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The Road Less Travelled

Posted by on 28 December, 2011

When travelling, I always like to see somewhere new. There are some places that I enjoy going back to and wish I could spend more time at, but generally, if I have the choice I prefer to see what I have not yet seen.

Today, that was the choice we made when deciding which route to take as we continued our journey…we have turned the corner and are now heading for home…we have opted to take the northerly option from Adelaide, up through the Barossa Valley, a region that is internationally recognised for it’s outstanding wines. I think the map showed over 50 wineries in the district. I am not a big wine drinker myself, I don’t mind the occasional glass of sweet, white wine or a bit of bubbly…but I don’t have the palate for the dry whites or the full bodied reds that so many people enjoy. Driving along through acre after acres of vineyards with the bright green leaves, I noticed a few differences and created my own theories of the reasons for them. Firstly, the thickness of the stems (trunks, vines…we couldn’t decide what they would be called, but what I mean is the part from the ground to where the leafy section starts), my theory is that the very thick ones are really old, they are twisted and gnarly looking. Secondly, the height of the vines, some were much shorter than the others, while some seemed much taller…my theory, to lower ones are older and were built before harvesting was done by machine, while the taller ones are built to a height that allows for the little tractors to slip down the rows and harvest the grapes quickly. Finally, I noticed that well known producers grow different types of grapes in different areas, I saw a Wolf Blass field several kilometres from another and then their Winery and Cellar Door in a different location again…my theory initially was that they must have wanted to purchase more land and couldn’t get anymore near their first farm…I soon found out this is most likely not the case.

To enlighten ourselves and learn more about the area and winemaking, we went to the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre. Now, Jacob’s Creek is a brand that I recognise easily and it was one of the Wineries that I wanted to visit from the list…little did I know that it is one of the largest and most commercialised ‘Cellar Doors’ in the Barossa. With a large function rooms, restaurant, store, tasting area, demonstration vineyard, historical information about the development of the brand and also the region, it was almost like a mini museum and also housed an animal section (we didn’t go there though so I don’t know what it was like). We tasted a few wines, but nothing really sang to me, so we didn’t buy anything there.

We drove on to Tanunda and picked up some lunch, which we took up to the Mengler’s Hill Lookout and Sculpture Park. The girls found out what a Cheese Kransky was…and enjoyed tasting it too (lucky Dave also bought himself a pastie). The lookout over this section of theBarossaValleywas nice, seeing the neat rows and the sections of new vines from above, with the large buildings used to make the wine and the town nested in the middle. The sculpture park was different, built on the side of the hill, it is home to about a dozen or so sculptures made from large rocks of varying materials. I am not an art critic…but some of these looked like rocks, not works of art. I am sure the artist spent many hours creating them and to them they represent some deep inner vision…but I am afraid there weren’t my cup of tea…a few were okay though. What we did notice was the significant difference in the thermal properties of the rock…the black ones were very hot (it is a hot sunny day, so that is to be expected)…the white ones though were amazingly cool, even the parts that must have had sun beating down on them for hours where only what you would call luke warm and the parts in the shade were cool to cold.

After lunch, we went back to Tanunda to visit the Chateau Tanunda…a cellar door which actually is the door to the cellar…with rows and rows of barrels inside, from the small to the very large (I’ll add a photo shortly of Amanda standing beside one). The Chateau has a romantic and tragic past, which possible adds to the atmosphere today and the reason it is a popular wedding venue. Whilst we were there tasting a few wines…one of which was a nice Moscato that we both liked, so we bought a bottle….a red stretch limousine pulled up outside. I didn’t see who hopped though so not sure if it was anyone famous, or just someone that wanted to treat themselves or a friend. It may have been something that we noticed anyway, but one of our main reasons for being excited about the limo was that it is one of the items on the new spotto list that we made as we drove out of Adelaide this morning.

The new spotto list includes: an emu (done); a winery (done); a wine barrel (done); a kangaroo that must be alive (not yet, due to the added criteria); a windmill (done); a sign that says Toowoomba (not yet); a Black Stump sign (not yet); a police car (not yet, though we did see a police motorcycle); a roadside radar (not yet); a chandelier (not yet…there probably was one in the chateau but we didn’t go into the function rooms); a lizard (maybe, but no photo proof, so not yet); an outhouse (not yet, though Dave believes he saw one, but I disagreed that that is what it was); a chocolate factory (not yet, not sure that we will in this hot part of the land); a Road Train with 3 trailers (not yet, lots of trucks with road train signs but with only 2 trailers) and 1 more that I cannot think of just now…(the list is in the car)

We had picked up a Barossa tourism magazine earlier in the day and I had noticed that there was a ‘Maggie Beer Farmhouse Store’ in Nuriootpa and as that was on our way we decided to stop in and have a look. I have enjoyed watching many episodes of ‘The Cook and The Chef’ on television and for some time wanted to cook the Chicken in Verjuice that sounds so delicious…so off we went to check out the farmhouse. It was cute, perched on the edge of a small, green lake with a few ducks and some turtles, though one of the first and last things we noticed when parking the car and leaving was the awful smell…not sure if it was the pheasant cages next to the car park or something more sinister, but it really was awful. Once inside though, my attention turned to the cookbooks, the jams, relishes, sauces, chutneys, pates and the long awaited verjuice. Everything was available to taste for free, including the Beer Bros Wines, though we didn’t try any of those…except the ice cream, no free taste testing of those, so we just had to buy some to try…both girls picked passionfruit (nice), Dave tried the Dark Chocolate and Orange (which tasted like jaffa…very nice) and I tried the Burnt Fig with Honeycomb and Caramel…which was delicious…almost like Sara Lee Honeycomb and Caramel Swirl, but the burnt fig added an extra layer of flavour that was unique. I had to buy something (I know…) so I bought the verjuice that I had wanted initially, plus a jar of raspberry and pomegranate jam that Amanda was particularly fond of and I also thought was very tasty plus a dvd of the Winter Season episodes of The Cook and The Chef…not to suggest that Dave needs to add to his repertoire, but because I wanted it and I think he will enjoy it too.

Now…to explain my title…the road less travelled (because obviously the roads to Jacobs Creek, Chateau Tanunda and Maggie’s Farmhouse are all quite well travelled)…after leaving Nuriootpa we were headed to our proposed destination of Burra, a small town know for it’s old mining history. We have a touring atlas plus a navman…but neither really gave us enough information to satisfy our desire to go directly to Burra. The altas only shows main roads, not every little street, but it showed a main road heading from Nuriootpa north to Burra with a few minor twists and turns…straight forward enough, but my rough calculations it was about 120km and should take about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on how many things we stopped to photograph). The Navman though wanted us to go out to the highway (to the west and then to the north-east)…this seemed a bit silly as it was about another 20km and the estimated travel time was 2hr15min….so, we decided to take the road heading north out of Nuriootpa…easy…

Well, it wasn’t hard really, but certainly was not what we had expected. After a little way the vineyards gave way to fields of wheat, most harvested already, though a few were in progress still…and the road turned from smooth asphalt to gravel..okay, we can drive on a dirt road, that isn’t a problem…we saw a long line of wind turbines on the top of the range to our east, so we drove on a bit to try and get a better photo…the gravel road continued. We decided that the roads leading to the west…potentially to the highway…were not quite as good as the one we were on, so we opted to continue. Just when we were beginning to question our sanity…not a signpost in sight, not another vehicle and only the occasional stone cottage that appeared as though no one had lived there for more than fifty years, we came to a cross road. It showed a sign to Manoora, a town that appeared on our map, but out on the highway…so we opted to continue north (or what we believed was north). We saw little finches, huge hawks, fields and fields of honey coloured wheat, more wind turbines and a blue metal quarry…lots of old stone cottages and stone fences from perhaps a hundred of more years ago….and then, a sign that said Burra pointing in the direction we were going (hear a soft sigh of relief). Even though it was nearly 7pm (only about 75min from Nuriootpa) the sun was still high in the sky and we were now only 5 minutes from Burra.

We arrived safe and sound at our destination of the day, checked at the local Motor Inn for a room, which they had but for a higher price than we were prepared to pay (and it was their last room and they weren’t willing to negotiate)…so we drove to the Burra Hotel and founding lodgings for half the price…clean and comfortable…enough for one night…a shared bathroom but that is no different to a caravan park or camping…and a restaurant downstairs with reasonably priced meals and a kitchen that was thankfully open until 8pm (it was now about 7:30pm).

So, I am now sitting out on the verandah, having watched the sun set and the moon and a planet rise, typing this blog and feeling very happy about my day…and ready to have a sleep and get up to do it all again.

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