We took the day after our tour of the Murray River to rest up – not because of the exertion of that day, but to prepare for our day on Kangaroo Island, which required that we be downtown to meet the tour bus at 6:15 am and a forecasted return of 10:40 pm. The trip was about an hour and three quarters by bus to a ferry at Cape Jervis and a 50-minute ferry ride across Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island. On the island at Penneshaw, another bus took us on our day-long tour of the island. The return trip was the reverse.
Aboriginal people had been using the island as early as 16,000 years ago (before Kangaroo Island was separated by rising sea levels), but in the last 2,000 years, there is little evidence of their occupation. In fact, mainland Indigenous people called it “Karta” or “Land of the Dead.”
Kangaroo Island was “discovered” by Captain Matthew Flinders, who was commissioned by the British Government to explore Australia’s southern coastline, in 1802. Later in 1802 and 1803, a French explorer explored and mapped the area, so many of the features bare French names.
Our first stop on the island was at Seal Bay, a short four or five mile long beach where a large colony of the endangered Australian Sea-lion makes its home. Our visit to the beach was closely supervised by a Parks Interpretive Officer so the sea-lions wouldn’t be disturbed – they spend three days out at sea feeding and three days sleeping and resting on the beach. If their rest is too disturbed, they won’t be able to spend the time at sea without getting exhausted.
Lunch stop was at Vivonne Bay Bistro where, after eating, we discovered our first real, live, wild koala. It was wedged into a tree crotch doing what koalas do for nearly twenty hours a day – sleeping. At our next stop, the Hanson Bay Koala Walk, we strolled down an avenue of eucalyptus trees supporting quite a few koalas. In neither place were we able to approach any animals because they remained high in the trees, again, mostly sleeping.
One third of Kangaroo Island has never been cleared of natural vegetation and the thick eucalypt shrub is home to many species of wildlife, much of which is uncommon or extinct on the mainland. Flinders Chase National Park was created to protect both plant and animal life. We spent the rest of the day exploring this ecosystem.
Remarkable Rocks are a bit of an oddity. They are a cluster of granite boulders sitting atop a bare granite dome rising steeply from the ocean. They are the remains of the top layer of the dome which cracked and weathered into weird and wonderful shapes.
We passed the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse (not open to the public) on the way to the very end of the cape and Admirals Arch. Walking a boardwalk and down some stairs, we arrived at a platform at the entrance of a spectacular natural arch formed by erosion from the pounding sea. Beneath the arch and around the point is also a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals. From our perch high above the rocks we watched a seal pup not more than a day or two old making his first exploration of the world around him.
Back at the ferry landing, we grabbed some snack stuff before boarding the ferry and then a bus to return to downtown Adelaide about 10:30 pm, to the caravan park by 11:00, and bed by 11:05. The next day was another do nothing R&R day.
East of Adelaide in the Adelaide Hills region is the small town of Hahndorf. Settled in 1838 by German Lutheran migrants, it was originally a center for farming and services. Now, as one of Australia’s oldest German settlements, it is an important tourist attraction.
After thoroughly exploring Hahndorf and having some good old German sausages, sauerkraut, red cabbage, and apple strudel for dessert, we went on to the small town of Lobethal. Each Christmas the town decorates its homes and businesses with thousands of lights and invites the world to come see the “Lights of Lobethal.”
Within the Adelaide Hills, the Cleland Conservation Park conserves a vital area of bushland. The highest point in the park is Mount Lofty where, on a clear day, you can look out over metropolitan Adelaide clear to the Gulf St Vincent to the west. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, but there was still a great view beneath the clouds. Also included within the Conservation Park is the Cleland Wildlife Park where they attempt to present many of Australia’s native species of animals in as natural a setting as possible. In most cases, visitors are able to walk through the habitat and associate with the animals. The animals are, of course, habituated to having people close and even touching them so are not really wild in the strictest sense. However, it is more natural for them and certainly beats putting them in cages in a zoo environment so people can only walk by and stare at them.
Now, like all good things, our time with Jonnie and our time in Adelaide has come to an end. Today, at a very early hour, we delivered him to the airport for his return to the United States. As I write this, we have already heard from him that he has safely arrived home in Tucson, Arizona. We will be here a couple more days while we wash clothes and restock the larder before heading on to Melbourne, then Tasmania, and the final four months of our journey.