Day 07 : Heave Away, Haul Away

Tuesday 3 June 2014

“Haul away, you rollin’ King
Heave away, haul away
Haul away, oh hear me sing
We’re bound for South Australia”

(a sea shanty going by a myrid of titles, Trad., arr lots of people inc Pogues)

Had a much better sleep last night, not entirely sure why. Even slept through our two-hour stop in Port Augusta. Reached Adelaide pretty much on time (about 7.20am); hung around the station for a bit collecting maps and leaflets, and checking e-mails and stuff. Thing is, that’s a far too early time to be properly checking-in or anything, even to a hostel …
And so it proved; even by the time I got there at 10am, it was still far too early to properly check-in, though they did allow me to leave my bag in the reception room, which was cool. I’d dawdled on my way in, popping into a Chinese newsagent/café place to have breakfast.
Ah, and on that note. I walked from the long-distance rail terminal to the city centre (it’s a couple of km, nothing more), and getting closer into town it was very clear I was wandering through Chinatown, including passing bya large Chinese market area. This bodes well for my eating this week…

Having dumped my bag (it’s not heavy, but it is awkward), I headed off into the city centre proper. The hostel’s actually pretty well located, being only about a 10 minute walk from Rundle Mall, the main pedestrian thoroughfare with lots of shops in it, and I had a very leisurely amble around a couple of times. It’s a very easy city to get around – the main bulk of it fits into a nice compact grid pattern so almost impossible to get lost. It also feels like quite a clean city, and at no point during the day did I feel unsafe or need to feel wary (though to be honest I’ve had that impression across everywhere in Australia).

Apart from wandering aimlessly and orientating myself with the city, I went into one of the museums (t was free!) – the ‘Migration Museum’. This is a museum devoted to the people who, since the area was first settled around 1836, have come to South Australia to live, from the early settlers, through the ‘ten-pound-poms’, to refugees. It also highlighted how ‘racist’ Australia has been, historically.
South Australia prides itself on the fact it’s the only part of Australia that was never forcibly settled by convicts; everyone who came here at the start did so of their own free will. Possibly as an unintended consequence to this, the people who settled here may well have ended up being imbued with the feeling of ‘I like it just the way it is, because I chose this’, which may (due to the island mentality) have, by osmosis, transferred to the rest of the country. In any case, there was definitely a feeling of ‘White Australia’ that emanated from Adelaide and led to not only the belief that the local Aboriginal culture and races were dying out and therefore not worth considering as people, but also the very strong barriers to entry for non-British, non-Whit settlers (a common trick was to give would-be settlers a dictation test to show their competence in a European language. Which could be any European language, just not necessarily the language you were familiar with. So if you were, for example, a Pole, they could give you the competency dictation test in Spanish. As you’d fail, you wouldn’t be allowed in). British people, on the other hand, were encouraged, even at one point to the extent of offering cheap passage over (hence the ‘ten=pound poms; a ticket to Oz for £10), and the promise of a better life.
Not that it was a better life for many; most people were initially housed in ‘hostel blocks’ rather than their own houses and they could be there for a couple of years or more. And work wasn’t necessarily guaranteed either.

Eventually though Australia opened out to the rest of the world (more by necessity than desire), hence why Adelaide has a large Chinatown … As for the Aboriginals – well, they’re working on that, slowly. One of the main squares in the South of the city centre is now designated as a ‘space for reconciliation’ between the two cultures, but one can’t help but feel there’s still a way to go there.

As for me, I felt a lot more relaxed today; I did wonder if Adelaide was going to make me feel the same as Vilnius did, and so far it has.
The hostel’s quite nice too – it’s deceptively large, and the staff are very friendly. The main common area is pretty large, with a pool table and bar in it at one end, sofas and a TV at the other. But more importantly, it has wi-fi. This evening however was, after we’d been given free potato salad and bbq meat, mainly about pool- a little competition (based on ‘can you pot a ball or not with each shot you take’) was organised and in total there must have been over 30 of us there; obviously I didn’t win …

Still not sure what I’m doing after Adelaide, though visiting my friend Lisa on the Sunshine Coast this weekend rather than next is a possibility. Would certainly help the finances, but we’ll see.

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