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Kangaroo Island Trip

February 2003

Pictures from our February 2003 Kangaroo Island Trip

This was just a long weekend trip, but to a place we had wanted to go for quite some time. Kangaroo Island is only a few kilometers off the South Australia coast, a couple hours south of Adelaide - but we had been saving it for that very reason. It makes a very easy weekend trip to someplace quite different which doesn't require much planning. The hard part was making accommodation reservations sufficiently far in advance, since we didn't really want to camp out this time around. However, our neighbors across the street had found a new house at Island Beach on KI which sounded great. They went there in January and had a wonderful time, so we decided to try it out for a long weekend.

Kangaroo Island was apparently inhabited by Aboriginal people long ago, but at the time of European "discovery" of the island in the early 1800s, there were no native inhabitants. KI was named by Matthew Flinders (as was so much of Australia) while exploring in his ship Investigator. He chose the name because of all the kangaroos they found and killed for food while exploring the island in 1802. Two days after leaving KI, Flinders "encountered" French explorer Nicolas Baudin, captaining the ship Le Geographe, who was also exploring Australia. This occurred at Encounter Bay near present-day Victor Harbour (see our visit to Encounter Bay in the regular journal pages). Baudin later returned to KI and circumnavigated it and was the first to chart both north and south coasts, which gave him the opportunity to bestow a few place names such as Cape de Couedic in the far west of the island. In fact, one can trace the extent of Flinders' and Baudin's voyages by the place names - on the northeast coast the names tend to be English, while the other coasts tend to feature French names. However, there is one American name on KI. In 1804, some American sealers met Baudin in the vicinity; he recommended KI as a place to hunt seals. They sailed their ship Union to what is now known as American River and settled there temporarily while they built a second ship, the Independence. A few years later, the South Australian Company established a permanent colony at Kingscote, and the island has been continuously occupied since then.

The only access to KI is via ferry or airplane. We chose ferry, since we like to drive our own vehicle whenever possible. In order to maximize our time on the island, we booked onto the 9am ferry which meant leaving home at about 6:15 am. We were up and on our way in good order, and the girls enjoyed seeing the sunrise, as well as a lot of kangaroos and Galahs, and taking pictures as the sun came up. We were the second car in line at the ferry dock, and explored the area around Cape Jervis a bit while waiting to load onto the ferry. We noticed a sea lion playing in the water below the ferry, so took that as a good sign.

Clara got a good picture of Tim sitting on the rock commemorating one of the Aboriginal Dreaming tracks in the area. The plaque on the rock Tim is leaning against reads:

The Tjilbruke Dreaming Track

Cape Jervis

This place marks the turning point of the Kaurna ancestral being Tjilbruke. Proceeding north along the foreshore, he came to a cave called Janarwing, where he placed his dead nephew Kulutuwi on a ledge.

Traveling deep into the cave he emerged at the top of the range at Mount Hayfield and later became a glossy ibis.

Tjilbruke's spirit lives on and can be seen wherever there are swamps. His body became a rocky hill formation containing pyrites used for fire making at Brukunga.
Along these lines (pun intended), Tim has been reading an interesting book on Aboriginal life, The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin which relates to dreaming tracks such as this one.

One of the main people whom Bruce meets in the book is Arkady, son of Russian immigrants who made a life in Adelaide. Arkady has been sufficiently accepted by the Aboriginal people to allow him to take on the job of negotiating with the Aborigines a right-of-way for the Alice-to-Darwin rail link (the book was published in 1987 - and the right-of-way of the railway was starting to be marked then, but true construction only started a couple years ago.) One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the explanation of Songlines, and how they tie the people to the land - and not just in the sense of a few important or sacred sites - but of the paths between the sites as well. The explanations and examples Chatwin provides actually seem a more accessible explanation than those presented at, e.g., places such as Uluru; perhaps this is simply that Chatwin is explaining in sufficient detail, and with sufficient framework for westerners to understand, whereas the educational displays at various tourist sites are very piecemeal; a key part of the trouble that westerners have is that part of the Aboriginal culture is the need for secrecy, and making sure that only the "initiated" learn the songs that are central to their lives. It is not just that the Aboriginals do not want to explain their culture and religion in any meaningful way, it is that their culture prohibits it. So, what is presented is, at best, some excerpts of the sort they deem appropriate for strangers - and stranger, in this sense, may mean even other Aboriginals from different lines. Unfortunately, this frequently comes across as a standard magician (or Wizard of Oz) approach, providing a diversion (here, listen to this story, or watch this show), without actually explaining at a sufficiently low level to achieve understanding in their audience - perhaps hoping the westerners will just go away and stop bothering them, and disturbing the land.

Below we've paraphrased some extracts from Chatwin's book that help explain the ties of the Aborigines to the land, and some of the reasons it is difficult to map a western view of the land onto an Aboriginal view, or visa versa.

Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic beings who had wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path - birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes - and so singing the world into existence.

Each totemic ancestor, while traveling through the country, was thought to have scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of his footprints, and how these Dreaming-tracks lay over the lands as "ways" of communication between the most far-flung tribes. A song was both map and direction finder. Providing you knew the song, you could always find your way across country. A man on "Walkabout" would always be traveling down one of the Songlines. As long as a traveler stuck to his track, he'd always find others who shared his dreaming, and from whom he could expect hospitality. Straying from one's track could get one killed.

Most of Australia could thus be seen as a musical score, with hardly a rock or creek in the country that had not been sung. One should perhaps visualize the Songlines as a spaghetti of Iliads and Odysseys, writhing this way and that, in which every "episode" (or sacred site) was readable in terms of geology. The distance between two sites is therefore equivalent to a stretch of song.

This latter crucial insight is what causes a lot of the troubles between westerners and Aboriginals (such as during the surveying for the railway). It is far easier to convince a westerner that some massif such as Uluru is of great cultural significance, than to convince them that some featureless stretch of gravel is the equivalent of Beethoven's Opus 111.

By singing the world into existence, the Ancestors had been poets in the original sense of poesis, meaning 'creation'. No Aboriginal could conceive that the created world was in any way imperfect. His religious life had a single aim: to keep the land the way it was and should be. The man who went "Walkabout" was making a ritual journey. He trod in the footprints of his Ancestor. He sang the Ancestor's stanzas without changing a word or note - and so recreated the Creation.

Westerners made the common mistake of assuming that, because Aboriginals were wanderers, they could have no system of land tenure. This was nonsense. Aboriginals, it was true, could not imagine territory as a block of land hemmed in by frontiers, but rather as an interlocking network of "lines" or "ways through."

All Aboriginal words for "country" are the same as the words for "line." For this there was a simple explanation. Most of Outback Australia was arid scrub or desert where rainfall was always patchy, and where one year of plenty might be followed by seven years of lean. To move in such landscape was survival; to stay in the same place suicide. The definition of a man's "own country" was "the place in which I do not have to ask." Yet to feel at home in a country depended on being able to leave it. Everyone hoped to have at least four "ways out", along which he could travel in a crisis. Every tribe - like it or not - had to cultivate relations with its neighbor.

These relations, and associated trading (in the sense of meeting, sharing resources, intermarriage, etc.) were carried out along the Songlines. Songs, not things, were the principal medium of exchange. Before the westerners came, no one in Australia was landless, since everyone inherited, as his or her private property, a stretch of the Ancestor's song and the stretch of country over which the song passed. A man's verses were his titled deeds to territory. He could lend them to others. He could borrow other verses in return. The one thing he couldn't do was sell or get rid of them.

If the elders of one clan decided it was time to sing their song cycle from beginning to end, messages would be sent out, up and down the track, summoning song owners to assemble at the Big Place. Then each owner would sing his stretch of the Ancestor's footprints, always in the correct sequence. To get a verse out of order was the worst crime possible, punishable by death, as it represented an "uncreation" of the Creation.

Each song manages to overcome language barriers, regardless of tribe or frontier. A Dreaming-track might start in the northwest, near Broome, thread its way through twenty languages or more, and go on to hit the sea near Adelaide. But it remains the same song - the song is recognizable by the tune, as opposed to the words. A young man on Walkabout could sing his way across Australia providing he could hum the right tune. In practice, Elders would advise such a young man to travel no more than two or three "stops" down the line. A "stop" is the point where the song passes out of an individual's ownership, beyond which it is no longer yours to look after or to lend, like an international boundary.

One consequence of this interweaving of scores or hundreds of Songlines at any typical area was that while there were the usual small conflicts between individuals, and vendettas to right perceived wrongs - there was never any attempt to "conquer" another's territory. It would never occur to an Aboriginal to do this, since there was no concept of boundaries or political frontiers such as define western countries.

Given the above description, it is easy to see just how superficial the description on the plaque of Tjilbruke is - the events described in three lines on the plaque would probably take hours to properly sing / reenact by the Aboriginals. Some additional information about this particular dreaming was available online; it seems to have disappeared. However here are some other dreamtime stories that give the flavour.

We then boarded a different type of sea lion, the catamaran ferry named Sea Lion 2000 which would take us to KI. It has a single ramp, so the last vehicles on board (and the bigger trucks) end up backing on. However, we were small enough we could just drive in and circle around til we were facing out. Then it was upstairs, where Tim and the girls spent most of the time exploring out on the decks during the 45 minute crossing.

We arrived at Penneshaw, on the eastern tip of Kangaroo Island, and stopped in the visitor center to get our bearings. Then it was off to explore the easternmost part of the island before checking into our cabin. Most of the sea traffic (tankers and cargo ships) coming into Adelaide port pass between the eastern tip of KI and the mainland. This is a narrow passage, with lots of sandbars and reefs, so there are currently five lighthouses (or "light stations", as the Aussies tend to call them) operating in the passage. How long the lighthouses will continue in operation, given the widespread use of GPS, is unknown, but they seem secure for the moment. We visited Cape Willoughby Lighthouse (the first in South Australia) and toured the station. Clara found a horse - but was rather dismayed at its condition. Lucy found some whalebones - in even worse condition than the horse! We also climbed up to the top (about 85 feet) of the lighthouse for a marvelous view, in spite of the wind and rain and storm clouds. The weather is normally pretty windy and stormy - on New Year's Day the winds were recorded at 100 km/hr (and remember that New Year's is mid-summer here!). The winds have gotten as high as 130 km/hr at times. Here's the view straight down.

Cape Willoughby, like all the other light houses in Australia, was automated many years ago, so a stationkeeper is no longer necessary. The duty was tough and solitary, and since the light must be manned 24 hours a day in case of need, 3 keepers were stationed there at a time, with considerable social friction at times. Family life was usually non-existent, and keepers, when married, usually suffered high rates of divorce, etc. These days, instead of the old oil lamps, the light houses are electrically lit, and use different colored lights to indicate positions of specific reefs, proper lines of approach, etc. Also gone are the mercury baths in which the Fresnel lens floated to allow easy turning. The use of mercury also had a dramatic impact on the health of the keepers. Here's Clara checking out the old Fresnel lens. There is an interesting website with lots of information about Australia's lighthouses, located here; the Cape Willoughby lighthouse is described here.

After our tour, we ate lunch at a little cafe (Samphires - and the spelling IS correct!) adjacent to the lighthouse, which is only open a few days a week for lunch, and one night a week for a fixed-menu dinner. It is certainly off the beaten track, 25 km away from town down dirt tracks, so limited hours are not surprising. The lady who served us turned out to be from Georgia, having moved here 8 years ago! We stopped along the shore on the way back for a quick look around, then headed back towards Island Beach and our home for the next three days. While there are a fair number of paved roads on the island, most of the more interesting spots require traveling "unsealed" roads, which are frequently a dark red in color, winding through dense Mallee scrub or Sugar Gum forests. We arrived at "Alchemy", our cabin. We then started unpacking and exploring, and discovered our official "greeter" - a wolf spider on the wall. Tim gathered the spider up and then dropped it outside. For reference in the picture, the center of the body was just over an inch long (no, we didn't measure with a ruler - Tim dropped a 50 cent piece on the floor beside the spider after he moved it out on the deck, then took the picture - he's just edited out of this version to focus on the spider!) When stretched out, from leg tip to leg tip, the spider is about 4 inches across.

Looking in Venomous Creatures of Australia by Struan and John Sutherland, a standard work on the subject from Oxford Press, we found that "Wolf Spiders are small to medium-sized spiders." We wondered what the authors would consider a large spider! Wolf spiders are "suspected" of being mildly (by Australian standards) poisonous, but, like many creatures in Australia, they are not fully understood. We decided we'd stay away from them all the same, and not adopt "Wolfie" as a pet...

As in most of South Australia, water is a scarce resource on KI. And, if South Australia is sparsely populated, KI is even more so, which means most dwellings are on their own when it comes to providing water and sewer - so all the water available at the cabin is from rain water, gathered in tanks and stored against future need. This is common practice throughout Australia, and one notices that most rural houses have one or more large tanks (or sometimes ponds) which supply all their water. So, conservation is important.

Then it was down to the beach - yet another example of Australia's plenitude of beautiful and uncrowded beaches. The girls found a lot of shells for their collection, plus a dead banded toadfish which we decided to leave where it was. Here's Lucy doing the shell dance. After a quick wash-up we headed back into Penneshaw for groceries. However, it was a Saturday and a bit "late" - about 4 pm - so the small local grocery store was closed. At a nearby "general store" we managed some milk and a newspaper and filled the car up with gas. We then drove around looking for some place to eat, and we were learning that, regardless of what all the brochures say about what is open when, KI truly runs on "Island Time." Most places weren't open, some "might" open later. But - we got lucky and found a wonderful little cafe near the ferry dock, called Wild Fish, run by a delightful couple. We had some of the best pizza we've had in Australia, along with the best calamari. They even had a basket of stuffed animals for the girls to play with! We decided right then that we had to come back again before we left. The proprietress offered the girls free ice cream bars, since they had behaved so well (now there's a positive reinforcement!), but they were full, so we promised to come back again and next time they'd save some room. The cafe is also immediately adjacent to the penguin watching area in Penneshaw as well as the ferry - however, no penguins were to be seen (not surprisingly), only a sign.

Back at Alchemy, it was time for showers for the girls. This proved to be a challenge; we'd already determined that the showers needed to be quick to conserve water, much to the girls chagrin. However, reading the instructions taped to the bathroom mirror on how to use the shower, we soon understood why the last line of instructions said "Good Luck!" But it turned out that it was impossible to set a steady temperature in the showers - instead the water just cycled from scalding hot to freezing cold and we got used to dancing in and out of the water as it passed from one extreme to the other. This was disconcerting for the girls to say the least! We promised them a shallow bath later in the stay (there was a small bathtub in their bathroom as well), as we could adjust the temperature of that a little more easily - after all, "on average", the water temperature was fine - it was just the bouncing between extremes that was the problem.

Afterwards, we went out on the deck to enjoy the sinking sun, have a chocolate, and watch passing birds, including a pelican flying overhead, and a black swan paddling by.

Sunday morning, we slept in (relative to Saturday, anyway). The girls were up early, drawing away (see here, here and here.) Then we headed off to Flinders Chase National Park, on the far western end of KI. Along the way, we discovered some of KI's more challenging intersections, and managed to get off on a back road parallel to the road we really wanted. However, there are advantages to taking a road "less traveled by" - or at least Tim thought so. Driving down the red dirt road, he noticed something interesting by the side of the road, and stopped to investigate. It turned out to be three dead possums that someone had propped up on sticks as if hitchhiking. He took a couple pictures, then returned to the car, where he asked Clara and Lucy if they had written that down in their journals (the girls are avid writers - and, on this trip, they became confirmed photographers as well). Sandy told Tim that while he was out taking a picture, Clara told her in no uncertain terms "I don't want to take a picture, I don't want to write about it, I don't EVER want to remember it!" Heading down the road again, Tim made up some new words to the Australian Christmas carol "Six White Boomers", which involved instead "Three Dead Possums", and began singing it to the girls. No apparent response - but remember this material - you WILL see it again.

Along the way out to Flinders Chase, we saw lots of birdlife, particularly fairy wrens and a yellow-winged bird which we think was a species of honeyeater. We also saw kangaroos (usually a variation of the Western Grey Kangaroo known as the Kangaroo Island Kangaroo - catchy name, huh!) and wallabies (usually Tammar Wallabies - which are rare elsewhere, but actually too abundant in parts of KI) as well as Cape Barren geese. We stopped at the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre to get our permit, look at the displays - and, in the parking lot, to visit with some small, mooching KI Kangaroos, looking for a handout.

From there, it was into the southwestern portion of the park, towards Cape de Couedic. Note the islands in the distance. These are known as the Casuarina Islets, or The Brothers. Beyond them is nothing but ocean until Antarctica. The waters around Cape de Couedic are treacherous, and there is a lighthouse there as well, although mainly to warn ships away, rather than to help them navigate through the narrow passage as is the case on the eastern end of the island. Also at Cape de Couedic is a large colony of New Zealand Fur seals, which can be observed from fairly close range, thanks to a series of boardwalks that have been installed. Although our reading had indicated that these seals prefer boulder-strewn beaches (of which there were a lot in the area), many seemed just as happy sprawling on the large slabs of rock around the area.

After viewing the seals for a while from a distance, we headed down to the "Admiral's Arch", a rock feature which is essentially a cave with two open ends, and where the seals like to lounge around as well (The arch appeared as a dark hole in the far cliff in this previous picture. You can also barely make out the walkways that lead down and around the cliff and into it.) Note in this picture what appears to be vegetation hanging down from above - this is actually rock, and this is the way it has eroded. You can also see a few seals in the picture. We took some pictures, including this family shot, then eventually made our way back up the boardwalk, and then headed east, stopping at the lighthouse long enough for a few pictures. (Note the bunker for storing kerosene in the foreground, and one of "The Brothers" in the background in this picture.) Then we turned south for Remarkable Rocks. Here is a picture looking from Cape de Couedic towards Remarkable Rocks. Note the fur seals far below on the rocks, and Remarkable Rocks can just be made out sitting on the point of land in the upper right of the picture.

The Remarkable Rocks are another of those geological wonders (like the Admiral's Arch, Uluru, the Olgas, and many others) which are scattered about Australia. In this case, it is a set of wildly-carved granite boulders sitting in isolation atop a large granite dome with ocean waves pounding far below. The sight can be seen from miles away, and only gets more interesting as you approach. Note the beach (yet another gorgeous and vacant Aussie beach) and the mist / fog across the middle of the beach and road in this picture. Remarkable Rocks are in the distance on the right. From a distance, the rocks look more like a single collection (on the drive up to the rocks we discussed what the formation looked like - Tim thought a camel, while the girls voted for a whale - and in fact, it looks like both, depending on which end you see the head). However, up close, there are many separate rocks, carved into various interesting shapes by wind and water. Here is a picture of Lucy inside the "mouth" of what she thought looked like a triceratops. Here's Tim with the girls inside one of the "caves."

Eventually, we needed to leave, as we had to recross nearly the full breadth of KI to get back to Island Beach. We chose a different set of roads, and once again saw almost no other cars or signs of people. Along the way, we saw extensive evidence of previous bush fires. We stopped to investigate some interesting trees whose seed cases had popped open due to the heat of the fires, giving the impression of little faces (the seed case on the left in the picture is 3-4 inches tall for a sense of scale). We also were lucky enough to see an Echidna making it's way across the road. Echidnas are generally scarce in Australia, and hard to breed in captivity (although the Adelaide Zoo has had some luck at it). They are more common on KI, but even with that, we didn't expect to actually see one in the wild this trip. For a sense of scale, this one was about 12 inches long. We stopped, and Tim followed it into the brush, where it found a convenient woody plant, stuck its nose under the plant for cover, and flattened out, exposing it's large and sharp spines to repel attackers.

On the way back, we stopped in Kingscote (the largest of KI's three main towns with a population of approximately 1500 - the other main towns are Penneshaw and American River) and explored the waterfront. A flock of cormorants was lined up in a dry dock railway, and a large group of pelicans was gathered on the beach, presumably waiting for the pelican feeding which occurs as a tourist attraction every night at 5 pm. We also saw a number of black swans, and the usual seagulls, ducks, and other waterfowl.

Monday morning, Tim woke up early due to Lucy's coughing. After checking her, he looked outside and noticed that sunrise was about to happen, so he went in and got his camera and tripod, and went back out on the deck to take pictures of the sun rising over the beach. In the process, Clara woke up, got her camera, and started taking pictures as well. Then, we had a bit of a leisurely morning. We attempted to spend time on the beach - but the wind was blowing a gale, and we spent all our time chasing hats, buckets, etc. - even though Clara insisted that it wasn't too windy for HER! So, we cut out beach time short and headed back into Kingscote once again, hoping to find out more about penguin tours.

Kingscote, along with Penneshaw, is famous for one other major attraction of KI - the fairy (or "Little") penguins. These are the smallest penguins in the world, and live in burrows along the shore. They spend their days at sea, feeding, then come back to the burrows at dusk. A tradition has developed of watching them return in the evenings, and boardwalks have been built to keep the people and penguins separate during this time. Both towns also have built artificial burrows out of concrete pipe, rocks, etc., to provide more protected space for the penguins. Unfortunately for us, February is immediately before the breeding season for the KI penguins; at this time, the penguins spend even more time than normal at sea feeding in preparation, so very few are seen during the usual evening tours. We checked with the National Parks rangers, who said that in the past week, none were seen on several nights, and only 3 or 4 on the others - so, since we were already having very full days, and the girls were pretty well worn out by dusk as it is, we decided to save this for our next trip. We were also consoled in that Granite Island, near Victor Harbor, which we are planning to visit in winter, is also home to thousands of Fairy Penguins, so we'll get another chance soon. More info on Fairy Penguins is available here.

After lunch at the Ozone Hotel, with a beautiful view across the beach and water, we visited a couple souvenir shops, then set off for Seal Bay on the southern coast. Seal Bay is the home of a colony of approximately 600 Australian Sea Lions, of which there are about 10-12,000 left in the world. They are confined to the southern coast of West Australia, and the South Australian coast. At Seal Bay, boardwalks have been constructed to allow observation of the sea lions without disturbing them. In addition, for the past 15 years the park rangers have been conducting tours onto the beach, which approach within 20 feet or so of the sea lions, allowing a very close look.

We arrived in time for the next-to-last tour of the day, and, while waiting, wandered down the boardwalk to see the sea lions. Along the way, we passed the skeleton of a humpback whale; the whale had died and washed up on the beach; the rangers had arranged for it to be transported inland a 100 meters or so to a protected spot, so visitors could see the skeleton. We got a pretty good view of the beach, and some distant sea lions from the boardwalk - although one sea lion was snoozing in the shade of the boardwalk stairs. The sea lions tend to live in three day cycles - they will spend 72 hours at sea, constantly diving for food, then come ashore and spend three days resting, before starting over again. Where they choose to rest depends on the weather. On this day, they were mostly on the beach, although they can pull themselves up to a kilometer inland into the scrubby dunes for protection against harsh weather. At the visitor center there was a sea lion skeleton on display which fascinated the girls - but what really caught their attention was the display that showed how sea lions had evolved from dogs! So that explains the barking of the seals!

Then we went out onto the beach with our ranger, who knew many of the sea lions "personally." There was one older female who had patches on her back where they attach radio transponders for tracking her movements. Another pup was about 16 months old and had a scar on its back, showing how lucky it was to already have survived a shark attack. One younger male kept wandering around harassing others, looking for someone to play with. And the old blond male mostly slept, only occasionally waking up when some young male got too close to his patch of beach, and then roaring off after the offender. Here is a group photo, with the female with patches in the foreground, and the older dominant male in the background. We really enjoyed just being in the middle of all these sea lions, watching them go about their business while they just ignored us.

Back at the visitor center, we looked around a bit more, then headed out. Along the way, we noticed some "white mountains" - essentially large dunes covered with scrub, but with the white sand showing through looking like snow. Nearby is an area known as "Little Sahara", with huge dunes - however, we left that for another trip. We stopped briefly at Bales Beach for a couple pictures, then headed back to American River for dinner.

We were early for dinner, so we stopped at a general store for Sandy to get some groceries. Tim and the girls noticed some pelicans and black swans near the shore, so they headed down onto the "beach" for pictures. Unfortunately, Tim misjudged the constitution of the beach, and went ankle deep into a mixture of mud, decaying seaweed, and who knows what - it was tenacious, and took his shoe off. So, we then went in search of a rest area so that he could at least partially clean up his feet and legs before dinner! Walking into the restaurant, he was convinced that he still smelled like a septic tank, but fortunately there weren't many other patrons at that early hour. The restaurant was playing music, mostly older show tunes, and after a bit, the theme song from the Blues Brothers movie cam one - and both Tim and Sandy immediately thought of the scene in the movie when Jake and Elwood invade a fancy restaurant, causing other guests to ask for another table due to their offensive smell! Dinner was very good - although the dishes came with too much "fancy but inedible" salad for both Lucy and Tim's tastes. While we were waiting, we played "guess what I drew" with Lucy's Etch-a-Sketch; we took turns drawing things we had seen on the trip, then the others would try to guess what we drew. When Tim's turn came, he of course drew "Three Dead Possums". Clara immediately guessed what it was - and both girls immediately burst into song, singing Tim's version of "Three Dead Possums" quite loudly (based loosely on the Australian Christmas carol "Six White Boomers"). Sandy gave Tim a look, and commented that she'd never be able to take them anywhere. Tim, on the other hand, was quite amused.

Monday night was bath night for the girls, although it was not quite the wild frolic they had enjoyed in a huge tub of water in the Snowys over Christmas - instead this was a minimal bath, trying to conserve water but allowing them to get clean without alternately freezing and burning! Later on (in fact, while Clara was in the tub, much to her disappointment), there was a spectacular sunset, which Tim managed to capture in a few pictures.

Morning came, and with it the realization that this was our last day, and we would sleep in our own beds come nightfall. We had a little bit of excitement right off the bat, since one of Lucy's teeth, which had been loose for some weeks, finally came loose while Sandy was helping brush her teeth. It was also the best weather we had seen since arriving - until now, it was very windy (extremely windy during the night - with the wind blowing over, around, and under the house, since it was built on stilts) and generally cloudy, with a bit of rain. However, Tuesday dawned sunny and clear. So, we packed up, and were soon on our way to the Clifford Honey Farm.

The bees which produce KI honey are somewhat unique. They are Ligurian bees, from Italy. They were brought to the island in the 1880s, and have remained a pure strain. Now, they are the only pure Ligurian bees left in the world. Ligurian bees are valued for their mild demeanor, and many queens are exported from KI to start hives elsewhere. Because of the rarity of this pure strain, there are strict regulations in place to avoid contamination of the strain by mainland bees. The minimum 12 km separation between KI and the mainland is sufficient to keep bees from flying over as well. At the Clifford's farm, we watched an interesting film about the bees and beekeeping, and were able to watch the bees inside a glass-fronted hive - some were dancing to indicate where a good nectar source was relative to the hive, some were feeding the young larva, some were making wax for the honeycomb - and Clara even managed to find the queen, who was resting at the time. One thing we found extremely interesting in the film was that there are two sets of bees responsible for acting as living fans, using their wings to circulate air in and out of the hive to maintain the proper temperature and humidity. We couldn't spot any of the "fan bees" in the hive - but it was fascinating nonetheless. KI also has plants flowering year round, so there is always a source of nectar for the bees, meaning they are always working. However, there is less available in the winter, so the Cliffords never harvest honey in the winter. The hives are moved regularly to control what the bees use for honey, and the result is that there is an amazingly wide range of honey flavors produced - we ended up bringing several different flavors home with us. They also had a variety of equipment on display, including honey separators - both manually-turned two-frame ones and large electrically powered ones holding a couple dozen frames. And, to top off our visit, we sampled their homemade honey ice cream, which even Clara (who normally is not a honey eater) enjoyed.

After honey - it was time for another unique KI experience - the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery. This is a self-sufficient operation - militantly so, in fact! They make a big deal about their use of wind and solar power, and their proficiency at bush engineering, and are very proud of their approach to "making-do". As an example, here is one of their former distillation units - made of an old beer keg, scrap pipe, and a bathtub. We took the tour around the place - they used to be a sheep station, but have gotten out of that business, and now are strictly a eucalyptus and emu oil producer (and tourist attraction).

Eucalyptus oil is distilled from the leaves of the Narrow Leafed Mallee. The oil can be seen in the leaves as the small yellow-white spots. The current setup at Emu Ridge is a two stage process. First, the leaves are "cooked" in hot water over a fire built of leftover Mallee clippings and brush. The water and oil mixture is boiled off, and run through a coil of tubing in a large outdoor tank of cool water (similar to the open-topped Morton Refrigerators formerly used in Scottish whisky distilleries - although only Edradour still uses one regularly). The oil and water condense, with the majority of the water returning to the boiler, and an oil-and-water mixture running off to a separate container for further distillation. This mixture is then separated manually (the oil floats on top of the remaining water), and this crude eucalyptus oil (which is very strong smelling) is then put into a second, smaller still of sorts, and boiled / cooled again, and the result is the final, refined eucalyptus oil. The oil can then be used for a variety of purposes - from flavoring soaps and candies, to use as an antiseptic treatment for cuts, bug bites, and so on.

Emu Ridge also raises emus, and the emus produce an oil in their preening glands, which is collected and used in products. One of the more interesting products (to us) was a lip balm made of a combination of eucalyptus and emu oil. We watched the emus for a bit, and once again noted that they are an oddity in the animal world, with the mothers only sticking around long enough to lay the eggs, then they take off and leave the fathers to raise the little ones. The proprietors of Emu Ridge are also trying to restore their land, now that sheep are no longer grazed. They are in the process of putting up a fence around the entire area to keep out the feral cats which attack the native animals (they had skins from feral cats available for sale in their shop), and also are planting thousands of native trees (primarily narrow-leaf Mallee for their distillation operation.) They also have a problem with an over abundance of Tammar Wallabies. They are allowed to cull the excess wallabies - but, since they are a protected species, they cannot profit from them, so the carcasses have to lie where they are shot - which accentuates the feral cat problem by providing a ready food source! R. M. Williams, one of the major Australian leathergoods suppliers / outfitters, used to be able to use the excellent wallaby leather for their boots and coats, but must now use other domestic sources such as cattle.

From Emu Ridge, we headed to Parndana, in the middle of the island, and had lunch at the Parndana Common Hotel (where we were the only customers in the dining room). Then, it was just down the road to the Parndana Wildlife Park. The flavor of the park is very much that of a 1950s-60s US "roadside attraction", rather than that of a zoo or conservation-society-run wildlife park. There was a tremendous variety of wildlife, from scores of types of parrots and cockatoos, to albino kangaroos and wallabies, echidnas, koalas, crocodiles, etc. However, most of the birds were in small cages, and the animal exhibits were fairly small and bare, other than a couple kangaroo and deer paddocks, which were reasonably large. We did have a good time, seeing all these creatures close up which would be very difficult to see in the wild. It was hard for anyone to pick favorites, but some we liked included the echidnas, koalas (picture by Lucy) and the albino Tammar Wallaby. The girls enjoyed feeding the kangaroos. One of the birds which we saw, and all thought extremely pretty was this one (picture by Clara). Unfortunately, no one wrote down the name, and we couldn't find it in our Birds of Australia book, so perhaps it is an introduced species.

We spent a couple of hours, which went all too quickly, and still didn't manage to see all the creatures at the park, but it was time to head back east to Penneshaw, for dinner at Wild Fish Cafe and then onto the ferry for the mainland. We also had to pump up the tire before leaving the park, as we had developed a slow leak in one of the tires over the weekend. But that didn't take long, and Tim and the girls explored the red, blue, and black Cassowaries (third largest bird in Australia after Ostriches and Emus) nearby. Then we were on our way. We saw a couple of Crimson Rosellas just down the road from the park - Clara suggested that maybe they had escaped from Parndana, as we had not seen any others in the wild during our trip. Dinner went well, the girls enjoyed their promised ice creams, and we went down to the docks to wait. Tim and Clara explored the beach and rocks, while Sandy and Lucy explored the foreshore and the penguin burrows. Then it was onto the ferry, where we secured some of the prime seats in the front window this time, so we could watch the trip in comfort. Seated next to us were an older British-Caribbean couple who were off on a 6 week tour of Australia, and who had been over on the one day KI tour (the bus picks you up at your Adelaide hotel at 6:15 am, and drops you back at 10:30 pm - a long day, but they cram a lot in). This was one of their regular "SKI Holidays" - SKI standing for Spending your Kids Inheritance! The weather had been very rough on their morning passage (and the day before, it had apparently even been very rough for the locals, as one of the ladies working at Emu Ridge had said she hadn't much liked the day trip she had made to visit someone.) For our crossing it was relatively calm, with only occasional medium swells.

Back at the dock, we unloaded in good order, and made an uneventful return to Adelaide. The girls dozed a bit, although not as much as we had hoped. However, they both awoke in good spirits the next day, and made it through all their activities. So, another trip filled with adventures and memories is behind us - and yet another place to revisit someday, as we only just scratched the surface of KI.

The End

Pictures from our February 2003 Kangaroo Island Trip

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