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Travel : That was the year that was!

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IN wrapping up my travels of 2013, I’ll start with where I was at exactly this time last year and that was Adelaide, capital of South Australia on a three-and-a-half week trek which also saw me in Dubai for 48 hours.

Travel with Dusty Miller

Australia, with its wide open spaces, bright blue skies, golden beaches, indigo seas, warm climate and atmosphere, certainly appealed when invited to stay at my son and daughter-in-law’s new home last Christmas.

In June or July 2012, I half-heartedly checked the cost of flying to Adelaide, capital of South Australia, named after Queen Adelaide (of Saxe-Meiningen), the consort of King William IV. She lived between 1792 and 1849.

It was just too dear then, flying to Perth and onwards or on to Sydney or Melbourne and back, via Jo’burg or Dubai, or even through London. In November something made me re-Google Skyscanner.com for flight details and costs and the price had spectacularly plummeted to within my pocket limitations.

Why? Because unbeknown to me or my travel agent, Emirates had launched direct flights from Dubai to Adelaide on November 1, 2012; (now a daily service.) It meant spending 19 hours 50 minutes in Dubai, between the Harare/Lusaka flight landing and Adelaide flight leaving, but that’s no train smash!

Thanks to the personal seat-back GPS on Emirates flights I clocked the very second we crossed the imaginary border between Western and South Australia.

A long mid-summer twilight allowed us to see a panorama of deserts and lush farms, mountains and forests, the odd river, lake and dam and a spectacular meandering coastline clearly from 38 000 feet.

It goes without saying that the continent, island, country of Australia is mind-bogglingly massive and South Australia itself at 1 043 514 square kilometres is over three times the area of Zimbabwe’s 386 050 sq km.

And with a population of only 1 656 000 (as opposed to our non-diaspora figure of maybe 12 million) there’s loads of SPACE for everyone. This was particularly noticeable on the miles and miles of unspoiled—almost unoccupied — pristine golden beaches.

Even on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day we were able to park (free of charge) within a hundred metres or so of the sparkling clean, shark-free beach we wished to explore, enjoy and possibly picnic on.

Once or twice we were alone; mainly there was no more than two or three dozen folk within two or three hundred metres and only on the odd occasion were there more than about two hundred people visual.
Beautiful Greater Adelaide’s history goes back to a site chosen in 1836 by Colonel William Light besides the Torrens River for Australia’s first free colony (as opposed to a penal settlement for British criminals.)

Nowadays, travellers can enjoy the city and district’s architecture, people, food, drink, climate, animals, sport, culture and the most spectacular birdlife I’ve seen in a lifetime’s travelling.

Australia is an expensive destination. Not only dear to fly to from most places in the world but food, drink and entertainment can be very pricey. The cheapest way to buy a beer (granted a very good lager or India Pale Ale) is to get a case of 24 from a bottle store, where they cost around A$2 each, which was US$2, 12 at the time.  As we didn’t have wheels for the first few days, I bought more easily carry-able six-packs, when the cost per unit shot up to A$3 each (US$3,18 then.)

In a pub, club or restaurant the price of a beer varies anywhere between about A$6 and A$15 a 330ml can or bottle and you are unlikely to purchase a bottle of Adelaide Hills wine or one from neighbouring Jacob’s Creek, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Currency Creek or Kangaroo Island for under A$16 (about US$17) even at the wine farm gate.

This made no sense to me as you can often buy three bottles of South Australian wine (a white, a red, and a rosé) at my daughter’s local supermarket in rural Oxfordshire, England for around 10 or 12 pounds (US$15-US$17.)

A gnarled, mahogany tanned elderly Adelaide Hills winemaker blamed this anomaly on local taxes but also cited the fact that Australians didn’t seem to mind these apparently rip-off prices. His 21-year-old son, for instance, was paid a minimum of A$120 000 a year in mining and Aussies generally had money to burn when it came to enjoying themselves.

They’ll need it. A steak can cost A$36 without chips, salad or veggies; fish and chips up to about A$17 (cheapest was at the Adelaide Zoo, where I expected to be bled dry but paid only A$7 for possibly Australia’s favourite dish); tea, coffee, milkshakes, drinking chocolate or ice-creams were around A$3-A$5 and entry tickets for a floodlit T/20 cricket match between Sydney Sixers and Adelaide Strikers (without a reserved seat…and we couldn’t find any chairs!) was A$20. A 500ml draught beer at the cricket, served in a nasty floppy plastic beaker was A$10.

But public transport was reasonably priced, reliable and regular and the incredible wildlife, beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and friendly folk largely offset  having to pay three, four, five or even six times for food and drink what we would here in Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital) and I’m already planning to go back to Adelaide NEXT festive season.

Dusty Miller flew from Harare to Adelaide via Dubai at his own expense, but Emirates upgraded his ticket to business class and put him up at the five-star Le Meridien Hotel near Dubai Airport for two nights while he investigated the travel attractions of the desert, etc.
Queries, comments: dustym@standard.co.zw

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