Sunday, 13 April 2014

Kangaroo Island (part 2)

We were staying in the south of the island. There the coast line was rugged and the seas powerful and unyielding.

We were enjoying some really gorgeous late Summer weather so we decided to take a leisurely drive up to the North.

The landscape was quite different, rolling and undulating then dropping away to hidden coves, bays and inlets. The sea was much calmer and conducive to all manner of beach activity.

You will notice that the grass is brown, this is consistent with the whole of Australia by the end of the Summer months. The much needed rains of Autumn and Winter will soon bring the landscape back to life.
I absolutely adore this photo. To me it depicts the essence of Australia, bright blue sky, red dirt roads, all flanked by huge gum trees (Eucalyptus).
This particular beach was so well hidden that we had to scramble through a network of rock and boulders to reach it. Hubster just about squeezed through some of the tighter gaps but it was all worth the clambering to paddle in the cool waters of this gem of a beach.

Later that day we hopped on a guided tour to go and see the extremely rare Australian Sea Lions. We were able to walk among them albeit at a respectful distance which I was very happy about. The sea lions lazed around us suckling their pups without a care in the world and absolutely no mind for us whatsoever.

One thing I learnt about Sea Lions is that they do not eat fish. The feed on octopus, lobster, crayfish and a variety of crustaceans. As such their food source is not as plentiful and the ever present sharks do love a bit of sea lion for supper, this and the fact that man is partial to lobster too, accounts for why their numbers are dwindling.
Another thing I found fascinating is that the males will often eat rocks off the beach during mating season. The theory is that they are hungry and during this time when they are not out at sea, the rocks fill up their bellies!

This poor little pup was starving. His mother had not returned from the sea for 2 weeks and no other sea lion would suckle him. He cried incessantly for her and he kept trying to suckle only to be shooed aggressively away by the other mothers. It was heart breaking to see. The guide said they would give it another 2 weeks to see if Mum returned, if not they would have to put him down rather than let him starve to death.
I know its nature but it was very upsetting. I wonder as I type if Mum ever did return and if that little fella is still with us. Somehow, as positive as I like to be, I think not.

On our last morning we got up early and took a walk along the beach and up onto the cliff tops. The sky was beautiful and the early light cast stunning hues.

After blowing away the cobwebs, we headed back towards the lodge and we were both ready for a good breakfast. We also noticed just how discreet the lodge looked on the cliff top there.
It blended in perfectly, blink and you'd miss it.
All that we can say is that we were very happy we found it. Kangaroo Island is a true gem.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Kangaroo Island (part one)

When a place exists with a name like Kangaroo Island then you just have to visit, right?

Situated off the south coast of Australia, Kangaroo Island is no shrinking violet being the 3rd largest in Oz. Most people fly direct from Adelaide. We chose to take the ferry across so that we could enjoy the beautiful drive through the Adelaide Hills and the McLaren Vale down to Port Elliott.

The 45 minute crossing is notoriously tempestuous but we were gifted with a gorgeous day and a relatively smooth transit. The swell, however was very deceptive as one poor lady and her sick bag proved!

After disembarking we hit the road for a 2 hour drive to our destination, Southern Ocean Lodge, voted the best eco lodge in the world last year. We were so keen to get there. The drive however was a tad dull and monotonous. Mile after mile of pin straight road cutting through the middle of the island flanked by coarse, dense, low lying bush with no undulations or features so to speak. Although totally unspoilt and  natural, the landscape was mile after mile of the same and although most certainly teeming with wildlife, there was very little to see. So far............

Finally we took a turn off left and as we approached the lodge we were surprised at just how unimposing it was. It certainly wasn't a blot on the landscape and the architects had certainly taken their "eco" brief seriously.

The huge doors swung open and out onto the most incredible atrium style lobby, it was almost like something from a James Bond film. The arc of floor to ceiling glass framed the incredible surf of the Southern Ocean before us.

Meet Sunny - Made entirely of old engine parts
It produced a WOW from both of us.

All the rooms had beautiful ocean views. What can I say? Solely championing South Australian produce and wines, this place was pure class.

The Lodge was the perfect base from which to explore the island known as the "Galapagos" of Australia. We already knew that over 400 species of flora and fauna are found here and nowhere else in the world.

We spared no time at all getting out and about and exploring the coast line.

In the fashion of Sir David Attenborough, these are some of the most treacherous waters on earth. It was a still and calm day and yet the swirl and swell was still pretty impressive. From the safety of a very high cliff, we would have loved to have seen it at full throttle. Vessels do not cross these straits near the coast line, the rocks and the waters are just too risky as the many ship wrecks prove.
It also has a high concentration of Great White Sharks due to the huge number of fur seals here.

Fur seals napped in the safety of the shallows in Admirals Arch

A view of the Remarkable Rocks in the distance
Back to Sir David, I was really excited to visit the Remarkable Rocks. I had seen them on one of his documentaries and they had left an impression on me. Never for one moment did I think that Hubster and I would be so lucky to see them for real one day.

Perched high above the sea, these formidable, giant clusters of granite rock appear to be precariously balanced.

This stunning work of nature has been shaped by the erosive forces of wind, sea spray and rain over some 500 million years.

Covered in orangey gold lichen, the rocks looked glorious against the blue of the sea. However, they were not just visually beautiful, they had an amazingly uplifting energy about them.

This energy brought out the playful and frivolous in us both. We were both so joyous in those moment there.

Whoever named them the Remarkable Rocks couldn't have chosen better.
On our drive back from the Flinders Ranges we stopped in a clearing that was full of Eucalyptus trees.
So what?
Surely they are everywhere. Well yes they are but this particular variety is the gourmet favourite of the cuddliest marsupials ever and we fancied our chances at spotting a few.
It was our lucky day. Our first sighting of Koalas in the wild, just magic.


We were so thrilled to see them looking so healthy and content and with over 15,000 on the island, they are positively thriving.
At the end of the day, with plates of delicious food and glasses of delectable wine, we had plenty to reflect on.
With full tummies, brimming hearts and lungs full of sea air, we slept like babies and dreamt of what the next day would bring.................

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Big, bold and beautiful - Barossa!

We boarded the plane in Melbourne and just 55 minutes later we landed in Adelaide. This was going to be a birthday week to remember and I was super excited.

That first night we stayed in the City at a lovely little boutique hotel called The Renaissance and we dined at a very famous Indian restaurant called the Jasmin. From the outset I was very indulged!

The following morning was my birthday and after lazily lounging in slumber opening my cards and pressies and having a few tears with the messages from home, we soon hit the road for the one hour journey north into the Barossa Valley.

I couldn't quite believe I was about to see one of the most famous wine producing regions in the whole world.

We stayed at a beautiful lodge called The Louise and the doors from our suite opened out onto vast undulating slopes lined with vineyards for as far as the eye could see.

 The Barossa is world famous for producing those big, bold and beefy Shiraz wines and I wondered if the whole operation had become so commercialised that it had lost its old traditions and charm. Not a bit of it. Yes the big boys were there like Jacobs Creek, Wolf Blass and Penfolds but we were delighted to find many small family run wineries, employing all the traditional methods with the obligatory "wine dog" keeping waggy tailed guard at the cellar door.

For my birthday lunch we went to Maggie Beer's Farm Shop for a platter, it was fantastic to be there as she is one of my favourite chefs here and quite a culinary sweetheart  in Australia. She is, I would say, Australia's Delia Smith.

That evening we dined at The Appellation, the restaurant at The Louise. It has rave reviews and we were not at all disappointed, the food was sublime and as you can see from the photo, I was more than delighted with the "Dirty Martini" - a wonderful birthday treat.

The next few days we toured around the Barossa, seeking out the small and quirky little wineries and enjoying the scenery. I am not a fan of the big Shiraz wines so it was super to find delightfully crisp Rieslings and some gorgeous "strawberry and cream" Rose wines.

I also filled my boots with fur baby cuddles with every "wine dog" we came across. I confess Boomer from Turkey Flats was my favourite!

Calling "Boomer" to me

Officially "Boomered!"

Hubster also surprised me with a perfect birthday gift. One morning we rose early and went out into the Bush, the dawn mist was rising and the silvery, blue hues from the Eucalyptus gum trees looked almost ethereal in the white morning light.

All around us kangaroos bathed in the first rays of the day whilst plucking at the ground for juicy, green shoots. It was absolutely beautiful.

On his powerful hind legs, he stood over 7ft tall. Beautiful boy
After about 30 minutes walk,  the guide stopped in a clearing, he spread out a big tartan picnic rug and laid out a luxurious breakfast of smoked salmon quiche, scones with clotted cream and jam, hot tea, rice pudding and fruit and of course a bottle of bubbly!

All around us, the roos just hopped by preoccupied with their own agenda with no mind for us at all.

We were accompanied by another couple from San Fransisco so out of politeness I did not take photos of the wonderful breakfast spread. It took some restraint on my part but it was the right thing to do. The memories of this experience will always remain vivid in my mind and I am so happy to have captured the pics of the roos.

We really loved our time in the Barossa. I was a tad fearful that it would be just a voluminous conveyor belt of mass tourism through a commercialised and soulless process, we have heard that the Napa in California is just like that and it would not have been for us at all.

No, the Barossa has tradition, soul, culture and a very thriving community spirit and joie de vivre that manages to shun all of that so beautifully and yet still make room for those big hitters that you see on you supermarket shelves.

I think the last pictures on this post sum that up perfectly.

We have nothing but happy days to recall in the Barossa, if you don't stay at The Louise at least think of dining at The Apellation.

With a good nights sleep our sights were now set on Kangaroo Island. A place with such a wonderful name, you know its gonna be good.