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Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks

Kangaroo Island day 9: Macgillivray to Brown Beach
Saturday, March 4, 2023

Today: 46337 steps/37.54 km/23.33 mi/6h 22m
Total: 431601 steps/339.23 km/210.79 mi/61h 19m

Waking up to the birds is probably what I'll miss most about Kangaroo Island. They usher in the new day with urgency, whether it's the strident, sibilant double hiss of the galahs, the honking alarm of the Australian ravens, or whatever it was that was rapping on the roof at the Kangaroo Island Rural Retreat. For a moment I thought I had an intruder. I was grateful that they did not begin their activity too early.

My first hour today replicated most of yesterday's walk to the honey farm. I completed the entirety of the South Coast Road, which, after more than 80 kilometers, ended at an unassuming intersection with small signs pointing to Seal Bay, Vivonne Bay, and Flinders Chase -- the south coast's most popular attractions. It's as if one might reach Montreal by following a dirt track marked by tiny letters spelling out "Canada."

I don't know what the Emu Ridge cafe put in the burger I had for dinner, but I was practically cantering. It helped that the road toward the honey farm sloped generally downhill, and maybe my having walked the route already gave me the impetus to hasten. The wallaby was still there, along with the log I'd used to move it out of the roadway.

A particularly noisy unkindness of ravens inhabited the eucalyptus here, living up to that assigned term of venery. "Caaah! Caaah! Caaah!" they exclaimed, hundreds of them at a time, like a giant orchestra of poorly played violins. They exited from their trees when I approached. Yet most of them showed some compassion at the end of their buzzing, a sentient sigh sparking a hope that perhaps we were meant to get along after all: "Caaah! Caaah! Caaah!...aaah."

Somewhere a dog barked, but the only mammals I saw were cattle and sheep. I turned onto Moores Road, keeping my quick pace. The road was flat and straight, but occasional lagoons punctuated the monotony. It was the first clear, sunny day in a week, and I was walking due east; an almost-canopy of tall eucalyptus kept me mostly shaded. I finished my first ten kilometers -- a quarter of today's segment -- in under 96 minutes.

I slowed down but maintained a satisfying pace. After two hours on Moores Road, I turned onto Hog Bay Road -- the same Hog Bay Road that links Penneshaw and Kingscote. I came to Petite Provence, a purveyor of produce grown with an eye toward permaculture. Kim and Bridgette moved to the island in 2010, "firmly intending to grow old disgracefully," according to their Web site, but "the land got hold of us" and they now maintain this garden of organic fruits and vegetables.

Kim found me after a few minutes. "I was just out back, picking cherry tomatoes," he said. "I've got loads of them." He opened the shop and showed me the packaged produce. Above the shelves was a picture of his wife. "That's Bridgette. She's a tour guide at Cape Willoughby."

"I'm going there tomorrow!" I said. "Perhaps I'll see her there."

"I reckon you might. The last tour is at three."

"I should make it by then." I told him about my walk.

"Are you staying at one of the cottages by the lighthouse?"


"It's wonderful there. You'll enjoy it."

We talked about the birds. "I like the magpies," I said. "I know they get a bad rap, but I think they're handsome and dignified."

"We've got a gang here," he said. "A group of magpies is called a gang. They help by eating the nuts from the weeds. The kangaroos eat them, too, but they make an awful mess of it."

"I see," I said. "Well, if you've got some tomatoes, I'm going up to Mount Thisby for a picnic. I've got a muffin with me, and the tomatoes might be lovely to have with them."

"Let me go get you some. I'll be right back." He returned with a container of red, orange, and yellow tomatoes. I also selected a jar of his spiced pickled cucumber and carrot.

"Thank you. I hope to see Bridgette tomorrow!"

I continued for another half-hour on Hog Bay Road and reached the sandhill that until recently was known as Mount Thisby. "Flinders originally climbed and named it" (in 1802), Father Kelly remarks, "but he called it Prospect Hill, and one feels that Thisby is less than an improvement." Perhaps the municipal council, or whoever is entrusted to decide such matters, felt the same way, because when the new stairway up the hill was opened in 2019, they began to sign it as Prospect Hill. Kim at Petite Provence, however, had thanked me for calling it Mount Thisby, as the local residents still do.

The new stairway certainly makes it easy, and I didn't count anywhere near the reported 500 stairs -- it is around 400, and that includes the preliminary ones at the bottom. It doesn't include the backtracking I had to do to reach the start, however. It obviously never occurred to anyone that someone might approach the site from the west on foot. The bottom of the stairway is separated from Hog Bay Road by a thick hedge, but the driveway entrance is about 200 meters farther. Couldn't they have created an opening for people to have direct access to the stairway from the road?

The view up there was fantastic, of course: across Pelican Lagoon all the way to American River and Strawbridge Point, where I walked just over a week ago. And, in the other direction, the peninsula that includes Penneshaw and Cape Willoughby. I could see the cliffs near Pennington Beach but not the beautiful beach itself. I spread out my muffin, the tomatoes, and the jar of pickles -- not much to spread out, admittedly -- and lingered, leaving just before the noisy kids came up, fighting over their monkey doll.

Kangaroo Island is shaped like a turtle facing to the right, with Penneshaw at the top of the head. I'd just completed my walk around the body. I was approaching the neck, where the island is only a kilometer wide. Hog Bay is the only east-west road here, so I would be walking stretches of road I'd already seen. Immediately after leaving Mount Thisby I passed the turnoff to Muston Road -- the road I took to American River on my first full walking day.

Back around Pelican Lagoon I went, past the Sapphiretown road. The roadkill was especially pungent. Every minute or so, my nose caught a whiff of the next animal that had been left to the flies. At one point there were four creatures in various stages of decay, lined up like in a pageant.

Opposite Brown Beach I came to the Cape Willoughby road, and here I stopped the counter on today's walk. My lodging was ahead by a couple of kilometers, in Baudin Beach, but it didn't seem right, for measuring the Abecedarian Walks, to count the same stretch of road three times -- once on the way from Penneshaw, once today, and once tomorrow. When I continue tomorrow, I'll start the counter at the Cape Willoughby turnoff. But today would easily have been an unofficial 50 kilometers, including Mount Thisby, the continuation to Baudin Beach, and the walk to and from dinner.

I checked into the Fig Tree B&B (no relation to the Enchanted Fig Tree restaurant) and rested for about an hour before heading off to dinner. There was a fine-dining restaurant, Sunset Food & Wine, up on a hill about four kilometers toward Penneshaw; I'd seen it that first long day. I'd made a 6:30 reservation, thinking that would give me plenty of time to eat and walk back before it got too dark. The sunset was just before eight.

The restaurant was just past a field with hundreds of sheep -- the very sheep I failed to notice on the walk from Penneshaw. I climbed the hill, checked in, and was delighted to find that they had given me one of the best seats, out on the porch, looking out over the bay. So often as a solo diner I've had eateries try to relegate me to an unobtrusive corner or a small table without the same attention as those for larger parties. Here I was sharing an extended picnic-style table with a couple. There was plenty of space between us.

The couple were wearing sunglasses; they'd prepared for the sun to descend in front of us. The sun was in my eyes and the server started to lower the shade. But evidently the other two at my table didn't want that, and neither did I. "We came for the view; let's enjoy it!"

The meal was a seven-course tasting menu that included smoked barramundi, scallops with cauliflower puree, King George whiting, and lamb loin and shoulder. While we dined, a pair of kangaroos did the same just below us. When the sun did set, the temperature went down accordingly; I was glad I'd brought my sweater. Dinner lasted much longer than I expected, but the almost-full moon lit my way back to the Fig Tree.

Go on to Kangaroo Island day 10