Entering Wine Country

Trip Start May 10, 2009
Trip End Jun 30, 2009

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Where I stayed
Clare Caravan Park

Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday 23rd April and we decided on an early morning start so that we could set out on our 578 km journey and arrive at a reasonable time in Clare. We left Streaky Bay at 0735 with rain falling which was a new experience on this holiday as up to now it had been very dry. We were now on a minor road on our way to Poochera where we would meet up with the Eyre Highway again and turn right towards Kimba, said to be the halfway point across Australia. We passed through the small towns of Minnipa that had signs saying it was Granite country, Yaninee, Wudinna with its large granite sculpture celebrating the farmers of the area, Kyancutta and Soloman before driving into Kimba.

Kimba is a little bigger than the other towns and services the local rural community.  The town's claim to fame is the Big Galah that sits outside the local tourist shop. Diesel prices were still very high and I calculated that we would have plenty to reach the town of Iron Knob about 90 kilometres down the track. Little did we know that the garage at Iron Knob had closed down and we would be unable to buy fuel there which resulted in bit of a panic attack as we had emptied our Jerrycans into the car earlier and they were sitting empty in the back of the Pajero!  We had no alternative but to carry on towards Port Augusta and hope that our fuel would last the distance. Thirty kilometres out from Port Augusta we came upon a huge duststorm with high winds and our visibility at times was down to about 50 metres. At the 20 kilometre marker to Port Augusta, the fuel computer died and the red light  indicating low fuel began to shine brightly so it was now touch and go whether we would make the nearest service station. As we drew closer to the town our blood pressure slowly went down as every kilometre we travelled meant less distance to walk should the worst happen and we got stuck along the road. As it was, we did make it to the first service station in town where I put in 79 litres of diesel into our 80 litre fuel tank - talk about relief! Running out of diesel is not just a matter of putting more into the tank as the fuel system has to be bled to rid the pipes of air as well. At that point we vowed that when travelling in the outback we would fill the tank whenever we could get fuel whether we needed it or not. After a short break we carried on towards Clare. The rain had really set in by this time and the next 190 kilometres was wet just about all the way. Clare is renowned for its wine growing but this was not apparent to us until we were almost in the town, as the countryside of the northern part of the Clare Valley was still very brown from the drought that South Australia has been having and despite the rain today, still looked like a desert. The Caravan Park was a welcome sight and it was still raining as we booked in for three nights.  This was our  first time setting up the van in the rain with the ground around us so soggy that we didn't bother to put up the awning or the annexe.  We had an easy dinner and then a relaxing evening and early night after our long day of travel. 
The next morning the rain had eased and with a map of Clare in hand, we walked around the town stopping at the historic sites marked on the map and running under cover each time we had another sudden downpour. We climbed up to the lookout which gave us good views over the town before making our way back to the main street.  After restocking our depleted food store at the local supermarket, we enjoyed some wine tasting at the Knappstein winery where we also bought a box of one of their many good wines which was being offered at a special price!  We still had time to drive up to Brooke Lookout from where we had a fantastic view of the Clare Valley even if we did nearly get blown away.  After a good curry for lunch which had been cooking all morning in our Thermos Shuttle Chef, we spent the afternoon doing our laundry and drying it in the park driers.  After all the chores were complete, we relaxed together over a cup of tea and then set up dinner consisting of tapas, cheese, cold meat and a dukkah platter making a very delicious evening meal.  As we had done the previous two evenings before bedtime, we watched the last of our Bourne DVDs, before settling in for the night.

We had a good sleep-in the next morning and woke about 8am to the sound of noisy kookaburras singing in the park trees.  As it was Margaret's birthday, she sat back relaxing and watching the Andre Rieu DVD at Schönbrunn Palace while Mike and Lesley cooked a slap-up birthday breakfast of mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, bacon and toast.  By mid morning we were  dressed up and ready to head out to continue our celebrations.  The rain held off as we first drove up to Quarry Hill Lookout, where we enjoyed the great view from the car, as the wind was too cold and strong to venture out.  The rain started again as we arrived at the Sevenhill Market so we continued on and we were pleased that the rain stopped when we arrived at the Sevenhill Jesuit Winery for us to take a photo of the impressive metal sculpture high in the sky.  Making good use of the lull in the rain, we drove down a dirt track and through the Spring Gully Conservation Park to the lookout to briefly enjoy another lovely view.  After the cold wind, it was good to go inside the nearby Annie's Lane Winery for wine tasting after which we bought a bottle of their best.  Next stop was Penna Lane where we enjoyed their Bernese Mountain Dog Panda Port which was so smooth and their three dogs were so gorgeous so we just had to buy a bottle of their Port with a picture of The Dog on the label.  We had built up a good appetite by 1pm when we arrived at the Skillogalee Winery Restaurant where Lesley had booked a table for our birthday lunch.  The cosy, though busy place was a great choice and we enjoyed both the celebration and the delicious food.  Margaret had two entrees, the yummy salmon with asparagus terrine and the seafood pasta, while Lesley had a special duck pie and Mike tucked into a great steak cooked to perfection.  The meal was completed with the dessert wine tasting as we left Skillogalee.  It started raining hard by the time we were back in the car heading towards Martindale Hall, so we just took a photo and drove back to the caravan.  We relaxed in the evening, enjoying listening to the rain outside and watching Lesley pack her bags ready for her flight to Sydney from Adelaide the next day.

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