romance of train travel, as it was in its heyday a century ago. The name “Pichi Richi” came from the section of track between Port Augusta and Quorn, through the Pichi Richi Pass, which was first opened back in 1879.

During the war years this was a major junction for trains carrying troops. At one point 43 trains came through a day. The local women would feed the men in the local hall during a break in the trip. Quorn would have been a bustling town.

So the train is old. Today it is run entirely by volunteers. And what a variety of train enthusiasts offer their services to keep this historic train ride operating.

David, one such enthusiast met us at our assigned carriage to clip our ticket and welcome us aboard.

David looked the part – covered in train badges

We settled into our bench seats with other train buffs on this sellout Sunday morning short run through the Pichi Richi pass to Woolshed Flats.

David gave us a run down on the train and it’s history, speaking faster than the train was moving !

He told us that the carriage we were in named Warana was the one Mel Gibson sat in for the scene for the movie Gallipoli.

Many movies have used Quorn and this train in their scenes. Gallipoli, The Shiralee, The Water Diviner, Wolf Creek, Sundowners, The Tourist, to name just a few.

It’s such a popular attraction people stop their cars by the side of the road to watch & wave to those on board. Today with the marathon on with runners having started in Port Augusta it was extra busy.

We moved through the countryside through the pass and arrived at Woolshed Flat. Here you disembark and have morning tea while the engine is detached and moved around, in a move to then put it at the front of the train. Great to watch.

The engine moving to the front of the train for its return journey.

We spent half an hour chatting to other train buffs watching the engine manoeuvres. Our driver, an 82 year old man is assisted by his son and his 18 year old grandson who shovelled the coal. Trains run in the family.

David welcomed us back on board for the return journey. Our fellow passengers had bonded over the journey. There were four sisters away for a weekend who were joking, laughing and having a ball. A few caravaners on holidays and a family with two little children. The two year old boy was hooked. He loved this Thomas the Tank engine experience.

If you are in this area do yourself a favour and do a Pichi Richi train trip. At $61 it was a great experience and the money goes directly to its maintenance.

Fabulous Flinders Ranges & Wilpena Pound.

Two chilly days in Adelaide and we were ready for a little more adventure.

We thought a few days in Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges would be a perfect end to our Australian adventure.

Known for it ancient mountains, spectacular gorges and sheltered creeks Ikara National Park is one of the most spectacular parks in Australia. And there is a lot of competition!

All of this only 5 hours drive from Adelaide.

We set off early Thursday as we planned on visiting friends Kathy & Mark in the Clare Valley. They are house sitting – a new and rewarding experience since retiring.

On the way we stopped at Balaklava and lovely small town.

We drove through the vines of Clare and arrived at their house for the next few weeks. It’s charming & just outside the village of Clare. They look after ducks, chickens and dorper sheep. And are living in the comfortable old farm house.

House sitting is a great way to explore new areas – living rent free. Though it’s good if you like animals.

We headed off after lunch and headed west. We passed a few more little towns but couldn’t stop. We wanted to get to Wilpena before sundown.

This resort is joint owned b the SA Gov and the local Adnyamathanha Aboriginal people. They call the pound “Ikara” meaning “meeting place” or “place for initiations”.

We settled into our family room, had a glass of wine and planned our day tomorrow.

Dinner was soup in the restaurant which is part of the main resort building – built in 1947. it resembles a ski lodge!

We’re looking forward to exploring this area tomorrow. Driving in we were in awe of the beautiful mountains.

Adelaide you are THE Festival City

Last year was my first Adelaide Writer’s Week, Fringe and Festival visit.

It was so good I came back this year – and brought friends for Writer’s Week if you read my earlier blogs you’ll know how much we enjoyed that week.

This week is I’m spending time with the family. My niece Vashti is a musician but isn’t in any festival shows this year, unfortunately. But we’ve been to a few great shows.

Last week we saw a band playing Blues & Soul , for women comedians and a very funny choir.

This week we went up to the Adelaide Hills to Ukaria. This cultural Centre is purpose built for chamber music.

Beautiful Indigenous artwork at Ukaria.

Today we went to a play called Blindness.

It was a very different experience.

Based on Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago’s dystopian novel Blindness, England’s Juliet Stevenson’s gripping narration unfolds around you through headphones handed out on arrival.

The theatre goes dark, the seats are grouped in twos around a large warehouse space. The story is about a city facing an epidemic of blindness. Those affected are moved to a disused asylum. The city panics.

There are strobe lights that flash occasionally, surround sound so you feel like someone is whispering in your ear.

I listened mostly with my eyes closed!

The end is hopeful – but what an experience.

Later tonight. In fact st 8.30 we went back to the city for a cabaret jazz show.

In 1956, acclaimed jazz vocalist Ella Fitzerald did a season at Zardi’s Jazzland in Los Angeles. Tonight sublime jazz singer Louise Messenger and her band recreated the show at Zardis.

Louise Messenger

What a great night. This Festival is great. It’s well supported by locals. It’s struggled a little during covid probably more with this years very contagious omicron. Some shows cancelled during to the performer catching it.

But the show goes on.

I can recommend visiting Adelaide during this time. There is so much on at such a variety of venues. It never feeling over crowded.

Last Writers to Last Laughs

We are rather enjoying our walk to the Pioneer Women’s Gardens. We walk down Melbourne St past the Lion Hotel then across some parklands to the pedestrian bridge and along past the Uni.

A lovely flat walk that I will miss. Unfortunately Lindy left her phone at home so had to retrace her steps! I’m fancy by the end other day she has walked 18,000 steps! She definitely deserved her ice cream treat this afternoon.

While Lindy walked back we started the first session. It was a look at Charmian Clift. I’ve been very interested in Charmian and her husband George Johnson since I visited Hydra island in Greece.

They were Authors – Australian , which ended up living on Hydra during the 70’s at a time when it was a place where creative bohemian types lived there. A young Leonard Cohen spent many summers there writing poetry.

Anthony Doerr author of All the Light We Cannot See talked about his new book Cloud Cuckoo Land in which he writes an imagined novel written by historical author Diogenes for his recuperating niece.

Doerr had us eating out of his hand. Such a great person. So engaging. He talked about his writing, his family and how life is here to be enjoyed. We shouldn’t sleep walk through it. And that we will never be as young as we are today!

Next up was Shelia Fitzpatrick

She is a leading historian on Russian history. She is one very knowledgeable lady who is able to explain things very succinctly. So if you want a book The Shortest History of the Soviet Union, is a lively, authoritative distillation of seventy-five years of communist rule and the collapse of an empire, and an examination of Russia’s ongoing influence on global politics under its current president.

Had a quick listen to Hannah Kent talking about her book Devotion. A change of pace for her.

Highlight was the duo of crime writers. Christen White and JP Polmare. Crime writing, Australian style. Young, sharp and engaging. These two are the ‘almost’ newcomers to the crime writing scene.

You have to check out their books. there are quite a few of them.

Christian wrote Clickbait for TV. You may have seen it ? Clever writer. Christian’s wife proof reads and advises him. Josh’s mother in law proof reads his! I was going to offer but it seems they have proof reading covered.

My sister in law had met up with us and I drove her home before heading off to the Fringe again

A great comedy show with four women comedians. Not Lizzy Hoo unfortunately! We missed her but had Mel Buttle, Claire Hooper, Nikki Britton and Zoe Coombes.

A good laugh to a small audience. I think covid is making a bigger impact this year. Shows are being cancelled with performers getting it.

I’m moving to my sister in law’s tomorrow so I’ll have to be careful around her teenage grandchildren. They have lots of friends at school catching it!!!

To my friends : Jill, Lindy and Ros – farewell and thank you for coming along to the Writers’ festival. I talked you into coming and I think we all loved it

Eating, Drinking Adelaide Day 5

Today a day off the Writers’ Festival.

Not because we’re not loving it – we are. But we want to be tourists as well.

The David Roche House & Museum is a favourite of mine. Located in Melbourne Street not far from our Airbnb we decided on a tour of the house then a visit to o the museum.

Arriving right at 10 we were disappointed to hear that the tour was full.

So we regrouped and went into the museum. It was a collection of fashions by designers who were up and coming in the 70’s then died of an AIDS related illness.

Some great fashions by well known designers Halston, Moschino. A great exhibition.

https://www.rochefoundation.com.au

Like any tourist we decided to get the free bus. It’s a great service that travels quite some distance around the city in a clockwise and anticlockwise direction.

Next stop the wonderful Adelaide Markets. If you visit Adelaide these markets are a must. We explored each aisle. Coffee and a pastry called so a visit to Skala

Gorgeous lady with her Turkish Delight

We stopped for lunch at a delightful Colombian restaurant. The waitress was just gorgeous and before we knew it we had a Pisco sour in our hands and we were ordering some tapas.

A great lunch. We just wish we were here Friday night for their live music with dancing.

Back home on the free bus with a few bags with fruit ‘ vegetables as well as a gorgeous frittata – in case we get hungry!

Oh and a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir.

Monday Day 4

No earth moving this morning. Just a slow moving start to our day.

The pace has been quite brisk so we took it slower today and walked to a coffee shop in Melbourne Street !

Then into the Writers Festival. Today we started with John Bell and Jonathan Biggins.

John Bell and Jonathan Biggins have spent their lives on the stage. John is famous as an interpreter of Shakespeare. Jonathan is best known as a leading political satirist and his show, The Gospel According to Paul, recently adapted into a book. They discuss their lives in the theatre, the essence of leadership and the power of imagination.

What a great session. Both so clever and their comments on leadership & politics both past and present were so insightful. And the comparisons drawn with Shakespeare were very clever. Must look at John Bells book

Next up Linda Jaivin.

Linda has written a sprawling history of China into a pacey, readable account of its origins, impact and influence. Named as one of the top five books on China of 2021, Linda Jaivin’s The Shortest History of China explores everything from China’s philosophical genesis to its contemporary political system.

Her session in China was informative and entertaining. She predicts that in the next ten years that these four things will be in the forefront of China’s planning.

Strong women, succession planning, corruption and disclosure of information.

Further information on China followed.

I caught some of the session with Jacqueline Bublitz author of Before you Knew My Name and Laura Elizabeth Woolley’s The Newcomer – a fictionalised account of the murder in 2002 murder on Norfolk Island.

So that was it for today.

We finished with a walk along North Tce calling in at the Museum, The State library past the Art Gallery and the University of Adelaide – where Ros studied Librarianship.

We walked back to our house via the beautiful Botanic Gardens.

Adelaide is a great city – a mix of old and new, great gardens, parks and walkways.

A lovely glass of Prosecco was our reward for over 11,000 steps today.

Then we headed back to the city to The Garden of Earthly Delights. Part of the Fringe Festival – there are many venues for events. we had dinner – Com hooding from the many good trucks around the gardens. We avoided the fairy floss.

Tonight for us it was the Real Housewives Choir. A fun one hour show, it gave a great taste of what is on at the festival. We sang along to some of the songs

Sunday Day 2 of the Writers’ Festival

The earth moved this morning!

I was awake and about to get up when there was a rumbling and shaking. I laughingly called out to the girls ‘perhaps an earthquake! Or a train has run under our house. ‘

I didn’t think much more of it until Ros pointed out later that she read there had been an earthquake in Adelaide. Very brief and quite light on the scale but nonetheless an earthquake.

What a start to the day. It was also very cloudy and cool but the forecast predicted a nice day , no rain, so no umbrella needed.

We walked another way to the Pioneer Memorial Gardens checking out the trees And today we all had our phones so no problems checking in!

We checked the daily program because things change and unfortunately Brian Brown is unwell and won’t be speaking today. Instead there will be a tribute to Shane Warne.

For those who don’t know…… Shane Warne a former spin bowler of great fame passed away in Bangkok yesterday. He is a sportsman , a larrikin and always talked about with huge affection by Australians. He was once engaged to Liz Hurley the actress.

Our first session today was with Charlotte McConaghy. What a smart articulate young woman who has written a book so different that it should be read. It’s about wolves! After the culling of wolves in Yellowstone park the author was interested, researched the topic and decided to write a fictional book about introducing 14 grey wolves to the Scottish highlands.

The same author has written another award winning novel called Migrations. It explores the last journey of the arctic terns on their migration to the Antarctic.

Lots to read!

The next session was with Jennifer Downs. Another young author who has written a book of great sadness and empathy. I haven’t read this but it’s now on my list.

Next up a big story session Empire of Pain. Such a well written investigation by Patrick Radden Keefe. His account of the OxyContin abuse in America and the family of Doctors, the Sackler family, who developed it and made a fortune out of it – but have never acknowledged the damage done by this dangerous drug.

This is a really well written book , lots of detail but so accessible.

Next up, two icons of science in Australia. Peter Doherty and Barry Jones. both had some interesting points to make about the pandemic and the way it’s been handled in Australia.

Next up a big choice. Two young writers Diana Reid and Indiana Schneider. Both have written novels set in universities around the concept of consent.

OR The Big Switch with Saul Griffith who has developed a blue print for an approach to climate change that ensures more jobs and a healthier environment.

I took a little of both. Saul Griffiths is a laid back metallurgist with a lot to offer in getting people to accept we can do things differently when it come to renewables.

Time then to head up town.

And time for a cocktail. We visited 2KW a roof top bar.

Great views. Great cocktails.

A quick trip up to the Treasury Courtyard for a Fringe event. A bit of Soul & Blues by locals Mensforth Quintet. Featuring songs by Etta James, Nina Simone we were entertained for a good hour – enjoying a glass of wine.

What a day!

We finished with dinner back at our local pub The Kentish on Stanley Street.

Adelaide Writer’s Festival – Day 1

Oh Adelaide you have turned in some great weather for the first day if the Writer’s Festival. Not too hot, not too cool.

We made a few plans over breakfast and walked down Melbourne St towards the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

Adelaide is a beautiful place to walk. It’s mostly flat, lots of parklands and a lovely river flowing through its centre.

We had an unhurried walk towards the river crossing on the footbridge arriving at Adelaide University.

Installation outside Adelaide University

Arriving at the entry gate I realised I had left my phone – and more importantly my covid certificate back at the house .

A little shuffling …….A paper sign in and I was in.

First session was Annabel Crabb. For those who don’t know her she is a lawyer, political journalist turned media personality, author, Podcaster , mother and great friend of Leigh Sales of 7.30 fame.

She is also a talker or as she admits is a babbler. She talked with another friend Miranda Murphy who stood in for Leigh Sales and is the editor of their book. Well Hello.

The book sounds great. It’s full of stories and recipes and funny stories.

Annabel kept us entertained for the full hour.

Coffee called so we took a break and explored the festival site. There are many more people here this year. In fact they were queuing at the entrance waiting to get in.

The next session was Christos Tsiolkas and Charlotte Wood. Christos is perhaps best know for his books The Slap and Barracuda – and both have been made into TV series. His latest book 71/2 is something different. it’s fiction but based on his own life experiences. It called auto fiction a term which he himself didn’t fully understand! In it he finds himself cut off from the world and becomes lost in the beauty of his surroundings.

Christos is friends with Charlotte Wood another well known highly awarded Australian author. I’ve read her books The Natural Way of Things and The Weekend.

Her latest book explores creativity.

Two talented authors talking about creativity and writing.

We enjoyed lunch under the trees taking in from afar the talk with Clem Bastow and Emma Jones. Both authors have written about their late diagnosis with autism.

Our last session was Liane Moriarty. Very well known for her popular books Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers she is a down to earth lovely person.

Her books – and there are many are very popular here in Australia. Her latest ‘Apples Never Fall’ is another well told story set in Sydney.

We decided to leave and walk back in the sun to get ready for a 6.30 Fringe Festival performance of Soul & Blues. Only it sold out ! So I’ve booked tickets for tomorrow night.

We spent some time choosing a few Fringe shows and booking tickets!

Tonight dinner at The Lion. My sister in law Marg, daughter Vashti and little Florence met us for dinner. Such a great catch up.

Hotel on Melbourne St.

Arriving in Adelaide

Please Adelaide don’t rain. We have had way too much rain in Brisbane. It seems strange to be leaving when so many people are still cleaning up after the floods. Our thoughts are with you all

But here we are in Adelaide, ready to enjoy the Writer’s Festival. I loved it so much last year I talked a few friends into coming along with me.

An early start to avoid traffic, we had time for coffee before boarding. An easy 2 hrs later we landed in beautiful Adelaide.

Ros and I had found a great little terrace house in North Adelaide . This area is full of heritage, gorgeous stone terrace houses. The streets are lined with the most beautiful trees ready to change colour as Autumn arrives.

Our house is a charmer.

We quickly left bags and headed around the corner to a great little pub. The Kentish Arms. We sat outside and enjoyed a Gin & Tonic and a few shared tapas plates. This could become our ‘local’. Shortly after the Friday afternoon crowd started to arrive. It’s obviously a popular place.

The afternoon sun started to come out so we started exploring the streets while walking towards O’Connell St.

They don’t call Adelaide the city of churches for no reason.

The Adelaide Fringe Festival has started and there are lots of shows on offer. Comedy, singing, dance burlesque, bands …….We hope to get to a few, in between the Writer’s Festival. The first was a quick look at the O’Connell Twilight Fringe.

Jill waving to a friendly local

Laden with shopping bags we headed back to our lovely house – with a quick dash to The Kentish Arms for a bottle to share.

Dinner in our courtyard and we are feeling very happy to be ready to enjoy the Writer’s Festival.

What book have you enjoyed reading lately?

I’ve just finished The Island of Missing Trees by Turkish writer Elif Shafak. Set in Cyprus it was a fascinating read, where a fig tree is one of the main characters in the story. Elif is speaking at the festival. I loved it!

Thank you Adelaide.

Adelaide really turned it on for us.

This year has been so hard with covid. Restrictions, closed borders, no live shows, restaurants and businesses closed.

Living in Queensland has been better than most states. We’ve had very few local covid infections. We’ve been lucky.

Now we are able to move around between states and things are opening up.

These past 12 days in Adelaide have been a return to live music, concerts. A Festival – probably the first in the world to go ahead.

Today Tuesday was our last day. I had one last long walk. Beautiful homes and gardens.

A favourite is in Avenue St. The house is beautiful. Not overly big or grand but just lovely. Pale sandstone, bricks, little Juliette style verandah, a sunken pond, a gazebo and best of all – a fairy garden.

Then, a new coffee shop. There are lots of great little coffee shops nearby. But today we visited a beautiful one in Norwood. Along with a bookshop.

I had to visit what is probably the best – certainly the biggest bookshop in Adelaide. Dillons Bookshop in Norwood is amazing. Don’t miss it. Norwood is a great area for shopping. The Parade is the High St shopping area with lots of great shops and beautiful buildings.

In the afternoon we head up to the Adelaide Hills to visit niece Vashti, Jeremy and their four children. They have a small farm with chickens, alpacas, dogs and a dam. The children had gone blackberry gathering so we had them along with champagne and little sausage rolls Marg made. They are really nut, oat, feta rolls and so delicious.

We sat around the fire pit – but the weather was so nice. No fire needed.

Our last night we went to our last Fringe show. But before it we had dinner at a very popular Afghan restaurant called Pawana. You may have heard about it. Run by a couple who migrated here in 1987. Please click on the link and read about the family and the restaurant.

https://www.parwana.com.au

Read the story. They welcome you to the restaurant like into their home.

The owners of the restaurant receiving an award from the Afghani Ambassador.

We had a beautiful meal – delicious dumplings and an eggplant dish so delicious I could eat it every night.

The cook book from the restaurant

Following dinner we moved onto the Grace Emily Hotel. It has seen better days, is a little moth eaten but is a small hotel full of charm.

An eccentric little nativity scene! I think! Look closely.

We saw The Ukulele Death Squad. Mmmm some very strange named Fringe shows. We thought it would be more of a ukulele band but it was two ukuleles and three other singers. They sang Nick Cave songs. Quite well actually and we enjoyed it.

So my ten days in Adelaide is over. It’s been great.

I recommend a visit to the Adelaide Festival. Writers Week. The Fringe, Womad. Take it all in.

I know I’ll be back.