Coober Pedy was a lot of fun, but we had to leave before Rowan went native and ended up living in a hole in the ground. It was another early start, leaving the motel just after six in another of the manager’s rental cars. We stopped briefly at the Coober Pedy town sign for some photos, before heading out to the airport, loading, and refueling. We backtracked down the runway, and departed, with great views of the town off to our left as we climbed out.
We set course south across the outback for the 280nm flight to Whyalla, a coastal town in South Australia, and a convenient place to break the trip to Kangaroo Island. The flight at 4,500ft was smooth, although a little warm at that altitude, and we finally picked up a slight tailwind component to speed us along.
We landed at around 10am, and took a taxi to our beachfront motel. Despite the early hour, our rooms were ready and we were pleased to be able to dump the luggage before heading for brunch at the nearby Beach Cafe. After this, we retired for a short nap, and then a walk along to the seafront to the marina and back but the heatwave that was still blasting much of Australia forced us back to the rooms to rest.
We spent the afternoon reading and swimming in the motel pool, before meeting up again at a picnic table on the grass overlooking the beach and enjoying a dinner of cheese, crackers, and fruits.
The day’s flight would be short, so we didn’t leave the motel until mid-morning, enjoying a lie-in. Despite ordering a van taxi for the 5 of us and our luggage, a small car turned up to carry us all, so we had a bit of a wait while the correct vehicle was sourced. The airport was quiet with no commercial flights scheduled, and it didn’t take long to fuel up and get underway for our final tourist stop of the trip, Kangaroo Island.
We wanted to ensure that we were never out of gliding distance of land, as we were not carrying life jackets. We therefore flew south along the coast to gain altitude, before turning east to cross the water at the narrowest point, still climbing. As soon as we were in gliding distance of the far shore as well as the near one, we turned back on route to the south east, creeping closer to land on a direct heading to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island.
The final water crossing, to Kangaroo Island, was short and we were soon touching down and taxiing to the grass parking area. I left the others securing and unloading the aircraft while I headed off to collect the rental car. It seems I arrived just in time; despite having turned up exactly when I said we would, the Hertz rental car staff told me they’d assumed I was meant to be on the earlier (and last) flight that day and they were about to leave on the flight back to the mainland. Not sure what we’d have done if they’d all left! As we drove out, we had a very Australian experience; a koala bear was hanging out in the trees at the entrance to the airport.
We decided first to drive into Kingscote for lunch, having been recommended the fish and chip restaurant attached to the Caltex petrol station. Quality food served at petrol stations seemed to be common around these parts. The recommendation was solid, and we greatly enjoyed our fish before jumping back in the car and driving the length of the island to our accommodation. We checked in; 3 of us at one place, 2 at the other; and then set off to visit the Flinders Chase National Park. We’d heard that the following day was likely to be declared an “extreme fire day”, which would mean most places were closed, so we wanted to ensure we had the chance to see the national park if that turned out to be true.
The park was just around the corner from where we were staying. We elected to drive out and see the three main viewpoints, given our limited time. The first stop was “Admiral’s Arch”, a natural sea-arch out right at the end of the island. Despite the 40+ degree weather that had us sweltering, this little part of the island was affected by a fierce, cold southerly breeze that has us shivering as we made our way down the paths to the arch, and the many fur seals lazing on the rocks all around it.
From here we checked out the old lighthouse, before continuing to view the old cable car that used to bring the stores up the cliffs from the sea below.
The cable itself was long gone but the foundations and the route were still clearly visible. As we enjoyed the views of the ocean, we saw thrashing and flashes of red in the sea down below, which we were all fairly sure must have been a shark attacking a seal! That was our explanation, anyway.
The last stop out by the coast was the “Remarkable Rocks’. Unsurprisingly, this is a rock formation, that is indeed quite unusual and interesting. The photos speak for themselves!
Before leaving the park, we decided to walk along the nature trail. We’d hardly gone 100 meters before spotting a koala asleep in a tree! This was real Australia… We pointed it out to a French couple who were walking the other way, and it was the first one they’d seen. We continued and saw absolutely nothing for about the next 40 minutes, so turned around to start the walk back by another route.
At this point all the wildlife came out to play. We first saw kangaroos and wallabies, before entering a more wooded area where it seemed every single tree had a koala or two. We happened upon a couple of large kangaroos, asleep in long grass by the path; I’m not sure which of us and the kangaroos were more startled.
Having completed the most impressive nature walk I’ve ever taken, we headed back to our respective accommodation, enjoying an easy dinner of food and wine that we’d picked up earlier that day at the supermarket. As we sat and ate on the veranda of one of the cabins, 15 or so wallabies came down and grazed on the lawn in front of us, in the slowly setting sunlight.
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