Friday, 17 October 2014

Day 29 - Beaches, Lighthouses and Australian Marsupials

Aussie prayer flags
Life on the road boils down to a few necessities: fuel, food, maps and washing the clothes once a week.

Today was the day when we both ran out of undies and the days of turning them inside out and hoping it's not hot and not indoors, are behind us. Clean undies and clean sox are just one thing we won't do without. So, with no laundry at our dream camp beside the lagoon, it was a matters of splitting the load and taking to the twin sinks in the toilet block and a serious hour or so of hand washing.

Clothes on the line strung between two Red Gums, clothes on the hangers on the van and my undies strung along the guy ropes like some form of Aussie prayer flags and the job was done. The line between the gums was enhanced by a makeshift prop (the antenna mast) lashed to the line halfway along.

So thanks to Sue's planning, we were off to see the wizards, the wonderful wizards of KI. Kingscote for some bits and pieces, to send a card to a new arrival - welcome Emma Joy Frazer - and to plan our next two days.

As the day was already half done, we went to south to Pennington Bay, on the southern coast where KI is at its narrowest. Locals had recommended it. A nondescript sign and a dirt road were the only recommendation in situ but didn't they turn out to be underwhelming in the scheme of things. The dirt road ended exposing a double beach, split by rocky outcrops that had been honeycombed by wave action and salt air exposure. Any weed under the surface started way out beyond the breakers, such that big two metre wave cracked in one after the other through brilliant light blue water. The sand was near white and not a foot print to be seen until we did what no one else seemed to want to do from the car park and ventured down the wooden staircase to the sand.

Pennington Bay
If it was a restaurant, it would have had the Michelin maximum and Sue was in bare feet immediately, trousers rolled up and splashing through the water's edge until knee deep. This girl comes alive by the ocean. It's as though it's a charging station for her soul and within seconds of its touch, she has stripped away years and is that little Yamba nipperette again, all wondrous and amazed like a kid from the western districts feeling its magic embrace for the first time. For the next half hour I watched, warmed by her joy and freedom.

We eventually ate lunch in this lovers' rendezvous of ours, spiced by sea spray and memories of other such delicious moments. The English Channeled beaches of northern France came to mind, save for the lack of rounded, near fist sized stones which act as a poor substitute for the soft footfalls of Australian sand. It was the cliffs that sparked the memory and hid other visitors from view, high above and looking down to miss us, hidden on the seas's side of the mid beach rockscape.

This hour alone might have been the highlights of our six weeks of escape.

More was to compete with it.

After lunch, we motored toward Penshaw, passing through it and to the eastern most points of the island. Before we could get to Chapman River, along the road to Cape Willoughby, we were invited to follow a grader along a section of road under improvement. They were right: it was underimproved! Slushy from watering, lose from grading and full of moving gravel, we slid from side to side, even in low range and at less than 20kms/hr but the Forester maintained its grace under pressure.

The Chapman River was another delight, it's shallows running just behind a vegetated sand dune
Chapman River
immediately behind the breakers pounding away on the beach. Stands of tea trees stood in soft soil, in some places muddy from recent inundation and gave way to sandy banks and the warm tea coloured water of such places. The leaves of the tea trees provide the stain. It was quiet except for birds and the distant surf and another wonderful grab in our day.

A few kilometres up the road and down another was the Chapman River Estate - a rather grand name for a rather lovely, low key and definitely boutique cellar door. The owner had art hanging on the walls - the best of it her own - and the eclectic furnishings gave the place a sense of originality that is refreshing in these days of bland marketing. We sampled three of the reds and came away with two of them. Coffee on the metal outdoor settings which can be obtained cheaply at Bunnings but not in the vivid primary colours we saw and a handful of second hand, well thumbed books for a pittance. It was an experience recommended by my brother and as usual, an excellent suggestion.

Further down a deteriorating road, we crested a hill and the road, sharply defined on either side by lines of unbroken trees, led directly down a steep slope to the Cape Willoughby lighthouse, standing out in stark reliefs of red and white against the blue ocean beyond. It was stunning. As we drew closer, so was the newly constructed cafe overlooking Moncreif Bay and settling into its landscape as though Frank Lloyd Wright had designed it himself.

Cape Willoughby Lighthouse and
whale bones
The lighthouse is South Australia's oldest, officially opened in 1852 and placed there to provide safe journeys for shipping moving through the Backstairs Passage from the east, to Adelaide. Like the original keepers cottages, it is built from limestone and granite quarried locally. The other function it continues to provide is as a critical station in predicting South Australia's weather. The weather records for the lighthouse date back to 1881' although these days, a solar panel powers a completely automated system which records and reports without human involvement.

Short walks are available from the lighthouse but two signs discouraged me. "Snakes live here" and "Magpies nesting along this walk" were definitely in the too much information bracket for me. The views are spectacular from this exposed place on KI's most easterly point.

Avoiding the roadworks, we drove cross country soon after  travelling along the Wilson River Road, which crosses - you guessed it - the Wilson River and the East West Road, which goes from east to west. In the process, we crossed the North South Road at right angles. They keep the nomenclature simple down here.

Driving past our digs, we went the few extra kilometres to Emu Bay, another of the quiet little villages which cling to the shoreline around a small bay of white sand and gentle waves rolling in agelessly. After taking in the pelicans at the wharf and asking those with rods and glum faces the rather rude question on how the fishing was, the rather ominous retorts left us glad we were not so afflicted to like either fishing or golf: two pastimes for the addicted.

Above the wharf, along a grassy slope, we discover an echidna wandering about like some dementia afflicted old man, shouting for insects. His stumpy legs would waddle him along like as though in need of knee reconstructions, until he found something of interest, where upon he would dig furiously and thrust his snout deep into the ground and leg his long, sticky tongue investigate. What a great end to an already sensorially extreme day.

Salmon pasta with fresh mint from the herb garden growing in an old box trailer back at Discovery Bay, red wine and a look through today's photos was a final reminder of our great fortune to have each other and to still be doing that which has so passionately burned in us for so long.

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