Kangaroo Island Day 2
Kangaroo Island II
It didn’t seem possible, but the second day of touring was even better than the first. Our guide, Phil, is one of several National Park rangers on the island, who does this on weekends to pay off the mortgage faster on his former Soldier’s and Settlers homestead. His knowledge of the island is encyclopedic and his planning about where to take us was fantastic: from the deserted white sand beaches to the gourmet picnic lunch in the ruins of the lighthouse keepers’ storehouse. While we were looking high in the 100 foot eucalyptus trees around the parking lot of Flinders Chase National Park (where Phil is currently working), he spotted a koala just 6 feet off the ground, clinging while it slept to the wrist sized trunk of the 15 foot tree right in front of us. He explained the formation of the Remarkable Rocks, which look like truck size boulders set carefully on three legs on top of granite pedestal just feet from the edge of sea-side cliff, but which are actually just the result of millions of years of erosion. We watched a few of the thousands of New Zealand seals that make the park their home lounge on the rocks, while their the rest of the colony is out to foraging off the continental shelf. He explained the collection of old refrigerators, dryers, and other assundry junk lined up at a fork in the road – this represents the creativity of long-time islanders who depend on the post man not only to drop off mail but to pick up a few things ordered and packed at the town grocery, which may be over an hour away mostly down washboard dirt roads. While traveling comfortably in our private 4 WD touring bus, he described his time as an abalone fisherman (or more technically the person who scraped them out of the shell after the boat owner/diver plucked them from the ocean floor) and how he persevered to become a Ranger, after being rejected twice in 2 years for the same job.
We concluded the tour with a visit to the Edwards property, a former sheep farm now home mostly to kangaroo. This mid-island plot is a testament to perseverance of both man and beast. The 1200 acre wooded plot was allotted to a WW II veteran and his wife, Herbert and Lucy. Even after his untimely death several years later in early 1950’s, Lucy, alone, raised their son and cleared the land of the gum trees and dense undergrowth. Living without electricity or even an outhouse, she cleared acre after acre with an axe, leaving a broad pasture for her sheep. She is consistently described as being a stubborn old hag. When she finally moved to town in her eighties, she offered to the farm to her son, who had lived a pioneer’s life there until age 18. When he suggested that he would subdivide it for houses, she instead donated it to the National Park system as a kangaroo sanctuary. Now, only licensed nature guides have access to the long gravel road to the expanse of ideal kangaroo grazing land.
The kangaroos living there should be on easy street, except for the nation-wide drought. Less than 1/10 of the typical 20-40 inches of rain fell this past winter on the island, leaving the grass as yellow and stunted as our front lawn used to be in August (before we put in a sprinkler system). But this is the beginning of summer here – which means there is almost nothing useful to eat until the rains 4 or 5 months from now. Even now, we watched them chew the leaves of 300 year old yucca plants, worth almost nothing nutritionally, Only the strongest kangaroos will survive. Similarly, Phil shared with us how showers at his house now last just a minute, as their rainwater tank holds only a small fraction of its capacity.
This not so small island (50 X 100 kilometers) is full of surprises. Next update will include our nighttime tour.