I thought I detected a slight note of, well, self-righteousness in the ABC News report that a couple of Australians had met a sticky end at a shooting range in Cambodia. The combination of guns + money + “cover-up” seemed to “challenge” the ABC.
Well, as the on-line report states (but I don’t think it was mentioned on the live-to-air report), this isn’t the only shooting range around where tourists can pay cash to fire military-grade toys. We were taken to one in Vietnam. Although others in our party paid to participate, we just observed, no action for us!
We’ve got a trip out of London planned for when we’re there in a few weeks time. As the Man in Seat 61 tells us, about 12 weeks before the travel date, a range of “Advance Purchase” fares become available. But the Man in Seat 61 tells us —
“A word of warning, if you don’t see any cheap Advance tickets 11-12 weeks out… If you’re too eager to book, there’s often a week or two around the 11-12 week point when relatively expensive Off-Peak & Anytime fares go on sale (as these have unlimited availability and can be sold before reservations open) but reservations have not opened so no cheap Advance fares appear. Don’t be fooled into thinking “It’s expensive”. Just wait a few days or a week or two until you see cheap Advance fares appear.”
Well, I’d booked the tickets to get us to where we wanted to go, and was very satisfied with the deal. But, even though our return trip was to be 3 days later, there was no sign of the “advance” fares. The cheapest “Off-Peak” fare was in the vicinity of £108, and yet there were “advance” fares in the range of £30 to £53 until the day before we wanted to travel. As I wanted to book our accommodation as well, I admit that I nearly panicked (even though the “off peak” fares are available until the day before travel)! But then, just as I was losing my nerve, the cheaper fares appeared – 10½ weeks before our travel date! Thank goodness for the sound advice on the Man in in Seat 61’s website!
We had originally thought about stopping over for a night on the way home from Mildura but something came over me and at my instigation we made the trip back to Melbourne in a day. There’s an outstanding rain-cheque due to S for a night at Maldon or Daylesford or somewhere!
I tossed up whether to take the Calder Hwy the whole way or go via the Sunraysia Hwy. The distances are so close to equal that it doesn’t matter. I asked at the Mildura accommodation for their thoughts and they said there wasn’t much difference. For no really good reason, I opted for the Sunraysia. Well, I won’t do that again (not that it’s likely anyway!), because from the point where you turn off the Calder just south of Ouyen until about Donald. the overall condition of the road is in many places only “fair”, in that the ride is frequently somewhat “undulating”. I wonder if the massive grain trucks have something to answer for here?
Be that as it may, we admired the vast expanses of wheat fields, now all harvested, with the grain stacked at receival depots in vast piles under blue tarpaulins, and had breaks of varying durations at Ouyen, Birchip, Donald and Avoca.
The elapsed journey time was a shade over 8 hours, including the breaks and a very tedious crawl through the worst of Melbourne’s peak hour traffic at the very end (this added at least 30 minutes to our trip).
It’s a straight-forward run up the Sturt Highway from the Barossa to Mildura. I’ve never done this trip before, so it was all new to me. We were impressed by the big vineyards especially at Renmark (do all the grapes really go to make wine?) and the flocks of emus in the paddocks between Renmark and Mildura. This is the main route between Sydney and Adelaide, so there are quite a number of heavy vehicles, but all the traffic seemed reasonably “well-behaved”. There are some passing lanes, and work appears underway to increase/extend these in places.
We arrived in Mildura abut 3 pm South Australian time, which of course was 3.30 Victorian time. Fortunately our phones make the time change automatically!
We had time for a quick look around Mildura before dinner. The main feature is of course the Murray River, and there appears to be a big “houseboat letting” business!
We had dinner in town, but more about that in a future post.
There was a Lions Club BBQ in the park at Penola to mark Australia Day, and from a snippet I overhead there was to be a presentation (“Penolian of the Year”??). And arrangements seemed to be in place for a car rally to follow. However, we “passed” on the local activities and set off for Adelaide.
We made good time (well, set the cruise control for 110 kmph and not too many big trucks on a public holiday), with short stops at Keith and Murray Bridge, and a brief pause at Coonalpyn to take a photo of the painted silos.
A wrong turn just before our destination meant we took a “scenic tour” through the CBD and North Adelaide, but even so, we were settled in our roomy but dated accommodation at about 3.30 pm. We then headed down trendy Melbourne St for dinner at a “Himalayan” (Nepalese/Tibetan) restaurant.
The local information about wineries and related matters for the Coonwarra region is readily available and easy to understand. The one thing that isn’t mentioned, however, is the wall-to-wall carpet of vines along the terra rossa strip is bisected by a busy highway with a 110 kmph speed limit, and a constant flow of heavy vehicles. So, if you’re tempted to slow down as you approach the winery of your choice – well, be very, very careful of that truck behind you! No dawdling here.
That said, we did tastings at 3 wineries (Wynns, Zema and Rymill) and had lunch at another (Fodder at Ottelia). I counted 23 wineries with cellar doors (and in addition there are a number that aren’t open to the public), so we only touched the surface. We might have been tempted to call in at one or two more, but there’s a limit to how much wine we can fit in the car – and we’re yet to hit the Barossa!
Dinner was at the pizza/pasta place in town. Great pizza for starters, but the gnocchi was “ordinary”.