March 11, 2005

We loved Kangaroo Island! We started the day with a relaxing ferry ride across "Backstairs Passage," while enjoying a light breakfast and a nice view. Once we got to KI (as the folks around here call it) we wasted about an hour getting a rental car and checking into Marty's Place, a local hostel, which is providing us with pretty cheap accommodations. Once we got that done we are finally off and running. Or, at least carefully making our way, ever vigilant for the stray roo. We thought we'd be getting a car that was covered for insurance. Instead, our is only covered after the first $3000 of damage from a roo or other non-vehicle. So, once again we have to be careful all day and still can't drive at night. But, we are determined to make the best of the day.

Our next stop was at the information station. We just wanted to find out the best place to see kangaroos. The lady who helped us seemed to think we needed instructions for our whole day. "First you'll go to Seal Bay. You can probably make the 12:15 tour. Then, you'll go down to..." Once we told her we'd already seen seals in California and just wanted to get up close to kangaroos and other animals. She said, "Do you want to nurse a koala?" We said "Yes, we'd like that very much." She then mentioned Paul's Place and fit it into our itinerary for the day. Most of this itinerary would be ignored but she will forever be known in our life as "Instruction Lady."

Instead of the traditional activities most visitors to KI take in - Seal Bay, Flinders Chase National Park or the Koala Sanctuary - the Wood family, in true form, go right for the one place where we are guaranteed to get up close to cuddly creatures. Paul's Place delivered what it promised: "cuddle a koala, bottle-feed baby animals or carry a kangaroo." We did all of that and more. In fact, one of the first things Paul did was take a 50 pound kangaroo that was drinking milk from a beer bottle and plop her in our arms. As long as she had that bottle, she didn't care. We knew it was a "she" because Paul showed us the joey in her pouch: a tiny seven-week old pink slimy baby kangaroo.

The best part for us was feeding the kangaroos. Paul would give us a bucket of food and tell us to go to it. The animals would go crazy trying to get the food and whoever had the bucket had a bunch of animals all over them. Somehow, we think Paul knew that would happen. But, the baby kangaroos and wallabies were the cutest! We'd get a hand full of food and they would ever-so-gently nibble it out of our hand, sometimes holding onto it with their front paws. They were much gentler than the emus or ducks that would jab at our hands with their bills. That would get a bit painful. Also in the mix were chickens, sheep and a couple of deer. The sheep ended up being the most aggressive, digging their heads into the bucket and not taking them out for anything. The weird part was that Paul would give us the bucket and then just leave for about 10 minutes. Sometimes we got the feeling we were doing his chores for him. But, it was worth it, especially to see those kangaroos look at us with those big brown eyes. We were able to pet them and scratch their ears. We loved it. We also got to hold a Koala - just for a minute to take pictures - but it was so sweet. Koalas are, in my opinion, pristine animals, near perfection. I can hardly imagine them being or doing anything immodest, undignified or ugly in any way. I’m sure their caretakers would disagree. The one we held was like a soft-fluffy baby. We loved it.

Also, on our visit, we pet a porcupine (called an "echidna" around here), held birds on our heads, watched Paul shear a sheep, fed ponies, held a snake, and cuddled a possum. It was just the kind of place for us Woods. Paul once pushed Andy up against a tall fence where he began dumping bird food on top of his head. An emu stuck his head just over the top of the fence and pecked at Andy’s head to get the food. At the end Paul let us each hold a big snake! We loved it. Once we were done there, we felt we'd done Kangaroo Island, at least everything we wanted to do.

But, we still had plenty of time. So, we went into the town of Kingscote for lunch and to look at shops. We sat by the bay and relaxed in the breeze. Later, we rested at the hostel in Penneshaw, had dinner in a lovely place called the Penguin Spot and then got to see penguins. A small breed of penguins lives here on KI and comes on shore each evening. A small company builds homes for them to make them easier to study and also charges tourists to go out and see them. They have some lights out there to help us out. There were a lot of penguins out tonight, and the boys were making lots of noise as it's mating season. It was all very cute and we can still hear them a bit in our hostel.

The town of Penneshaw is very small. In fact, our hostel, the car rental place, our restaurant, and the penguin tour are all in a two-block radius. We can walk everywhere. Even the ferry is less than a block away, which makes it very handy. Our dorm room is all bunk beds. Andy and I are in a double with a single above us. Vienna is in the top bunk of one of the other two sets. The only other thing in the room is a table and two chairs. But, it's clean and comfortable. Although we have to share bathrooms with other guests, the facilities are not far and there is a rec room with a TV and ping-pong table nearby. We got to watch an episode of The Simpsons and play a couple of games of ping-pong. Overall, it's a nice place to stay at a good price.

Tomorrow morning we take the ferry back to the mainland and then we're headed north to Adelaide. It's just a couple of hours from here. Tomorrow night is the part of the trip Vienna has been looking forward to most. We have tickets to see her favorite group Green Day in concert. She is most excited.