Thursday, February 26, 2009

To the Eyre Peninsula

It's been a week since we left Kangaroo Island, and we've just made it over to the Eyre Peninsula. The roads have got much straighter and flatter and we're now in to long distance territory. Ahead of us is the Nullarbor Plain and the south coast of WA. While we've not gone through a time zone I'm also now operating on GMT+2 given the anti-social timing of the cricket from South Africa.

Our last night on KI provided for a great dress rehearsal for the west coast. I'm becoming increasingly worried that once we get to WA my photos will become dominated by sunsets. I'm already trying to work out if I'll have enough disc space as it's going. I'll need to be disciplined.

Cape de Couedic was the perfect place to see the sun set other than the fairly brisk and cool south westerly. Oh, and the beer which went out of date in August 08 which I'd picked up fresh from Vivonne Bay store only a couple of hours earlier. Not to worry, they replaced the beer the next day and I ended up having to inch back to our camp at around 30kph in the twilight to make sure we didn't break our 'no roadkill yet' record so it was just as well I'd only had one.

We popped by the seal colony on our way back to the ferry. Each trip to Seal Bay was sensational, and each very different. Of the 600 or so seals in the colony, around two thirds are at sea at any time. They stay out fishing, without sleep, for up to three days, and are regularly tracked 60kms or more out to sea. Pretty impressive, and probably explains why the ones you see on the beach are generally fast asleep. I'm not sure when the people who'd left their shoes at the top of the beach got them back, but it wouldn't have been until this little fella had woken up and moved well away.

We were both pretty sad to be getting off KI. There is certainly a powerful and comforting force in Island Time. It's a regular topic (and even more regular excuse) on Dangar Island. KI time did not disappoint and despite the reluctance to move on we both felt that the two weeks had been just about the right time given we're on a 12 month budget for the whole of our big island.

The almost half-way house between Cape Jervis and Adelaide was at Rapid Bay, a top little spot with a council run camping area. Apparently they have 5,000 people there during the holidays, which I found a little hard to believe given there were only two mens dunnies and the site was at most 200m by 100m, which would mean only 4 square meters each excluding cars, campers etc.

We rolled into Adelaide late on the Friday morning and dropped into the dive shop which had been running the boat Ness dived with on KI. Her dive computer needed a service so she'd given it to them to take care of but it hadn't come back from Dive Centre Manly yet (which was where they'd sent it - obviously if we'd known they'd do that we could have cut out the middle man). Hopefully we can pick it up at their other shop in Port Lincoln tomorrow.

We set up camp at the Adelaide Shores camp ground at West Beach, which is midway between Glenelg and Henley. The first night we walked up to Henley for a feed at the Henley hotel. The food was a little slow coming out which meant I had too much time to get full strength piss into me, including half a bottle of wine, before it came out. I woke up early on Saturday morning with that feeling I would be sick as soon as I was vertical. I put that moment off as long as possible but was inevitably proved right around 9am. No time to make it to the bathroom, I disgraced myself with a quick chuck in next to the car.

Anyhow, February/March is the time of course to arrive in the capital of the festival state. There was heaps going on but I really wasn't up for anything on the Saturday. We did go into town and watched some wicked skateboarding action but I was pleased Ness hadn't surprised me with advance tickets for Martin Martini.

I was renewed on Sunday and we hit the shops. Big time. I picked up a new camera which I am currently obsessed with. Let's just say Harvey Norman are lot more open to negotiation on price than I'd ever imagined. A little research and they ended up matching a website price from a shop in Sydney which saved almost 16 cases of VB. We also popped in to Rays Outdoors to pick up a tarp and some poles so we can generate some shade when there are no trees around to help us out. As you can see, and as some other campers rudely pointed out to us, our first attempt leaves some room for improvement.

I was still feeling good enough to drive back in to town in the evening for us to take in Tropfest. What a difference seeing it away from Sydney. No lines for the dunnies or the bar on the plus side, too many people walking in front during the movies and a noisy ferris wheel right next to us on the down side.

On the other plus side, we were back at the campground around half an hour after we left, and we didn't have to go to work the next morning.

We left fairly early on the Monday morning, via a new Woolworths with an exciting self-check out facility. If I'd wanted to work as a check out chick I'd be doing it by now, so personally I don't think it's doing to catch on like they hope it will.

Ness managed to get me out of bed to catch the awesome sunrise. Despite the old adage, it still turned out to be a stinking hot and clear day.

Our next stop was down at the bottom of the Yorke peninsula. We spent two windy days in Innes National Park for some more free camping courtesy of our parks pass.

We stayed at Surfers as the main spot was being refurbished with new facilities. It was set back in the mallee behind some dunes.

Despite the wind we both slept better than we had in a while. So nice to be back out of the city.

The beach was sensational, perfect fine white sand, aqua water, and just enough surf for the patient.

The wildlife was also fairly adventurous. Water is definitely in short supply down here and they also seemed to have fairly developed food tastes.

This one was busy polishing off a T-Bone, Xby style. And this little one was I think asking for the chance for a licker prize.

They were pretty cute most of the time, but some of the bigger ones got a little aggressive so we had to be pretty careful and keep a tidy camp.

Surfers was another west facing beach which gave me two more sunset fixes.

After only two days on the Yorke peninsula it was time to push on and for a while we were back in the familiar environment of the Flinders.

Rather than risk another sand fly munching at Port Germein we headed the short distance inland to Mount Remarkable National Park. Another almost brand new facility with hot showers. Again a wonderful night, topped off with nasi goreng mince dish from Ness.

Good wildlife action again, with a few goannas and some emu.

Today we had a big drive up the remainder of the Spencer Gulf and then down the other side on to the Eyre Peninsula.

The forecast for today was 42C with severe fire weather warnings. This meant total fire bans again. People are naturally pretty jumpy still following the Victorian fires. They even closed all the Eyre Peninsula schools today which was the first time they've done that. Thankfully things haven't turned out too bad. The wind didn't get up and while it was very hot when we stopped in weird Whyalla (very twilight zone, and we've met others here in Port Lincoln who thought the same), it's cooled right down here and it's not due to get back into the thirties for a few days again.

This little fella was walking around the Port Lincoln campsite. We're not quite sure what is is but it had feathers on its feet. It didn't seem to be able to fly so was maybe an escapee.

We've got four or five days here before the Nullarbor, including a stop at Coffin Bay for some of the best oysters Australia has to offer. And apparently they're only $6 per dozen. Yum Yum.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lazing around on our holiday within a holiday

Today is our last day on KI. We're booked on the 4.30 ferry back to the mainland tomorrow arvo and we'll make a quick overnight stop at Rapid Bay before spending the weekend in Adelaide, where we hope to catch Martin Martini and his Bone Palace Orchestra.

KI has been a real holiday within a holiday. I do understand that it's hard to engender much sympathy from most readers - especially from those who are having to slog things out during the recession / depression. However, life on the road keeps us generally pretty busy. There's always something to see or do, fix or plan for, and we rarely get time to just do nothing.

KI has provided us with just that opportunity. Two whole weeks here, and we'd pretty much covered it in week one, so we've since had time to go back and spend more time at the places we've really loved.

The wildlife continues to be a hit, the Koala Bears in particular for me. Ness insists they're marsupials and I've added that to something else I was told as a child which turned out to be BS.

Koala's claws are somewhat sharper than their wits and I'm hoping I get to see one try them out on a tourist who gets too close.

To add to the holiday feel Ness had the great idea of getting out our hammocks (for the first time since we bought them in Ubud last March). Can't believe we've left it so long. Up in a flash and an instant winner.

Even the weather joined the party after our first windy and cloudy week. The temps have been back in the 30s and the south easterly howler has been replaced by a gentle cooling breeze. Even the flies are giving us a break, which is surprising as today was our first shower for over a week

The new slimmed down and hirsute me at Bales Beach.

A young seal trying to sleep through the camera clicks. We'll make our third trip to the seal colony at Seal Bay tomorrow, making a paper profit of around $100 each on our Kangaroo Island visitor passes which have given us free entry to all the attractions. They're probably more designed for people who are only here for a few days or who only want to go to places once.

After two more windy nights at Western River we reluctantly gave in and moved along the coast to Stokes Bay where there were at least some protective trees to get the tent up nice and close to. Our best sleep in days, if you don't include the siestas.

The other advantage was we could "eat out" at the beachside cafe. Fish and chips washed down with a bottle of local sauvignon blanc set us up well for the evenings 20/20 cricket (after a nap of course).

The view of Snelling Beach, on the way to Stokes Bay. Unfortunately no camping available here.

After Stokes Bay we made a two night stop at Vivonne Bay, an excellent facility close to Australia's #1 beach (according to a Sydney Uni academic). There was even free power, so the $10 per night was really top value.

I'd probably contest the best beach judgement on a couple of small matters. One being that the water comes straight up from Antartica and is absolutely freezing. The other being likelihood of being munched by a white pointer.

Nevertheless it makes for a top romantic or solo beach walk. It's a whopping 26km from end to end, and the crescent shape provides for sunshine somewhere on the beach from dawn til dusk.

Late afternoon solo beach time with ipod and some beers. Note potato patch behind unwashed ears.

This morning, after another beach walk, we headed to Little Sahara - a huge dune system.

Probably best tackled during a cooler part of the day but we both managed to scramble over two smaller dunes and then to the top of this one to find a wonderful view of more dunes.

We're going back to Admirals Arch to see the sunset tonight so will hopefully have some top photos to add later on.

I exchanged emails with my cousin Jenny from NZ yesterday who had just read our blog for the first time. She thinks the blog will be a great thing to pass on to our children in the future, so it's probably appropriate to start including some motivational stuff in here, rather than copius references to XXXX Gold and lazing around. I've not given this aspect much though yet so I'll borrow a quote from Aldous Huxley and hope that anyone reading this gets to experience the freedom we've felt since undertaking this wonderful journey.

'Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty - his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.'

Or pictorially what better than a shot of my mate Jonathan Livingston - a seagull, embodying the unlimited idea of freedom.

Be true to yourselves everyone and don't follow 'rules' just because everyone else does.

Monday, February 16, 2009

More Kangaroo Island Capers

We've been on this stunning island in the Southern Ocean for nearly two weeks. And we have just loved it. When you look forward to something so much, as I did with KI, there's always a chance that you'll be let down. Not so with this place, if anything it's surpassed my expectations. It's a nature lovers paradise! We've seen seals, dolphins, almost a shark, echidnas, koalas, KI kangaroos, Tammar Wallabies, snakes and big lizards plus birds, birds, birds.

* A very photogenic Australian Sea Lion.

We've done all the touristy stuff ; Seal Bay - a conservation area for the endangered Aust Sea Lions where you're allowed onto their beach, visited the Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch and the fire ravaged Flinders Chase National Park, we've done lighthouse tours and eaten the famous Whiting Burger at Australia's #1 beach Vivonne Bay (where we camped last night and might just stay another), visited a honey farm and nearly all the car accessible beaches on the island. As well as being a place of great beauty it is also an area providing wealth to the community with the mainstays being fat lambs, cray fishing, sheeps milk cheeses and other foodie delights.

*Below left- VJ on her way to the rockpools where I found I could have my hands + nails cleaned for free by just dipping them in and letting the effective cleaner shrimp do their jobs. Mostly it tickled, the bigger ones have big nippers that can pinch though.
*Below right - I think Western River Cove will be one of our favourite camps. A gorgeous and protected cove with sparkly clear water for swimming. That's the "White Pointer" you can see in the photo, a crayfish boat belonging to a colourful local.

*Us at Vivonne Bay beach. Rated by some scientists as Australia's Best Beach. It is a pretty stretch of surf and sand but not suitable for swimming and was the location of a white pointer (just a baby ~3m) sighting here by a fisherman last week. We heard him warning other tourists about the shark and that swimming here probably not a hot idea. I looked for ages but alas did not see the mighty fish. There is a river, that I'm assured in winter runs to the ocean, with a sandy bottom good for swimming.
* Payniac at Bales Bay, K.I

*Sea Lions at Seal Bay. This was our second visit to see the seals. This is a breeding colony of ~600 animals (explains the sharky water) and you get about 45 minutes on the beach with them. They are very funny to watch and there's always something going on- the bulls fighting for mating rights, babies calling for their mums, juveniles porpoising through the shallow surf within the safety of the reef. We only saw one of the giant eyed, dark brown velvet newborns at a very safe distance and if he/she hadn't been moving it would've just looked like all the other kelp on the beach. I generally associate a bad smell with a seal colony, perhaps because it's on the beach rather than rocky ledges or some other reason, but this one really didn't whiff at all...except when the bulls released their sexy musky scent to establish superiority - yuk!

* More views of Western River Cove. A popular local spot for fishing, they were just hauling the mullet out. We had it almost to ourselves in the mornings and then a tour group might come through. We stayed here for 4 nights over two separate visits we loved it so much.

*The toopy all set up at Western River, as you can see we're right on the banks. We initially thought that this site on the north coast of the island would be protected from the prevailing southerlies. Wrong. The wind just howled down the valley rattling us around in our little tent with one night seeing us give in and pack up to sleep in the BBQ shelter on the ground with all the ants and possums and on others to lie awake for hours just wondering how much she can take. She took it all, the worry was for nought.

* A pretty sunset over Western River.

*The crazy road to the Remarkable Rocks, eroded granite formations with perfectly contrasting orange lichen growing over. This is in the Flinders Chase National Park (one of the 2 parks our cheeky SA National Parks holiday pass does not cover) which was devastated by fire in December '07. As you can see the views along the coast are quite dramatic.

*Goofy photos at the Remarkable Rocks. You can pretty much walk and climb all around them, just not allowed to go too close to the edge as the algae makes it very slippery, one big wave and WHOOSHKA over you go(as did one tourist a few years ago). It was a little bit Flinstones.

*Left - Admirals Arch, also in Flinders Chase. Eroded by the sea and wind, eventually it will erode right through and create another island off the coast of KI. My favourite bit of this visit was the seals - blow up the photo, those brown slugs are NZ fur seals. Again a breeding colony. This colony was once almost decimated by sealers but it looks pretty healthy now.
*Payniac at Stokes Bay being silly.

*Below - another shot of Western River Cove.

Western River Cove will forever be a special place for me as on Valentines Day I had wangled myself a spot on a dive boat for a double dive.Andy didn't really think about it much after he heard the water was just 19-20C - warm enough for me! I was under the (false) impression that diving could be organised from KI, these guys had come from Adelaide (Mark Snadden from Divers Service) for a 4 day diveathon and I was very lucky to catch them on their last day. They specialise in Leafy Seadragons, seals and dolphins.

I was up super early on Saturday morning, a bit excited as I hadn't dived in so long and going through my gear. Glad I did as I discovered my computer had a flat battery requiring some quick fix-it and swapping of transmitters and computers. I was picked up on the beach at 8am and rowed out to the boat sitting in the cove. Almost immediately a huge pod of dolphins started carrying on at the back of the boat. A good day!

The diving is classic temperate water diving, a vast kelp bed with greater diversity than I'm used to seeing, weedy sea dragons galore as well as all the standard temperate fishes. As we dropped down all my nerves dissipated as an Australian Fur Seal came to say hello! I found out later this is quite rare as these animals tend to be quite shy.

He sort of lay down on the bottom and posed for any photos we might require. This is when I realised that my camera had failed. NOOOOOOO! I was determined to enjoy the dive anyhow. A leafy sea dragon was spotted and although I knew where the animal was meant to be and what it looked like I still had trouble finding it! A beautiful, ridiculously ornate fish that looks like a seaweedy rocking seahorse that people come from all over the world to
photograph....! Arggghh. (This is one I found on google so you know what I'm talking about!)

The surface interval (break between dives for those strange folk who don't scuba) was full of sights as we moved towards a rocky headland. As soon as we stopped NZ fur seals started splashing their way toward the boat to check us out.

We decided to do a "seal dive" for the 2nd dive. I had never dived with seals, any chance I ever get I will do it again. 4 divers, a channel about 2m wide, I didn't go deeper than 10m and about a dozen NZ fur seals swimming over and under, hurtling up and down, their fur sleek and silver with bubbles. I didn't know where to look. The fastest 40 mins of my life. They're awkward on land, beneath the surface they're so, so fast, agile, graceful, funny and extremely curious. They like it when you try and play with them although there's no way I could keep up. They like to stop on the bottom while you catch your breath and just check you out with their enormous caramel eyes. They blow bubbles back at you in response to the constant stream from your regulator. I am still spewing about the camera failing, bright side is I just got to enjoy this incredible dive with the seals.

Sharks you ask? I did look over my shoulder a few times, not that that would've helped. A few times when all the seals disappeared at the same time I thought oh-oh, but they were just playing hide and seek. The sharks are there for sure, big ones, so it doesn't hurt to be wary, this is home of the white pointer. If I'd seen one it would've saved me from doing the white sharks off Port Lincoln next week, sorry Mum.
Payniac had a nice Valentine's Day too - he got to sleep in and listen to podcasts without me bugging him all morning. There was nobody to make the second cup of joe though.

*VJ at West Bay where we spent Andy's Happy Birthday. We went down to the beach with a few beers to watch the sunset....which didn't really happen. Note my get up - fleece and long duds!

*VJ on her way to Stokes Bay. Not sure how the surfers managed to get their boards through this maze of rock, it was quite tight in spots.