Adelaide Travellers Inn

Trip Start Jan 13, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Adelaide Travellers Inn
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Saturday, May 19, 2012

Adelaide Travellers Inn was our home for a couple of weeks about 9 months ago when we were looking for work, so returning there had a strange 'coming home' kind of feeling about it. It was chosen purely for the fact it has a car-park and we can sleep in the van for $7.50 each a night. Once again we took up job hunting and in-between long stints perfecting resumes and applying for jobs, we settled in and made friends.

Anna, a well-spoken blonde 18 year old girl from England who worked at the florist over the road introduced herself to us over the ‘shock’ news of Whitney Houston’s’ death and it didn’t take her long to announce that her previous job of door-to-door sales sent her into a mental breakdown. She is one of those girls who falls "in love" with boys she has seen once, is very sensitive to caffeine and cries a lot. There is something very endearing about this young girl on the cusp of growing up and struggling with it immensely; torn between her maturing mind and the desires of a teenager. I didn’t know at this point we were to become very good friends, even though Vicky had mentioned on several occasions she believed we were “cut from the same cloth.” We spent a lot of time drinking coffee, dealing with temporary heartbreak and the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Malachy O’Connor was our car-park neighbour, a professional busker living in his white Ford panel van. From Perth in Western Australia, he’d left the other half of his band (his brother Oisin) at home and hit the road, busking his way around the country to promote the music of Oisin and Malachy. Each morning he’d set off bare foot on his skateboard, guitar in one hand and milk crate in the other, heading to Rundle Mall, the main shopping street. He’d return in the afternoon, count his money (honestly, a surprising amount) and logically enter the details into a Microsoft Excel Spread sheet; this seemed odd for the creative man he his. Malachy has a rich evocative voice and plays his guitar like it’s an extension of his body, experimenting with the extremes of his vocal range without fear. He is driven, irresistibly handsome and quirky without pretention. He also stares with his piercing blue eyes like a serial killer while he eats and talks about his love of breasts in the shape of grapes…so he isn’t perfect, but I will always associate this part of the trip with him and the ‘big sister’ affection I felt towards him. Have a listen…Oisin And Malachy.

Chloe pretty much runs the hostel and keeps everyone in check. She finds everyone jobs, she’s everyone’s shoulder to cry on, a true matriarch. The place would fall apart without this Wonder-woman from Dagenham. She doesn’t take any trouble from anyone, least of all Carlos the Columbian runaway whose visa had expired and was awaiting his court date for a GBH charge. He didn’t show up to court, Chloe kicked him out and he went to live in a park. Rumour has it he’s now under the care of the local psychiatric unit.

Like many hostels, Adelaide Travellers Inn became a halfway house for those ‘financially challenged’ and stuck in the unemployment limbo. It’s at times like this that a real sense of community appears. People who would normally never come together suddenly spend every waking minute in each other’s pockets. It’s easy to feel like a participant on the ‘Big Brother’ TV show as you become increasingly involved in a social dynamic you never expected; because lets’ face it, I didn’t expect to be hanging around in the same hostel for several months. Perhaps I was a little too proud, presuming I wouldn’t suffer the same fate as many travellers do because I have been sensible and organised. But sometimes, shit happens.

The walls of the Travellers Inn have certainly seen and heard some stories over the years. In the 1930’s the building used to be a hotel with the best restaurant in town taking up the ground floor. The wealthy clientele would fill the place with fur and jewels and raucous laughter of an evening while the chef created masterpieces for them to devour. The bar would stay open late while women smoked cigarettes from ornate cases and men knocked back rum in cut crystal glasses. A far cry from the current clientele, lounging around the living room in their pyjamas and rip-off Ugg Boots.

Eventually the building became the Clarice Motel but functioned more as a long term lodge for some unsavoury characters. It became known as the local “shooting gallery” for those whose weapon of choice took the form of a filled syringe; the place also acted as a respite for unmarried pregnant girls. When the current proprietor took over the building and turned it into a backpackers’ hostel he spent the first 18months sat behind the front desk with a baseball bat and the police on speed dial. Distressed women would arrive in taxi’s, the early stages of pregnancy showing itself as a neat bump through their loose clothing, and they would hurry into reception with tears in their eyes and beg for “the safe room.” Nobody knows which room was the safe room, or what exactly made it so safe. It was almost guaranteed that a man would follow shortly after, describing the woman just seen and asking her whereabouts. Other characters would turn up looking for people who owed drugs or money. Some would arrive asking for loans or a hiding place. The current proprietor ended up setting up a community helpline not just to help these people out, but also to divert the unwanted traffic from his hostel.

Now a well-established backpacker’s hostel, things are generally a lot calmer and most of the clientele behave reasonably well, completely unaware of the history embedded in the building. The place isn’t without its ghosts though. Rumour has it; the ghost of a well-dressed woman roams the hall around room 12, presumably a guest of the hotel in the heights of its successful and fashionable era. And around the main hallway the ghost of a man burned alive in his room evidently has some unfinished business and waits there, for his killer perhaps? To settle a debt? Who knows. The building is time-weary, sighing and sagging, exhausted by the weight of its colourful past. Gaudy carpets stretch down corridors. Tarnished mirrors reflect dusty bookcases and travellers sat at laptops. The balcony hosts vibrant parties, everyone drinking cheap wine from boxes and borrowing cigarettes from one another. And the car park…well that was home to Vicky, Malachy, I and other occasional visitors in their vans.

We spent a good couple of months struggling by at Travellers Inn. We tried various dodgy call centre jobs for various dodgy bosses, getting ripped off when it came to pay day. We also sold sunglasses for a day at the soundwave festival which turned out to be one of the best day’s work we’d ever done! But it’s not all grim. Thank you to Chloe we ended up landing a few free tickets to some great events. We saw Tumble Circus at the Fringe Festival and Wee Andy at the Holden Theatre. We even got free trackside tickets to the final race of the Clipsal 500 V8 races, including the post-race concert with Good Charlotte. I won us tickets to see Tina C, a drag cabaret act. The weather was good; Adelaide was as beautiful as ever. We kept our heads high and smiles on our faces for as long as possible, even though the lack of cash was beginning to get us down. Adelaide was a living oxymoron for us. One day brought festival fun and sunshine, the next would bring an inbox full of job rejection emails. One day would bring more free tickets and time with good friends, the next our van was broken into. Yup. Billy got broken into and our cameras were stolen. All of my photos of Adelaide were gone; our passenger side door was screwed. I think this was the final straw really.

Shortly after that we decided to cut our losses and run. My wonderful auto-immune illness, Lupus, decided to rear its ugly head, leaving me flattened by fatigue and pain, pushing us both even further down into the dumps. And the bank balance shrivelled, leaving us to depend on good friends and family for bail outs – something we promised ourselves we’d never do.

With our tails between our legs, feeling beaten, we took the van and headed to our home away from home, Renmark. I knew at that point that we couldn’t leave things with Adelaide on bad terms. We had to go back. We had to make it work. There is something special about Adelaide and I wasn’t about to give up on the place, we’d fought so hard already and I knew as soon as the Lupus gave me a break I’d be back up and fighting for it again. Adelaide would just have to bear with us for a while…
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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