The Ferry Passage.
After leaving our "useless" camper at the lot of the ferry docking, we boarded the sleek blue and white Sealink vessel, the Sealion, painted with a giant jumping kangaroo on its flank. We landed on the beach at Penneshaw, well, not really on the beach - they do have a landing dock. The huge catamaran-shaped boat was carrying a few people and a few private cars of the island residents, plus a minibus full of eager tourists going on a day excursion.
We knew better, we wanted to be residents for a week, and in order to do that, we rented a bungalow by the bay. As soon as we landed and took a few steps, you could see that the vegetation here was different from the mainland's: swaying palms, blooming cactus with pink flowers, tall dry shrubs, a multitude of red flowers. The bright royal blue cloudless sky was of a desert color, so pure and metallic; it seemed to be out of the imagination of a fierce mountain painter.
The ride over the water was short - although since I was busy being seasick, to me it seemed like an eternity. I was told it was a 45-minute ride from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. Kangaroo Island is Australia's third largest island and the scarce population is mainly in Kingscote and in Penneshaw. The entire island is mostly wilderness and many visitors are day trippers. The temperature was a surprising 70 degrees, pretty cool for summer.
The Cottage Charlie Bates.
Once we sprung out from the ferry, nobody was waiting for us at the quay. The renting of the bungalow was all done online and the instructions printed on a piece of paper in my hand. We started walking up the hill alongside the beach, a lovely cove bordered by tall grass and a few rocks. Nice sand and calm waves were a promise of bathing to come. So far the oceans we encountered were either too violent or too prickly to really swim in it. This seemed like a very civilized beach indeed.
The cottage was located about 1.5 miles from the ferry landing and the up-hill walk would have been easy if we were not dragging large suitcases on wheels behind us. The semi-paved road did not help. We finally sighted the house on the side of the road, welcoming us with dozens of white doves, a skirmish platypus running away and some strange looking geese-like giant birds. Well, we wanted wildlife after all! I had never seen a platypus in my life and I must say that it's a bizarre contraption with a flat bill that seems a little out of place.
The cottage was named Charlie Bates, and plenty of welcoming details made us feel like visiting family: fruits on the table, water in the fridge, flowers on the table, beds made, lights on, the day newspaper - obviously somebody on the island was taking care of this place, as I knew the owners lived in Adelaide and we would not get to meet them. We were on our own, make yourselves at home; the doors do not have locks, but keep them closed because animals will enter if you don't. A long list of detailed directions was posted on the fridge, including what to do and who to call if you are bitten or attacked by the local wildlife - welcome to Kangaroo Island!
Spiders, rats, mice, rabbits, wallabies (small kangaroos), tiny penguins, platypus, doves, geese, koalas, kangaroos, echidnas (anteaters), flies, hornets, butterflies, colibris, snakes, and semi-wild horses were all on the list of possible guests at our cottage for the week. Good thing sharks stay in the water. We actually saw more large kangaroos lying dead on the side of the roads in Kangaroo Island that anywhere else in Australia. They could not care less about cars, and if your vehicle is large enough when you hit them, they loose.
It's incredibly common to hear about a vehicle killing a kangaroo, it's seems o be an everyday recurrence. And they still don't learn about cars. The speed limit is fairly slow on the entire preserve, but once you have an open road with no other cars on it, it's hard to stay at 25 miles per hour for long. I am happy we did not rent a car. We will visit the entire island with tour buses, taxis and friendly Aussies.
One thing I learned quickly on this island is that if you start walking, somebody will stop to pick you up. Where were they all when we arrived at the ferry dock? The first thing we did at the house was to do a laundry run; we had been in Australia for several weeks and never washed anything. We learned how to use the machine in the bathroom, we watched the water turn down the other way in the sink (yes, it's true), we discover a homemade detergent with nothing artificial in it, you could almost eat it. Now, of course, there was no dryer, as everybody in this country is miraculously eco-friendly, so we hanged our clothes outside on the garden line by the house.
The sunset was amazing but I am not going to bore you and tell you how beautiful a sunset can be - the oranges, the purples, and the stillness of the world. We had not met any neighbors yet. Looked like we were pretty isolated and we felt the silence of the night with only some creaking and cooing sounds unknown to our ears. We closed all doors and windows and turned in early, in the spirit of the animal world that lives by the colors of days and nights. And this is from a true Parisian living in Miami.
We woke up to a shy sunshine and the sound of chirping birds. My daughter called out "Mom, you have got to see this!" and I thought she was talking about a strange animal possibly roaming the yard. Nope - she was looking at the entire row of clothing we had hanged the afternoon before after doing the laundry: every single piece of it was on the ground, the line was down, and from what we could see some parts of a few tee-shirts were missing their limbs.
What? What happened? We called the owners of the cottage on the continent, and the lady said it must have been the wallabies, they do like to eat the laundry when left outside at night, and she said it was one of the things she mentioned on her long list of instructions - I must have missed that part where it clearly said: do not leave laundry out at night, something will eat it. Not one piece of our clothing was left intact, it seemed they ate a few parts and left others, picky eaters.
Oh dear. Now we still had not seen any of the culprits and the owner told us to put some pieces of apple at dusk and we will see them coming out. She was not kidding. Dozens of them came fighting for the apple bits we scattered around the garden. Why are they starving I ask? No, there are not said the nice lady. But they like their treats. Those tiny kangaroos were just about shy of two feet tall, but really looked like exact copies of the tall ones. They live in the bushes and come out at night to look for out-of-the-ordinary things to eat, such as leftovers put out for them, or any laundry pieces hung by silly Americans.
So now, we needed some clothes, as we practically washed everything we were not wearing that day. When I asked if there was any thrift stores on the island, the cottage lady asked what a thrift store was.... they call that charity shops in Australia, and all of them are always named Saint Vincent de Paul charity shop. So now you know. The closest one was in Adelaide, and we were not going there anytime soon, so we decided to wear the same few clothes for a week, no biggie.
At dusk, we put out more apples and watch from behind the sliding glass doors the little wallabies coming close to the house. But when we tried to open the door, they all vanished in a minute into the thick shrubs in the backyard. We kept that same routine for the entire week, we used up a lot of apples. And some carrots, and tried bananas with no success at all. They are not monkeys and wanted to make that clear.
To be continued.