Here in Adelaide, the temperature had plummeted, plummeted I tell you from yesterday’s heady 42°C to a mere 36°C.
Guided walks around the city’s colonial centre and the Botanical Gardens had been cancelled… either because of the high temperatures (in the case of the gardens) or because of a forecast torrential thunderstorm (for the walking tour, according to the hostel receptionist).
And apparently the heat and the humidity make these ideal conditions for an explosion in the population of funnel web spiders.
But would this phase the Aussies?
I have a friend who sends me weekly updates on the various snakes he finds in his chicken coop up in Brisbane. I met a woman from Queensland who marched into a public loo in Tasmania to help them sort out a poisonous snake. And the woman who fished out the blue bottle jellyfish from where I was swimming announced: “It’s only a baby”.
So I doubt the funnel web spider issue bothers them.
However… after a visit to the Botanical Gardens which, I have to say, I like more than those in Sydney or even Melbourne…
…and a trip to the Art Gallery of South Australia (in search of air conditioning) where around a third was closed as they prepare for the Adelaide Fringe Festival…
…. I called into the South Australian Museum.
After a mooch around the exhibits which I personally found to be jumbled in a way that just made me think they weren’t sure where to put stuff, I was in the section on stuffed animals (never a favourite for me) when I heard an Australian girl say: “I don’t like those. They’re the stuff of nightmares.”
What horror could it be? What creature actually scares an Aussie?
I halted my exit and hurried over to where they were and peered at the exhibit she and her friends had been looking at.
The selection was this…
…and I have no idea what unnerved her.
This was definitely the display that alarmed her.
The bigger creatures behind were an elephant and a rhino – I really don’t think it was either of those.
So we have porcupines, civets (a bit like ferreta) something called a bintjurong (which looks like a long haired otter-small dog to me) and a pangolin (which is a bit scaly).
In comparison with the spiders, insects and snakes that inhabit Australia – I still think Billy Connolly is right about the wildlife here – these critters hardly seem to be in the same league.
In old money, it’s the Premier League taking on the Vauxhall Conference.
Each to their own I suppose.
The forecast storm showed no sign of appearing so I headed for Central Market which was filled with people having lunch at the food stalls, among the fruit and vegetables.
You can get everything here and the hardest decision was deciding what to eat.
For under 20AUD, I had a large flat white with a huge bowl of halloumi (non-squeaky), falafel, aubergine, hummus and several freshly prepared salads.
In the heat, it was just what I needed.
After calling in at another gallery, half closed in preparation for the Fringe Festival, where was I to end the afternoon?
Where hadn’t I been? Which building did I not call in at because I thought it was too early in the day?
On the edge of the Botanic Gardens is the National Wine Centre.
Entry is free and what you pay to sample the 120 wines on offer here depends on how many and how expensive the bottle.
It’s self service. You’re given a card, like a credit card and you spend on this – choosing your wine, inserting the card into the dispenser and pushing a button to select the size of serving you would like to taste.
The Centre stocks Australian wines only. Naturally.
I selected four South Australian wines…
… all very tasty… fruity in the case of the Barbera, Head Red, slightly smoky for Terre à Terre and a mix of the two for Ministry of Clouds.
Splashing out for a glass of my favourite of the four, I chose Ministry of Clouds. I’m a sucker for a good name.
Entry to the Botanic Gardens, Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum and the State Library of Australia is all free. They’re all on the North Terrace, virtually nextdoor to each other making them easy to find while a walk along the Terrace is to wander past some beautiful buildings.