Thank you for reading & viewing my mementos & musings. I hope you enjoy the following visual & written story that ensues, all taken in Adelaide, South Australia.
Adelaide; described in a thick Australian slur as “the ass-end of Australia”. This is what I grew up understanding about Adelaide. “They’re a little bit backwards down South”. I never really knew what that meant until I visited in 2007. For an early-20-something-year old girl from the big smoke I found it to be sedate, to say the least, and I didn’t appreciate it. I was a convert to the mind-set that Adelaide was a bit ‘old-fashioned’ & ‘behind in the times.’ I wouldn’t visit for another 8 years later and surprisingly I decided to make it my “Australian base” for 3 years.
If I mentioned I was visiting/living in Adelaide people would ask perplexed, “why”? I would always joke that the best thing about Adelaide is how easy it is to leave.
But seriously, it is. The airport is the most efficient I’ve ever experienced. Growing up in Sydney, I would give myself a few hours to get to the airport and away on time. There is the inevitable traffic congestion to contend with, along with the long lines for bag drop, bag collection, public transport or taxis; it can literally take half a day to get from or to home.
Not Adelaide, you touch down, collect your bags with ease, taxi queues are minimal and with Adelaide being a small town, everything is so close, so you’re home within pretty much an hour of touch down.
Adelaide is often endearingly referred to as a ‘big country town’. Flying in from above you see the Adelaide Hills hug the city on one side as it kisses the ocean on the other. In the centre is the quaint little city and it’s tallest high-rise building standing at a cute 132 meters high with 31 floors. Your eye can follow The River Torrens as it snakes its way from the mountains, diverting through the city as makes it’s exit out to sea. It’s this accessibility that makes Adelaide so charming. You can be in the hills sipping celebrated South Australian wines among lush vineyards within 20 minutes of driving North or if you head 20 minutes West you can be dipping your toes in turquoise waters & crystal white sands on a stretch of beach all to yourself. It’s also why it’s such a good base for a traveller; you can scratch those itchy feet with small adventures close to home whilst saving for the big journeys abroad.
The best time of year to visit Adelaide is what the locals call “Mad March”. The city is abuzz with music, film, art, sports, circus & food festivals that all collide with one another creating a melting pot of culture & whole lotta’ crazy.
The locals emerge from hibernation to enjoy the frivolity that surrounds them. It’s a time they both relish and revile as their quaint little town literally turns into a spectacle. The population sky-rockets with visitors from all over the Nation and the World attending one of the many events held all at once in little ol’ Adelaide town.
There’s the elaborate and creative Fringe Festival which takes over Rundle Park creating a magical fairy land of pop up tents, food stalls and markets called The Garden of Unearthly Delights. This is where local & global artists inject the park with their rambunctious & relentlessly entertaining comedy, burlesque, circus, song & dance. Just down the road you’ll run into the car enthusiasts attending the Adelaide 500 Supercars & hear the roar of their engines where the track takes over the East of the city. While just a skip over the River Torrens, the atmosphere changes completely slipping you into a more leisurely manner as you hear the melodic tunes drifting from Womad, the world music festival that brings the international music stage to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens turning it into an enchanted other-worldly music haven.
The South Australian weather turns it on in March. Hot sunny days with azure blue skies and balmy summer evenings to enjoy the extra sunlight due to daylight-savings. Some days the mercury gets a little too enthusiastic and temperatures reach sweltering. It’s a nostalgic Australian experience to endure a 40+ degree summer day. It somehow brings a community closer together knowing everyone has the same excuse to do absolutely nothing. Particularly when it gets so hot it causes black outs due to the mains power fuses being burnt out. It’s simply time to head to the beach and even with the rest of the population seeking the same relief, you can still find a stretch of beach to yourself along the great South Australian coast line and watch one of the best sunsets over the ocean with candy floss skies as the sun dips behind the seas horizon.
You may even be treated to a complete weather transformation and experience a cracking Adelaide summer storm. Dark clouds roll in from the ocean like a velvet blanket as the sky turns a dusky shade of deep violet whilst you listen to the distant growl of thunder and the smell of respite as the rain cools the hot earth.
But as Mad March comes to an end, the music starts to fade, the fairy lights are dimmed, the circus tents are lowered and the track is dismantled and little ol’ Adelaide returns to its traditional conformity. A month of madness is all the locals can take.
After 3 years in little ol’ Adelaide I developed a love-to-hate and hate-to-love affair with the town, appreciating it more whenever I left. I spent more time escaping Adelaide planning and embarking on grand adventures or short getaways than experiencing it so, I still have so much more of it to see. Like people, I believe places drift in and out of your life cycle offering lessons and enriching your existence. Some places steal pieces of you whilst you deliberately misplace pieces of yourself in others, always feeling the sense that you need to return.
It’s a common feeling among travellers being wracked with the feeling of being homesick but not knowing where home is. I’ve learnt home can be more than just a place, it can be a multitude of things such as a person, a state of mind or simply a feeling. I have since concluded that my home might be “the ass end of Australia” and I find myself longing to pick up the pieces I’ve planted there. Adelaide embraced me after my many travels. It kept me safe, gave me sustenance and taught me lessons. I was continuously looking forward to leaving Adelaide’s small-town mentality whilst always looking forward to returning to its never changing familiarities; there’s a sense of reassurance arriving back to a place I know is slow at evolving.
Whilst you can lose pieces of yourself in places, you can never leave a place without taking pieces of it with you either. After experiencing life in the slow lane, I find myself grateful for little conveniences, small gestures and quiet company. It turns out, a little bit of old-fashioned Adelaide has taken root within me too.