Kangaroos, koalas, and you
Kangaroo Island Travel Blog› entry 23 of 34 › view all entries
August 26th, 2009 – by: Documama
We're only on KI for 24 hours (much to everyone's shock and dismay) so we decided that booking tours was probably our most practical option. Last night's nocturnal tour worked out pretty well and today we've booked with Exceptional KI for what turns out to be a private tour of KI! Just the three of us and Brian, our guide.
The island is bigger than one might appreciate. It's about (I think) 90 miles long and 25 miles wide (feel free to correct this if I'm waaay off the mark). Which means it takes an hour or two to get from one end to the other so you can't see "everything" in a day. There is a large national park and lots of other interesting sights, so we had to narrow our trip to just one park and a few other quick sites.
Aside: It reminds of a 'weekend' trip I took to Paris a few years back. Everyone was shocked and dismayed. 'You can't do Paris in a weekend!' Well, no, you can't. But a long weekend was what I had. So I made the best of it and had a truly great weekend (I decided I was going to Paris to eat and eat I did! Saw a few standard tourist sites as well, in breaks between eating.). It can be liberating to not be able to do something fully. It means you're freed from even trying! Just do what you want and can and get on with it.
Brian got us all situated in the van and headed to the other end of the island. About halfway, he stopped and explained that it was almost 11 am and it was practically criminal in Australia to not have had tea/coffee by 11 am, so we were taking a tea break.
I do not know why we don't make lammingtons in the US but I got the recipe and I fer shur will be baking up these little goodies soon! It's a square of cake, dipped in a thin chocolate sauce and then sprinkled with coconut (those of you who turned away sadly at the mention of coconut, take heart. You can replace or delete the coconut).
Soft, still faintly warm, and moist. LOVED IT!!!!!! Add that to the ways that Australian bakers have it over American bakers.
After I sated myself (Jeff hates coconut so I ate his with no shame), we got back on the road. Our first stop was a eucalyptus factory.
Eucalyptus oil has a number of great properties and is used in a variety of products, so there is a market for it, especially in Australia. And, of course, it's the bread and butter (and meat and veggies and desert) for koalas. A surprising amount of eucalyptus oil in Australia actually comes from Asia but Australia is doing a lot to promote their own products and this family-owned-and-operated business is doing pretty well for itself.
And that was all pretty cool and we bought some eucalyptus and emu oil (now that stuff is great!) but the very best part? They also find themselves rescuing baby kangaroos and wallabys regularly and they had two of them there! And they let us hold them! And they were so adorable!!!! Oh, yes, I went completely googly-eyed girly over the little joeys (Kitty did too) and when he started nibbling my jacket, I took it as a sign that the universe loves me and practically melted on the spot.
Yes, it was kinda shameless and I don't care! Damn, they were cute. I could have spent the whole freakin' day there holding those joeys and still would have counted KI a complete success.
Since the joeys are used to being in a pouch, the owner has them each in a large sock and then together in a large bag hanging from a coat tree. They look as happy as they can be there.
Anyway, we relinquished the joeys, reluctantly, and got back in the van. One of the animals we were hoping to see in the wild was koalas. They're not easy to find. Well, in one way they are. They are pretty much always in eucalyptus trees or heading to a eucalyptus tree. But they move very very little and they're a sort of mottled brown/gray (a lot like the tree itself) so it's quite easy to miss them.
They really do look like little bears (but they aren't) and they do look cuddly (though apparently that's not exactly true either, since they have long nails and will pee on you if disturbed) (and their urine apparently reeks). Still, when you watch one for a while, you understand where they get their rep.
One of the key sites we wanted to go to is a place called Remarkable Rocks. It's a certain kind of rock (geology fails me here) out on the coast that has been carved into the most fantastic (dare I say it, even remarkable?) shapes by the sea and the wind. It's just too danged fascinating and even if you are a devoted point-and-click kind of photographer, you will find yourself trying to channel Ansel Adams.
We had a perfect example of how nature forms these rocks too because it was wild and windy that day. The wind was easily blowing 30-40 knots with gusts up to 60 (Jeff confirmed this for me). I mean, it was blowing a stink! It wasn't frigid cold but it was mighty brisk. Brisk enough to make you think you might just get blown off those remarkable rocks and into the ocean. Another time it was good not to be a, shall we say, little slip of a girl. :)
I could have stayed up there even longer but both Brian and Kitty were feeling the chill, so we hopped back into the van for our next stop, Seal Beach. This is a point on the end of the island where fur seals roost and rest. With the wild winds, the waves were crashing and foaming and doing the wildest things.
There are three little islands in a row just off this point of land and a deep channel between the main island and the first little island. It once, apparently, was a sort of short cut to a harbor around the bend but I wouldn't have sailed that for love or money. The waves come around the corner of the big island and around the corner of the little island and meet in the middle of the channel with a boom. It's very cool to watch but sweet Lord why would you ever want to sail it??
We watched a sea lion make its way into shore, surfing the giant waves as they crashed against the rocks. He would surf to a rocky bit, disappear into the waves, and appear surfing to the next rocky bit. For all their lubberly heft, those bad boys can surf! He looked like he was having a good time doing it too.
20 or 30 seals lay sunning themselves in protected little pockets scattered below the walkway. We watched them for a while but began to notice a subtly (and then not-so-subtle) aroma about the place. Oh, yeah, seal poop. It accumulates and it stinks! It does not, apparently, bother them but we found most humans staying for just a few moments and moving on! :)
When we reached saturation on the wind and waves, we headed back across the island. Brian made one final stop to see if he could find something special for us and he absolutely did. It was a farm that had been donated to the national park system and the fields were teeming with kangaroos! It was an hour or two before sunset. 'Roos are nocturnal and they come out about this time to eat and get ready to be active.
Brian invited us to walk into the fields towards the roos but to stop when they reacted to our presence. We got within about 20 yards of a pair of roos. I've never seen so many in one place and doubt I ever will again. Wonderful.
Brian then drove us to the airport for our flight back to Adelaide. It turned out, he was on the same flight as he was on his way to see his son compete in a surf competition (Brian, a native South African, came to Australia in his 20s for the surfing and never left). It was a less....eventful flight back and after we showed the cabbie how to find our address in the GPS, we wound our way home.
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