Walking on a Dream: Kangaroo Island and Adelaide

Sunday 26th January Australia Day
With a pick up at 6.15am from the central bus station it was another early start and I think it’s fair to say that I’ve probably not spent so little time in my hostel. I never saw the other occupants in my room. When i got back from seeing the G Adventure group one of them was already asleep which had meant scrambling around in the dark and the other 4 must have arrived sometime after me. Needless to say I was first up and ended up sorting my bag in the common room to avoid disturbing them more than was necessary.

Still half asleep I made my way to the bus terminal. It was an incredibly simple walk of around 5 minutes but my brain couldn’t process my street map of Adelaide or understand my GPS position on my mobile. Luckily I ignored what my brain was saying and followed my gut instinct and rather stumbled upon it. The departure wasn’t actually until 6.45am and 6.15am had been the check in so I just sat and waited for the gate to open. I slept most of the journey to Cape Jervis, the driver gave a bit of a commentary but I regret to say I’ve no idea what he said and I can’t have been the only one. Once I was on the boat I still hadn’t figured out who was potentially on my trip so sat alone writing my blog whilst the poor lady in front spent most of the journey being sick as her partner looked on with a lost ‘what am I meant to do?’ expression.

I found the mini bus that would effectively be home for the next 2 days and was incredibly relieved when I realised our tour guide Kate was full of energy. We were told it was an interactive tour and after breakfast, lunch and dinner we were to help tidy up so Kate instilled a feeling of family in us early on. Bob and Jill the couple in front appeared very down to earth and open to conversation as well as Yelitza from Columbia who I was sitting next to and Sabrina from Germany in the seat nearest Kate. Any fear I had that this would be a bit like my solo experience with Moreton Island Adventure Tours (when I was the only passenger not part of a couple and not only that the only person spending the night) evaporated. Throughout most of the time on the mini bus it felt that the 6 of us were having some form of conversation (if we weren’t sleeping) and that really helped to make it a memorable adventure.

Our first stop was to Rob’s Sheep Shearing. Rob wasn’t there so the demonstration was carried out by someone else who had a farm locally and was helping out. Compared to my experience in New Zealand it seemed the sheep seemed less obedient to the commands of Toby (the dog) and one of the sheep received a slight cut in the shearing demonstration. Whilst I was there primarily for the islands wildlife, the stop was still fairly interesting because sheep farming has been one of the main traditions and sources of income on Kangaroo Island since it has been settled.

We then travelled past Prospect Hill which also happens to be the narrowest point of the island. It was here that Matthew Flinders the British explorer who discovered the island was able to view Pennington Bay in the opposite direction from that he’d landed. He was therefore able to confirm that Kangaroo Island was indeed an island. If there had been time it would have been nice to have climbed to the lookout to see the view Flinders would have seen but the view from Pennington Bay was pretty spectacular as well.

Leaving Pennington Bay we made our way to the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery. This is the only one of this type on the island (indeed South Australia) despite it once being one of the biggest industries on the island. The couple who ran it did so to restore an old tradition and because they wanted to generate extra income due to their sheep farm becoming less profitable. I couldn’t quite work it out but I believe the brand name ‘Emu Ridge’ is taken from one of the old Eucalyptus producers that existed in the 1920’s. We weren’t actually shown around the distillery itself or shown how the oils were produced but there was a short video and the owners were very friendly.

It was also here that we stopped to have lunch, the deal being Kate would prepare and cook whilst we would clean and wash up. Luckily we got a good system going and everyone helped out which meant we were able to leave on time. There was an emu in a paddock outside which received the leftovers. When I book a tour I check various itineraries and base my decision on the content but once the tour is booked I tend not analyse it to much so everything that occurs becomes a pleasant surprise. An example of this was our next stop at Seal Bay where we were told we would be allowed on to the beach to view sea lions up close.

We arrived at Seal Bay and from the lookout could see a number of sea lions lying on the beach. It was a clear day with parts of the sea a lovely clear emerald green and as a result we could also make out sea lions playing in the sea with some jumping out of the water and others using the waves to body surf back in to the beach.

We were led down to the beach and whilst we were kept at a safe distance it was still unbelievable to be in the habitat of and within a few feet of an animal I’ve had a soft spot for since going to Whipsnade zoo as a child. The poo absolutely stunk if trodden on (unlike kangaroo poo which is just dried grass) so we made a point of avoiding that as we made our way across the beach. Everywhere I looked was a unique David Attenborough style image; two males that looked like they were about to fight, the ones that were surfing, those that were jumping out of the water, a mother feeding her pup and even those that were just sun bathing (baking). It was unreal. The heat however was also becoming unbearable for some and as there was no shade on the beach they were struggling.

Kate therefore made a decision to take us to Bales Beach to cool off and said those that wanted to go sand boarding at Little Sahara could do so that evening after dinner. I don’t think any of us could have been in the water much quicker and as the water was a lot colder than I’d expected a few dives under the waves had me fully refreshed. After a few attempts at body surfing and diving around to catch a football I felt ready to do what most of the sea lions were doing and to dry out on the beach. It was in the mid 30s and didn’t take long.

We left the beach and drove to our accommodation at Vivonne Lodge. Here there were a number of optional activities we could do at no extra cost including kayaking. Jill, Bob, Yelitza and Sabrina decided to do this however I opted for a little bush walk around the grounds in the hope I might see some echidnas, wallabies or kangaroos. Kangaroo Island was once part of the main land but rising sea levels 10,000 years ago has meant that the wallabies (Tammar wallabies) and the kangaroos (Kangaroo Island kangaroos) have evolved slightly differently from those on the mainland.

First i walked down towards Vivonne Bay and once I was out of the bush on the sand dune overlooking it I realised the beach itself was still fairly far off. I therefore decided to backtrack until I reached the Echidna bush walk which looped around some of the grounds. Unfortunately nothing made it self easily visible it was still fairly hot despite it being early evening. I did however hear rustling in a wooded area and could make out a kangaroo hopping away. The walk had been nice but I arrived back at the lodge slightly disappointed though that soon changed to a smile when I realised the joke nature had played on me. 2 adult kangaroos and 1 joey were grazing on the lawn so despite going on my nature walk, all I’d really had to do was relax and do nothing.

Kate cooked us all a lovely barbeque, my second in a week and equally as good. We had an industrial/restaurant style dish washer which meant cleaning up was a lot quicker and after doing my share I went to get ready for the sand boarding.

We arrived at Little Sahara and started to climb the dune. Despite climbing the one at Port Stephens multiple times I had forgotten how tough it was and Yelitza, Sabrina and I looked suitably exhausted when we got to the top. My first go down wasn’t that successful because I slid off the front as I came down which caused me to stop but some of the others including Kate and Sabrina went for a fair distance when they got to the bottom. I tried to race Sabrina on my second go but was comfortably beaten. On my 3rd go I decided to go down on my front. I was concentrating so hard on keeping my mouth closed so as not to eat half the sand dune that when I came flying off at the bottom I somehow ran my right arm over with the board resulting in a slight friction burn.

I climbed back to the top and got a few sunset pictures and a few jumping pictures before we all headed back where my intention was to shower and then watch the end of the men’s tennis final. Despite my best attempts I didn’t quite remove all the sand during the shower and throughout the evening my ears in particular kept supplying small grains. Jill then saw me and said despite having a TV, the accommodation didn’t have the right channel. This was quite disappointing but it didn’t really matter because when we got on the internet the match was already over. I had expected a longer match and had forgotten we were 30 minutes behind Melbourne time but the result was there “Stan” had done what many probably thought unlikely and beaten Nadal.

The 26th January is Australia Day, the day the first fleet landed and whilst there were big celebrations in Adelaide including a parade and fireworks there was nothing on kangaroo island. I had lost track of the dates when I’d booked the tour and also hadn’t realised England were playing Australia in another one day international cricket match in Adelaide. Whilst it may have been nice to stay in the city for another day to experience both my sole Australia day in Australia was still memorable and heaps of fun. #No regrets.

Monday 27th January
It was due to be another hot day so Kate suggested we left early so that when it got hotter in the afternoon we could cool off in the sea again. Our first stop was to Hanson Bay Koala Sanctuary which was just over 1 hours drive from our accommodation in Vivonne Bay. Whilst it was called a sanctuary the Koalas and other animals were still wild, this was just one of their main habitats.

It wasn’t long before we saw one up in the tree and because it was early they were still fairly active. 2 males were in the same tree which meant one would be forced out. They made a nasty grunting gremlinesque sound that didn’t reflect their cute butter wouldn’t melt external appearance before one launched itself towards the other which almost fell off the branch as it scurried away. Nature in action. Fantastic. We also saw some Australian Magpies, Wallabies and Kangaroos though I failed to get a perfect picture of the latter hopping away.

We left the Koalas and entered the Flinders Chase National Park. Our guide Kate gave us some information about termite mounds including how the guana uses them to hide their eggs and the Yakka tree. She also explained that in most areas bush fires are important for the vegetations development. Most are started naturally for example by thunderstorms and apparently fires are needed every 8 to 15 years to burn fuel on valley floor thereby allowing new vegetation to grow.

We soon arrived at a lookout where we could see our next destination the Remarkable Rocks which are naturally sculptured formations on a granite outcrop. We then headed on to the rocks themselves and they were possibly even more impressive up close than they had already appeared from the lookout. There was one rock with one side slightly off the ground so if you lay down you could fit your legs and feet through so they stuck out the other side giving the impression it had fallen on you. We all got a picture and I got one of Sabrina pretending to pull me out from under it.

Leaving the rocks we made our way to Cape Due Couedic, and briefly stopped to take a picture of the lighthouse before stopping at a walkway which led down to Admiral’s Arch. On the way down we could see a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals though as Kate explained these seals are also are native to Australia it is just when they were first discovered they were off the coast of New Zealand.

We had lunch at the visitors centre and whilst Kate prepared it I went on another small walk along the discovery path before I realised it was going to take longer than 30 minutes. I didn’t see anything on the walk but there was koala in a tree not far fro!m where we were eating and as it was on one of the lower branches it was possible to see clearly how it held on to the trees.

As it had been the day before the sun was relentless so on our way back to Penneshaw we stopped first at a lookout over looking Sneling beach before continuing to Stokes bay. At first the beach looked rather rocky and unappealing but after walking through a cave we were presented with a lovely sandy beach. There was also an area that had been slightly cut off by rocks which was a lot warmer than the actual sea. When I was swimming I saw small fish and then noticed blobs of what I thought was seaweed before Bob who had goggles on said they were jelly fish. He had been told by a local they would keep out of our way but if they did sting it wouldn’t be deadly. With no guarantees a sudden wave wouldn’t push one in to me and not wanting to receive an unnecessary sting I left the water fairly sharpish. We all did. It didn’t take to long to dry and I paddled in the warm water area where Sarah was trying to catch the fish and where Jill had seen a crab.

We arrived in Penneshaw and I did a little walk through an area the little blue penguins come up to at night. I was hoping there might be some chicks or adults that had not entered the sea that might make themselves obvious but none did. This may have been a blessing because Sarah said she had seen a tiger snake in the area and I doubt a baby penguin would be able to put up much of a fight.

Everyone met up again at the ferry wharf and said their goodbyes. The return journey was uneventful as we were all being slightly anti social using the free internet. We arrived back at Cape Jervis and in the chaos of finding out which bus we needed I lost track of where Yelitzer had gone but ended up on the bus with Sabrina Bob and Jill. Not that anyone said anything, we were all exhausted and I think I slept most of the way. I awoke as we approached Adelaide and as I could hear “You’re the Voice” by John Farnham I initially thought I was still sleeping. I wasn’t and was soon dropped off at the coach terminal.

Tuesday 28th January
I had booked the Adelaide Sightseeing Tour because it was free and was only going to take half a day allowing me the afternoon to explore any places that took my fancy at my own pace. I didn’t have great expectations and they had been lowered even more the previous day when Sabrina had told me she’d done it and found it boring.

The guide provided a lot of information about the history of Adelaide, a town which had no link to convicts and was settled by those who brought land from the South Australian Company. The venture was to help pay for poor labourers in Britain to emigrate however after 6 years the company had yielded to government administration as a result of bankruptcy.

Colonel Light was responsible for foundling Adelaide and he laid out the grid system. There are a number of historic buildings that date back to the early settlement which can’t be demolished and whilst they can be used for any purpose the outward appearance can’t be changed. The early settlers used blue stone, sand stone and lime stone for their buildings, many of which are churches.

We drove past the Adelaide oval, one of Australia’s main cricket ground which is being rebuilt so that the capacity is increased so it can host or AFL. We then drove up to Light’s Vision statue on Montefiore Hill which over looked the city below before also passing his burial place in Light Square.

We eventually arrived at our first stop Haig’s chocolate factory. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of this company before but I’ll never say no to free samples of chocolate. I resisted the urge to buy anything knowing that the mercury was due to hit 40 degree celsius. We were also shown how various types of chocolate were produced from behind a special viewing area.

The city tour ended at Glenelg beach and as it was hot some made a decision to stay however it was the same beach I’d gone to on the G adventures trip and I wanted to check out a bit of the city. Once I was back I went to China Town because I’d been told the food portions were good value and very filling. After helping my self to a decent size buffet I made my way to the markets where I brought a refreshing berry and passion fruit yogurt. I walked past Victoria Park which had just hosted a cycling event called “Down Under” So it didn’t really look open for tourists to walk through.

I was torn between visiting the South Australian Museum and surrounding buildings along North Street and heading over to Port Adelaide which sounded pleasant with its lighthouse and slightly more quirky museums. Just over a year ago I’d gone to an AFL game in London at the Oval between the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide. I have to admit I think I supported the Bulldogs on the day but I remember the match because Port Adelaide were losing with a matter of minutes remaining but won it by 1 point with the last kick.

The bus driver was very helpful at making sure I got off at the right stop and I should have gathered I was off the tourist trail when he expressed such surprise at me not being a local. I don’t know why I expected there to be more visitors at the museum I went to but it turned out I was the only person. This was good because attention was lavished upon me but it did also feel a bit weird. As I was crossing the Nullarbor from Adelaide to Perth I was particularly interested to see a display on the sugar and tea train. This was a weekly train which ran for nearly 100 years until 1996 supplying small settlements along the route of the Indian Pacific line with provisions so that they could survive in their remote locations.

I then made my way to the Port Adelaide Lighthouse on the water front where I had expected a nice view but even in sun it looked a bit uninviting. There was an option to climb the lighthouse for $1 but it was hot and as the view wasn’t anything except what looked a dry dock for ships I headed back to the street to get a bus back to the city.

Unfortunately the buses weren’t particularly regular (by London standards) and so I stocked up on mosquito spray and suncream in preparation for the Nullarbor whilst I waited 40 minutes for the next one. I had heard the expression ‘Bogan’ to describe feral Australian youths (the chav would probably be the UKs equivalent) but despite travelling by public transport over the main summer holidays I was yet to encounter them. That changed on the bus back to town where I finally saw some Bogan’s in the wild. Even the British Chavs would have been impressed at the level of swearing and racism shown towards an innocent bus driver that had merely asked one of the girls if she had a ticket. I think in the end she paid but ironically I later learnt that the next day the drivers were on strike and letting people on for free (though the inspectors were still checking tickets and fining those without a valid one).

I arrived in Adelaide over an hour later than planned so rather than heading for North Street I headed back towards the hostel because the heat had got the better of me. I made the decision that I would explore the areas I had missed including the botanical gardens when I returned on 1st March after travelling from Darwin in the North via Alice Springs.

I arrived at the hostel where I had to do laundry even though I knew a camping trip across the Nullarbor would only leave them in a much worse state. There was one guy in my room that always seemed to be asleep and he was again even though it was only 17.00. I opened the curtain slightly to let in some light so I could pack and then one of my other room mates entered.

I was slightly in his way so apologised and said I was leaving the next day so I’d be out of their way. Marco asked where I was going and what time as he was also leaving and we quickly established we were on the same tour. He headed back out and I spenrt the rest of the night trying to charge everything up for the road ahead because 9 nights of basic and ‘No’ facilities didn’t sound promising…

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