Rather than spending the Easter Monday holiday holed up at home, Yani and I decided to drive to Strathalbyn – a town located around 60kms from Adelaide. It’s a town that very few tourists know about, but fondly known by the locals. I’d like to keep Strathalbyn as one of South Australia’s best kept secrets as well, but I thought I’d share it with you. Rather than being overrun by tourists like Victor Harbor, Strath (Strathalbyn’s nickname) is quiet and sleepy – it’s as if the town were frozen in 1950’s. The presence of a big Woolworth’s supermarket does remind you that ‘progress’ has arrived here as well – but I do hope that Strath will be able to keep its charm for a long time to come.
I visited Strath for the first time in September 2009 when Yani and I had our pre-wedding photo shoots here. I had known about Strath for a long time and I thought that it would be great to have our photos taken there. We had a great time there along with Vito (our friend who took the photos) and Verena (another friend who helped to direct our poses). So when I learned about the extra long weekend, I suggested to Yani that we should revisit Strath.
The drive there didn’t go all that smoothly – I started by panicking over a lost bag that I was sure I brought home from church yesterday. I had my camera and my Bible in the bag – and then Yani reminded me whether I had brought it with me over to Glenelg. Then I remembered that I must have left it in the café. I did. So, after filling some petrol in the nearest servo, rather than driving all the way to the Hills, I had to drive to the Bay to pick my bag up. After we had my bag safely with us, we took the South-Eastern Freeway to Mount Barker – and having driven here previously when we went to Hahndorf on Friday, I knew much better what gear to take and how to tackle the road. 🙂 I turned off the aircon to give Burt the extra power boost that it needed. Burt is like an old-fashioned gentleman sometimes. It takes a while before he accelerates to 100 km/h – almost reluctantly, like a tuxedoed aristocrat who sighs, “Must I, really?”. 🙂 When he does accelerate, he does it very well – so I’m not complaining. 😎
It was quite an experience driving around the Hills with Hans Zimmer’s “Now We are Free” Gladiator soundtrack playing through the soundsystem. In fact, the whole The Wings of a Film CD provided great soundtrack to my drive to Strathalbyn. [Freedom is my theme this month!] 🙂
(A sidenote, I listened to this track in my bus to Wanaka, South Island in 2000 and it was an unforgettable experience to listen to such a magnificent music with majestic hills and mountains unfolding right before my eyes).
I managed to drive pretty well until we arrived in Strathalbyn – in a moment of concentration lapse, I hit the power pedal rather than the brake, in an intersection. Fortunately, our guardian angels were hard at work, so we didn’t have any damage to our car nor to other cars. After that incident, we felt that we should park the car somewhere in the town centre and just relax. We walked around the Soldiers Memorial Garden in a beautiful sunny autumn day – blue sky, cool breeze, with the sun brilliantly shining on us. The meandering River Angas also provides Strath with a beautiful water feature – and complete with the lush grassy area on its banks, the garden is simply stunning. We then continued to walk over to St Andrews Uniting Church where we had our photos taken nearly two years ago.
Feeling peckish already, we stopped at Argus House Shop and Patisserie Café where Yani and I had penne pasta for lunch. We then drove to High Street, where we also visited in 2009 – the street is lined with quaint buildings and shops. There are a lot of antique stores over there as well, so if you are a collector of some sorts, you will probably feel at home surrounded by so many curios and knick-knacks from yesteryears. Walking around, I felt as if we had been visiting some kind of antique supermarket as the shops stock a lot of things! From hairclips from 1930s, old photographs, old coffee grinders, to porcelain dinnerwares and crystal glasses. We also visited a nursery owned by British-born owners (judging from their accent) – I didn’t buy any plants though, none of them caught my interest.
As it was already around 3.30pm, I suggested that we head back to Adelaide before it got dark, so we made our way back to the roads. We missed a turn so we ended up taking the Angas River scenic route via Macclesfield, Flaxley and Echunga. The meandering road provided me with a real unsupervised country-driving test – I had two dramatic moments there as well, when I didn’t control the vehicle as well as I could and when I drove to the kerb far too soon that my side mirror nearly clipped a pole. All in all, we were all okay – Yani, myself and Burt. 🙂 After such mental sport, I opted to drive to Mt Barker and then rejoined the Freeway rather than continuing the scenic route. Maybe next time we will try the scenic route again! 🙂
We initially wanted to stop at Hahndorf for some coffee, but as there was no exit to Hahndorf, we ended up making our detour to Stirling where we had a platter of dips with crusty bread at The Organic Market and Café. I also had a big glass of latté just to perk up my attention again. 🙂 The beautiful autumn colour coupled with the late afternoon sunshine calmed us down – it was a good finale of a great trip to the Hills. The drive back to Adelaide was smooth and without any dramas – this time around, The Lighthouse Family – a British pop duo from late 1990’s and early 2000’s provided the soundtrack to my driving. I didn’t realise that their songs were such a great driving music! I will definitely head back to the Hills again before autumn is over! 🙂
Before I finish this blog entry, I thought I’d leave you with a song that I was introduced to when I watched the hit French movie, Amelie. Visiting Strathalbyn is like travelling back through time – back to the days of courtesy and gentility, and this song somehow captures that sense perfectly.
So next time you have a holiday in Australia, do yourself a favour and get away from the tourist traps and head over to places like Strath. She’s like a trusty friend who reminds you of the good old days! 🙂