Snakes on a plain

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November 9th 2016
Published: November 9th 2016
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Day 19 to 22 of 165

Without Internet again for 3 nights, and going back to campsite that doesn't have it. So posting this blog sat in a car park in Quorn which has a free, town wide, 100+Mbs WiFi!

Oh well, Quorn WiFi wimped out on us before we posted. So now posting, using free WiFi at Port Augusta Public Library.

Having dumped our potatoes and other fruit and veg on the way into South Australia we were somewhat miffed to find that Kangaroo Island has a 'no potatoes' quarantine all of its own! So we had to dump the replacements before we got onto the ferry - grrr. The irony is we haven't been checked, either on the mainland or the island.

Kangaroo Island, off the coast to the South West of Adelaide, is Australia's third largest island, at 155km long by 55km wide - and when you're camped at the end furthest from the ferry that's a long way back to catch the boat back to the mainland mid-morning. Note to selves, as we are moving from day to day and have no packing to do, consider booking 1 nighters that reduce next day driving.

Kangaroo Island drivers like to give you the finger. Seriously, it is the friendly and done thing to raise a finger or two off the steering wheel in recognition when passing on the island's roads, not that such passing takes place very often. We found it tempting to mutter 'grockle' under our breath if a driver didn't return Paul's finger.

The island's separation from the mainland has enabled some of the flora and fauna to develop along a different path, like a mini Galapagos. The kangaroo variety is a sub species, the echidna are smaller and blonde, even some of the plants are different.

And there is lots of wildlife to see, sadly a lot of it as roadkill which litters the verges at all too regular intervals. We're sure there is an opening somewhere on the island for a Roadkill Cafe, like we have seen in the US. There would be no shortage of fresh meat. No wonder that car/van hire companies give special warnings to take care. We had a nearish shave with a kangaroo which bounded out in front of us on the way back to the ferry, but fortunately 20 yards or so in front of us.

We spent 2 days on the island, day 1 going along the island on the North Road, on day 2 visiting the sights along the South Road.

Along North Road we followed signs to Stokes Bay and were somewhat unimpressed when we arrived to find a small cove littered with rocks and boulders. Not the beach we were expecting. Then we noticed a sign nailed to the rocks off to the right saying 'beach' pointing to a gap through the rocks and headland. Following around, under and through a tight squeeze or two, especially for Paul, we came upon the beach. Magical is the only way to describe it, and for 30 min or so we had it all to ourselves.

Supper that evening was barbecued Snapper, bought fresh just after landing on the island, with a dressed salad and fresh aioli, and fresh made fruit salad with cream - note, had to search hard to find unadulterated cream; they don't do single and double, they do cream and thickened cream which has been thickened with an agent(urgh) - with a chilled Kangaroo Island chardonnay, sat watching kangaroos feeding on the grass just in front of us and the very incessant squark of parakeets above.

And just after we had finished we had the delight of seeing a KI Echidna waddle past behind our van.

Day 2 we started early, 7.30ish, with a 3 hour return walk to Platypus Waterhole. Well signposted and with lots of info boards along the way we again saw how an area can recover after a devastating wild fire, in this case several years ago.

At the waterholes we saw signs of active platypus many times - large air bubbles breaking on the water's surface - but the little fellas didn't grace us with an appearance.

When we got back to the visitor centre, and having a coffee, we hoped that we might get some Internet access, there being none on our 2 night campsite. Paul asked the waitress whether they had WiFi. Her response "Neh. We're at the dead end of the world here, dahhrling; not much electrical 'ere!".

And talking of things electrical we have only bought Paul's mobile with us. But we haven't bought a roaming package, instead using only the 'free' 60 days per year access we have in a given list of countries, including Aus, NZ and The States. Over 3 weeks in and we haven't switched it on once yet. We keep having to put Telephone Number as a required item when making camp bookings but Paul just enters 0000000000 and then adds a note saying 'We have no phone; email contact only.' This has led to some expressions of surprise at some sites we have booked in to.

On to Remarkable Rocks - yes that is what they are called. The initial upthrusting of the granite outcrop was the same formation as Uluru, but with granite rather than sandstone. Weathering has then sculptured them into weird and wonderful shapes. At Admirals Arch not only is there a magnificent sea carved arch but also a colony of Australian long nosed fur seals. Further along the coast there is a large colony of Australian sea lions, a thousand or so, with around 230 pups from the current breeding cycle. We paid for the Guided Ranger option and were rewarded not only with a walk amongst them, but also a very personalised tour as we were the only ones on the 2:30 tour - the tour before and those we saw afterwards numbered a dozen or more tourists.

Day 21 was long - 150km getting across the island to the ferry, arriving 2 hours early but not able to get a standby crossing on the earlier sailing, a 1 hour crossing rather than 45 min, a Skype with Simon using the ferry terminal's excellent speedy WiFi link, then nearly 500 more km up to Port Augusta having to navigate across Adelaide on the way.

The ferry across was delayed - for whales. Yes, the captain spotted whales ahead of us as we approached the mainland and, having notified passengers over ship's intercom, bought the ferry to a dead stop so we could all look out. In fact he used the ferry's manoeuvring thrusters to turn through 360° for the best view. That was for a humpback whale, and barely had he restarted than he stopped again, this time for a Southern Right Whale.

I doubt a cross channel ferry captain would have the leeway to do the same!

The route through Adelaide was skillfully directed by Pip - without hesitation, deviation or repetition - helped, no doubt, by Pip finding a great rock station on the radio at last, with Zep, Floyd, Purple, Bowie..... But this sadly petered out about an hour north of the city.

North of Adelaide we found ourselves on 250km of freeway direct to our camp at Port Augusta. The area must be one of Australia's grain belts. For around 200 of those kms all we could see, and we could see very far either side of the road, was ripe grain already being harvested (remember November here equivalent to May back home?). The fields are so large and distances so great that fields being harvested had portable silos in them, presumably so that the combines are not held up from the job of harvesting whilst waiting for the collecting transport.

Tourist 'attractions' in Australia are well signposted by brown roadside signs; lots of places we pass have these but some are more inviting than others. So, for example, on passing Port (note the clue in the name) Germein it's solitary attraction was listed as Port Germein Jetty!! We resisted temptation.

We also passed the pink Bumbunga (oh, missus) Lake where some wit had arranged some tyres and tubing into a Nessie 😀

We encountered our first genuine road trains. We had already seen many double units but are now sharing the roads with several triples - in UK terms, a full artic which is then also towing two additional full length artic units. The camper van came with a Truckies' Road Atlas (truckers are called Truckies here, and tradesmen tradies), and we have photographed a page from that showing the varieties and size of road trains. No doubt we shall encounter many more when we travel up the centre, and will photograph a few, and we haven't had the 'pleasure' of trying to overtake one ..... yet.

As we type this (though into Notepad as there is no WiFi here) it is day 22 and we have sidetracked up into The Flinders. More specifically to walk to and view Wilpena Pound, a large natural amphitheatre feature that looks like an enormous vegetation filled volcanic crater, that is probably best viewed from the air but at $299 per person we will wait for a Barrier Reef fly option.

On the road up and across a vast flat plain behind the first row of mountains we thought Paul had driven over our the first snake that we have seen so far. However, on turning the van around and going back it turned out the creature was well alive, and eventually is slithered off the roadside into the bushes giving us an evil look as it went. We didn't get out of the van for a closer look.

When we got to Wilpena Pound Park Station we showed a photo to a Ranger. His comment was that he would have driven over the bugger. Turns out it was a King Brown, highly venomous.

Aren't we glad we didn't get out of the van.

HOWEVER, he also told us that a happy camper had walked from his van the previous evening to go to the loo , but was now in hospital as such snake had bitten him on the way.

And we haven't even mentioned the flies, ants or spiders. And what the hell is a quoll that we keep seeing warning signs for?!

Today's blog, to be published when we next have Internet, written whilst laying in the back of the campervan contemplating whether our planned late afternoon 3 hour hike to see the Pound is such a good idea after all!!?


Rice Krispies here are called Rice Bubbles

We are seeing a trend when we stop at smaller 'hick' towns that there seems to be an element of what we would call back home NFN (Normal For Norfolk) - it's all to do with the (in)breeding. I give as evidence the photo of the guy eating the pasty, in full sunshine, in early November, wearing a Xmas hat!

We haven't paid for parking yet in any town - local councils take note. We're sure it helps the healthy bustle we've seen in most places.

And most places, even the smallest of towns, have free loos, immaculate, clean and stocked with paper and soap.

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9th November 2016

Amazing time you're having....Seize every day....Smell all the roses....And more importantly: keep every one of your fingers crossed for America after todayXXX

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