28 October 2014

Well, that was remarkable!

Good afternoon!
Earlier today, we came across the rare delight of phone reception. This is rarer than seeing a live KI kangaroo on KI. Approx. 35km west of where we are staying, the road lifted high enough for phones to buzz, and notifications to ding while we were driving down an unsealed road. Time was critical and whilst on the move, I managed to publish the last post. Hours later, here I am typing the next installment to cover what we have been up to since yesterday morning. (Today is Monday 27th by the way). So, back we go.
Sunday was designated Flinders Chase National Park day, and a day to explore the West of the island. And it started with a bang. Well, more of a few flashes and a rumble really. Parts of the island were getting some thunder storms, althoug rain wasn't really forthcoming. We left our little hut and headed west into the gloom. Every inch of the drive, we carefully scour the road for wildlife. We see lots of wilddead, not so much life. But, we did see our first close up ish KI kangaroo lolloping across the road in front of us. Nice.
To get access to the national parks and the features within, you have to buy a permit from the nearest office and dispay the ticket in the windscreen. We picked ours up from Flinders Chase visitors centre. The lady was thankfull that at that time, there was rain with the lightening. In recent years, they lost up to 60% of the park due to dry lightening. Pass purchased, we were free to enter the park and visit the attractions within. First on the list was Admirals Arch, a popular location for Australian and New Zealnd fur seals to come out and rest. Set in amongst some massive limestone cliffs, a boardwalk has been built down through the coastal tundra to various viewing points from which the seals can be seen. I saw a dead rotting seal. It was smelly. But also we saw lots of live seals and pups. Good job really. I bet the sharks get into a feeding frenzy off this bit of coast. The water is gin clear around here, and when not chruned up into a white foam, you can see the bottom of the deepest pools many many meters deep.
We left here and made our way to the next stop, Weirs Cove. Here, there is a lighthouse, and a stroppy German teenager wrapped up in a hoody, sat next to the car parking spaces, with her face hidden and chin on her knees. At least, i assume it was a she. This was a lookout point looking over the cove and had parts of buildings that used to be the lighthouse keepers houses on top of the cliffs. Photos taken, we returned to the car where stroppy german teenager had been picked up by the happy police, and bundled back into their campervan.
Next on our list was Remarkable Rocks. I think they were begining to run out of names for things, but the name is catchy, descriptive and accurate. Back in the days of volcanos in this part of the world, a huge lava dome rose up from the core of the earth. During the erupting years, magma was thrown out and solidified to produce various granites all around. Over the years since then, the outer layers of the volcano have been weathered away, leaving the granite dome of the volcano and some rather remarkable rocks left teetering on top of the dome. These were impressive. Many arty farty photos were taken and some giggles were had.
It was time for a light lunch back at the visitors centre. During our time in the park, lightening had carried on striking around the island. Strangely enough though, the weather above us remained quite stunning. However, it turns out that the island was subject to a powercut, and if you weren't connected to a generator you were powerless. The visitor centre was on a generator, and was cooking on gas. Literally. The only thing that wasn't in action was the coffee machine. Light lunch was consumed in the shade from some rather warm sunshine. Following from light lunch, we decided to walk the Heritage Trail from the centre. This was a good move. We saw 3 wild koalas in the trees, one with joey. We saw a wallaby in the bushes, and geese and a little blue bird, and a black one, and some loud ones and loads of other things. A good trail and a good choice to walk off lunch.
We decided to start making our way back to base for siesta oclock, but got a bit distracted. We stopped at Hanson Bay. We nearly stayed here, but after the booking was made, Miss Wood was contacted to say that ther had been an error, and the cottage was in fact unavailable for our chosen time. This turned out to be a good and bad thing. The cottage are over looking the coast. The coast and beach next to the cottanges are simply some of the most stunning parts of unspoilt beach and coast that i've seen. Sand was brigt white, sky way bright blue (OK, not strictly part of the coast, but stick with it) and the waters were a whole palet of blues, turquoise and greens. Surf crashed into some parts, whilst other parts were protected by a shallow reef that just screamed 'snorkel me!' The good thing for the cottage being booed and us not being able to stay there? It would have been hard to get in the car and go anywhere else on the island. The whole holiday could quite easily be spent on that one section of coastline.
Back to base, and siesta. The wind whipped up, what little cloud there was flew passed and, sleep.
Waking up and stepping outside showed the sky covered in cloud, but with hints of cloud break. As it got dark, the sky became clearer and excitment for some possible stargazing action grew. But we needed to eat, so whilst Alan missed photographing the sunset, and then set about setting up the telescope for an evening of observing, I got on with the BBQ. Scran was eaten, wine was drank, beer was drank and warm clothes were put on. The wind hadnt dropped through the day, but this did mean that any obscuring cloud was moved on after a couple of minute. Whilst Alan got to grips with setting up his GoTo telescope, he learnt where North was. Strangly enough, in the exact opposite direction to South. Its not rocket science really, but kind of related, so we'll forgive him.
The stars were coming into view nicely, and we started picking out lots of features. On my bucket list of things to see were the LMC and the SMC. I have managed to capture both in photographs, but they will need some processing to bring them out clearer. The astro stuff will wait until i get home and will be blogged on my astro blog when i get back to the uk.
And sleep. We woke this morning to the sound of rain on the roof. But only breifly. We got up, and brekkie was prepared after washing my hands like a good boy. Today (Monday 27th) was the day for exploring the south part of the island to the east of where we are. Our first stop off was Bald Hill viewing point over Murray Lagoon. A 7km drive off road brought us to a road closed sign. And a trail closed sign. Bugger. Time to drive back up the track back to the tarmac road and retrace our route back to Seal Bay. This is a permanent residence for Australian sealions. Another board walk down to the beach and we saw a flipping huge black tiger snake in the dunes. It was a bit cool this morning. He/She was a bit cold and slow. It was good. We carried on down to the viewpoint and saw the sealions. Photos were taken.
Back in the car and off to Vivonne Bay. Internationally voted as the best beach on the island. The weather was fairly blustery, so its fair to say that we perhaps we didnt see it in its best light. However, it was still very impressive. We found two dead birds. We got back in the car and carried on around to Point Ellen. The sheltered beach to one side of use, and to the other side, the full force of the ocean crashed against the crags and cliffs.
Next stop was Vivonne Bay Store, home of the Internationally voted best whiting burger. I have the feeling the guide for the island kind of over hyped the facilities. Yes, petrol was available, and food but its accurate to say it wasnt exactly what we were expecting. Nevertheless, we had a really good feed, and the guy running the stores was friendly and fed us well.
One last stop for the day was another off road trek for about 12 km to Two Wheeler Creek wines and Andermal Marron farm. Marrons are kind of a freshwater lobster come crayfish. The main buildimg for Marron viewing contained many tanks of Marron on various sizes. It was also the location for the tasting and the cellar door. Wine tasted, we beat a hasty retreat.
Back to base and siesta. That about brings you up to speed.
Things to do:
Organise a lift home from Birmingham airport when we get back to the UK. Wheel come off the plan. Will wait until we get a proper internet connection before we start on that one.