Sunday, November 5, 2017

More travels with a DKW

Our first stop in South Australia was Mount Gambier, just across the state border. Mt Gambier is South Australia's second largest city. It prospered in the 19th century from mining and its large agricultural hinterland. The city is built around the core of an eroded extinct volcano and here you find the city's main tourist attractions, the Blue and Green Lakes. The Lakes are within the flooded craters of the volcano. In the 19th century they became the city's main water source and a pleasant natural reserve was created around them. We stopped for a quick photo opportunity and then decided to carry on.

The Blue Lake

I've never seen Shelly take so many photos of the car.

We drove north to Tarpeena and the Coonawarra. Coonawarra is the red wine capital of South Australia's limestone coast. We stopped for an excellent lunch at Ottelia and Fodder before stopping in at Wynns. Wynns Coonawarra was the first red wine I ever drank and it remains a top quality drop today. Interestingly the terroir of the area is confined to a very thin strip that runs along each side of the main road.

From Coonawarra we continued north to Narracourte and the famous fossil cave system. The caves here preserved the remains of some of Australia's spectacular megafauna, such as giant wombats and kangaroos that stood some ten feet tall.

We arrived too late to do the fossil cave tour though and after a quick visit of the museum we turned west and drove towards Robe on the coast. The landscape between Narracourte and Robe was low lying farmland and coastal scrub. There wasn't a car on the road so we could drive flat out - 70 miles per hour - most of the way. We came across a wombat wandering along the road verge at one point and turned around for a second look but he scurried away into the bush before we could take a photo. It was a timely reminder to pay attention to wildlife. At dusk the kangaroos come out and are the cause of many accidents. By the time we arrived in Robe the sun had well and truly set so we called it night.

We explored Robe the next day. It was a very pleasant small port town that was once a major point of entry for immigrants heading to the Victorian goldfields. During the gold rush of the 1860s Victoria increased port fees to capitalize on the flood of immigrants so ships would pull in at Robe to offload their passengers, who would then travel overland to the goldfields. Robe grew very prosperous for a time but eventually fell into decline towards the end of the 19th century. It is now primarily a summer tourist town.

Main street in Robe.

The beacon at the end of the headland.

The bonnet's up because people are curious about the car. "Two stroke you say?"

From Robe we stopped for a photo opportunity at the Big Lobster in Kingston. Australia is filled with big tourist icons like this - the Big Pineapple, the Big Merino, the Donnybrook Apple, etc. The Big Lobster had been up for auction that weekend but failed to sell.

A long, low barrier island stretches between Kingston and Lake Alexandrina at the head of the Murray River. There are very few stops along the route so we made sure the tank was filled up before we set off - without a fuel gauge it's dangerous to assume! When we pulled over for a rest stop at Meningie an hour and half later, the car refused to start. The engine would spin but just not catch. Not even liberal squirts of 'Start ya Bastard!' would work. It took a good half hour before it finally fired up. Something was clearly up with the car.

We took the free car ferry across the Murray and drove north to Strathalbyn. The town has a reputation as the antiques capital of South Australia. Thanks to the delay on the road we arrived at night and didn't get an opportunity to explore. The town is divided into two halves by the Angas River, with a each side of the town having its own centre. The western side has the modern facilities, such as the banks and shopping centre, while the eastern centre is filled with antique shops. Although we checked out all the shops we did not find anything interesting.

The tourist office in town was extremely helpful and, because we thought we were making good time, we considered heading down to Kangaroo Island. We picked up brochures and information, but this option would quickly be removed from the agenda because when we returned to the car and I checked the radiator it was half empty with a pool of coolant under the car. I topped up the coolant and added another bottle of radiator stop leak.

We turned south and headed towards Goolwa at the mouth of the Murray. I forewarned Shelly that we'd need to find a radiator repairer when we arrived.

It was a 45 minute drive to Goolwa and the radiator was hot when we arrived so we parked the car up under the Hindmarsh Bridge and walked into town for lunch while the radiator cooled down. The construction of the Hindmarsh Bridge caused a huge controversy in the 1980s. The economic justification for the project was non-existent as there were only a dozen people living on Hindmarsh Island. To thwart the project, environmentalists, traditional owners and their lawyers concocted the cock and bull story that the island was culturally significant as the site of 'sacred women's business.' Just what that business was was of course a secret that could not be shared with 'white fellas.' The matter was held up for years in the courts but was eventually thrown out and the bridge was built.

After a very mediocre lunch we found that the nearest radiator specialist was in Victor Harbour, a little further west, so we set course accordingly. When we arrived we found that they'd relocated. The car was running very hot now so we nursed it to their new location, but they took one look at the car and said they were not interested. That was disappointing of course, but worse was the discovery that the radiator tank seam had split and water was squiring out under pressure. The next closest radiator repairer was 40 minutes away in Aldinga, just south of McLaren Vale. I phoned the guy and he said he'd have a look. We had to wait a good two hours for the radiator to cool down enough to block the cracked seam with putty and refill the tank with stop leak. While we waited an elderly German couple pulled over to have a chat and look at the car. They advised they had owned one back in Germany and loved it. They were very surprised to see one here in Australia.

We had a nervous drive to Mclaren Vale but the putty held. The next morning, I dropped the car to Martin at Aldinga Radiator Services and caught the bus back to McLaren Vale.

Let's just say there are worse places to be stranded than McLaren Vale, one of South Australia's premier wine regions. We hired pushbikes from the local tourist office and tried to cycle around the wineries. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but not having ridden a bike since our school days it wasn't long before everything was aching! Still, it was beautiful weather and we got some exercise while enjoying some magnificent wine and food. I think Mclaren Vale's reds were the best we tried in South Australia. Of especial note was Black Chook sparkling shiraz. In my experience sparkling shiraz are rarely any good, but Black Chook was truly outstanding.

The Almond Train. Before vineyards, McLaren Vale was famous for its almond groves.

Penny's Hill Winery. Home of the Black Chook.

Mclaren is very scenic

The fine view from d'Arenberg estate.

D'Arenberg Cube.

After two days the radiator was fixed. Martin advised that the old radiator had been 60% blocked so he'd cleaned it out, re-welded the tank and pressure tested it. He said we'd be lucky if the water temperature now rose about 'cool.' When we arrived in the late afternoon to pick up the car Martin was still fitting the radiator back in the car. His is a one man operation and people continually dropped in throughout the day to distract him. Nevertheless, the refitting only took a few minutes but then, once again, the car refused to start. We fiddled around with the carburetor but that may no difference. Then we noticed that the accelerator lever arms weren't actuating the throttle. The lever moved but the articulation wasn't moving. A quick tighten up with a spanner got the mechanism working again and then we were ready to go.

By the time we got underway it was dusk and we had a longish drive to Hahndorf ahead. Well, it wasn't so much 'long' as it was challenging. Firstly we had to get up and over Penny's Hill, which was a long sweeping steep curve. We struggled up in second gear with a long trail of irritated drivers behind us. I was terrified at the prospect of the accelerator lever failing again leaving us stranded on the road, in the dark. But we made it to the top safely. Then we had a very tense night drive through the Adelaide Hills to Hahndorf. By the time we arrived an hour or so later I was exhausted. The town looked lovely in the night and our accommodation was excellent. We had German food at the main hotel and then called it a night.

The best schnitzel ever!

Hahndorf is one of a dozen or so towns in South Australia that was settled by German Presbyterian exiles in the 1840s. Whole communities left Germany and resettled in the region, bringing with them their language, culture, food and most importantly, wine growing traditions. South Australia has these German's to thank for their number one tourist attraction and export. Hahndorf is extremely pretty but the architecture is scarcely German in style. Being only 45 minutes from downtown Adelaide it's a major tourist attraction. We spent a good few hours wandering the streets, shopping and enjoying the ambience before setting off again.

Lovely stone buildings in Hahndorf

If there was ever a town suited to the DKW....

We continued north to Birdwood, home of the National Motor Museum and final destination of the Bay to Birdwood rally. With 1750 cars attending the Bay to Birdwood we assumed the museum would be somewhat crazy on the day and, as we were driving past anyway, we should stop in and have a look. The museum was in the midst of renovations as a new display from the Holden factory was being installed. The place was almost empty and the power being switched on and off at the time, so they let us in for free. The museum really is excellent with some top class displays and an interesting collection of vehicles.

Prime spot

Holden were originally a saddlery before they began making carriages and later bodying cars.

Henry Hoke's 'spring powered racecar' (a parody) and South Australian manufactured Lightburn Zeta. Lightburn manufactured cement mixers, fridges and washing machines before deciding to build a car. It was terrible!

Port Adelaide tram bus. Shelly's favourite.

The museum has some really excellent displays, such as this one with a Holden FC.

We drove on to the Barossa, probably South Australia's best known wine region. We stayed in the town of Tanunda, which seemed at the time a little small to us given the popularity of the region, but after visiting the other towns in the area we realized Tanunda IS the big centre. We did a winery tour, which was good fun and the wineries we visited were all very generous with their tastings. After two days and nights in Tanunda we relocated to Nurioopta, which we thought was the 'big smoke' but no, it wasn't.

Welcome to Tanunda!

Chateau Tanunda. This magnificent building was restored from a ruin.

Inside Chateau Tanunda

More vineyards

The road to Seppeltsvale. During the depression, returned soldiers were set to planting palm trees around the estate. The result 80 years later is impressive.


The old winery buildings have turned into an arts and crafts studio.

Workers cottages

The town of Angaston in the hills overlooking the Barossa is certainly the prettiest in this area, but it was very quiet on a Sunday.

We took a detour to Greenoch to visit the Greenoch Aviation Museum. This extraordinary museum is the private collection of one man who has over the years picked up dozens of World War Two and inter-war year aircraft. All are to a large extent partly dismantled, but it's still an amazing effort. By my recollection he had in his two enormous sheds 2 De Havilland Mosquito bombers, 3 Avro Anson training and communications aircraft, one De Havilland Vampire jet fighter (complete), 1 Commonwealth Aircraft Corp (CAC) Boomerang fighter (very rare), 2 CAC Wirraway fighter/bombers (very rare), 1 De Havilland Dove airliner, 1 Mustang fighter (complete) and a BEC Canberra bomber (complete). These are just the planes I can remember. I was totally dumbstruck how he'd managed to acquire them, transport them here, dismantle them and reassemble in his sheds. It's a truly amazing effort.

Inside the museum. In the centre is a Vampire jet fighter

Rear view of the Vampire.

In the centre is an Avro Anson and in the foreground a CAC Wirraway.

Mustang fighter

After the Barossa we travelled further north to the Clare Valley. Clare had a totally different feel to the other wine regions. The landscape was less Mediterranean and more 'Australian bush' and the land use was far more mixed than in other areas. There were sheep, wheat, and cattle farms as well as vineyards and fruit orchards. It felt more complete; more organic.

Sevenhills Church

Seven Hills vineyard

Seven Hills is operated by the nearby monastery

Mr Mick's tapas bar and winery. Top notch tapas.

Knappstein winery and brewery.

Martindale Hall

Martindale Hall. Parts of the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock was filmed here.

Martindale Hall

We spoke to a sheep farmer on our journey and he advised things had been very tough over the last decade. Wool prices remained down and there was a glut of wine. Many businesses were very near the verge of insolvency. One bad year could be enough to send many broke. This despite the tourism that pours into the region.

Sheep grazing and canola

Bungaree Station

Bungaree station shearing shed

The endless road....

After Clare it was a straight run back to Adelaide. We had been invited to the Mayor's reception for the Bay to Birdwood. I was very impressed by the community engagement with the classic motoring community in South Australia. Attending the reception were federal and state ministers, the city council and representatives from the business community. They all see Bay to Birdwood as an important event for Adelaide. We met the organizers, the Bay to Birdwood chairman, Michael Neale, and the director of the Motor Museum. It was a great evening.

But things weren't so well with our car. Apart from the radiator and wipers, the car had been driving magnificently this whole time, but just as we arrived in Adelaide the car began to struggle and would not idle properly. I thought it may have been low charge in the battery as it hadn't been charged for weeks so I charged the battery overnight and changed the spark plugs. That didn't really help either, which meant the problem was probably the carburetor. I didn't want to pull anything apart without adult supervision so enlisted the help of one of Michael Neale's, contacts to help me. In the end it turned out to just be dirt blocking the idle jet which took us a minute to fix.

We were now just days from the big event and the car seemed to back in sorts. Would it behave? I'll save that for the Bay to Birdwood report -

Link to part one:

1 comment:

  1. Great report and photos Paul... Pity you missed the car and motorbike museum l advised you about at Moorabinn airport... Whilst you were in Melbourne on your way to mornington... It's right up your alley. Regards Neil Padley