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Travel & Holiday

Adventures galore

Adelaide, destination of this year's Life! Takes You Places challenge, serves up exciting things to see, eat and do
The Straits Times - May 1, 2012
By: Natasha Ann Zachariah
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Adventures galore -- ST PHOTOS: NURIA LING

With the strategy to winning mapped out and the trash-talking out of the way, I thought my race partner and I had the Life! Takes You Places race in the bag.

Not that Nuria Ling, my team-mate and The Straits Times photographer on the trip, and I could partake in the loot of $10,000 worth of travel vouchers from ASA Holidays, who partnered Life! for the contest.

Our instructions were to take part in the race that took place last month but we were not allowed to win anything. That would be the privilege of the five pairs of Straits Times Life! readers who had to complete Amazing Race-style challenges and answer questions about South Australia over the four race days.

Though we had nothing to win, the very high stakes of glory, pride and my ego were on the line. But just minutes into the first day's challenge, we found ourselves battling gung-ho competitors, and in last place. It was a position we would get used to over the next four days.

Clearly, we stood no chance, but the sights and adventures of Adelaide - from chilling out on the lawns of vineyards in Barossa Valley to exploring the eclectic Adelaide Central Market - made losing a whole lot easier to swallow.

Day 1: Hahndorf

A woman and her brood of seven boys from Victoria in New South Wales have discovered that we are on a race.

Never mind that we are not quite on the other more well-known Amazing Race. She is excited nonetheless and truly baffled that Nuria and I are more interested in a pair of mannequin legs, decked out in dirty jeans and cowboy boots, and stuck upside-down in the ground. A plaque nearby reads: 'Crocodile Dundee Line Dancing Downunder!'

We are at Leathersmith and Bush Gallery shop (46 Main Street, tel: +61-8-8388-1095, e-mail: hahndorf. - our first stop on the race circuit in Hahndorf - one of the Adelaide Hills' most famous and oldest surviving German settlements.

The Germans settled here in 1838 after they were persecuted in their homeland for their religious beliefs.

The challenge for the afternoon was to score points by answering a series of questions about the town.

We tell her that we are in last place, having watched the other contestants whizz us by, and immediately she takes charge, hustling us into the shop to find out what an Australian Hat is called and what Ponde 91 means in South Australia.

The shop is a cowboy's dream: Every wall and floor space is lined with leather goods. There are handmade everyday items such as wallets and belts to the quirky 'bulls***' ear protectors.

Run by husband-and-wife team John and Jenny Graham for the past 30 years, the store is representative of the small village, where businesses are mainly run by families or long-time Hahndorf residents.

Hahndorf, which is a 30-minute drive out of Adelaide City, has a main street where most tourists visit. It has a mishmash of small, individual-owned shops from candy stores to cafes and wine shops to tribal art galleries. The streets are lined with Elm trees, whose leaves add a gorgeous hue of orange to the scenery in the perfect autumn weather.

The town's German roots are largely intact. Many restaurants serve authentic pork knuckle, bratwurst and sauerkraut, while establishments keep names such as The Haus of Hahndorf (38A Main Street, tel: +61-8-8388-7555) and places like the Hahndorf Inn Hotel (35 Main Street, tel: +61-8-8388-7063, still fly the German flag.

At The German Village Shop (50 Main Street, tel: +61-8-8388-7324), we give up counting the number of cuckoo clocks on the wall, which is one of the challenges, instead asking Bridget, who mans the counter, for the answer. She says there are 49 but it turns out there are 100 clocks in the store.

Our Achilles' heel were the candy stores, in particular, Hahndorf Sweets (54A Main Street, tel: +61-8-8388- 1404). The store, which claims to be the oldest sweet shop in South Australia, was 'a trip down memory lane', or as one parent in the shop tells her child, 'heaven'.

From Push Pops to Pop Rocks, everyone who steps in is transformed into a child. But what took the cake was the fresh, handmade fudge - so creamy and chewy, you could not stop at one.

It is now close to 5pm and we sheepishly head back to the finish line, slightly heady and with bags of candy in tow. The other contestants are already there and have been for a while. Oops.

Thank goodness, there are no eliminations at the end of each day or else we would have been out. Oh well, there is always tomorrow to make up for it.

Day 2: Adelaide City and Glenelg

It is barely 11am and I am already maxed out. But there is no time to rest because the competition is already ahead.

This time, we are in a paddle race on Torrens Lake in Elder Park, a public park on the way to North Adelaide which is often the spot for events such as Symphony Under The Stars in February.

The sun is out, the weather is a cool 20 deg C and it is the perfect setting for a picnic or relaxing paddle boat ride.

I want to paddle faster but the power-walking we just did at Adelaide City's Rundle Mall (Rundle Mall, tel: +61-8-8203- 7611, was a killer. With more than 600 retail stores, the pedestrian street mall was the first pitstop for the day, where we had to be eagle-eyed to find the details about its history.

Fast forward to the end of the paddle challenge and we are in a new position: second last. But it is a lead we waste as the last team pounds the pavement to overtake us to the next stop, Adelaide Central Market (44-60 Gouger Street), which is a 15-minute walk away.

The oldest fresh produce market in Australia is a maze of 80 small stores selling everything from smelly cheese to coffee to kangaroo meat. The challenge is to find the names of stores to a set of riddles. We cheat by getting the answers from the market's directory and then head for the final stop, The Mettwurst Shop (Stall 22, tel: +61-8-8231-7171).

A mettwurst is a strongly flavoured German sausage made from raw minced pork. This shop's Fire Starter mettwurst is slathered with red chilli seeds and has a heat rating of 11/10. It is exploding in my mouth. It is time to go.

We need a break, as do the other contestants, when we gather later in Glenelg, a quick weekend beach getaway for locals, 20 minutes out of Adelaide City.

There must be a town-wide memo to come and relax because in Glenelg, it seems people do nothing but lay in the sun. And so we veg out over oyster shots at The Oyster Bar (Holdfast Shores, Shop 10 Marina Pier, Glenelg, tel: +61-8-8376- 3100, e-mail overlooking the marina as the sun sets.

But of course, we are given a reality check when the points are tallied for the day. We are still in the race and, of course, Nuria and I are last.

Day 3: Barossa Valley

By the end of Day 3, I have made a resolution to stick to the drinking and let the professionals do the blending and tasting.

We are in Barossa Valley, one of the world's great wine regions and home to 80 cellar doors and 160 boutique wineries. An hour out of Adelaide, The Barossa, as it is called, has a long history of grape-growing and winemaking since 1842.

Familiar wines have come out of this region, which is known for its full-flavoured, luscious Shiraz. Think Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Jacob's Creek.

And having imbibed a few of those names, you would think I would ace a 'Make Your Own Blend Experience' challenge at Penfolds Winery (Barossa Valley Way, Nuriootpa, tel: +61-8-8568-8408, and a sensory experience test at Jacob's Creek winery (right). It could not have been further from the truth.

The challenge, which was to make a blend closest to the Penfolds Bin 138 blend, saw me very far off the mark. In fact, I am so far off that we are, again, in last place.

Visitors can arrange with the winery for a session to make their own blend for A$65 (S$84) a person.

And my nose was letting me down at the Jacob's Creek Sensory Experience (Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat, tel: +61-8-8521-3000,, which is also open to the public by appointment.

In the Aroma Recognition Exercise, Nuria and I are just barely making accurate guesses on what the smells are in four bottles. We score three out of four. Our overachieving competitors have aced them all, with some scoring extra points for their spot-on guesses.

Lucky couple Maybeline Tan, a marketing manager for a bank, and Shawn Tan, an advertising sales manager at a telecommunications company, both 26, have earned the most points at the Jacob's Creek vineyard and won a 10-minute helicopter ride from Barossa Helicopters (Hoffungsthal Road, Lyndoch, tel: +61- 8-8524-4209, across the picturesque vineyards at Barossa Valley.

The last challenge of the day is a foot race up and down the dam wall at the Barossa Reservoir. It was considered an architectural marvel for being ahead of its time when it was completed in 1902.

Its structural design - the arc of the retaining wall - is its coolest feature. Whisper from across the dam and a person standing 140m on the other side will be able to hear you, hence its name, the Whispering Wall (Yettie Road, Williamstown).

As the bus takes us back to Adelaide, I make a mental note to return to Barossa, if only to have another go at those tests.

Day 4: Victor Harbor, McLaren Vale

Nuria and I have given ourselves a headstart, though it is not quite 'competition-sanctioned'.

We have to race across the 623m causeway to Granite Island from the beach town of Victor Harbor ( in the Fleurieu Peninsula. But it has been closed for renovation and the area has been cordoned off even though it was scheduled to open to the public at 11am.

It is now 11.15am, and while the rest of the competitors are waiting for someone to lift the cordon, Nuria and I climb over it like the rest of the Aussies are doing, and start our trek to the island.

The perfect combination of sun and breeze makes the walk enjoyable. We just about make it to the other end 30 minutes later before we see our competition running towards us.

Granite Island (2 Ocean Street, Victor Harbor, tel: +61-8-8552-7555, is home to the Little Penguins and the Penguin Centre ( We need to find answers to questions such as how many feathers there are on a penguin and how many Little Penguins live at the non-profit centre, run by volunteer couple Dorothy and Keith Longden.

Nuria and I want to stay for feeding time but The Big Duck Boat Tour (The Causeway Landing, Victor Harbor, SA 5112, tel: +61-405-125-312, awaits.

The 'duck' is a 7.3m expedition-style rigid inflatable boat - good enough to go high speed and hit the waves. But as soon as we hit our stride, our guide Dan Irvine slows down to give us a glimpse of bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the water. The purring of the engine draws them near, so close that they swim right below the boat.

The hour-long ride also takes us to Seal Rock. We all get excited seeing sea lions and seals sunbathing atop 'snow'- covered rocks. It turns out the white colouring is bird poop from the petrels, shearwaters and cormorants which also share the tiny island.

Seeing the marine animals up close is probably one of the best things I have ever seen or done. That is until I get behind the wheel of a tractor at a vineyard at the Producers Of McLaren Vale (Lot 125 Branson Road, McLaren Vale, tel:+61-8-8323-0060, later that afternoon.

Located in the McLaren Vale premium wine region, the family-run vineyard is the last stop for the entire race. And after four days of coming in last, Nuria and I finally win something. Together with three pairs of contestants, we get to drive a tractor over a small strip at the vineyard, after answering five questions based on the past four days' activities.

It lets us see how grapes are picked at the 32ha vineyard. Two tractors ride side by side. One picks the grapes while the other catches the fruit which comes out via a pipe from the first tractor.

The race is winding down and the points are being tallied. I am sure Nuria and I are not even close enough to the top to smell the money. But it is all right. What we gained through the race made up for coming in last place. Well, until the next challenge that is.


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