Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks
Kangaroo Island day 1: Penneshaw Jetty to Penneshaw
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Today in Adelaide: 10512 steps/9.19 km/5.71 mi/1h 28m
Today on Kangaroo Island: 485 steps/0.41 km/0.25 mi/4m
"Seventeen days and just a backpack," the customs officer said when I handed him my immigration card. I couldn't tell whether it was a statement or a question.
"Yes," I answered. With several of my nights in Airbnb and Vrbo accommodations that include washing machines, I'd brought only four changes of clothes in addition to what I was wearing. But backpacking is nothing new. It surprised me that he commented on it.
I landed in Brisbane's international terminal and took the shuttle bus to the domestic terminal, which judging by the length of the ride must have been somewhere on the outskirts of Cairns. It was 5:30 a.m. and the regular security screening already had a queue of about 200 people. Even the priority queue, for premium-class passengers and frequent-flyer elites, numbered around 80.
The advantage of a separate domestic terminal was that Australia was free to buck the global restrictions on liquids, so I could keep the bottle of water they'd given me on the Los Angeles-to-Brisbane leg. I headed up to the lounge and had a shower.
At the gate for Adelaide was a vat of complimentary headphones. I took a pair, thinking the plane I was about to board must have some kind of proprietary connection into its entertainment system. But the regional jet had no audio or video of any kind. They did, however, serve us a hearty breakfast as we flew over the flatness of New South Wales. Upon arrival in Adelaide, I used the bathroom in the terminal, washed my hands, and felt into the empty slot where there should have been paper towels.
An attendant watched me do this. "There's a dryer here," he said, gesturing toward the air blower near the faucets.
"Thanks, but they're too noisy for me," I said. "Sorry." This was true; I'd been startled by the whooshing when someone had activated the machine a minute earlier. Some are so loud that I need to press my earlobes over my eardrums, even if I'm clear across the restroom with the door closed. The other reason I don't use the automatic dryers, of course, is that they don't actually dry anything.
Adelaide's airport is close to the center of the city. South of the city is the Cabra Dominican College, where Father Patrick Peter Kelly was the chaplain in the 1950s. I'd read that he was buried in the college's cemetery. I calculated that I had plenty of time to walk to the college, pay my respects if possible, and head into the city center for the 3:30 bus that would take me to the Kangaroo Island ferry -- a total walking distance of about 10 miles.
Lee-Anne, the registrar, welcomed me at the reception. I explained that I wanted to see the grave of Father Kelly, as I had been inspired by reading his book "Walking the Kangaroo Island Coastline." I also accounted for my sweaty condition, having just walked from the airport.
"In this heat!" she said. The weather report put today's high in the mid-30s Celsius, but it didn't feel that hot to me.
"It's a nice change from minus five in New York, which we had last week."
She brought me a glass of water. "Let me see if I can get one of the sisters to show you around."
A few minutes later, Sister Enid appeared. "I was a boarder when Father Kelly was here," she said. That put her at close to 80 years old. "He was a great man."
"I could tell from reading his writings," I said.
She walked me back to the cemetery, where we found Bernadette, Sister Enid's purple-haired superior. The cemetery was a neat array of maybe 150 identical white ringed crosses. The women led me to the cross marking the graves of Father Kelly and his sister Dympna. They stayed back while I clasped my hands and softly said a few words thanking Father Kelly for his inspiration, information, keen eye, and wisdom.
"Do you have Gabrielle's number?" Bernadette asked Sister Enid. "Maybe she would like to talk to Seth." She turned to me. "Gabrielle is Father Kelly's grand-niece."
"That would be amazing!" I said. "I'm honored to be meeting people who knew him."
Sister Enid and I walked out of the cemetery and past the sprawling banyan tree, which was recovering after being damaged by a hurricane two years ago. She pointed to a brick house next to the college's entrance. "That's where Father Kelly lived."
She invited me into her house, just a few steps away. "I wonder where my pussycat's gone to," she said. The cat had a habit of exploring during the day. Sister Enid gave me water and tried unsuccessfully to reach Gabrielle. "I'll tell you what," she said. "Let's go have a light lunch down the road and I'll try to ring her again. It's on me."
This required some recalculating regarding my bus departure, but how could I turn down such hospitality? Sister Enid drove us a short distance to Bracegirdle's, which makes its own chocolates. Qantas had fed me well, but I had an iced dark chocolate and a chocolate-covered biscuit, Sister Enid a coffee and carrot cake. She refused my offer to pay.
Gabrielle called her back, and she handed me the phone. "I didn't know him very well," Gabrielle said. "He was a distant cousin of my father's." She wasn't even aware he had published a travelogue of his walk. Still, she added to his reputation as a respectable man.
Time was getting on, and I wanted to visit a Telstra shop for a SIM card -- Telstra reportedly had the best coverage on Kangaroo Island -- before heading to the bus. "There's a Telstra shop very close to here," Sister Enid said. "I can take you."
I checked the map. "In Castle Plaza?"
"Yes, that's the one."
"I appreciate your kind offer, but it seems to be in the opposite direction to the bus station. I'll need to go downtown after that and they've asked me to arrive a half-hour early." I still had time, if I hustled, to stop by a store on the way.
"But it's no problem. I'll wait for you and then take you to the bus station."
Were all Australians as kind as the staff at the Cabra Dominican College?
"I bet you had no idea this was where your afternoon was headed," I said when I had done my business at Telstra and we were heading north into the city.
"No, I can't say I did."
"Well, you've been exceptionally generous, and I'm tremendously grateful," I said as we pulled up across from the building with "Bus" in giant orange letters. "And I'm sure your cat will be waiting for you when you get home."
The SeaLink counter was unattended -- a sign indicated that the driver would summon passengers -- so I had some time to purchase extra sunscreen (the Telstra employee had mentioned a hole in the ozone layer over Kangaroo Island), withdraw some Australian dollars, and pick up a couple of savory spicy pastries from Adelaide's small Chinatown, which was across the street from the bus station. I still wasn't hungry, but they would come in handy eventually, and it's hard for me to pass through a Chinatown and not at least buy a snack.
The bus wound south for two hours. The hills on both sides grew steeper, and we passed farm livestock -- cows, horses, goats, sheep -- and kangaroos. We reached Cape Jervis and its stocky lighthouse, fatter at the top than at the bottom, and the passengers checked in for the ferry and boarded.
The crossing took about 50 minutes. The somewhat choppy seas meant that I usually stayed seated, but when the trip was gentle enough, I went up to the outdoor deck or read informational captions on the wall about Kangaroo Island, notably the existence of 267 bird species and the measurement of the coastline at 540 kilometers. But that includes every curve and land protrusion; I'm sure my rough following of the coast won't come close to that number.
"Welcome to Kangaroo Island -- Discover the things that really matter in life," a sign encouraged as I headed up the hill from the jetty. Today's official walking segment was a paltry quarter-mile to the Kangaroo Island Seafront hotel; the walk begins in earnest tomorrow. Before sunset, I walked through Penneshaw to Frenchman's Rock, where a carving from 1803 (now a replica; the original is safely in the visitor's center) marks the place where the French explorer Nicolas Baudin replenished his water supply, acting on a tip from the Englishman Matthew Flinders, who had arrived there the previous year. France and Britain were at war at the time, but explorers often shared information amicably.
The Penneshaw Hotel is a popular dinner spot. Tuesdays are schnitzel night, but I preferred to stick with seafood: kingfish sashimi and seared scallops with pancetta and butter as the last light faded away.
Father Patrick Kelly, according to the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, "had the heart of a bushie" and carried, among other things, "a rock in his side pocket to throw at any belligerent dog." He once removed from his stuffed pockets "a half-eaten sausage, brushing off the lint and making a lunch of it." I think we would have enjoyed walking together.
Go on to Kangaroo Island day 2