Our flight left Perth on Saturday 1 November 2009 at 9.45am. As always, organisation, organisation, organisation with our holidays. Some day it might be great to throw swimmers, a couple of pairs of shorts and a t-shirt into a bag and head off somewhere where equipment is not required, but not while we are still fit and able!!
So we both had a normal day's work on Friday - I drove as I was hoping that Mainpeak would have managed to get in my new clip thingo for my pannier (it had broken due to two falls on the Kep Track - both slide offs to the same side - I still bear the gravel rash scars on my left hip...) - basically the pannier could not be securely clipped to the rack, but what with the weight and the rackpack strapped on top, she'll be right!! Needless to say, Mainpeak had not managed to organise anything and hardly knew what I was talking about despite having the part on order for over a month. (I've since ordered one in from overseas- maybe it's just Perth, but why can you get something in quicker and cheaper from the UK/USA than from your local store?).
Mike of course cycled to work and then when he got home we had some organising to do. We drove through to his office in the city with our panniers, boxed bikes, etc. and left them there overnight. Then, an early night. Too tired to even imagine cycling to the shop, let alone around an island for two weeks (it is always like this before a tour - you know you'll be fine when you are on the bike, it's the getting ready that kills you!!)
Woke up at some ridiculous time in the morning - 5.30 am or something - ridiculous for a week day, let alone the first Saturday of your holiday! Then the epic began - thanks to Perth and the difficulty involved in getting to the airport - admittedly with all our luggage we don't simplify matters!
So - we caught the first bus of the day from home to the train station, and then the train into the city. Then walked to Mike's office and carted the stuff over the road to the pick up point for the shuttle bus. Then the shuttle to the airport. Fortunately, although our luggage was around the 70kg mark, they only charged $20 for an extra bag! Always good to fly domestic!! Qantas has a deal with the bikes whereby they count as one item of luggage, no matter what the weight. Then the flight to Adelaide, arriving mid-day and in hot weather. We found a quiet spot to put the bikes together and get organised and then a very easy and direct route from the Airport to the city and the Backpackers Oz Guesthouse on Wakefield Street where we had booked in for the night (yip - we are definitely moving up in the accommodation stakes!). Decided not to camp for the night as there would not have been enough time to pack up and catch the bus to Kangaroo Island ferry.
There is always the funny, wobbly feeling when you first get on the bike packed for touring - you feel quite ungainly at first but soon get used to it. Mike had the added newness of front panniers - a real cycle tourist!! We kept them light, but they do add some weight around the front wheel which is a new experience! We had booked a double room at the back packer lodge - there was shared bathroom and toilet facilities, and it was a separate building to the normal back packer dorm type arrangement. We also could have had complimentary continental brekkie the next morning, but left too early. It was a great place to stay and a quick 9km cycle from the Airport. First impressions of Adelaide - VERY, VERY dry, and EVERYONE cycles- we saw more people on bikes there than anywhere else - even girls cycling to the city in high heel shoes- so Mike says that there is NO excuse for not being a sexy cyclist! They have system in Adelaide with FREE bikes within the city - you can pick up a bike and drop it off at various spots - it's a free service put on by the City of Adelaide - cool, hey? Anyway, we left our stuff in our air-conditioned double room and went exploring - the city is really pretty- there are MANY, MANY churches (hence Adelaide's nickname)and we saw lots of bridal parties. We also got SEVERE hayfever and were sneezing and snotting and it was very hot and dry. We did some geocaching around the city and then tried to get an early night as our trip started in earnest on Sunday. We stocked up with MANY supplies at the local Coles supermarket - as in everything from coffee to pasta, etc. Obviously you never fly with all the food as it weighs too much, and it's always a sobering thought to realise that all this needs to go on the bikes too! It was good not having to pitch the tent and having the aircon! We left it on all night - we were so dried out with the hayfever and the heat and dust...
Next morning - another early start!! We needed to get to the bus depot which was just around the corner by 6.15am - our bus to Cape Jervis Ferry terminal was due to depart at 6.45am and check in was 30 min prior to departure. So, we strapped everything on the bikes (including added food supplies, yikes!) and headed round the block. Beautiful day - hot though! The luxury bus arrived before we expected it to and the bus driver (a little grey-haired man) sort of leapt out and began marshalling everyone forward - mainly older folk - many people do daytrip packages to the island - bus trips on the island take them to all the places of interest etc. We were a little unsure about whether this was our bus and suddenly the driver guy started sort of raising his voice in an excited manner- saying " Hurry up, get your stuff" and did not even want to see our tickets. The bus must have left around 6.30am. We got our seats and then off we went. We settled in for a bit of a nap when our "friendly" driver came over the public address system saying "Welcome to your tour of Kangaroo Island" and proceeded to be Chatty Cathy- the trip lasted about 1 hour 45 minutes and it soon became apparent that this guy was going to talk the whole way about everything from the Adelaide economy to wine farming. He did not stop and clearly fancied himself quite the tour guide. Of course, we realised later that this bus was the tour- our bus left a bit later and had probably been driven by someone who only got paid for driving a bus and couldn't care less about describing the view. Personally, we are not tour people - we would rather just look at the view and draw our own conclusions - perhaps ask a local for more info if required. But clearly not everyone is like us and they benefited from hearing our driver's opinion that wind farms planned for the Adelaide Hills would be an eyesore. Mike did crack up laughing though, when after being instructed (and really he was that type of guy) to watch out the windows for kangaroo's (even calling out to them "Hey, Skip, Skip where are you?"), he told us that kangaroo's do NOT hop on their tails as if it was a spring, but on their hind legs. Well, everyone was pretty excited to see a kangaroo and clearly, as per the name of the island we were journeying to, this was a focus of the trip. We of course see kangaroos every time we pass the corner of our road as they live in the regional park in our home suburb of Perth and sun themselves at the fence in the morning.
When we had first planned a tour in Adelaide, we had thought to cycle the 200-odd kms through the Barossa Valley to Cape Jervis ferry terminal, but were we please we changed our plans! The road is narrow, undulating and has no shoulder (it would not have been fun having a bus drive past you) and drops off steeply to farms or river valleys far below. It is very picturesque though and we really appreciated being in the bus and not on our bikes! As we had 2 weeks for the trip and we thought that there was a fair amount to see on the Island, we decided it was better use of our time to spend all of it on the island, instead of getting there and back.
Eventually we arrived at the ferry terminal and it looked a perfect day for a ferry trip! We loaded our stuff out the bus and had the bikes tied up on the ferry. The ferry left at 9am. Quite a few people bring their cars over and then buses come over on the ferry as well. There is a range of accommodation on the island - two caravan/camping parks and other bed and breakfasts and also very popular are the old lighthouse keeper's cottages which are for hire and very reasonable also. We spent most of the trip outside - it took around 45 min. Upon arriving at Penneshaw - one of two main towns on the island, we got ourselves organised before we started thinking how getting on a bike right then was not our first thought! It is a very beautiful little settlement and the bay is just gorgeous - crystal clear water and white sands. Had there been camping facilities there we would definitely have stayed, but had decided to move on to Kingscote which is the largest town on the island, and about a 65 km ride away. We set off at about 11 am and after about 1 or 2 km encountered a ridiculously steep uphill which was a bit of hard work. The rest of the day's ride was no drama at all - we passed Brown's Beach where we had thought of camping at the end of the trip - about 13km from Penneshaw. We had planned to do a lot of gravel road cycling to get to some really pretty coastal spots - the main road is often inland and one needs to use the unsealed roads to get to the coast. We arrived at Kingscote - actually the caravan park was at Brownlow , a very pretty place at the beach - at about 4pm. I was suffering from hay fever in a BIG way. We had planned to move on the next day to Scott's Cove, but decided to stay an extra day at Kingscote-it was a holiday after all! We were on the island and could take our time. We cycled through to Kingscote that evening to buy some drink and food etc - it was about a 5km ride there and there was an IGA that was well-stocked. We spent our rest day in Kingscote walking from the caravan park into the town along the coast. Our first stop was a chemist for hay fever tablets. The weather was lovely - quite cool. We checked out the penguin breeding area- little wooden huts have been built for the penguins to nest in - it is very cute. We also purchased a fabulous map of the island illustrated with drawings of the animal and birdlife we could expect to see - the most popular type of bird that would visit us at every campsite was the superb fairy wren - a tiny brilliant sapphire blue coloured bird that would hop about. We went to the National Park Office in Kingscote to enquire about bush camps in the Ravine des Casoars National Park - bush fires had ravaged the area in summer 2007 and it was still closed to campers. The lady working in the office was very helpful. The geocaching was not so successful - but we had a good day - tiring with all the walking.
We woke the next day to an AWESOME tailwind. We reached the turnoff from the Playford Highway to Scott's Cove - looked down the stretch of corrugated gravel- looked at each other, felt the tailwind and said- "Let's go for it! 100-odd km's to Harvey's Return (Cape Borda) takes us to the western end of the island in one go!" There would be a 30km stretch of unsealed road to Harvey's Return into the national park at the end of the day.
The day passed uneventfully - we stopped for a rest at Parndana - the last supply post on the day - but we had enough food for quite a few days. We hit the gravel road section towards Cape Borda Lighthouse after about 66km. The gravel road started off very well and was wide all the way, but any twists and turns in these roads cause the gravel to bank up and form corrugations and slip hazards. Also, as you have to slow your pace the flies descended into eyeballs, etc. I stopped to put on a fly net. We arrived at Harvey's Return Campsite which is a few km's short of the lighthouse at Cape Borda around lunchtime and it was a beautiful spot - it has to go down as one of the most beautiful bush campsites ever. We had been worried about availability of drinking water at these bush camps, but there were no problems. This one had a huge rainwater tank and two pit toilets - the whole place a clean, fresh feel to it. There had been recent rain. Amazingly the campsite was just off the main gravel road and there were clearly designated camp spots. The only other campers were some elderly people who had set up brilliant comfy camps and spent their days doing day trips. In total we cycled about 98km that day but all in all it was a breeze.
The campsite is remote, surrounded by huge Blackboys and eucalypts. Perched on the edge of a cliff you felt like you were on top of the world. Our "bath" was the sea at the base of the cliff - a VERY STEEP climb down and a slog back up but worth it. The name Harvey's Return comes from the supply point that was created on the beach. Boats would bring supplies for the lighthouse station at Cape Borda and the remains of the horse-drawn winch trackway (and landing site) used to pull the supplies up the steep path. We camped there for two nights and it was amusing to watch tourists arrive to do the Harvey's Return Hike to the beach and for us that was just a trip to our ablutions! On our day off we walked to the Cape Borda lighthouse along the 9km long Return Road Hike - very quaint and saw the cottages for hire - the island has renovated the old light keeper cottages and they seem very reasonably priced and a nice place to stay. The lighthouse keeper's graveyard was also very interesting - you can only imagine the tough quality that a man would have to posses to live in such a place and many had families that came along too. It was so nice and peaceful having the entire lighthouse area to ourselves.
We set off to KI Caravan Park and were somewhat dreading the gravel road section again (now uphill), but actually it was not too bad - we set off accompanied by a group of bounding kangaroos that moved along with us - it was quite exciting - always worth getting an early start! After the gravel road we took the West End Highway turnoff towards Remarkable Rocks and then the South Coast Road. The day's ride was only 53km and a fabulous gradient - gently downhill so you could push your biggest gear with ease. We had been hoping to spend more time camping at bush camps in the Ravine Des Casoars Wilderness area/ Flinders Chase National Park but the area was still recovering after bush fires, so we were unable to enter. The caravan park was good though - we saw our first koala's in the wild. We had two days off here as the first day it was rainy and unpleasant and we wanted to go to see Remarkable Rocks and the Admiral's Arch - which was a 25km cycle away so you didn't want to rush out there in bad weather just to turn around and come back. So we spent the day lazing around and set off the next day in a howling wind to have a look. There is also a lovely light house at Cape de Couedic - right at Admiral's Arch. Also a fabulous seal colony there and as we were the first visitors of the day we completely upset them and they flopped and grunted away. The ride to Remarkable Rocks was quite undulating but enjoyable. Definitely worth the trouble. The views of the coastline were also beautiful. We set off the next day for Vivonne Bay - another short ride away.
The ride to Vivonne Bay was easy and only 38kms (it's a small island!). We were there in an hour and a half or so! The Vivonne Campsite was more or less a car park but the nearby lagoon and beautiful beach more than made up for that. Once again a rainwater tank supplied all the fresh water you would require and the lagoon was good for bathing. The beach was spectacular. There was a reasonable good general store there as well. A short walk from the campsite. They sold fabulous freshly baked pies. We decided against having an extra day at Vivonne Bay as we saw all we needed to on the day we had arrived - you could walk forever along the sandy beach and the sea was absolutely stunning - brilliant azure. We were in two minds as to whether to go straight to Brown's Beach or to go via an inland lagoon, but before going to bed for the night decided to go for the Brown's Beach option.
We set off for Brown's Beach so that we would have a short ride back to Penneshaw on the final day. It was quite a long day in the saddle - about 83km, but good riding. We took on some gravel road but once again very heavily corrugated and also quite busy - even tourist buses on route! However as there was a geocache to do it was worth it! Gravel roads can be very relaxing and laid back, but with bad corrugations and loose material you need to concentrate hard and any passing traffic becomes an issue - we found that the roads had wide soft shoulders which you can't ride on as you sink into them and you don't want to hang around in the middle of the road relying on the motorist to give you enough room. We stopped at the Prospect Hill Lookout and the views were beautiful. Arriving at Brown's Beach we pulled in thinking that the sandpit of a car park we first came to was the campsite - luckily not as we found out by going a little further in. It is a gorgeous spot - right on the beach and with little campsites in the trees. It was very quiet - too close to Penneshaw for the car tourists to stop. The beach became our home as the three days we spent there were very hot and we just got in and out of the sea all the time to keep cool. We walked along the beach watching the pelicans and black swans that call Brown's Beach their home. It's amazing that over time you begin to observe the way these birds behave and learn a lot - for instance, if you just stopped for lunch or for the night you might look at the swans floating about and think they're pretty cool, but we noticed by observing them that they were eating the seaweed and feeding it to the cygnets as well. The sunsets were exceptional.
On the first day at Browns Beach we had to restock our food supplies and Island Beach just at the other end of the beach advertised a general store - oh the cruelty of arriving there and discovering that it was closed and not looking like opening anytime soon!! So we faced a ride into Penneshaw - about 11 km's each way to buy food and come back with it. What a pity that there was no campground at Penneshaw! The ride in and out are both steep, but we laden ourselves with drinks and snacks and returned in fine spirits! We ended up riding 45km that day just to organise food and drink!
The weather got decidingly HOT and we spent most of our time lying about sleeping, reading and swimming - a True Holiday. Our last night there was so hot I thought I might not survive! The temp remained around 30 degrees until midnight...terrible. We opened the whole ten up to get some air, but the hot wind blew sand and dust in. That morning when I went to the toilet I heard what I thought was a swarm of bees and was unsure whether or not to go in. When I eventually peered round the corner I saw the brick wall was alive with flies - swarming. Hundreds - I've never seen so many flies in one place! The ranger who came round to collect our camping fees advised that there had been shark sightings at Island Beach and to be careful swimming. The water was so lovely and calm. We had wondered about bringing snorkeling gear but decided it was too bulky - luckily before we left Perth someone suggested swimming goggles which are small and light, and Mike used these a lot - there were many fish down there to watch.
We were packed early and set off to Penneshaw stopping for a swim at the lovely beach so that we would be pleasant smelling for the ferry trip! The trip was lovely and the bus trip back uneventful. We unloaded the bikes and it was a short cycle out to the Adelaide Shores Big Four campsite in Adelaide that we would be using - at West Beach about 10 km from the bus terminal. It was a fabulous campsite which had beach access and of course more than one swimming pool and laundry facilities. We spent the day in Adelaide walking along the Esplanade to Glenelg and that was lovely. We ate ice creams and enjoyed the cooler weather.
We set off home to Perth- a short cycle to the airport again (6kms) and the flight home. We were lucky to be able to grab a maxi taxi that was waiting at the airport as, after flight delays, we would not have made it to the train with the bikes prior to evening rush hour.