Fourteen thousand kilometres from home, in the spectacular Barossa Valley in South Australia,we celebrate a very unique Christmas in wine country.
Fresh off the Nullarbor, we waste no time making our way into our highly anticipated next destination. The Barossa Valley is one of Australias best wine regions, home to some of the best Shiraz in the country. We fell in love with this little area immediately upon arrival. What stands out above all else, is that there isn’t one main city or town, not really anyway. The valley is made up of seven small towns that are spread throughout the area, with populations ranging from a few hundred to around three thousand. Without a large, centralized city, the traffic and chaos typically found in popular wine regions were spread out and hardly noticed – even over the holidays.
While spending the first few days sampling some of the best wines of the trip so far, we discussed what we should do for Christmas. Not only was it the first time spent away from family and friends, but given the surroundings, it hardly felt like the holidays at all. Regardless of the mood, we decided we’d make it happen the best we could. And fortunately for us, we even got to share it with some new friends!
Planning the Event
While staying at the small campground in the Barossa hills, we met two travellers from Germany and Austria who were also curious about their holiday plans. Realizing that this worked out perfectly for the four of us, we decided to throw down a proper Christmas dinner in wine country. Making a quick grocery list to split between the two groups and deciding it was a fair occasion to splurge on a couple bottles of decent wine, things were coming together quite quickly. The only issue was location.
There is a public park in the village of Bethany, that would be the perfect spot. It had washrooms, a large open shelter complete with a huge fireplace and several tables. The only downside was that the park was a day-use facility only and camping was prohibited. Considering it was our only option – unless we wanted to sit in the bush of our old campground – we decided to take a chance.
Firewood was gathered, food was prepared and drinks were shared. Thankfully, the local grocery store was open on Christmas Eve, and we were able to pick up a roasted chicken for the evening meal. Considering the state of our kitchen and methods of preparation, the feast turned out quite impressive. With the fire roaring behind us, we sat down and began to eat. Just then, a car slowly drives in from the main road and our moods are instantly crushed.
This is what we were afraid would happen. Some local official rolling in to inform us that we must pack up and leave the park. Our perfect Christmas dinner about to be ruined by some Aussie Scrooge because of some silly rules. The car pulls up just in front of our table and a man climbs out. Before we can say anything he walks over and places a bottle of wine on our table. He smiles and says “When I travelled the world, people were always generous to me, now I’m returning the favour. Merry Christmas”. Turning around, he climbs back into his car and drives away.
A Subtle Reminder of How We Live
The following morning, on Christmas Day, we headed into one of the towns to return the favour in our own little way. A local church was putting on a Christmas lunch for the homeless and needy of the area. We had decided a few days prior that we’d volunteer our time and help out with the event. Upon arrival, we spoke with someone in charge and explained why we were there. The friendly lady just smiled and pointed us to a table to wait. Before we knew what was happening, our table and the others around us quickly filled up and the food was handed out. Apparently, our physical appearance after weeks living out of a car suggested we were included in the group of homeless and needy. After a futile attempt at explaining our reason for coming, we sat back down and enjoyed the meal.
While the Barossa Valley was not Canada, nor were we surrounded by our family, this celebration turned out absolutely wonderful. Between our new friends and some friendly locals, this Christmas is on record as one of the greatest and most unique we’ve ever had.