Kangaroo Island Days 9-10: Lighthouses, farms and yet more beach

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Day 9. 8 January 2011. Today was the first day I didn’t make it down to “our” beach. Or go swimming at all. Instead we had a whole day of adventuring all over the island. We chose a good day not to go to the beach as it was raining when we got up, although not a huge amount. We drove around and across the island to Cape Borda to see the lighthouse, It rained somewhat en route and we were getting a little concerned, but it cleared up when we stopped at the Lighthouse Keepers’ Cemetery and then rained again until we reached the lighthouse.

We went for the cliff walk, which was involved a bit of rambling through scrub and included the spotting of kangaroos and wallabies. It then decided to rain again, but fortunately for the final time, so we picnicked in the picnic shelter. Luckily the rain stopped before the tour started. We got to see inside the lighthouse and here about the impact of the challenges of longitude on navigation and subsequently the settlement of Australia.

Then it was time to fire the canon in honour of the old method of setting ships’ chronometers. Jude got to be part of the gunnery team and set the canon off which he naturally enjoyed immensely (Zac just wanted to know when it would be his turn). We then got to check out the little museum – lighthouse keeping sounded like a rather harsh business, with children falling off cliffs and keepers falling over and spearing himself in the eye (or so they say, I personally suspect foul play).

Then it was time for icecreams and back into the car. We drove round to Western Cove Road to visit a friend of mine from work who was staying at his Dad’s farm, which, to the delight of small boys, was called “”Swallows & Amazons.” The boys loved the chance to meet sheep, sit on the back of a shetland pony and use a net to catch marron out of a tank. They were also quite keen on icecream and mullberries for afternoon tea.

After a nice visit we drove to Western River Cove at the end of the road to check it out. It was a beautiful little cove with a river leading in and some fabulous rock pools.  We also got to see a gonna lying by the path. Given we were on the North Coast, we drove round the top past Snelling Beach where we had gone to Natasha’s birthday party last year, and on to Stokes Bay where James and I had stayed. To get to the beach there one has to adventure through a passage through the rocks which is rather cool. Another lovely beach, it has a gigantic rock pool which is safe for small children swimming, but the rest of the beach has a fierce rip of which to beware.

After a walk on the beach we considered a stop for dinner at Stokes Bar and Grill, but seeing no obvious signs of life drove down to the Parndarna Pub, where the food turned out to be better than your average pub. There was a big 21st just starting, and having been on the island for over a week now, I recognised at least one of the guests as someone we had already encountered. Although quite big in size, it is definitely a small island!

Day 10.

A cooler more windy day and we had the beach to ourselves again. At least when we first got there this morning. It was another day on the beach. Everyone had a turn on the boogie board and even I managed to catch a couple of good waves. Sebastian and Jude then got into further extensive sand castle creation and Zac and I took a walk up to the rock pools where we engaged in an extensive game of jumping in the water and fishing out rocks. For quite some time. Other things of note for the moment included the discovery of a dead fairy penguin washed ashore. One of the nice things about a deserted beach is that one feels less of a self-conscious idiot when one chooses to do some pilates and yoga on the beach. Which itself is quite pleasant, if one sticks to the exercises which don’t involve lying too much in the sand. Although, with a towel even those can be attempted. I have been managing to get some combination of pilates and yoga in each day and along with the swimming and the walking hopefully this will mean I am not totally unfit by the time we get back to Canberra and I can get back on my bike. I have a 60km ride in March to think about…

We spent a bit of time back at the house at lunchtime – it had ended up quite cool at the beach in the morning and we figured that there wouldn’t be afternoon swimming. Lunch and Carcassone and reading and journal writing and Devonshire Splits for afternoon tea. I still haven’t cracked yet and brought CDs in from the car – James has been insisting on playing the dodgy 70s compilation whihc comes with the house. The boys have been bopping along to Hot Chocolate, Cher and KC and The Sunshine Band, while I have been managing to withhold my horror at the Doctor Hook (although the Neil Diamond is kinda fun). This afternoon’s activity was a long walk to find the mouth of the other river. As the tide was well in, this involved quite a lot of climbing over rocks. Sebastian decided they were intrepid explorers searching for a source of fresh water, while James and I had a discussion about what we would bring with us if we were to be marooned in this spot 1000 years in the past. He seemed somewhat appalled by my suggestion of a Kindle with a solar charger and a bunch of PDFs on wilderness survival. We also got to see the rare hooded plovers which live in the dunes – Jude spotted a group of six of them on the beach. There are only about 400 of them left on Kangaroo Island. This end of the beach is even more deserted than the other though, so a good spot for seeing the rare and the nervous.

Kangaroo Island Days 7-8: Of wine, lobsters, gin and beaches

Local Kangaroo Island feasting


Today was the day of domesticity – we headed into Kingscote to do some laundry and shopping, and briefly have contact with the outside world through mobile phone and 3 G coverage. We had pizzas for lunch and did all our chores and then headed the the Bay of Shoals winery. I think their wines are superior to Two Wheeler Creek, and we bought a few bottles as well as shipping home a dozen sparkling rose.

From there we went to the KI Spirits, South Australia’s only boutique distillery. All of their spirits were delicious, and as a dedicated gin drinker I can attest the fine-ness of their wild gin. The bottle I bought will make an excellent martini or two. I managed to resist the other spirits, but James bought a bottle of their Wild Fennel Annisette. And I note they sell online, so might have to make some future purchases…The boys got hot chocolates with marshmallows while we were tasting spirits, so they didn’t totally hate the place either.

We made a final visit back to Kingscote for seafood before heading back across the island. Once back at home base, it was necessary to visit the beach, even though it was late afternoon. We had purchased some beach infrastructure in Kingscote, so James and Sebastian rushed down to the beach to try out the new boogie board. I followed with the smaller boys who were keen to utilise their new castle building equipment. Of course, it was slightly calmer this afternoon – grey clouds have rolled in and the wind has dropped – so the waves were not great for James to catch, but quite good for allowing him to teach Sebastian to surf in. Even after Sebastian and James returned to the house I had a great swim while small boys built castles in the sand.

We had a fabulous KI dinner – James purchased a lobster from the same people whose boats we see coming in and out of Vivonne Bay – the only port for lobster fishermen on the island. Accompanied by a Bay of Shoals sparkling red, Cliffords honey and mustard dressing, Two Wheeler Creek wild tomato sauce and salad which included Island Pure Sheep Dairy feta it was most delicious. I struggled with my leg cracking while James demonstrated how it was done. The boys (who had sausages) at first were unconvinced by the lobster, but once they started eating the legs were continually demanding more. Even Zac. Perhaps we should think before we encourage these expensive food habits. And so we toasted our lovely family and lovely holiday and a most delicious time was had by all.

Day 8.

Another beach day. I think we spent nearly 6 hours on the beach today all up. It is a testament to careful sunscreen application, hats and swim shirts that none of us have sustained any severe sunburn, just patches of red which fade with some time out of the sun. We are all starting to turn a little brown – well, as brown as a pasty-faced group of blonde haired, blue-eyed, freckly types are ever inclined to be.

With a hotter day and calm seas we lost the solitude of the entire beach and had to actually share. That being said, it was far from crowded and one often still found oneself the only person in the water for stretches and stretches of ocean. I totally had my ocean swimming mojo back – the lack of big waves probably helped – and I spent ages and ages swimming about in the beautiful cold water. I love that weird sensation of swimming in the sea; you can swim and swim and feel like you have gotten nowhere – and sometimes you are right and sometimes you suddenly find yourself in over your head, or halfway down the beach. It is so easy to lose perspective in the ocean when one is far out from the beach; it is both disorientating and lovely, making you feel like you have left the real world behind you.

The new beach infrastructure was heavily utilised during both our trips to the beach today. Again there were no waves for James to catch, but there were plenty that small boys could ride into shore. Even Zac, who has been a bit wary of the sea, came out deeper (for him) and rode the boogie board in. There was also much sandcastle building, though it must be said that this afternoon’s effort seemed heavily influenced by the Carcassonne playing and was a walled city more than anything.

Tonight we dined on bbqed snapper and KI prawns accompanied by a Bay of Shoals rose. I could happily live like this for a while.


Kangaroo Island Days 5-6: Of Beach and Sand…and Marron

Another beach day. After a quick game of Carcassonne and breakfast, it was off to the beach. I do love the fact that there are so few people about; that each time we walk to the beach I can find a footprint or two left in the sand by the road from the last trip. We walked down some way to the area of rockpools Sebastian and I had discovered there. The rocks are great, textured and full of holes and the past, shells and rocks embedded within them, being worn away. I love how the rocks which spent most of their time in the water are covered in this green and yellow-brown seaweed which means that it feels like one is walking on carpet. The pools are a source of great fascination for the small people, and not insignificant interest for their parents. I managed to go for a long walk by myself, discovering another river mouth, and also a solo swim. The small boys made their first sand castle of the holidays and then engaged in some attempts to fight off the sea by throwing handfuls of sand into the waves. This did seem to entertain them for some time. To return to yesterday’s themes, beaches are definitely a lieu de memoire, a place which represents aspects of idealised childhoods we construct in our memories (to mix up the ideas of two memory theorists). There is an idealised Australian aspect to the beach-childhood memories; the sandcastles, the surf, the swimming…It is part of our identity as Australians to remember our beach-visiting childhoods and happy days with melting icecreams and plastic buckets.

This afternoon we returned to the beach and while Sebastian and James went swimming, Jude, Zachary and I walked back down the beach to the end of it and the star fish and urchins we discovered the other day. En route we engaged in some sand based literacy classes – Zac wrote his name over and over while Jude wrote all sorts of random things in the sand, with me correcting his spelling. At the end of the beach, Jude and Zac climbed up and down the giant sandhill while I waded in the ocean and contemplated the view. It is nice to have time to observe the world around one, to just admire and consider, and not just in 140 character long grabs (though perhaps in blog post length ones!). And it really is beautiful here. It seems that today we have really succeeded in completely exhausting the boys; they are all in bed and there isn’t a peep from them – I imagine that they will probably be asleep by the time I finish here. I, on the other hand, indulged in my first fizzy caffeinated beverage for days (the Vivonne General Store had Red Bull today!), so I am feeling the least exhausted I have off an evening so far. Or perhaps I am just getting used to the seaside life.

Day 6.

Today we decided to have a morning off from the beach to give the (still relatively mild) sunburn a rest. We drove to Little Sahara to check out the giant sandhills which did turn out to be as impressive as advertised. James has now determined that we will hire sandboards and head back for a morning of sliding up and down the hills.

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After that we drove to Cape Gantheaume National Park where we did the Timber Creek Walk through the bush. The tea tree forests were impressive and we saw various birds around the lagoon and swamp. It was a reasonably pleasant 1.5 km walk, although not wildly exciting.

We then headed off to the Andermel Marron Farm for lunch. The boys got to colour in marron before we all consumed them. The food was quite delicious. We also popped next door to look at the marron in tanks and purchase some of the Two Wheeler Creek wines, including the sparkling red we are drinking tonight – low carbon footprint alcohol consumption for this evening!

After a compulsory game of Carcassonne we headed down to the beach. James, Sebastian and I all had a quick swim while Jude and Zachary played on the beach; Jude practising more of his sand writing. I had a lovely swim, bobbing in the waves and diving under the breakers. I can see all the beach home owning fantasies developing now… A side point: Carcassonne (a Christmas gift from Lucy) has proved wildly popular with the small boys. Even Zachary is willing to give up the DS playing for a game with his brothers. And the boys are getting very cunning in their game play too.

Kangaroo Island Day 4: Sea Lion Day

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Seal day! Or rather, to be more accurate, sea lion day. We headed down to Seal Bay to visit the sea lion colony. The only Australian sea lion colony in existence that is visitable by walking down to the beach and just hanging with the sea lions. And there are not many of them left – only about 14,000 in total.

We got taken down to the beach and got to see the sea lions up close – the guide liked to keep us 10 metres away so we don’t disturb the sea lions and they can’t charge us faster than we can run away. It is amazing how they just lie strewn across the beach, looking pretty much like they are dead, until they stir and scratch or decide to haul themselves into the sea where apparently they spend up to three days hunting and eating. We got to see seal pups feeding from their mothers, and others wandering down the beach to the sea. I particularly liked watching a couple of pups playing together in the shallows.

After the beach observation we went for a walk along the boardwalk, mostly to have a look at the humpback whale skeleton. The sea lions were pretty much all down on the beach unlike in winter when apparently they drag themselves right into the dunes to get out of the cold wind.

We then stopped off at Kaiwarra Cottages for a touch of lunch. On our way back we checked out the Outdoor Adventure Hire place – where I got to glimpse fizzy caffeinated beverages! And the internet! And we are now contemplating a quad bike tour…if everyone behaves themselves and we can stomach the price.

James, Jude and Zac elected to stay at the beach house while Sebastian and I ventured to the beach alone. More scrunchy sand, rockpools and jumping in the waves. Beaches are such sites of memories for coastal Australians – the range of memories of days by the sea, of days in the sun, sunburn and childhood that walking on the beach and playing in the waves invokes is amazing. I remember a day spent walking around in the sea at a bay, either pulling or being pulled along on a rubber inflatable beach mattress. I can’t remember exactly who I was with – though I am pretty sure it included Lucy – and can’t remember who took us, but I have vivid memories of the feel of the sea and the sun and the leisurely fun we had. Oh, and the massive sunburn afterwards. Spending lazy time at the beach is nice in that it not only lets one experience the joys of the present, but also remember those beach days that have gone before.

I do think I have become slightly more timid around the waves though – probably haven’t been at the beach enough at recent years to swim as confidently out past the breakers and bob about in the sea. I think the enormity of the sea has taken hold in my imagination, the unknown and unknowable about its power and what might lurk beneath. Hopefully with another week and a half I will get back the fearlessness.

Kangaroo Island Days 1-3: The Beach!

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The trip to Kangaroo Island didn’t get off to the very best of starts. James was (barely) recovering from a 24 hour gastro bug. Shortly before getting to Cape Jervis, Zachary decided to vomit – probably a combination of a touch of whatever James had plus the winding road/DS playing.

However, we got to the ferry in plenty of time. Zac and James both started to feel better and the boys and I walked out onto the jetty to see the ferry approaching. With James not well and me in charge of the driving duties, I waited nervously to have to drive on the ferry. Fortunately it was not as traumatic as my worst imaginings, especially as I managed to avoid having to drive on backwards.

A short trip and we were there. We stopped in Penneshaw for fish and chips then drove on to our residence – stopping en route at Cliffords Honey Farm as Sebastian was keen to taste the local honey. The verdict of the small boy honey testers was that the tea tree honey was the yummiest. It was duly purchased along with some delicious honey ice cream which we ate sitting in the shade outside.

Vivonne Bay turns out to be a pretty as advertised. Green Gable Cottage is very cute as well as well equipped. It is small, but we should all fit for a couple of weeks. The small boys were somewhat dismayed by the size of the television (it is tiny) but mollified by the post-dinner appearance of a wallaby in front of the house. So it was a quick visit to the beach with swim followed by bbq dinner. Boys are shortly off to bed, and James and I are likely to celebrate the arrival of the New Year by going to bed early….although, there is champagne in the fridge so you never know.

Day 2.

So we didn’t make it through to midnight, which must be the first time in more years than I can remember. But that is what sickness and lack of sleep after a very hot night the night before do to you. And, clearly, we are getting old. I did have a glass of champagne though.

Perhaps it was therefore not surprising that we were the only ones on the beach at 9.30am this morning. Well, there were a couple of other people who passed through, but essentially we had all of this beautiful beach to ourselves this morning. The beach is but a short walk from the house, although I could have done without having to make it an additional two times in quick succession due to toilet trip requirements. There was swimming, beach cricket (a particular source of humiliation for me) and a long walk up to the river mouth. We also got quite a spectacular, if brief, thunderstorm with limited rain. This did freak Zacky out somewhat.

After a few hours on the beach we retired home for lunch and a couple of rounds of Carcassonne. Sebastian and Jude have gotten the hang of this very quickly and Jude roundly beat us all.

Then it was back to the beach…

Sebastian has really hit the ideal age for this kind of holiday. He is keen to explore and check out the animals, he is confident in the water, beach cricket is completely engaging and finding shells and exploring rocks provides endless fun. Not that Jude and Zachary don’t enjoy it, but I think Sebastian has really hit the minimum perfect age.

In the afternoon I managed to get out beyond the surf and have a proper swim by myself. Zachary was apparently horrified by this initially – wailed and wailed til I came back again. He is now convinced that I am a “so so strong” swimmer to use his parlance and that it is safe for me. He told me this afternoon that when he gets bigger and is so so strong himself, he will be a surfer. With Zac I can definitely believe it.

So a lovely day without getting in the car, and three wallabies turned up this evening to the delight of all.

Day 3

Another day of the beach and games of Carcassonne.

It is lovely to have the time at the beach to watch Jude increase his confidence in the sea, willing to go deeper into the waves; to examine footprints in the sand with Zac to determine who made them (though inevitably this means all walks are punctuated by stops every two minutes to recognise our own footprints); to hear Sebastian unerringly identify the things we find on the beach based on his examination of the “beachcombing” poster on the wall in the holiday house. I also love the way that my own childhood memories of days and days at the beach are so easily invoked by little things – like Jude naming “scrunchy sand” that sand which lifts off in plates and which someone triggers thoughts of long beach days. (For a more erudite discussion of summer, beaches and memories, see James Bradley’s piece from December.)

It was a bit colder today so while there was some swimming, it was mostly walks and cricket. This afternoon we walked to one end of the beach and discovered starfishes and snails and urchins hiding amongst the rocks. Zac and I found a porcupine fish washed up on shore this morning which we showed to the other boys this afternoon. We saw hoofprints and bird tracks as well as the inevitable human footprints. Despite the beauty of the beach and the time of year it remains mostly empty, and I think we are all rather enjoying the slight sense of desolation and aloneness.

I’m impressed I am not missing the connectivity too much. Every now and again I think I would like to post something – like I am sure that Evcricket would appreciate the tiny pardelots nesting in the hanging pot plant on our balcony – but in the same way you miss your friends on holiday. And you know you can tell them all later. Though it is weird not having the instant contact with the news – or being able to Google what the equivalent in cups is a weight of flour…but James’ Devonshire Splits turned out fabulously anyway.


Our nesting pardelot

We do all have sunburn in odd spots from misapplication of sunscreen, and the sand is starting to permeate everything, so we know it really is a beach holiday!


Fun times at the Spice Kitchen

This Adelaide trip we tried out a new restaurant. Well, new for us, but a favourite of my parents – the Spice Kitchen, Kensington Road. As there was a lot of us, and Mum and Dad know the owners, we just let them bring us food.

For the children, they brought them indvidual servings of butter chicken, yellow rice, naan and spring rolls. As you might note from the pictures which feature Jude’s face below, this was well received. They were also very tolerant of our group of wandering small people…

The food for the grown ups was fantastic. Definitely the best Indian I have had – great both in the standard dishes, but with some different and fabulous tastes. Pictured above is the chicken and duck beetroot “chops” – invented by an Indian chef to mimic lamb chops when the English were occupying India – Hindu friendly type chops. Also fabulous were the pakoras, samosas and the potato and cheese uthapam – or pancakes, if you prefer.

The range of curries and tandoor dishes for main course was also scrumptious and nice to see goat amongst other things on the menu. I also really liked the condiment station where you could go and help yourself to all those lovely little things that one likes to go along with curries. The small boys ate about a million papadams.

We were well feasted, but the deliciousness of the food meant we managed to keep eating…and eating….

It has now been added to our must visit restaurants in Adelaide – it seems that Adelaide is host to many of our favourite Asian restaurants – Chinese, Thai and now Indian…


Little cousins



Nana and all her grandchildren