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Kangaroo Island exposed

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Words and photos: Kerry Heaney

Rugged, isolated coastline pounded by a relentless sea, Kangaroo Island exposed.

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t’s dark, very dark. I’m sitting at Adelaide’s Keswick Railway Station with The Ghan in sight but I’m not catching a train. Instead I’m waiting for a pick up to begin a walking tour of Australia’s third largest island, Kangaroo Island, just a 45 minute ferry trip from Cape Jervis on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. It’s my first big walking adventure so I’m a little nervous about what’s ahead. Along with my partner, I’ve browsed many outdoor stores looking for the right gear only to finish confused and exhausted. Inside my too many bags is what I hope will be suitable for five days of walking in the cool climate I expect to find on Kangaroo Island. The bus arrives and our small group piles in. Marcus Kauffman and Bjorn Svensson from Park Trek are our hosts and guides for the next five days. It’s easy to make new friends in the cold and dark, we all have that in common. Neither Bjorn or Marcus are Australianborn and their lilting Swedish and Swiss accents add to their enthusiasm for their adopted country. It’s an added pleasure to see this world through their eyes as well. Driving takes about an hour to reach Cape Jervis and then we are on the ferry heading through what’s known as the Backstairs Passage to Penneshaw. First sight of the island and I’m impressed by the intense blue

atmosphere and clear air. It’s refreshingly cool but not the freeze I expected. Things start to hot up even more when we hit the Iron Hill Cove Walk (4km return) which follows an original bullock track in Baudin Conservation Park. It’s only a short walk along the coastline to the ruin of a deserted farmhouse. It’s obviously a windswept coastline every day except this breathless day and I begin to wonder if I have packed the right gear. We cross a small creek and see dolphins playing near the rocks as the hill home comes into sight. I’m feeling hot, sweaty and a little pooped, as is another of our group when the oldest group member, 74-year-old Anne, strides past both of us, powering up the hill. I wish I had a bullock team to pull me but, shame-faced, I find more puff and eventually make it to the top. Sea Bay, a long white stretch of beach where about 600 Australian sea lions like to flop about, is our next stop. A guide from the Seal Bay Visitors Centre takes the group down to the shoreline via a wooden board walk. Around us are groups of sea lions basking in the sun. They look fat and lazy but our guide tells us they are anything but. After three days hunting at sea without sleep you’d be tired too, he says. We see a seal come in from hunting, riding the waves like a pro surfer to collapse on the

Main Photo: A remarkable group at the Remarkable Rocks. 1: New Zealand fur seal.

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Kangaroo Island exposed

along the contact between an old dune and the underlying hard rock, it is a breeding colony for New Zealand fur seals which are much smellier than their Australian cousins! My admiration for the early settlers on this island, particularly the lighthouse keepers and their families, grows as I take the short Weirs Cove Hike (3km) from Cape du Couedic Lighthouse. The flying fox that brought their supplies up from the boats to the store house every three months looks fearsome. Fresh meat every three months – that must have been something to look forward to! On the other side of the island is Cape Borda with another lighthouse to warn sailors. The coastline here is equally rugged. Our final night is spent in the largest town on the island, Kingscote. We consider braving the cold and checking out the fairy penguins but the pub is warm and the local wines go down very well.

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2 sand with a grateful thud. Then a baby seal, crying for his mum, comes bumbling down the sand dunes to check the nipples on all available females. He’s still waiting on the beach, a little defeated, when we leave. A quick stop to enjoy the view from Point Ellen gives us a chance to check out what’s been called Australia’s best beach. It’s the long, curved stretch of sand known as Vivonne Bay. Bright and early the next day we head out on a walk from Hanson Bay to Kelly Hill Caves (9km) in the Cape Bouguer Wilderness Protection Area. My first few steps onto this beach revealed a vista of such delight I’m naming it my own Australia’s Best Beach. Surging water, a long stretch of white sandy beach and clear blue skies – how can it get better? Obviously the owners of the worldrenowned and very expensive Southern Ocean Lodge agree as this beach is one of their outlooks. We walk past freshwater lagoons and banksia heath to wind our way

5: Following Rocky River to the sea. 6: Rocky River meets the sea and it’s windy. 7: Walking to the Remarkables Rocks.

through the mallee and pink gums. The picnic tables at Kelly Hill Caves, our lunch destination, are a welcome sight. The caves are only a young (in caving terms) 500,000 years old. Our guide takes us down into the cave and explains how the stalactites and stalagmites came to exist. Quirky formations like the ‘Ballerina’s Slipper’ and the ‘Bacon Slice’, amuse the visitors. Although the weather is closing in and getting colder and more windy by the second, we head for a quick look at the Remarkable Rocks which are indeed remarkable. Created when a granite dome was exposed to fracturing and weathering over 200 million years ago, they are only a short stop from our accommodation at the Cape du Couedic lighthouse in Flinders Chase National Park. In the morning we are off again, this time to explore a different part of the coastline. We follow Rocky River to the sea (3km return), revelling in the steep river banks and the scramble to the sea. It’s so windy here

we have to hide behind the rocks, drinking in the salty, sandy aroma, to enjoy a mid morning cuppa. A little further down the road we repeat our trek to the coast through a totally different environment along Snake Lagoon (3km return). At the beach headland we stop to enjoy the crashing waves and climb the headland for a perfect view. Landscapers would be in awe of nature’s plant placement here, with myriads of small plants covering the rocky headland in a carpet of colour. A stop at Admirals Arch is another highlight. Formed by weathering and erosion

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Kangaroo Island Shores Caravan & Camping is situated only 200 metres from the Sealink ferry terminal, which makes for the best location on the Island, with stunning views over Hog Bay and Backstairs Passage all the way to the mainland. Only 50 metres to walk to the pristine Hog Bay beach and Penguin Centre. The warmth and friendliness of the staff wiill ensure your stay on Kangaroo Island is unforgettable.

1: “Bacon Slice”, Kelly Hill Caves. 2: There are 512 steps at Prospect Hill. 3: Admiral’s Arch 4: A farmhouse ruin in Baudin Conservation Park.

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BOOKINGS & ENQUIRIES Telephone: 08 8553 1075 PO Box 352, Penneshaw SA 5222 Address: Lot 501 Talinga Tce, Penneshaw Kangaroo Island SA Email: info@kangarooislandshores.com

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Summer temperatures on Kangaroo Island are milder than the mainland. Winter nights can be cool but the days are often sunny. The wettest month is July.

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Kangaroo Island is located a short 45 minute ferry ride from Cape Jervis on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, about an hour’s drive from Adelaide.

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A formidable flight of stairs up Prospect Hill gives us our last view of the shimmering Kangaroo Island. A round of applause greets 74-yearold Anne when she reaches the last of the 512 steps. Before we head home, we journey a short way in Hans Heysen’s steps at Deep Creek Conservation Park (6km). I can see where this famous Australian painter developed his love for beautifully figured gum trees. The kangaroos enjoy the view as well. A surprising destination, Kangaroo Island is much more than I dreamed of. The coastline is more rugged and the waves more powerful than I imagined. The sense of isolation is more profound. It’s a place that clings to your memories, long after the barge has departed. See it for yourself.

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Kangaroo Island exposed