I’m leaving Adelaide on greyhound, drunk on free wine and blushing after Mercedes’ kiss on the cheek. Mercedes is her work name.
What a city.
Everytime I veer slightly from the hashtagged, beer ponged path of the traditional backpacker I’m rewarded. Forget Melbourne. Forget the East Coast. Adelaide is a hidden gem and I hate hate hate that phrase.
After twelve hours in Christchurch airport and nineteen in Melbourne airport I arrive in sunny South Australia. The festival state, though I’ve missed the festivals. It’s Friday and I’ve three days to play with before the ten hour bus to Roxby Downs, then to Andamooka and then, hopefully, to my fortune in the opal fields.
Unfortunately there was a festival in town, tasting Australia, where for a paltry $3 one can buy an empty glass and walk around a field tasting sweet reds and dry whites and fancy roses from the Barossa valley and claret and cider and beer and candied honey from Kangaroo Island and oysters from the Eyre peninsula. I reused my glass every day. This is unfortunate because I can’t remember much of anything this weekend aside from the fact that I love Adelaide.
Everybody knows everybody.
I had a greenstone from Hokitika NZ I wanted turned into a pendant. The leather string was free from the girls at spotlight, they recommended me to a jewellers who provided me a free parrot clasp who sent me to the “bodybuilder”. A hulking watchmaker hunched over cogs too small to see, he tied the knot at the back.
The girls at spotlight (haberdashers (I think that’s the right word)) gave me a discount on crochet hooks and yarn, the city wide free wifi let me sit in one of the many secluded parks perfecting my chains.
As I travel around Australia and New Zealand I’ve been reviewing each and every library I visit. Though I normally love libraries the visits have increased more than usual as the library is the refuge of the stinking backpacker; free wifi, silence, maps and comfy seats.
Now the state library of Victoria takes some beating; Ned Kelly’s tank suit, every scrap of history relating to anything interesting Australia wise, xboxs’ and gamecubes. Launceston library in Tassy had the prettiest librarians, Sydney had the most comics, Christchurch let me pretty much live there for ten days.
But Adelaide library. As libraries go, they don’t get much better. The tech lab contained no less than 3 3D printers and 3D printer guns… A 3D printer, mum, is a printer that forms hot plastic to create an object: kayaks, sculptures, pistols that fire. Anything. I created a ring with Adelaide inscribed on it, the librarian used a calliper to measure my finger, they then printed it and have it to me, gratis.
The high street.
Every day it was another spectacle. African mask making and dance lessons, football training, $3 for as much wine as it takes to make you partake in the African dancing.
Friendly bordering on the point of too friendly, which is just right. A conversation with a complete stranger is never more than ten meters away wherever you are in Adelaide. I’ve met such an assortment of interesting characters I could write a sequel to Nicholas Nickelby and then some.
I’ve just been kissed and waved onto the bus by Mercedes, a member of the oldest profession who I met half an hour ago while tasting a particularly fine Pinot Grigio for the fiftieth time. She’s from Cambridgeshire originally and a month younger than me… Like all Australians, she’s fantastic. Talkative, friendly, desperately self assured.
When I tell the friendliest people on earth that I’m off to Andamooka, usually in a food court when I’ve drunk too much, they do one of two things.
a. Urge me not to go, or at least go bearing arms or a knife “it’s the Wild West” “you don’t understand” “it’s diferent. Out there.”
b. Laugh at the baby face freckled English boy and ask where I’m really going…. Return to a.
But I’m on the bus now, it drops me off at one in the morning at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere, irradiated desert from nuclear tests on one side and not much else on the other. Riches ahead and underground. I hope.