Australia’s Galapagos

 

Well, hello!

 
 

 

Gratuitous emu shots. For Charles..

 

From the Great Ocean Road we’d driven north to Adelaide, to connect with the flight for Kangaroo Island.

 
 

 

On the way, a stop for lunch at Mount Gambier and the Blue Lake. A great suggestion from fellow blogger Jane, at Jane’s Mudgee Garden (here).

 
 

 

The Blue Lake, in a dormant volcanic crater, is almost impossibly blue. Just what it says on the tin really, with the perfect addition of turquoise highlights around the rim. It’s a phenomenon that only happens in summer as the water warms up, most likely the result of crystal formation which scatters the blue wavelengths of light. And as luck would have it on this day it was over 30C. At the lookout we met a guy who actually lives in town and had stopped because the lake was bluer than he had seen it in months.

Driving up through the Coorong National Park was lovely too, thank you Jane.

 
 

 

Our nightly garden visitors on Kangaroo Island. Four of the sixteen.

 

It seems there is no easy way to get to KI. There is a boat. But frequently the crossing is choppy and that’s without this author’s now well documented problem with water phobia. So it has to be the plane. Which still has to fly over the water. Obviously. And it’s one of those teeny tiny ones with the criss crossy things where the jets ought to be. Last time we were in this neck of the woods the flight was ‘interesting’.

 
 

 

 Sea lion and pup at Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island

 

So as you can imagine, I was hardly looking forward to the journey. And the weather forecast for the day? Windy. In the extreme. The Southern Ocean you see. Next stop Antarctica. It isn’t always a millpond.

 
 

 

A juvenile humpback whale that might have regretted coming this way..

 

As we took our seats at the airport departure gate, that brief crackle of static over the intercom which heralds an announcement. “There’s no easy way to put this. Passengers wishing to use the facilities should consider doing so now. The flight will be short but bumpy and the seat belt sign will be on for the duration.”

 
 

 

Cape Barren geese, Kangaroo Island

 

When we got on the plane, and to this day I don’t know how I did, the lady in the seat opposite us was fervently studying the safety card. How often does that happen then? Another crackle of static. “Given the weather conditions today the crew will be coming through the aircraft with refreshments before we leave the ground.”

 
 

 

Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island

 

Crackle crackle. “Good morning, this is your Captain. A brief message from the flight deck today. Before we take off. While there’s a bit of time. There are a number of storms passing through the area so we’re expecting some turbulence.”

And was it all worth it? Well of course it was. The twenty minute flight (going on forty..) was fine. In spite of me holding my breath most of the way. Far smoother in fact than the same flight two years previously. The threatening storms mercifully kept out of our way.

 
 

 

 The Remarkable Rocks at Flinders Chase National Park.

Some old favourites got a revisit..

 
 

 

Learning from the experience of the Great Ocean Road, this time we left it until late in the day to be rewarded with this truly remarkable natural feature all to ourselves. Not a selfie stick in sight.

 
 

 

And then there were some wonderful new experiences.

Bumbling along the side of the road one day, an echidna. It allowed me to follow it at very close quarters for over fifteen minutes. I knew when I’d overstepped the mark. It would crouch low to the ground, head tucked under spines, only seconds later to hoist itself back up and march onward as before.

The Kangaroo Island short beaked echidna is thought to be a separate sub species, with more numerous and paler spines than echidnas on the mainland. It is listed as endangered.

 
 

 

 

An echidna is a monotreme, one of only two egg laying mammals. They evolved between 20 and 50 million years ago and have the dubious privilege of possessing only a single orifice for peeing, pooping, mating and egg laying. It all sounds rather unhygienic to me but somehow they manage. Their diet consists largely of insects and termites using their long sticky tongue, projecting from the snout, to collect the prey.

When an egg is laid the echidna places it into her pouch, with a baby ‘puggle’ hatching ten days later. What else can I tell you about echidnas? Well, the male has a four headed penis. So now you know.

 
 

 

The Platypus Pools, Flinders Chase National Park

We tried very hard to find the other example of a monotreme, the platypus.

 
 

 

Could this be it? If it was, it was as close as we got.

They are even more elusive than the echidna, rarely seen other than at dawn and dusk.

 

At home in Devon it’s not entirely unexpected to see seagulls perched atop the lampposts.

 
 

 

In American River though, they can go one better.. pelicans.

At first sight they look almost artificial. Like some bizarre and rather kitsch attempt at civic art. But no, they are real alright.

 
 

 

And those lamppost positions (there are only three) are hotly contested. Fights break out and feathers fly.

 
 

 

Can you feel my eyes burning a hole in your back?

 
 


 

The vanquished. Another circuit of the harbour before trying again.

 
 

 

The National Park offers a great selection of walking trails.

 
 

 
 

 

Yaccas, or grass trees. Fires are a regular occurrence in the Australian bush and much of the vegetation has adapted to survive it, if not requiring fire for its very survival. Fire promotes new growth. A yacca grows just 1cm a year. The one in the foreground here was getting on for 200cm high. I wonder how many fires it has seen.

 
 

 

Banksia

 
 

 

Leptospermum

 
 

 

 Showing total disrespect for a public right of way.. a termite mound.

 

And finally.

Even a day washed out by rain can have its magic moments. Not only us sticking near the house to find shelter from the weather. The garden critters moved in closer too…

 
 

 
 

 

“Aren’t you a little big to be going back in there?”

 

Kangaroo Island. One of the world’s truly special places.