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Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks

Kangaroo Island day 10: Brown Beach to Cape Willoughby
Sunday, March 5, 2023

Today: 35994 steps/27.87 km/17.32 mi/5h 1m
Total: 467595 steps/367.10 km/228.11 mi/66h 20m

In Baudin Beach, a memorial sculpture honors Mary Beckwith Junior, the first woman known to step onto Kangaroo Island. She and her mother (or possibly stepmother) were sent from England to Australia after being caught stealing in 1800. Mary Junior was 14 years old.

The French commandant Nicolas Baudin took a liking to her, and he brought her aboard his ship headed to the Malaccas. Nicolas made it only as far as Mauritius, where he died of tuberculosis; his brother may have taken her back to India with him after a discussion with Matthew Flinders (who was imprisoned in Mauritius at the time), but nothing is known of Mary Junior after that.

The curved metal sculpture suggests a ship's sail above a skirt and is a testament to the island's forgotten women and the fates they were not at liberty to choose for themselves.

East West Road left Hog Bay Road with a grueling two-kilometer climb. The gravel was rough and prickly under my shoes. I glanced back at the top to see the sea through the trees in the distance; the road was that straight. After the crest, the road undulated; the downward slopes were never much of a reprieve, and the uphill sections felt orders of magnitude more severe than their gradients should have suggested.

Maybe today started out frustratingly because it was the penultimate day of Abecedarian Walk #11. Penneshaw felt just around the corner but I still had a whole peninsula to cover -- the turtle's head on the map of Kangaroo Island. The first half of today's walk was also dull. I bumped up my spirits by uprighting a beetle that had somehow gotten on its backside and had been flailing its legs.

Today was another one of those days when the break came too early. False Cape Wines fed me lunch ten kilometers into the 28-kilometer journey (not counting the two or three kilometers retraced along Hog Bay Road). It opened at eleven, and I wanted to reach Cape Willoughby to make the three o'clock lighthouse tour. I might have left Baudin Beach earlier, but there was no point in arriving at False Cape Wines before eleven.

A magpie greeted me; the resident fluffy dog gave me some attention (and vice versa); swans paced the lawn; galahs cheered and chased each other over the vineyard. The sky was mostly cloudy with glimpses of sun. It was hard to imagine a better setting in which to enjoy my beef pie and sparkling cider.

I hoped it would give me energy, because I had to maintain a moderate pace. Leaving the vineyard at 11:40, I had three hours and twenty minutes to get to Cape Willoughby. Eighteen kilometers at 11 minutes each would give me two minutes to register for the tour. And I wasn't sure whether it was a true 18 kilometers, because Google Maps doesn't show fractions of a kilometer unless the distance is under ten. It could have been 17.01 kilometers or 17.5 or 18 or 18.99, depending on whether the app was rounding off or rounding up or truncating. That's a pretty big spectrum of possibility.

I kept most of my walk under 11 minutes per kilometer and made up some time, though today, for the first time on Kangaroo Island, my toes felt sore. The roadway was sharp except for a flatter surface near its crown; I usually took to that but had to move over whenever a car came by.

The lighthouse suddenly appeared far away when I reached the top of a hill. It was only 2:20. Surely I could make it down in 40 minutes! But the distance was deceiving. The descent was gradual, and it took a full half-hour.

The lighthouse stands just seaward of three cottages, which used to be the homes of the resident lighthouse keepers until everything went automatic in 1992. One of the cottages is now the visitor's center. The other two can be rented, and one of those, Seymour Cottage, would be my home for the night.

I made it in time for the tour, though it wasn't Bridgette who led it. But she had heard of my coming, and at her request today's guide presented me with a booklet of island walks. He took ten of us up the lighthouse's 102 stairs and explained its history as South Australia's oldest lighthouse.

It was built in 1849-1852 of granite quarried from Devil's Kitchen, just below. Its construction was expensive, so naturally they went for the cheapest light they could: triple parabolic reflectors powered by burning oil from seals, dolphins, and the like. The original lantern assembly weighed 5½ tons and the beam could be seen from 50 kilometers away. The lantern has changed a few times since then; today's is an LED assembly visible only from up to 20 kilometers -- about the distance to the mainland.

When Father Kelly came by the lighthouse, of course, it was still tended to by an onsite lighthouse keeper, Phil Dent at the time. He knew of Father Kelly's approach but managed to miss him walking along the coast a few kilometers out. That may not have been such a bad thing, because that was the day Father Kelly sat on the ants' nest at lunchtime. "Phil would have been puzzled -- even amazed -- had he seen the wild uninhibited strip-dance that followed."

"Is anyone staying in the other cottage tonight?" I asked after the tour.

"Yes, there's a group staying there. You'll have company."

"That's not such a bad thing. This might be an eerie place to spend the night alone."

The staff and the other visitors departed, so, for a while at least, I was left alone with the magpies and the kangaroos. A storm came through, with rain and wind -- not a "Kona wind," as old-timers describe gales of the sort that capsized the Kona schooner just north of here in 1917, but enough to rattle the windows of Seymour Cottage.

When it passed, and the sun peeked out below the clouds just before sunset, I took a walk down the hill to admire the cliffs to the north and the lighthouse from below. The original cluster of buildings supporting the lighthouse was here, until the cottages were built beside the lighthouse to eliminate the keepers' need to walk up the hill so often.

They've turned Seymour Cottage into an appealing, rambling guesthouse. I had trouble finding the toilet. The walls, painted a color that I'd market as My Grandmother's Beige, sported photos of shipwrecks and lighthouses. The kitchen drawers opened clunkily but all the necessities were there. The brass light switches looked like originals from a century ago, when the house was built. Some of the lamps were lighthouse-shaped.

The blue couches in the living room were comfortable to sink into. Models of ships sat upon the mantel. A chest contained a volume of "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animal Life" (1961 edition), the children's book "The Giraffe in Pepperell Street" (written in 1978 by Robin Klein, "a busy housewife who lives with her husband and four children in Melbourne"), and Scrabble and Jenga sets.

Thanks to the young offspring of the owner of last night's bed and breakfast, both the bed and the breakfast were provided in my room and not in communal spaces. I took the bread with me today, and it was perfect for accompanying the Petite Provence pickles and the French onion soup made from the mix I'd bought in Vivonne Bay. The windows kept rattling, but less so.

I am not certain the other cottage ever received its guests tonight. Perhaps I am meant to tend the lighthouse alone until morning.

Go on to Kangaroo Island day 11