Australia 2016 Part 11: The Wonders of Kangaroo Island

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Our plan for relaxation and sleeping in changed.  Southern Ocean Lodge scheduled us for two tours today, and we really wanted to see all that the island has to offer and so we said yes.  Our morning tour was billed as “The Wonders of Kangaroo Island.”

Having breakfast in courses is always a good start.  We began with pastries, followed by a seasonal fruit plate.  We rounded off the morning with a hot course of eggs and sausages, lest we starve on our morning tour.

Our guide for the day was Shane (Come back, Shane!  Come back!). He was a young, energetic redheaded Australian with his hair in a neat pony tail. He told us that he was the son of a forester, and I felt an instant kinship with him.  I’ve noticed that since Dad died, there are reminders of him everywhere, even in unlikely places–a man on Kangaroo Island, a tree at Uluru.  Grief is odd that way.  It has a way of finding you wherever you are.

The touring van was fully loaded.  There was a family of four from Canada, an older couple from Adelaide who came over on the ferry, and a French/Swedish couple.  It is always fun to find out where people are from and where they have been in the states.  We also like to get tips on where to go in their countries.  The people you meet on the road all have good traveling tales, just as we do.

Our first stop was a koala preserve.  We walked through a line of eucalyptus trees and cast our eyes upward.  It didn’t take Shane long to spot some of the furry fellows.  (He confessed later that someone else comes out earlier in the morning and puts flags at the bases of all the trees where koalas are spotted.  Cheaters!)

It was hard to get good pictures of most of them.  They look like a large black ball in the tree branches.  To give an Arkansas comparison, the koala in the tree looks a little like a very small squirrel’s nest at first.  Then your eyes adjust and you can see arms or legs moving and make out the shape.  Finally we found a koala that I could get a good camera angle on.  He was wedged into the branch and trunk of the tree, so I was able to get to one side and take advantage of some of the natural light.

The koala looks like a giant teddy bear, but do not be fooled.  They have large powerful claws and can be aggressive.  Shane told the story of one of the cooks at Southern Ocean Lodge who kept trying to get a koala to take his hat off.  The koala ended up punching him in the face, barely missing his eye with the claw.  They cannot see very well, which may explain some of their aggression.  You might swing first too if you couldn’t see what was coming at you.  The koala sleeps up to 21 hours a day.  They are marsupials, giving birth to an underdeveloped baby that crawls into its mother’s pouch, staying for the first six to seven months of life.  They are fully weaned at about a year.  They have few natural predators and parasites.  Their diet is their Achilles heel.  They eat eucalyptus leaves, and that’s it.  The species is threatened mostly because of habitat destruction.   Shane told us that koala meat does not make good eating.  Because of their exclusive diet, they absorb too much of the eucalyptus taste/odor.  Shane told the old joke about how the aborigines used to cook koala.  They put the carcass in a pot with two rocks and boil it.  Then they throw out the koala and eat the rocks.


What we did learn as we sat and watched this fellow is that koalas have big bladders.  As we watched, this guy urinated, and the stream ran all the way down the tree in a gush.  Then he took a dump.  He looked around for a minute and then jumped to a new limb, since he had completely soiled his sitting area.  Then he let out some kind of noise that was a cross between a pig grunt and a growl.  Charming!

Shane said that we were lucky to see him being so active, since koalas spend so much of the day sleeping.  I guess we caught this fellow in his three hour window of whizz/poop/grunt!

Our next stop was the lighthouse at Cape du Couedic. The loss of 71 lives from three major shipwrecks in the late 1800s led to the construction of this lighthouse, Kangaroo Island’s third such structure.  Stone and sand were gathered from nearby to construct the lighthouse.  Water for construction was gathered from a well constructed nearly 500 feet downhill.  Water was carried up the hill by bucket. The light was first lit in 1909 with visibility to 27 miles seawards.  The fuel for the light was kerosene.  Originally, three families lived on the island to man the lighthouse, and conditions were harsh.  Fresh supplies arrived only every three months, and sometimes the seas were so rough that the boats could not get close enough to deliver the supplies, which meant the families had to stretch their rations for another three months.    The light was automated when converted to acetylene gas in 1957, and they finally got electricity out here in 1974.

As we walked down toward Admiral’s Arch, we were treated to one of the most magnificent rainbows I have ever seen.  Before our eyes, it changed from partial to full to double.

And this guy was hiding in the rocks.

And these fellows were surfing in the water.

Whoa!  It’s a double rainbow, man!

Can you see all the fur seals in this photo?  Shane claimed that he had never seen so many at Admiral’s Arch.

Admiral’s Arch was loaded with fur seals on this day.

The pups frolicked together.  We all spent a long time just watching them play.  Genene was particularly amused by the youngsters.  They belly-flopped and slid into each other.  They had mock battles.  And then they all hit the water together.

The sea looked very rough.

The roof of Admiral’s Arch is uneven.  These icicle-like structures look like stalactites, but they are not:  these are petrified roots of long gone trees.  The sea water has eroded the rock, leaving the roots.  Eventually, the arch will lose its roof, and the remaining rock will become an islet.  The sea will begin to erode the next inland rock and will form another arch.

The seal pups were fearless.  They swam in the rough surf with abandon.

None of us wanted to leave Admiral’s Arch, but the tour had to continue.  We piled back into the van and headed onward.

We stopped to look at the remains of the storage area once used by the lighthouse settlers.  As I already mentioned, the families had to wait 3 months for their supplies.  In 1907, this jetty and the “flying fox” (a winch) were constructed, and that made movement of materials up the hill a little bit easier.  For 24 years, almost everything, including visitors, was winched up this hill.  An overland service did not begin until 1930.  Nearby was the ruin of the storage shed, which was partitioned into three rooms, so that the families could separate their rations and avoid disagreements.

Those early settlers had a stunning view, but life must have been hard.

We took a rest stop, and I had to get this picture of the handwashing station.  What a great way to use rainwater!

Our last stop was Remarkable Rocks, a collection of striking granite boulders on the edge of the sea. They have been eroded by the crashing sea and the wind over 500 million years.  Many of the rocks are colored by golden orange lichen, which can be slippery when wet.  It was drizzling lightly, so we had to step carefully.  Shane told us to be on the lookout for all the different shapes in the rocks.  It was a bit like cloud-watching.

All of us found the pig.  Woo pig sooie!

Can you see the camel?

I think this rock is paying homage to Uluru.

We all scrabbled around on the rocks.  Genene and I were feeling silly, so we kept looking at each rock and exclaiming in our best English accents:  “Remarkable!”  (You can’t take us anywhere.)  After a while, we got tired of getting rained on and the rocks had stopped being remarkable, and so we all went back up the boardwalk to our van and headed back.

We returned to the lodge for lunch.  We all had a tomato salad for a first course.  Genene had risotto with blue cheese.  Greg and I had smoked salmon tartarine with fennel, along with a side salad.  Dessert was ice cream made with condensed buttermilk with crumbled almonds and some kind of candied fruit.  It was all good.

After lunch, I was ready for a nap.  Greg and Genene found a chess board, and Genene asked her dad to teach her how to play.  Apparently they had a pretty spirited game of chess because they were gone a long time while I was snoozing.  Greg said that he beat her, but it was close.  He doesn’t want to play her again.

They eventually joined me in the room, and everyone agreed that a nap was a good idea.

Here is a shot of Genene taking a nap in her fancy bed with her beloved stuffed dog Senior.  She has had him since her first Christmas, and he has been on all our trips except for Peru.  (Genene cried when she realized she had forgotten him on that trip.)   I think I saw Senior staring off to Antarctica and dreaming of knocking off his seventh continent.  He’s on his own for that one because I have no interest.

We spent a little time hanging around the bar, which is all-inclusive and always open.  Wouldn’t you?

Our evening tour was called “Kangaroos and Kanapes.”  (Aren’t they cute with the K’s?)   Our driver told us the alternate name for it:  Roos and Booze.   We piled into the van and made a short trip to a grassy field full of kangaroos.

We learned that a group of kangaroos is called a mob, and we definitely had a mob on our hands here.  Baby kangaroos are called joeys, as are the offspring of all marsupials.   (So the koala has a joey too.)  I wanted to see a joey in the pouch, but we could not spot one.

Our guide explained that we should approach the kangaroos with caution.  While not aggressive, they can attack if they feel threatened.  She suggested that we approach them using the same principles as the old childhood game, red-light-green-light.  As you approach, as long as the kangaroo keeps grazing, you may continue to advance.  If it puts its head up to look at you like the one below…stop.  When the kangaroo begins to graze again, you may step forward another step, and so on.

The field was full, and our guide invited us to spread out and “find your own kangaroos.”

We all walked among them.  I was a little disappointed in one young man in our group.  His family was from California, and the boy was about Genene’s age.  He had a camera and he was excited to get an up-close shot of the kangaroo.  He paid no attention to the red-light-green-light concept and instead walked quickly toward all of them.  The kangaroos’ responses were universal:  they simply hopped away out of range.  The boy would change directions and walk quickly toward the next batch, to the same effect.  I could tell that he had never been hunting in his life.  He had no concept of how to approach cautiously.  It was aggravating because he would walk from batch to batch and thought nothing of running off kangaroos that we were trying to approach.  It took us quite a while to spread out into a different part of the field to get away from him.  Kids will be kids.

We managed to get up pretty close and I got some good shots.

Yes, that is dried kangaroo poop on the ground all around this guy.  The field was loaded with it.

We happily followed the kangaroos around the field as the sun went down.  At dusk, we walked to the nearby cabin, where our hosts had prepared wines and appetizers.  Our guide told us about the people who had once lived in Edwards Cabin.  Their story was one of a hard life.  The man of the story, Clem, was a native of Kangaroo Island and convinced his young wife, Lucy, to leave the big city of Adelaide, come to the island and live with him.  They had one son, Robert, but Clem died of cancer when Robert was still a toddler.  Lucy raised her son all alone there.  She stayed loyal and true to the island and the land.    She lived a hard life there without electricity and running water.  When her son grew up, he met a woman, married her, left the island and didn’t come back.  Mom was broken-hearted and donated the cabin and nearby land to the conservation society.  People in the community have a shorthand way of referring to anyone who lives a hard life in the country:  they call it “pulling a Lucy.”

We also learned that Kangaroo Island was once inhabited by aboriginal people, but they were gone by the time of European settlement.  There is physical evidence that they were on the island from about 16,000 years ago to 2,000 years ago. Why and how they left the island remains a mystery.  Mainland indigenous people call the island “Karta” which means “Land of the Dead.”  Creepy!

We were so happy with our day.  We started with koalas in the trees and ended with roos and booze in the field.  And now we got to roll back to our resort just in time for drinks and dinner.  What more could you want?

We got back to the lodge and changed out of our roo poo shoes and tried to spiff up. We made our way to the dining room to start another long hard evening of three-course dining.  First we had a little starter:  a bit of lamb bacon with beef-fat fried crouton.  For the appetizer, Greg had American River oyster, and Genene and I had some shaved pumpkin, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin seeds.  For the main course, Greg and Genene had free range pork cheek with roasted cauliflower.  I had kingfish on a bed of sweet savoy cabbage.  For dessert,  Greg had green apple and rose macaroons, while Genene and I had olive oil ice cream with chocolate cake side.  We were feeling really fancy so we got them to bring us a cheese tray to finish.  We are definitely not “pulling a Lucy.”

Tomorrow, our itinerary calls for us to take a cliff top walk and go to Seal Bay.  Are we really finishing our last full day here tomorrow? Didn’t we just get here?  I want to be pampered some more!

Australia 2016 Part 10: Kangaroo Island

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

This morning, we made the short jump from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island.  We were flying a regional airlines, REX, with a very strict weight limit on bags, so yesterday we spent time loading our safari duffel bags so that we could leave our larger rolling bags behind.  We did not know exactly how luggage storage would work, but our driver told us that REX would be able to tell us everything.  I had spent some time the night before tossing and turning because I didn’t know exactly how it would all pan out.  I should not have worried.  REX knew just what to do:  they checked our bags to be stored and told us they would be waiting for us when we got off our return flight (fingers crossed).  They charged us $7.70 per bag (Aussie dollars, which are worth about 80 cents each).   Our biggest problem was that my backpack (loaded to the gills with camera gear) was overweight.  No worries, mate.  Greg’s backpack was much lighter so I unloaded two heavy lenses, enough to balance the load, and we were off to the gate.  As soon as we got there, we returned the lenses to my camera bag, which has better padding.  I am not sure why they wouldn’t just let us average the weights but we got it done.

Our chariot awaits.

We left at about 9:30 AM.  The flight was short, about 30 minutes.  We were each in single side seats on different rows so there was no visiting.

We always like to have one “splurge” locale and hotel on our trips, one place where we enjoy creature comforts and fine dining.  We selected Southern Ocean Lodge for this trip.  They run an all-inclusive eco-resort on the island, and the price of the room is all-inclusive:  food, beverage, minibar,walks, tours.  There are only 21 rooms at the lodge, so it is billed as THE exclusive spot for Australia’s Galapagos.  Woo pig sooie!  We are about to get fancy!  When we got off the plane, the Southern Ocean Lodge representatives were waiting for us.  Eleven of us boarded the bus and began the hourlong journey to our lodge.  Along the way, our guide asked if we wanted to stop and look for the mother whale and baby that have been seen from the shore at Hanson Bay.  The vote from the passengers was unanimous, thank goodness.  “Of course!”  Our driver said it was quite unusual to see a whale here this time of year, especially in the bay.  This whale had recently calved, and the theory was that she was making sure her baby could travel before moving out.  We were so lucky.  Moments after we piled out of the van at Hanson Bay, we saw her.  Again, I wished I had my 500 mm lens, but I got her with the 300 as best I could.

Thar she blows!

You can see from head to fin in this one.

We hadn’t even arrived at the resort yet, and we had already seen a whale!  Magical!We arrived at the Lodge in the late morning.  An entourage came out to greet us, calling us all by name.  Our bags were whisked away, as we walked down a pathway, approaching a large set of double doors.  As we approached, they opened, and more staff members greeted us.  Greg felt as if he needed to click his heels together and salute.  We stepped into the most stunning great room I have ever seen.

The dining area has a view of the lodge and the Southern Ocean.

We were invited to sit down in the great room and have a glass of wine.  I felt more relaxed already.  Each family made itself at home in different areas.  A lodge representative soon found us and discussed our proposed itinerary.  She told us that it was only a suggestion, but their plans for us included some tours.  Today would be free, but tomorrow morning, there would be a morning tour of the island, and tomorrow evening, a trip to see kangaroos in the wild was scheduled.  Thursday, there was to be a morning cliff top walk and in the afternoon a tour to Seal Bay.  I realized that I might have to reconsider the “no tour” idea I had in my brain.  After our briefing, she showed us to our room, and our bags were already stacked in the closet.  She showed us how everything worked, including the floor warmers!  The view from our room was simply spectacular.

Each of the 21 rooms is named for a Kangaroo Island shipwreck (foreshadowing!), and a book about all of the shipwrecks is in each room.  Our room was the Goulbourn.  We eagerly read our about room’s namesake.  The Goulbourn was an iron barge that left under the tow of a steam tug, the Melbourne.  The crew on the Goulbourn consisted of the master, two crewmen, and a cabin boy.  On June 29, 1866, they encountered rough weather, and there is some indication that the captain of the steam tug may have led them off course, as they were not even slated to come to Kangaroo Island.  The Goulbourn took on water.  The tug hung around until the Goulbourn sank but never got close enough to render assistance.  People watched the barge go down from shore and were critical of the tug captain and his failure to launch a rescue attempt, but they did admit that the seas were rough and they could not mount a rescue from land.  As soon as the Goulbourn sank, the tug proceeded on its journey.  The crew of the Goulbourn was never found.  Nice knowin’ you, mate!  Where’s Gordon Lightfoot when you need him to strike up a happy tune?

The view from our deck.

I like this next shot.  I am actually outside taking a photo of Genene in the room.  Her smile is genuine.  As soon as she saw the comfy chairs, the lamington welcome, the fully stocked minibar and her bed sitting in the window, she said, “This is the life!”

The iPhone panorama shot is pretty useful when you want to show the big picture.  Get a load of Genene’s bed, sitting in the window.  She’s got the best view of all.

After some obligatory wallowing on the fine sheets and rifling through the minibar, we washed up and headed to the great room for our three course lunch.  We all started with yellowtail kingfish ceviche.  Genene and I had slow cooked lamb with charred corn.  Greg had Boston bay mussels with fennel.  For dessert, we ate rock melon with honey infused parfait.  We were like pigs in slop.

An aside about honey, which appeared a lot on our menu on Kangaroo Island. Honey is an important export on Kangaroo Island.  The island is the world’s oldest bee sanctuary.  Ligurian bees were imported from Italy in the 1880’s and released on the island.  In one of the few success stories involving introduced species, the Ligurian bee has made a good home on the island.  Due to the island’s isolation, the bee has remained free of the diseases that have afflicted bees worldwide.  Infected bees cannot fly to Kangaroo Island because it is too far, and the Ligurian bees on the island have remained genetically pure.  Bees, beehives, beekeeping equipment, honey, pollen, beeswax–all are prohibited on Kangaroo Island.

Here are Greg’s fancy mussels.

After lunch we strolled around the great room and common areas.  I found the wine room and made Greg take a picture of me.

The Razorback in slop.

We came back to our room and continued to be dazzled by it.  We stared out the window for a while, thinking thoughts like “I’m king of the world!!”  Genene spent some time drawing.  Her friend Jose from Rome tasked her long distance via Facebook with sketching Uluru from memory, and she sat on the floor happily and worked on that project.  Greg and I took a short nap.  By the time we awoke, Genene was sleepy and wanted to stay in the room.  We let her nap while we took a walk.

There was a long boardwalk winding through the scrubby trees and bushes down to the beach.  We needed our jackets for the afternoon was very cool.  A wind from Antarctica was blowing on us.  The water is the bluest I have ever seen.

The waves were big and rough, and shoreline was littered with rocks.  I felt sorry for the poor men of the Goulbourn.  They never stood a chance when they hit the water.

As Greg and I strolled along the beach, a light rain caught us off guard so we made our way back up the boardwalk.  We hadn’t even stuck our feet into the Southern Ocean.  We told ourselves we would bring Genene back tomorrow or the next day and check that off our list.

We went back to our room, roused Genene from her slumber, an explored the rest of the lodge.  There was no TV in our room, but there was a common room with a large TV and DVD player, as well as board games and cards.  Perhaps we will have a movie night tomorrow or Thursday.  There was also a separate building with a  spa.  A massage sounded great, but I wasn’t sure when I would fit it in with all the activities that had been suggested to us already.

From 6 to 7, drinks and canapés were served in the great room, and we indulged.  The lodge places an emphasis on Australian wines, and I tried some Shiraz and Cabernet.  Some wines are even produced on the island.  Greg was delighted because they had a row of refrigerators devoted to beer.  Dinner began at 7, and it was a multi-course affair.   We started with a little egg palate teaser, followed by a lettuce appetizer for Greg and me, while Genene chose blue crab and abalone.  I had a snapper for the main course, while Genene and Greg had Wagyu beef.  For dessert we had a banana mousse with ice cream and Genene had mini-magnums, fig and passion fruit ice cream dipped in dark chocolate, and white chocolate ice cream dipped in white chocolate.  The wait staff greeted us by name and wanted to know about our day.  We felt pampered and glad to be on the “slow train” for a few days.

We strolled happily to our rooms and off to bed.

Australia 2016 Part 9:  the triple A day:  Ayers Rock to Alice Springs to Adelaide

Monday, August 1, 2016

We came in late last night and went straight to bed.  This morning we would need to get breakfast, pack our bags and be ready to leave for the airport by 8:40 AM.  Piece of cake!  We have grown accustomed to living out of our suitcases.  We haven’t been unpacking our bags at all; instead we just mine around in them until we find something clean or semi-clean to wear.  We stuffed the odds and ends back in, including a pound of red dirt from all our shoes and hats, and called ourselves good to go.

The breakfast buffet at the hotel was good, although I would have preferred self-serve coffee.   I want to drink more than they want to serve!  That’s a perennial problem for me, and not just with coffee.

We didn’t want to wait on a porter so we hauled our own bags down the stairs and through the resort.  Gone are the days when we have to lug Genene’s gear for her.  She hauled her big suitcase right down those stairs like a champ.  The AAT Kings bus to the airport was jam packed.  We put Uluru in our rearview mirror and took the 8-minute ride to the airport.  The airport at Uluru was a bit chaotic.  Apparently a flight had been canceled the night before, so there was a mad rush of people trying to escape from the big red rock.  The airport has only two gates and two metal detectors so there was a bit of a scrum to get through.  We shuffled through the line with plenty of time to spare and waited for our plane.

Today was a travel day.  Our only goal was to get to our hotel in Adelaide before the end of the day so that we could relax, regroup and get ready to head to Kangaroo Island tomorrow morning.  Unfortunately there is no direct flight from Uluru to Adelaide, so there were two plane rides today.

The flight to Alice Springs was uneventful and short.  We were only in the air about 45 minutes.  I loved the Nevil Shute book “A Town Like Alice.”  It would have been nice to spend more time here, but it was simply a transfer point for us.  It looked much the same as the desert around Uluru, at least from the air.  We were unloaded right down onto the tarmac and walked quite a distance to get into the terminal.

The airport was larger than Ayers Rock but still pretty small.  Airport security is much more relaxed here, reminiscent of the old days in the USA.  As we have gone through the gates, we have not been made to remove our shoes.  They never took our water away from us.  There are a few random checks for explosives.  Alice Springs seemed particularly relaxed.  Their perimeter fencing around the terminal was not imposing at all, and they even had an outdoor play area just off the cafe.  It seemed so much more civilized than being trapped inside a building all day, as we are in an American airport terminal.  I noticed that the outdoor play area seemed to be populated almost exclusively by aboriginal families.  I wonder if this is because they still feel a stronger connection to the land and the outdoors than a westerner does.  I enjoyed watching the kids playing and having a good time.  They were a little younger than Genene, and all of them were running and rolling around in the red dirt.  American kids of their ages would be lost in their iPads, as Genene is (and I am).

We had time for lunch in the café and a quick wash up before our next flight.  Our flight left at about 1:15 PM and was in the air for 2 hours.  We didn’t change any time zones, so we got to Adelaide at about 3:15 PM.  We immediately wished that we had packed our coats within easier reach.  It was cold and rainy.

Our driver Ian was waiting for us in baggage claim.  He had a rock-star parking spot just outside the baggage claim area. He asked if we wanted the 20 minute express tour of Adelaide.  We said, “Of course!” After all, we were leaving first thing tomorrow morning for Kangaroo Island and really would have no opportunity to see his fair city.  Ian gave a great driving tour.

He started before we even left the airport.  The Adelaide airport houses the aircraft that won the contest for the first flight from Great Britain to Australia.  In 1919, the Australian government offered a prize to the first Australians to use a British aircraft to fly from Great Britain to Australia.  There were very specific guidelines on who the crew could be, the maximum continuous hours, the check-in points, and so on.   Six airplanes entered the contest.  The winning plane, a Vickers Vimy, left Hounslow Heath at 8 am on November 12, 1919.  According to Wikipedia, It flew via Lyon, Rome, Cairo, Damascus, Basra, Karachi, Delhi, Calcutta, Akyab, the Rangoon racecourse, an unscheduled stop in Singora (Siam; due to heavy rain), Singapore, Batavia, and Surabaya, where the aircraft was bogged and had to make use of a temporary airstrip made from bamboo mats.  There were times when the mechanics had to walk on the wings to make repairs in the air.  (My job doesn’t seem so hard in comparison.)  The plane reached Darwin at 4.10 pm on December 10,  1919. The flight distance was estimated as 11,123 miles and total flying time was 135 hours 55 minutes,for an average speed of 81.9 mph. The prize money was shared between the Smith brothers who flew the plane and the two mechanics. The Smith brothers each received a knighthood.

Ian drove us through the heart of town.  Adelaide is the capital city of the state of South Australia and has about 1.3 million residents, making it the fifth most populous city in Australia.  It’s a planned city, laid out in a grid with a ring of parks.  He drove us past the War Horse Memorial, a monument to those noble animals who served their masters during WWI in Palestine and Gallipoli.  Over 39,000 horses were shipped out of Australia to serve, and at the end of the war, the government said that the horses could not be brought back due to quarantine issues.  Their riders were ordered to shoot their own mounts, a very distressing thing to have to do.  We were not able to stop to walk around the monument, but I read about it later because it aroused my curiosity.  The inscription on the base says:  “He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength:  He goeth on to meet the armed men.  He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.  Job 39: 21-22.”  Amen and amen.

Ian drove us past several of the lovely old churches, but he told us that Australians are not a religious people.  The early churches could not survive without combining.  For instance, the Presbyterians merged with the Methodists to form the United Church in Adelaide.  It’s an interesting notion that they had to put aside their theological differences to sustain their congregation.

Ian was hitting on all cylinders when he brought up water and infrastructure next.  He explained that having an adequate supply of drinking water and water for farming is an issue in Adelaide.  My ears perked up when Ian told me that they are using desalination and aquifer storage and recovery.  I must study more about that.  Maybe I can write this trip off on my taxes!

We got to our hotel, the Majestic Roof Garden Hotel.  It was a hip spot in the heart of the city, and after Ian’s Chamber of Commerce tour, I was sorry we wouldn’t get to see more of it.  We spent about an hour getting our Kangaroo Island gear together.  We were warned by our travel agent that the regional air carrier that flies to the island places strict weight limits on the baggage.  We must leave some of our gear in storage on the mainland while we go to “Australia’s Galapagos.”  We had to deal with the conversion from pounds to  kilos and get a per person allowance.  My camera gear is heavy, leaving me little room for my clothing and gear.  We had to equalize the load, so Greg and Genene’s bags got some of my stuff.

After all that ciphering, we were hungry.  We set out on the streets of Adelaide to find some grub.  We walked down Rundle Street and surveyed all the choices.  It was nice to stretch our legs after a day in the airports.  As we window-shopped, a light rain began to fall, so we selected Taj Tandoor, an Indian place.  We had seen turban-clad Sikhs dining inside and figured that was probably a good sign.   We were right.  We had a wonderful meal.  We were thrilled not to be eating airplane food or sandwiches from a resort or room service. It was a real, sit-down dinner.  The food was perfectly spiced and delicious, and the service was attentive but not intrusive.  We ate a mixed appetizer, fish curry, chicken butter masala, gosht palak, and eggplant raita.  The wine and beer flowed easily, and the warm naan hit the spot on a cool, damp night.  It’s not always easy to have conversation with our preteen daughter, who now has ideas of her own which involve pop culture that we don’t comprehend.  I know that we bore her, but on this night, we found common ground and enjoyed an excellent family dinner together.  We relaxed, talked and laughed.

After dinner, we walked around Rundle Street and found a store devoted solely to chocolate.  What could go wrong?  Genene had something called Death by Chocolate, a flourless cake.  I had a Spanish hot cocoa, which is like a hot chocolate on steroids.  It’s basically a melted candy bar.  It reminds me of the drink they had a Starbucks years ago called Chantico.  It was basically 6 ounces of melted chocolate.  Melissa Kilpatrick and I used to sneak out of the office on a tough work day and sip the nectar of the gods and return to our desks, jacked up on sugar and ready to work some more.  It was heavenly.  I don’t know why they stopped selling it because I thought it was divine.

Our bellies were full of curry and chocolate, and we ambled back to the hotel.  Tomorrow, we will begin enjoying a few days of relaxation on Kangaroo Island.  We plan to listen to the Southern Ocean, observe the wildlife, and just hang out.