Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hiking and Bouldering in the Adelaide Hills, Shipwrecks and Dolphins

On Sunday afternoon, we arrived at Rocky Paddock Campground in Mount Crawford Forest Reserve to an inferno of picnic fires and blazes. Apparently, 90% of the Adelaide population drives up to the Adelaide Hills on the weekends armed with fire starters and launches their own personal conflagration. We had to wait until about 6.00 pm when the last of the arsonists finally left before we could pull into a campsite. Strangely enough, people weren't camping at the campground, just having incendiary blazes, while the picnic area was eerily quiet. In summer, the South Australian forest service gates and bans camping in these forest parks because they can't trust the Australians not to light a campfire. Australians are strangely (at least to a Canadian) given to ignoring rules, regulations and laws that they don't agree with. Interfering with an Australian's right to have a campfire is tantamount to asking the Pope to convert to Judaism. It just isn't done. It's common to see a big ugly fire pit right next to, and partly consuming, a wooden sign indicating fires are not allowed. 

Luckily, it rained overnight thus extinguishing all the campfires that had been left burning and making us much happier campers. We've been hanging about this campsite for about five nights now. During the week, the campsite is empty and it's really pleasant with big pine trees, open green grassy meadows, granite boulders scattered about, and a few hiking tracks accessible from the campground. It's a pleasant short walk up the Warren Fire Tower lookout - the tower is fenced off but the hill is open, spacious and there is a good view over the Adelaide Hills. A sign on top points out various "mountains" in the area, but you'd be hard pressed to distinguish one from the other. The countryside is more rolling than mountainous I'd say. 

 Warren Tower Hill view

You can also meander along forest roads and the Heysen track to the top of Mount Crawford, deliriously high at 525 metres (the same height as the Warren Fire Tower), but the summit has grown in so there are scant views. The track, however, does pass the ruins of an old sandstone Presbyterian Church and an old graveyard with graves dating back to the late 1800's. There is also pretty reasonable bouldering around the campground on granite boulders of varying heights and difficulties. The landings are good, and, even after rain the boulders seem to dry pretty quickly, although that might have something to do with the terrific winds which have been blowing for the better part of the week.

 Stocky old gray haired lady bouldering

One day, we took the O-Bahn into Adelaide and visited the extensive Art Gallery and Museum of South Australia. Both have so many exhibits that you get overwhelmed pretty quickly and it's not possible to see everything. Lots of beautiful old sandstone buildings in Adelaide and the O-Bahn, which is a bus that runs on a train track is super efficient and inexpensive. 

Today we drove down to Port Adelaide; as good as the O-Bahn is, I don't think we could have got the sea kayaks on board, and paddled around Garden Island. This is not the sort of place you'd normally go for a peaceful paddle as it is right by the Port of Adelaide and there is a big coal fired power plant on the island, but, there is a pod of about 30 bottlenose dolphins that live in the Port River and more than 300 visiting dolphins have been recorded in the dolphin sanctuary. The other attraction is the Ships' Graveyard where a number of old sailing vessels have been beached and dismantled. While this might sound like a rotting pile of garbage, these are actually ships from the 1800's and are historical relics. Plus, ships beached like this always become artificial reefs and attract all kinds of bird and sea life. 

Hull of the Dorothy H. Stirling

We spent a pleasant few hours paddling around Garden Island, at least half of that time we spent watching a few dolphins foraging and feeding. Normally dolphins are pretty skittish and even in a kayak you can not approach too closely, but these dolphins are obviously used to a lot of boat traffic and were quite happy swimming only a metre or so from our boats, swimming underneath our hulls, or sculling by on their sides looking at us. While they were fishing, a very persistent pelican followed along hoping for a free fish meal and every so often they would swim at the pelican and shoo it off. It was all very entertaining. 

 Watching the dolphins foraging

Tomorrow is Friday, and the first of the arsonists is likely to arrive so we'll be moving on. It's time to get closer to Arapiles and death by sandbag anyway.

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