Adelaide then Melbourne

Another quick roundup as I’ve not done a lot of touristy stuff, just hung out and travelled.

I ended up going for the redeye flight from Perth to Adelaide. Mel very kindly dropped me off at Perth International Airport. Then realised this wasn’t much use as I was flying domestically and even more kindly drove me the extra ten minutes to the Domestic Airport. Thanks, Mel!

It had been a good, smooth flight with Tiger Airways. We even took off late as there was a tailwind. The flight time was reduced and we were dot on time for landing. Craig (Mudcrab) picked me up at a little after 7am after I landed in Adelaide. He dropped me at his place where I caught up first on email and then on sleep.

Dinner was from the Adelaide Burger bar on O’Connell Street. This is heartily recommended. The chips are slight crispy, but I don’t know what they put in the batter. Whatever it is it tastes delicious. This was followed up by an exceptionally good slice of fruit crumble from the 24 hour bakery over the road.

Our home for the evening was to be the Crown & Anchor (if I remember correctly) where we chewed various amounts of fat and drank far too much and until far too late. Or early. They really don’t do “chucking out time” here.

Thursday was a bit of a blur until Craig came home. Just about recovered, we went to the Grace to see about 5 local bands each doing a short set. The final act, Raw Ether, were playing their last set for several months. The bassist is heading to Germany for some reason I didn’t quite pick up. All three members are 19 years old and annoyingly talented. Great set, and thanks for the free CD!

As the pub closed we relocated back to the Crown & Anchor until they did actually throw us out. A steak and pepper pie and a cake from the bakers on the way home and we crashed out around 5am. No worries. 2½ hours sleep would do us fine for the next day…

Only we had nearer 4½ hours. Craig was late for work and I was late to start hitching to Melbourne. However, Craig got me to the outskirts just before the M1 route begins and set me down around 10:00 for my trek to Victoria.

Almost 45 minutes later I got my first lift off a lady heading just outside of Adelaide to see a relative. A 20 minute drive, but it was a start. Next up – after 30 minutes – were two guys finishing work for the day. They both had beards as good as mine! They dropped me off after around half an hour with instructions on how to get to a really good truck stop if I was struggling.

Maybe 15 minutes later, I was picked up by Geraldine and her two dogs. They kept me company for 4½ hours as we stopped for a beer and headed deep into Victoria. 300km to go and I was picked up by Rick, a truck driver heading back east in his 4×4. He left me around 2 hours’ outside of Melbourne at a roadside café. I’d barely put my bags down when Jason, a young IT guy who works for a large financial company, picked me up and dropped me off right near Shelly’s place. Almost 12 hours to the dot since Craig left me in Adelaide.

However, by this time Shelly had caught a tram into the CBD. Cue a farcicle attempt to locate each other which we finally did. We had a quick meal (it was after 11pm by now) in Red Pepper on Bourke Street. This was amazing – only $5 for a small but filling and very spicy dahl dish with two nan bread. Just about the right amount for me at that moment.

We sat and talked for about an hour until Amy and her sister Emma picked me up to take me to their place where I’m typing this up now. The two girls are Vietnamese and if I remember correctly I got talking to Amy as she’s also a big sponsor of the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi.

So now to bed. I have a couple of plans for tomorrow (after sleeping very heavily) and then will be meeting up with Shelly, Amy and her boyfriend for a couple of drinks (oh, no…).

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Bye-bye Adelaide!

And back to Perth. I think I managed my food resources well at the hostel this time. I only gave away a glass of orange juice and packed a large swiss roll to eat at the airport. Everything else was used up by lunchtime.

I’m adding this post as a Tip as well as a regional entry. Information about getting to and from the airport in Adelaide:

Save money and don’t use the SkyBus. It’s $5 and gets you near to your hostel (or to the door depending on where you’re staying) but can take some time as it goes round the houses. Instead, head for stop W3 on Currie Street near Light Square (200m from the YHA) and catch the J1 or J2. It runs every 15 minutes and is only $2.30 between 10am and 3pm. I think it’s $3.80 outside these times. Obviously there may be a more convenient stop for you if you’re staying somewhere other than the YHA.

To get the bus back into Adelaide, you need to exit the terminal upstairs onto the flyover near the checkin desks. Go through the glass doors and turn left. The bus stop is after all the short stop/taxi parking.

Another thing to be aware of is that Adelaide airport provides free wireless access – only the second airport I have yet been to that offers this. The connection’s pretty good and the only restriction is a “reasonable download limit” and “web pages only” (though I have MSN working right now). As with Kuala Lumpur, though, the main problem is finding a plug socket if your battery’s not charged.

Overall a pleasant way to depart Adelaide and South Australia. Until next time…

Taking the walking tour. Of sorts.

I thought I’d take my life in my hands and trust the Lonely Planet walking tour as I’d previously done in Singapore and Hobart, amongst other places. This one gives a walking distance of 4.5km and recommends “all day for walking and grazing” which – to be honst – is fair. Given that the stop-off’s include a gallery, two museums and a zoo I can see this being a day-long adventure if the mood takes you.

There was every likelihood that I would start to flag in the early afternoon as I’d awoken at 5:50 to see Delphine off on her trip north to the red centre and beyond. I’ll catch up with her in Darwin in two weeks’ time where I expect to hear good things and see photos of the Adelaide to Alice part. There are still some major road trips to be done in Oz – Great COast Road, Adelaide to Alice, Perth to Darwin and also the Kakadu / Darwin / Litchfield safari. Yes, I’m going to have to come back here.

My first stop wasn’t actually on the walk itself. A local bakery were doing a promotion which had been advertised at the hostel. Today only, approach the counter and say “Mother says there are 100 chocolate chips in every choc chip hot cross bun” and get a free second bun and can of energy drink. I had a feeling I’d need the sugar.

Then I got sidetracked. I wandered down to Fowler’s Live to buy a ticket for tonight’s Reel Big Fish gig, but they don’t have a box office. I’d tried to book the ticket online the night before, but the web site was insisting that I have the ticket delivered. A little awkward on the day of the concert! At the time of writing I’m still not sure if I can be bothered walking back to the venue in the evening to see if they sell tickets on the door.

I wandered off up to the Museum, which is on the walk, and then decided I’d just pick out the highlights as I’d already wandered along about 3/4 of the route with Delphine over the last few days.

The museum’s a good one, though a little small. Still, it’s free entry and the layout is superb. I really liked the giant squid exhibit which runs vertically up four floors alongside the lift in one corner of the building. Touch-sensitive computer screens next to the exhibit give information on various critters that can be seen in the glass tube while lights highlight the fishy thingy you’re being given information about. Very smart.

At points in the main exhibition halls there are comfy seats with more computer screens bolted to the. This allows you to sit and “virtually wander” around some of the exhibits. Smashing idea.

Next to the museum is the art galler – also free – but the only thing that interested me was the collection of Egyptian art on loan from the Louvre. Sadly, despite an impressive list of about eight official sponsors – it was $18 to get in so I U-turned and sat down with my hot (now cool) cross buns and can of Mother.

The buns were delicious, the energy drink amongst the worst I have ever tasted.

Next I popped into the State Library. This is quite small compared to others I have visited – about the size of Low Fell library back home. Still, the variety of books is good. And they have free internet access including wireless. So for those of you with laptops, this is definitely somewhere worth traipsing to. They even provide comfy seats and power points!

I took a couple of photos of some statues on the way back to the hostel – Robbie Burns and the national war memorial.

The afternoon was spent sat on a comfy couch in the lounge reading Dave Gorman’s Google Whack! Adventure from cover to cover. And also mixing Nutella and crunchy peanut butter. Possibly the sickliest foodstuff in all creation. Between that and the energy drink I must be pushing sugar overload.

The hostel runs a quiz on Monday evenings and I’m happy to say that despite being the only person playing solo I didn’t come last! Still, I didn’t win anything but it timed well with Craig (who I know from an age-old newsgroup) being free for a beverage. Or four.

It was great to finish my stay in Adelaide with a few pints of Pale when we eventually found a bar that was still open. I also found out that Craig’s mum works in the YHA tour office. I may pester her in the morning just to annoy him!

The rest of Adelaide – a quick catchup

To fill in some empty bits from the last couple of days and ensure I haven’t missed anything (and to have a rant):

Last night after I posted the blog up, Delphine very kindly made me dinner. Now, I’m not sure if this was return payment for my (in)famous stew to which I treated her the previous night; or whether – as is more likely – revenge. Whichever, I ended up with more pasta and bacon than enough to choke a large cow.

Don’t get me wrong. It was delicious. I just notice that I had as much on my plate as was on Delphine’s and her friend’s combined. Now I know I look like I’ve lost weight recently, but that’s just taking the Michael. Having said that, I did manage to get about 2/3 of the way through it out of sheer stubborn-ness and force of will.

And just to make a point, I ate 4/5 of a foot-long jam swiss roll. Of course, I gave the remainder to the chef. Nice, but needed custard.

The other thing that springs to mind about the hostel is the dodgy wireless. The staff here aren’t IT-trained, which is fine. It’s not their job. The problem is that the guy who does maintain the network is a one-man band and the wireless keeps dying. The usual solution is to reboot the little white box on the counter.

[Warning: technobabble]

This box is only a wireless hotspot, it’s not a router. As such, it doesn’t provide IP addresses to computers. It simply links them to the network at which point another machine does the DHCP work. So problems come in two varieties – no network connectivity (Netgear at fault) or network available, but DHCP failing (big silver PC at fault).

The big silver PC doesn’t have any power lights, a monitor, a keyboard or a mouse. So when it falls over, it’s impossible to tell what’s happened. Cycling the power is the only way to remedy it and even then, if it fails to boot you just don’t know why.

One of the staff was looking on while I did my best to tinker and said that their system was overly-complex but they needed all five (five!) machines because of the tasks involved:

Booking system

Network for staff

Network for guests

Wireless network for staff and guests

Internet connectivity

He wholeheartedly believed that they didn’t have the budget for a new machine capable of combining all these into one system. As it would need a “twin processor, giga-something, huge machine”.

Hum. I was running NT4 Server on a Pentium-90 maybe eight years ago. With two network cards in, it would be perfectly capable of running two (bridged or unbridged) networks and – I believe – providing DHCP to both. Of course NT4 is moth-eaten by now, but even Win2k Server would suffice easily.

Internet connectivity would best be handled with a combined wireless router / firewall box. Belkin, Netgear and so forth sell these for small change these days.

The booking system would run on a 486, so at most a separate low-spec PC just to keep it separate for redundancy reasons would be fine.

Anyway, I’m not the guy in charge and I’m fully aware of how protective IT staff get over their pet projects. I’m just the same myself! As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The thing is, this network keeps breaking…

[end of technobabble – sorry about that]

At the footie, drinking a beer

Here’s an unusual sight – people watching football in the sunshine. Traditionally, it’s supposed to be raining and cold. But then, traditionally, you play football with your feet and there are goalkeepers and a rectangular pitch and a round ball.

Today I went to see Australian (i.e. “No”) Rules Football which was on my “to do” list since I arrived in Oz. I won’t go through all the rules – yes, there are some – instead referring you to the AFL page on Wikipedia.

Some hints for those visiting Adelaide to watch the sport:

The AAMI stadium (I assume this will change name as it changes sponsor) is located about 20-30 minutes’ bus ride out of the city. The big, oval cricket ground-shaped thingy near the festival centre… is a cricket ground.

You need to catch the 113, 118 or Footie Express for $3.80 each way from Currie Street. The Footie Express starts running 2 hours before kickoff and departs every 20 minutes. The last bus leaves 20 minutes before kickoff. Miss this and you have to resort to the 113 or 118.

Yeah, OK. Guess who missed kickoff? My main regret is that by the time I got there all the match day programs were sold out and I’d have liked one as a souvenir. Ah well.

But what an afternoon. 43,064 fans at a sell-out opener (though I wasn’t sat in the correct seat so some people hadn’t turned up) and no segregation. Home and away fans sat mixed up like M&M’s in a big bowl and no trouble was had at all. Families were there as groups and I hear tell that at times over 50% of the crowd at AFL games is female. Hugely different from back home.

Another major difference is the ticket pricing. I paid less than $30 including booking fee for my ticket. This is approximately £12 at today’s prices. A Premiership (or Championship/Old Second Division) ticket in the UK will average at £35 per match. Aussies on the whole don’t earn that much less than a Pom in the same job, so I guess it comes down to the way the sport is run.

AFL players aren’t paid extremely stupid amounts of money in comparison the “proper” footballers. Teams don’t shell out millions to buy players from other teams or to grab kids while they’re barely in their teens. Instead, the system works like the American Football draft where the team that finishes lowest one year gets first pick of the fresh talent the next. A much fairer system and proven by the huge variety of teams who’s won the cup over the last umpteen years. How many different clubs have lifted the Premiership trophy back home in 15 years? I think 4?

I got a barracking for saying this to a Crows (Adelaide) supporter, but watching them reminded me of watching Newcastle United. They were outplayed continually by a team which actually seemed to know what it was doing. They came second best at most challenges, lost the ball too easily, didn’t have the kicking accuracy of their opponents… Yet the fans didn’t give up yelling for them. Even with two minutes to go and four goals (24 points) down, the two guys in front of me were saying “two quick goals and a bit of luck and we can make something of this”. Our equivalent back home was a 4-0 drubbing at Anfield a few years back when the entire away section was singing “5-4! We’re going to win 5-4!” as the clock showed 89 minutes.

Final score: Adelaide 74 – 105 Essendon.

As is my tradition, I picked up a keyring as a souvenir of visiting a new football ground. OK, it’s not proper football but “as in Rome/Adelaide”…

The transport back to Adelaide was well organised with a huge bus concourse outside and staff ensuring as many as possible got onto each coach before it set off to be replaced by an empty one. Bus lanes meant that those who’d opted to come by car were sat sweltering as we zipped past them.

Overall, I still prefer “real” football but watching AFL was a hell of a lot more pleasant. I think I saw about four police all day and they were just wandering around trying to get a good view of the game. Now, if they can start getting these kinds of crowds for the A-League and stop calling it “soccer”…

As an aside, something I forgot to mention yesterday. Down a side street near the hostel Delphine spotted a wall covered in toy cars. An outdoor brick wall. Appoximately 1 gazilliong cars of various shapes and sizes. Held on with blu-tak. We could tell this as some had dropped off. There were no signs to say who or why, but… cool.

Oh, and don’t buy Coles’ “Sherbet Bombs”. They’re crap.