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Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks

Kangaroo Island day 6: Gosse to Karatta
Monday, February 27, 2023

Today: 66217 steps/49.30 km/30.63 mi/9h 23m
Total: 282312 steps/220.57 km/137.06 mi/40h 11m

I slept soundly, and presumably so did the sheep. It was chilly, and I put my sweater on for the first couple of hours. I washed up what I'd used at Sean's kitchen the best that I could with kettle-heated water, said goodbye to the sheep and Ned Kelly, and proceeded south on Colmans Road. The merge with Snug Cove Road, three kilometers away, is where I might have discarded trash, but I had no idea which of the 20 or so bins was for Sean's property, or which color was for general garbage.

Bec & Soda were discussing a 47-year-old woman's relationship with a man who was 23. The woman's friends weren't supporting her. Bec had no problem with the age difference, and neither did the two women who called in (who were also in relationships with much younger men). As long as everyone's happy, good for them, they said.

"But these two words need to go," Bec said. "Don't call me a cougar, and don't call me a MILF."

"I don't," Soda said.

"I don't want to be graded on a 'mom scale.'"

They went on to talk about a new restaurant in Adelaide: Karen's Diner, named for the proverbial complaining Karen. The diner promises rude service -- every server acts like a "Karen" -- and Bec had mentioned the place to Soda although she had not eaten there. "If I want to be insulted, I'll just read the comments section," she said.

But Soda had taken his kids, arriving five minutes before the day's opening at noon. The place gets booked up -- people apparently like to sign up for abuse. The host said there was no way they were getting in without a booking, even though no other customers had arrived. Soda had no idea whether this was part of the act or whether the place really was fully booked.

But kids aren't so easily rattled. Soda's ten-year-old, Felix, asked the host, "Are you being a Karen, or are you just like this?"

And his seven-year-old daughter started to cry and said, "That man is so rude. I hate him! Felix, go and kick him in the bum!"

Three kilometers further on, I reached the Playford Highway, the main route west to Cape Borda and east to Parndana, the island's only substantial town not situated on the coast. Had I gone east, I'd have shortly reached the West End Highway and easily been able to head down along the border of the Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area and the contiguous Flinders Chase National Park, which together I'll call "the park" to keep things simple, as it's not clear where one ends and another begins.

But that would have put me considerably far from the western coast. There was another road, Shackle Road, that went south through the park from a turnoff about 11 kilometers west on the Playford Highway. This would be much more in line with a perimeter island walk.

There was little traffic on Playford. The scolding birds were back, echoing through the tidy forest on my right, calling "Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh!" like a buzzer. I reached the curiously named Jump Off Road, at which point a light drizzle began.

Shackle Road (also curiously named) was not much farther. A sign pointed the way to the park. I turned left...

...Only to find a gate chained shut with the words "Road closed."

But that was for cars, I reasoned. Off to the right was a pathway around the gate, with a threshold of rocks to keep cars from proceeding. The sign didn't say "Park closed." I could, hypothetically, walk next to the road. If they really wanted to keep people out, they could have taken a lesson from the people over at Washington Slagbaai on Bonaire. They're experts at it. (And I'm still bitter.)

Twenty-one kilometers I was to be on this wide dirt road, which snaked its way gently through the vegetation. Presumably there would be a gate at the other end; presumably there would be a way to walk around it.

One wonderful result of the road's closure to cars, of course, was that I didn't have to worry about traffic. It was marvelous to have a whole road just for walking. I wish they'd do that with Broadway in Manhattan.

Up, down, left, right, straight, I went. It was easy walking. Two kangaroos hopped away. There were relatively few birds. The drizzle came and went throughout the day, almost becoming strong enough to threaten to become a true rainfall, but never quite getting there. Most of the time it was the delightful kind of wimpy raindrops that just kiss your skin with a refreshing mist but don't make anything wet.

I kept passing what looked like radar detectors and electric eyes. Did the park rangers know I was there?

I heard a sound behind me. Was there a car? Where would it have come from? Was it a plane?

The sound went away, but soon a car approached from the south. Well, this is it. Either I'll successfully explain my presence or they're going to make me break this segment of the Abecedarian Walks.

But the car didn't slow down. The driver checked in with a quick thumb-up as he passed.

"All good, thanks!" I shouted.

Around halfway down Shackle Road, another car approached, and the driver stopped.

"How are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm all right, thanks. Just having a walk."

"It's just that people aren't meant to be up this far right now."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Why not?"

"The road is dangerous up here."

I wasn't going to push it, but there was nothing wrong with the road that I could see, at least for a walker. Maybe one of the little bridges was in need of repair and couldn't support a vehicle. "OK, thank you. I'm just headed to Western KI Caravan Park."

"OK. Watch out for the roos."

"I've seen a few." Though only two in the park. Were the kangaroos of Shackle Road more aggressive than others? Maybe, I guess, if they haven't seen many humans.

"All right, I'll tell the rangers that you're here."

"Thank you. I appreciate your checking in."

I found a snack spot where the gravel formed a kind of curb to sit on. I had gone 30 kilometers, more than five hours, without stopping except for the conversation with the driver or to take pictures. But my feet seemed to be holding up. Today would have been my longest walking day if Friday hadn't; was my body getting used to the long distances?

I had some cheese, bread, and water and then a peanut bar. I also went online and paid the park entry fee. I didn't know whether I was technically entering Flinders Chase, or whether the fee applied to the roads I was walking, or whether anyone was going to check it. But I thought it best to support the park, especially when the driver had looked out for me so kindly.

I continued on. The southern cliffs, which had seemed impossibly distant from the northern reaches of Shackle Road, now hove into focus. There were beautiful plants on the edges of the road; the prettiest were a kind of kelp-like green arms on a stick.

Near the bottom of Shackle Road, another vehicle stopped. It looked to be full of park rangers.

The driver checked in. "You're heading out of the park, then?" It sounded more like a strong suggestion than like a question.

"Yes. Just headed to Western KI Caravan Park."

"You've got a ways to go, then."

"About two hours. Two and a quarter. I've got plenty of water."

"All right, then. Cheers."

I had a hunch that if they had found me 15 kilometers back, they might not have let me continue on foot.

For people intending to head north on Shackle Road, the signs at the southern end indicated not just "Road closed" but also "Danger -- Construction site -- Unauthorised persons keep out." This seemed excessive. I'd seen no construction and no danger, though of course I didn't know what the rangers did. In 21 kilometers, I'd seen one traffic cone warning of a place where the road was broken and had a drop-off at the side. But it was still plenty wide for a car to pass.

I proceeded toward the park's exit and another car stopped. It wasn't park staff. It was a couple from New South Wales who had seen me walking along the Playford Highway, hours ago, on their way to Cape Borda, and they were curious how I'd made it down here. I explained my walk around the island.

"Well, that's just wonderful," they said. "Where are you from?"

"The United States."

"You don't have much of an American accent."

"I'll take that as a compliment." I don't know why I said that; there's no shame in sounding like an American. It's not as though we all go around trying to sound British.

"Oh, you should."

I rejoined paved road; it was harder to walk on black top than on gravel. Several drivers offered me rides. I passed the construction site for the new visitor center; the former one had been lost to the bushfires three years ago. I would have liked to find out what that plant was called.

The Western KI Caravan Park had cabins, spots for RV hookups, and a general store. It would have been easy to heat up something frozen for a quick dinner, but the lamb chops inspired me to be more ambitious. Kids played volleyball, galahs hissed from tree to tree, koalas clung to branches, kangaroos and Cape Barren geese grazed. That was my family for the night.

Go on to Kangaroo Island day 7