More island hopping

I pulled my usual “late to bed, early to rise” routine guaranteeing that I’d snooze on the 2-hour coach journey to the port for the ferry. I remember waking up at certain points to be told about the army barracks and so on, but the rest of the trip was pretty much a blank. Although I’m sure chocolate-flavoured clouds were involved somewhere. That may have been a dream.

After past experiences with boats, I remembered to pop a Travacalm before we boarded the ferry for the 45-minute trip to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. I managed to keep my breakfast where it was supposed to be and when we arrived, we met up with Dave who was to be our “excellent” guide for the next two days.

Kangaroo Island is the third-largest Australian island (not including the mainland itself which Aussies seem to forget is also an island) and was first “re”-discovered by Matthew Flinders. A lot of things in south and central Oz are named after this guy, and he named this island in honour of the friendly kangaroos that met them on the beach. Hundreds or thousands of years with no natural predators, let alone humans, made the creatures friendly and curious when these bipedal animals landed. And then shot around thirty of the ‘roos to refill the empty larders on the ship.

Funnily enough, the kangaroos are a little more skittish these days. Go figure.

Kangaroo Island has some of the world’s least spoilt beaches. It’s also the holder of the “best food in Australia” award. And was the first place worldwide to run a “Keep (your place) Beautiful” campaign to encourage the use of bins and recycling. You can’t even bring a potato onto the island from the mainland unless it’s in a foil wrap packet and cut into crispy slices.

As with other Adventure Tour itineraries, this one was to be pretty hectic. Dave was as good as any other guide we’ve had, being a local and full of information he was more than happy to pass on. When we returned to Adelaide, Delphine ended up in a dorm with a girl who’d been on one of the other tours and their guide had hardly told them anything about the island. Not as bad as the other tour we kept bumping into… usually as they were parked at the roadside and the guide checked a map to see where she missed a turning. Erk.

We all boarded the bus and introductions were made. Nationality count on this on: 1 x English (me), 1 x Aussie (Dave), 2 x French, 2 x Swiss, 2 x Greek, 5 x German. These Germans are everywhere in Oz!

Our first stop was Pennington Bay, a large undisturbed beach and one of the cleanest and least spoilt in the world. I guess part of this is because the weather here is not quite the tropical heat you get in, say, Bondi. However, the waves knock the socks off anything on the east coast so it’s still surprising they don’t get too many surfers.

We drove from there to Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery where we were shows a short video about the industry and then let loose on the shop. It’s a small family industry started off not too long ago. Eucalyptus used to be a main source of income on the island, but gave way to more traditional livestock and arable farming. With the drout catching hold, many farmers have recently had to slaughter a huge percentage of their sheep and carry on with a “skeleton” stock until the rains come back. There’s just not enough grass.

However, the Euclyptus sales of this tiny distillery account for 3% of the Australian total. And when you see the size of this place that’s pretty impressive. I picked up a little bottle for use on my pillow at nights when I get a stuffy nose. I could have done with this last week!

We next skipped past Bales Beach – another beauty spot and where we had lunch – before heading for Seal Bay… where we actually saw sealions. Dave’s an accredited guide for the beach here, so is allowed to take his own tour groups down and spend longer than most others’.

At first glance, sealions look a lot like some specied if seal, but there are differences. Older sealions are more likely to be light in colour, and their hunting methods are hugely different. Sealions hunt out at sea for three days straight. They then return to land and sleep for three solid days. Then repeat. Seals go out to sea for around a month at a time, but sleep when they’re out there. When they return to land to rest, they’re a lot more active.

As with so many places, though, numbers of both creatures are lower than they should be courtesy of mankind throwing all his crap into the sea and not caring. The support centre here is full of photos of injured and dead animals resulting from this.

Waving byebye to our furry friends, we headed for a quick walk along Little Sahara. Like some areas of Tasmania, this is a weird chunk of land with a lot of sand on it. Inland. With vegitation. It just doesn’t make sense, but it’s pretty cool and makes for some lovely photos.

We next skimmed past Vivonne Bay and on to Hanson Bay Santuary where we spotted a handful of koala curled up in the treetops. Koala aren’t native to Kangaroo Island, instead being introduced some years ago as they were threatened on the mainland. They have exploded here, though, and now cause a lot of damage as they eat the leaves at the top of trees. This takes away important nesting areas for some species of endemic birds. So a good intention, but nature should still perhaps be left to her own devices at times.

Our accommodation for the evening was at Flinders Chase Farm, a working farm with some lovely chalets and dorms all of which looked very new indeed. There were a few “couples” in our group who’d upgraded to private rooms which left me sharing a dorm with five European women.

What a crying shame!

Dinner was a generous barbequeue with chicken, steak and sausages plus a load of fresh veg washed down with some Coopers (South Australia’s main brewer) ales. We chatted around a lovely warm camp fire until darkness really descended, then Dave took us round the back of the farm with some torches to spot the local wildlife.

Most of the interesting creatures in Oz are predominantly nocturnal – koala, ‘roos, wallabies, platypus, possum. For this reason as soon as dusk approaches, if you’re near anywhere with kangaroos then drive slowly. It’s a lose/lose situation for you both (or for the ‘roo and your car) if you smack into one.

Amongst the sheep we spotted a handful of large Kangaroo Island ‘roos (they’re quite dark coloured with thicker fur than the mainland species), some wallabies and two or three possum. The kangaroos were bullying the sheep out of the way to use their feeders, and also scooping scraps from the grain silos. We could get surprisingly close to them given how large our group was.

Exhausted, I collapsed in bed with my bevy of Euro-beauties.

OK, that last part with a kind of an exageration, but leave me to my fantasies.

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