Forest Gate Cottages Bed and Breakfast Accommodation at Kuipto Forest, Meadows, South Australia, adjoing the McLaren Vale Wine Region      
  506 Brookman Rd, Meadows, South Australia, 0415 123 524 or 0415 761 427 all hours      
  SERVICING: Hahndorf, Meadows, McLaren Vale, McLaren Flat, Clarendon, Kangarilla, Willunga, Kuitpo Forest and Fleurieu Regions      
(A Guest’s story)

We had visited the McLaren Vale wine region last year and this time hoped to discover something ‘different’ to do during our weekend away. The wineries are great, but after a while one winery starts to look like another, especially after a few too many tastings.

A friend who still converses with his wife had mentioned a little bed and breakfast next to the Kuitpo forest that they had used as a base camp in Spring for a fantastic short walk to Mt Magnificent. Mt Magnificent is apparently a biggish hill on the fringe of the McLaren Vale region.

  We were initially skeptical. As far as walking goes, the only exercise either of us usually gets is putting the wheelie bin out on a Thursday night, and even then we try and do it fortnightly so we don’t pull a hamstring. Our friends had assured us that even sloths could undertake this little thirty minute trek, so at their insistence, we decided to give the B&B a bell to see if there was a vacancy.
I was out of luck. There was a vacancy. My darling clapped her little manicured hands in glee, and we were off to a shoe shop of my choice to purchase a pair of new hiking boots. And a first aid set. And of course a new handbag for the trek. From a shop of her choice.
We loved the B&B as soon as we saw it. Forest Gate is a 130 year old cottage homestead cleverly split into two entirely separate and private sections. The hosts one side, us the other. Each side has its own facilities such as kitchen, lounge, garden, bathroom, spa bath etc. Cottagey atmosphere, whitewashed walls, feature timberwork, little doorways, and all the provisions for a Shrek sized country breakfast in the kitchen fridge. And I had thoughtfully ordered a bottle of bubbles to be nice and cold in the fridge. To help my darling forget about the walk.
On arrival, our hosts had lit the fire and the place was quite toasty. In fact, it was so toasty, I suggested we forget all about the silly walk and stay in the B&B all weekend. We could make love and watch the football. Not necessarily in that order though. Unfortunately, the Minister for Culture and Communication suggested otherwise.
I suppose I should have said ‘be romantic and then watch netball’. It’s all in the wording isn’t it?
At the B&B there was a detailed map of how to get to the walk site, so in the morning, after a wonderful night’s sleep under our first ‘goose down’ quilt, we cooked up a one and a half million calorie breakfast and ate it outside with the pet magpies under a clear blue winter sky. Thoroughly bloated, we then fell into the car which sputtered up the road towards Prospect Hill. The map proved to be adequate for my truly phenomenal navigator and only ten minutes later, we found two parking bays at the start of the walk, both of which were fortuitously empty. Empty that is apart from a pile of litter deposited by inconsiderate idiots who ought to have their legs amputated to assist their recidivism. Anyway, I digress. We locked the car in case someone mistook it for something of value, and then armed with just a slender stick to hit wild animals with and a bottle of water each in case we became disorientated in the 18 degree heat, we crossed the road and began what can only be described as one of the most memorable short walks I have done in South Australia. And no, it is not the only one I have ever undertaken.
As soon as the walk commenced, it was as if we had been transported into the Native Section of the botanical gardens at Blackwood. Only naturally more natural? The path was bordered on either side by thick, low bush, amongst which I noticed many of the beautiful native plants I had paid good money for at my local nursery. The only difference being that the ones on the trail looked in robust health, whereas mine at home were all in various stages of terminal decline.
There were spindly bushes, fat bushes, spiky bushes, ones with fat leaves, ones with tiny leaves, ones with needle-like leaves, ones with yellow flowers, red flowers, mauve flowers, bushes with bees going nuts over them, bushes with ants going nuts over them. Bushes with both ants and bees and beetles going nuts over them. And delicate little orchid-like thingies. (Probably orchids). And thankfully enough low eucalypt scrub to filter the sun and stop us getting skin cancer, because one of us (she said it was me, unless there was another idiot amongst our troupe) had forgotten the sunscreen. I reminded her it was only ten o’clock in the morning and wintertime. She reminded me I was an idiot. Again.
The trail was well worn and easy to follow. Our feet, sensibly wrapped in K-Mart mock ‘brand name’ sneakers (remember it was my choice of shoe shop), crunched over clean gravel, whilst fresh summer smells of eucalyptus and other pleasantly odorous stuff intermittently pervaded our senses on a faint breeze. We had been told to keep a sharp lookout for Koalas and were almost immediately rewarded with a mum and her little hanger-on sitting quietly in a small tree not far from where we started our trek. Unfortunately, Koalas napping in gum trees during the daytime don’t usually perform for tourists absolutely gratis and we were fresh out of large notes. Those two were no exceptions to the rule of ‘no pay, no play’ and remained almost motionless for as long as we stared at them. But nonetheless, we had a good close look at them anyway and she took a photo to prove it. However, to be fair, I think that if I had taken the shot myself, it might have been more in focus because she was hysterical with delight at having seen them before me and wouldn’t stop laughing at me for trotting past without seeing them. Apparently I am not only an idiot, but a blind idiot also. Such is married bliss.
Ten minutes later, the gravel underfoot turned to a well worn grassy track, and the botanic gardens either side gradually became low temperate eucalypt forest with a light understorey. Growing on a stony “mountainside” (read “biggish hillock”) as they do, the trees don’t attain any great height, but still remain beautiful with their twisting forms and charred trunks from past bushfires. As we progressed, I took great delight in every now and then nipping off a freshly growing leaf tip from an overhanging branch. I would then crush it between my fingers to inhale the invigorating eucalyptus and stop my lungs from collapsing from the unaccustomed exercise. As usual, she thought I was picking my nose and told me to stop it.
I’m always being told to stop it. No matter what it is.
She’s a harsh woman.
Ten minutes later on, the trees thinned to clumps of thin stringybarks, interspersed with sparse grassland. And a clump of kangaroos. Or is that a flock? Anyway, as soon as they saw us, the clump flocked off before the requisite photo had been taken and we continued the gradual ascent sans digital snap. I must say, the walk so far had been a doddle. I broke neither sweat nor wind, both of which pleased the Minister for Culture and Communication a great deal, and she allowed me a sip of water. From my own bottle of course because of backwash.
Finally the last hundred metres arrived. We had been warned by our hosts back at Walnut to approach it just like eating an elephant. One bite at a time. And not to stop until all the elephant had been consumed.
We two sloths were undaunted. We could see the summit now of course, even through slitted eyes and five minutes of huffing and puffing wasn’t going to stop us. Just like sex every Christmas really.
It didn’t stop us.
And just like the other, it was certainly worth every effort.
We rested to look at the scenery every ten metres or so and laughed at our lack of fitness. At least I think we laughed because we were doubled up in the laughing position a lot of the time and there was a whole lot of shaking going on.
It was the Minister for Culture who arrived at the peak first and said “Ooh” and “Aah” and “Isn’t it magnificent?” etc in a loud voice to encourage me to get off my backside and complete the final twenty metres. I remembered hearing those very same phrases when we were first going out together and the memory lifted my spirits. Two minutes later saw me alongside my darling on the spine of the summit, admiring one of the most splendid panoramic views I have seen to date in Adelaide. Because it was a clear day, we could see for miles and miles in any direction, and just as our hosts had said before we left, even as far away as Lake Alexandrina. It is a much better view than Windy point or Mt Lofty, because there you got a full 360 degrees. And to cap it all off, as we stood there in awe, two huge wedge-tailed eagles soared into view, only a few metres away above the butterfly filled treetops, circling on the currents. We could almost touch them. A minute later and they were swept half a kilometre away, still in the same regal pose, wings fully outstretched and head extended. Searching the ground below for stranded tourists to rip apart with their fearsome hooked beaks and vicious talons.
After taking in the breathtaking view and another few gulps from the water bottle, we picked our way carefully along the ridge-top. It is a boulder strewn pathway of fifty metres or so, along which there are several better photo opportunities. We also found a small stone cairn dedicated to someone’s father who obviously used to regularly come to the summit to contemplate. The memorial said it was dedicated to “A Magnificent Man”. Entirely fitting we thought. We added a few more little rocks to the pile, pulled out a few weeds that shouldn’t have been there and sat down to contemplate our own place in the world, just as he must have done regularly in that same spot.
I recommend this little journey to everyone. It is simple, easy, costs nothing except a very expensive handbag, and is both emotionally and physically beneficial. Most of all, if one completes the modest journey in the early morning, there is still plenty of time to take the Minister for Culture and Communication to the Willunga markets afterwards for morning tea or an early lunch. As I did.
And then rush back to the B&B to watch the football all afternoon on the couch, whilst she has a spa bath with bubbly stuff in the water and better tasting bubbly stuff in a glass.


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