doing their silent, ghostly business,
drowning years gone by
when life sap-surged their veins.
Silhouettes in silver
under a million million lights.
Called to life at first hues
by new tenants
white and pink and duck brown
suntanned orange in that first hour,
life in every room
and toes dancing in their cool bath.
... and I can only watch
and listen to their stories
wafted to the shore by zephyrs
tip toeing over gently pushed waves
and breath them in to my safe keeping.
Our path today took us first to the north coast of the island and only about twenty minutes along the first of many dirt tracks we would follow, we found the Wisanger School. Originally named after Whisanger Manor in Gloucestershire, from whence the original settlers of the area came, it was built as a community hall in 1885 and then leased to the newly formed Dept of Education. Stone built and consisting of one room and an entry portico, it served the children of the district for the next sixty years when in eventually closed in the last year of the Second World War. Always a one teacher school, it had a fair turnover of staff with no one staying longer than three years and only two male teachers taking up the post in its entire history. Seventy years have passed since it closed its doors as a school but it was lovingly restored about ten years ago and is managed by the National Trust for the local Council.
In a cupboard in the corner of the room is a cleaning roster, up to date, clearly showing how much importance locals have attached to this piece of their history. On display are old workbooks and school records as well as a complete record of all the teachers and those old roll down maps that have become superseded by technology - one of the United Kingdom and one of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The school sits unheralded on the increasingly rough dirt North Coast Road, with no sign to mark it and can easily be missed if you are on the road to somewhere else. That would be a great shame. Just leave the gate the way you found it and keep the door shut to stop the possums getting in and making a mess and I guarantee the stop will be worth it.
The going got steadier after the school, with the road shaking us about a bit and the van - admittedly built for such treatment - tagging along happily behind. By the time we reached Stokes Bay, the back window had started to open and there was a decent amount of dust gather at the door waiting for us to step inside. Parking down by the beach that was in sight - all rocks, gentle waves, silver gulls and a dead pelican - we were under whelmed for the first time in three days. It was only when we saw a small sign that said "Beach" pointing to an adult sized crack in the rocky wall that intrigue spurred us on. Passing through a winding cavity of about twenty metres, with twists and turns and sharp rocks in just the right places to tear at hips or threaten unconsciousness for the over zealous, we emerged into sunlight and the most delightful small beach. A shallow pool just right for littlies was protected from the sea by a low natural rock wall and beyond, small waves broke pleasantly on their way to the sand.
The passage there was reminiscent of Windjana Gorge, many thousands of kilometres away, deep in
|Camera shy, poor thing|
We had a cup of tea among a group of bikers out for their Sunday ride - all tails (pony) and tales (tax accountant) at the Rock Pool Cafe, a small, low key establishment run by a couple of cool guys and some english second language young ladies who were short on service knowledge but long on Scandinavian good looks. Most of the bikers came back for seconds.
Upon leaving, we had the choice of the tarred surface to our right or a detour back up the rough dirt road to our left. The GPS insisted left, so we dutifully followed. What ensued was a detour through farm country, up hill and down dale on narrow roads of ironstone soil which rose in dark brown clouds behind us. You know you are getting off the beaten track when the roads have names like "Pioneer Bend Rd" or my particular favourite "Bark Hut Rd". We did three sides of what was more or less a large square, eventually rejoining Stokes Bay Rd - the fourth side - and the tar which had run all the way in a straight line south from Stokes Bay. It was a nice drive.
Once we crossed the Cygnet River which runs east for at least half of the length of the northern part of the island, we joined the Playford Highway for the run west and then south to Flinders Chase. After setting up at the Western KI Caravan Park - our first since Morisset weeks ago - we went the few kilometres to the Hansen Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and their Koala Walk. The wind had picked up considerably from the south by the time we started walking among the eucalypts, pretending we handed seen a koala before and searching for the orange ribbons (koala in the tree) or the pink ribbons (mother and baby in the tree). It ended up feeling like we were supporting trees with breast cancer and the best finds were in the trees which weren't marked. Still, the people in the gift shop were pleasant and we purchased a DVD about Kangaroo Island which had the advantage of having been shot and produced by islanders.
On the way back to the caravan park, we detoured - as is our fairly regular want - to Hansen Bay, yet another beautiful piece of coastline. There was maybe half a dozen holiday shacks and a tractor pulling serious fishing boats out of the water and across the sand. The waves outside of the small reef were all white caps and disturbed by the southerly but inside, it inviting until you touched it. White sand, cliff caves, purple flowering pigface and low salt thriving shrubs outnumbered everything else. Another pretty little dot at the end of a rough dirt road.
Returning to our digs, Sue finally got to see a Tamar Wallaby, the small marsupial which is renowned as a resident on KI. Correction ... finally got to see a live one. Many had been lying in lifeless sleep beside the roads - I don't tell her they are dead - during the past few days, so she was even more excited to a joey emerge from the mother's ouch and take a series of drunken steps and stumbles, like Cronulla players after a training session with their chemist.
The wind is blowing strongly tonight but sun is promised for tomorrow as we delve into Flinders Chase NP.
Beyond all that and more disappointing than you could ever imagine was a lack of reception. This end of KI, like most of the rest of it, are a digital TV black spot, so no Dr Who tonight. I am writing to assuage my grief. Sue, meanwhile, has just returned from cooking tea in the camp kitchen, accompanied by an older, more seasoned, mostly drunk old dear who couldn't stop herself from repeating that we would all be meeting Jesus soon. Ebola was a big causal factor, although when Sue left the unlit gas running, her fears became even more immediate.
It's the people you meet, not the places you see, that keep you out here on the road.