My first impressions of Adelaide were positive; it did, after all, strive to provide free wifi access around the city, it was small yet friendly and homely, and at 8:15 I got to eat free apple pie and ice cream (though, the first night was my last night of apple pie time, you’ll see why in a sec).
The next day I wanted to see some of the museums and head to the library for some more free internet access. The girls had just barely woken up and Steffen was headed to the mechanic shop that morning, so I walked alone.
Oh jeez, I forgot to tell you about the car :)
When we arrived in Adelaide the day before, we dropped the girls off and checked into the hostel, then Steffen and I went looking for petrol. The nearest station was in fact quite near, no more than a block and a half away, around the corner. Steffen pulled into the lot and was waiting for a pump to open up while I walked into the mini-mart looking for a men’s room. After I got out, Steffen was at the pump with the hood up. Uh-oh, not again.
Steam was coming out of the coolant/water tank and as I walked closer, I saw that large amounts of a rust-colored, watery substance was pouring out the bottom of the car, pooling beneath the engine and oozing out towards a drain a few feet away. I looked at Steffen, “That can’t be good, man. What happened?”
Apparently as he was waiting in line, the needle on the temperature gauge shot up and the car quickly overheated. The blood-letting of radiator fluid started there and continued until he rolled to a stop in front of the pumps. I looked in the direction of the car’s path and saw a trail of liquid leading to the crime scene. It really did look like the car had gotten shot at the first place, then managed to crawl forward in a desperate search for regular unleaded.
Steffen began cautiously unscrewing the coolant tank cap and after only a few millimeters of progress, a screaming, whistling sound pierced the air, accompanied by steam in all directions. The pressure in the tank was immense, and it took about 15 – 20 minutes before we could even unscrew the cap completely. The water in there was still boiling, and the rust-stained liquid would bubble up when we peered in. Steffen got his jug of water from the back and topped up the level. For some reason, even though we generally weren’t leaking water, the tank was running dry and the engine would overheat. Ben had warned him that in the heat of the Outback, he would have to get an anti-boiling mixture to put in the tank, or this problem would frequently occur. It’s kinda like anti-freeze for particularly cold winters. But first, Steffen would have to clean the lines, especially the tank. Steffen had to get to a mechanic, ASAP. For the moment, with the tank at a normal temperature and water level, we bought ourselves enough time to make it to the backpacker’s.
So the next day while I visited the library’s reasonably strong, yet absurdly poor, wireless internet connection (at least so it was sitting outside, inside was better) and then later the museum, Steffen dropped the car off for a tune-up.
The Aboriginal culture exhibit of the South Australian Museum (can’t remember if that’s what it was actually called, but that’s what I’m calling it!) was fantastic. It had several beautiful samples of everything from spears to tools to clothing to medicines. It even showcased one of the oldest known boomerangs in the world, somewhere around 10,000 years old! There were also video screens around the exhibit hall featuring stories by present-day Aborigines of their family lore, memories and history. As I made my way to the second floor continuation of the exhibit, I passed a museum worker, a short, sandy-haired woman. She looked at me and, with a deadpan face and a casual manner, said, “You know you look like Samuel L. Jackson, don’t you?” Actually, no, I didn’t know that, thank you for informing me, I’ll be sure to alert Kangol and ask for free samples.
After the Aboriginal exhibit I didn’t have the energy or desire to see any more of the museum, plus Steffen and the girls had caught up and were waiting outside. I told Steffen about the museum worker’s comment and he immediately started chuckling. Then he told me that when he was in the museum, he overheard one worker telling another about how there was some guy in the building who looked exactly like Samuel L. Jackson. “It was you!”
We made our way to the free City Loop bus, heading towards Chinatown and some reportedly (by Ben) cheap eats, though at the last minute, we chose to walk.
That’s another great thing about Australian cities: free public transportation. Every major city, from Sydney to Perth, has a free “loop” bus or shuttle that will take you to a limited number of stops around the city center. Perfect for tourists, and even if you’re a local who doesn’t mind a bit of walking, free transportation for all your downtown needs. And in Melbourne, you don’t even really have to pay for the regular transportation if you don’t want to!
Adelaide’s Chinatown features a large food court (actually, Chinatown was the large food court – the surrounding area wasn’t particularly infused with Asian culture), and it borders the even larger market, an open-air arts, crafts, produce, meat and import fair on Thursdays through Tuesdays (closed on Wed.). There were two main food courts, both boasting cuisine from all over East-Southeast Asia. After taking in the options in one, Steffen and I went to the other to search for the girls and check out the competition. Each stand had a buffet-style spread of noodles, rice and meat dishes, and you would buy a plate for about $6 and fill it with as much food as the laws of physics would allow. As soon as we gazed at and started walking away from the first stall, the small Asian woman behind the counter yelled out, “Special price! 4 dollah!” I looked at Steffen, who’s eyes were welling up with tears, then at the woman, “Really? 4 dollars?” “Yes! Lunch special!”
I looked at my watch, then at the silk-screened writing on the entrance door: it was 3:15 and the food court closed at 4. We walked by a few other stalls, all of whom were now offering this extra-special $4 lunch plate, and went back to the first woman. Steffen and I stacked our plates about 4-5 inches high with food and sat down to gorge ourselves. The girls finally found us and had already started on seconds, which the kind lady gave them for $2.
Earlier, on our walk back from the museums, I stopped by a sports store to look at running shoes. Months of relative inactivity were getting to me, and I needed some physical exercise. Plus, after the previous night’s apple-pie-and-ice-cream “unpleasantness”, I had an excess of calories to get rid of. I bought a pair of Mizunos and promised myself I’d use them and found a place to cram them inside my pack.
That night, I went for a run around the parks that border the city and even abstained from gorging myself on pie. Steffen and I wanted to check out the casino, so we all got ready and headed down. We were all worried that Sophie would be under the minimum age limit since she was only 18. In fact, the four of us harped on that detail so much that we were blindsided when the doorman denied her entry based on her flip-flops. The age limit was 18; Sophie would have been able to enter if she hadn’t worn rubber sandals.
Defeated, we asked the doormen were we could find a place to go out at that time of night. They scratched their heads and rolled their eyes, not because they were upset we were bothering them with such questions, but because at 11:45 at night in Adelaide, your options were really that limited. They directed us towards Rundle St., past the street mall section.
We found only one small pub in that entire area that was still open and serving alcohol. The beers were reasonably cheap, so we all settled down for a few pints before heading back home.
Sophie was devastated that her choice of footwear threw a wrench into the night’s plans, and had insisted that we stay at the casino while she goes back. I kept telling her no, but she thought it was the only way I could enjoy my night. Finally I said, “Look. What would make me happy is to sit with my friends and enjoy their company tonight, not to leave them behind and stare at a deck of cards. If they don’t want you in there, then @#$! ‘em, I don’t want to be there either.” She smiled, blushed and dropped the subject.