Day 127-132 KI our last hurrah

Kangaroo Island, our last hurrah! A week before we head for home (albeit slowly) along the banks of the sometimes mighty Murray.

Kangaroo Island (KI to the locals) is big. It’s roughly a 150 km long and 55 or so km wide at the widest point. It’s also the next largest island in Australia after Tasmania. But you don’t fork out 500 bucks on a ferry ride (4 passengers a car and a caravan) cause it’s big, you fork out for the wildlife and the scenery. Although I would have forked out 500 bucks just for the sand boarding. But more on that later.

KI Ferry
KI Ferry

There is wildlife a plenty on KI. After a very pleasant ferry crossing from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw we motored on to spend our first night at the islands ‘commercial hub’, Kingscote. As a commercial hub it was just like New York City! Well with the rates charged by the local caravan park perhaps it had aspirations to be a major commercial hub, otherwise it was one of the sleepier little towns we have visited. Still it had a great pelican feeding session and tour to view one of the islands colonies of little penguins, which if our tour guide is to be believed are in decline cause those pesky New Zealand fur seals from the other side of the island keep snacking on them.

Pelican waiting for fish
Pelican waiting for fish

Amy and Oliver thought it was great though getting to stay up until 10pm. Not to mention the now familiar but still enthralling look on their face as they get totally lost in the experience.

At the far end of KI we stayed in a much better value for money park, scenic good amenities and koalas! Yep one of the little furry fellas took up residence in the tree directly in front of our van. And there he stayed. Cute, but he don’t do much. It got very excited at one point though and climbed slowly down one branch and even more slowly up another, to get a different batch of leaves.

When he got excited
When he got excited

More exciting was Oliver’s encounter with the resident KI Kangaroo (a unique species only found on the island). Clearly well accustomed to caravaners it was investigating our stuff. Oliver watched it for some time and then boldly stood right next to it. Perhaps it was because they were the same height I’m not sure but the kangaroo stood up and tried to give Oliver a cuddle (or perhaps a bit of a box) and had to be shooed away. Oliver surprisingly got over this incident quite quickly resolving not to go that close next time, Amy on the other hand would not go out alone if the kanga was in sight for the rest of our stay!

Friends again
Friends again

Out at Flinders Chase National Park we dropped in on the Admirals Arch with it’s colony of those pesky penguin eating NZ fur seals. They’re ever so amusing to watch though and we spent quite a while doing so. We often find ourselves lingering, still sitting watching whatever it may be while hoards of others come and go. These seals were very active cavorting in the large swells that crashed against the rocks which were their home.

A (suspected) penguin muncher
A (suspected) penguin muncher
Admirals arch
Admirals arch

The NZ fur seals were in fact far more active than the Australian sea-lions which we visited the following day. Due to the fact that the Aussi sea-lions spend three days at sea diving up to 600 (I think) metres deep between 900 and 1200 times in order to fill their bellies, they are exhausted when they get back to land and basically just sleep for three days before doing it all over again. Don’t they know there are penguins just around the corner?

So snoozy
So snoozy

Speaking of critters which work hard for a meal we also visited two honey farms on KI. I was astonished to learn that to make 500gms of honey worker bees visit 2 million flowers and fly 100,000 km, at a top speed of 27km an hour. Wow! I’ve always loved honey. Now l love it even more.

Despite all this fabulousness by far the best part of KI is sand boarding at Little Sahara. After a couple of false started we managed to hire toboggans and headed for the dunes. big dunes, maybe 50 metres tall and nice and steep. None of us needed much encouragement and spent a good two hours trudging up and flying down those dunes. Together, separately, sitting up or on our bellies. Amy and Oliver both declared it, unprompted, THE BEST thing we have done on this trip. Big call. It was FUN!

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Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!
Sandboarding!

We spent our last night on KI at Penneshaw and I began to wonder why we rushed so quickly past it upon our arrival. It’s a scenic little spot with fantastic views across the water to the mainland. On the ferry ride the next day Amy and Oliver discovered rotating chairs overlooking the front deck. The rolling seas meant they didn’t have to do anything to make the chairs spin and so they spent forty five minutes giggling hilariously and spinning like tops. Emma and I watched on a good part amused ourselves but with almost equal measure unsure whether it was our parental duty to intervene. We chose not to and I’m glad about that. The days are long but the years are short. What’s a bit of raucous fun.

PS we also visited the Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase National Park which were…. remarkable.

Remarkable rocks
Remarkable rocks
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Remarkable children
Weirs Cove - just round from Remarkable Rocks
Weirs Cove – just round from Remarkable Rocks
Remarkable Rocks
Remarkable Rocks
Remarkable Rocks
Remarkable Rocks

Day 126 Duck… duck… GOOSE!

There are some sounds that just aren’t nice. Finger nails dragging down a chalk board is one. A shovel scraping over concrete (Emma’s favourite noise) is another. As a caravan pilot I do not like the sound of an awning trying to occupy the same space as a tree. I couldn’t describe just what this sound is like, suffice perhaps to say it is sufficiently different to the usual caravan noises to have made me very quickly realise I had done something stoopid.

It all happened at a carpark just outside the Barossa town of Angaston. As I manoeuvred the car and van away from the edge of the drive the awning fitted to the outside edge of the caravan caught the edge of a tree that was clearly located too close to the Yalumba winery. The tree must have been drunk because it was leaning heavily to the side.

Of course nature has a way of resolving attempts by two objects to occupy the same space and this quickly saw the front arm of the awning removed from the caravan. The tree lost a little bark but I’d say it came out on top overall. The other thing that took a battering was my ego. While I was giving myself a right good dressing down (internally for the most part I hope) Emma calmly took the situation in her stride. I love the way she does that. ‘It’s happened, that’s life, let’s just deal with it’. If that wasn’t exactly what she said it must have been pretty close. She’s very good for me at times like this.

@?!(?!!!!!!
@?!(?!!!!!!

So after inspecting the damage, and with Ian’s assistance, we strapped the front end of our now armless awning to the roof of the van and began thinking through our new plan. We were about to hit the road for Cape Jervis, but clearly that was now not going to happen. Emma located a caravan service centre in Gawler about forty kilometers away and I rung the issuance company. The repair people soothed my humbled spirit somewhat. After I had explained what had happened they responded, ‘yeah no worries that happens all the time’. I may be a goose, but its nice to know the rest of my flock is out there somewhere!

As the repairs would have to wait until the following day we filled in time by looping through other parts of the very scenic Barossa. The next day we visited the Gawler mall where I had a haircut (singularly the worst cut I’ve ever paid for). Oliver’s turned out alright though and we ran some other errands. We then headed back out into the grapes, had a cracker of a coffee at Williamstown and visited the whispering wall – a 140 metre wide damn wall which carries sound perfectly around it’s curve. You can literally whisper to someone on the other side.

All fixed!
All fixed!

After collecting the beautifully repaired caravan (thank you wonderfully helpful people of the Gawler Caravan Centre) we spent that night back at Williamstown which was splendid in it’s simplicity. A balmy spring breeze blew over us as we camped beneath a canopy of claret ash. In front of us was a large green cricket pitch surrounded by tall trees. Amy and Oliver spent hours constructing a home for Koalee from sticks and bark or swinging around the steel fence running around the oval. All was right with our world once more.

Constructing Koalee's home - Williamston
Constructing Koalee’s home – Williamston
Koalee moves in
Koalee moves in

Day 122-125 A taste of the good life

‘It has a chalky finish, plenty of fruit on the palette and without the big acidic notes you get with some wines. Also a hint of ginger there, it’s very subtle, a complex drop’. We are at Skillogalee in the Clare Valley and Ian and I are sampling the goods while Emma distracts Amy and Oliver outside amongst the vines.

‘Uh huh’, I think to myself. I enjoy tasting wines but our host is looking for a response and there is pressure to sound like I know something, anything even, about wine. Is it my approval he’s after or just confirmation of his bold description, I wonder? Under the expectant gaze of a passionate viticulturist I feel like a rabbit trapped in the headlights. All my feeble knowledge of wine permits me to say is ‘yeah it’s good’, but that’s so weak I dare not utter a word. Instead I cast my eyes to the side and look over at Ian. ‘What about we try the cab sav next?’.

Ian saves the day, changing the subject to express his surprise at the production of a rose he has noticed from the… I cant even remember which grape raised his eyebrows.

‘Oh yes’, comes the response. ‘It all depends upon how long you leave it on the skins’.

‘Yes time on the skins’, I mutter under my breath. What are the skins? All I know is some of the wines taste good. Smooth to drink, maybe they are the ones without the ‘big acidic notes’. Note to self, when talking about wine ‘notes’ is a good word!

Despite the occasional awkwardness there seems no point visiting Clare or the Barossa without sampling the goods. And I like the stuff. I do. I just don’t have the lingo down. So sample we did at Sevenhill, Skillogalee and the Last Word in the Clare. We also dropped in on Penfolds and Yalumba in the Barossa. Yalumba had its own cooperage which made for a fascinating interlude. Remarkable just how they can assemble a few bits of oak into a watertight (or wine tight as the case may be) barrel without even a drop of glue. While perusing the countryside many other names I am familiar with, if unable to adequately describe, such as Orlando, McGuigans and Jacobs Creek also passed by.

The country side is fantastic. The landscape is full of broad scale patterns, rich with colour, be it grape vines contouring around hills, wheat crops smooth and golden ruffling in the wind or hay pastures with big round bales scattered as far as the eye can see. Up above is that distinctly South Australia sky, an unfamiliar shade of blue with scattered high level cloud thrown in for interests sake. Mixed in are a distinctive and surprisingly large eucalyptus species which makes for woodland breaks amongst the agricultural production. Each little town has its own charm owing in large part to the stonework buildings that line the streets. It’s all very easy on the eye, as the food and wine is on the palette… and the whole scene lacks acidic overtones!

While not visiting wineries we could be found visiting the local markets, out jogging the Riesling or other trails, lunching at parks with playgrounds (the national playground tour as we are starting to refer to it) or tackling the Mintaro maze (thanks Ian). We also enjoyed a few simple pleasures, like pancake breakfasts with chef Grandpa in the leafy grounds of the Clare caravan park and running races at twilight on the green ovals of the park in the Barossa. Sometimes the happiest moments are the most straightforward.

The talking toilet at Port Augusta on the way to Clare also seems worth a mention as it has been the cause of much mirth since. It was one of those super indestructible jobs with doors on a slow moving guillotine mechanism. After Amy and Oliver had done what needed to be done the toilet spoke up…’thank you for using exceloo’. We found this to be quite hilarious and it oft is now repeated even as leaving standard amenities.

Our Clare and Barossa adventure concluded with a crash… But that is a story for next time.