Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Manna in the Adelaide Hills

The acoustics in our house are fabulous.  Last night Mr Tabubil put on his favorite album - Yanni Live at the Acropolis.  I was in the bathroom, washing my hands and the music washed into the room, lapping and eddying around me in big booming waves of sound.  My feet started tapping and danced me out the door.  Mr Tabubil met me in the living room and caught my hands and we danced a whirling jig around the room and down the hallway and around the house.  Connoisseurs might sniff at Yanni for lacking subtlety and sophistication, but how can you argue with a sound like that?  It's one long sustained shout of happiness!

My parent-in-law are walking the Heysen Trail - twelve hundred kilometers of bush track across the bottom of South Australia. The trail begins down near Victor Harbor, first running along the coast, and gradually sweeping  inland through the Adelaide Hills and up into the Flinders Ranges.  They are walking in it in stages.  They started last year at Cape Jervis, below Victor Harbor, and they are now climbing Mount Lofty, east of Adelaide.

This past weekend Mr Tabubil and I drove down to the city for the weekend to bring up our cache of packing boxes.  On the Saturday, Mr and Mrs Tabubil-in-law took advantage of our being in town to walk a stage of the trail, and a arranged a rendez-vous in the hills.  We would meet them at the end of their day's walk at a cosy hotel* for bowls of hot coffee, and drive them back to where they had parked their car at the starting point of their walk.

We drove up into the hills through a wet fall-colored afternoon: deep green, shot through with sprays of scarlet and rust-red and purple.  We found our hotel on the lip of a hanging valley that looked down over the city. The hotel was part and parcel with the afternoon: warm and fuggy inside, smelling of coffee and wood fires, with crooked floors that squeaked and boomed hollowly under folds of rucked up carpet - it wanted to fold you up in its arms and hold you there all evening, while you drank soup and ate apricot crumble and watched the lights wink on in the city below.

But Mr and Mrs Tabubil-in-law weren't there.  The Heysen Trail official map book had the trail marked wrongly - so we bundled back into our little silver car and headed out through the slant afternoon sun to a new rendezvous, and waited for them at a trail-head at the top of another green valley rimmed with fir plantations and rhododendron bushes. Below us, horses cropped at the grass and we stood and watched the shadows spread across the bowl of the valley and felt the sun set behind the fir trees.  I wished that his parents would be very late - so that I could eat and drink the evening until I was full - manna after the red desert soil of home!

Far too soon (but far too late if you were the ones walking) they appeared in the twilight.  We drove them back to their car that they'd parked at the beginning of their stage, and then wound slowly back down into the city.

Before we drove home on Sunday, we paid a visit to Stepney's Salvage - that mad shop next door to the Adelaide ice rink, with the life size Marilyn Monroe and the twice-life size Uncle Sam leering from the front window. 
The place is an Aladdin's treasure cave of salvage. The front door is a yawning cavern rimmed with not-quite rococo trompe l'eol paintings of Grecian columns. Passing beneath, you tread down a long sloping passage lined with enormous gilt pier mirrors and mounted buffalo heads and second empire consoles with marble tops and delicate inlay mosaic on the drawers. 
Deep underground, the roof soars, cathedral-like: it must, to accommodate the thirty-foot fiberglass great white shark and the five meter pterodactyl that hang from the middle of the ceiling.  Shafts of light from dusty clerestory windows light up a truly horrible limestone fountain five meters high (four tiers of lions, dolphins, cherubs and gryphons) that towers over piles of porcelain hip baths and plaster pineapple pot-plant-stands and -  oddly out of scale - a job lot of mis-painted garden gnomes.

We tend to lose ourselves in the side aisles - and behind a maze of cupboards (behind the cigar-store Indians and the matched sets of arched church doorways- with original stained glass doors and windows still in place) we found a pantry cupboard- THE pantry cupboard of a lifetime.  It is made of a couple of castle doors, with iron strapping and lion head knockers and when you open it, a sepulchral groan that sounds like forgotten tombs.  It is magnificent. 

We can't help but imagine....
"Would our unexpected guest like a cup of tea?"
"Why yes!"
and the uninvited guest runs quivering into the night.....

I covet.

*An Australian Hotel is a pub.  And generally, a restaurant.  It does not necessarily have hotel rooms.  And if it does, they are probably right above the Karaoke machine.

No comments:

Post a Comment