Julie has been commuting to her work in Adelaide a few days a week for more than a year now. So, for a change of pace, we decided to start our New Year by driving there together for a working holiday – she would work while I’d be on holiday!
There’s nothing as romantic as a road trip, where we could check out the delights of remote Victorian and South Australian country along the way. When you fly, you leave home, sit in a tube for an hour or so and you are there. On a road trip, the holiday starts as you pull out of your driveway.
Not to mention the delicious anticipation of it all.
Like planning holiday dialysis a couple of months before the trip. We found two private dialysis units (both Fresenius) in Adelaide: the Payneham Dialysis Centre at Payneham, just under 5km north of the city (where Julie works) and the Hartley Dialysis Centre, at Brighton about 16km south of the city.
It was a toss-up: Payneham near the city and Julie; Hartley a 4-minute walk from Brighton beach. We chose Payneham.
Once we chose the unit, Chris, the Super Manager of my dialysis unit, arranged everything with Mary Frost, the Payneham Unit Manager: we’d be there a week, so five sessions starting Saturday morning (we would travel there on the Friday) and ending the following Thursday (the day we’d head home). This allowed for Sunday off, plus all but about 4 hours of dialysis time on the other four days.
Nobody buttonholes at Payneham, so I packed 5 days worth of buttonhole needles and scrapers (plus spares) and five ampules of Heparin.
The week before we left I arranged a service for the car (a big one, that together with new tyres cost more than the holiday!). We copied a selection of podcasts, some reliably good and others obscure but promising, onto our USB drives. I dialysed on Thursday (the day before we left). We packed the car that evening (including one episode of Crown onto my iPad, just in case we needed a fix, and more books and magazines than we could read in a month).
Then, at 6am Friday morning, complete with toast and honey wrapped in foil and hot tea in travel cups, our 8 hour, 740km (460MI) road trip began.
We were in for a hot one – it was already 28°C.
Toll way to the city, Westgate Bridge across the Yarra, M80 Ring Road to the A8 Western Highway; a smooth, clear run to the goldfields, past Ballarat, then Beaufort. About 20km from Ararat we pass the Challicum Hills Wind Farm, where we see about 10 of the 64 turbines rotating majestically in what is a fairly stiff breeze. On to Ararat.
Now 35°C (95°F). Just over 200km (124MI) done. Time to swap drivers.
Ararat has a nice story. Following the huge gold rushes of the early 1850s, Chinese miners arrived in number in 1854. Their presence on the goldfields resulted in riots, killings and segregation and eventually an entry tax of 1 Pound (about A$130 today) for each Chinese person to land at Melbourne ports. So the penniless Chinese started landing in Adelaide (for free) and WALKED the 630km to the goldfields (taking about a week). In 1857, what is now Ararat was a small shanty town on the Adelaide – Melbourne road, until passing Chinese miners struck gold there. Ararat boomed and the Chinese became a substantial part of the new town’s community. Karma.
On to Stawell on the edge of the beautiful Grampian National Park. Then Horsham, and into the flat plains of north-west Victoria to Nhill, the official half-way point to Adelaide. About 350km (217MI) to go.
There’s not a real lot to see at Nhill, and in my glorious ignorance I always suspected the name was a fancy way of spelling Nil -nothing, nada, zip. But no. Nhill is believed to be an aboriginal word meaning “early morning mist rising over water” or the like. So there.
Temperature outside now 39°C (102°F) (the engine is cool and running well and I’m glad I had it serviced!).
We keep rolling, aiming to be across the border before coffee time. Bordertown looked like a good candidate, but nothing appealed, so on to Keith. Just inside the town and lo, that most enticing of signs: BAKERY. A small faded yellow weatherboard building with a faded red tin roof.
We’d been on the road nearly 6 hrs and travelled about 500km (311MI). Temperature now touching 42°C (107.6°F). We stopped and stepped inside.
IT was cool and dark, and interesting. People sitting at tables in a room the size of a small cafe. Walls covered with old newspaper articles, posters and the like. Patchy laminate on the floor. To the right, unexpectedly, a room full of old (“Vintage”) iron and crockery on tables and the floor, some of it with recognisable functions, and with what seem to me to be hopeful prices.
Straight ahead behind the tables we emerged into the food shop, with the usual glass counter, bain-marie and a fair selection of baked goods. An expresso machine over to one side, with a young female barista pumping out the good stuff. To the right of the counter, another large room with an ice cream freezer, rows of packaged foods and newspapers. And other stuff.
Sitting discreetly to one side, a table was propped against the wall. Taped above, a hand-written sign: Free Tea and Coffee. Below the sign, on the table sat a full, steaming hot water urn, teabags, instant coffee, sugar and a stack of takeaway paper cups. The shop was fairly crowded, but no takers: we all wanted expresso. Or maybe some of us didn’t see the sign until it was too late.
I ordered and stood back. Yet another room appeared behind me, off to the left: sort of a glamourous sitting room, with soft, lumpy carpet, couches, multi-coloured LEDs and pictures of old movie stars. The couch looked comfy, so we sat. And wondered. Coffee forgotten. Until the barista called…
Leaving the lounge, a woman with a cashbox appeared, sitting at a table. Collecting money? An entrance fee? A raffle? We studiously unsaw each other and moved on.
We collected our drinks and headed for the car. Julie sipped hers and said: “You forgot one word when you ordered: hot.” I sipped mine: lukewarm.
“Did you expect a normal latte? From here?
Let’s try for hot coffees here again next Thursday, unless it’s gone back to Gallifrey* by then.”
We got into the car and headed west for Adelaide.
To Tailem Bend, nestled beside the mighty Murray, over the Murray bridge at Murray Bridge, into the lush green Adelaide hills and finally, into the suburbs. Mr Google Maps led us to Anzac Highway and on to Adelaide’s favourite beachside palindrome, Glenelg, and to the Ensenanda Motel, our home for the next 6 days.
780km (485MI), 8.5 hours, still 42°. Tired, but ready for the next phase of our Adelaide holiday we opened the door to Room 18.
* Dr Who’s home planet