Adelaide

Before returning to Alice, we decided to spend a few days in a proper city and enjoy Adelaide. Spending most of our time in a small town and then vacationing in an even less populated area almost caused us to forget just how enjoyable life in a city can be. We started both Friday and Saturday mornings with brekky in the Central Market. After making it through a 1/2 block of tourist traps, piles of fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, and baked goods greeted us at every turn The market is very similar to the Pike Place Market in Seattle, with a few more specialty shops providing packaged goods. Coming from Alice, this was like finding an oasis. Ashley and I were immediately rueful of the offerings we were returning to. The market is a very popular spot for people to gather. It is the place for breakfast . Unlike Pike Place, the market is covered (and somewhat dim) which made taking pictures difficult.


The major activity that we had booked for our short stay was a tour of the Coopers brewery. Coopers might be considered the Australian equivalent to Sam Adams. Both focus on making craft-like beer that has body and taste. Coopers is also one of the more reliably available beers in Alice. The brewery tour was remarkable because it is the working brewery. This wasn’t a test/specialty brewery (like Sam Adams in Boston), a small regional brewery (like SweetWater in Atlanta), or a corporate museum (like Guinness in Dublin). This is the national brewery that produces all Coopers in Australia. Consequently, the scale of the building was massive. In addition to the beer making, the industrial management was also fascinating. At the end of the tour, the obligatory tasting was very thorough – we went through about a dozen beers from the lightest pale ale to a stout. Coopers also brews Carlsberg in Australia as well as Sapporo. Unfortunately, they were out of Ashley’s favorite – the yearly Vintage Ale. We found a few bottles in Alice over the holidays and bought all we could find. (As an aside, dark malty beers are a rare thing in Australia in general and Alice in particular).

The next day, we were off to the museums and gardens. The National Gallery of South Australia was hosting a massive exhibit on Turner. The exhibit was very well done. It included a large number of watercolors that neither of us had seen, and included several sketches and studies hung next to finished pieces. Throughout the exhibit we were shocked to find that we were encouraged to take pictures. In the US, the mere sight of a camera at a temporary exhibit causes the security staff to tense up.

We rounded out our time in Adelaide by visiting the natural history museum, Botanical Gardens, and the National Wine Center. The natural history museum had some interesting bones and shells that became opals instead of true fossils. The Gardens were lovely. It is difficult to beat the charm of Sydney, but Adelaide gave it a run for the money. The National Wine Center was prepping for a wedding, so we couldn’t see much of the exhibits. However, we enjoyed a couple of tastings from around Australia.
Now, we’re back in Alice and settling back into being home. We have to get used to the heat again, although hopefully it will only last another month. The temperature difference between Adelaide and Alice is about 20 degrees (Celsius). Maybe it’s time to start planning our next trip out…

More pictures are here.

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Ligurian Bees

KI Spirits bees

As you might know, Ashley likes bees. So, she was very pleased to discover that Kangaroo Island is a sanctuary for Ligurian honey bees. These bees are originally from Italy, and were brought to KI in the 1880s. Due to their isolation, they are now the only pure strain of these bees to be found anywhere in the world. Also due to the same factors, these bees are healthy and not bothered by mites or other pests. KI works hard to keep it that way.

Bee quarantine

There are two commercial beehives on KI, and we stopped at both to browse and sample honey. Ashley has been eating local honey for years – in Atlanta, Chapel Hill, Falls Chuch, and now Alice Springs. The KI honey was much creamier than she was used to – it’s hard to describe, but it coated your mouth in an unusual way. The honey is harvested seasonally, and we tried several varieties. Our favorite ended up being cup gum, which is a winter flowering tree (winter here is May – Sept, so we were enjoying last year’s harvest).

Honey koala!

We bought some honey to take back with us. Notice anything special about the bottle? That’s right, we now have a well dressed honey koala bear!

King George Bay bees

From the beach to the woods, there were bees all over the island. It was nice to see these little guys all over the place and see a positive example of quarantine at work.

Kangaroo Island Day The Final

Remarkable!

Yup, it’s our last day on Kangaroo Island, and we’re sad to say goodbye. It’s been fun roaming around the island and checking out the varied flora and fauna. Tomorrow we’re back in Adelaide for a few days of shopping, museums, restaurants, and beer before heading home to Alice.

It was a rock... lobster!

Flinders Chase National Park occupies the western third-ish of Kangaroo Island. It’s 100km from Kingscote, but the roads are paved the whole way. The park is known for its Remarkable Rocks, lighthouses, and (like the rest of KI) wildlife.

Glamour shot!

The Remarkable Rocks are actually very impressive. If they were made out of something other than granite, they’d belong in front of the MoMA or Tate Modern. Instead, they stand as a great testament to the weird ways that wind, salt, and water can eat away at things.

A short drive away is the Cape du Couedic lighthouse. Now completely electric and automated, the lighthouse originally ran on kerosene. The lighthouse keeper and his family lived about 1.5km further down the coast, and had all their supplies delivered by boat and then winched up a seriously steep cliff.

Admirals Arch

From the lighthouse, it was a short walk down to Admirals Arch. The rock formations surrounding the arch are home to fur seals (New Zealand and Australian) and sea lions.

Seals!

Seals are more active than sea lions, so we saw lots of splashing around and playing in the tidal pools and waves.

Yes, that was the trail.

The hike between the coast and the lighthouse was pretty, and had interesting info posted about the way plants adapt to being so exposed to the elements. The trail was what you see here – the yellow arrow signposts every so often were very helpful!

Koala, just chillin'

Back at the visitor center, Ashley showed her uncanny ability to find things by spotting three koalas hanging out above the parking lot. It’s kind of weird just to look up and see them chilling above our heads. From there, we took a walk down to the platypus waterhole. KI hasn’t seen much rain in a while so the hole was pretty low. No platypuses (yes, I mean platypuses! No pseudo Latin here) were to be found. It was an interesting walk through a dried up marsh and some gum forests. The scenery was nice, but the front moving in was threatening rain so we hurried back to the hotel.

We should give a shout out to the Mexican place – it was tasty enough to visit twice. Considering the dearth of good Mexican in Alice, Yellow Ash and Chili filled an amazing void. Besides, they’ve got this awesome mural outside the front door.

Time to go pack… more pictures are here.

Kangaroo Island Day 3

King George Bay

Today was spent on the north side of the island. It was a whole other world.

We started by driving down windy, sometimes steep, unsealed roads to King George Beach. It was definitely off the beaten path, and a lovely secluded cove. We were the only folks there, so we got to enjoy the pebbled beach alone. We would have enjoyed staying there longer if we had thought to bring books (or kites!) with us.

Next, a stop in Stokes Bay. This is a more popular destination. The paved road runs down to the beach, and there are places to stay and eat (as an aside – one of the best places we at on the island was here). At first glance, it’s just another rocky beach. However, if you follow a path through the rock cliff, you arrive out on a nice wide strip of sand.

We dipped our toes in the Southern Ocean and looked for interesting animals in the tidal pools. We couldn’t stay too long though, because we had to head back up the road to Paul’s Place.

Wow. Paul’s Place is what would have happened if Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder version) had decided to open a zoo instead of a chocolate factory. It was amazing and ridiculous and adorable.

There are several areas on the tour where a poor unsuspecting tourist is given a bucket and asked to hand out oats. The animals swarm over and immediately try to stick their heads inside. Once the bucket holder is rescued, everyone takes handfulls of oats and feeds the assorted wildlife. We fed kangaroos (so polite, and very soft snouts), ducks (they sort of suck at your skin), chickens (“chooks”), a sheep, a deer, emus (they peck, it’s slightly painful), and more.

We got to hold a baby kangaroo in a pouch, and, of course, a koala! Contrary to what we had been told, the koala was very friendly and did not smell. He did latch on fairly tightly – they certainly make sure they are secure in their trees.

There were also birds to be held, a sheep to be sheared, and various reptiles who also wanted a photo op. The hour and a quarter tour took at least two hours, and every minute was packed with animal encounters. We wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but it was certainly a memorable experience.

Still don’t believe us that it was crazy? Drew had emus eating oats off his head.

What could follow such a wacky afternoon? A delicious lunch (at Rockpool Cafe), a trip to Clifford’s Honey Farm, and finally back to our room and out for some tasty Mexican. To top it all off, we walked down to the bay to look for fairy penguins. We only saw two (one hanging out on some rocks and one hiding in his den), but we heard several talking to each other. We also saw some stunning stars and have definitively seen the Southern Cross.

Haven’t had enough? More pics here.

Kangaroo Island Day 2

Seal Bay

Day two on Kangaroo Island dawned as breezy as the first. Breakfast at the local bakery was delicious, even if Drew spent half of it trolling the local seagulls (they seemed to think what was our was theirs). After breakfast we set off for Seal Bay. The park at Seal Bay covers a fairly large area but people only have access to a small part of it. Seal Bay is a misnomer; there are no seals. Instead there are sea lions. And more importantly, baby sea lions.

The mothers go out to sea and hunt for 3 days, then return to shore so the pups can spend most of the next three days feeding once they return. Then, the cycle repeats. Other than that, the animals tend to lounge around the beach recuperating from the their long time at sea. The bay is home to about a 1000 sea lions with about half out at sea at any given time.

We opted to take a tour out on the beach (guided, so you don’t get too close to the sea lions and disturb them). They all seemed very relaxed to have people on the beach. We stayed up near the dunes, although a few adventurous young’uns did come up our way to play and nap. The babies were calling to their moms, ever hopeful each time a new sea lion made her way out of the water.

Kookaburra sits on an old Drew tree

After that, we drove up the road a bit to Raptor Domain. We saw the bird show, and it did not disappoint. We were also pleased that one of the bottles of liqueur that we picked up at KI Spirits helps fund care of sick and injured birds here.

She's a natural

Ashley held a kestrel and Drew made friends with a kookaburra. Both had a barn owl sit on their knee. The nice thing about this bird show was how up-close-and-personal it was. Almost everyone there had the opportunity to hold some kind of bird, and the host was very knowledgeable about the different birds on the island.

How do you steer this thing?!

A quick lunch later, and we were ready to try one of the island’s more interesting sports – sandboarding. Drew grabbed a sandboard and Ashley took a toboggan, and they were off to Little Sahara to try them out. The sand dunes are part of a heritage area on the island. Apparently, you can go up and down the main dunes all day, as long as you say out of the plants. So we did. Ashley mastered the toboggan on the short dune, and then let Drew convince her to try it out on the huge one.

Gnarly.

Other than the steep hike up to the top, it was tons of fun! Drew also had fun, but he managed to wipe out on both the sandboard and the toboggan in epic fashion. He was completely covered in sand, but still had a blast.

Echidna!

We decided to take a quick detour to Vivonne Bay after dropping off the sandboard and toboggan. While driving down the dirt (“unsealed”) road, Ashley saw an echidna and practically jumped out of the car before Drew could stop. Echidnas are one of Australia’s unique animals – they are one of the only mammals to lay eggs and are featured on the 5 cent coin.

Blue

Vivonne Bay itself did not disappoint. After living in the desert for half a year, that much big blue ocean is impressive. Particularly how clear parts of the bay were.

More pictures are here.

Kangaroo Island Day 1

Fairy Wren

We’re on vacation! After five months in Alice, we decided it was time to start exploring the rest of Australia. Our first trip took us to South Australia – we’ll be spending a few days on Kangaroo Island and a few days in Adelaide. Expect lots of updates this week!

The drive from Adelaide to Cape Jervis takes you through the heart of SA of wine country. What should have been peak harvesting season is now the time to cover the bushes from birds. The heat of the Australian summer pushed the grape harvest up almost a month. Pruning won’t start for a couple more months so the vineyards are pretty inactive. Not that much would be happening at 7AM on a Sunday morning anyways. Nevertheless, the drive was pretty. The same could not be said of the ferry ride to the island. Only 16.5km separating the Kangaroo Island (KI) from the mainland. With such a short distance one would assume the waters to be calm and peaceful. One would be mistaken. The ferry rolled heavily in the waves (maybe it was because I was reading about Theon Greyjoy), and Ashley promptly fell asleep to ignore it all.

Once we got to the island our first stop (after lunch of course) was to KI Spirits, the Island’s only distillery. This is what I want all of my distilleries to look like. The friendly staff was on hand to greet us at the door. We sampled most of their delicious liquors and their gin. All were excellent. The gin doesn’t require tonic water and has an amazing amount of flavor. We bought a couple of small bottles to carry back with us and made plans to order more once we got home. Then, off for more adventuring.

Gobble gobble

So apparently KI has wild turkeys? These dudes(?) we just hanging out by the side of the road. Definitely not something that’s included on the tour guides

We stopped at the Duck Lagoon (really, we followed the signs) on a whim. Only in Australia would I be willing to try and find a park at the end of a dirt road based on one tiny sign. The park was surrounded by sheep pastures. The remains of old, rusted farm equipment were scattered around. Some the wreckage seemed a bit staged. Still cool but odd. However, the highlight of the stop was the fuzzy little friend we found by the parking lot. Just chillin’ in the tree. Nothing special.

Feed me!

Before grabbing some dinner and making plans for the the next day, we hit the Kingscote harbor for a pelican feeding. Pelicans are weird. The bloke giving the talk had some interesting facts about pelicans but most of them were lost after watching the pelicans try to eat his hands and making funny faces while they scarfed down fish.

More pictures from the day can be found here.