HEAT! with mum and dad
Adelaide, 18th - 20th December
I wake up at 4:30 am from the call of the rooster at our neighbours. I mean in the village, don’t think that the campers next to us have also brought a rooster with them. According to my sleepy calculations, mum and dad should have arrived in Dubai by now. I check their flight and after confirming my expectations, I send them a message to check where they are up to. Mum quickly responds that all is well and they are waiting for the next flight so I calmly go back to sleep.
Of course, we forgot to turn on an alarm last night and waking up at 7:30 am isn’t in our plans. Bertie was supposed to be at the garage as soon as it opened. We pack up the tent and leave immediately to not waste precious time. We drop him off just before ten o’clock and start trekking through Adelaide on foot. The actual tourist tour of the state capital will be tomorrow in a full group. Today we will spare ourselves the tiring sightseeing and so we get into the first café we find.
The day is incredibly and scarily hot. According to the data, this is the hottest day ever recorded in Australia. I will say that again - the hottest day on record on the Australian continent! Well, the data is only from the last two hundred years, but still.
We wander the streets as our options aren’t many today. From time to time we enter a random store. Not that we want to do any shopping - we have neither the need nor the money. But they are air-conditioned so it allows us to take a breath even for a short while. Our vision starts to weaken through the sweaty wall that drips before our eyes. Our breathing is like in a sauna, but at least there you just lie still instead of constantly walking. My fingers swell like sausages. If a local is eyeing up my rings, they will have to first put me in a fridge to be able to get them off me. However, I will be so grateful for that salvation that I will probably give them selflessly.
I crumble uncontrollably on a bench in the first mall that gets in our way. My entire body is thumping and I can feel my pulse at every spot - my temples, my fingers, my feet. My heart is pumping like crazy. Some rest, cold water and sweet grapes. We started coming around. But we stay on the bench at least another hour to avoid any closer proximity to the outside. What is this heat? And just as it all starts to clear up, we get a call about Bertie. To our surprise, it isn’t as horrific as we expected and even with some important fixes, we will stay under $700. Good, at least this won’t weigh us down on this sticky, melting day.
Shops for shoes. For pets. For zero-waste households. For art. For rubbish. For even more rubbish. Oh, and a museum for Adelaide’s cycling history. We visit them all. We are hoping that in at least one we will find something interesting, but the situation just gets worse. There seems to be no salvation. We go into a corner of the library. We don’t want to work. Nor to read. Nor to breathe.
And so, it gets to beer time. Well, we might be able to find some strength in the pub to continue the day. We actually do get some clarity there. Why didn’t we come here in the morning … Another call. We can go pick up Bertie.
Actually, if I think about it, our toughest days in Australia have been those away from Bertie. Perhaps, he has a bigger role in our well-being than we’ve expected. As if three have gone out for a walk and one is missing. The difference can easily be felt. Quickly, we are talked through what was wrong with him and what they did to fix him. Once again, I understand nothing that is being said and am just glad we can take back our co-traveller healthy (hopefully).
We enter through the doors of the hostel and are once again grateful for Air-conditioning. At the reception desk, there are no people other than a girl on a screen. She sees us quickly (there must be a camera somewhere) and asks for our booking details. We give our names, pretending that talking to a person on a screen isn’t weird at all; as if we do it daily. I can’t hide that this communication would have been so much quicker and effective if the girl was physically here. After she confirms all details, a man arrives to give us the keys and show us around the hostel. Couldn’t he have done the job of the cyber-girl? He also gives us a bag of onions from the last working group. Have we won the jackpot or something?
With our first step in the room, we switch on the heavenly cooling machine, arrange the food in the fridge and fix up space so all four of us can fit comfortably. What do you mean - four of you in one room? With parents? That’s exactly what I mean! We have no complexes, inhibitions, worries or whatever else we need to have to stop us from being four within 12 square meters. We have always shared a hotel room like this as usually the price for two is double the price of one. Wow, maths! Therefore, now we have a double bed that we will give to mum and dad, and we will use the bunk bed an arm's length away. For some people, this might be weird and unacceptable. For us, it is ideal.
Airport time. We spent an hour excitedly waiting at the gate. We are completely prepared to re-enact the opening scene of “Love Actually”, it is fresh in our heads anyway. People are staring at my bright orange sign and are wondering what weird language it is in and what it actually says. “Mum and dad” in Bulgarian! They finally come out and the happiness is through the roof. Internally, I want to jump and scream more, but externally I cool my excitement for the good of the others waiting with us. Tight hugs, some kisses and a few pictures before we leave the building.
Not that any of us want to. It is 21:30 and the air temperature is worthy of a July lunchtime. 32 degrees! The sun set ages ago. Maybe now you can understand how hot today was! That’s that - December in Australia.
The conversations are endless! After all, on the one side they’ve been travelling for twenty-four hours, and on the other, we have … for three months. We manage to find topics to talk about. They aren’t hungry so we just cut up a mango. They don’t want to sleep either, it is lunchtime in Bulgaria. The room is chaotic in no time. The clothes, shoes and presents jump out as if spring-loaded as soon as the backpacks are open. Nothing can control the desires of our inanimate objects to take up every centimetre and corner of our small room. The temperatures are high, the emotions more so!
We wake up late, although it seems like some of us never fell asleep. Only those, who have had to travel 16,000 kilometres in 24 hours, know how difficult it is to get used to the new. But it also takes us a long time to leave the hostel, knowing what is waiting for us out there. Let’s start slow with mango, bananas and coffee at 12 sq.m. (maybe that should have been the name of this story, haha).
Not that it will make a big difference, but together we make the decision to first go see the things in the open before the big heat has begun and then to hide away in some museum. Our phone applications insist that it is already 38 degrees outside but let’s not forget that meteorologists measure those temperatures in the shade, while tourists’ walks don't always stick to it. We leave the mess in the room and climb into Bertie towards the Adelaide Botanical Gardens.
When there is a conversation about “planned” cities in the architectural space, the most discussed capitals are those like Brasilia and Canberra (which we will talk about very soon). I mean those that have been planned and built in the nothing, instead of developing through the centuries. But Adelaide isn’t among the famous examples of such type of urban planning. It was designed in the middle of the 19th century and named after the wife of King William IV - Adelaide. The project was for the artificial creation of a capital for the only free-settled province on the continent. Meaning that there have never been prisoners or convicts here. And as these free people decided to build a brand new capital, on the Adelaide map you can see an orthogonally divided centre, surrounded by a thick but even frame of endless parks - we are going to a small part of it.
We enter the botanical gardens freely. You don’t think that the Australian will want us to pay for such pleasures, do you? It is an inseparable part of the citizens’ right to pass through here on their morning jog. On the path from this entrance, we quickly reach a huge greenhouse. Wow, I have never felt colder walking into a humid tropical winter garden. But there is a first time for everything, right?
The gardens are gorgeous. Arranged with vision and style. With a thought for the walking routes of the visitors, to enjoy nature even in the greatest heat waves. Which is now nearing 42 degrees. Within the boundaries of the gardens, there is a museum of Economic Botany. Inside, large display cases present different dry representatives of the plants we can use in our day-to-day and which have real commercial value. We find an ugly shrunken mushroom which is, of course, called Bulgarian mushroom - why not? And in another case, they even try to convince us that the rose and the apple are from the same biological family. We are not convinced to this day, exactly where the connection between them is and whether the scientists were slightly delusional, but if it is in a museum it is probably correct. Along the walls of the room, there are also colourful artefacts of the Aboriginals - from tools to colourful fabrics. There, mum and dad have now seen that too.
We have not yet reached lunchtime and one can already read the temperature shock on all four faces. I am certain that the constant transition from 40+ outside to 21 inside doesn’t help our bodies with adjusting to this horror. But we also don’t have much of a choice. We are in Adelaide until tomorrow afternoon and if we will see it, we just have to gather strength and forget our troubles.
The crown jewels of these Botanical gardens are the giant water lilies - Victoria Amazonica. Their leaves grow like huge trays and can reach three meters in diameter, while that of the flower itself - about 40 cm. The spectacle is impressive and it isn’t a coincidence they have created a big glazed pavilion just for it. So it can immerse you in this grand beauty … But that can only happen if the pool isn’t empty and under reconstruction. Then you could probably see it as intended. Now we can only observe the engineering installation which usually keeps their life, while the picturesque images are only black and white photos on the info boards. Luck …
After the late start of the day, the next stop is clear - lunch. We follow mum’s instructions - the only member of the group that likes to plan her tourism days in great detail. To the covered market. And let’s not forget that she is led by Isabella Shopova, as well a few pages from world atlases - she knows where she is going! On the way, we admire the architecture around us. Australia is once again showing us that money equals quality. There are no such extras in Northern Territory, I can assure you!
The market is large and full. It has everything a market should have - fresh produce, spices, flowers, meat, cafés, restaurants, random shops - something for everyone. Nic, the guardian of our money, gives everyone a few banknotes and we all scatter through the labyrinth of colourful delicacies. Ten minutes later, we gather again at the tables, each of us with a dish from different worldly cuisines. As there is no such thing as Australian cuisine, you can only pick from the best options from the rest of the world. One of us has picked the most expensive option in the entire market and has spent about twice what they were given. But let’s keep their name in secret. I will only say, his choice includes French pate pies - you draw your own conclusions.
After we spend money for two days on one lunch, we somehow decide to willingly go outside and walk to the next stop on the list. We enter shops after shops on the main street looking for sandals for dad and air-con for everyone else. In between, we manage a photoshoot with the famous pigs of Adelaide. On Rundle Mall, in convenient proximity to a rubbish bin, four bronze piglets are “walking around”. Horatio, Oliver, Truffles and Augusta are on “A Day Out” (the name of the installation) and now an inseparable part of the life of Adelaidians. Regardless that they go through their rubbish daily.
After about ten minutes of aimless wandering we end up in Adelaide Arcade - the first electrified shopping centre in the world. Similar to Victoria Building in Sydney, this is a narrow and long building with shops on both sides and businesses on the second floor. The interiors are old, the floors are colourful, the lamps are antique, the Christmas decorations are rich.
While sitting on an old bench that hardly fits all four of us, we make a unanimous decision. The next stop for the day clearly has to be the beach as the temperatures can no longer be survived in urban conditions. It is required that we strip down to swimwear in order to get through the day. Fortunately, we are prepared and our towels and swimsuits are in the car so we can head straight to Glenelg as “recommended” by Isabella.
We reach the car, each of us with an ice cream in hand, and it quickly becomes clear that the bag we prepared for the beach is not in the car. It was probably left on the bed in the room. The plan turns upside down. We first pass the store to stock up for dinner, after which we get back to the hostel. But as we are now an hour away from Glenelg, we decide to visit the local Semaphore Beach instead.
Getting closer to the air-conditioning in the room is a mistake. All of a sudden, all big desires for the beach evaporate as we see our beds. Nothing is reminding us of what time it is outside, and we are already zoomed out on our phones. One of us accidentally looks to the top right corner of their screen and the communal trans is quickly broken. The app might show 32 degrees but it is already 8 pm.
We change into bathers within seconds and head to the beach. With mum among the ranks, you can never consider choosing moping around over new adventures. Unless you are dad and adjusting to the new time zone is still impossible for you, and the temperatures outside scare you to bits. We let him read a book in the cool room and to be responsible for the late dinner, and we head towards Semaphore with Bertie. Well, dad already knows how much he missed.
With the slow setting of the sun, the long beach strip is buzzing with people. I haven’t seen anything like it in Australia! After the long hot day, the entire city has come here to cool down. Finding a parking spot is extremely difficult. I have started warning mum since this morning, that the ocean water is freezing so she is not disappointed when she touches it. Naturally, all three of us are smitten when we find out that is not the case here. The deep bay of Adelaide doesn’t allow the big waves to reach the shore and to bring the cold currents. The water is calm and warmer than the northern Black Sea in July.
We walk in on the golden path, provided by the last sun rays of this hot December day. (I will never get enough of using this oxymoron for the Northern Hemisphere.) We are stunned. By everything. The temperature. The scores of people. The calmness. We walk on the beach. Take pictures. Collect shells and memories. Forget flip-flops and hats. Go back to find them. Observe torch crabbing in the dark. We find Bertie with difficulties, but still successfully.
Dad is waiting with dinner half ready. We’re coming to help. We open that pink, slightly fizzy wine-sturm and tell again our crazy Australian plans to our hostel-mates. We get back to our room after midnight and after such a day I can only imagine we will get to sleep quickly. And that’s how it happens for three out of four of us.
Breakfast is eaten. The sandwiches are prepared. Bertie is filled by four humans and their excessive luggage. We aren’t expecting a change in climate conditions from yesterday, so the programme for today is entirely developed for the inside. The decision is taken based on our Australian experience which suggests that not only will the covered areas be air-conditioned and cool, but they will also be free. So hard to make a decision!
Our first stop is the cathedral (I don’t remember exactly which one). We park, pay for an hour and get to the entrance. On the locked door there is a sign: “Because of the high temperatures, the cathedral will be closed from 17th to 21st December”. Are we reading this right? A building like this with thick stone walls and high ceilings that always keeps a nice cool environment, regardless of outside temperatures, will be closed today because it is hot. Erm, what are we doing? Will we survive to tell stories of Adelaide???
We have no time to dwell on it. With every wasted minute, our destiny of shrunken fried fruit is more obvious. We hide in the state museum of South Australia. On the lawn in front, we are welcomed by three huge dogs. I reach up to about their shoulders. One of them is a straw “breed”, next to it is a rope one and behind them hides a wire one. So they aren’t left hungry, a bowl was built for them which in the eyes of small humans like us, resembles a cool and unique bench. To each according to their viewpoint.
The halls are endless. We start with stuffed animals from the entire planet. Then we move to some Aboriginal artefacts. From there, a sign takes us to a four-story-high model of a giant squid. Do not think I am joking - it truly was four-story-high. And if you don’t know what a giant squid is, it is probably better known to you as Scilla from “Odyssey” or the Kraken from “Pirates of the Caribbean”. And you might think those are just some fantasy animals, but this monster is completely real and still lives in one of the oceans. There is a huge embalmed specimen of this slimy thing in the Brisbane museum.
And on top of it all, this model turns out to be “Pandora’s box”. With every new level we climb to see the Kraken in its full size, we find new rooms and galleries. The tour quickly becomes unrealistically long. From the outside, this museum-monstrosity doesn’t look quite as vast. We couldn’t see the end of more Australian stuffed animals, or minerals, fossils, etc. One room for the Antarctic work of Australia and another for the space-one.
We might be seeking a sanctuary from the horrors outside, but even these endless rooms are too much for us. In the end, we manage to find each other within the labyrinth of exhibits and head towards the outside. But on the corridor to the exit, we are drawn to another little room. Mum and I are quickly engulfed in draws and draws of beautiful and indescribable crystals. Such colours and shapes we have never seen. And behind us is a unique beehive display. Its walls are made out of plexiglass and allow us to see the busy bees at work. There is a tunnel attached to the hive that lets the creatures to go outside. In this way, they can freely collect pollen outside, while we observe and study them inside. Oh, how I love interactive museums!
We finally leave the boundaries of the museum but quickly slip into the neighbouring building - the state art gallery with the weirdest art collection I have ever seen. In galleries worldwide, the different art styles are separated if not in different building, then at least in different rooms. Well, they haven’t put in that effort here and everything is all together. Next to a classic oil portrait, the skins of two bulls sawn together hang from the ceiling, or next to a prairie landscape - two mannequins covered in screws from head to toe.
I can assure you, this is a certain way not to pay any attention whatsoever to the classic pieces. Especially, when they have created a red “obscurial” in an entire room. Maybe you aren’t too familiar with the latest films from the Harry Potter realm “Fantastic Beasts” and this term isn’t known to you. But, unfortunately, I can’t describe it either - perhaps if you picture a thick and dense spiderweb, which has its own life. It moves independently, takes up whatever spaces it wants and attacks wizards just for the fun of it. Did I assist you?
Lunch is “served” at Glenelg beach. We finally got to it. Mum and dad are brave enough to get into the water. The temperature is very far from our experience last night at Semaphore Beach. Meanwhile, Nic and I eat our sandwiches and check online what the legal restrictions are on taking beach shells out of the country. We think they aren’t considered contraband if they weren’t in a National park or reserve. And here, we are definitely not in one of those. Okay, I think we’ve seen the most important things. We are ready to leave Adelaide.
On the road to Victor Harbour, mum and dad see their first kangaroos by the road. And in the town, we check into Grosvenor Hotel. The general plan was to camp, so our two new members can see how we’ve lived in Australia all this time. But these high temperatures scared us. The two of us can hardly survive in a tent at 30 degrees at night, what can we expect when it is four of us.
But actually, you won’t believe what we’re going through. After the crazy 47 degrees in Adelaide at lunchtime, now just a few hours later, we’re at 17 degrees. And tomorrow morning it will be 7! This is a literal 40-degree difference in temperature. How is such a thing possible? We weren’t going to camp because of the heat and now we have to worry about freezing at night. This is so Australian!
We put on long trousers and take top layers to get to Granite Island where sea lions and penguins can often be seen. On the way, we show mum and dad what an Australia playground looks like. We collect branches from a local pine tree that can be a perfect alternative for the NYE Bulgarian tradition. (Maybe this isn’t the time to get into explanations). We see a new type of bird we haven’t met before. What type? I don’t know.
There are no penguins and seals to be seen, but the entire island is covered in modern sculpture. There must have been an interesting art exhibit here, as it is hard to leave the island despite the setting sun. Sculptures and sunset!
Naturally, we have again not divided our time well. Back in town, all shops are now closed. Not that we could have cooked anything in the hotel room anyway. We sneak into the first restaurant on our way - Mexican. Dad might be dying to try something typically Australian, but he has never had Mexican either, so he can get over it.
Many explanations and pictures from Google are required to successfully order dinner. But if you had never heard of quesadillas or nachos, how could you guess what you’re ordering? And the high beer price isn’t helping the process either. Leftovers are taken in a box and we are happy to get back to the hotel room and cuddle into our cold sheets after such a heated and non-stop day.
More again tomorrow!
Whether because of the unexpected heat …
Or the travel fatigue …
Or even badly scheduled time …
We probably didn’t pay enough attention to Adelaide, that the city deserved. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t appreciate it. Actually, I really enjoyed the South-Australian capital. Plus we are spending some quality family time, which we often lack being separated at the two ends of the European continent.
We are now five on the Australia roads. And Bertie might be the most important member!
Vassya (and Nic, Boyan and Svetla)