Day 21 of the “Ultimate Australian Rail Holiday” Tuesday 7th June 2016
If only I could make it a habit to wake before dawn every day. We live beside the ocean ourselves, so perhaps I would be rewarded with a similar sight to that which greeted us from the jetty and foreshore at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island. The pinks and purples of a pre-dawn sky, the brilliant flash of a rising sun, seals swimming between the moored boats and lounging on the rocks. That gave us something to talk about over breakfast back at the hotel, the origins of which date back to 1907.
Mark returns after breakfast to take us on our second day of touring, which this time will cover the western side of the island. As we drive to our first stop, he tells us more history of the first European settlers, what they were promised, and why some eventually re-settled on the mainland. I have come across a newspaper article (July 22, 2016) from Craig Cook, of the SA Advertiser, titled, The little-known story of Kangaroo Island’s Kingscote — the one-time capital city of South Australia. I recommend it to any of you who are interested in social or family history. it gives a fascinating insight into the struggles of the early settlers, who chose to come to Kangaroo Island on “what turned out to be a wildly optimistic report“. (note: I didn’t have to subscribe to read the article, so if it doesn’t open on this link, you could try entering some of the key words in your favourite internet search engine).
Kangaroo Island’s isolation from the mainland is one reason it has a successful honey industry, and our first visit of the day is to Clifford’s Honey Farm. It is the only place in the world where a pure strain of the Ligurian Bee exists, disease free. This quiet, docile bee was brought from Italy to pollinate the local plants. Kangaroo Island was declared a bee sanctuary in 1885. No other bees have since been imported, and now their queen bees are exported around the world.
As most of you would know, the flavour of honey is determined by the food the bees eat, and the wall chart in the below picture shows what is on offer to these guys.
We must have been too busy looking at the koalas at our next stop, the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary – Koala Walk, as I don’t seem to have even one photograph. Here you can take a leisurely stroll through the bush and check out the koalas in the wild. They can be hard to spot in the foliage, so the sanctuary rangers label which trees are occupied each morning. Koalas are slow moving – you would be too if all you ate were eucalyptus leaves (and only certain varieties!) – so it is a safe bet the koalas will still be there for your visit. Sometimes though, when you look up into a tall tree, all you can see is their furry bottom wedged into a tree fork. You can also do a nocturnal tour of this sanctuary, and expect to see Wallabies, Kangaroos, Echidnas, Bats and Possums as well as the koalas.
Somewhere along our drive, Mark pulled over to show us a collection of letter boxes. No door to door post here. The locals have recycled a variety of household items including washing machine drums, refrigerator shells, microwaves and so on. You can see a couple of the locals are very proud of their home place, claiming that those who live on KI are better off than 99.9% of the rest of the world – perhaps we should start a campaign to send them postcards from those of us on the outer 🙂
On to the westernmost part of the island, to the Flinders Chase National Park, where we will spend the rest of the day exploring its various sights. This park being established in 1918 is one of the reasons that so much of the land on Kangaroo Island has never been cleared, and there are many varieties of trees and plants in it. There are ancient Yaccas that are perhaps 500 years old. We used to call this variety of grass tree a Black Boy, but that has gone out of favour now, for obvious reasons. However, its trunk is black, with lush green fronds shooting out of the top. Mark tells us that Yacca gum makes a hard resin: mixed with mineral turps it makes shellac; mixed with gunpowder it makes fireworks of intense colour.
Mark also tell us there was a big fire in this park a few years back. The plant-life started to regenerate quickly, but we can still see stretches of open land . . . where Cape Barren Geese are grazing in the pasture. Apparently, these grey beauties remain one of the world’s rarest geese, and you can read more about them here.
Our next stunning stop is at Remarkable Rocks. Around 500 million years of rain, wind, and pounding waves have eroded the soft granite away, and left only the hard formations behind. The “sculpture” looms larger and higher as you follow the boardwalk, until you enter its various nooks and crannies towering over your head. Below is a small sample of the many, many photos I snapped as I wandered around, taking care not to pass the ‘danger’ signs, as we were perched high above the ocean, with a steep fall down. It was cold and windy up there on this day, as it would be on most days. The colours and shapes are amazing, and would be great to see at sunrise or sunset if you had the chance.
Further around the coastline is the Cape du Couedic lighthouse built in 1906. It is not open for tours but there are three lighthouse keepers cottages available to rent for holiday accommodation. You can see by the colour of the sky that it was not the day for hanging around on an exposed and rocky point of land, so we were quickly back on the bus.
At the very south-western corner of the island, and still within the Flinders Chase National Park, you can find Admirals Arch, and a breeding colony of Long-nosed Fur Seals. You see them everywhere, in the water, on the rocks, and lolling in the surrounding greenery. The water around the arch – which is another spectacle formed by rock erosion – pounds with great force and backwash, yet the seals seem to like to swim around to there from calmer points. They don’t always make it on to the rocks first time, but perhaps they are young ones learning the ropes.
I seem to have accidentally hit the publish button around this part – which is possibly a sign I should wrap it up. Suffice to say, it was another big day on the island, which finished with us crossing back to the east side – which is a drive of almost two hours – taking in more bush and natural scenery en route. Then on to the ferry at Penneshaw for the 45 minute crossing to the mainland, followed by another ninety minute coach ride into Adelaide and the various hotel drop-offs. That means about a 10.30pm arrival if you are also planning this trip.
I leave you with random scenes of Kangaroo Island coastline.
Running Total = 12,180 klm or 7,567 miles
Kangaroo Island Sightseeing + return to Adelaide = appx 420 klm or 253 mi
Total to Date = 12,600 klm or 7,820 miles
For Reference: We booked our tour through the Australian Holiday Centre.