Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Notes on a Small Break

Book - Bryson England
Originally uploaded by reuvenim
As per our yearly habit this time of the year to go away somewhere nice, we set our GPS to South Australia and headed off for a long drive on Xmess morning. We spent the first night at Port Fairy and the next three nights at Coonawarra but the story of the trip’s main events will be told through Flickr; for now, here are a few notes.

1. Breakdown:
While driving down the highway, still inside Melbourne, we started hearing this weird sound. At first we dismissed it, then we thought it was coming from other cars, but eventually (pretty quickly, actually) we realized we’re to blame. I took the next exit and stopped at a gas station in time to see smoke and smell heavy break pad stench coming off our rear right wheel.
What a great position to find ourselves in, and on Xmess day when everything’s shut! We couldn’t even rent a car to finish our trip off with, the trip that hardly started!
The next half hour was spent mostly with me cursing the gods of Honda for failing us at the least favorable time. Then, however, our RACV road assistant came over to have a look. In typical fashion, he found nothing wrong; the suspicion was on some piece of grit from the road attaching itself in between the break pad and the disc. Off we went for our trip…
I take two lessons with me from this incident: First, while you may think you have everything under control, things can always fall apart. Second, we were lucky to be on Honda’s premium rescue service with RACV, which meant we’ve waited for half an hour on Christmas day as opposed to a good few hours. Next time I register with RACV on my own I will book the premium service, too, because it seems cars always get stuck when it’s the least comfortable.

2. Wine:
The area we’ve stayed in, Coonawarra, is a wine region. We were surrounded by wineries, dozens of them; I have never even dreamt of the possibility of having so many wineries in such close proximity.
Naturally, we went for some wine tasting (me doing the driving, Jo doing the tasting, and Dylan being a pain). It’s a nice experience, but it made me think of all the sophisticated people I know who worship wine for the status symbol it is, feeling for that slight hint of bark and fruit instead of just enjoying it as a drink. Granted, that search for taste is a part of the fun, but for them it’s a ticket to thinking themselves the elite: by copying those they consider the elite (i.e., those with enough money to afford expensive wine) they perceive themselves to actually be the elite. Well, it’s not the wine you drink that makes you a good person.
For us, the only problem is we hardly ever drink alcohol; it would take us years to consume the wine we bought.

3. Traveling with a baby:
The older Dylan gets, the more demanding he is when traveling. We can’t just go anywhere we feel like anymore; when he wants his stretch or his food he will let us know, and when he’s unhappy we’re unhappy. In order to pacify him we had to resort to previously unthinkable measures, such as feeding him in the car; the result is a car that now feels like a dumpster. All the more annoyed we had become when we go out to eat only to find the eatery doesn’t have a baby highchair (take that, Nandos!) or that the baby highchairs are all so dirty it would be inhumane to use them (as they were at the places we’ve visited in Naracoorte).
On the positive side, for the first time Dylan has been expressing interest in the places we take him to: We took him to a fossil center that had an interactive museum, with animals of sorts making sounds and moving (slightly). While he was initially mildly scared by the woof-woofs (by Dylan’s reckoning anything with four legs is a dog), he quickly got over that to really enjoy and take part in the experience. Guess I might think things over the next time I want to take him to a strip club.

4. Environment:
It was interesting to note just how many houses in South Australia had solar water heating panels on their roofs. I guess it makes sense for them: being that the area we’ve visited is rather remote there is no gas grid around to plug in to, so the heating options are either gas tanks or inefficient electricity.
Even more interesting was noting how virtually all the houses we’ve seen in the areas of South Australia that we’ve visited had water recycling tanks collecting rain water from the roofs, usually two or even more gigantic ones. Didn’t they hear what the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, said on TV? Our John claimed that if everybody installed water recycling tanks the damage to the environment would be enormous and that the only solution for Victoria is a desalination plant (which, at an energy consumption level equivalent to tens of thousands of cars, if very environmentally friendly). You see, unlike water tanks, which rely on rain water, a desalination plant is both renewable and sustainable.
Oddly enough, though, the South Australians seem to cope with the environmental disaster they brought upon themselves: despite the harsh desert like conditions, many have had their sprinklers on to water their green grass.
Ain’t that weird, Johnny?

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