Sunday, March 24, 2013

Day 6 - KI - The Marron Cafe, Island Pure and Seal Bay

Wednesday 20th March 2013

The weather forecast at Kingscote is apparently 30C and rain. The weather god’s weren’t listening then. I was hoping the low 20s they were forecasting a week ago would continue.  We’re awake by 4 am. There’s a tinkling of spoon against cup and soft pad of footsteps in the kitchen. The crisp rustle of a blister pack and medication being extracted. We insist on staying asleep, but the best we actually managing is some fitful dozing. By 6.20 am it’s becoming important for us to rise and prepare for departure.  Step-mum serves us up the last of our Barossa bacon on light sourdough rye toast. Hubby’s is accompanied by some eggs.
I’m somewhat anxiously watching the light levels outside. We can’t believe how late the sun rises here. I’m sure it’s not dark till after 7 at home….is it?  The natural light is needed to photograph a photo of Hubby's Dad with his mother. 
We say our goodbyes. We've had a wonderful visit and we’re determined not to leave it so long next time.  Soon enough, we are again enjoying the magical mystery tour to the airport, reassured that we are heading in the right direction by a series of recognized landmarks. 
Hubby prompts me to take some photos of the construction that I had been trying to get the other day.  At the airport it is a straight forward process to drop off the car and walk over to the departures terminal. Adelaide is a small airport and everything is in the same place.  No worries finding the Rex check in counter and we’re pleased to see there’s a scale nearby so we don’t have to hunt around to check our baggage is within the weight limits.  Yup, and we have a total of about 4 kgs to spare which will no doubt be very handy on the way home!
Bags dropped we walk the full extent of the airport to gate 10. I put down my carry on bag determined to make up for prior slackness and photograph the Welcome to Adelaide sign. 
I’m composing my photograph and a security guard emerges from total concealment behind the sign and ducks back in surprise to get out of my shot.  “You make a nice addition to the photograph” I say.  A little banter back and forth and he’s in my shot. “You’re looking for Tassie aren’t you?” “Oh no, I understand it has just left out Bass Straight”.. “.. he gives a smile and explains “It’s an origami map, so Tassie is folded up underneath.” “haha”.. It’s amazing what a lot of bother is experienced with stylized maps of this country.
It’s a walk out down the stairs (or a lift is available) into a small departure lounge where a large quarantine sign has been placed. I check it carefully then a walk out onto a marked pedestrian route around the back of our small plane.
The captain is on hand welcome each of us onto the service and we take our allocated seats in the double seat side of the plane, which is a Saab 340. Quite small.  I pay particular attention to our safety briefing, I've not flown on this sort of plane before. Our flight attendant has a long spiel to deliver and she clearly does this one a lot.  Maybe even mutters safety briefings in her sleep.
It’s a very quick 20 minutes of flying time across to Kangaroo Island.  I’m a bit chuffed to see an aerial view over Semaphore and Largs Bay and I can identify the passenger terminal at Port Adelaide. Excitement as the first glimpses of Kangaroo Island appear.  Approaching the airport the ground is pock marked and I assume it must be grazing country. The landscape overall is parched and that golden mild khaki colour typical of the Australian summer, with protection belts criss-crossing the fields in a darker richer green. In short, so far it looks much like the rest of the South Australian landscape we've been exploring this week.
I'm a tourist and not ashamed to demonstrate it by taking photos of welcome sign as we enter the terminal building. While we wait for our luggage we pop across a few strides to the Hertz rental desk for I can confidently say, the most competent and thorough walk through for car hire we’ve ever experienced. We are even shown a sample of the surface we are likely to experience on the dirt roads to emphasise the fact that it will be slippery, but we’ll be fine if we just moderate our speed. Was this lady perhaps a teacher? I didn't know such an excellent introduction and liability explanation was possible. Wow. I feel like I can trust this lady, but she doesn't expect us to.  I like that. I've far too many car hire threads on TripAdvisor to fail to examine our rental carefully and photograph any marks I find. We decide that just to be on the safe side I will go back and notify everything.  No worries, our friendly lady brings out the little card which defines fair wear and tear and explains that those things we've noted, she classes as such. None the less to make us feel comfortable, she notes them all on our car condition sheet. I feel really comfortable about our hire and what is expected of us as we drive away from the airport.  Our little Toyota Corolla Hatch fits our luggage snugly in the boot. I'm happy as a clam.
It’s probably not necessary, but we program Tommie to take us into Kingscote where we intend to pick up some supplies. I can’t resist following the signs to the sheep dairy when we come to them. Hmm. They’re not open until 12.00. Noted. I've enjoyed this little foray on the dirt anyhow.
We pull up in Kingscote to take a few photos of what we’re seeing. There’s a pleasant fenced kid’s playground and a couple of historic buildings with interpretative signage, but not a lot to detain us really and I'm keen to get into the priority sites. We find the supermarket and wander in to pick up a few supplies. We’re Aussie kids, so obviously we are therefore Weet Bix kids, the perfect brekky cereal for a good test of the local honey. I’m keen to see what those ligurian honey bees can do, so a pack of crumpets also makes it into the basket.  If memory serves it cost $5.85 for 350 grams and is generically labelled as “kangaroo island honey” rather than by floral type.
 Back on the road we've decided that we’ll head to the Marron Café for an early lunch. It’s over an hour away so the timing should be about right. Blacktop lined by dense vegetation… oh what a lucky island not to have any rabbits… then onto the dirt and I note it’s just like what Dominique at Hertz told us.
It’s pretty warm when we pull up at the Marron Café, I’m getting increasingly distressed at the level of my sun exposure, so I change into some un-glam but more sun appropriate attire.
We head on in and first of all make our way to the Marron viewing and wine tasting area. About 5 mins or so reading through the information panels about how the Marron breed and are raised and fed, then the man in attendance gets a net for us to take a closer look.  It looks delicious… haha.  That’s a family in-joke. My sister-in-law is Japanese and when she first came to Australia and my brother took her to Sydney Aquarium they were standing in front of the big aquarium with the schools of large fish swimming about.  Asked what she though of it she said in an enthusiastic tone… “they look delicious”. Not something that had ever occurred to the rest of us, but yeah… I guess they do. Especially if you’re into sashimi in a big way. Haha… but I digress.
Before we leave the viewing area we are encouraged to sample various dressings and sauces and we are given a brief run down on what to do. The lemon myrtle and aniseed myrtle is grown on the property. Mm. The Lemon Myrtle ones are really more-ish.  It’s heading on for about 12.30 and we decide we’ll head in for lunch, encouraged in that decision by our host who tells us they’re expecting a bus in a while from now so it is a good idea to get in early.  We need no further prompting. We choose a seat where the radiated heat from outside is less and make our choices.
The special is tempting but I decide I’ll take a double whammy approach in order to get as broad a sampling of the local products as possible. We will share a Warm Gourmet KI Haloumi Salad which consists of Grilled KI sheep’s Haloumi cheese, Island Kalamata olives, local mixed gourmet salad leaves, sundried tomatoes, chargrilled capsicum, cucumber, Spanish onion and Two Wheeler Aniseed salad dressing ($18).
Obviously I want to sample the marron also, so I supplement with an entrée sized Cold Natural Marron which is described as Freshly poached and chilled marron, laid on a bed of fresh fruit and salad and drizzled with our Two Wheeler Lemon Myrtle seafood sauce. ($22).
Hubby is more ambitious and chooses the Chilli and Lime Marron ($38), this is an oven baked marron with melted chilli and lime butter served with pickled vegetables and fluffy jasmine rice, washed down with a West End draught.
Evidently there is an opening on KI for a micro brewery…. Someone???? Ordered and paid for at the bar, hubby returns with a bottle of icy cold water. That’s a very good sign. Too many places in our trip have supplied water that was not particularly cold. Hubby is enjoying the views from the café and takes control of the camera to capture the elements he likes best.
Our meals were delicious and I’m pleased to note that all selections were provided with plentiful vegetable matter. We weren't going away hungry! I was particularly happy with my Cold Marron Salad. The mix of fruit and salad was a perfect compliment to the tasty marron tail.  The Two Wheeler sauce and dressing were delicious. The Haloumi salad was also very nice and I was glad we had that first. The haloumi had a lovely soft silken texture, though perhaps a little saltier than I prefer it. I’m keen to get a pack to do myself and give it a thorough testing. Hubby’s main sized marron was large and equipped with impressive claws. It was tasty, but I did prefer my own selection. Our lunch has been delightful. Definitely this is a KI must do! Finally our purchases. Our style is being massively cramped by luggage limits but we can’t resist some honey biscuits shaped like marron, one for grandson and one for us.
I've been reading through the KI book and have noted that the sheep milking starts at 2.30. Although it’s a massive backtrack, if we head back that way now, we’ll be in the right place at the right time, and we’ll have ticked off another thing up this way. I don’t want to have to come back over the next couple of days. I'm expecting the drive back to be pretty much the same as the way out, but at one point we suddenly emerge to a downhill slope and views across the landscape, testing how quick on the draw I can be for the camera.
We arrive just after two o’clock, but the milking is clearly getting underway with a quad bike herding the girls up to the milking shed. We pay $13 for tour and tasting and are directed into a dim room for a short video presentation, featured by a quirky sense of humour. We chuckle away. We always enjoy these unsophisticated presentations that clearly present the personalities of the people behind the show. Around the room leading you through the mainly self guided tour, there are hinged boards asking questions, you lift the flap to get the answer. Suitable for any age, this is a good tour for kids.  The lady who took our money is also one of the owners and she gives us a super speedy run down of much that is under the boards and tells us some charming stories of her pet sheep. They’re a special milk sheep breed and make great pets. I really loved this part of the tour. This lady is an animal lover that is clear.  The “ladies” are milked for over a decade and when they’re old they retire on the property. This our hostess tells us seems kinder as “the ladies know us and are comfortable with us”. We work our way up some stairs across a viewing window in the cheese making area where nothing much is happening at present, and down into the next room where we can watch the milking.  Our tour complete, all that remains is to make our purchases. Informed of a supplier in Sydney we are relieved of the need to manage cold souvenirs so we just get some Ravine des Casaors (the haloumi equivalent). The various cheeses are named for localities on the island. Haloumi and Manchego being names with geographical protected status. Fair enough.
Well, Island Pure didn't take very long. Less than an hour. What now? We decide to do a reccie down to Seal Bay. It’s more or less on our way and it seems we have time to get there in time to see it.  The car park is busy and there’s tour groups and a large AAT Kings bus. It’s 3.35 so we've just missed a tour. I've been really slack on the prep for this trip and I've not got a lot of detail with me about what to do or when. I'm experiencing life on the wild, spontaneous side!  We are taken in hand by a lovely lady behind the counter in the visitors centre. Totally unphased by our incompetent indecisiveness, by the time we’re done we have been slipped via silken expertise into the purchase of the Island pass for $68 and lo and behold we’re booked on the 4.15 pm guided tour, which is one of the things we can do on our pass.  We are very grateful to this lady, for reasons that will become apparent.
We've now got half an hour to kill until our tour, so Hubby goes and stows our new souvenirs and we wander slowly down to the lookout. Even when we walked into the visitors centre I was wondering what we’ll find, as everything we've seen on KI so far is much like the mainland. I walk out into the tickets only area and look out across the landscape, sheltered seats are visible.  Then I can’t resist walking along the path a little way while I wait for Hubby. Snap a photo or two. View is nice here.  
No this isn't the spectacular view... you want to visit Seal Bay yourself don't you?
I took another few steps and WOW! Look at that! Spectacular! The colours are sensational. The white sand. The beautiful water… what colour IS that? I don’t have a name for it. The lovely complement of grey vegetation against the white and water… the mosaic of sandy tracks among the vegetation.. and seemingly wilderness coast as far as the eye can see. Seal bay is truly lovely on a sunny day.  AHH!! So THIS is why you come to KI!  I can’t wait to explore further over the coming days!
We hang about at the lookout soaking up the scenery, watching the sea lions on the beach below and the large tour group down on the sand as they begin to make their way back up onto the viewing platform and make the climb back up the hill. It’s time we head back too. Hubby wants to wander down the board walk, and we go a little way just to sample… pointless really.  Waiting for our tour to start the helpful lady from the desk comes out to tell us we’re the only people on this tour. It’s been busy all day. The last group had 20 people… we on the hand with have our tour guide all to ourselves! 
We set off down the hill, still marvelling at the beauty around us and the sympathetic and high quality approach that has been taken to the infrastructure protecting this place. Our guide, Mel, meets us at the viewing platform. We’re focused on the sea lions on the sand, and then as we go to move down to the beach, Mel points out a mother and baby under the board walk beneath us. Oh wow!
... Mum
Down on the sands we learn about the sea lions and ask questions. The sea lions suckle and snuggle, and young ones play fight. We hear about the life cycle and are given a description of the activity on and around this beach in the winter… we HAVE to come back in winter! Apparently these tours sometimes never get off the track and boardwalk area because so much is going on up in the dunes. Looking back up the hill you can see the little hidey holes where the sea lions hole up, and in the sand throughout the mosaic are the tracks the animals have left through their lolloping gait.
As we are such a small group we have the luxury of a short mosey along the beach. One memorable fact is that locals don’t swim on the southern side of the island.  Hehe.  Yeah.  Seal and sea lion numbers are increasing rapidly. What eats seals?  That’s right. Great White Sharks.  
There’s a Great white breeding ground about 100km away.  So that’s incredibly close to here for a shark to pop over for a snack.  Not only that, but the water is treacherous with strong rips and so forth. It is a dangerous stretch of coast. Hanson Bay is a bit of an exception as the geography gives it a little protection, so people feel a bit more comfortable swimming there. However, swimming is mainly confined to the northern coast of the island. Seems sensible to me! Can’t say I'm keen to do more than paddle in the water anywhere along the southern coast of Australia. Too many years of having my Dad comment that you’d have to be mad! 
..and having fun
As our time nears its end Mel offers to take our photograph on the beach, taking various angles for us. We head on back. Slowly. We discuss the intelligence of the sea lions and other creatures sharing stories illustrating this. We've had a totally brilliant time. We are SO grateful to the lady who encouraged us to sign up now while we’re here today, and Mel who has been a wonderful, knowledgeable guide.  We have loved Seal Bay. 
By now of course, it’s 5 o'clock  Time to be getting to our accommodation. We take our time, not driving overly quick. I'm beginning to get concerned about the approaching dusk period, but we think it’s probably a bit early yet and the weather is warm. We've been advised that the cooler the weather the higher the chance that the nocturnal animals will be about early, so we’re averaging about 80 kph as we approach Vivonne Bay where we stop and fill up the car. No petrol where we’re heading according to our map.
We ease up on the speed as the sun sinks and we head further into the bushland areas. 60 kph is more than quick enough in any national park or animal infested area. 50 kph is the max advised on the dirt.  We didn't come to KI to kill the wildlife and we've passed a lot of road kill today, so the odds are clearly not in our favour if we take a chance on the speed.
We arrive at the Hanson Bay Koala walk and visitors centre just after 6 o'clock  We've already seen kangaroos in a nearby paddock and a wallaby by the road. I'm keen as mustard for the wildlife viewing and enquire about availability on the nocturnal tour tonight. We’re booked in for tomorrow. Hubby looks alarmed. Oh. Yeah. I guess we've had a long day.. but he’s more concerned about dinner…. I say what?  You want to get dinner somewhere? Really?  Aren't you still pretty full from lunch? I do as instructed and our assistant goes off to book us in for dinner at the Wilderness Retreat down the road a bit for 7.30.  We buy some local milk. Phew. Local milk. At the petrol station at Vivonne Bay it was a yucky import that includes permeate… eeewwwh.
The view from our Cabin
So, now we have a commitment. I was looking forward to just chilling with the views at the cabin as the sun set.. oh well.  Creeping along at 40 kph or 50 max, it takes us a while to get to cabin, unpack, change shirt and shoes and get back on the road. Glad we took the extra kms on our rental for $20 a day to get unlimited.  We’re doing about 50 – 60 kph when a wallaby leaps out onto the road. STOP!!! I scream. Brakes applied. (never swerve) we stop just in time. Thank god we weren't going any faster! Our cute, and rare little friend hops away to join a friend who is just under cover off the road. That was a close one. We creep on to the Wilderness retreat, going even slower now – 40 kph is enough surely. We settle in to dinner.  I photograph but forget to write down the descriptions. I’m pretty tired. However I have pork belly with scallops and pomegranate something or other for entrée 
Followed by King George whiting with kumara and scallops.. 
Hubby had grilled asparagus with Pure (haloumi) and mushrooms 
Followed by linguine with seafood.  
Several of the options on the menu were not available as “the truck” had not arrived.  We skipped on dessert. Our total meal including a Cooper’s for Hubby was about $113. As we dined a wallaby or two hopped around in the central courtyard area which is large and bushy and replete with picnic tables.  Guests staying in the surrounding units stalked the wallabies with long lensed cameras.
Our food was nice. Right style for the price but execution was a little lacking. My pork belly was the winner for me, that was very good. Unfortunately my whiting was overcooked, and a couple of the pieces of my kumara where undercooked. Hubby’s linguine was a little too oily at the end. Not enough to ruin our meal, but enough to have me feel it was expensive for what we got. Predictable in a remote location and I guess not unreasonable.
We creep slowly back to our cabin, averaging about 40 kph. Wallabies and brush tailed possums around and a lizard caught in the headlights scurries quickly away into the scrub. On the road into the cabin I was obliged to hop out and try to photograph a wallaby before it got the message and moved off the track.  
We head inside to the cabin as a brushie (brush tailed possum) stalks across the verandah. It’s after the watermelon the family next door have left out for it.  Not much moon tonight, a few stars through scattered cloud. Orion is overhead.  We head more or less straight to bed. Shower considered. Rainwater situation considered. Shower reconsidered. We’ll skip it. Off to sleep about 9.30.
What a fantastic day!  

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