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Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks

Kangaroo Island day 5: Snelling Beach to Gosse
Sunday, February 26, 2023

Today: 32815 steps/25.91 km/16.10 mi/4h 48m
Total: 216095 steps/171.27 km/106.42 mi/30h 48m

With a relatively short walk today, I slept in and left the Snellings Beach House a little after nine. The Enchanted Fig Tree's kitchen was already emitting sweet aromas in preparation for the lunch service: perhaps meat on the grill, perhaps scones in the oven. If today's walk had been even shorter, I might have dined there a second time.

Once again, I climbed steeply for 20 minutes. I looked back down at the crescent-shaped beach, under the hills, with the restaurant's white tent and the house now no more than little rectangles in the distance, like on a map. Three cars passed in rapid succession, and then the road leveled off and I was alone again.

Kangaroo Island is home to half a million sheep, lately Merino, used for wool, food, and dairy products. I passed a few hundred of them as I continued along the North Coast Road. They stared at me, frozen, for a moment before moving away. Most of today's looked ready for shearing.

I thought about how easy life would be as a sheep. You'd get to spend all day roaming the paddocks, in what seemed to be consistently perfect weather. Just follow everyone else and don't think too much. Simple. I wondered whether they got bored. And if they couldn't sleep, what did they count?

Today was overcast and cool, wonderful for walking. The heat wave of the past few days had finally been broken -- the one that had Adelaide over 100 degrees and Bec chastising Soda for running while shirtless. Well, which is it, Bec? You want to end the stigma of men's using beauty products but won't accept men's trying to stay cool while on a jog?

There was a light drizzle, which sent the scents of the earth into the air. It smelled of figs and wine and farm and mint. The calls of magpies echoed across the terrain. I walked down the center of the road, trying not to step on the black worms; they seemed more numerous today, perhaps because of the humidity. It was rare that I heard a car approaching and moved to the right.

In remote parts of the island, water is rainwater; if there's no rain, there's no water. Such is what I learned about my intended Airbnb house around the time I passed today's halfway point: The previous guests had reported dry taps. The Snellings Beach House and other places had emphasized the need to conserve water.

My host, Sean, said he had another property; would I prefer to go there instead? It was in Baudin Beach. That name didn't ring a bell, so I checked: It was almost all the way back to Penneshaw.

I didn't reach Sean right away, but he called me back shortly, and I explained my need to stay in the Gosse area. He could provide a large jug of water, 20 or 25 liters. I wouldn't be able to shower, but it would be enough for drinking and basic washing. That's fine, I said.

It was soon time to say goodbye to the North Coast Road, about four kilometers shy of its end at the Playford Highway. I had followed it for 76 kilometers since Kingscote. "You've been good to me," I said as I turned right onto the dirt Berrymans Road.

This road went up and down for a few kilometers, taking me across to Colmans Road, where I turned right to head back up toward the coast. Sean's place was about 20 minutes up this road; I was to look for a statue of Ned Kelly holding a gun. Probably no relation to Father Patrick Kelly, Ned was one of Australia's most notorious outlaws, one of eight children of an Irish convict transported to Victoria. After his father's death, Ned joined a gang and engaged in mob violence. He was hanged in 1880, a month before his 26th birthday.

I found the metal figure with white gloves, opened the gate, and re-chained it to keep the sheep in. I walked across the paddock to -- what building was I looking for? The building was described as a "cabin"; I didn't see anything that I would have called one. Across the way, a dog looked at me but did not approach. I started to call Sean until I saw him coming from the other direction.

"Seth," he said. He wore a red shirt with "Gone Piggin" and a picture of a hog. He could have been a sheriff from a Wild West movie -- one with an Irish accent.

"Thanks for finding me!" I said.

He led me to the building, more of a shed than a cabin. The dog came over, a fat, white dog with some pit bull in him.

"That's Hectic," Sean said. "He's a rescue." Sean had found the animal chained by its previous owner in Baudin Beach. The dog licked my hand and then, when I bent down, my face.

"You've got a friend," Sean said. I'd have been happy to have the dog for the night.

The cabin had rough interior walls of plywood and a ceiling of reflective foil; outside, the corrugated tin bore an advertisement for O'Shea's Carpet Cleaning and the white spray-painted words "Catman & ... The Dodgey Brothers." Catman had earned his name by killing off the feral cats that had been harming the populations of other animals in the area; the name of his brother had been covered up by a sink.

I had my choice of two bunk beds; the pillow was still in its packaging and the cloth cover formed a matching set with Marty Crane's chair on "Frasier." Near the bed were car plates that said "Feckin Eejit" and "Kiss My Ass -- Póg Mo Thóin."

"Have you brought a sleeping bag?" Sean asked.

"No." If there had been instructions to that effect, I'd missed them.

"I'll go see if I've got an extra." He went into the storage container next door and brought one out, folded up in its packaging.

"Thank you." Hours later, long after it would cease to be appropriate to bother him, I would open it and discover that it was not a sleeping bag but a jacket.

"I've got some bread baking. It's almost ready. Do you like brown bread?"

"I love brown bread! That's wonderful." How did he know I was carrying salmon spread but nothing to put it on?

The room contained a few mismatched plastic chairs, a rocking chair, a leather chair, and two seats that once belonged to a bus. A worn map of Kangaroo Island occupied one wall; across the room was a wood-burning stove. There were plenty of kitchen implements, a fridge, a toaster, a microwave oven, an electric kettle (I would not need to use firewood after all), and, as promised, a giant jug of water.

A television set was mounted on the wall. "Sometimes it works," he said. He showed me a kind of walkie-talkie device. "You can always reach me on channel seventeen. The drop toilet is just out back."

"That's all great, thanks." Outhouse, unreliable television, a communication radio that I didn't fully understand -- who cares? He had baked me bread and there was a friendly dog!

"I've laid the marron traps. You can come spin around with us later if you want. But you're walking the island and you've come all this way; you should have a walk down there anyway. Just go down the paddock, staying between the posts. Then follow the track and you'll come to the creek. You can go around and up and over to the left and then up and around and follow the path to the right and around" -- this was the idea of it; I had no hope of remembering it all -- "and then turn left again and you'll come to the creek again, and then you just follow that around and come back up here."

"Thanks, I'll head down there later."

"Enjoy the serenity," he said before walking back to his cabin across the paddock. Hectic contemplated for a moment and then joined him.

I made some Thai soup from the mix, and when the bread was finished, I applied some of the salmon spread. I turned on the TV set and picked up a news channel from the mainland intermittently. There were a few loud flies in the cabin, but they didn't bite, and the TV set drowned them out when the signal was strong enough.

In the last hours of daylight, I took the path downhill. Despite Sean's long explanation, the way was easy to find, as there were white posts on each side of the path, like on a ski slope. On the right were a few small ponds and lots of sheep. On the other side of the gate at the bottom was a walking trail -- formerly a driving track, but a bridge had been washed out and wasn't yet suitable again for vehicles.

After about ten minutes through the forest, after crossing the creek, I came to a fence. I walked along it for a while, admiring the grass trees and the flight of large, black birds, perhaps raptors. There wasn't much of a path and the route started to go steeply downhill. I decided I was content with what I'd seen, and I climbed back up just as the sheep were heading to their sleeping place, whatever that was. And I hope they (and I) sleep soundly, without resorting to counting.

Go on to Kangaroo Island day 6