The island and all its mates

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March 26th 2011
Published: March 28th 2011
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Look at the feet!Look at the feet!Look at the feet!

The feet on the sea lions just amazed me!
On Thursday morning I got up at 5:45 am and I'm not going to lie, I had a bit of a wine induced hangover. I had to move quickly though to get my bags over to the storage area and get ready for my next trip. Today I was headed out with the Groovy Grape folks again, this time for a 2 day, 1 night tour of Kangaroo Island. I had read an article in Budget Travel mag years ago called, the 10 best islands you've never heard of and Kangaroo Island was on the list. I tore out the page and saved it until now. As it turns out, plenty of people have heard about this island, but that does nothing to diminish its reputation. I was super excited to be seeing part it!

I was picked up at 6:10 am and as it turns out, the 5 Swiss girls were also on this tour. Ah, more giggling. Too funny. Robert was right on time, our tour guide for the trip, and we hopped into the van. For this trip, you're only allowed a small day pack. So I had pulled some things together and just brought my day
So prettySo prettySo pretty

This one is resting and trying to stay warm. I would have cuddled up next to him!
pack. I got into the front of the van, as usual, and this time, since it was still dark, fell back to sleep. We picked up several people and then took off out of the city. Per my info from Geoff from the day before, we were driving through the same area I'd already seen, so I wasn't too upset about missing stuff. I woke up when we pulled into the ferry station. It was about an 1 1/2 drive. I was feeling more refreshed and we hopped off the van (we had to walk onto the ferry). As it turns out, I was not dressed appropriately. I had on my flip flops, capris, t-shirt and my sweatshirt. The wind was blowing hard and it was cold. I looked out at the water and it was white caps as far as you could see. This was not going to be a good ferry ride. As I hopped off the van, the ferry worked, a very funny man, stopped me and said, what you got those thongs on for? Its awful cold today. I had to pause before I realized he was talking about my flip flops. That's right, they call
Coming up on the beachComing up on the beachComing up on the beach

This one had just come up out of the water.
them thongs here. I told him that I am willing the weather to get warmer. What really happened was that I put my gym shoes on later in the day. It never got warmer. We had to wait about 20 mins before we could get onto the ferry to I chatted with a few people and ran into Suzie. It was fun catching up with her. We exchanged stories and it seemed like she was having fun. She was on a different tour but I wished she was with us. She's good fun. Either way, Robert came around and handed out our tickets. I looked up at the ferry and boarded, reluctantly. I quickly took stock of how I could sit in the back and be near a bathroom. I settled in to the second to last row and steps from a toilet. I could feel the rocking just sitting at the terminal. I put on my motion sickness bracelets and quickly tried to fall asleep. If I could fall asleep before we pulled out it would be better. I didn't quite make it, but I fell asleep shortly after we pulled out of the terminal. From what I understand,
Near the southern end of the islandNear the southern end of the islandNear the southern end of the island

Such a pretty view out to the Southern Ocean. Oh yeah, and it was cold! This is also where we saw the penguins later in the night.
people were getting sick and many people moved from the front of the ferry to the back. I woke up just before we docked on the other side. I wasn't feeling great at this point, but at least I survived the crossing. When we loaded back into the van, Robert said anyone could sit up front. I jumped at the chance. I settled into the seat with some water and hopped for the best. Between the rolling seas and the bit of a hangover, I was not feeling the best, but I knew I had to power through.

We started off through a small town and then along the main road. The island is larger than Signapore. Its really pretty. Lots of open fields with grass and bushes and trees spotting the landscape. The island has about 4,000 residents and some of the own sheep or cattle farms. There are several forest areas and preserves, lots of wildlife and beautiful beaches. Our first stop was Prospect Hill. Its pretty much just a look out point on top of a mountain - not really a mountain but a mount up higher than most other things. It was a pretty point
Kangaroo Island kangaroosKangaroo Island kangaroosKangaroo Island kangaroos

They are smaller and a dark brown. They were really cute and you can see how close we got to them.
to view the island. You could see the island at its narrowist point - 18 km - and see how far it stretched. I liked the view. It was good stuff. From here we got back into the van and headed to the euciliputus distillary. This place was really cool. They make oils and its 100% all natural and self sustaining. No waste from this place. I was super excited because emu oil is a great anti-inflammatory and my ankle has been killing me since I fell off the bus in Levuka. I need something to help. I won't lie, the emu oil has been great! I considered this to be a very good stop. The other cute thing was they had a baby kangaroo they were looking after. Its mother was hit by a car and so they are caring for it. What a cutie it was sleeping in a basket! I wanted to scoop her up and take her home.

From here we headed to Bales Bay for lunch. We had wraps and some fresh fruit...I love the food on these tours. At least I feel like I'm eating healthy. On our way out from lunch I
The Remarkable Rocks The Remarkable Rocks The Remarkable Rocks

They actually were quite remarkable!
spotted a snake, from the van, in the road. Robert jumped out and called to everyone to join him. I stayed in the van. I don't like snakes. As it turns out, it was a small tiger snake. Only the 4th most dangerous snake in the world. We quickly moved on from lunch to Seals Bay. This is a highlight of the trip. Seals Bay is one of few sea lion colonies left and they have turned it into a sactuary for them. They have a nice info center and you can only enter the beach area with a guide. Due to the strong winds and cold weather, we found out that the sea lions don't like cold weather. They have very thin skin and little fat to keep them warm. Therefore, on a day like today, many of them were up off the beach and scattered around the dunes and among the rocks. As we walked along the board walk, you could start spotting them right away. It was so cool! They hit the water for 3 days at a time to feed and then rest on the beach/dunes for 3 days. So the ones we were seeing were resting and therefore for the most part sleeping. I couldn't believe how many there were and how big they were! They were much longer than I am and there were so many cute young ones lying about. They stay put in one place and wait for their mothers to come back so they can feed. It was really cute to see them curled up against a rock trying to stay warm. Hell, I was so cold I wanted to jump over and cuddle with one of them. I resisted though. We walked onto the beach and there were 3 sea lions down near the surf. We slowly made our way towards them but we weren't allowed to get closer than 10 meters. It didn't matter, it was incredible to see them. They were stretching and slowly making their way up the beach into the softer sand. It was 2 larger ones and a smaller one. The great thing was watching them walk. Their closest relative is a dog/wolf so they actually have 4 limbs. So they walk in a very odd way instead of just hopping about. It was super cool. They moved in such a way that made them
The arch!The arch!The arch!

This was a really cool view and there were New Zealand fur seals all over the place!
look awkward and smooth at the same time. As we were standing there, one of the people in the group noticed that one was surfing into the beach. We all turned around and there was a male, coming out of the water. What a sight! He came up onto shore and shook and then started rolling in the sand. Then he'd get up and start walking and then he'd stop and almost pose for us. We ended up pretty close to him just due to where we stopped on the beach and him coming towards us. It was pretty sweet! We stayed still for a few minutes and then the guide made us walk up high on the beach and go around him so that he could make his way peacefully into the dunes. I kept looking back as we walked away. It was far too interesting to see! When we got to the other end of the beach, we had to get back up onto the boardwalk. I stayed for a long time looking out at the ocean waiting for another one to surf in. I did see one on its way out. Just like a surfer, it would
My favorite animal - the ecinda!My favorite animal - the ecinda!My favorite animal - the ecinda!

They are so hard to see and we saw this one on our hike. I was in love! Its the cutest thing ever, but really hard to photograph.
duck under the waves and pop back up until it was deep enough and then I couldn't see it anymore. The wind was blowing so hard and the clouds were rolling in like crazy. I didn't care. This was too amazing to watch. As we walked along the boardwalk, we were able to see several more sea lions. Most of them just laying about, some of them moving a bit. A few lifted their heads for a photo. It was great. I think we were at this place maybe 40 mins but it felt like we were there all day. It was so cool.

Back in the van and the next stop was to pick up the sand boards. Then we were off to the sand dunes. Now, I'd done the buggle board down the dunes in New Zealand, but this was the next step. The dunes weren't as high, but we had a proper sled of sorts that you could sit on and then sand boards - think snow board but smaller. I was the first to go down on the sled and it was fun! The speed was pretty good but with the wind blowing, it caused
Cave we crawled through on our hikeCave we crawled through on our hikeCave we crawled through on our hike

Thats the beach we chilled on after. Such a great hike!
for lots of sand in your face. Note to self, keep your mouth shut. LOL Once I had climbed back up to the top, which was not an easy task, I started playing around on the board on the slow side of the hill. I've never been on a snow board and I wanted to get the feel for it before I headed down the steep area of the dune. I was doing pretty good but noticed that due to the lack of foot security, it was hard to really pull up with your toes and get on the back edge of hte board. Either way, I decided I was really to try it out. For my first run, I didn't do too bad. I made it most of the way down the dune before getting too far to one side and skidding out. Not a big fall or anything, so I was happy. No reason to have to use my insurance card while I'm traveling :-) I climbed back up again, and took a bit of a rest at the top this time. Then I was back at it. This time down, I got more speed and just when I thought I was going to be ok, I got too far on my back foot and was going to fall, but I threw my weight forward and to the side and tried to stop. Well, I stopped, but little too quick and I ended up wretching my ankle...again. Good lord. I was not happy with myself. Thank goodness I had bought the emu oil! AFter standing at the bottom for a bit making sure I was ok, I hiked back up. I mean, I had to because I had the board and others at the top wanted it. I decided though that I was down with the sand board for the day. As the final go, we races. 2 people per board/sled. I ended up with the German guy. He was funny in a very strange way. He was at least 28 and kept saying he was the oldest one on the tour. I chose not to correct him. We did not win, but came in 2nd. I was pretty satisifed with that. We all laughed at the photos from the Swiss girls and then grabbed all the gear and headed back to the van. From there, we dropped it back off and then made our way towards the cottage for the night.

The company owns a small (SMALL) cottage on the island. I was pretty excited to be staying at it and really feel like I was doing something different. As we pulled off the main road, we were on a gravel road that was lined with open fields and trees. It was really pretty and filled with the special kangaroo island kangaroo. These Roos are smaller and a chocolate brown. They also don't jump as high or move as fast. They are super cool! I was still sitting in the front seat and therefore spotting them left and right. As we pulled up to the cottage we got a real good look at our home for the night. Its a small, stone building with a metal roof and a large porch. When we walked in, there was one room wiht 3 sets of bunks crowded in, a small fridge, two small metal counters, one with a sink, a latter up to the loft which had two beds in it. Then you moved 2 ft and the door to the bathroom was there. The toilet and tub were pretty much touching and there was a tiny sink. And this was not the sort of shower I wanted to shower in, even with my flip flops on and I have to say, I'm pretty easy going about these things. But, since I was already cold I didn't want to get wet and I figured I could just brush all the sand off me. 2 ft past the bathroom was the addition to the cottage which was a small that had 2 sets of bunks that were almost touching the ceiling. The 5 Swiss girls had stopped off to do a 4 wheel drive tour and it was decided they would go in this room. I'm not sure that was fair, but it really wasn't up for a vote. Robert just sort of put them in there. I picked a bunk in the main room and then asked about the swags. A swag is a sleeping bag with a mattress of sorts in it and a canvas covering thing. You use them to sleep outside. I looked at one and then decided it was far too cold to sleep outside on this trip and that I would save my swag experience for the Outback. We were also able to walk through the fields and get pretty close to the Roos. You can see from the photos how close we were. They were just hanging out eating. The best part was how they'd pick their heads up and watch you intently for a few moments. Once they decided they weren't in danger, they'd go back to eating. I couldn't get enough! We started to take out the food and prep for dinner. With so many people helping, I decided to make up all the beds. I was putting sheets on all the mattresses and pillow cases on the pillows. It seemed like the nice thing to do and I needed an activity to keep warm. Dinner for the night was going to be a salad with all sorts of stuff but my favorite part was grilled pumpkin (yum!) and then fried cheese (I didn't eat any of this) and grilled chicken. We prepped most of dinner and then Robert left to go pick up the girls from the 4 wheel driving thing. When he got back, we all finished up cooking and helping and settled in for a fantastic dinner! While we were eating dinner we had a visit from a small possum looking for a handout. Now, they are far cuter here and furry than they are in the US, but I still wouldn't want one for a pet. However, it was quite entertaining to watch him hang around and wait for a snack.

Right after dinner, we headed back to one of the rocky beach areas to do some penguin spotting. On the drive out of the cottage road, we stopped so many walliby! They are nocturnal and on the island they are much smaller than the ones on the mainland. In fact, they really do look like oversized rodents that hop. And again, the hopping never gets old...its so strange to see! There was a lot of screaming in the van because I think people thought Robert was going to hit one. Now, granted, it could have happend, but this is not his first time driving on the island and he was going so slow, it was silly! Finally we made it back to our beach spot. The little blue penguins (not sure if thats the official name, but that's what Robert called them) nest in the rocky hills here and are nocturnal. They swim and eat all day and come back to their nests at night. We quietly made it down the road and stopped 4 of them up on the rock wall. I've seen penguins before, but none this small and they were pretty! But, the best part was the sounds they made! They were calling to one another and it was almost like a symphany. They called back and forth and back and forth. It was smoothing. After a few minutes we made our way back towards the car and Robert stopped us because he saw 3 more coming up the side of the rock and about to get out onto the road. I was right next to him when he stopped them and I literally squeelled. I'm such a dork. I was just so excited. The little guy was balancing with his flippers and hopping up on the rocks and using his beak for balance and all sorts of funny things. We all backed away and became very quiet as we waited for him and the 2 others to make their way onto the road. We had to settle in and get comfortable. I took a seat on the road and curled up into a ball. The winds were howling here as well but I wasn't going to let anything stop me from seeing this. After about 20 mins, the little guy got brave and made his way waddling out onto the road. How we all stayed quiet I will never know, but at one point, he was so close to us we could have reached out and touched him. I stayed so still, not wanting to scare him and at one point he stopped looked towards everyone and took a wrong step. He ended up off balance back in the rocks. Oops! He quickly regained his balance and we turned our attention back to the other 2. They had now ventured out on the road and were on their way to the next set of rocks. From here, we called it a night. The group as a whole was like, we've intruded for long enough. This was not something we could take photos of (no flash allowed) but its also something I dont' think I'll ever forget!

On our way back to the cottage we spotted so many wallaby it was just ridiculous! Yet still, so entertaining! Back at the cabin there was talk of starting a fire and having a few drinks. I had some wine with dinner and decided that I was cold enough and it was time for me to settle into my rented sleeping bag and the wool blanket I added to the top. I was teased a bit by Robert, but I really didn't care. The german guy was already asleep and snoring in the loft and I stayed up for an hour reading my book. So really, I was ok with it and very warm!

Robert woke us all up around 7 am the following morning. As everyone stirred to wake, we began talking about sounds we heard overnight. The 2 girls from the Netherlands said that something had gottan into their food. They had an open cookie bag and sure enough, a mouse had been into it. Thank goodness by morning it was gone. I told everyone how I had woken up in the middle of the night because I'd gottan hot (I slept in my night top plus a tank top plus my sweatshirt) and that I could hear animals running across the roof of the porch. It was so distinct. I just wish I had known what kind of animal it was. Robert was already making breakfast - pancakes with blueberries - and then cereals were put out. I got up and was happy to catch a beautiful sunrise! even though it was cloudy, the sun was peaking through the underneath part and the rays looked really cool. I decided to try a pancake, but they had far too much milk in them, so I resorted to some dry cereal and then attemped to make tea. The cottage had a kettle but Robert only had loose leaf tea. So we heated up the water, put some of the tea in a big bowl and then poured in the water. It worked...for the most part. I just had to spit out the little bits of tea here and there. This was bush camping tea...that's what Robert said. I had to laugh. Once we were all packed up and ready to go, we headed to our first stop for the day. This was the remarkable rocks. Now, I don't remember how it all exactly happened, but it has something to do wtih how the water keeps raising up the rocks and they continue to change shape and are molded due to the water and wind. It pretty much was a huge rock cliff area wtih incredibly smooth rock and then huge boulders of different sizes and shapes on top. It was really cool. At first I was thinking, we're going to see rocks? But then getting there I was like, yet, it is pretty remarkable. We walked around for a long time and took lots of photos. They were daunting in size. You could walk through some of them and lay under some of them. It was just fun to see. They also had brilliant colors of orange to them. Overall, I could have spend a considerable amount of time here. Each time you walked around the rocks, you'd notice something new. But, after about an hour, we left and headed to the next stop.

This stop was a surprise for me. Its called Admirals Arch and as I'm walking down the boardwalk and steps I see seals! I saw one on a rock and then it dove into the surf. I was so excited! Then I saw more, then more, then I finally stopped and read one of the signs. This is a New Zealand Fur Seal colony! What!!!! These are the same kinds of seals that I swam with when I was in NZ in 2005. I had no idea I would ever see these seals again! With every step down to the rock level I was more and more excited. There were so many of them. Some were playing in pools that were in the large rock stuctures, some were sunnying themselves. Some were on their way in from feeding and playing in the surf. Some were crawling on teh rocks. I was mesmorized. This was such a treat! There were 100s and 100s of them. So many baby ones adorable! By the time I made it down to the arch, it was an after thought. I was like, oh yeah, I was supposed to come see this part. Even down by the arch there were more seals and that's what I kept focusing on. I also decided that when I die, I want to come back as a seal. They have thick skin and lots of blubber to stay warm in the water and spend 1/2 the day in the water fishing and playing and then 1/2 the day on land sunnying themselve. Really, what could be better than this! I'm pretty sure I was the last person to make it back to teh van. I literally had to tear myself away from this area. Oh, the arch, it was actually really cool. Its as if the water has carved out the side of the cliff and now there are smooth rocks at the bottom and this crazy jagged rock all around the sides and top. It looks like it could fall at any point and I was amazed that we walked over the top of it. Now, back at the van...I asked Robert if we could stop so that I could take a photo of the lighthouse on our way out of the park area. It was a really cool one made of stone with white concrete around the doors and windows and then a red metal domed roof. Its one of the prettier ones I've ever seen. I was back in the van quickly and just kept saying how happy I was to see the seals. One of the girls talked about how badly they smelled. I was like, yeah, but they all smell so they don't care. It is true though...they smell really really bad.

After this, it was time for lunch. We stopped at the visitors center area and Robert made the best lunch (actually best meal of all my Groovy Grape meals) for us. It was chirizo sausage, lettace, garlic, macadamia nuts, onion and tomato. Loved it!!! I had two huge helpings!!! From here, we made our way to Snake Lagoon. This was a 2 hr hike we were doing that lead out to the beach. I was excited to be doing something fairly active for the day. The walk was great. It was on a pretty clear path and not too difficult. I was walking with Ingra, the girl from Denmark and as it turns out, she was 29. She was really cool. She's a midwife which is different in Denmark...she works in the hospitals and actually delivers all the babies. I was amazed and she had some amazing stories. Anyhow, on the walk, she and I chatted away and I really was happy to have someone else that was so easy to talk to. She also had similar outlooks on things, including her trip. So, a kindred spirit was found! As we were walking, we were both keeping our eyes on the path. I was worried about snakes and really wasn't looking for anything else. Ingra was just looking and she grabs my arm out of nowhere and says, stop! It was stern but very quiet. I stopped, looked down and gasped! Then I turned to the rest of the group behind us and immediately told them to be quiet. They all shut up right away and we gathered around to see the echinda! This was the last Oz animal I really wanted to see. And, its usually nocturnal and really hard to see one in the wild. Its one of the most unique animals in the world, but the only way to describe it is like a really big hedgehog. Its about the size of a rabbit and its back feet point backwards so when it walks, it has this funny waddle and its just the most adobable thing ever! I wanted to pick it up and nuzzle it, but that would have hurt. Its fur is needle like. Ouch! Instead, we all stood quietly and watched as he figured out which way he wanted to go and then was gone within the brush. I was elaited! This was all I needed! My trip (to an extent) was complete! We kept walking through the bush and Ingra and I were now on high alert. About 15 more mins along, we ran into the German who had spotted a dragon (know, the big lizards). This was a small one and was really cool. It sort of just sat there and was watching us watching him. Then he finally had enough and turned and ran off into the bush. Again, super cool! From there, it was not much further to the river. The river leads out to the ocean. It was a pretty river, shallow and had enormous rocks in it. At one point we crossed the river on a boardwalk and it was quite cool to see the water making its way around the rocks and all the little waterfalls along the way. On the other side of the river, the hike was a little more difficult. It was a bit steeper and we actually had to watch our step a bit. After some fun hiking and seeing a hug spider...I looked the other way because we literally had to step too close to it (within a foot) we made our way up the side of the mountain (sort of mountain) and into a carved out part. we sat down and took a break and just soaked in the view. To the righ we had a valley of sorts and the river flowing. You could see trees and bush and all the lush of the island. To the left you could see how the cliffs were carved out with several inlets and then led out to the beach and the southern ocean. From here, Robert showed us how we were going to crawl through a tiny space and into a nother cave area. I was pretty sure taht I was not going to fit through, but I did! I was super happy about it too! The view from this side was out to the ocean and really pretty! From here we had to make our way back down and it was more sandy than rocky. It was a bit challenging, but overall, it was pretty easy. When we got close enough to the beach, I stopped and took off my shoes. The sand was packed down hard. I think its from all the rain the island had been getting. So it was really nice to walk on. It was a white sandy beach with specs of black mixed in. I had to wonder where that was coming from. Robert let us run free for about 30 min. I settled into a rock and just soaked up the sea breeze. It felt so good! The sun was out so even though it was a bit cold, it felt good to sit there. The hike back was the same path and was really easy this time around. No more animals, but I didn't care...I'd seen the echinda!

We got back in the van and were making our way back to the other end of the island, where the ferry was. Along the way, we saw 3 more echindas on the road. They were all crossing form one side of the road to the other. Each time it got cuter and cuter! The waddle was the best! Robert had gottan a call that the ferry was late, so we killed some time by going on a koala walk. The trees were really tall and the koalas were really high up. Its still amazing to see them! I can't believe they climb so high. From here we stopped at Hasons Bay. It was a really pretty view, but my mind was still on the echindas. They were too cute! To recap, in 2 days I saw sea lions, kangaroos, koala, wallibies, penguins, seals, echindas, snakes and dragons. Amazing!!!!

We got back into the ferry town and Robert bought everyone dinner - fish n chips! So yummy! I sat in the park in the sun with Ingra and the 2 girls from the netherlands. It was relaxing and nice to enjoy a meal with 3 really nice women. As it got cold, the 4 of us made our way back to the van and waited there. The ferry was delayed and then delayed again. We were supposed to be on a 5:30 pm arrived at 8 pm. From what I could tell, the sea looked pretty calm. Fingers crossed, I boarded and went towards the back. Ingra came with me. We sat down at the back of the ferry and I hoped for the best. We started talking and we shared our volunteer experiences. She'd been to Ghana to help in the hospitals. Her stories were amazing. She's hoping to do something like Doctors Without Borders in the future. I give her so much credit. She has critical skills that can change lives and has the heart to really make a difference. She is by far the most inspiring person I've met in Oz. I was glad she was so talkative too. about 1/2 through our trip, the boat started to roll and i started to feel pretty bad. The conversation gave me something good to focus on, but ultimately, it couldn't save me. With about 10 min left in our trip, I was feeling really bad. By the time we got off the boat, I was barely keeping it together. The last thing I wanted to do was revisit my dinner. I quietly slide away to the side by myself and worked to keep it all down. Then I helped to move all of our stuff from one truck to the new van that we had to get into. That was a good distraction. However, getting onto the van was not good. The road home was thru the hills around adelaide and with us being so late, everyone was in a hurry to get home. I almost had to ask Robert to pull over twice. As I write this, I'll never understand how I didn't get sick. I swear it was shear will. The drive back in to town was actually quite pretty at night. When I did catch a glimpse, you could see the lights of the city from afar. And at one point we drove past the Victory, where I had lunch on Wed with Geoff. I was extremely happy when the van pulled in to my hostel. I said good-bye to everyone (I exchanged emails with Ingra) and thanks Robert. Then I headed for the hostel and straight for the shower. I wanted to clean up and get right into bed. It wasn't too hard to do and by the time my head hit the pillow it was midnight. What a great trip...what an incredibly special trip!


29th March 2011

hope you get this!
Courtney, your trip has brought me such's an idea...publish your stuff! it is so remarkably vivid and I thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experiences...I couldn't have read it any better from any other magazine..including your images.and personal reactions to g-d! looking forward to your next episode..

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