Drink with a postmaster, ninja cat, Harley biker, and a snake

Ulrike in a 9-foot python skin as a boa at the Old Bush Inn in Willunga, South Australia.

It started with coffee at the Old Post Office. It ended with a python snake wrapped around my neck.

I was sipping wine with my new friend Mémé at a nearby cellar door when we got chatting with Leith and Sue at the next table. Leith is Willunga’s village postmaster. He told us and Sue moved into the historic Willunga Old Post Office and Telegraph Station earlier in the year.

They invited us to join them for a coffee and tour of their heritage home the next day.

Willunga’s Old Post Office and Telegraph Station

The Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.
The Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia. A second-floor door leads nowhere, while a window next to it is blocked in.

While Leith made coffee, Sue led us through the 160-year-old building and pointed out odd features.

For example, the City council at the time taxed buildings according to how many windows they had. When it came time to build an addition for the new telegraph station, the builders added a large glass doorway, but blocked in a window space next to it.

Apparently, you didn’t get taxed for doors.

Wine, quince and a surprise

The four of us settled into the front verandah and Sue and Leith started telling hilarious stories about their days as tour guides and hosts in Adelaide.

Leith disappeared and then reappeared with tall flutes of sparkling red wine.

Sue, Ulrike and Leith at the Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.
Sue, Ulrike and Leith at the Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.

After the second or third bottle, Leith brought out a tray of local cheeses, home-baked crackers, and his very own quince chutney paste. He told us he named it “Black Ninja” after his little black cat.

Leith makes the quince in small batches, and local wineries snap it up to offer at their own cellar door tasting rooms.

Meme Thorne with Black Ninja Quince Paste at the Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.
Meme with Leith’s Black Ninja Quince Paste at the Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.

I told a few stories of my own and when Leith heard me say that I’d like to get on a motorcycle to sightsee South Australia, he made a call.

A few minutes later Brett arrived on his Harley-Davidson and asked if I wanted to go for a ride. Did I?

Ulrike on the back of Brett's Harley in Willunga, South Australia.
Ulrike on Brett’s Harley in Willunga, South Australia.

I jumped on the back and Brett roared us out of town, along the winding B34 to Myponga (map), and then north along the coastline back into Willunga.

When we landed I asked Brett what our top speed was. 160 kilometres per hour, he answered.

It was nearing 5 pm and Mémé begged off our spontaneous dinner plans, saying she needed to be  elsewhere.

Sue, Leith and I crossed the road to the Old Bush Inn, which locals call “the top pub” because there are two other pubs on the same road, on the same side of the street, further down the hill. Naturally, they are Willunga’s “middle pub” and “bottom pub.”

Leith told us it was “Rump and Red Night”—a roast beef dinner with a glass of wine for $18.

Brett whipped home and reappeared at the pub with a gift bag for me. I opened it and gingerly pulled out almost three metres (nine feet) of snake skin.

“I thought you might like it,” Brett grinned. “My Inland Python shed it.” Brett does welding, trailer repairs, and building maintenance.

It was beautiful. I gently looped the snake once, twice, three times around my neck like a boa scarf.

Brett promised to help me find a motorcycle of my own and we all settled in for a social dinner.

Biker Brett at the Old Bush Inn (the "top pub") in Willunga, South Australia.
Biker Brett at the Old Bush Inn (the “top pub”) in Willunga, South Australia.

Eat a Ned Kelly

A Ned Kelly pie and iced coffee at Beck's Bakehousing in Noarlunga, South Australia.

“What is a Ned Kelly pie?” I asked the server at Beck’s Bakehouse.

“It’s a meat pie with an egg on top,” she shrugged.

Who is Ned Kelly?” I asked Jared. We were seated outside the Port Noarlunga bakery café with his daughters Tilly and Delilah.

Jared’s eyes lit up. “He was a bush ranger, yeah?” he started. “He was an outlaw, a folk hero, an advocate for the disenfranchised in Australia.”

“What do you mean by ‘ranger'” I prodded as I sipped my iced coffee. “In Canada, a ranger is someone who looks after the forest.”

“Nah, nah, nothing like that! He stole horses and shot a few policeman and he was Irish,” Jared offered. “He defied the British colonizers and got hanged when he was just twenty-five years old.”

“But why did they name a meat pie after him?” I pursued. I looked around from Jared to Tilly to Delilah. They sipped their juice.

“Such is life”

Back at the house I used my brand new Onkaparinga Library card to secure a DVD of the 2003 feature film Ned Kelly. It stars Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom.

Jared and I watched the film and I learned—through the lens of Hollywood cinema—that the real Ned Kelly drank horse blood, hid in the Wombat Ranges, wore a suit of armour,  and fetched a reward of £8,000 for his capture. Enough citizens of the time resonated with his Irish-Australian idealogy that more than 30,000 of them petitioned for his release.

After a hostage-taking, gun battle, and capture in Glenrowan, Ned Kelly died by hanging in 1880. Rumour has it that his last words were, “Such is life.”

“Okay,” I turned Jared when the film credits started rolling. “But why is a meat pie with egg and cheese on top called a ‘Ned Kelly’ pie?”

“I dunno,” he answered. “I guess we’ll have to watch the documentary too.”

We did, but my meat pie question remains unanswered.

Watch Outlawed – The Real Ned Kelly from ABC (Documentary, 52:18):