Kangaroo-less Island

Within fifteen minutes last night, I was out for the count. This is without a doubt the most comfortable hostel bed I have ever slept in. This is also the first time in about six months that I accomplished getting a full eight hours sleep. We had lots of time to spare with our tour starting at 9:30, so Ron went to see if he could find some penguins. A colony resides on this island. Locals claim they wander the streets, there are even penguin crossing signs, but last night they were allusive, not to be found anywhere. We had gone down to the Penguin Center across the street from our hostel, but the guide there said they are not coming on shore as much since the seals are driving them away. Seals think penguins are tasty treats. As I was sitting at the picnic table, a Sealink van pulled up and the driver wandered into the hostel yard, looking over papers and scratching his head. I approached him to see if he was our driver and sure enough he was, here at 8:30, but not due until 9:15. He stated his company had sent a fax to the office of the hostel letting them know there was a change in starting time. I said to him what I had hoped was fact; Ron was told by the manager last night that the tour started at 9:15. The manager also said not to panic if they were late; they were late yesterday. Ron had taken off looking for penguins and wallabies; none to be found. Ron was not to be found either. The guide had others to collect from this location, so while he rounded them up, I was going to try to find Ron. As I walked down road, Kalen, our guide and driver pulled up and suggested we could look faster if we did it by van. Ron was no where in sight, then suddenly, I spotted him beach combing the sand picking up shells. When he spotted me and the van, he came running, a rather useless gesture since there were still five others to get from the hostel who were not ready either. As a side note, Kalen is an ex-pat American. His mother re-married an Australian and he moved here when he was ten years old. He and his wife came to the island for a three day vacation and never left. Once we were all gathered, Kalen told us we were lucky. This was the overflow tour. The original bus had fifty-three on it and was full. Our van will have sixteen total. All together now from our place, we went to collect two others from another hotel, and then the balance were coming in by airplane. As we were leaving our parking lot, a car pulled up and asked for directions. The front end was totally smashed in. The driver had hit a kangaroo. Here are some quick facts about Kangaroo Island. The island is 155 km long and 55 km wide, making it the third largest island off of Australia’s coast. It was uninhabited until it was discovered in 1802, but Matthew Flinders, an English explorer. Since that time, ½ of the island has never been cleared of vegetation. One-third of it is protected by the National and Conservation Parks system. The island is home to thirty animal species, two hundred and fifty bird species, and eight hundred and fifty plant species. Unfortunately, most of the animal species are nocturnal, making day-time sightings difficult. Kalen explained that kangaroos cannot sweat nor pant, so they have to avoid the sun and come out at night to forage. Many of the islands koala population perished in fires. Because of the drought conditions, the island is susceptible to lightening fires. They had a bad one two years ago, which was bad news for koalas. The fuzzy cuties climb trees when frightened, not a safe refuge during a fire. Highlights of the tour did not include any kangaroo sightings, though locals claim there are thousands on the island. During this tour, we did not see any wallabies either, so as far as wildlife, it was close to a bust. We did see seals and sea lions, a saving grace. At Seal Bay, we found the Australian Sealion, the second largest breeding colony in Australia. With a conservation officer, we were able to walk down to the beach and get as far as six meters away from the animals. We were told they could outrun a young and fit man who has been in training, if they are frightened. We had to stay as a group to confuse their poor on land sight, making them believe we were one large animal. We went to the Admiral’s Arch, near the Cape Du Couedic lighthouse. It is a natural arch formed by erosion from the sea. It is the breeding ground for the New Zealand Fur Seal. There were dozens frolicking in the water and on the rocks. The stink was horrendous. At Remarkable Rocks, we were able to climb granite boulders formed and reformed by weather and water. These gigantic formations were carved into strange shapes. We were warned about going too close to the edge, as other tourists have ignored the danger signs and have fallen to their death. Lunch was provided by Beckwith Farms. It was surprisingly excellent. There were five fresh salads to choose from, each with superb veggies we could help ourselves to. To accompany this our other offerings were chicken and a sausage. This was a good thing; food at the IGA grocery store is ultra-expensive. We had bought two large sweet potatoes, a pound of butter, and a package of pork patties. This came to over $30.00.
The island has five different towns, each with their own local government, one hospital with twenty-four beds, and an all volunteer fire department. Parts of the island recycle rainwater, without pollution in the air, they do not need to treat it in any way. By the end of the tour, we still had not seen a kangaroo or wallaby. I suggested to Kalen they rename this place to Kangarooless Island. Jokingly, I said they only suggested there were thousands of kangaroos to keep the tourists coming. He swore they were there. After cooking dinner, we went on a kangaroo hunt yet again. It was now dark and their prime time to come out and roam, but still nothing by 10:00 pm. We gave up hope and went to bed.