South Australia: Gourmet exclusive

By Geraldine Johns

Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Photo / Supplied
Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Photo / Supplied

The joys of travelling by private jet may appear plentiful. A high-flying life of privilege is of scant interest, however, to a woman who is prone to bouts of airsickness.

Introducing, then, a test of her mettle and a brief study into the habits of those who occupy a world where check-in time and departure announcements are of little binding consequence.

It starts at Adelaide Airport. From this point, and for the next five days, we will not be like all the others.

We are on a five-day, five-star food discovery tour of South Australia. The itinerary has been handcrafted: a personal introduction to the state's most select food and wine sites. We will be taken to the very core of places you would not otherwise dream of being in. And all points will be connected by our own private charter.

While the rest of the travelling masses wrestle their bedraggled selves, plus baggage, into, at best, a waiting taxi, we are whizzed straight across the road to Hangar One. There sits our 12-seater jet. We'll park our bags on board before scooting down to Adelaide for a quick scout of the markets.

They've even got the "reserved" signs out and some food on the table for us.

This is stall 62, that of Mark Gleeson, who will host us on this tour. He hands us our timetable. It reads "whirlwind". A woman anxiously hopes we don't encounter the same such turbulence mid-air.

This afternoon, we're off to Kangaroo Island, Australia's Galapagos. It takes 30 minutes by commercial plane to get from the airport to Kingscote on the island. Our 12-seater will have us there in 20 minutes, even if it feels like 200 to one reluctant passenger.

It is when we are over the sea that this fretful flyer realises that although prescription medicine may have staved off the nausea, it does not get rid of the small plane heebie-jeebies. Land never looked so far away.

Let us look on the bright side.

Flying by private jet means you don't have to suffer the indignity of the alien fat passenger, nor do you have to listen to the personal history of a fellow passenger.

In these confines, there's just one seat either side of the aisle and each seat is big enough for two.

Chief pilot Brenton Hollitt instils further confidence when he brings this beast to a halt on the runway. As he strolls down the aisle, he rubs his hands together.

"That's another one we can safely walk away from," he rasps. It will be Hollitt's signature touchdown tune for the duration.

Kangaroo Island is bees and cheeses and fish markets and vineyards and abalone farms. It is miles and miles and miles of driving along straight red roads with yellow canola curtains. We travel in a limo-truck, its tyres so obese that we are spared the bumps of endless unsealed roads.

Another flight looms. This time we are off to Eyre Peninsula, and it is double the distance of yesterday.

The fretful flyer is now hungry as well. It is all well and good to be treated to a cornucopia of local delights, all of them rude with freshness, but when you know there's a plane to catch at the end of the meal, it's better to adopt an abstemious approach to the laden table. A small in-flight snack of a few fingernails is about all that can be stomached.

We are met at Port Lincoln by a man called Lunch. His wife Mandy calls him Dave when she's cross with him. They have matching 4WDs which they use to transport us to our quarters.

Part of this afternoon's programme involves a visit to a tuna cage. That means bobbing about in a boat. Travel sickness extends to sea trips for this bore. The only solution is to jump in yourself - as the travelling companions have - and swim with the fishes. It is not a successful venture or a pretty sight: claustrophobic woman in wetsuit soon abandons all attempts at snorkelling.

She will, however, get the last laugh. There is tuna on the menu - along with every other species of fish you could think of - tonight.

On day three, Hollitt will ferry us to our final destination. His plane is parked at - what's this? - Coffin Bay airfield.

To add further reassurance, the runway looks about as long as a bowling alley.

And then we land in the Barossa. Two wall-to-wall days of wine-tastings, from little tin sheds to the slickest, biggest corporate winehouse promotions.

It's the little things that count, such as winemaker Damien Tscharke, young enough to be wearing braces on his teeth, who hosts us at the winery bearing his name. Tscharke the newly-wed wrote a poem to his bride which he has reprinted on one of his labels. He reads it and we weep.

We stay at The Louise, an address so swank that you have an indoor bath as big as a swimming pool, a separate shower and an outside shower just in case. The exhausted landlubber fails to master the sophisticated security system that grants room service entry. We do a degustation dinner at the mightily fancy Appelation, with a wine matched to each course - of course. Being in the Barossa, this is an acceptable coals-to-Newcastle case.

Next morning, the weather forecast promises electric storms. The fearful flyer knows today she will die mid-air. And then she remembers we are land-bound in the Barossa: more wine, more food and jollity, for the day.

These are the stories we like. Ones with happy endings - and safe landings.

Geraldine Johns travelled to South Australia with Outback Encounter.


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