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Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks

Kangaroo Island day 4: Kingscote to Snelling Beach
Saturday, February 25, 2023

Yesterday: 87076 steps/67.03 km/41.65 mi/12h 16m
Total: 183280 steps/145.36 km/90.32 mi/26h 0m

How does one prepare mentally for a 64-kilometer walking day?

I thought about a summer data-entry job I had in high school. It was breathtakingly boring. I'd break the day into 90-minute segments and try to get through them one at a time. These 64 kilometers divided neatly by powers of two. If a kilometer took 10 minutes to walk (or, more realistically, 11 or 12 for this distance), what felt manageable? To walk eight kilometers eight times? Two kilometers 32 times? Sixteen kilometers four times?

Or I could do it by music. Let's take "Les Misérables," to pull an example out of thin air. The complete show lasts a little under three hours. I could listen to it four times. Or hear the 3½-minute first-act finale just over 200 times.

I didn't want artificial sound right away, though. Listening to the magpies was a nicer way to start the day. A dog barked, but it was fenced in. A tree was full of white cockatoos, and they rustled the leaves and squealed as they arrived and exited.

I put on Bec & Soda, the morning radio program from Adelaide. Thirteen-year-old Noah was just getting ready to be picked up for school in the McLaren. He couldn't wait for his buddy to see him arrive. On yesterday's show somebody had proposed collecting the friend as well, until it was pointed out that a McLaren is a two-seater.

The next segment discussed a tabloid article criticizing former premier Steven Marshall and his advisors for spending almost $300 (close to US$200!) in taxpayer funds at pharmacies on "dry shampoo, facial misting bottles, lip balm," and other beauty products. The hosts rightly considered the reaction excessive for someone still in the public eye, and, as "Bec" (Rebecca Morse), it "stigmatizes men who want to look after their appearance."

"Soda" (Mark Soderstrom; when I listened yesterday I couldn't figure out why they kept mentioning SodaStream) couldn't believe that there were men who used a tinted moisturizer. And there are men who steal their partners' beauty products. They invited people to call in regarding the issue, emphasizing that men shouldn't be criticized for looking after their skin.

And of course they shouldn't. But what a load that would be to carry! I already had with me 2¼ liters of water and a liter of Maximus sports drink. This would have to get me as far as the Rockpool Cafe in Stokes Bay, three-quarters of the way through the trek, where I could have lunch and refill. What's that we learned in science -- a liter of water weighs one kilogram? The 3¼ liters weighed about as much as everything else in my bag together. I hated carrying it, but of course it was vital.

When leaving Kingscote, I'd gone up the shore almost to Reeves Point rather than immediately inland, and I hadn't realized how much extra distance that had tacked on to the day. I'd walked more than six kilometers by the time I reached the North Coast Road, which would take me all the way to my lodging in Snelling Beach.

A sign put Snelling Beach 60 kilometers away. The day would be over 66 kilometers, not 64. Time to recalculate. Three 22s? Six 11s?

Past the Emu Bay turnoff, the road became gravel, and it would be for the rest of the day. Traffic was light, and when a vehicle came by it kicked up dust. Father Kelly wrote of passing vehicles, "An occasional car or truck really belts along, but they don't disturb you -- you and they are in different worlds." For me, this was only partially true. This was a lonely road, and I appreciated the exchange of waves with drivers.

The sky, fortunately, was mostly cloudy, and the air was breezy. I couldn't have asked for better walking weather

Up in the Wisanger Hills were a couple of things of note: a one-room stone schoolhouse, in use from 1885 to 1945; and George's Castle, a complex of eccentric buildings and sculptures built from recycled materials. It stuck out from the road as a whimsical attraction and I would have loved to explore, but there were no steps to be spared yesterday. It apparently has fantastic illuminations at night, especially at Christmas time.

The road descended to Smith Beach, near the Yumbah shellfish farm, and then climbed gently for the better part of two hours. Several times I thought I was nearing the top, or saw the road about to go downhill, only to discover there was a higher hill behind and that the descent was only momentary. Of course I'd expected an ascent from the shore, but the lack of reprieve was sometimes dispiriting.

I was on a bit of a time constraint: The Rockpool Cafe, in Stokes Bay around the day's 50-kilometer mark, was open until five; I assumed last orders at 4:30. I slogged on, taking only two breaks of about 10 minutes. My feet wanted a third, and I would have indulged them, but there was no suitable log or rock to sit on in the last stretch.

I wasn't hungry, but I knew I should eat. I'd had a protein bar before leaving Kingscote -- or, rather, what I thought was a protein bar I'd gotten from Qantas but was instead a chocolate bar with flakes of coconut. It had arrived at each day's lodging as a package of liquid, melted from the heat, and I'd resolidified it repeatedly by sticking it in a fridge or freezer.

I continued to drink water, having finished the sports drink long ago. Physics mocked me: The bag never felt lighter after I drank.

People offered rides or stopped to make sure I was all right; I was grateful for a little personal interaction.

I started answering the birds based on the tone and urgency of their squawks:



"Ah! Ah! Ah!"

"Oh, it's OK."

My arms felt superfluous, deadweight. Could I detach them?

I finally arrived at the cafe at 4:20. I guzzled a small bottle of San Pellegrino and another of apple juice.

"Is that man drinking an alcoholic beverage?" one of the kids at the next table asked his dad. It was a group of nine; I recognized them as having offered me a lift.

"Nope, it's just apple juice," I said. "And it's great!"

"That's a good one!" the dad said, seeing the bottle.

The cafe specialized in fish and chips, but I didn't want anything fried. The summer salad spoke to me, with fennel, arugula, apples, pears, and pine nuts. And more juice and lemonade.

The cafe closed, and I went to the public bathroom only to find out that the water from the taps was unsafe for drinking. There would be no refilling of my bottles. But I still had some left, the temperature had gone down, and I had drunk at lunch. I wasn't worried.

I climbed up again for a half-hour and then began the steady descent into Snelling Beach. My feet still felt prickly, but I had energy from the meal and from the anticipation of arriving. A few raindrops felt wonderful.

At an intersection, there was the usual pole with street signs, and next to it was a post with a microwave oven on it. Well, that's interesting, I thought. A little while later was another microwave oven, atop a barrel, with an address stickered onto it. I realized the ovens had been repurposed as mailboxes. Brilliant in a place with no crime, I thought. Plenty of room for mail and it won't get wet.

A bird moaned. "I know," I said.

A cow moaned, too.

I moaned along with them.

A kilometer later, "Oh, God, oh, God!" I had gone 63 kilometers and was running out of steam. "I might have to stop," I said to no one, and then, defying my body, I accelerated.

There were two kangaroos, one on my side of a fence and one on the other. The nearer one hopped away from me, looking for a way over.

"I'm not gonna hurt you," I said. Then I realized I should say it in Australian. "I'm not gonna herrt ya, mate."

It was past sunset, with just enough light for me to continue unaided. At the final descent into Snelling Beach, forest closed the road in, and the sounds were those of the jungle. "Caw, caw, caw!" went one group of birds. "Bip-bip-bip-bip" went another. They did not seem to approve of my presence.

There were a few houses at Snelling Beach, but I didn't know whether any were occupied. I wondered where I'd have the whole little village cluster to myself -- just the kangaroos and wallabies and I. I hoped the place I'd booked for two nights, the Snellings Beach House -- I do not know why the name has an extra "S" -- wasn't one of the ones up the really tall hill.

It wasn't. It was just a short distance up a driveway. I entered and sank into a couch before I bothered to find any of the bedrooms. The house had three bedrooms and was expensive for one person, but the view of the beach was magnificent. I mustered the energy to do laundry and fell asleep instantly.

The westernmost restaurant on Kangaroo Island, the Enchanted Fig Tree, was next door to the Snellings Beach House in this improbably remote area. This time of year they serve lunch only. I'd booked it for today not just because I enjoy fine dining but also because it will be the last real restaurant I'll encounter until I get back to Penneshaw in nine days. There are a couple of wineries on my way east, but mostly I'll have to prepare my own food.

I checked in with the hostess, joined the group on the lawn, and waited for the staff to decide what they would do with us. I couldn't help feeling as though I were part of the cast of "The Menu."

The bar opened and they served their specialty cocktail, a Southerly Buster, a citrus blend with mint and mineral water (and gin and Zenzerino orange-ginger liqueur, for those inclined). It took its name from a habit of the property owner's grandfather, who liked to go out and fish in the area. When the southerly winds were too strong, he stayed at home and drank instead.

The Bell family were the first residents on what was then a sheep farm, and they planted the fig tree in which we were about to dine. The shearing shed, where we soon assembled, had been converted into a party space by Prudence Holden, the wife of James Holden the auto manufacturer.

We were served canapes: smoked Abalini (abalone from over at Yumbah) with juniper vinaigrette, skewers of hibachi-grilled kangaroo with a black-garlic and honey glaze, and miniature scones with nectarine and samphire jam. There were about 30 of us, including a group of 10, and we milled about for a while, admiring the old photographs, fishing ledger, and musical instruments.

The giant fig tree has sprawled out over the generations. The staff had set up tables among its branches according to the guests' party sizes. I took my assigned seat at a solo table but was soon invited to join the group of 10, who were on a short visit to the island to celebrate two of their members' birthdays.

Prawn ravioli with a delightfully crackly tomato sauce, summer salad with smoked trout and crispy fish skin, charred pumpkin with samphire pesto, and lamb with couscous fueled our discussion of other foods. The antithesis of our fine-dining experience, I learned, was two Adelaide specialties suitable only for soaking up a long night of drinking: a "pie floater" -- a meat pie ("but not a good one"), turned upside-down and covered with pea soup -- and an AB, fries topped with gyro meat and some combination of garlic, chilli, and barbecue sauces.

In the late afternoon I walked down to the beach, mindful of the kangaroo poop on the hill. It was a delightful beach (Stokes Bay is reportedly the best; our lunch group had a lively discussion on the matter), with craggy brown rocks like miniature castles. Its main drawbacks were choppy waters and the fact that for some reason cars are allowed on the beach itself, tearing into the sand and blotting an otherwise lovely scene.

There were people on the beach, and one dog. I hoped that we might stay and enjoy the sunset together. But I strolled the beach's length and turned around, and they had all gone.

Go on to Kangaroo Island day 5