Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stathalbyn, TDU Stage Three and a Koala

We spent the morning in Strathalbyn. It was a Scottish settlement established in 1839 when a boat-load of 105 Scottish immigrants arrived at Holdfast Bay near Adelaide on the Fairfield. It is now home to over 30 Heritage-listed buildings, a peaceful Soldiers' Memorial Gardens, and a plethora of antique shops.

This church is now a theatre, in a fabulous use of venue!

St Andrew's Church is a Presbyterian Church originally built in 1844 and gradually enlarged over the years. District landowner Edward Stirling gave the church the gift of a bell, imported from Scotland, but it proved to be too heavy for the existing steeple and the new square tower was added to house it in 1869.

The bandstand on the hill was built in 1912 by Alexander Caldwell, and after WWI the memorial gardens were developed around it, including the words 'Remember the Anzacs' spelled out in small variegated geraniums.

Old eucalypts show the scars left when aboriginal shields were cut from the then living bark. Trees were a treasured resource to the Aboriginal people and they would take pride in removing the wood without mortally damaging the tree. Prior to European settlement the area around Strathalbyn was part of the larger Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal world.

Strathalbyn is situated on the banks of the River Angas and is a picturesque spot. People rested here on their travels to the Victorian goldfields, and it was a tram terminus. Subsequently there are many old banks, hotels and bakeries. Many are now converted to shops and cafes, and we had the most excellent bacon, parmesan, red capsicum and rocket panini in one of them.

The retention of these heritage buildings meant that Strathalbyn was the ideal setting for Woodend in the 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock. The real Woodend had become too modernized to appear in a film set in the 1900's. Strathalbyn, however, was perfectly suitable, and manny of the local residents appeared in the film as extras in period costume.

Driving to watch Stage Three of the Tour Down Under, we were stopped at Mylor at a cordon for a rolling road closure. These road closures have been handled brilliantly and the traffic police (many of whom are on mountain bikes) have done a fantastic job.

They temporarily close roads for up to 20 minutes to allow the race to pass by. Once a road has been closed by the police, the riders usually take between 15 to 20 minutes to pass by. After the race convoy, the Green Light Vehicle and the final police escort have passed, the road will open again. It's done seamlessly to ensure the safety of the riders and to minimise disruption to the public. New Zealand traffic control could learn a lot from their example.

We were in prime position to watch the riders hurtle towards us, and once they had passed by, we found a more suitable spot by the side of the road near the crest of a hill which they had to circumnavigate six times.

Ian Stannard
Thomas Geraint in the leader's jersey
These boys in blue were particularly amusing (and probably very hot) in their morph suits as they cycled round the course and stopped to encourage the riders. We offered them some of our Skittles but they only took the blue ones.

Luke Rowe and Edvald Boasson Hagen get some encouragement from 'Team Blue Edge'
Edvard Boasson Hagen and Ian Stannard near the summit
A couple of the Sky boys needed to stop for a 'comfort break' and, as Team Sky was controlling the peleton, they slowed it down until the lads could rejoin them. I love the etiquette of cycling!

Ian Stannard and Mathew Hayman rejoin the fold
Him Outdoors cheers on everyone indiscriminately
Gediminas Bagdonas in national (Lithuanian) road race champion colours
Philippe Gilbert, current UCI Road Race World Champion
Andy Schleck
Phil Liggett reporting from the finish
Young rider, Tom-Jelte Slagter, looks happy enough with his stage win
Geraint Thomas retains the leader's and the king of the mountain jerseys
After a full-on day, we were welcomed home by the sight of this koala nestling in the trees by the house. How adorable is that?

Blinky de Vries

We sat out on the deck watching him (although he didn't actually do a fat lot) and drinking beer from local microbrewery, Brewboys. I liked their fabulously named and very tasty, hoppy, bitter goodness, Hoppopotamus, while Him Outdoors enjoyed their Ace of Spades with a smooth taste of chocolate malt - 'very nice indeed.'

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