South Australia

When you leave the east coast of Australia all the states just have directional names not names of British derivatives. East side; Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales. Rest; Western Australia, Southern Australia, Northern Territory. The capital is technically Canberra which no one really cares about and then of course there is Tasmania but that’s separate.

We escaped the lockdown in Victoria and just made it across the boarder to regional New South Wales for my friend’s car to break down. Out of the pot and into the frying pan. We spent the weekend waiting for the mechanic in Deniliquin, a town of 8,000 people and also the self proclaimed “Ute Capital of Oz”. When the car was finally fixed we drove over to Midura, the boarder town with Victoria that had the highway that accessed South Australia. The next highway in NSW was 10 hours north so not really a realistic detour but at all costs we were trying to avoid driving through Victoria. These states are serious about not letting people across and the police literally check boarder permits like they are immigration papers. With the lockdown looking at lasting more than a week we were not trying to get sucked back into that mess.

We found an unsealed road that took us through the farmland of NSW to SA. With no other options we camped the night before and woke up early to drive ourselves across. As we approached we saw large signage flashing cryptic warnings about restricted access. We braced ourselves for what was ahead literally holding our breathe as we watched the dotted line on google maps approach. With no police presence, because truly no one cares enough to wait in the outback for permit control, we sailed across the unpaved road into SA in around an hour. We arrived in the famous wine country of Barossa Valley and celebrated with beers. Traveling with boys is sometimes silly.

The plan was to explore South Australia while our other friend’s car was being repaired. Note to backpackers: do not buy old Nissan Pathfinders, they will cost you more money than you save in the end. We spent the week in Adelaide, exploring the gardens, the riverwalks, and went to a soccer game.

After that instead of heading to Kangaroo Island as planned we decided to explore the southern peninsula near Adelaide. Camping around this area is beautiful as there are so many lakes, oceans, and rivers that you can post up at, making for beautiful mornings but some crazy nights. Even with all of the chaos camping gives you such a sense of peace and shows how nature balances itself. Camping at Lake Alexandria brought almost freezing temperatures. The placid lake we awoke to in complete silence was stunning. When we went to Rapid Bay for the night, the ocean threw wild winds our way and put the tent stakes to the test. That morning I jumped in the furious ocean feeling more awake and alive than I can explain. Finally we went to Murray River to enjoy the serenity but experienced a dust storm that turned into a steady night of rain. By morning the rain had cleared and we woke up to a chorus of birds. By the end of it I think my tent passed every test and I could have been in a commercial for the brand. Spinifex call me if you wanna sync up.

The plan was to drive straight from Adelaide through to Perth as a caravan. Some drama transpired and one of the boys decided he didn’t feel like exploring the coastline anymore and he was just going to drive straight through. Boys, am I right? No thank you – a 10 hour drive for the next 4 days did not sound like my type of ride. My butt hurts just thinking about sitting for that long. I was dropped in Adelaide and within an hour I had my flight purchased to Perth, one way of course.

In the meantime I had another weekend to explore SA. I planned to head down to Mount Gambier for the Blue Lake and Coonawarra for more wine. We had only explored two wineries in Barossa which is way more well known for their wines. Honestly I would have never heard of Coonawarra if not for an Aussie friend (thanks Tessa!).

I took the bus down to Mount Gambier which was 8 hours of staring out the window at grass and the occasional sheep. Eventually I made it there and waited for my friend to arrive. He was coming from Victoria where they were still in extreme lockdown. He lives 4 hours from Melbourne and still he had restrictions even with no covid found in is immediate area. I assumed because he was one of these boarder towns that he would be able to cross without a problem. The police thought differently though and told him without a permit he couldn’t enter. He calls me livid, I become hysterical. After a few minutes we come up with a plan.

I use my google logistics skills and find him a back road like we used from NSW to SA. I literally drop the coordinates like I am in some kind of 007 movie and send them to him. He says he will try to take it and then I sit and wait. 40 minutes go by and I am about to literally loose my mind when I hear his car pull up. He actually drove through a sandy road through a pitch black forrest but I guess this is when it pays to have a 4wd truck.

The rest of the weekend went by beautifully. We walked around the farmers market, then the Blue Lake, aptly named as it is blue, that sits in an old volcano, and then drove up to Coonawarra for some wine. It is overwhelming how much wine is here. There is vineyard after vineyard for the entire drive. We googled which ones had free tastings and then drove in. That night we went glamping, since my camping trip had been cut short I was still craving those peaceful nights by the fire under the stars.

Glamping at a winery

I left him Sunday and made my way back to Adelaide for the night. I had negotiated, along with my lower rate, to have my bags stored at the hotel I was staying at over the weekend. I also had my camping stuff for sale on Facebook. I sold the camping mat, and checked in for my flight. My friend Ummi was in town for her birthday which made for a beautiful last day exploring the gardens and rivers of Adelaide. At 8pm, I flew out west to Perth.

The two week unexpected vacation in South Australia was a success and a true testament to if there is a will, there is a way.

The Route from NSW down through SA totally avoiding VIC

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