WEEK 4 : THE ART OF THE GRAZE

September 15th - September 21ST

The Barossa Valley & Greenock in particular.


DEAD BATTERIES AND BROKEN BOTTLES

After the better part of a week out-of-van while she went under the wrench, we were ecstatic to have her back. What was less than exciting was having her rumble to a stop five-minutes down the road and having to call those same mechanics to come get us. They tightened a few (apparently) loose bolts and sent us back on our way with the sudden weight of trepidation in our hearts. Why were those bolts loose to begin with? What would this mean down the line? We calmed ourselves as we made our way out of the city. She retained power on the inclines for the first time since her purchase and we allowed hope to settle into our minds. 

Flash forward to two days later as the weekend commences. We decided to take our steed up to Williamstown for a paint job related consultation and along the way we decided to visit a rather obscure giant edifice known as Map the Miner. As we climbed the small hill into the parking lot adjacent to the statue the force of our turn caused everything to spill from the unsecured cabinets. I hung my head in shame. It was my job to secure the appropriate bungee cord to keep those cabinets closed and this morning I had forgotten. Our eggs were smashed and leaking from their holder. Our expensive jar of coconut oil had managed to dash itself against the stove littering the floor with broken glass. We leaped from our seats and began the quick work of cleaning up after ourselves. After all was said and done -- punctuated by a passive aggressive post-it note applied to the cabinetry -- we returned to the cockpit with every intention of getting the heck out of dodge.

The engine would not turn over. There was a slight buzzing sound, a little anemic cough, and then silence. Sweet baby, freaking, Jane, why? Exasperated and feeling defeated we rolled her down the hill and into a flat parking space while we determined our next course of action. A man and his son who lived just up the street had seen us struggling and came to our assistance almost immediately. Do you need a jump? Jorge and I looked at each other. After all that we had been through, could this really just be the battery?

Turns out, yes, indeed it was. The engine roared back to life. We thanked the two kind Aussies for their help and went about our day. What would normally have been our first assumption had been relegated to the last possible option by our overloaded and weary minds. We would eventually learn that we did in fact have reason to worry about the reconditioned engine but, at the moment, we were up and running and ready to go. The fix was so simple that it left us feeling a little foolish. Every day in the van is a learning experience and this was just one more lesson. 


DRINK, EAT, SLEEP, REPEAT

When we first saw the Greenock Oval on Wiki-Camps, we figured it was worth a visit. It is conveniently located at the heart of the Barossa Valley and serves as a perfect jumping-off-point for wine-country. Our intention was to stay only a very short while and move on, a day or two at most. That was before we realized what we had found. The oval overlooks a vast field of canola flowers that are vibrantly and unapologetically yellow. On the main street there are two cellar doors, a pub, a brewery, and a cafe that is so phenomenal that we would happily eat every meal there if we could afford it. After two days of stellar wine and food we were, half-heartedly, considering moving on. That was until a certain charismatic local, Ian, came upon our shivering forms and invited us to his home for a feed and a bonfire. Whether it was the food that drew us or the lure of the fire, we decided it was an opportunity that should not be missed. 

A gentleman with eyes as blue and bright as distant stars and stories to match, he and his partner kept us entertained all night and we found ourselves laughing into the early morning hours. We spoke of things that were, that are, and things that will be. Ian pulled trays of baked meats and vegetables from the oven and insisted that everyone graze at their leisure. It didn't take long for him to crack open a few Victorville Ales from the Greenock Brewery, located about 200 meters from his front door. Our bellies were full, our toes were warm, and our hearts were light. When it came time for us to head back to the oval we promised to return when we could.

We visited every night since. Our mornings are slow and easy starting with a delicious cappuccino and an even more delectable breakfast at El Estanco cafe. At midday, we explore the Barossa wine region and attempt to taste the subtle notes in each different vintage. Evenings are spent around the fire listening to Robyn crack jokes and Ian wax eloquent. This is an easy place to lose yourself and we are happy to do just that for a while. Eventually we will wander toward the desert and new experiences, but for now we are content. 


THE RELENTLESS FURY OF WINTER

In the land Down Under we knew that seasons were reversed and I suppose it should have occurred to us that so too would the concepts of North and South be. That is to say, that warmth is found in the northern regions and an endless cold is found in the south. It must be said, that I am less adapted to the devastations of a prolonged winter season than I am to non-stop humidity and blistering heat. At the end of two months in Australia, I was beginning to feel less like a functioning humanoid and more like a lively icicle. 

Seasons have a different feel from inside the van. While we are warm and cozy under the doona, aka the cocoon of our shared warmth, it is less cozy just beyond those borders. He is less touched by the cold than I am, yet even he acknowledges that we have been bested. The frigid cold has refused to let up and now that we have entered the Barossa it has gotten worse. The light that comes down through the cap of clouds is muted and gray promising only a continuation of the same. Around 3AM you can feel the change, a few degrees lower on the centigrade scale forcing us to curl further into one another. Dawn breaks only to be hidden behind a layer of fog. Early afternoon brings a brief moment of sunshine followed by two hours of rain. Weather is only one part of the journey but it absolutely changes how you approach the world. We make different decisions and our days are lazier than they might otherwise be.

Leaving the comfort of our home means, for me, wearing a full set of thermals under my other layers. Actually, the thermals never leave my body. I haven’t seen my legs in two weeks. Obviously they are there moving around, carrying me from one location to another; constantly sheathed in protective clothing. And obviously, occasional visits to the restroom ensures I see portions of goose-pimpled flesh, but never is the entire leg exposed at once. The idea of stripping down to shower isn’t even considered. Our outdoor shower has yet to be put to the test and I can't imagine offering my body to the winter-wind at any point. We clean ourselves with baby wipes and essential oils before quickly throwing our clothes back on. 

Our bodies are doing their level best to adapt to the new conditions. We are both a few kilos heavier than when the journey began and not bothered by it in the least. I am quite happy to fuel my body with free-wine tastings and the gourmet delicacies of the Barossa before returning to the oval and going into full nesting mode.  As night falls, so too does the temperature and we pitch ourselves into the bed snuggling into one another. We have nowhere to be and an evening cocooned is always an option. After all, our small quarters seem like a palace once we crawl under the covers and everything we need is within arm's reach. 

Warmer days are coming and when they do I shall see my legs again. I am in no hurry one way or the other. We make plans to head north, into the desert, and eventually we will act on those plans. For now, we remain in the Barossa and endure. So long as I have on three layers and my love is beside me, the cold is inconsequential.


SHADES OF GREEN

When we purchased the Falcon, she was a vibrant tiffany-blue that begged to be noticed. It caught our eye from the start. Closer inspection revealed it to be spray-paint applied with a shockingly steady hand. While I applaud the girls who did such fine work, Jorge and I agreed that a less intense shade might be better for us. A few calls around informed us that we were unlikely to get a proper paint job for anything less than a fortune. As we considered painting it ourselves we stumbled across G & J Autopainters, new to their location and trying to drum up business they were happy to take on small jobs. We reached out and told them what we wanted and they quoted us a price that was beyond reasonable. We were ecstatic. In at least one small way we could make our mark on her. We went with a subdued and low-key shade of green named Verde Moss. 

We were told that it would take a few days to complete the task and in the meantime it might be best for us to find alternative housing. Not a problem. While Delphine turned from blue to green we would follow suit and explore the verdant depths of the winter hills. The Heysen Trail was nearby and we were craving some exploration. This would be our first thru-hike, a test of our skills and an opportunity to use some of the equipment we had lugged all the way from Miami. Our week ends with us swinging on rather heavy back-packs and graciously accepting a lift to the trailhead.