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Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks

Kangaroo Island day 8: Vivonne Bay to Macgillivray
Friday, March 3, 2023

Yesterday: 56753 steps/44.91 km/27.91 mi/8h 8m
Total: 385264 steps/301.69 km/187.46 mi/54h 57m

On my second day in Vivonne Bay, I returned to the general store to linger on the patio for a lunch of shark bites and fries -- so many fries I couldn't finish them all. Then I had some meal calculations to make. Realistically I could expect to find one meal per day along the way back to Penneshaw: lunch yesterday, lunch today, dinner tomorrow, and lunch the day after that. I still had two energy bars and two packets of soup mix. The general store would be my last chance to stock up on anything else.

The problem was, the store didn't have much in that category. Fruit would be too heavy to carry around for four days. There was no cheese or jerky. There was a sun-dried-tomato-and-onion dip, but I worried that the onion would make it too sour. I considered cup noodles but thought they'd be too bulky, and so I settled on a packet of French onion soup -- it claimed to serve four; I could ration it -- and two candy bars, the closest they had to protein or energy bars. Maybe I could take away from one of the future food sources.

In the late afternoon I took a long walk along the beach. The flies and one persistent bee were out in force, but I eventually lost them and found a colony of silver gulls. In some places the rocks were striped -- the effect of millennia of glacial drift? I recognized a slender black dog from the previous day, who could have outrun a bus and never tired of catching the stick its owner threw.

I made it perhaps 30 minutes to the west of the main beach entrance, long past the mouth of the Harriet River, which is really more of a sandbar. Ahead was a rock protrusion. Had I climbed it -- Father Kelly probably did when he came this way -- I could have made it to the jetty, near where the crayfish and abalone boats come in.

But it was nearly seven, and I had to get back to see what was revealed when Rupert pocket-dialed Evelyn on the night all the guys from "Married at First Sight" went out drinking. Hugo let on that he couldn't stand Tayla and would have preferred any other wife from the group, but did he really call her a "see-you-next-Tuesday"? Dan was showing the other men pictures of his ex-girlfriends and boasting about how attractive they were. But the comments were heard out of context, you see. Can't a guy let off some steam when he's out with his mates? Doesn't matter; you don't say things like that. At least (or especially) on national television.

The following program, which accompanied the rest of my pork chops, examined the Patanela, a schooner that mysteriously disappeared near Sydney in 1988. The ship was known to be extremely sturdy and the captain was an able and knowledgeable man of the sea. It had departed Western Australia and sailed counterclockwise for nearly a month, almost reaching its intended destination in Queensland.

It's still not known what happened to the ship and the four people who vanished with it. An early theory that it was rammed by another ship seems improbable. More likely, it was a deliberate job: a hijacking, theft by the crew, or the captain's having a nervous breakdown and taking it down with its personnel. Once in a while a clue arises, but there is still no answer.

Another long journey yesterday, again with simple math: the kilometer-plus back up to the general store at 4417 South Coast Road, and then my destination was 81 South Coast Road, a predictable 43.36 kilometers east along the road, to within a kilometer of its end.

Ants were carrying a dead worm off the asphalt and onto the shoulder. Ants can be captivating and inspiring creatures. They're hard-working and cooperative, and they have a good sense of direction. I think I'd still rather be a sheep -- ants don't seem to get a lot of time to themselves -- but there is something noble and dignified about being an ant.

Then I heard the flies long before I saw them taking over a dead wallaby. It was a constant hum, like a motor. At first I thought I'd stumbled upon a beehive. I've heard quieter airplanes. I kept my distance.

A third of the way through the walk was the attraction known as Raptor Domain, where the staff care for and present birds of prey. I purchased tickets for their first showing of the day and had a quick harissa-vegetable sandwich and potato chips while I waited for it to begin. Then we all filed into the viewing area.

The first bird presented wasn't a raptor at all but an Australian magpie, the commonest bird I'd seen along the roads. They are smart birds and can be trained. This one, Digby, had been taught to pick up trash and put it in the bin, exemplifying good behavior for visitors (though we weren't rewarded with snacks of insects for cleaning up after ourselves...on the other hand, I never asked).

Shush, the eastern barn owl, sat on our laps, allowing us to feel its soft feathers. They make for virtually silent flight, enabling them to hunt undetected in complete darkness. Then came Boo, the Australian boobook owl, the country's smallest owl species.

Kylie the hobby falcon was nervous to join us at first, having been spooked by a sparrowhawk, but she eventually dove across the arena in pursuit of the food with which our guide was teasing her, until the guide relented and let her have it. These are the smallest falcons, and they can fly around 90 miles an hour -- a modest speed compared with the peregrine falcon's more than 200. Tubules in their nostrils help with airflow to allow them to fly quickly with such speed; aircraft construction took a cue from their anatomy.

Black cockatoos, a blue and gold macaw, a bush stone curlew, and two tawny frogmouths -- initially indistinguishable among the branches in which their camouflage allows them to hide -- made their appearance, as did a white-bellied sea eagle and a black wedge-tailed eagle. Amy the guide had clearly rehearsed her spiel with her partner, because she was just mentioning the bird's 2.4- to 2.8-meter wingspan when it demonstrated its full width, spreading its wings as broadly as it could.

This eagle was a rescue and knew Amy well, cuddling with her and accepting her scratches on its head. These birds aren't too sluggish, either, flying at around 60 miles an hour. They're scavengers and they eat roadkill. Amy impressed on us the importance of moving roadkill off the road: Scavenging birds may be having supper and not prepared to get out of the way of vehicles. And drivers should take special care at night, not just for the kangaroos and the wallabies: Insects are attracted to headlights, which in turn attract insect-eating birds. It had never occurred to me to consider animals of flight as vulnerable to cars.

A couple of hours' walk farther east, the paved road to Kingscote headed off to the north, and the South Coast Road branched off and became a dirt road. A continuous hill of gravel from road work narrowed the road barely down to one lane, but there was very little traffic apart from the construction vehicles.

Visiting Raptor Domain so early in the day made for a challenging afternoon. I like to finish most of a day's walking before taking a substantial break, but the attraction's location, after only 14 kilometers, left me with 30 to walk -- between five and six hours -- after the show finished at 12:30.

I knew I'd need a break, but I had to resort to mental tricks to time it effectively. The day's 30-kilometer mark, which I reached at 3:38 p.m., was a logical point. But let's carry on to 4:00, I thought; it's not too much farther. Then: I'll just make it to the next intersection. Then I can finish the next kilometer. Then I needed to find a suitable place to sit.

It was still important to take the break; I couldn't carry on this self-deception all the way to my lodging. Even a five- or ten-minute stop, with a snack and some lemonade and water, gave me the renewed energy to quicken my pace by about 30 seconds per kilometer. I found a tree log and made sure it was clear of bulldog ants: Father Kelly's most startling moment "was when you sat on the ants' nest to have your lunch. (It would perhaps have been even more startling for onlookers had there been any.)" Twenty minutes on the log passed quickly.

Delaying the break meant that I had less than two hours to go instead of almost three. Still, the last kilometer before I reached the Kangaroo Island Rural Retreat seemed longer than the others, and it became even longer when the access driveway wound through a sheep paddock. The house had a dining table that accommodated 12 people, humbling me seated alone with my chicken noodle soup.

I booked two nights at the retreat only because they had a two-night minimum, as had Kangastay; I didn't need two rest days so close to each other, and I would have been happy to move on today. But there was plenty to check out in Macgillivray.

"Are you the walking guy?" a man asked as I approached the shop at Clifford's Honey Farm, a 90-minute walk south of the Kangaroo Island Rural Retreat. He was part of a group of about six visiting from the Gold Coast. They were outside, finishing their honey ice cream.

"You've noticed me!" I said. I explained the walk and the island's importance in the alphabet.

"And you were at the bird show yesterday!" They wished me well on my journey, and I them, and they departed.

In 1884, honeybees were brought to Kangaroo Island from Liguria in northern Italy. They remain the last surviving pure strain of Ligurian honeybees in the world, and they are known for their gentle nature and high-quality honey.

Clifford's Honey Farm keeps beehives around the island and has operated a shop since 1993. It includes a display with beekeeping tools and a working hive. The bees consume nectar from different plants throughout the year, resulting in different-tasting honey. For sampling today was cup-gum (a kind of eucalyptus) honey, which had notes of caramel.

A bee community is extraordinary. Large hives contain around 75,000 bees. To elect a queen bee, worker bees feed "royal jelly" to some of the developing female larvae. The first of these to hatch stings all the other potential queens to death while they're still in their cocoons. After a week or so, she sets about to mating, laying up to 2,000 eggs a day in the summer and a million overall during her life. Queen bees live around five years; worker bees -- all the females who didn't receive the special jelly -- last only about six weeks.

In her month and a half on the planet, a worker gathers enough nectar to make about a tablespoon of honey. Producing the honey involves digesting the nectar and then regurgitating it after it has been mixed with enzymes in the stomach. In other words, honey is bee puke collected from a hive.

The drones -- the male honeybees -- are only for mating. They don't work, they don't collect nectar or pollen, and they can't even feed themselves. Their sole purpose is inflight copulation.

I'd still rather be a sheep.

After some rich honey ice cream, I made my way back up toward my house. A wallaby lay dead in the middle of the road and, thinking of the bird presentation, I found a log and pushed it off to the side. A couple of drivers stopped along this stretch and asked if I was all right -- per kilometer I've walked, Australia is the most considerate by far when it comes to checking on me on the road. Many have offered rides, though the possibility exists that they're just suspicious of anyone walking.

They're so friendly that they sometimes offer rides from other people. Yesterday a driver coming toward me stopped his construction vehicle, one of those gravel-flatteners.

"Are y'all right, mate?"

"Yes, I'm fine. Just walking."

"Because there's a car, if you want it!" he said, laughing and gesturing at a driver going the same way as I. The car didn't stop.

Near the Kangaroo Island Rural Retreat was the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery. Eucalyptus oil was Australia's first major export, an industry dating from the 1880s, but the trade died out after the 1930s in favor of sheep farming. Very little eucalyptus oil is now produced in Australia, but the Turner family found a niche business in the 1990s and has been making it since then, using the leaves of the Kangaroo Island narrow-leaf mallee -- resulting in a product unique in the world. (This tree also happens to be flowering this month, making it good for the honeybee keepers as well.)

Eucalyptus oil is effective at removing stains, disinfecting surfaces, soothing aches, and healing cuts, among other things. It is a decongestant. The Turners' operation is right there in back: Leaves are harvested (now mechanically, formerly by hand) and collected in a pot over water. The water is boiled, producing a steam, which breaks the oil cells in the leaves. The resultant vapor and the steam are cooled, and the oil settles on top of the water. Summertime produces three times more oil than wintertime for the same quantity of leaves.

The distillery also operates a cafe, which happens to be an outlet for Kangaroo Island Ciders. Its proximity to the Kangaroo Island Rural Retreat meant I was able to have two proper meals today after all: a Thai salad with cider-infused pork shoulder at the cafe and a burger with halloumi, beetroot, and onion relish brought back to the house, accompanied by honey nectar from Clifford's. It's prudent to stay prepared with emergency food, but Kangaroo Island has been providing sustenance nicely.

Go on to Kangaroo Island day 9