Jan: Kangaroo Island’s 4400 residents have opportunity for some very distinct experiences: they have a special protected environment with very few large predators, so unique flora and fauna flourish.
The island has been separate from the Australian mainland for almost 10,000 years resulting in a safe and friendly place for several species – koala, gray kangaroos, echidnas, and some gorgeous flashy birds thrive here. Also, about a fourth of the island’s acreage is preserved in a national park, so seeing and experiencing special creatures and spaces is relatively simple.
We are staying in American River, so named by a group of American whalers in the 19th Century when they camped at the mouth of the estuary that makes up the little town’s (250 folks in residence) ocean access. Our hotel is very quiet, rather rustic and surrounded by hundreds of birds; we awake every morning to lots of birdsong – cool! American River is located near one end of Kangaroo Island and our goal on Thursday was to drive the entire length of the island to visit Flinders Chase National Park. Once in the park, we spent over an hour exploring a lighthouse promontory that is home to over 4000 NZ fur seals. The trail turned around at a natural arch that Gerry called “spectacular”.
Another stellar geologic feature in the park is called Remarkable Rocks – and they certainly are:
Gerry says these granite rocks are the erosional remnants of granite fingers that intruded towards the surface. They are weathered in fantastical shapes, probably helped along by the corrosive effect of ocean spray and waves.
Our final stop for the afternoon was Koala Walk, a sanctuary set up and run by a non-profit organization which uses all the monies raised through a $2.50/person fee to run the 9500-acre place. They’ve restored the one-time sheep farm to animal-friendly turf, planting loads of eucalyptus trees for the koala. As a result, we were able to see a koala mom and cub very up-close and personal.
Kangaroo and wallaby also are welcome there; the sanctuary workers adopt mother-less joeys, one named Roo-B whom Gerry met. I think they made a mutual connection.
Gerry: The rest of our stay on KI (Kangaroo Island to the locals) was spent visiting the town Kingcote, reading about the miserable living conditions that doomed the first settlement, eating meat pie and apple pastry in the bakery, and visiting a sheep dairy farm. That’s right, sheep. They milk the ewes twice a day – the sheep produce about a liter of milk each milking. After 4 months they go “dry” till after the next lamb, so the farm keeps 3 herds that are at different points in the lambing cycle. That way they always have about 300 sheep to milk. All the milk goes to cheese and yogurt—we bought some of the mildest, creamiest cheese.
The earthquake in Christchurch continues to dominate the news with the death toll today at 145. This is having a huge impact on Christchurch and the nation of New Zealand. Our prayers are with them.
Over the next 3-4 days, we are driving back to Sydney for our flight home on Thursday. The Big Down Under has been great, but being back in America will be wonderful.