Archive for September, 2007

KI is (more than) OK

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Kangaroo Island, or KI, bills itself as Australia’s nature island. KI is just to the southwest of Adelaide and is quite large, about the size of Long Island. It is relatively undeveloped, largely protected (1/3rd of its land is national parkland), and has a small population of about 4,300.

Kangaroo Island 011 Our highlight of our stay on KI was the house we stayed in — one of three houses in a tiny complex owned and operated by Lifetime Private Retreats. The experience was exceptional. For instance, they’d come to our house and cook breakfast and dinner for us, and our meals were among the best we’ve ever had — not just on the trip, but in our lives! The view from the house was amazing, and it was a short walk down to the beach. Kangaroo Island 010On our last day there, we went down and explored among the rocks and found nesting Little Penguins — quite a sighting! The house also has a cozy round sitting room with a fireplace, and we would regularly spend time after dinner in it either reading or playing family scrabble (perhaps presciently, Sterling’s first-ever word in Scrabble was “penguin”).

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To the left, we have our friend the Little Penguin (a great picture taken by Gibson). We’re excited about penguins on this trip, because we’ll be seeing so many different penguin species. It was great to get one in Australia. March of the Penguins may have done a disservice to penguins, since many species are quite different from the stereotype. The Little Penguin is just 35 cm. in length, nests in cliff burrows, and lives in a climate totally free of snow and ice.

Kangaroo I. 2 138 Our nine-year-old daughter gave us a real scare on KI when we were on the Incredible Rocks, and a massive boulder fell on her. Fortunately, she used her fingernails to scratch out a good-sized hole in the interior of the rock and, shortly thereafter, was able to escape! Whew!!

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We knew there were dangerous aspects of Australia, but hardly expected this kind of close call! Afterward, we all collected ourselves to take in the great view from this spot.

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On this particular day, the swells in the ocean were about 25 feet. The waves were crashing so high at times that the surf would just explode. But the gorgeous day disappeared into a thunderstorm, and we headed home for an afternoon of reading and rest.

Kangaroo Island had some amazing nature experiences, as we saw Australian sea lions fighting on the beach, fur seals playing in the waves, koalas in great hiding places, crimson rosellas (a great tropical bird), the ever-present kangaroo, and — our nature highlight — the echidna (or spiny anteater) sucking out ants from ant nests.

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Becoming Tasmaniacs

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

 

At the risk of personal embarrassment, I’ll confess that prior to this trip I wasn’t sure exactly where Tasmania is.  Worse, if pressed, I think I would have offered up that it was an island off the coast of Africa.  Well, Tassie (as the locals call it) is an island, to the south of (and part of) Australia. 


Tasmania lies on the 41st parallel — the only other landmasses at its latitude (The Roaring 40′s) are New Zealand and the bottom of South America.  It has the cleanest air of any country in the world, and you can get your drinking water right out of its streams (we didn’t).  There are 450,000 people living on an island the size of South Carolina.  It’s unspoiled, temperate, and absolutely beautiful. 

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Right away, the Tasmanians did lots to make us feel right at home.  Here, Elizabeth stands next to a sign welcoming her to the island (note, for those of you who don’t know that Elizabeth’s last name is Hazard, this was a joke :-) ).  And while we usually don’t allow our 9 and 11 year olds to down some suds (below right), it was hard to resist in friendly Tasmania (again, another very feeble attempt at humor, playing on my wife’s last name :-) ).Tasmania 172

More seriously, I’m sure everyone has met some Australians in their past, and come away impressed with the Australian personality.  The people here are fun, witty, don’t take themselves too seriously, and have a “go for it” attitude.  We could really see that in Tasmania.

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As if we haven’t shocked our friends and families enough this year, we are happy to report in this blog that we have a new addition to our family.  While in Tasmania, we met a darling Wombat (see left), tragically orphaned at an early age by a careless driver.  We are filing adoption papers for said Wombat and hope to add young “Wizard” (the name our kids came up with for him) to our family soon.  Watch for him in this year’s Christmas card!

Tasmania 027 The wildlife in Tasmania is almost beyond belief.  Isolated for millions of years and largely free of introduced predators, indigenous wildlife flourishes on Tassie.  Whether it was the exotic Superb Fairy-Wren landing at our feet, a farm field full of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, or a moonlit field of wallabies, wombats, and possum, we were constantly amazed at the abundance of exotic species.

Picture 392 Speaking of “moonlit,” a highlight of our stay on Tasmania was watching a full lunar eclipse unfold.  We had the benefit of the world’s purest skies, no clouds or background light (we were, quite literally, in the middle of NOWHERE), and the convenience of having it all happen before our children’s bedtime.  Below are some of the shots I took of the eclipse as it unfolded, but they don’t do justice to the experience of having all four of us watch this transformation in the isolation of Tasmania.  But the way we really felt about Tasmania is best captured by the picture Gibson took of the moon above.

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