Australia – Travel diary n°1 – Kangaroo Island
My hurried departure from Arkaroola turned my plans upside down. Here I am again without work, without lodging, without ideas. In three months, in January 2018, I have volontaring work (helpX) waiting for me, in a wildlife sanctuary in Tomboye in New South Wales and I absolutely want to do that but by then nothing planned. It’s the big void. For a few days the anguish hugs me. I came to Australia to earn money to travel to Asia. And I just slammed the door to a job well paid and that I enjoyed, in a beautiful place. Was it really the right solution? But the tensions with the manager and some staff members were too strong and I could not take it anymore. Once you make a decision, whether it’s good or bad, you have to go ahead, right? I comate a few days on Alex sofa, Maggie’s boyfriend, an acquaintance of Arkaroola. Then I decide to buy a car and go do another volunteering (helpX) during the month of October on Kangaroo Island. I need to find myself again and rest and the island seems to be the right solution.
The late afternoon sun had a golden color
I arrive right on time for the departure of the ferry to Cape Jervis. The road from Adelaide took me longer than expected and my newly purchased car have a problem. She stalls systematically. Something is wrong. It was probably not a good idea to buy a car without doing a technical check. Ahahahah … Too late. I will see that on Kangaroo Island. The crossing by ferry in the light of the late afternoon gives me an hour of rest. The night falls in a good hour, I still have a little time before the arrival of kangaroos and possums on the roads. The landscape of Kangaroo Island is bathed in a golden light. I feel full of joy. The scenery is beautiful. It does not match the beauty of the Flinders Ranges but it’s beautiful. I feel like a bandage is applied on my heart. Maybe all this turmoil was meant to allow me to spend time on the island? I arrive at nightfall at Bill & Tina, the couple who agreed to welcome me for the next few weeks. Annie, a three-year-old girl is riding in the small garden in front. She looks very tiny on her mount. “Welcome to KI,” Bill told me, hugging me.
Two quiet weeks in the little farm of Bill & Tina to take care of Annie and doing various farm work. Every night and morning I take care of feeding the cat Whiskey, Sam, the young dog full of energy, Ben, the old horse with damaged teeth and the trio of chickens. I do a little painting, a little maintenance of the garden and a lot of visits around the island. Bill is a man in his sixties who has spent most of his life on KI. He owns about two hundred studs grazing in the hundreds of hectares that make up the property. Meadows, a pine forest (former logging), a few artificial water holes, several sheds and a small house. And a lot of kangaroos, possums and koalas. Bill welcomes helpers almost all year round. He also runs the island’s pony club and is part of the CFS, the island’s fire brigade. He is a very nice and quiet gentleman who likes company. And like most Australians in the countryside, he’s always happy to give a hand or show around.
Tell him he’s dreaming !
– Darry Kerrigan in The Castle (very famous Australian movie that Bill showed me)
Tina is a young Taiwanese woman. She met Bill when she came to volunteer five years ago. Since they got married and they had Annie. Tina works at kindergarten in Kingscote, the largest city on the island. She also works twice a week at KI Tru Thai, a popular Thai food truck on the island. She likes to talk about cooking, especially Asian and gives me a lot of advice about fruit picking in Australia. I’m thinking of making fruit-picking blueberry after Kangaroo Island. I went to help at KI Tru Thai a few times during my stay. I had to do the dishes, cash the customers and clear the tables. Nothing really difficult after my stay in Arkaroola. The food is good. The place is run by Tony, an Australian and Ao, a Thai. The food truck is parked in a shed, located in the middle of fields, converted into exhibition space and open restaurant. It’s very nice.
With the help of Tina I started to organized my car. As I can not move the driving seat as I would like, I am a little far from the pedals. So with old things that Bill gave me, I sewed a cushion to put me in the back. Tina helped me with the sewing. She took out her sewing machine and it reminded me of my mom stitching clothes several years ago. I do not know anything about sewing and I told myself that I should learn the basics, that would surely be useful. I imagined myself creating my own clothes. (An idea to keep somewhere my head for later). Helping regularly in the kitchen, Tina showed me how to make several Asian specialties: stuffed rolls and dimsim (very small dumplings in star shape filled with meat or vegetables). Everything seemed easy to do but I thought that on a road trip on bike or car, I was not likely to do cooking like that!
Memories of KI – You have noticed I think, that I often wear the same taupe sweater on my photos. Ah ah ah ah. It must be said that this is a Uniqlo brand clothe and after two years of intensive use it is still almost like new.
It had been a long time since I had seen a fireworks
Every year takes place, at the end of October, the Kingscote show. A day of activities, competitions and exhibitions with a firework display at the end. The inhabitants of the island exhibit their culinary creations, fruits and vegetables of their gardens, artistic creations, wool of their sheep, etc. There are prizes for the best sponge cake, the most beautiful bunch of beetroots, the most impressive wool bundle, the flower arrangement, the best assortment of muffins, the best honey, etc. But apart from recognition and personal satisfaction, no reward. People leave only with their products and the satisfaction of having won. No money, airline tickets or even coupons. Things are kept very simple.
I feel a bit stuck
The pace seems a bit slow at Bill & Tina. Or it’s very relaxed and it’s just me who is struggling to adapt to it. But I have the feeling that I’m not doing much theses days. I felt good the first days but the euphoria is gone now. The weather is average, Laura (another Belgian helper) is gone and Bill is tired. A feeling of depression hangs over my head and I think a lot about Arkaroola. I miss the place. I wish I had busy days to keep my mind away of thinking always about same ideas. So I decide to spend a few days at Grahams place, who is busy producing honey. I have always wanted to learn how honey is harvested. But according to comments from the helpX site and Bill’s remarks, Grahams is a bit of a character. I give myself two-three days to see how that goes and otherwise I’ll come back to Bill & Tina.
It is hot to die in the Martian suit that we wear for relative protection against bee stings. They do not really work, I’ve already been stung 3 times and I hear Moritz swear for the fifth time. The little yellow and black warriors have a dart capable of piercing our combinations. And if ever one of them manages to get inside the suit, it’s panic. I lose gallons of sweat and I have only one desire: to return to the caravan that serves us as a home, to Moritz and me. It’s been two days since I accompanied Grahams and Moritz across the island to collect honey hives scattered on various properties. Good thing to discover the landscape but it is so hot that I doze half time. And then Grahams is definitely a hell of a character. I think he is someone who is always ready to give a hand and who works hard but who has lived all his life alone and with strong ideas. Not quite the kind of person I appreciate and even less at the moment with my moral a little bit down. And I admit, in the end the harvest of honey is not the part I prefer. And bee stings, it hurts like hell. I would have preferred to see the jarring, the design of labels and the distribution around the island. But to do that you have to harvest several kilos of honey. And during my few days with Grahams, that’s what we did. At the end of the fourth day I left the place on a mixed feeling. At least I recovered some queen alcoves, the place where they born and grow up. Their alcoves are larger than those of normal bees. (see below).
The opening of the roof of the hive is always a surprise: how many propolis will it be below? This yellow material is produced from wax and plant resin by bees and is apparently an anti-infective. A kilo of propolis is a little treasure for Grahams. Something to round off the end of the month. Once opening a lid, a Redback appeared to our eyes. (The Redback is one of the worst bite spiders in Australia). Another time it was a gigantic Huntsman the size of my palm (the Hunstman is a big spider fortunately harmless for the man). To harvest the honey we must smoke the bees and then recover the panels containing the honey, being careful not to damage those containing the nursery and pollen crops. The honey will then be take off from the panels and gather in large barrels before being put in jars.
Purple seems to be the dominant color of KI flora
I fed Kangaroos and spoke to a Magpie
I went for a walk at Parndana Wildlife Park. I did not think I was going to go, entry cost being $25 but I let myself be tempted. It was a good decision. I stayed there for 4 hours and I liked it a lot. There are a lot of varied and interesting animals. I saw cute blue penguins, Yoda-like frogs, owls that look like old crumpled socks, imperturbable koalas, Casoars, funny birds from prehistory, and so on. And I had a very deep exchange with a baby magpie rescued by the park after falling from his nest and who was very hungry. And then the highlight of the visit: feeding the kangaroos. I find it a little strange to make these wild animals kind of circus beasts but I admit to see these cute animals eat me in the hand, well yeah that was cool! But be careful, do not do this with really wild kangaroos! Those in the park are half-domesticated. But in nature, Kangaroos are better off leaving alone. Like all wild animals.
Life is full of surprises for us, good or bad
I was ready to leave, to go back to Adelaide then to go along the Great Ocean Road and reach Tasmania but my car decided otherwise. The local mechanic found the problem: an air leak in the carburetor. This one must be repaired and he did not have time to do it. I’ll have to do that in Adélaide. No idea how long it will take. In the evening, while talking with Tina about my plans, my mind running at full speed, Bill drops the sentence that will decide of the rest of my plans until the end of November: “You know, I could find you a job by tonight and you could start tomorrow if you want. What !!!!! I hesitate a little but rather than waiting without doing anything in Adelaide, better to do it while working. Anyway I’m stuck, my car needs repair. And then it gives me the opportunity to continue to visit the rest of the island.
It’s the end of spring and the vines need to be cleaned. There are too many shoots that have buzzed everywhere. Only those at the cuttings will survive my passage. So here I am, hat on my head and gloves on my hands cleaning the rows of vines. The first vineyard where I work, Hazyblur is a small property maintained by Mick that Tina knows well. I’m doing my first line in two and a half hours! At the end of the day I only made 7 rows. I go back a little depressed at Bill & Tina house. Even though I get paid per hour, I feel like I’m too slow. The following days I take the pace and I end up doing each line in forty-five minutes. Sometimes Mick comes to help. Sometimes I’m alone. For nine hours. What tranquility! The next week I go to Islander Estate, a vineyard owned by a Frenchman and managed by Yale an American. The road to reach the vineyard is superb but the work is much harder than at Hazyblur. The vines are small and covered with leaves. It’s a lot warmer and I spend my days on my knees or back broken in half. I spend ten long and painful days only accompanied only by two dogs guarding the vineyard. They are beautiful and very fond of caresses. I wonder if the blueberry fruit-picking that I have in mind to do later will be that hard.
Look at those little heads!
In life, there are ups and downs
But there it is ! My car is finally repaired! It’s mid-November. I leave Bill and Tina thanking them for everything they did for me but happy to leave. The last weeks I felt a little locked up and we did not communicate much anymore. I spend two days going to visit the places of the island that I have not seen while sleeping in the back of my car that I arranged. It’s small in there! Must say that there is the bike that takes a lot of space … Mid-November I leave Kangaroo Island by a beautiful sunny day. Back to the continent.